November 24, 2011

Crossdreamer Love


Sahar has sent me a very interesting email about the relationship between a male to female and a female to male crossdreamer that I think is highly significant.

He has joined up with a girlfag.

Note that "a girlfag" is often defined as  "a biologically female individual who feels a strong romantic or erotic attraction towards gay or bisexual men, or their social environment."

I suspect that many girlfags are in fact female to male crossdreamers who feel attracted to gay and bisexual feminine men because these men seem to leave room for women with a pro-active, "masculine" and  "thrusting", attitude. They may fall for the feminine side of gynephilic M2F crossdreamers as well.

I have already refered to Sahar in the post Girlfags and Gudykes, Unite! He clearly believes Girlfags are very much like male bodied crossdreamers, only in revers.

Talking to girlfags

"Well as you know, I've been talking to girlfags," he tells me.  "I actually seem to be one of the few that do this. They really are truly amazing and they always respond if you write to them."

Sahar's personal journey will feel familiar to many a male to female crossdreamer. He unearthed the crossdreamer side of his personality earlier this year, and his whole world fell apart. His academic achievements took a serious blow: 

"I had this just awful mindfog, the same one Renee talks about. I couldnt think of anything else but about agp [autogynephilia, ie. male to female crossdreaming]. I then went into a period of that gut wrenching feelings whenever I saw a beautiful girl. That got worse and by [late summer], I was having full blown dysphoria. I couldn't look in mirrors. I felt so terrible all the time. I didnt want to leave my room as i didn't want to see another beautiful girl. I stayed in my room nearly all day, sometimes I'd even shed a tear. I struggled with going out with friends. My mother would cry as i wasn't talking much and wouldn't tell her what was wrong. ... I was sooooo very confused, and just in a very bad place."

Dysphoria and narcissism

This feeling of gender dysphoria -- i.e. a strong feeling of being the wrong sex, often followed by deep depression -- is found among many, but not all, crossdreamers. I  definitely know what he is talking about. The mindfog he is talking about is very similar to the condition I have called spellbound. 

Among psychiatrists like Ray Blanchard this mindfog is taken as a sign of narcissism. You are an autogynephiliac, a man in love with the idea of himself being a woman. He has internalized his external love object, and the reason he gets depressed is partly that he is unable to love a real woman out there and partly the fact that he cannot really become the woman he loves: himself.

I find this theory extremely convulted. I believe it is a good scientific principle to see if there is a simpler theory that fits the observed facts first, and in this case that means taking the feelings of Sahar seriously. He feels pain because he wants to be a woman. Maybe this is because he, in some way, is a woman. Not in the sense of a person being a helpless, submissive and caring Barbie (or any gender stereotype you might want to consider), mind you, but in the sense that parts of his basic level "wiring" or "programming" is more like the one you would find in a majority of women. 

Sahar's experience may be interpreted in both ways.

Help from Jasper

Sahar took control of his own life:


"I then talked to girlfags. At first conversations were pretty straightforward. Just learning about each other. I'd ask so many questions and they would always reply. I found out how their inner masculinity manifested and how they were dealing with it all. It was at this time i started really watching Jasper Gregory's stuff and I also wrote to him. That message seems like my opinion was very concrete. In fact I was just hopeful he was right."

Jasper has a very interesting alternative theory of autogynephilia. For him autogynephilia or crossdreaming is "the erotics of manifesting the feminine social imagery". For him all sexual desire -- including "normal" heterosexual sex -- is fetishistic.  As he says: "Real world desire is immanent to every aspect of life." 

Jasper gave Sahar the hope he needed to get on with his life.

"From that hope, I managed to [get back on track]. I no longer had the mindfog but the dysphoria remained."

Jasper gave him the respect he needed to start accepting himself.

The Girfag Girlfriend

"I then talked to a girlfag in particular. She is awesome. And its got pretty erotic i must say. I can honestly say though beautiful looking, she is 100% masculine. She tells me that she has that pelvic thrust that my guy friends do all the time. She feels protective over me. She likes to call me baby and i love that. Her fantasies are just incredible for me to hear. Interestingly she isn't so good socially. She accepts that she is like a nerdy guy. (And she really is)..."

He then gives two citations from a discussion between whyxslup and me  at this blog. Whyxslup is very much in line with Jasper. Like both of them I believe that gender expressions are socially constructed and that no personality trait is uniquely male or female.

