February 28, 2011

Beyond the fetish

Sarah makes a very interesting observation about the relationship between transwomen and crossdreamers over at her Crossdreamer in a Bottle blog:

'All of this surfaced periodically in my head throughout today and I came to a new thought that I had not had before. Though many are saying that autogynephilia [erotic feminization fantasies] and "classic" transsexuality are different conditions at their core, what if they are wrong? Perhaps the only real difference is that a "classic" transgender female feels like a "woman in a man's body", thus experiencing an early onset gender confusion, whereas we crossdreamers are "women in a man's body and mind". If the difference is simply a factor of the way our mind is wired, then perhaps the sexual response is simply a male mind's response to the need to be female.'

Read also her discussion of the difference between a fetish and a transgender condition:

'I do have a separate unrelated fetish, though I won't get into the specifics, and because of the experience of these in tandem, I can feel a significant difference between the fetish and my autogynephilia. Whereas with the fetish I can be turned on very strongly, I don't actually want it to be made manifest- "it's just a fantasy", yet with the desire to be female there is nothing I want more, even though it usually doesn't turn me on quite as much as my fetish. Each day my desire for a female form varies in intensity, but irrespective of how turned on I am on any given day, the feeling that I am somehow trapped inside an inescapable prison and sometimes almost crying at some level deep inside, seems to point strongly to the suggestion that we are more closely related to classic transgendered women than many would have us believe.'

Read the whole blog post here.

February 25, 2011

Bibliography on paraphilias and the DSM-5

Andrew Hinderliter has put up a very useful bibliography of literature relevant to the current debate on "paraphilias" the DSM-5 (the fifth edition of the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) over at his asexuality site.

Asexuals are facing some of the same problems as crossdreamers. Since their being does not fit with the gender stereotypes of the day, they often end up being labelled as sick.

The DSM-5 includes a separate category for "paraphilias" (read: perversions), and "autogynephilia" is one of them - classified under the heading of transvestic fetishism. Hinderliter's bibliography has a section for writings on transvestism and crossdreaming.

Distress does not equal mental disorder

Here is a quote from a listed letter from the US National Center for Transgender Equality:

"Finally, NCTE believes there is no place in the twenty-first century for a diagnosis of Transvestic Fetishism/Tranvestic Disorder. While there are certainly some individuals who experience psychological distress in relation to their desire to cross-dress – often due to the pervasive social stigma and discrimination against transgender people – this experience no more justifies a psychiatric diagnosis than does 'ego-dystonic homosexuality.' We urge the APA to eliminate this unnecessary and harmful diagnosis in the DSM 5."

Trans activist Andrea James makes the following observation regarding crossdreaming:

"Unconventional sexual behavior that is consensual can reach a level where impulse control needs to be managed, but that should not be thought of as 'curing' the interest itself. There's no need to diagnose or 'cure' harmless sexual interests. It's sad to see that we are well into the 21st century, yet some experts still cling to the idea that 'transvestic fetishism' or other forms of consensual kink are disorders."

How science is used in oppression


"There is a long history, stretching from Phrenology to The Bell Curve, of dubious research that has attempted to give scientific credence to the presumption that people of color are mentally inferior to the white majority.

"Invalidation by mental inferiority has also been used to justify sexism: the claim that women are biologically or hormonally predispositioned to be overly emotional (read: irrational or immature) has been evoked by those who feel that women should defer to men, or who feel that women are not capable of dealing with serious or important matters. For example, the suffragists who fought for women's right to vote were regularly dismissed as suffering from 'hysteria,' which was considered a legitimate mental disturbance at the time.

"...I'll repeat that: any person who does not understand or acknowledge how injurious these transinvalidations are to us, simply does not understand transgenderism. Period. I further contend that any medical or mental health provider who is sincerely concerned with the health, happiness and well-being of gender variant people must make challenging and eliminating these trans-invalidations, both within their professional fields and in society at large, a top priority.

"...Trans-invalidations are also reinforced by the trans-specific diagnoses in the DSM. Two of these—Transvestic Fetishism and GID in Children—were written in such a way that they primarily target people who are not crossgender identified, but who simply crossdress or who are gender nonconforming in other ways. This is abominable. Such diagnoses serve no purpose other than to further stigmatize gender variance."

From perversion to fashion standard


"The fact that there are a certain percentage of heterosexual males who get sexual excitement from cross-dressing doesn't mean those men have a mental disorder, especially when you take into consideration the number of homosexuals and bisexual men who cross-dress as well as the significant subculture of women who cross-dress. Why are heterosexual males singled out for a diagnosis? Clearly it's a specific cultural bias against men who dress as women. In an earlier time in history, women who dressed as men were considered to be abnormal. Today, it's a fashion standard.

