November 14, 2010

Childhood crossdreamers

The myth says that crossdressers and crossdreamers (men who get aroused by the idea of being a woman) become what they are when puberty hits. The myth is wrong.

There are to many crossdreamer childhood stories around for this to be true.

Repressing your inner girl

Autogyn tells one harrowing child hood story over at "Living with Autogynephilia".

"I don't remember the exact year or how old I was, but I'm sure it was somewhere before the age of ten. I remember losing a tooth. I remember my mother telling me to write a note to the tooth fairy- to accompany my tooth."

In the not s/he wrote that s/he wanted to be a girl. That was a mistake.

"Shortly after, days, weeks, I'm not sure, I caught my father trying on my mothers one-piece swimsuit. Only, I didn't actually *catch* anything, that is until he raised his index finger to his lips to shush me.

"I stood there watching him, and then something even stranger happened. He ran out of his bedroom, and all over the house and in front of my mother. He kept yelling, 'Look at me, I'm (my name),' repeatedly. My mother was laughing hysterically."

If someone is in doubt why some crossdreamers manage to suppress their inner woman, this should be an example good enough.

Crossdreamers are liers

The fact is that there are a lot of people, researchers as well as transwomen, who deny that M2F crossdressers and crossdreamers experienced gender dysphoria or gender confusion when they are kids. The idea is that since crossdreamers are purely sexually motivated, their fantasies and dreams cannot appear before puberty.

This is one of the reasons Ray Blanchard argued that "autogynephilic" transwomen are lying. Their childhood stories are constructs helping them appear as regular "classic transwomen". The idea is that the earlier your gender dysphoria appears, the more "real" it apparently is.

It is well known that for a long time many doctors and therapist only accepted M2F transgendered who did not report sexual arousal from feminization fantasies as real women ready for hormone treatment and surgery. At the time researchers seemed to believed that only men were perverts, and that women were pure as snow.

I do not doubt for a minute that some crossdreamers wanting to transition told the doctors what the doctors wanted to hear. Why shouldn't they, when the doctors at hand were so hung up in 19th century stereotypes of what it means to be a man or a woman?

But that does not mean that their childhood memories were false. Given the stories told on this site, and all the crossdreamers I have been in contact with, I can say with 100 percent certainty that yes, many crossdreamers dreamed of being girls at a very early age.

The life stories of Anne Lawrence

I went over to Anne Lawrence’s site and reread her narratives about autogynephilia.

She asked readers of her site to provide their life stories. She did not explicitly ask for childhood experiences, I believe, as Lawrence originally seemed to share Blanchard’s belief that autogynephilia (crossdreaming) appears at puberty.

She had to conclude, though, after having gathered these narratives, that “cross-gender feelings frequently preceded overt autogynephilic arousal, often by many years”.

This is no way a scientifically valid sample. Moreover, out of more than 100, she only presents 59 online . In spite of that I believe her survey proves that crossdreaming can be a childhood phenomenon.

Three types of childhood crossdreamers

Some of these narratives point to a childhood that is similar to the ones reported for androphilic transkids and classic transsexuals. That is, there seems to be at least three categories:

(1) Those kids that appear as “normal” boys, taking part in rough and tumble play etc. etc.

(2) Those that “pass” as boys, but display some “girl-like” behavior. They avoid rough and tumble play and do prefer more peaceful activities. I was one of them myself – a kind of “proto-nerd”, I guess. I preferred drawing to soccer and skiing, but also found building model warplanes a good thing.

(3) Those who clearly identify with girls, often cross-dress as kids and prefer playing with girls.
These are not absolute categories, I believe, but more like a gradual continuum.

This means that single cases of crossdreamer kids appearing “boyish” as kids do not prove anything, one way or the other, as regards the possible “femininity” of other crossdreamer kids.

Out of Anne Lawrence’s 58 autogynephilia narratives, the following report childhood transgender issues: 1, 3, 4?, 8, 9, 13?, 19, 23, 25, 26, 28, 31, 34, 35, 38?, 44, 48, 50?, 54, 55, 56.

That is 21 out of 59. It might be that some of the others would have reported childhood experiences, as well, had they been asked to. We can also speculate about how many crossdreamers suppress childhood dreams about becoming girls. (The question marks mark cases where the narratives may possible be interpreted in such a way that they do not confirm childhood experiences. To me they look genuine.)

Crossdreaming before puberty

Lawrence admits that these narratives are in conflict with Ray Blanchard’s theory of crossdreaming (autgynephilia) being a sexually driven paraphilia:

“There was one way in which some of my respondents’ stories were less consistent with Blanchard’s ideas about autogynephilia. If the desire for sex reassignment is indeed an outgrowth of these persons’ autogynephilia, then we would expect autogynephilia to appear first, with cross-gender wishes appearing only later. But some of my respondents who freely acknowledged autogynephilic arousal reported that they had experienced cross-gender wishes long before their autogynephilia became evident. (…) It is hard to know whether accounts like these are accurate, or are simply retrospective re-writings of early memories to agree with accepted notions about transsexualism. I believe that we must at least consider the possibility that autogynephilia can, in different individuals, be either the cause or the effect of a desire for sex reassignment.”

Even childhood crossdreaming may have a sexual component (see On the Science of Changing Sex for a very interesting case). Children are sexual beings. But it becomes harder to explain why a M2F crossdreamer kid dressing up as a girl is more fetishistic or paraphilic than an androphilic transgirl trying out mama’s shoes.

Some quotes

I have copied the paragraphs from these narratives that are relevant to the childhood AGP question.

