December 20, 2010

The cause of crossdreaming - an alternative model

I spend a lot of time presenting research on gender and sex in this blog, and some of it get pretty heavy. So, this time I have decided to write a popular presentation of what I believe crossdreaming is, without footnotes and Latin terms. You can find the references elsewhere on this blog.

I have previously compared the birth of a personality, gender orientation included, as a remix of humanity.

There are literally millions of variables that make up a human being: natural, psychological and cultural. Each and one of us is the end result of a particular mix of such traits.

Most of these traits are not gender orientated. And if you really look at the men and women you know, you will soon see that they do not adhere to the stereotypes of the movies and the adverts.

There are strong, aggressive, and power hungry women who run for public office. There was a time when they would be called "mannish", but not anymore.

There are shy kind, and compassionate men who love to play with their children. There was a time when a man would be found effeminate if he pushed the baby stroller. Now modern women find this a requirement in their partner. The Norwegian company Stokke and others now deliver a "masculine" stroller. Being compassionate has become a manly thing in my corner of the world.

It may be that there are some statistical differences as regards behavior between the sexes on an aggregate level, but it is weak and nothing like the one you see when it comes to -- let's say -- height and body mass.

In spite of this, there are times when even the diverse cultural language of the modern world is not flexible enough. There are men who find that they feel much more like women, and women who identify with men.

These are the transgender people, from crossdreamers who fantasize about having the body of the other sex to transsexuals who decide to step over the dividing line and become the one they are inside.

Two explanations

There could be at least two reasons for this:

The first one is that there is some kind of critical mass. In a male bodied person this point is reached when the number and intensity of his typical "feminine" traits reaches a critical mass, and he is no longer a man, but she is a woman. Some may live close to this tipping point. They are neither men nor women, or rather: they are a little bit of both.

The second one presumes that there is only one (or at least a limited number of factors) that determine gender identity. If this is the case it does not matter if a male bodied person has a large number of "feminine" traits. If the core trait that determines gender identity says "man", he will identify as a man.

I'll come back to what I believe is the case at the end of this article.

The one armed bandit

Allow me to simplify thing a bit to make this clearer.

Imagine a Las Vegas slot machine with a million wheels, one for each trait. Imagine conception as pulling the lever, and the resulting position of the wheels as a picture of your personality.

In the real world things are a little bit more complex. Some wheels are more likely to give a specific result than others. The position of the wheels may change throughout life as a result of external influences, but this picture should give you a rough idea of where I am heading.

Now, let's take away all those wheels that are not relevant to the formation of biological sex and gender identity.

Among those who believe men and women fall into two distinct compartments, the the perfect combination of symbols for a man would be the one to the right.

I guess we are talking about G.I. Joe here, the exact opposite of the hyper-feminine Barbie.

Barbie would be all pink Venus signs.

Now, how many real life Barbies do you know? Really...

No, I guessed as much. There can not be more than a Barbie per thousand women around, probably less. (Fortunately)

The fact is that in the real world we all come out with a mix of "masculine" and "feminine" traits.

The slot model

For the sake of simplicity I am going to reduce the number of gender relevant variables to seven. In the real world I would guess there are thousands, many of them overlapping, but this is for illustrative purposes.

Note that many of these traits are the end result of a large number of variables. The Human Genome Project has shown that we have far too few genes to couple traits like these to individual genes. The traits are the end result of a complex interaction between genes, proteins, hormones and more.

The fact is that factors in the surrounding environment man turn genes on and off. We now also know that you may inherit gene switch changes from your parents (epigenetics). Biology, psychology, society and the surrounding environment is constantly interacting in all directions.

The sex of the body

The first four variables (or slot "wheels") in my model are basic and instinctual. By this I mean that they are clearly determined by your biological make-up. You do not chose them. They chose you.

The first variable is the sex of the body. For most people this will be XX female or XY male.

This variable determines if your sex organs point outwards or inwards, whether your voice will drop when you hit puberty, or -- alternatively. whether your chest will start to swell. You know the drill.

I have used the traditional Venus and Mars symbols to represent the body sex.

Internal body image

The next variable is what I call internal body image.

For most the internal body image is in harmony with the physical body, but for some there is a disharmony. Crossdreamers dream about having the body of the opposite sex.

Transsexuals report that they found their original bodies alien or even abhorrent. After transitioning they find peace. The harmony seems to been restored.

What this internal body image is or what causes it is a mystery. I will come back to some scientific as well as philosophical studies of what it can be.

