January 29, 2010

On the innate femininity of male to female crossdreamers ("autogynephiliacs")

Is the the femininity of male to female crossdreamers ("autogynephiliacs") genetic or is it just an erotic target location error?


Image: Tanyarat Jirapatpakon, a kathoey or Thai transsexual woman.


One good online friend asked me the other day why I was so critical towards Ray Blanchard. It was a good question. After all, I have bought his idea of there being a distinct group of heterosexual men fantasizing of becoming women (as opposed to classic transsexuals). Some of them crossdress, and minority of them even end up transitioning, getting hormone treatments and sex reassignment surgery.

Since I am an crossdreamer (AKA "autogynephiliac") myself, I know that we exist. 

On terminology 

Note of 2013: Since this blog post was written I have stopped using the word "autogynephiliac" to refer to people who get turned on by picturing themselves as the other sex. 

The word entails an explanation for the condition that is not only wrong, but also highly stigmatizing. I am now using the word crossdreamer, which has no such connotations.
Erotic target location error

I guess my main problem is with his explanation for this condition. He argues that the reason "autogynephiliacs" get turned on by imagining themselves as women, is because they have internalized their natural object of attraction, i.e. women, into themselves. This is an "erotic target location error".

Basically, he argues, the "autogynephiliacs" are heterosexual men, but somehow, something has gone wrong. Instead of focusing their desire on real women out there, they are attracted to the idea of they themselves being women. It is a kind of self-obsessed narcissism (although he doesn't use those words).

His follower Anne Lawrence has gone as far as suggesting that this can be some kind of alternative sexuality: homosexuality is same sex attraction, heterosexuality is between-sex attraction and autogynephilia is a kind of inside-yourself-sex attraction.

Evolution

I can see why Blanchard has come to this conclusion. It is partly because of his ideology. He is grounded in traditional evolutionary biology, where the basic pattern of sexuality is oriented towards procreation. In evolutionary terms only heterosexual sex makes sense, as only that can lead to the transmission of genes. (For an alternative view, see my posts on Joan Roughgarden).

Blanchard and his supporter Bailey have spent a lot of time trying to make sense of homosexuality in evolutionary terms. That is hard enough. The "autogynephiliacs" make it all even more complicated, and by clearly defining them as "normal", although perverted, heterosexuals they avoid further complication.

His explanation is supported by the fact that many "autogynephiliacs" display a kind of narcissistic behavior. Some of them get so obsessed with their secret fantasies and practices, that it gets hard for them to develop normal love relationships with another person. The idea of them being in love with themselves therefore seems to make sense.

In denial?

You could argue that the reason I am reluctant to accept this, is that the thought of being labelled a fetishist or paraphiliac (in essence a dysfunctional pervert) does not appeal to me. And that could be true. I may be living in denial. I have done so before.

Still, I have a deep gut feeling telling me that this explanation is too simplistic. Blanchard may be onto something, but this hypothesis does not ring true. There is much more to this phenomenon than this. The fact is, for instance, that many male to female crossdreamers do manage to establish good and loving relationships with women.

Moreover, his isn't really an explanation. He or his supporters have not really told us how or why this internalization takes place.

Crossexualism leads to autogynephilia

To help myself think more clearly about this, I have started to distinguish between crossdreaming as a condition and a hypothetical cause for crossdreaming. I have called the hypothetical complex that underpins crossdreaming "crossexualism". I am using the cross-prefix as it is already used for crossdressing, and in my own term "crossdreaming".

Crossexualism is the cause, autogynephilia is the effect.

Depending on the individual's biological/personal/cultural or social basis, the crossexual can develop different symptoms. Some end up crossdressing. Others start exploring transgender erotica about men being changed into women (crossdreaming). Some seek pleasure in behaving like women (crossenacting).

It could also be that crossexuals may develop other conditions, like gynemimetophilia (transsensuals, men who are attracted to pre-op transsexuals). Maybe some crossexuals become transgenderists, i.e MTF transsexuals who keep their original genitalia. But this is pure speculation on my part.

AGPs are unfeminine

Blanchard and Bailey deny that "autogynephiliacs" have an innate femininity. They believe that classic transsexual women (who they call homosexual transsexual men) are effeminate, but the "autogynephiliacs" are not. They and several other researchers base this understanding on observations.

Let's for a moment forget about the methodological problems related to defining who look and behave femininely and who don't. Let us forget about the fact that male to female crossdreamers in general transition later in life than classic transsexuals, and that this may influence the observer's ability to distinguish between the feminine and the unfeminine (older women may look less feminine than younger ones). Let us also disregard the fact that even natural born genuine girls may look less feminine than many transsexuals.

Let us for the sake of argument accept that "autogynephile" men in general look more masculine than effeminate homosexual men, and that "autogynephile" transsexuals on average are more manly than classic transsexuals. The male to female crossdreamers -- on average -- find it harder to pass as a woman than the classic transsexuals.

Do AGPs have an inner woman?

If this is the case, does this prove that the male to female crossdreamers have no innate femininity? Or to put it in other terms: Does this prove that the "inner woman" of the crossdreamer is something that has been introduced into his/her psyche from the outside, while the "inner woman" of a classical transsexual is inborn?

(Just to make sure: Blanchard does not believe that androphilic, man-loving, transsexuals are women, but he does believe that they are more feminine that other biological born men, so I guess you could say he does accept some kind if innate femininity. To me they are women.)

The reason Blanchard & Co couple the looks of these people with their potential femininity, is most likely because he believes that the femininity of homosexuals and androphilic transsexuals is hormonal. A demasculinisation of a man may bring about both feminine looks and feminine manners. The looks, manners and psychological femininity are interconnected.

A different approach from Thailand

This brings me over to an interesting discussion taking place on this blog. There are now more than 80 comments on my Beyond the perversion post, encompassing a large number of useful exchanges. One of these discussions was initiated by a sexologist working in Thailand.

