October 8, 2010

Girls who will be boys; on F2M crossdreamers, autoandrophiliacs and girlfags

The myth of the non-existent female to male crossdreamer is crumbling. It turns out that women can be gender confused as well, without being "homosexual" in any traditional sense of the world.

(Warning! This post includes explicit language that some may find offensive.)

One sign is the fact that "autandrophilia" (sexually aroused by thought or image of self as male) now has been included in the DSM-V proposal, another is the fact that an increasing number of female to male crossdreamers are embracing the "girlfag" concept.

Now, girlfag is not my term. I prefer the term crossdreamer, as you may know. But the fact that there are female-bodied persons out there that embrace the term is interesting and deserves a discussion.

The Wikipedia defines "girlfag" as "a biologically female individual who feels a strong romantic or erotic attraction towards gay males or male bisexuals or their milieu."

The Urban dictionary has several definitions, one of them being:

"A woman who is very attracted to gay/bi/trans men. She may (or may not) also feel she is (fully or partly) a 'gay man in a woman's body'. Girlfags identify primarily as queer, and are often attracted to more types of people than just gay/bi/trans men."

The opposite of a girlfag is a guydyke (male lesbian).

The Girlfag Community

When you take a look at the online Girlfag community, you will soon see that we are often (but not always) talking about girls that want to be like dominant boys in bed, regardless of the sexual orientation of the male partner.

Attracted to gay or feminine men

A few quotes:

"I'm yet another noob to the group who just found the wikipedia article on girlfags and guydykes, and was pleasantly surprised to find there's actually a term for this!! for so long I've struggled with trying to explain my sexuality and thinking I'm a completely and utter weirdo for only ever being sexually attracted to gay men, or super effeminate straight men (if only I could find more of those!)

"... manly guys do absolutely nothing for me, it's so sad because it totally limits me, especially since coming around to the conclusion that I'm more or less straight, after a couple of years of identifying as bisexual, and countless years before that of complete confusion about the whole orientation thing."

The feeling of confusion due to a lack of relevant terms is a concurrent theme in these posts. The traditional terminology does not fit.

A gay man trapped in a woman's body

Here's one girlfag talking:

"I found this community the night before last through the Wikipedia article on girlfags and guydykes after I typed in 'a gay man trapped in a woman's body' on Google and searching around a bit, after having just uttered that combination of words in an earlier conversation and finally wanting to come to terms with what I meant by that.

"This is an expression I've used on many an occasion when getting into a discussion about sexuality with friends to describe myself because it's the only seemingly-accurate descriptor that would pop into my mind, though it has often been met with varying degrees of puzzlement."

Being the dominant one

Most of these women cannot be mistaken for lesbians, as they are clearly attracted to men. Still, some of them argue that they are attracted specifically to gay men.

"I'm a 48-year-old cis-female who has always thought of herself as perfectly traditional in her sexual preferences. My relationships have always been with men who identified themselves as straight, and it was natural for me to regard my lifelong attraction to gay men as a slight quirk of my artistic personality: after all, they're MEN, right? Even the fabulous turn-on of having a straight lover with a penchant for receiving anal sex failed to expand my horizons: what I though I was enjoying was the new experience of being dominant in bed."

Crossdressing tomboy

Some girlfags grew up as tomboys:

"I came out as bi when I was 15, but was always a very masculine tomboy. I was even transgender as a toddler--I dressed as a boy for an entire year, and even had my parents call me a made-up male name. I have struggled to reconcile my feminine side with my masculine side for my entire life, and my love of men, yaoi [Japanese term for female oriented fiction focusing on male gay relationships] and male homosexuality with my own female gender and my innate feeling that I was not straight...

It is interesting to note that she finds gay male erotica fascinating. The reason is, of course, that she identifies as a gay man in her fantasies.

"When I came to college, I joined a queer sorority, and did not realize what the experience was missing until just recently, when I realized that I'm a girlfag, and quite possibly transgender. While I'm not really thinking of transition or surgery, or even that such concepts apply to me, I'm happy to know that many more people exist who feel similarly....I am in a long term, extremely committed relationship with a very feminine straight (dare I say metro) man...