It helps to keep in mind that no one experiences a perfect match between the real physical body of a person and his and her idea of what that body looks like. Some think of themselves as slim and shapely, even if they are -- in fact -- overweight. Anorexia and phantom limbs among amputees show that the brain may be tricked -- or trick itself -- into making a bad judgment call regarding the state of affairs.

Regardless of what causes the internal opposite sex body image of crossdreamers and transsexuals, it is an observable fact, and anyone who is struggling with this part of the transgender condition can tell you that it is very real, indeed. The fact that it seems to be permanent (it does not disappear with age) leads me to believe it is inborn.

I have selected a couple of traditionally colored symbols to depict the internal body image.

(The fact that the restroom symbol for a woman is a figure wearing a skirt deserves a blog post in itself. I admit it makes it less than a perfect symbol for the female body image, but what can I say?)

The copulation instinct

The third variable I call the copulation instinct.

This is the biological urge to be the pitcher or the catcher, the top or the bottom, when having intercourse.

I have used two triangles to symbolize this instinct. The one pointing upwards represent the one penetrating; the one pointing downwards the one being penetrated.

Most people seem to prefer one or the other. However, there is also a significant number of men and women, gay and straight, who enjoy both variants.

Some argue that this is not instinctual, but a learned trait caused by social conditioning. I doubt that, as crossdreamers often long to take the traditional part of the opposite sex during intercourse. I find it hard to believe that their parents and play mates conditioned them to do so.


Sexual orientation

The next instinctual variable is sexual orientation.

Most people feel attracted to one or the other sex, while some are bisexual. Religious and political systems have for millennia tried to shoehorn human sexuality into the box of pure heterosexuality, but it is clear that Nature does not care.

A gynehilic (woman-loving) orientation is symbolized with a pink heart with an F (for Female). An androphilic (man-loving) orientation is represented by a dark heart with an M (for Male).

Some report attraction to both sexes. They are bisexual. In that case the wheel stops between the two symbols.

I should add that having only one wheel for sexual orientation is an oversimplification. In fact, it may be misleading and culturally determined.

In some cultures gay vs. straight is not determined on the basis of the body type you are attracted to, but on the basis of the copulation instinct (see above). A man is gay if he is willing to be penetrated anally, but straight if he takes the active role when having sex with a man.

Even in Western cultures there may will often be a difference between sexual practice, sexual attraction, gender expression and sexual identity ("I am gay"). For the sake of simplicity, however, I will stick to the standard model here.

Personality

In addition to these more instinctual variables, I have also included three personality variables.

The fact is that I could have included hundreds of them. I could also have defined the ones I have included differently, as I do not believe they are the end result of one gene or one section of the brain.

They are all the complex result of the combination of a large number of variables of which we know little or nothing.

The three I have included have been selected because they so often are associated with stereotypical gender traits. Statistically speaking -- on a very aggregated level -- I suppose you could say that there may be a gender specific distribution, but when it comes to real life and the people we meet from day to day, these traits are found in both genders.

The fact that they are associated with gender roles is important, however, because it makes life harder for a person who has many psychological traits that are culturally associated with the opposite sex. The more traits of this kind you have, the harder it is to live in harmony with your inner self.

It also seems to me that the narratives of many transgender persons are colored by these traits. For instance: If a male to female transgender person is introvert and non-aggressive, this person may interpret this as a result of his/her transgender condition, even if there are a large number of women that are both outgoing and aggressive.

Level of aggressiveness

Traditionally men are considered more violent than women, and as regards physical violence this is thought to be caused by testosterone. Men have more testosterone than women. Men are more likely to use violence to "solve problems", and because of this they are more likely to end up in prison.

Women have also testosterone, however, and can become very angry, indeed. They may also become violent, although they are more likely to make use of psychological violence. I believe the main reason for this is muscle strength and body mass. It easier for a man to get away with physical violence.

In my figures I have used the carnivore to symbolize anger and agressiveness, the herbivore to symbolize a more non-aggressive approach to life. And before you accuse me of gender stereotyping: The dog in this picture is one mean and aggressive bitch -- not a male!

Aggressiveness and the conciliatory approach are not good or bad in and for themeselves. They are just different.

Analytic vs. emphatic

Traditionally men have been considered analytic, while women are believed to excel in empathy. That is: the two genders are believed to understand the world in different ways. If you go to a man with a problem he will try to find a solution, a woman will hold your hand and let you cry.

Again, men and women make use of both approaches, and there are women that are more analytically oriented than most men. I have know a lot of empathic wise men.