Natalie points to an article on the femininity of homosexuals and argues that the genetic condition that causes the femininity of gay men is the same as causes the femininity of "autogynephiliacs".

She argues that the main difference between gay men and "autogynephiliacs" is their sexual orientation, not that the femininity of the homosexuals is essentially different from the one of the AGPs.

Gay gene vs. camp gene

She simplifies this by talking about two genes: "the gay gene" and "the camp gene". The feminine gay man has both, the "autogynephiliac" has only the latter.

I don't believe that one gene can cause homosexuality or a complex phenomenon as autogynephilia, but let's say that there are specific complexes of genetic and hormonal factors that cause both of these phenomena. If this is the case, would Natalie's line of argument make any sense?

If it did, you would have an alternative explanation for autogynephilia that fits the obervations made by researchers like Blanchard and Lawrence, but that do not reduce "autogynephiliacs" to fetishists or paraphiliacs.

Jack in Will and Grace

I voiced my scepticism in this way:

"I am no expert on gay men, both I know a few. Few of them are very effeminate (you know, like Jack in Will & Grace), but some are. Still their femininity is not like anything an XX woman would display, especially not if you move into the realm of flamboyant exhibitionism (like the one of drag queens). Truth to be told, I do not know how to understand this type of homosexuality. I like them, but I do not 'get' them!

That makes it hard for me to decide whether the cause of effeminate display among homosexual men is the same as the one for AGP [autogynephilia].

My first reaction is no, because very few AGPs displays the same mannerisms as Jack in Will & Grace. Quite the opposite, actually, we often seem very masculine, both in the way we look and the way we move.

I have clear feminine traits, but they are found in my personality and in my interests, not in any form of 'campness'. I am as far away from camp as it is possible to imagine. Really :-)

But that does not exclude the possibility that there is a factor X that causes both effeminate behavior among gay men and the dream of becoming a woman among AGPs."

My point was that there ought to be a connection between the outward expression of femininity and the inner femininity.

Natalie did not agree.

Gender identity is different from gender expression

Here is her response:

"I wouldn't say 'camp' is a form of behavior which is unwomanly. It is just that women normally don't intend to display it as it has no purpose whatsoever in their ordinary lives. However quite a lot women do engage in that, especially, when it comes to earning fame through glamour and beauty in fashion, film and music industry.

And the very same goes for drag queens. Most drag queens perform it as a form of art, to impersonate females or create an effect parallel to the glam females and hence get a lot of spotlight, attention and wider fame on stage. For them, finding sexual partners or having stable family isn't as essential as their need for media spotlight. Same goes for many XX women from the fashion industry too who are rejecting all traditional female roles for fashion.


But does that rule out they are women and feminine?

Camp is just an outward display or affectation but the genetic makeup which causes it has to be nothing but XX feminine.

Gay males, on the other hand, don't appear femme in the first place but still most are, or at least have been, at a certain stage of life. Fashion may be an area of interest to them or not, but, to form stable relationships and to become potentially attractive clients in the homosexual market, they masculinize themselves and try to avoid every shred of that feminity their problems started with.

But I do suspect that had they not found [in] their early childhood [that] unmanly behaviors were inviting censure from Western society, they would have become more feminine or camp as well. I say this as in my country, just 42% of the kathoey [Thai transsexuals] report they have the mind of a true girl though all of them report feeling different from manly men and also feel they are quite feminine.

Which leads me to conclude that many of these are just feminine gay men who have been put into kathoey category by the Thai society just because they are feminine. Yet they happily grow up as girls.

So, I would say, femininity is present and is the same for all of them- gay and bigender males, drag queens all the way to homosexual transsexuals. The degree of femininity displayed depends on which part of feminity they like most and which serves their purpose of survival provided they are not forced to repress it. But their basic genetic makeup or combinations of genes have same underlying base of femininity.

And so, finally, if autogynephiles are also feminine in some way, they must be having the same combination of genes which make them unmanly. They aren't camp just because they aren't drawn to it and they don't need it as any accessory tool."

Survival strategies

My interpretation of what Natalie says is that homosexual men have two choices:

(1) To suppress their feminine side in order to attract gay men (which is more common in Europe and Northern America), or

(2) to accentuate their feminine side to attract heterosexual men (which is more common in Thailand). These gay men teach themselves feminine mannerisms. According to Natalie the mannerisms are not inborn.

Male to female crossdreamers may be equally feminine at heart, but they do not display their feminine side outwards, as they are not rewarded for it. They are attracted to women, and women like masculine men. Or, at least, the "autogynephiliacs" believe that women are attracted to stereotypically masculine men only. Because of this they never learn feminine mannerisms.

Note that Natalie used the term "homosexual transsexual". I don't use this term myself because it may lead you to believe that the classical transsexual women are in fact gay men. They are not, as I see it. But you could, even if you follow Natalie's line of argument, say that the "classic transsexuals" are complete women as this femininity is inborn. It is not a result of a free choice or cultural conditioning. The kathoeys that report they have "the minds of a true girls" are classical transsexuals, because they do have the minds of true girls.

According to Natalie, there is another group of kathoeys that are not classic transsexuals, but feminine gay men. Even if male Thais take part in a kind of macho culture, the Thais are fairly tolerant towards the kathoeys. The feminine homosexual male may therefore adapt the role of kathoey with success.

The same may apply to some Latin and Middle Eastern countries, where a man is not considered homosexual if he takes the active part in the sexual act. Feminine gay men may therefore find active heterosexual male partners. Acting feminine pays off.

Identity and mannerisms

I remained skeptical. I argued that this requires that there is no biological causality between genetically based femininity and mannerisms. I.e.: their femininity is biological, but their "campness" is an act.

Some report that many (but not all) "autogynephiliacs" find it especially hard to pass after transition, simply because they do not appear feminine or behave in a feminine manner. Natalie's point, though, is that there is a difference between gender identity and gender expression (cp. Betty's comment).