"The history of sexual disorders is intertwined with cultural norms. It is not clear why the DSM makes the distinction between normative and non-normative sexual behavior. Historically oral and anal sex were non-normative – today both are accepted by society. Homosexuality and nymphomania are no longer diagnoses, masturbation is now considered to be healthy, while some disorders like female orgasmic disorder describes a syndrome that was once considered to be 'normal.' "

Cause and effect

I would like to add that the reason for me opposing the inclusion of crossdreaming in the DSM is not that crossdreamers never suffer from mental disorders. Actually, I am convinced there is significantly more depression, more compulsive and addictive behavior and more suicides among us than in the population at large.

But this is not because the failure to live up to the scientist's strict standards of normalcy is a disease in itself. The suffering is caused by the lack of respect and acceptance found in parts of the medical community and society. If you are repeatedly given the impression that there is something seriously wrong with you, and that an essential part of your very being is perverted, that leads to embarrassment, shame, guilt and even social ostracism.

This means that the American Psychiatric Association -- which is responsible for the DSM -- is partly causing the suffering it is supposed to cure. The DSM is part of our problem, not the solution.

Further reading

Here are some of my posts on crossdressing, paraphilias and the DSM-5:

Blanchard and the DSM-V, redefining paraphilia

DSM-V: What about autogynephilia?

DSM-V: What others say

Petition Opposing the Transvestic Disorder Diagnosis in the DSM-5

Autoandrophilia makes it into the DSM-5

On Moser's critique of Blanchard's autogynephilia theory

Strong resistance against proposed paraphilias in the DSM-5

On grammar, paraphilia and the DSM-5

See also Hinderliter's Asexual Exploration's Blog.

February 16, 2011

On grammar, paraphilia and the DSM-5

Sloppy language and loose use of terminology cause a lot of confusion in the transgender debate. This especially applies to the idea that many (if not all) transgender conditions are mental illnesses or perversions.

In this post I take a look at Andrew Hinterliter's discussion of the paraphilia term.

Cause and effect

In the debate on transgender conditions there is a mix up of observed behavior and what causes this behavior (correlation vs. causation).

To give the crossdreamer example:

If a man gets turned on by imagening himself having a woman's body, this is what he is. His very being is defined by being an "autogynephiliac" (a man in love with himself as a woman).

Moreover, the condition is caused by "autogynephilia". It is, according to Blanchard, an intrinsic part of his nature. It is innate.

The alternative would be to look at crossdreaming as an effect of another underlying condition.

To give an obvous example: Let us say that some male bodied persons are biologically wired for a "female" sexual instinct. This instict, which due to the surrounding culture is suppressed and cannot find an expression in everyday life, finds its outlet through feminization fantasies.

The observed "facts" are the same, but the story used to explain them is completely different. In the first the man is a pervert, in the other -- maybe -- a sexually frustrated woman or a person living outside existing gender norms.

Another example: "Autogynephiliacs" are considered self-obsessed narcissist unable to connect in normal love relationships. They are narcissists. (This isn't true, by the way, but this is what some of the experts say).

The alternative would be to look for an explanation for such behaviour outside the observed phenomenon itself:

Some crossdreamers may appear to be self-obsessed because (1) their lack of emotional and sexual fulfillment is traumatic and extremely frustrating and (2) they have found that it is hard to integrate their own sexual needs in a traditional heterosexual relationship or they have been rejected because of them.

In other words: They are afraid of yet another rejection and have given up love alltogether.

They are not pathological narcissists, lacking the ability to connect per se. They have just come to the conclusion that their "handicap" is too severe, and that there will be noone there that could love them. (I am convinced they are wrong about this, but it is not an irrational assumption).

Again: The context changes everything.

Normal

The second fallacy is the tendency of interpreting "normal" as what the majority of people is doing. Hence abnormal is what a minority of people is doing.

A 19th century example would be the argument that since women have never been great scientists or political leaders they must in fact be biologically incapable of becoming so. (Queen Elisabeth I and Victoria would be ignored or explained away as as abnormal exeptions to the rule).

At that time you could also argue that women do not masturbate. Women who do masturbate must therefore be sexually deviant. This argument was commonly heard among doctors and scientists all the way up to the 1970's.

The alternative use of the word "normal" -- if we stick to biology -- would be "that which appears as a result of natural diverisity". According to this understanding homosexuality would be natural, even if a minority of the population understand themselves as being gay.

Understanding perversions

These distinctions are extremely important, because if you label someone as a pervert or a paraphiliac, you have -- in effect -- denied them their dignity and their humanity.