In short: I believe the differences we see are caused by nurture and not by nature. This means that these traits are not truly masculine vs. feminine. That being said: the fact that culture expects women to be empathic and men to be analytic may become a problem for those who fall in the opposite slot.

The heart represents empathy, the brain analytical ablity.

Introvert vs. extrovert

Men are supposed to be outgoing as this is associated with strength and aggressiveness. In modern western cultures, to be feminine is to be shy and submissive.

This has not always been the case. Before the 19th century, women were thought to be extrovert, sexually aggressive and emotionally unstable. (Read Shakespeare if you do not believe me!) The man was supposed to be calm and restrained.

I have made two smileys to symbolize the extrovert and the introvert.


The Perfect Male

If you ask moder evolutionary psychologist or biologist whether they believe all men only display "masculine" traits, they would say no. Underpinning their theory, however, is the assumption that they "ought to" do so, and that they will do so in time, as natural selection has taken its course.

(It is interesting to note that few of the male researchers preaching this gospel look much like an alpha male themselves.)

When asked, more normal people will tell you that they appreciate the fact that Uncle Simon is gentle as a lamb and that his wife Berlinda is one tough lady. "She is the one with the trousers in that family!" Still, they do not deny Berlinda her feminity, nor do they call Simon a woman.

Still, there are limits to their tolerance, and if Simon crosses that line he will soon find himself called a womanish sissy or something worse. If she becomes to bossy, some may start questioning Berlinda's femininity. When that happens people fall back on a more stereotypical view of sex and gender.

It turns out that we believe that the perfect male should look something like this after all: (click on images to enlarge!)


The perfect male has a male body, a male body image, a mounting copulation instinct, he likes women, and he is strong and aggressive, analytical and extrovert.



And when we fall back on the stereotypes we soon find that Berlinda should not look like a lumber jack, she should have a female body image, she should long to submit to male knight, and she is -- of course -- loving, shy and demure, like Femina below:



In the real world, of course, women come in all sizes and shapes, like Amanda below. She may be a "normal" ciswoman, but she know how to bite back, and is as good in math as she is in Medieval love poetry:



But what happens if the slot machine brings up some unusual signs on the left hand side of the window pane?

Here is Brian, a male to female crossdreamer. His body is unmistakenly male, but he does not recognize it when he looks in the mirror. In fact, he feels alienated from it. "Inside" he feels like a woman, and he can easily imagine himself having breasts and a vagina.

That is not all, even if he falls in love with women, his copulation institinct is receptive. He wants to be the catcher, and not the pitcher. Given that he non-aggressive, empathic and love shy by nature, he find it very hard to live up to the expectations of others. In fact, he constantly beats up himself for not being a "real man", and he find the idea of dating women very intimidating.

As a psychological personality profile goes, Brian is as feminine as Femina above. Indeed, as time go by he come to the conclusion that he is a woman.



Greg also has a woman's body image, but when it comes to sex he swings both ways. When he is in love with a woman, and she is in a romantic mood, he loves being her knight, actively seducing her. His non-agressive personality makes him a gentle lover, but he willingly takes the active part when making love to her.

Still, as a bisexual he loves giving in to a strong man. Then he is the bottom, enjoying the pleasure of letting go.



I belive there are as many female to male crossdreamers as there are male-bodied ones. Below are the signs of Naomi. She hates the role society has given her. At an early age she switched her Barbie doll for a Bowie knife. Her parents accepted her as a tomboy, believe that she would grow out of her boisterous manners. She did not.

When she is having sex with her boy friend she is on top, penetrating him anally with a strap-on. Having found his feminine side, he does not seem to mind.



Miranda is in many ways similar to Naomi. But while many suspects Naomi for being a lesbian (which she is not), Miranda is a butch. She loves to seduce feminine women, making them beg for some rough and tumble sex. Miranda feels like a man and may become one one day.



According to the stereotypes all lesbian women should be "diesel dykes" like Miranda. You know, the type with a short crew cut, a muscular body and a manly manner.

Nature does not care much about our stereotypes, however, and the wheels of nature may give you a large number of combinations. There are all kinds of lesbian personality types, from Miranda at the one end to Phoebe at the other.

Phoebe feels as feminine as any heterosexual woman. Her copulation instinct is receptive and she loves women. She may make Miranda believe that she has found a submissive girlie, playing the role to perfection. She is a modern woman, though, and Miranda should better know the difference between role playing and real life.



Critical mass or essential factor

Let me get back to my two hypotheses: The first one is that there is some kind of tipping point. In a male bodied person this point is reached when the number and intensity of his typical "feminine" traits reaches a critical mass, and he is no longer a man, but she is a woman.