Gender identity is your fundamental and personal experience of being a man or a woman. Gender expression is how you present this identity to the world. There are natural born women who identify as women, but who nevertheless do not appear very feminine in public. In the same way a feminine man can appear masculine in public.

Looking at girls


"I guess there is a certain difference in how homosexuals and heterosexuals look at girls. Homosexual men, more specifically, in most places outside Europe or North America, look at females just like ordinary girls do and try to imitate them as far as possible for presenting their beauty, as their primary purpose is to appear pretty.

They have not much difficulty in imbibing the campness and feminine behavior with just a bit of practice on a highly subconscious level.

However, heterosexuals usually look at women sexually. And so do the autogynephiles although they themselves have a feminine component inside.

So, while these homosexuals would go on making their inner feminine persona presentable and so would concentrate on their outward mannerisms, autogynephiles go on to eroticize this inner woman due to their sexuality. And because they don't see women that way, they fail to behave feminine too.

But that does not mean they are not feminine. I have heard many AGPs have felt different from other boys in childhood and also have had a strong femininity. It's that they haven't noticed their femininity like other girls and homosexuals or Classic transsexuals, because they simply did not need to pay attention to it and also worse, they were obviously made to believe they are boys.
In a way, they were more blind to their female component until their sexuality in puberty showed them...."

Repressed femininity

What Natalie does here is to turn the traditional story upside down: Male to female crossdreamers have, for some reason or the other, repressed their inner femininity. Following your basic dynamic psychology this would mean that this suppressed part of their personality needs to find another outlet, and in the case of "autogynephiliacs" this is through sexual fantasies.

If I understand Natalie correctly, there is another reason for this as well: Gay men imitate women because they share the same objective: to attract men. "Autogynephiliacs" cannot do that, because their objective is to attract women. In our culture a man who behave like a woman is automatically labelled as effeminate and gay, and the "autogynephiliacs" need to avoid that label if they are to succeed as woman-loving males.

This does not have to be a conscious choice. Early attempts at feminine behavior would have been punished - if not by parents, so by play mates.

So: according to Natalie the autogynephilic eroticism is the effect, and not the cause as it is with Blanchard, Bailey and Lawrence.

Childhood femininity

In order to prove this, you would have to prove that male to female crossdreamers have this feminine component from childhood on. The research does not indicate this. In fact, on an aggregate level the pattern is that classical transsexual M2F women identify as girls at a very early age (younger than five years old), while the "autogynephiliacs" do not become aware of their condition until puberty.

I suspect that MTF crossdreamers do become aware of their condition long before puberty. In my case I had childhood fantasies of becoming a girl as early as the age of 10 or 11, while puberty started at around 15 (I was damned late!). My dreams of becoming Supergirl was not explicitly sexual in nature.

(Lawrence actually agrees that autogynephilia may appear before puberty, but she argues that it is sexual in nature, all the same).

I cannot remember having dreams about being a girl at the age of five. Natalie may still be right, though. This innate femininity may express itself in many ways in childhood, and not necessarily as a dream of being a girl at that stage.

The outsiders

Natalie argues that many "autogynephiliacs" report that they felt different from other boys in childhood. I get the exact same reports: Even if they do not express feminine behavior, they do display what I -- for lack of a better word -- would call non-masculine behavior.

I hated rough and tumble play, I hated sports, I was the quiet one, and throughout life I has kept this "feminine" approach to life: being the integrator and the peace maker, rather than the aggressor.

Like classic transsexuals, male to female crossdreamers report of school days where they were being bullied and persecuted for being different. Like classic transsexuals many of them were called sissies and faggots, in spite of their budding love for girls.

Parental conditioning

It could also be that MTF crossdreamers do want to be girls at an early age, but that they have been forced to suppress this longing because of parental conditioning. If that is the case, we will have to explain why this kind of repression is less likely to occur amongst classic transsexuals.

One possible answer could be that there is both a gradual and a dynamic dimension to the innate femininity of all these various types of biological men.

By gradual I mean that some men are more feminine than others. As I have noted before, I feel like I have a mix of typical masculine and feminine traits. I have a strong inner woman, but I do not think that I am a woman trapped in a man's body. I also have a strong inner man. That makes me different from a classic transsexual woman.

That would mean that what I have called crossexualism above (the unknown cause of autogynephilia) could be a subcategory under the broader inner femininity concept of Natalie.

By dynamic I mean that the femininity of men can unfold throughout time, as may other psychological traits. For some reason androphilic feminine biological men become aware of their femininity at an earlier age than the gynephilic ones. This could be an effect of their sexual orientation. They are programmed by nature to attract men and that force is so strong that it defeats the many suppression attempts made by family and friends.

(And yes, in case you wondered: Children are sexual beings. They are training for adulthood, and start flirting before they can walk.)

I am not going to conclude on this in this post. This is a work in progress. But I must say I find this discussion very interesting, and I will definitely explore Natalie's ideas in more detail.

I would like to thank Natalie and the rest of you for all these fruitful interventions. Keep'em coming!

[Update for new readers February 2014: I no longer use the words "autogynephiliac" or "autogynephile" to describe transgender persons, as the words themselves refers to the stigmatizing erotic target location theory of Dr. Ray Blanchard (meaning love of oneself as a woman). There is absolutely no evidence to support this theory, and it is predominately used to invalidate the identity of trans people. I have coined the neutral term crossdreamer to describe both female bodied and male bodied people who get aroused from the idea of being their target sex. I have made a few edits in this post to reflect this change.]

January 25, 2010

Transgender, Genderqueer and Transsexual Glossary

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There is much confusion about what terms means within the area of transgender and transsexual issues, which makes discussions harder than they have to be. Some terms are also very controversial.

Below I have given a list of definitions for terms used in relevant discussions. Please note that I do not necessarily support the ideologies underpinning all of these terms. This is a blog for learning and discussion, and I will take the liberty to refine and expand the definitions as I go along. Please add comments on the definitions given and suggest terms that should be included.