However, some people have a strong need to sort people into the clean and the unclean, the normal and the abnormal. We have seen this since the time the priests and the prophets of the Old Testament wrote their laws and regulation. They took great pleasure in telling the people what was kosher and what was unacceptable in the eyes of the Lord.

Andrew Hinderliter and Ray Blanchard

Andrew Hinderliter has published an interesting paper called "Defining Paraphilia: Do not disregard grammar" published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy.

February 10, 2011

When Four Tribes Go to War Part 1

I promise you, I am not going to turn this blog into a war zone. I do feel a need to finish the discussion on transsexual separatism and the place for crossdressers and crossdreamers, though. This is the first post of a two-parter on the conflict between the various transsexual and transgender clans. Then I'll go back to regular reseach based blogging.

In a comment to my post on Dyssonance, Jamiegottagun makes the following comment:

"Dyssonance is known for only one thing, really: causing problems, and trolling. She also often stoops to all the things she accuses her enemies of, like misgendering to dismiss people."

Dyssonance is definitely more proactive than others, and if she has been misgendering someone, that's really bad.

Still, you could probably blame many of us for the TS/TG wars, including me.

There has been times I have felt so depressed from all the attempts at labelling crossdreamers and crossdressers as pathetic perverts, that I have wanted to strike back and hurt the people who are attacking "my kind".

It is like being back in the school yard again. I feel like I am being bullied for not having cracked the code for what is needed to be accepted by the in crowd. That's childish, I know, but hey, I'm human!

Vicious circle

It is easier for me to let it pass now. I am starting to get a much needed distance, seeing the suffering behind all the hostile snarling.

But we need to talk about this. For many crossdreamers and crossdressers the first meeting with the online transgender community is with aggressive transwomen telling them go hide in the closet.

I have also seen lack of respect for transwomen among some crossdreamers. There are, for instance, those that fall into the Blanchard trap, arguing that all transwomen are nothing but "autogynephiliacs". Some M2F trangender persons have a rather weak gender dysphoria, and manage quite well to include their "otherness" into their lives as men. Then they mistakenly believe that all transgender persons are like this, failing to realize that some M2F transwomen truly are trapped in an alien body.

In many ways we are facing some kind of self-reinforcing vicious circle here: People express their insecurity, there is a counter-reaction, then the first ones get aggressive, the other party gets hurt and starts hitting back. Finally you end up with TS and TG clans fighting it out Somali style with AK-47's and rocket launchers.

At that point the various clans are busy defining their own identity as something different from the others, that all real communication breaks down.

There are at least four types of separatist clans as far as I can see:

The People's Front of Judea

1. There are some organized crossdressers, who insist that they are gender variant men, and who would rather not see androphilic transgender or transsexuals at their meetings.
The operative phrase here is "We are men".

The Judean's People's Front

2. Then there are the Classical Transsexuals (CT) who argue that they have nothing in common with "fetishistic crossdressers" and "gay effeminate men".
The operative phrase here is "We are women".

February 8, 2011

TransGriot's interview with Dyssonance

TransGriot has published an interview with transgender activist Antonia D'orsay, also known as Dyssonance. Dyssonance

Dyssonance describes herself as a "multi-ethnic, early Generation X, native Arizonan writer, 3D artist, sociologist and psychologist who rarely cleaves to the standard party line for any group."

The interview is relevant to my previous post on the conflict between so-called "Classic Transsexuals" and the rest of the transgender community.

Dyssonance represent their exact opposite, a transwoman that would like to unite the various types of transgender people under one banner.

She has written an interesting summary of her own debates with the CT crowd:

"[This debate] is about the right to determine who is and who isn’t a transsexual.


They want to say that if they are left alone (well, transgender is an umbrella term for everyone but this group of some transsexuals right here is what they want said) they will leave us alone.


The problem is that when you tell them that all they need to do is go away and ignore us, then they suddenly say 'well, no, it’s also about how you embarrass us. You need to stop using transsexuals whenever you talk about transgender people.'


You argue that point, and suddenly it becomes 'No, because you aren’t a transsexual, You are a transgender.'


And if you piss them off, you get called a non passing transvestite hooker pretending to be a transsexual.


If they really get a hard on for you (pun intended), they misgender you, calling you sir or man."


And that, being addressed with the male pronoun, has happened a lot of time in Dyssonance's own online life.


In the interview she asked about where sees see the trans community at the end of this decade and beyond.