The second one presumes that there is only one (or at least a limited number of factors) that determine gender identity. If this is the case it does not matter if a male bodied person has a large number of "feminine" traits. If the core trait that determines gender identity says "man", he will identify as a man.

I must admit that I previously believed in the critical mass theory, mainly because I found the gender stereotypes reflected in crossdreamer fantasies and forum and blog comments. So many crossdreamers dream of being "feminine", in the sense of dressing up and behaving in a stereotypical feminine way.

Male lesbians

In some cases I think the critical mass theory makes sense. This especially applies to Dr. Gilmartin's love shy "male lesbians".

These are men that feel a complete alienation towards traditional male traits like aggressiveness, or typical male activities like violent sports. They are extremely introvert and value stereotypical female practices, as they believe these to be more in harmony with their own personality. They are probably right about that.

But even if they identify with what is considered feminine values, few of them think of themselves as women. Nor does the idea of having a woman's body lead to sexual arousal. Most of them are not crossdreamers or transsexuals. Nor are most of the so-called metrosexuals found in the celebrity magazines.

Non-feminine crossdreamers

Furthermore, I have found too many crossdreamers who do not fit the critical mass model. Many crossdreamers are indeed love shy loners with a longing for submission. This could partly be a reflection of their individual personality, but it could also be a kind of hyper-correction to friends and familiy members who demand of them a kind of behavior that is not naturally theirs.

During my reading of recent research in evolutionary biology, sexology and psychiatry I have seen that the evidence for there being a strong biological basis for the behavioral dichotomy between the sexes is very weak indeed. At best we are talking about weak statistical effects on an aggregate level. Personality traits like intuition, sensitivity, empathy, analytical ability, three dimensional orientation and so on and so forth are in no way gender specific. They are shared by both genders.

It does not matter if a woman have "masculine interests", a great analytical capability and a strong, powerful personality. She will still, more likely than not, have a feminine gender identity and internal body image. She identifies as a woman. In fact, she does not even think about this. She takes her womanhood for granted.

At the same time, a male to female crossdreamer may appear masculine, he may have "masculine" interests and personality traits and still have a female gender identity.

It seems to me that the traditional tale of the hyper feminine classic transsexual is no more than a child of the sexist attitudes of the psychiatrists of the 1960's, or of the stereotypical expectations of contemporary men and women. They expect a transwoman to behave in a certain way, and the transwomen do their best to comply.

(That does not mean that there are no transwomen who naturally deliver the culturally expected feminine looks, manners, interests and behaviors. The point is that they do not have to.)

All of this leads me to the conclusion that there must indeed be one (or a few) factors that are necessary for a man or a woman to start dreaming about being the other sex in the transgender sense.

The fact that there seems to be a continuum between the male and the female is therefore not due to different mixes of male and female traits. It is rather caused by the fact that these essential traits may vary in intensity. Alternatively: it could be that they are not strictly binary. There a women, men and the gender queer.

It seems to me that the most essential trait is what I have called the body image. Some has an internal body image that is not in harmony with the real body, or they may have an internal body image that represents a mix of the male and the female.

Later on I'll come back with a post where I explore the concept of an internal body image, look at what scientists and philosophers have to say about it and to what extent it is possible to prove its existence.

Barbie as a soldier from Flickr.

21 comments:

James said...

"It does not matter if a woman have "masculine interests", a great analytical capability and a strong, powerful personality. She will still, more likely than not, have a feminine gender identity and internal body image. She identifies as a woman."

What I can say is that the same applies to a feminine male who is not a crossdreamer.I have some stereotypical masculine abilities like analytical skills, aggressiveness and so on. However, I still feel feminine and gender fluid most of the time. There have indeed been moments when I felt I would be rather better off as a female though I did not have any internal image of female body.
That was largely because I wanted to play feminine role in sex, or wised to be treated as delicate feminine in public. Hoever, I still have a male identity and don't get urge to crossdress. I am metrosexual.
I don't think body image is necessarily the most essential factor for a TG to say he or she has gender dysphoria, though it is one of them.
We essentially judge ourselves based on what we see around us. If I found a lot of boys who did not play rough games or were not domineering type, I would never have considered myself gender fluid.

Jamiegottagun said...

Jack,

This is BRILLIANT!

Really, if I was on the panel I'd vote to award you a Nobel Prize!

It's elegant, yet simple, and sensible and in its own way beautiful; all things that nature tends to be.