Agender: A non-binary gender identity described as the absence of gender, feeling as though one has no gender, or no definable gender.

AGP: See autogynephilia.

AFAB: Assigned female at birth

AMAB: Assigned male at birth

Androgyne: a person who live without appearing or behaving particularly male or female.

Androphile: a person who is attracted to men (see sexual orientation).

Asexual: lack of sexual attraction, or interest in or desire for sex. Sometimes, it is considered a lack of a sexual orientation.

Autoandrophilia (offensive term. I prefer the term female to male crossdreaming): biological female who get aroused by the image of herself as a man (cp. crossdreamer and autogynephilia).

Autogynephilia (offensive term, also AGP, and misrepresented as "autogyne". I prefer the term male to female crossdreaming). Term coined in 1989 by Ray Blanchard to refer to "a man's paraphilic tendency to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman."  I do not consider the condition a paraphila (see paraphilia). Blanchard operates with four types of autogynephilia:
  • Transvestic autogynephilia (at this blog called crossdressing): arousal to the act or fantasy of wearing women's clothing
  • Behavioral autogynephilia (at this blog called crossenacting): arousal to the act or fantasy of doing something regarded as feminine
  • Physiologic autogynephilia (at this blog called nothing at all): arousal to fantasies of female-specific body functions
  • Anatomic autogynephilia (at this blog called crossdreaming): arousal to the fantasy of having a woman's body, or parts of one
BDSM (or Bondage, Domination, Sado-Masochism) sexuality characterized by the consensual exchange of power. This  exchange of power can be either physical (e.g., spanking), psychological (e.g., teasing), or both. Often BDSM involves gender-related play when the partner with power adopt a male role and the partner without power adopts of female role. There are M2F crossdreamers (see crossdreaming) who take part in (or fantasize about) role-playing where the dominant is a strong woman or a she-male and where the crossdreamer takes the submissive female role (See shemale).

Bigender:  a tendency to move between feminine and masculine gender-typed behavior depending on context, expressing a distinctly en femme persona and a distinctly en homme persona, feminine and masculine respectively.

Biphilic (also bi-philic): see bisexual.

Bisexual: a sexual behavior or an orientation involving physical or romantic attraction to both males and females.

Blanchard, Ray: the researcher that coined the term autogynephilia. See these posts for more information.

Body dysphoria: See gender dysphoria.

Boy's Love (also BL or yaoi, terms taken from Japanese culture): Female-oriented fictional media, especially Japanese style manga comics,  that focus on homoerotic or homo-romantic male sexual relationships, usually created by female authors. Given that both female writers and readers identify with the male characters it is fair to say that much of this material can be considered crossdreamer fiction. The term "yaoi" (short for "Yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi", meaning "No climax, no fall , no meaning", is sometimes understood as synonymous with Boy's Love, sometimes as a more sexually explicit sub-category of BL.

Boydyke: A biological female who intentionally or non-intentionally expresses and/or presents culturally/stereotypically masculine, particularly boyish, characteristics. Also, one who enjoys being perceived as a young male (passing).

Butch: Word used to identify a lesbian (biological female) who expresses and/or presents culturally/stereotypically masculine characteristics. Some butches are clearly crossdreamers.

CD: See crossdressing.

Cisgender (also non-transgender):man or woman who has a match between an his or her gender identity and the behavior or role considered appropriate for his or her sex, also known as non-transgender men and women or mistakenly referred to as "normal people".

Classic or classical transsexual women (controversial term, also known as primary transsexual, secondary transsexual, true transsexual, real transsexual, core transsexual, CT. The term is related to HBS, see Harry Benjamin Syndrome, and truscum, see truscum): In this blog normally a term used to describe a political tribe of trans women who argue that they have nothing in common with crossdreamers and crossdresser (see separatist). There are two main definitions of this term: (1) A woman that that has been born with a male body. She can be androphile, gynephile or bisexual, as can any woman. (2) An androphile M2F transsexual woman, as opposed to crossdreamers (autogynephiliacs) who are thought to be gynephilic or bisexual . The female to male equivalent to classic transsexual is truscum (see truscum).

Closeted (or in the closet): Not disclosing (coming out) or being secretive about an individual's own sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Crossdreamer (also XD): A person who is crossdreaming (see crossdreaming)

Crossdreaming (or cross-dreaming, also XD, covers some of the same phenomena as autogynephilia/autoandrophilia): Term made by me to describe the act of dreaming about being ones target  sex or getting aroused from the idea of being ones target sex.

These feminization fantasies (in case of biological men) and masculinization fantasies (in the case of biological women) are often found sexually arousing. Male to female crossdreamers often imagine themselves having breasts and female genitalia. Some crossdreamers will play the culturally defined role of the opposite sex in these fantasies. Female to male crossdreamers may fantasize about taking the proactive, dominant, thrusting, role when having intercourse.  Crossdreaming is often, but not always, expressed through crossdressing, role playing and/or transgender erotica.

Many argue that most crossdreamers are attracted to persons of the same sex as the target sex of their fantasies. M2F crossdreamers are attracted to women. F2M crossdreamers are attracted to men. Research indicates, however, that there are also androphilic (man loving) M2F crossdreamers and gynephilic (woman loving) F2M crossdreamers. A majority of crossdreamers identify with their biological sex, at least partly and in public. Studies of M2F crossdressers indicate that close to 20 percent of them may consider sex reassignment surgery, however, and some of them do transition.

The term crossdreaming was originally a response to the concept of autogynephilia (see autogyenphilia), which was developed by Ray Blanchard. However, the term autogynephilia (or autoandrophilia for F2M crossdreamers) indicates that the conditions is caused by autoerotisism (auto in the meaning of "self") whereby the person has internalized the external love object, becoming sexually attracted to the idea of him or herself having the body of the opposite sex. The term crossdreaming does not entail such an explanation. Personally I think crossdreaming is at least partly caused by a biologically based gender variance. The term crossdreaming can also be considered a parallel to Harry Benjamin's types 1, 2, 3 and 4. They may develop into type 5 and 6.