I have the deepest respect for both of them. Unlike them, however, my gut feeling is that at least some crossdreamer conditions have a biological core beyond language and culture.

Here are Sahar's quotes:

"The female body is simply a part of the web of feminine associations of which ones self-image is subjected." (whyxslup)

'I doubt that, but even it this is the case, there may still be a subconscious feminine self causing this association.'(Jack Molay)

Curing the dysphoria

Sahar continues:

"For me this is at the root of everything. Do I have a 'inner woman' or 'inner femininity'? For me its definitely not just fetishes and I'm not sure I believe the person if they say that. It [is] all encompassing. I love feeling feminine and that can be in the way I move, in the way I interact with people etc. I now hate wearing masculine clothes, and I am on a diet to reduce my muscle size. 

"But after embracing my male body with the help of a girlfag, the dysphoria has completely disappeared.  No more do i get that gut wrenching stomach turning feeling when i see a sexy girl. i want to be that sexy male that the girlfags talk about. I now no longer crossdream. I am just a beautiful feminine male being taken by a girlfag. 

"At first i could not believe the masculinity in a female and believe the femininity when presenting as a male, and so it could not work in fantasies, but after speaking to one in particular I can feel it, and now I fantasise about being desired and being dominated by a woman as a male. And being told that I actually am beautiful as I am, as a male, and being told her fantasies and my place in them has made me so much more balanced. She says I'm sexy, and cute etc. I find myself constantly aroused during entire conversations with her. I have come to realise how feminine my sexuality is and just how amazingly masculine her's is. I don't look at my bone structure and feel pain. I don't look at my height with sickness. 

"I say this as at this moment I feel very balanced, and I'm productive again and can be cheerful and not think of agp for hours and hours.  I think that maybe the female body is just an association with femininity, and one that I have stopped. But I am worried that I am wrong and Jack you are right. I worry that in a few months, I'll realise that i was just deluding myself and ill start crossdreaming again. The crux of it all, is whether I have a 'inner woman' or 'inner femininity'. I guess ill find out soon enough..."

Acceptance and healing

My first comment to all of this is that I think has already demostrated that he has an "inner woman" or "inner femininity". It is a fair guess that the reason his dysphoria has disappeared or subsided is that he has finally been recognized and valued as "feminine" by someone who truly matters to him. 

He has been reaffirmed as as desireable sexual being by another human being. He has been seen. He is loved for who he is. This is the kind of affirmation all human beings need: the foundation for all psychic health and happiness. This applies to our roles as a social and spiritual beings as well as our roles as a sexual beings. 

As for the sexual side, a basic course in psychodynamics will tell you that pyschological health is dependent on having a healthy outlet for your sexuality. Sahar, like many (most?) male to female crossdreamers, is wired the majority of women in this respect: He wants to be the catcher and not the pitcher. And what do you know! Here is a woman who desires him for wanting to be the bottom! The frustration and feeling of inadeqacy most M2F crossdreamers feel when being with the women they love is absent.

His girfag lover reaffirms his feminine longings and expressions, while at the same time being sexually attracted to his male body.

Redefining reality

In this scenario three myths are challenged:
  1. That all men ough to be agressive and all women submssive 
  2. That all women ought to be feminine and all men masculine
  3. That all people who violate rules 1 and 2 are homosexual
We have in fact seen that body, sexual orientation and the feminine/masculine spectrum can be completely independent of one another.

We have now come to a point where language fails me.  I am using the male pronoun for Sahar, simply because he does so himself. The male pronoun is here referring to his male body. If he feels his "inner woman" requires the female pronoun, I will definitely use it. In fact, if we are to follow the basic rule of all transgender and transsexual discourses, it is that we respect the inner sense of self, which in this case is feminine. In which case Sahar is a woman in a man's body.

This is where it gets really  interesting. If Sahar is correct in his assumption that the respect given by his lover has cured his dysphoria, then he is not a woman trapped in a man's body. His feminine self is at peace with his male body, in the same sense his girlfag friend is at peace with her female body. He is, in a sense, a woman in a male body. 

A fetishsitic explanation

Does this prove that Jasper and  whyxslup are right and I am wrong? In other words: Sex identity is a socially constructed, fetishistic complex independent of any biological or instinctual bias? 