All you need now is a computer program that you can feed every variable that you can think into, and several thousand random actual people to compare what the computer spits out to.

By Jove I think he's got it!

Claire L Hallam said...

Wonderful post. Your analysis is great and tremendously clear but the conclusion that there must indeed be one (or a few) factors that are necessary for a man or a woman to start dreaming about being the "other" doesn't seem to follow. Do I need to re-read some earlier posts?

Sarah Murphy said...

Jack,

I don't think you may be onto something, I know you ARE onto something. When I worked on the taxonomy series, I was hoping someone would come along and improve on it. It seems as though we are looking at the same end, but with different roads. While I lean on the Benjamin scale as the core of the theory, your approach is on individual characteristics. As much as I like my own work, I really like what you propose here.

After all, the eventual goal of this is for us to know where we sit in the landscape. Having a dot on the map relieves much confusion, methinks. Having a collection of different types of maps doesn't hurt either. Great work.

Sarah

Sarah said...

Nice post Jack, I just have a question;

With the body image characteristic, or "slot", my understanding of our perceived difference with "classic" transsexuals is that they feel they are already women inside and want to bring their external body into alignment with who they are inside already, whereas we (crossdreamers) don't necessarily feel we are women (or specifically feel like we are women inside), but have a massive, unshakeable desire to attain that female form, and possibly (hopefully) then also start to feel female inside as a result.

Because I don't feel female inside, I find it hard to feel disgust with or disconnection from with my male body, although I feel a lot of disappointment and frustration that I can't get the body I actually want and that I can't "switch off" that want either.

So to summarise, if I don't specifically feel female in my head, does that mean your model would have me choosing the "male" body image component? Or would I still be choosing the "female" body image because that's all I really want?

Robyn P said...

Jack,

There are two fundamental flaws with the "tipping point".

First, let's say there is a "tipping point" based on values of various attributes as you propose and once a man crosses the "tipping point", he is now a woman... What happens when a man crosses the tipping point because he has enough attributes to be a woman BUT has no desire to be a woman because he likes being a man? This is a common storyline for many fiction stories where a man is magically changed into a woman without his knowledge or consent. The rest of the story has the hero, now heroine, struggle to be the woman he now is even though he doesn't want to be. You propose the possibility of a man becoming a woman not because he wants to, but because he has all the attributes to be a woman and not a man.

Conversely, what if a man has very few or zero of the attributes needed to go past the tipping point (a "manly" man) but knows deep down inside himself that he is a woman? Is anyone going to say to this man, "Excuse me, Sir, but you need a reality check because you are not even close to the 'tipping point'."? No, I don't think so... Some people might help him move closer to the tipping point by providing hormones, etc. because he is so rigid in his belief. In this case, the idea of a "tipping point" comprised of multiple attributes is trashed.

In order to accomodate the entire spectrum of people using your idea, in the end there is only one attribute that is meaningful. That attribute is one's total image of their self. If one's image is that of a woman, then they are a woman or if their image is that of a man, then they are a man NO MATTER WHAT ANY OTHER ATTRIBUTES ARE.

The second flaw in your idea is the classification of attributes. You may have an adequate list but if there is to be a "tipping point", then it has to be agreed upon by everyone. Who determines what attributes are considered and their weight in determining the "tipping point"? Scientists? Psychologists? Anthropologists? Government? College Professors? The gender community? The general public? Or does each person set their own "tipping point"?

The problem with having a fixed, official tipping point is the danger of men not reaching the tipping point but think they are women and men over the tipping point and are now women but don't want to be...

Robyn

James said...

Robyn P,
"That attribute is one's total image of their self. If one's image is that of a woman, then they are a woman or if their image is that of a man, then they are a man NO MATTER WHAT ANY OTHER ATTRIBUTES ARE. "

That is a narrow perception not because it is wrong but because it averts many aspects of TRANSGENDERISM and only explains what is TRANSSEXUALISM.
But do remember we are talking of transgenderism rather than its extreme case of transsexualism.
We must know the biological reasons behind why some males feel male alright but deep inside want to feel like women.

Anonymous said...

I like you post but don't have the patience to read all in details despite the fact I am AG.

How do you find the patience to talk non stop about the same topic ?!!

I can not concentrate that much !

A comment = why do you tell that "there are shy me... who love kids". Why do they gave to be shy ? A non shy man can nit love kids ? It seems that you fell into the trap of gender roles by telling that !

Anonymous said...