Julia Serano has suggested the terms  Male/Masculine Embodiment Fantasies (MEFs)  for FTM crossdreaming and Female/Feminine Embodiment Fantasies (FEFs) for MTF crossdreaming.

Crossdressing (or cross-dressing): the wearing of clothing and other accouterments commonly associated with the other gender within a particular society. If M2F crossdressing is associated with sexual arousal it can be categorized as crossdreaming (see crossdreaming).

Crossenacting: arousal to the act or fantasy of doing something regarded as feminine (in the case of men) and masculine (in the case of women).

Crossexuality: Term coined by me to describe a hypothetical condition that can lead to crossdressing and crossdreaming. Crossexuality is the cause, crossdreaming and crossdressing are the effects. (I no longer use this term).

CT: See classic transsexual.

Demigirl: A non-binary gender identity where one assigned female at birth feels only a very weak connection with ‘woman’ or someone assigned male at birth who feels a vague association with female, but not one strong enough to identity completely as ‘woman’.

Demiguy: A non-binary gender identity where one assigned male at birth feels only a very weak connection with ‘man’ or someone assigned female at birth who feels an association with male, but not one strong enough to identity completely as ‘man’.

DFAB: Designated female at birth

DMAB: Designated male at birth

DG: see drag queen.

Drag Queen: a person, usually a male bodied person, who dresses, and usually acts, like a woman often for the purpose of entertaining or performing. Drag queens often identify as homosexual (androphilic) males, as opposed to crossdressers, who are most likely gynephilic males (see crossdresser, androphilic and gynephilic). There are also female bodied drag kings. As gender variant people drag queens are included under the transgender umbrella. Some of them are also gender dysphoric, and may end up transitioning.

Dyke (also Femme Dyke, Butch Dyke, Bi Dyke): The term has been appropriated by the lesbian community, but some find it offensive): A female-bodied person or a woman who identifies with other women, and is attracted to women. This is a term that is used by many different types of people and used in a positive way for self-identification. The term may  be political. Historically the term was used only in a negative context to ridicule and label lesbians who were perceived to express and/or present culturally/stereotypically masculine characteristics.

Effeminate (offensive): Used to identify a person (usually male) who expresses and/or presents culturally/stereotypically feminine characteristics.

Fetish: (on this blog used for sexual fetish) the sexual arousal brought on by any object, situation or body part not conventionally viewed as being sexual in nature. If you follow the official definitions of fetish, as found in the psychiatric manuals, crossdreaming cannot be understood as a fetish. Some crossdreamers seem to think that the term has a wider meaning, including any sexual desire that can -- presumably -- be explained as the end result of a personal psychological development (as opposed to being caused by an inborn, biological, factor). In my opinion this use of the word can only cause unnecessary confusion and further stigmatization of crossdreamers.

Female/Feminine Embodiment Fantasies (FEFs): Julia Serano's term for MTF crossdreaming (see crossdreaming)

Femme (may be understood as derogatory): Used to identify a lesbian (biological female) who expresses and/or presents culturally/stereotypically feminine characteristics. The word is also used by transgender people to express a feminine gender expression, regardless of sexual orientation.

Fluidflux: A gender identity which refers to an individual with a gender that moves between two or more genders and also fluctuates in intensity.

F2M (or FTM): Female to male: Refers to the state of the biological sex before and after transitioning, or to the assigned sex at birth and the target sex in crossdreamer fantasies.

Gender: (1) In social studies: the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. (2) In biology: the state of being male or female. The biology of gender is a scientific analysis of the physical basis for behavioral differences between males and females. In this blog I will use the term in both ways, trying to remember to tell you which is which.

Gender bender (controversial term): informal term used to refer to a person who actively transgresses, or "bends," expected gender roles.

Gender binary: classification of sex and gender into two distinct forms of masculine and feminine.

Gender dysphoria: a condition where a person feels that he or she is trapped within a body of the wrong sex. In the DSM-5 gender dysphoria is defined as "a marked incongruence between one's experienced/expressed gender, of at least six months duration."  Dysphoria is often defined as an unpleasant or uncomfortable mood, such as sadness (depressed mood), anxiety, irritability, or restlessness. See also gender identity disorder.   I sometimes use the terms "sex dysphoria" or "body dysphoria"  instead, as this suffering may primarily be about the body, and not exclusively about cultural gender roles.

Gender expression: the physical manifestation of one's gender identity, usually expressed through clothing, mannerisms, and chosen names (see gender identity)

Gender identity or core gender identity (controversial terms): the gender a person self-identifies as (see gender 1).

Gender identity disorder (or GID, controversial term that has been replaced with "gender dysphoria"): formal diagnosis used by psychologists and physicians to describe persons who experience significant gender dysphoria (discontent with the biological sex they were born with).  I have recently started using the term "sex identity" instead of "gender identity", as this -- in the case of gender dysphoric transgender -- is more about alienation from the sex of one's birth body than from cultural gender roles. The latest edition of the American psychiatric manual, the DSM-5, no longer consider gender dysphoria a mental disorder, and uses terms like gender incongruence, gender dysphoria and transsexual instead.

Gender non-conformity: Behaving and appearing in ways that are considered atypical for one’s gender.

Gender variant: A subjective sense of not belonging  completely to the gender of one’s birth-assigned sex. The term gender-variance is used to refer to the behavioral expression of this  identity which could range from occasionally dressing as one’s identified gender to  living full-time in this gender. (from J Veale). This term is often used in the same way as transgender (see transgender).

Genderfluid: A non-binary gender identity where one’s gender changes over time as opposed to a single, permanent and unchanging gender. The gender can shift after a period of time or due to certain situations.

Genderflux: A gender identity in which the gender intensity varies over time. Genderflux people may also identify as nonbinary, genderqueer and/or transgender.