It seems to me Sahar's story can be interpreted either way: 

If we say that all sexual preferences are fetishes, i.e. preferences caused by various types of symbolic associations, then Sahar's preference for a dominant, "masculine", girl, may be a result of  -- let's say -- some childhood experience that made him associate desirability with submission. This has then led to the desire for a female body, as the cultural context symbolizes submission with the female body. The female body here being a symbol of feminine behavior and desires. 

(I am not  referring to Jasper or whyxslup here. I am making this up as I go.) 

In the same way crossdressers may associate nylon stockings with femininity and get turned on by wearing such stockings. Other men may be turned on by breasts of particular sizes, ankles, a specific perfume, blonde hair, wearing leather and so on and so forth. These are all personal associations, not preferences programmed in the  genes.

Yes, such a theory can be used to explain Sahar's feelings, and I am sure there is a fetishistic aspect to his sexuality, as is the case with us all.

However, if it turns out that his gender dysphoria has been cured by the love of his girlfag, we face a problem. Fetishes do not go away if affirmed by someone else. If that was the case, there would not have been many S&M clubs around. In fact, fetishes seem to be strengthened by having someone else take part in the play. 

To explain the (possible) "death" of his gender dysphoria  within a fetishistic framwork, we must therefore stress the fact that longing for a female body is a displacement of a more fundamental need: Namely the need to be desired as a woman. It is the experience of being a woman that is the basis, not having a woman's body per se. When his crossdreamer girlfriend reaffirms his womanhood, the desire for a female body seems to go away.

But if one side of the fetishistic associations become more important than others, it isn't that far fetched to argue that that aspect may have an instinctual or biological core.

Beyond the fetish

Note that Sahar himself does not believe that all of this is a fetish only. And I have a large number of crossdreaming transgender people saying the same. Yes, they do get aroused by the idea of being the opposite sex, but there is so much more to this than a pure sexual fetish. This especially applies to those that experience gender dysphoria ( pain from the feeling of being the wrong sex). This applies to Sahar and it applies to me, and it definitely applies to those trangender persons that decide to transition.

I am very reluctant to dismiss these convictions, not only because they apply to me, but because theories of fetishes systematically have been used to discredit the lives of both crossdressers, crossdreamers and transsexuals. If people feel so strongly about this that they decide to turn their lives upside down through surgery, all of us should take a deep breath and consider once more whether there is something more  to all of this than mere sexual desire.

Again: Sahar's case can be interpreted both ways: You may also argue that Sahar's need to be recognized as a woman/feminine being is based on something more fundamental, something instinctual, something based in biology. Then this core identity triggers all the culturally defined associations found in the fetish theory. What this basis is, we do not know, but it would explain why some people desire to be the opposite sex, while others are satisfied with a candle lit dinner.

To me the old transvestic fetishism theory, Blanchard's autogynephilia theory and the new post-structuralist fetish theory all taste of reductionism, i.e. attempts at reducing complex social, psychological and biological phenomena to one and only one cause. I have come to the conclusion that complex systems like human beings and their interaction with the surroundings should never be oversimplified in this way, which is also why I try to keep an eye on both biological and psychological explanations in this blog.

Carl Gustav Jung's critique of Sigmund Freud's theories apply also here, I believe. If everything is reduced to sex, nothing is sex. 

I will come back to the new fetish theory in  a later blog post, time permitted.

Now what?

Sahar worries that in a few months, he will realise that he was just deluding myself and he will start crossdreaming again: "The crux of it all, is whether I have a 'inner woman' or 'inner femininity'."

As I said: He may perfectly well have an "inner femininity", even if he no longer suffers from gender dysphoria. His girlfriend has reaffirmed his inner femininity. She has not abolished it. 

I am perfectly aware that there are transsexuals that have turned gender dysphoria into a virtue, and who claim that you cannot be considered a woman unless you hate your male body and go for sex reaffirmation surgery. Since I suffer from gender dysphoria myself, I can relate to that. But what makes perfect sense for them, does not necessarily have to apply to all transgender persons. Their dogma is just that: A dogma used to in a political struggle to keep the "pervos" at bay.

I know for a fact that "op or not to op" is not the only question of relevance here (although it is a very important one). There are crossdreamers who have to transition in order to find peace with themselves, and there are those that do not. But I am convinced that this is -- for all of them -- a question of making peace with your inner counterpart.

I sincerely hope that Sahar has found an alternative route to crossdreamer peace. I really do. And if my idea of getting your "inner woman" affirmed by a lover is what it takes, this may be the case.

But I am not sure.