I am a man

I see myself like a man (I would like to have a pussy but not particulary to have a women's life and if I could be a real woman I am not even sure I would agree)

I like to be penetrate (I can also penetrate but I found it more or less boring physicaly and furstrating mentaly and definitly not exciting when I am not in love).

I am attracted by girls and not by men. I fall in love with women.

I am rather analytic, not shy and agressive in words (but not in physical fights though because I don't want to damage my body and don't feel that I need to fight to express myself)

So I want to live as a man, look like a man and have a pussy to be able to get dicks in a very sensitive hole and so much more pleasure than with my asshole. I don't want large breats as it is rather cumbersome and useless in everyday life. A very small breast would be great just too look more feminine once naked !

But the problem is that it would kill my love life as no women would want a man with a pussy !

So I would have no loving life and a great sexual life with men.

Am i crazy ?

Jack Molay said...

@ Claire,

"..but the conclusion that there must indeed be one (or a few) factors that are necessary for a man or a woman to start dreaming about being the 'other' doesn't seem to follow."

I am not sure about this, but my argument is based on the observation that there is no clear correlation by what our culture considers "masculine" and "feminine" traits and perceived gender identity.

This is the exact opposite conclusion to -- for instance -- the HBS transwomen, who seem to believe that the way you hold your handbag has a biological basis, or the "transkids" who believe gender identity equals sexual orientation.

But if gender identity is not about psychological traits or about sexual orientation, then what is it?

What is this factor X that makes biological males dream of having a woman's body and female to male crossdreamers fantasize about having a penis?

If you take "gender" and "sexual orientation" out of "gender identity", what remains?

To me it seems that the answer is "body identity". The core of the crossdreamer as well as the transsexual condition is a strong biological trait (or traits) that expresses itself through the internal body image and -- maybe -- the copulation instinct.

Ironically, I end up with a conclusion very similar to the one of the "classic transsexuals", who also insist that their condition is biological.

You are right in pointing out that this does not necessarily mean that we are talking about a small number of factors. For all I know, the internal body image and the copulation instinct may be caused by a complex array of genetic, protein based and hormonal triggers. Still,compared to the complexity of social and cultural gender traits these seem to be pretty basic.

I picture this as a kind of basic core condition that serves as a kind of psychological crystallizing point which may express itself in different ways under different cultural conditions. For instance: a biological male with a female body image, could have taken the role of a normal, proactive, balanced woman if the surrounding culture allowed it. Instead the repression of his inner "womaness" channels his dreams and desires into stereotypical dreams of being the submissive sissy. This is the only way s/he manages to reconcile a harsh outer reality with the inner reality.

Jack Molay said...

@Robyn

"The problem with having a fixed, official tipping point is the danger of men not reaching the tipping point but think they are women and men over the tipping point and are now women but don't want to be..."

You are absolutely right! I have probably expressed myself clumsily or tried to put to much content into one blog post.

But basically my argument is that the tipping point model does not explain why some people identify as women and some as men (keeping in mind that some may repress their true gender identity).

Hence I also agree with you that it is impossible to put up a list of psychological attributes that would cover the complexity of gender identity, and that could be used to determine when someone has reached the tipping point.

This is why I believe there must be something else -- a factor "X" (or "Y" in the case of F2Ms :-) -- that is not explained by cultural and stereotypical psychological gender traits and that causes many -- but not necessarily all -- transgender conditions.

You call the factor X the "total image of oneself". This reminds me of Jung who called the totality of a human being's psyche "the Self". He argued that none of us are conscious of all the psychological content of "the Self", but it will nevertheless steer us in a certain direction. There is a hidden core i us that needs to be realized in real life.

I am starting to believe that this total self has a basic biological core.

As for the TG fiction stories "where a man is magically changed into a woman without his knowledge or consent". I believe these stories express some kind of inborn female identity. The story is a day dream where this inborn identity is allowed to express herself. The fact that the protagonist finds it so hard to cope as a woman, only demonstrates that there is no one to one relationship between stereotypical gender expressions and the core identity. The fantasy is an attempt at reconciling theses opposites.

Jack Molay said...

@ Anonymous:

"A non shy man can not love kids?"

Yes, he can. Most men and women, shy and extrovert, proactive or reactive, love their kids. I did not mean to say otherwise.

@Anonymous 2:

You say that you identify as a a man but would like to have a female body, having sex as a woman with another woman. You ask if you are crazy.

I don't think you are crazy. You express something that is felt by many male to female crossdreamers, an extreme confusion as regards what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a man. You are not alone.