Genderfuck (or gender-fuck, controversial term): a form of gender identity or gender expression, using parody and exaggeration to call attention to its transgression of gender roles, seeking to expose them as artificial, often by manipulating one's appearance to create gender dissonance or ambiguity in stark opposition of the gender binary. Used for crossdressing with contempt for any concern about passing; e.g., a male wearing a skirt, but with a beard and unshaved legs. 

Genderqueer (or gender-queer): term for gender identities other than man and woman. People who identify as genderqueer may think of themselves as being both man and woman, as being neither man nor woman, or as falling completely outside the gender binary. See queer.

Genetic Girl (also Genuine Girl or GG, offensive term): A woman born with a female body (see cisgender).

Girlfag (controversial term): a biologically female individual who feels a strong romantic or erotic attraction towards gay males or male bisexuals or their milieu. A girlfag might partly or wholly feel "like a gay man trapped in a woman's body". Many girlfags are FTM crossdreamers.

Guydyke (controversial term): a biologically male person who feels a strong romantic or erotic attraction towards lesbians, female bisexuals, or the culture of women loving women. Guydykes experience lesbian feelings and are commonly referred to as lesbian-identified men or lesbian men. Many are MTF crossdreamers.

Gynandromorphophilia: see transfan.

Gynephile (or gynophile): a person who is attracted to females (see sexual orientation).

Gynemimetophilia: see transfan.

Harry Benjamin Standards of Care (also: HB SOC or SOC) A list of rules dictating what is considered by a consensus of mental health professionals the appropriate way to treat transsexuals.

Harry Benjamin Syndrome (also HBS, controversial): non-medical term made up by trans women who hate the idea of being associated with crossdressers and transgender prostitutes. They argue that the gender identity of HBS women, as opposed to crossdreamers, is inborn and based in the brain. The "syndrome" has no scientific basis, and the use of Harry Benjamin's name is lamentable.

HBS: see Harry Benjamin Syndrome.

Hermaphrodite (term no longer used for humans): see intersex.

Homosexuality: romantic or sexual attraction or behavior among members of the same sex. On this blog an M2F transsexual woman is homosexual if she is attracted to women, an F2M transsexual man is homosexual if he is attracted to men. To avoid confusion I use the word androphilic (attracted to men) and gynephilic (attracted to women) instead.

Homosexual transsexual (HSTS, highly offensive term): Ray Blanchard's term for trans women who are exclusively attracted to men.  In other words: They are really heterosexual, not homosexual.


Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): the taking of sex-related hormone s (e.g., estrogen, testosterone). Most often the term is used for post-menapusal women taking estrogen. The term also applies to a transsexual taking hormones of the target sex.

HSTS (offensive term used by Ray Blanchard): homosexual transsexual male. The real meaning of this term is androphilic M2F transexual woman (see homosexuality). Blanchard does not use this term for gynephilic F2M trans men.

Intergender (controversial term): see genderqueer.

Internalized transphobia: The belief that being a transsexual or transgendered is inferior to being cissexual or non-transgender. The internalization of negative messages, feelings about oneself and one's group, and the beliefs about how people like you should be treated, which often leads to self-hate and difficulty with self-acceptance.

Intersexuality: in humans refers to intermediate or atypical combinations of physical features that usually distinguish male from female. This is usually understood to be congenital, involving chromosomal, morphologic, genital and/or gonadal anomalies, such as diversion from typical XX-female or XY-male presentations, e.g., sex reversal (XY-female, XX-male), genital ambiguity, sex developmental differences. An intersexed individual may have biological characteristics of both the male and female sexes. If transexuality and crossdreaming/autogynephilia have biological (brain) foundations it could be argued that these conditions also are intersexual. In this blog, however, I will not use the term in that way, in order to avoid unnecessary confusion.

LGBT (also GLBT,  LGBTQ and LGBTQA) refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (and queer and asexual) people. LGBT emphasize a diversity of sexuality and gender identity‐based cultures and is sometimes used to refer to anyone who is non‐heterosexual instead of exclusively to people who are homosexual, bisexual, or transgender. Some may also include and I for intersex persons (see intersex). Some "classic transsexual"s as well as intersexed people resist being included under the LGBT umbrella, as they feel they have nothing in common with the other members of the community.

Male/Masculine Embodiment Fantasies (MEFs): Julia Serano's term for FTM crossdreaming (see crossdreaming)

Male lesbian: (term coined by Dr. Brian G. Gilmartin in his book Shyness & Love: Causes, Consequences, and Treatment ): A heterosexual man who wishes that he had been born a woman, but who (even if he had been a woman) could only make love to another woman and never to a man. The "male lesbian" does not feel himself to be "a woman trapped inside the body of a man" and does not want a sex change operation. They envy the prerogatives of the female gender and believe these prerogatives fit their own inborn temperaments far more harmoniously than the pattern of behavioral expectations to which males are required to adhere.

Mangina: (derogatory) 1. Derisive term for a man's feminine side - especially when he's picky, touchy or emotional about something seemingly minor. 2. A man totally controlled by a woman 3. A weak willed man 4. The partner that takes it in the anus in a male homosexual relationship 5. A male prostitute, gay or straight. 6. A male looking persons who desires to change his genitals into female for no other reason than sex.


Metamorphic: (term coined by James W. Hicks) Sexual types which have in common some degree of identification with the opposite sex. The term is overlapping with the term crossdreamer.

Metrosexual: a heterosexual man (especially one living in a post-industrial, capitalist culture) that has a strong concern for his appearance or a lifestyle and who displays feminine attributes stereotypically associated with homosexual men.

M2F or MTF: Male to female. Refers to the state of the biological sex before and after transitioning, or to the biological sex and the target sex in crossdreamer fantasies.

M/M: Romance fiction written by women for women about gay male relationships. The authors are often girlfags (see girlfag and W4M2M) This is a sub-genre of slash fiction. 