From the litterature we know that the crossdreamer fantasies of crossdressers and crossdreamers subside when they find love, but they nearly always come back again when the relationship enters its more stable, post-euphoric, phase. It seems that both male to female and female to male crossdreamers manage to get some kind of affirmation when in love, and that this affirmation is enough to keep the inner man or woman at bay for a while. But he or she will not be denied. Maybe this is what is going to happen to Sahar, as well.

Still, there is a huge difference between the cases found in the science papers and the story of Sahar. Sahar is not in a relationship with a traditional heterosexual "ciswoman" who mainly  affirms him as a man. He is in a relationship with a woman who accepts him as a woman. 

The only parallel I can find to this, is the cases where the wife or girl friend of a male to female crossdreamer choses to respect their lover's inner woman, by taking part in role playing (See My Husband is an Autogynephiliac). In some of those stories, the role playing seems to be enough. In others the partner still ends up transitioning.

I am afraid the simple answers elude me.

14 comments:

Namrata said...

"It is a fair guess that the reason his dysphoria has disappeared or subsided is that he has finally been recognized and valued as "feminine" by someone who truly matters to him."

But what is the evidence that his desire was that of a woman indeed?What if as you said, the desire was just to feel sexy or desirable and he ended up thinking that he had to be a feminine person for that? What if he simply needed a woman's love and so taking the role of the pitcher was uncomfortable to him, as that rolewould signify caressing the woman rather than being caressed?

I think it just happens that since the media does not show (or want to show??) men in sexually superior positions, the males who long for these same positions end up feminizing themselves giving rise to non-transgendered feminine men. But it may not mean these feminine men would be indeed having a queer desire.
Infact, the best test would be to show visual ads for a considerable period of time,where a man is cherished by another man or a woman and get used to this. After this,let us see if his human desire to feel that romantic preference makes him still desire to be feminine. It may happen that most of these non-tg men will never ever long for any touch of femininity in their lives.

There appears to be indeed no similarity between these men and my natural female self. I have always acted,walked,talked and thrown like a girl. Whether I was wanting to love someone or wanting to be loved, or wanting to be in a sexually superior position or not, it did not matter, it was secondary. In every situation I behaved naturally like a girl, the girl I had to hide frequently before finally transitioning at age 30.

Namrata said...

However just disbelieve our fake western media, look at historical accounts of Greek and Roman cultures, and you see hordesof sensitive men of whatever sexuality, taking on passive roles. Infact,the role of catcher is a sexually superior role taken by ancient noblemen, not just women.
Even Hephastion has taken on role of the catcher with his male lover Alexander the Great, even if not outright penetration perhaps (possibly even that in private unknown to the outer world). Both were hyper macho men. So, there is nothing that indicates this sexual role would be borne out of some feminine motivation- no evidence.
Perhaps men being treated like cattle, has made some non-TG men long for feminine roles of this type which are infact not really natural feminine. Just like many girls grow up to become aggressive tomboys, not liking the way culture treats housewives.

Jack Molay said...

@Namrata

"But what is the evidence that his desire was that of a woman indeed?What if as you said, the desire was just to feel sexy or desirable and he ended up thinking that he had to be a feminine person for that?"

That is, of course, possible. If you have a "feminine" personality profile, and society punishes you for feeling that way, the logical conclusion could be that you have to be a woman to be yourself.

But there are a lot of male bodied persons who have a "feminine" personality profile, but who nevertheless identify completely as men. This theory does not explain the strong impression of being a woman.

"There appears to be indeed no similarity between these men and my natural female self. I have always acted,walked,talked and thrown like a girl. "

You do not know that.

Many crossdreamers have felt that they are girls since early childhood. Many of them suffer as strongly from gender dysphoria as other transwomen. I would not be surprised if a majority of transwomen have been crossdreamers. Then, where do you draw the line?

I have no doubts whatsoever that you and any transgender person who go through the hell of transitioning truly is a woman, but the proof of you being a woman cannot be found in the way you throw ball. I know a lot of XX women who play ball like a man, who swear, fight , talk and dress like men, and who still are women.

I have always thrown ball like a girl. I was a complete loser in gymnastics, hated rough and tumble play, was considered an empathic peace maker, selected arts and the humanities as my favorite subjects, but that does not make me a woman.

"...historical accounts of Greek and Roman cultures, and you see horde sof sensitive men of whatever sexuality, taking on passive roles. "

If your point is to say that men may perfectly well be passive and receptive without being transsexual, I agree.