I have often noted that it must be easier for F2M crossdressers to live out their fantasies, as they can get away with dressing as men. This can still be a problem, though, as this kind of dressing might not be accepted by parents during childhood. This girfag notes:

"I am also struggling to undo the stigma against wearing men's clothes that has been instilled in me since childhood. I love men's clothes and feel extremely confident in them."

In love with a transwoman

It seems girlfags are attracted to feminine, submissive, men -- which should not come as a surprise given a wish to be the dominant man. This may lead to interesting twists, though, as the man in question may actually be a transwoman.

"The newest boy took my confidence. I thought I was gonna end up with him.... He's a bit strange though because he loves sailor moon. In fact, I think he'd like to be her. He was her for halloween 2007! And if he had his way he'd dress like her everyday. Yup, he's a tranny. I am not sure what 'kind'. He was born a man and still has male parts but he has expressed wanting to BE a female...FEELING like a female INSIDE. So I guess he's not a transvestite. They are usually straight and are satisfied with just dressing like the other sex. Right?

"Well he likes guys a lot. So much so that I am not sure if he likes girls, really. But he is the best love maker I have encountered. (Maybe because we did have a special bond and we really worked at it...who knows) SO if I had to call him anything based on what he has told me and what I observe I guess I'd call him a Bi T-girl??? The terms are misused so often I'm sorry I don't really know how to explain it. But I'm trying to! I want the situation to be clear."

Raven Kaldera

Raven Kaldera reports on a large number of F2M crossdreamers in his article on female TVs . TV stands for transvestites. I do no like this use of words like "fetish" and "transvestite", but his message is interesting enough.

He quotes "Rob" and "Michelle", F2M crossdreamers, on the use of strap-ons:

"When I put it on, it's my cock," says Rob. "I masturbate with it - I'm lucky in that I can come from the friction - and I have sex with it. I've trained myself to transpose the sensation in my head - the rhythmic pressure of the harness against my clit becoming the friction of my cock against my hand or someone's enclosing flesh - and when it's on me, I can forget about the rest of my body."

Michelle concurs

"Since my strap-on is double-headed, I can usually make myself cum by jerking it off, as if I were a man, and as if it were my own. I love for a man to wear lingerie; it makes it feel more fulfilling to my role. He is the woman, I'm the man. Also, 'taking' a man, or simply just caressing him in a more dominant position, makes me feel more masculine. And nothing makes me feel more like a man than to have him suck on my strap-on."

You can't get more explicit than this.

Kaldera says that a large number of female crossdreamers live in denial, and that many lesbians deny their existence, simply because  women are not supposed to have such feelings. Indeed, he finds the same arguments here as I have found in the M2F transgender debate. There are even F2M transmen who argue that F2M crossdreamers should not be allowed to transition if they get turned on by imagining themselves as men!

"The background for this argument is," Kaldera says, "fifty years of assumptions by sexual researchers that women don't have the kind of nasty, humiliating, ridiculous-looking sexual fetishes that men do."

He continues:

"Getting a charge from tottering around in high heels or lacy panties is something that comes from too much testosterone, and if a woman puts on high heels or picks up a riding crop or straps on a dildo, she's doing it to please her partner."

But many women, lesbians as well as F2M crossdreamers, do get turned on by the idea of having a man's body. It cannot be denied.

Almost homosexual

I have found one scientific study on girlfags. It is written by the German researcher Uli Meyer: "Almost homosexual". She also uses the term "transfag", which refers to a F2M transman who is attracted to men.

The link above leads to a German version, but I found the following English abstract:

"This text attempts to describe the hitherto indescribable [sic] in four parts:

Pt. 1 questions common ideas about gender and sexuality as markers of a fixed identity and notes their failure when it comes to describing girlfags and transfags.

Pt. lists some recurring experiences in the lives of girlfags and transfags, such as: invisibility, illegibility, misunderstanding, fall out, and the "almost".