MOGAI (controversial): Marginalized orientations, gender identities/alignments, and intersex. Umbrella term for asexuals, homosexuals, multisexuals, trans and intersex people.

Neutrois: A non-binary gender identity. One may feel that neutrois is a separate gender from man or woman in a similar way to how a person experiences a third gender, or they may feel that it is the lack of gender, or that it is a ‘neutral’ gender.

Non-binary: Gender identities that do not fit within the accepted binary of male and female. People can feel they are both, neither, or some mixture thereof.

Non-op: transsexual who has not and will not have sex reassignment surgery. (See transsexual, sex reassignment surgery).

Pangender: A non-binary gender identity where one experiences all genders in one body, including binary and non-binary genders. ‘One who experiences all gender identities’.

Pansexual: sexual orientation characterized by the potential for aesthetic attraction, romantic love, or sexual desire towards people, regardless of their gender identity or biological sex.

Paraphilia: a biomedical term used to describe sexual arousal to objects, situations, or individuals that are not part of normative stimulation and that may cause distress or serious problems for the paraphiliac or persons associated with him or her. What is defined as "normative stimulation" may vary a lot with time and cultural background, something that makes this a close to useless term in my book. Paraphilia is basically a science sounding word for "pervert" (see Perversion).

Part timer: Transgender person who presents as their target gender from time to time (from Lisa M). Cp. crossdreamer and crossdresser.

Passing: The ability to be accepted as a member of the sex you are transitioning into.

Perversion: (derogatory) types of human behavior that are perceived to be a serious deviation from what is considered to be orthodox or normal. Although it can refer to varying forms of deviation, it is most often used to describe sexual behaviors that are seen by the majority as abnormal or repulsive. Since this is a cultural relative term, I find it useless when discussing the true nature of crossdreaming.

Polygender: A non-binary gender identity where one experiences many (more than three) gender identities in one body, which may include both binary and non-binary genders. ‘One who experiences many gender identities’.

Post-op: transsexual who has had sex reassignment surgery (see transsexual and sex reassignment surgery)

Pre-op: transsexual who has not had sex reassignment surgery (see transsexual and sex reassignment surgery)

Post-structuralist (related to post-modernist):  Poststructuralism denies the possibility of a truly scientific study of "man" or of "human nature", as all belief systems are believed to be socially constructed through language and semiotics. This means that all meanings and intellectual categories are shifting and unstable. The term is relevant for crossdreamers as we from 2011 onwards have seen a few crossdreamers argue that crossdreaming is a social construct based on the psychological development of the individual crossdreamer. Personally I find poststructuralist methods very useful for analyzing the social context of crossdreaming, but since the philosophy has no tools for asserting the effect of biology on mental possesses, it cannot be used to study the interaction between body and mind.

Queer: (1, derogatory) Effeminate gay man. (2, controversial) Umbrella term for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, transsexual, intersexual, genderqueer, or of any other non-heterosexual sexuality, sexual anatomy, or gender identity. See genderqueer.

Separatist:: persons who argue they are not part of broader transgender culture. There are separate schools of M2F separatism: (1) Classic transsexuals, who believe that there is a clear and distinct biological difference between being a woman who is born in a man's body and men who get aroused by imagining themselves as women (like crossdressers, crossdreamers, transgenderists and feminine gay men). (2) Harry Benjamin Syndrome supporters follow a philosophy similar to classic transsexuals, but are more prone to gender stereotyping. (3) Transkids are trans women who follow the theories of Ray Blanchard, considering themselves to be "homosexual transsexuals" and therefore more feminine than crossdreamers. (4) Some crossdressers and transgenderists, argue – based on the philosophy of crossdresser Virginia Price – that they have nothing in common with trans women and gay men. 1 2 and 3 believe the transgender movement is run by crossdressers and crossdreamers, while group 4 believes it is run by trans women. These MTF separatist groups fight each other and the transgender movement. It could have been funny in a Monty Python Life of Brian kind of way, hadn't it been for all the suffering this bickering is causing. (5) Lately there has appeared a second generation of separatists at Tumblr who call themselves truscum (see truscum).

Sex: (1) In social sciences sex refers to the biological differences between men and women, as opposed to gender which refers to the cultural expressions of the roles given to biological males and females. (2) In biology, sex is a process of combining and mixing genetic traits, often resulting in the specialization of organisms into a male or female variety (known as the two sexes).

Sex dysphoria: see Gender dysphoria.

Sex identity (also sexual identity, although the term sexual identity more often refers to sexual orientation): The inner  feeling or conviction of being male or female. See also Gender identity disorder.

Sexual orientation: a pattern of emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both genders. Subcategories are : heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual. Some argue that heterosexual and homosexual are exclusive categories, others that these orientations exist along a continuum that ranges from exclusive heterosexual to exclusive homosexual, including various forms of bisexuality in-between. Some people identify as asexual. To avoid confusion I will often use the words gynephile and androphile in this blog (see gynephile and androphile).

Sex reassignment surgery (also known as SRS, genital reconstruction surgery, sex affirmation surgery, sex-change operation): the surgical procedures by which a person's physical appearance and function of their existing sexual characteristics are altered to resemble that of the other sex. I have seen the term "gender reassignment surgery" used for M2F transsexual women, but I cannot see how you can do surgery on a gender identity that is already female.

Shape Shifter (also metamorph): Used by some people who choose not to identify as transsexuals, to express their belief they are not changing their gender, but changing their body to reflect their inner feelings and gender identity.

She-male (also shemale or t-girl; derogatory terms used in pornography): A genetic male who has physical characteristics of both male and female. This term should never be used for a real life transsexual or transgenderist (to whom it may refer). I will only use it to describe a transgenderists as a target in sexual fantasies. See transgenderist and transfan.

Sissy (or sissy boy, derogatory): (1) A term codified by the mental health community for biologically male children with gender identity disorder (in the sense of displaying feminine behavior). (2 colloquial) A boy or man are accused of feminine characteristics. (3) In the sissy sub-genre of transgender MTF erotica the word is used for men who enjoy humiliating feminization.