As for men taking on passive roles in Ancient Greece, I am not so sure. It is certainly true that the Athenian men were expected to take male lovers, but these were always young, feminine, boys, and for an adult man to be receptive anally was considered effeminate and wrong.

See this post for more.

Namrata said...

Jack,
They were condemned socially but I have read that everything was commonplace in private, not just relations between adult men and young boys. Infact, in those days, what used to be condemned was receptive sex alone, but not male homosexuality per se which was commonplace (unlike today where homosexuality is into a third-gender zone or a separate social identity of some men).

Namrata said...

"I have always thrown ball like a girl. I was a complete loser in gymnastics, hated rough and tumble play, was considered an empathic peace maker, selected arts and the humanities as my favorite subjects, but that does not make me a woman."

This means you just fit into a "feminine personality profile" and sure, a male will still see himself as a man, rather than a woman if he has this kind of profile. Ofcourse, he may wish he were born female.

You on the other hand, identify more as woman too. And you hven't really given the exact motivation behind this yet. You have just mentioned about your so called feminine personality profiles such as sexual roles/fantasies and the like. That is why I had to say that a male with a feminine personality profile need not be a woman inside.
What makes someone a woman inside is way different.
Those crossdreamers longing to be women from childhood were transgendered, but it is not account of their feminine personality profiles. You also need to explain your woman inside without using simply feminine personality profiles, or you just come across as a sensitive man.

Jack Molay said...

@Namrata

"Infact, in those days, what used to be condemned was receptive sex alone, but not male homosexuality per se which was commonplace "

Agreed! And this was the case all over Northern Europe until the 19th century. Now even the Mediterranean area seems to be engulfed by the new idea of what homosexuality means.

@Namrata

"a male with a feminine personality profile need not be a woman inside. What makes someone a woman inside is way different."

My point exactly. And it is determining what that factor is that is so damned difficult.

Namrata said...

Jack,
"And it is determining what that factor is that is so damned difficult."
You should make sense of your own feelings to realize that, nothing else.Since your heart tells you that you are female rather than a sensitive man with 'feminine profile', only your heart can say why it feels so. And then you can explain the same to us.

Nika Maria Florez said...

very insightful. it would be nice to find a woman who accepted all that i am, the male and female.

in real life i am not effeminate. i think mostly because of the environment and culture i grew up in did not permit me to explore this side of me openly.

but the crossdreaming (a new term to me that i really appreciate, thank you jack) was still there, even when i ran with a gang as a teen and did hyper-masculine things.

i have a lady friend in san diego whom ive known for 7 years now who wants to see me in girl mode. we were lovers shortly back in 2005, before i began to deal with autogynephilia. we are friends and i dont see us becoming lovers again, but i appreciate her open-mindedness.

i get approached by guys and girls and even TG women quite a bit here in LA. but for me its more than having off-the-wall sex...its about being at peace within my own skin.

GinebraX said...

I am the girlfag/ftm crossdreamer Sahar is talking about. :) Every time I read this I feel excited and lucky. He is the most beautiful thing happened to me lately. He is just awesome... an angel... I wouldn't change what I have with him... No cisman could make me this happy and excited... Just wanna say that the mere existence of mtf crossdreamers is something wonderful to me... and I feel thankful that all you guys exist. Thank you, Jack, for the awesome job you are doing. :)

Jack Molay said...

@GinebraX

:) Thank you for your kind words!

I think for M2F and F2M crossdreamers to join forces will make a huge difference.

Please stay around!

xxx

Jack

GinebraX said...

@Jack : :) Yes, you are so right! ftm & mtf should join forces... that would be awesome.

I am from now posting comments regularly in your fantastic blog (btw I am regular reader since last year).

xoxo :)

Jack Molay said...

That' great!

Allison bell said...

I am just curious what u think the best way for male and female crossdreamers to find each other may be...

Jack Molay said...

I am not sure. There have been attempts at establishing meeting places for FTM and MTF crossdreamers online, like over at crossdreamlife.com, but it seems the two groups manly keep to themselves. This is mainly because the socio-cultural context is to different. Nevertheless, there is no harm in trying.

Some meet at cosplay venues, I believe, and I guess there are certain liberal anything-goes establishments in some bigger cities, especially in the West.

It is my hope that we in the end develop common symbols and terms that make it possible to communicate, much in the way gay and lesbians communicate now.