No 1: ” I have no doubt, as I look back on my past, that when I was five and wearing perfume, or making pretty necklaces out of colored beads, or arranging flowers, or when I was seven and volunteering to play ‘Mother Goose’ in the school play, that sexual motivation was a part of what I was experiencing.”

No. 3: “I began crossdressing at three or four. My absolute earliest lifetime memory is, in fact, of standing in a closet happily wearing my sister’s dress, knowing somehow that it was “wrong” and that I should never be caught. I fantasized a lot during my childhood about being a girl, or transforming into one, but I had friends of both sexes, and was feminine in appearance but not necessarily in action. I would have been a tomboy, if I [had been] a girl. My sister was my best friend, and we played with dolls and girlish fantasy games, but I also played cowboys and softball and ran around the badlands with my boy friends.”

No 4: “I do not believe myself to BE a woman, nor did I ever believe myself to BE a girl while growing up. I certainly wasn’t masculine — I played almost exclusively with girls and did not act at all macho, but I never thought I WAS a girl.”

No 6: “I really can’t trace autogynephilia back too much beyond adolescence — I never fit in and really didn’t do boy things, but I didn’t do much girlish stuff either (although I remember some interest, but avoided it because of fear of repercussions of peers).”

No 8: “I did dress in some of my mother’s underthings as I was growing up, but never did fully dress until around 10 years ago.”

No 9: “I had begun cross-dressing as a child and had fantasizing about being female. From puberty onwards, I was sexually aroused by the idea of being a women, wearing women’s clothes, fetish items, and being made love to as a women by a man. ”

No 13: “I did not engage in much crossdressing at an early age. I did sneak occasionally into my Mother’s room and try on a slip, panties, or a bra, but that was the extent of it.”

No 19: ” Following the classic definition of transsexuality, my feelings started at an early age, at least as early as five, years before puberty. I didn’t fit in with boys. I loathed sports and fighting, and war-related role-playing. I was quite drawn to trying on my mother’s and sister’s things, including clothes, makeup, perfume, and jewelry, both real and toy versions. My favorite toys were all my sisters, the dolls and the easy bake oven.”

No 23: “When I was six or seven, I used to masturbate with a piece of clothing — it did not need to be gendered clothing, I just did not want to touch my penis — and fantasize about not having a penis, [and] having a vagina.”

No 25: ” I am almost 100% sure that my desire to be a woman is more established than [my] autogynephilia, which I also recognize [in] myself. The former has been rather stable since the age of six, whereas I don’t recall any remotely autogynephilic fantasies before the age of 20.”
No 26: “I have distinct memories of having wanted to be a girl beginning at age four to five years old, and when I saw a rerun newsreel of Christine Jorgensen at 9 years old, I blurted out to my parents I wanted to do that (not smart). ”

No 28: “As an aside, I do not conform to the portrayal of standard physical characteristics of autogynephiles, as I was feminine as a child, transitioned at an early age, and have generally “passed” without effort.”

No 31: “I was used to wear my Mom’s clothing and shoes from the age of five years. I liked this very much, especially because I had the feeling that I was a woman. I was jealous of many school girls, especially the beautiful ones. I wore my mother’s clothes and shoes, and even had my own small wardrobe.”

No 34: “I have known since very early childhood that I was transsexual, though I had no term for it then. However, the standard or classic transsexual definitions did not seem to apply. ”

No 35: “But I don’t think that autogynephilic sexuality is the reason I am transsexual. Rather, I think it is a symptom of my transsexualism. I had my first feelings of wanting to be female around the age of 3-1/2. All through childhood, I prayed that I could become a girl. I started crossdressing around the age of seven. However, since I was an extremely shy child, I was also an extremely compliant child. I was told I was a boy and would always be a boy no matter what. And so, I tried as best I could to get on with life as a male.”

No 38: “I am a transsexual woman who has a sexual attraction towards women. I first knew of my lesbianism at age 10 or 11 when I was told the word and its meaning. (…) Since my pre-teens, I have behaved in a way that is quite consist with being a woman. While I may never have felt as if I “were” a woman (I still don’t — I feel like me and I’m a woman), my presentation, social attitudes, sexual behavior, etc. are all quite consistent with a life-long internal identity as a woman.”

No 44: “I have vivid memories starting from about age six or seven of wanting to be a girl, and of sexual desires which accompanied it. I also remember feeling ashamed of those feelings, though I do not remember any particular incident that instilled such feelings. Fantasies of intentionally becoming a girl began around age 10.”

No 48: “My first understanding that I desired to be a woman, and its accompanying excitement, came when I was around five years old. This occurred watching a Doris Day movie, and at first it involved the wonderful clothes she wore.”

No 50:” When I was younger, maybe eight years old, I always wanted to wear diapers and pee in them. Around this same age, I would often pull my penis and testes down, and cross my legs to hide them and see how I’d look with female genitalia. ”

No 54: “I started crossdressing as a child, probably about age five or six, and continued to do this most of my life.”

No 55: “I grew up wanting to be a girl. At age six or earlier, I can remember praying to God to let me be a girl.”

No 56: “I began having feelings of wanting to be female at a young age, and started crossdressing in my sister’s clothes at age five.”

By the way, many of the respondents confirm that they have been lying about their autogynephilia to health personnel: “I didn’t bring it up because I wanted SRS. I figured out early on that I had to present what they wanted to see, not what I really was. I had no belief at all that I could get approval without lying, so I lied.”

But I doubt that they lied about their childhood.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!