Skoliosexual: refers to people who experience sexual attraction towards people outside the gender binary, regardless of their sex or their own sex/gender.

SRS, see sex reassignment surgery.

Target gender (also true gender or real gender): The gender a transgender person identify with, as opposed to assigned gender at birth.

Third gender or third sex (controversial terms): (1) individuals who are categorized (by their will or by social consensus) as neither male nor female, as well as the social category present in those societies who recognize three or more genders. It should be noted that such phenomena could just as well refer to roles understood as a mix of the male and female. (2) In zoology: Evolutionary biologist Joan Roughgarden argues that, in addition to male and female sexes (as defined by the production of small or large gametes), more than two genders or distinct morphs exist in hundreds of animal species.

TG: See transgender.

Trannie chaser or tranny chaser: (derogatory) see transfan.

Transbian (slang, most likely used derogatory): a male-to-female transsexual who is also a lesbian - ie. a transsexual woman who is sexually attracted to other women.

Transfan (also transsensual, admirerer or derogatory: tranny chaser) man with a sexual preference for preoperative male-to-female transsexuals , transgenderists or even crossdressers (see transsexual and transgenderist). Many argue that transfans are closeted homosexuals. I suspect that many of them are crossdreamers. You will also find female bodied transfans -- especially in the lesbian community where some are attracted to transsexual men.

Transfeminine: A non-binary gender identity where one assigned male at birth feels a strong connection with the female gender and enjoys typically feminine things, but does not feel a strong enough connection to identify completely as ‘woman’. Similar to – but not the same as – demiguy.

Transgender (contoversial term, also TG and trans): (1, common use) Umbrella term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies to diverge from the normative gender roles connected to their original biological sex, including transsexuals. (2, a misrepresentation of Virginia Prince's term "transgenderist", see transgenderist) People who want to live cross-gender without sex reassignment surgery, excluding transsexuals. (3, derogatory) Crossdreamers and crossdressers, as opposed to "classic transsexuals" or HBS trans women. (4, controversial) Transsexual. I use the word as (1).

Trangender Pride Flag: Flag designed by Monica Helms. First shown in 2000. The flag represents the transgender community and consists of five horizontal stripes, two light blue, two pink, with a white stripe in the center.

Transgenderist (controversial and archaic term coined by crossdresser activist Virginia Prince): transgender people who derive pleasure from and value their genitals as originally developed. Like transsexuals, many are interested in obtaining electrolysis, hormones and even cosmetic surgery to bring their outward presentation in line with their inner sense of self. However, transgenderists are not interested in sex reassignment surgery. Transsexual men and women who for health and other reasons do not obtain SRS are not included in this definition. Some deny that transgenderists exist, arguing that they are either misled classic transsexuals or "autogynephiliacs". The term must not be confused with "transgender", which is an umbrella term for all gender variant people (see transgender).

Transitioning: Wikipedia defines this as the process of changing genders - the idea of what it means to be female or male. I am using the term for the process of changing ones biological sex, arguing that an MTF transsexual woman is a woman/has the female gender both before and after the transition (see also sex reassignment surgery).

Transkid: (1 controversial) Non-technical term for M2F androphilic transsexual, used mostly for political reasons to have a non-clinical way to refer to androphilic transsexuals as a population rather than a condition. See homosexual transsexual. (2) Gender variant children.

Transmasculine: A non-binary gender identity where one assigned female at birth feels a strong connection with the male gender and enjoys typically masculine things, but does not feel a strong enough connection to identify completely as ‘man’. Similar to – but not the same as – demigirl.

Trans man  see transsexual man. Avoid the spelling transman, as this may be read to mean that trans men are not real men.

Transmedicalist see truscum.

Trans people or transpeople (controversial): in this blog used for both transsexuals and crossdreamers/autogynephiliacs and crossdressers.

Transphilic (also trans-philic): see transfan.

Transphobia (also genderphobia): The fear of transsexuals or transgendered, often assumed to be homosexuals. Expressed as negative feelings, attitudes, actions or behaviors.

Transsensual: see transfan.

Transsexual: Transsexual (also spelled transexual): (1) a condition in which an individual identifies with a physical sex that is different from his or her biological one. (2) A person who has undergone sex reassignment treatment and surgery (SRS) and/or who have legally changed his or her official gender identification.

Transsexual man: A person who was assigned female at birth, but who identifies as/is a man. Also known as a F2M transsexual or trans man. See transsexual and F2M.

Transsexual woman: A person who was assigned male at birht, but who identifies as/is a woman. Also known as a M2F transsexual or trans woman. See transsexual and M2F.

Transvestic fetishism (controversial term): having an erotic interest in crossdressing. See crossdressing and autogynephilia. I am not using this term, as I strongly believe that crossdreaming cannot be explained as a fetish.

Transvestism: see crossdresser

Trans woman, see transsexual woman. Avoid the spelling transwoman, as this may be interpreted to mean that trans women are not real women.

Truscum (also: transmedicalist): A more recent equivalent to the "classic transsexual", i.e. trans men and women who try to separate true transsexuals from whom they considered not trans. Unlike the male to female classic transsexuals they seem to want to appropriate the terms trans and transgender for themselves, using them as a synonym for transsexual. They argue that transsexuality is a medical condition and that transsexuality is defined by the symptom of physical sex dysphoria. The term originated on tumblr, and was and is dominated by female to male transgender people. 

TS: see transsexual.

TV: transvestite. See crossdressing.

W4M4M: Women for men for men. (1) Women who read M/M slash fiction (see M/M and boy's love). (2) girlfags (see girlfag)

Woodworking (or stealth woodworking): for a transsexual to live in a manner that conceals her or his past sex.

XD: see crossdreaming (also used as an abbreviation for crossdressing)


Alternative transgender and transsexual dictionaries:


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