@ Sarah

On the difference between classic transsexuals and crossdreamers:

The CT crowd is going to crucify me for saying this, but I do not think there is a fundamental difference between the alienation M2F transwomen feel from their male bodies and the crossdreamer's dream of having a woman's body.

They seem to me to be both expressions of a conflict between the inner body image and the real physical body.

Indeed, many transwomen have once experienced erotic dreams of a crossdreamer nature, and many of them started out as crossdressers.

For some the incongruity between mind and body becomes unbearable and they need to transition to realize their true self.

However, there seems to be huge differences in how this incongruity expresses itself. Some manage to live with it as men, others struggle. In some it is coupled with a strong need to express traditional femininity, in others not. Some hate their male genitalia, others redefine them as female body parts. In some the incongruity is expressed through a strong feeling of being a woman from a very early age on, others come to this realization at a later age.

The classic transsexuals hate the idea of being placed in the same category as crossdressers who identify as men, as they believe it undermines their legitimacy as women. They believe they will be perceived as sex crazed perverted men.

I think they are wrong. It is quite possible to discuss the similarities between what causes crossdreaming and the transsexual condition, without saying that a transwoman is a man or a crossdreamer is a woman.

For me it is totally clear that a male bodied person who feel so alienated from her male body that she wants to become a woman, is a woman. But I do not buy the idea that it is what is between her legs that determines whether she is a man or a woman.

Nor do i believe that the presence or absence of erotically charged cross-sexual dreams determines whether you are a woman or not. Such dreams may simply be an expression of a suppressed female identity.

Whether you are truly a man or a woman is not for me to decide. But according to the model I have presented here you do have a female body image.

Cheryl Sussex said...

Well done Jack!! Fascinating post as always.

circled said...

I agree with some others here in that I can't really say whether my jinternal body image is male, female, neither, fluid...

There is almost more than one personal internal image. I, living in this body, am a man. I feel like there's a girl in here somewhere, though not necessarily "trying to get out." I like the idea of crossdressing in theory, and as a fantasy... but this isn't compatible with the male body image, and so in practice I don't.

I don't feel dysphoria (which I think of as a conflict between physical body and body image), so much as a disconnect between that hidden girl and my male body image. She doesn't make me effeminate, though I am certainly way on the non-aggressive and introverted sides.

If I had my choice, I would go for a fluid or androgynous body and body image. Shapeshifting would be best, of course :)

ShreeHariPrakashan said...

Dear Jack,
Of very big interest to me are the so called metrosexuals and male-lesbians.
I am a male-lesbian and I can assure you that even without wearing ny female clothes or crossdressing, I find myself being more feminine in personality than many women as well as transwomen.
I express this lovely soft femininity when I am at home. I usually wear very bright male dresses that look gorgeous. Of course many non-metro men would wear them too, but my additional attribute is that I have completely shaved off my body, and am totally hairless.
I hate body hair and I also don't like looking manly in the traditional sense. This is because it goes against my personality which is hyper-feminine, especially during sexual moments.
I am extremely introverted as well, and prefer to remain in my own world full of hypercreativ imaginations. I dislike the world of men, because they are very rough and look ugly, except of course the elite ones.I wouldn't mind sex with a few men though, if they were kind and caring enough.
I don't think I need to be a female to express my femininity because I feel I can be as beautiful and soft as a girly girl without wearing girl dresses or actually being a girl.
I can also sing melodious songs in a pretty girl's voice,because so long as I look young and demure,rather than a gruffy man, I find it wonderful.
Only thing is that I don't want to be a manly man. Other than that, I feel I am 100% XY and this does not disturb me much.
One thing of course that comes as a problem is my love of receptive role in sex. I find a lot of women taking resent at that, so, then I go to men for this. Making me bisexual of course lolz.

ShreeHariPrakashan said...

I have been recently wondering however if I might be transgendered. I have been browsing a lot of sites for this.
But it seems transgenders hav some other problem, and usually a lot of MTF transgenders dismiss my problem as simply a trivial case of a sensitive male.
They say that to be transgender, one needs to have a sense of sex dysphoria, that is, to have an internal image of the opposite sex.
This does not ring true to me at all.
I used to think most transgenders would transition only to express their cross-gendered personalities.
However,this sex-dysphoria and alienation from one's own body is something new to me.
Why would someone feel so alienated from his or her own body, Jack Molay?

Jack Molay said...

@ShreeHariPrakashan

From what you tell us here, you are definitely transgender -- i.e. you are outside the traditional stereotypical gender norms. The term transgender is used as an umbrella term for all types of gender challenging personalities and behaviors.