Pt. 3 follows the time honoured tradition of name dropping, and, in applying the criteria we have elaborated in Pts. 1+2, "outs" several famous girlfags/transfags, i.e. George Sand, Sarah Grand, Carrington, Eve K. Sedgewick; furthermore the authors and readers of gay/transgender manga and slash.

Image: Girlfag logo designed by mooglefan ->

Pt. 4 reports an emergence from non-existence since the 1980s, instancing Lou Sullivan, Del La Grace Volcano, and the GirlFag online group.

Plus: A short excurse on the depiction of girlfags/transfags in popular culture, such as the Shanghai Opera "The Butterfly Lovers", "Yentl", "Victor/Victoria" und [sic] the Hong Kong films "He's the Woman, she's the man" and "Who's the Woman, who's the Man?""

Between categories

My German is very rusty, but from what I see, she makes several interesting points, one being that the girlfag falls between all types of chairs: for trans culture she is not man enough, not woman enough, not gay enough, not trans enough. Nor does she have the symbols the M2F crossdresser has available to express her identity.

Crossdressing does not have the effect it has with M2F crossdreamers, as women may use male clothes without outing themselves. This means that they are read and understood as "normal" ciswomen. They are invisible, which is one good explanation for why there is so little research on them.

Meyer does name a few well known transfag artists and thinkers, though, including Lady Caroline Lamb, George Sand, Sarah Grand, Carrington, Carson McCullers and more. She also mentions Lou Sullivan, the founder of FTM International, an international organisation of tranmen, as coming out as a gay man.

Yahoo poll

Furthermore, she refers to a study of the Yahoo girlfag group.

115 of the members of this group identified as girlfags. Of these 29 called themselves heterosexual, 80 bisexual, 3 lesbians, 48 genderqueer, and 33 as not genderqueer.
  • 71 considered themselves gay men in a woman's body, 29 did not.
  • 94 did associate themselves with the gay community, 29 did not.
  • 99 watched gay porn, 8 did not.
  • 105 would like to have a threesome with gay/bisexual men, 10 would not.
  • 105 were romantically attracted to bisexual and gay men, 7 were not.
  • 66 were attracted to other girlfags, 31 were not.
  • 66 felt affinity with other transpeople, 33 did not.
  • 51 lived openly as transfags.
Confused? Well, the poll clearly reflects a lack of clarity both as regards terminology and what it means to be a girlfag. This is to be expected when a group try to find its identity in this way.

But surely, these are exceptions to the rule, right?

Whenever I bring up the existence of F2M crossdreamers, the most common argument is that a few examples like this do not amount to anything. Women are different from men - read: only men can be perverts. This is clearly the position of Ray Blanchard who thinks that all F2M transmen are what he calls "homosexual" (meaning gynephilic).

To me the F2M crossdreamers are the black swans of transgender research. Even if there should turn out to be fewer of them than of M2F crossdreamers, their very existence proves that the general idea that only men can be sexually aroused of the idea of having the body of the opposite sex is wrong. That means that crossdreaming and crossdressing cannot be understood as the result of the peculiarities of the male psyche.

Kaldera again:

"Personally, I think that the image of women as being the keepers of moral purity (which generally always means that they are not allowed to be sexual, or at least not sexual to the degree and in the ways that men are) has got to go. First of all, it's not accurate, given the growing number of female-bodied people who are coming out of the closet about how wet they get over playing with male personas in bed. To deny that this is part of the female sexual demographic, even if it's a minority part, is to devalue and invalidate their experience. It's not worth doing just so that certain other women can feel morally superior to the men that they currently happen to be berating for being disgusting perverts."

My guess is that there are as many female crossdreamers as there are male ones. To me the obvious question is not: "Tell us how there can be any F2M crossdreamers!" The question that has to be asked is this one: "Given the heterogeneity of mankind, how can you explain that gender variety gives birth to crossdreamers on the biological male side, but not on the female side?"

Given that neither the F2M crossdreamers nor the researchers have the language needed to describe their experiences, they have become invisible. But when they do gain control over their own narrative, they will become visible.

The May Trans Tagung conference in M√ľnchen had a separate session on girlfags.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!