So I guess the question is whether you are a transsexual, in the sense of having a female sex identity instead of a male one.

The traditional answer to this question is that you need to suffer from some kind of sex dysphoria, which includes a deep felt alienation from your own body.

If you feel at ease with your male body and feel no longing for having a female body, you are not a transsexual according to this way of thinking.

Personally, I know the feeling of sex dysphoria all too well, and know that it can be very real indeed.

Still, I am in no way sure if this should be considered a prerequisite for transitioning. If being a woman in body and soul is what is required for you to be accepted as a woman by society, then transitioning would make sense also for a male to female transgender who does not experience sex dysphoria.

If I understand you correctly you also suffer from a kind of "dysphoria", but it is connected to not being allowed to express your feminine gender, am I right? I am sure that feeling of unhappiness can be just as crippling as the kind of dysphoria described in the literature.

ShreeHariPrakashan said...

@Jack
"If being a woman in body and soul is what is required for you to be accepted as a woman by society, then transitioning would make sense also for a male to female transgender who does not experience sex dysphoria."

There are a couple of problems with your logic here.
Like many other male-lesbians and metrosexuals that I know,I don't see my soul telling me there is a female inside.My gender is male, but my way of thinking is feminine. I am more aroused by romantic novels,rather than visual erotica for instance. In general, I prefer a softer luxurious lifestyle than a rough sporty one.
But my soul still feels male to the core.I think I am simply a male who is wired to think a bit differently.
Much more than feeling a need of transitioning into a woman, I feel the definitions of masculinity and femininity need to be widened, or let us say, a man must be allowed to express a wider range of gender expressions,and so also a woman.This will easily mainstream and legitimize existence of men with feminine personalities and females with masculine personalities and if that happens, they would no longer dream of transitioning.

"If I understand you correctly you also suffer from a kind of "dysphoria", but it is connected to not being allowed to express your feminine gender, am I right?"

I am not sure if these traits would be called "feminine gender" but I would say they are personalities which for some reason are deemed as socially feminine.
I guess it could be simply because most women have these personalities and most men don't have them.
That said,I have tried hard to consider transitioning to a female.But the problem is that then, my body image will become contrary to my self-image. This is because despite having these intense psychological traits, my self-image is that of a man, and my transitioning into a woman would not change this self-image.

Perhaps, it is for this reason that transsexuals emphasize the presence of sex dysphoria as a prerequisite to seeking SRS,rather than simply presence of traits deemed as socially masculine or feminine.
We live in a culture,where men are preventd from expressing traits deemed feminine (for instance connecting romance with sex or being nerdy),and females from expressing traits deemed masculine (for example, working as a manager or CEO).But if the definition of masculinity and femininity are widened, this dysphoria I have will vanish.

ShreeHariPrakashan said...

There is another interesting observation I have made regarding ftms who are not masculine type.
I have visited forums such as Lauras Playground and met several gay and bisexual FTMs who fit exactly my psychological profile.They feel they are men, and their intense feeling of being a man inside made them dysphoric enough to want to seek transitioing. However, the personalities they described well resonated with what I feel.
They are soft and sensual, highly emotional, giggly around lovers and friends, and far from any masculine stereotypes and gender expressions.
But they consider themselves men, even real men at that.
If they can want to change their female genitalia to be a man like me, why should I change into a woman to express these same traits,rather than simply revising or widening the cultural definition of what a man or a woman is?
I guess the problem is that certain personality profiles are connected to gender identities by media stereotypes which is necessarily not the case at all for countless men and women.

ShreeHariPrakashan said...

In that sense, I ultimately do agree with the classic definition of transgenderism,ie.,presence of sex dysphoria.
I have never seen any person with cross-gender personalities and having no sex-dysphoria seeking SRS or even identifying as transgender. This certainly also applies for very butch stud women and highly effeminate men such as drag queens.
But,I have seen a hell lot of people with sex-dyrphoria but not necessarily presence of cross-gender personalities, seeking transition.This applies to effeminate transmen and butch transwomen.
This proves that it is sex-dysphoria which eventually decides the gender identity a person feels inside-ie,male or female or something else such as genderqueer.

Vivienne said...

Thanks for posting Jack. This is a very insightful and detailed analysis with a lot of useful information.

It is a different (but very helpful) conceptual framework to explore the many facets of the difference between men and women. I also agree with you that, when it comes to men's behaviour and women's behaviour, there is an enormous degree of overlap; so much so that we can't say there is any single activity which is exclusively male or exclusively female (except maybe childbirth).

Vivienne.