She answers:


"In-community, I think we'll see a division that becomes stronger as the various gender variant groups fund their own language outside the binary that many transsexual people feel is best for them. I'd like to say that I also see many of the APA estimated 2-3% of the population that is CD [crossdresser] but not transsexual emerge and step up, which will have an effect on the transsexual dominated forms of discourse surrounding political efforts.


“However, I fear that the intense degree of internalized stigma in that community will continue to limit them, especially when combined with a high degree of stigma within the overall 'full time' trans community. Reminds me of the 'weekend warriors' in fighting between the regular Army and the NG/AR units before the Gulf War pointed out they all bleed red just as easily."


In other words: She does see the possibility of crossdressers and crossdreamers getting some more respect if we start making ourselves more visible, but it is a long shot.

I would add: for that to happen, we would have to be as respectful to others, as we want them to be to us.


Here are some of Dyssonance's other posts that might be of interest to you:


Internal trans warfare: Some Insights (on using the term transgender as an insult and the Classic Transsexuals)

The end of disorder (on the relationship between homosexuality and transgender conditions in American psychiatry and the DSM)

Goodbye Disorder, Hello Incongruence (on the DSM, gender issues and autogynephilia)

Transgender (Golden Calves, Part III) (on the non-transsexual parts of the transgender community, including crossdressers and "autogynephiliacs")


February 3, 2011

Purple Silence

I have not really spent much time on arguing with the Classic Transsexual separatist group, you know, the one arguing that crossdressers and crossdreamers have nothing in common with them, being real women.

One of the reasons for this is that I agree with their argument that transsexualism is not a psychological syndrome, but something inborn. They are real women to me, not some kind of strange gender hybrid.

There are a few of them, however, who spend an awful lot of time attacking people the call the "transgender" or "TG", who in their opinion are trying to take over the transsexual narrative. They are accusing all other "TGs" of being the same as the majority of my readers: fetishists, "autogynephiliacs" and crossdressers. Some of them are extremely aggressive, to point of using the male pronoun for tranwomen that they feel do not live up to the purity of womanhood.

Tweeting

I have not blogged about them, but I have tweeted. Here is one such tweet:

The destructive and hateful TS/TG war flares up again.http://ow.ly/3JDVA http://ow.ly/3JDVI http://ow.ly/3JDW0 http://ow.ly/3JDWC

Purple gets annoyed

One of the links go to the blog Purple Speaks. Purple is not amused. In a post called Jack Molay strikes again she writes:

"I am getting sick of Jack Molay, a cross-dresser, keeping tabs on this mainstream and TS blog. Being a TG cross-dressing man, he has no right to keep an eye on TS sites. The TG+gay community is one community, and the TS/mainstream/cis-gendered community is another. TGs have no right to try to control or keep tabs on TSs, and TSs have no right to do that to TGs.

Jack's libel of TS-only sites as anti-TG hate sites is unwelcome. We don't hate them. We just want our OWN community without them trying to lead us, help us, or define us. Let us be our own train wrecks if we must, and stay out of our way. We have the right to fail, on our own, without TGs trying to help us in ANY way....

True-TSs are neither autogynephiles or androphiles, since there are NO sexual or erotic motives to true-TSism. Autogynephiles are straight men who have a fetish for femininity, while androphiles are self-hating, effeminate gay men. Discredited 'researchers' who were really TG admirers and who couldn't admit their homosexual attraction to cross-dressed men invented the entire AG/AP thing. So that makes them homophobes, and they were willing to abuse/exploit true-TSs for unsavory purposes, and Jack pays homage to them."

You can read the rest here.

Anyway, I posted a response over at her blog, but she is holding on to her principles, and so far she has not published my comment. So, I publish my response to her here instead:

My response

"Just some points of clarification:

I am not trying to deny you or other of your allies to organize separately from any other group of persons. That is your democratic right.

I am not saying that you are a crossdreamer or an 'autogynephile'. If you say you are not, and that you have never experiences arousal from 'feminization fantasies', I believe you.

I believe that you are who you say you are. A woman. I don't care what you have between your legs. Your sense of gender is located between your ears, and if your sex identity is female, a woman is what you are.

I am not claiming to be a woman. I present as a man and live as a man. But unlike you I do not think that division between the genders is as clear cut as you seem to believe. This refers as much to the difference between women born women vs. men born men, and women born men vs. men born men. But that's fine. We do not have to agree on this, as long as we respect each others right to explore what sex and gender is all about.

The idea that I should stop linking to your blog or stop tweeting about it because you and I belong to different tribes is against everything learning is about, discussions are about and democracy is about.

Even if you are right -- and the causes of crossdreaming and transsexualism are completely unrelated -- we are still left with a social and cultural context that puts the two into the same box. If you want to convince people that you are right you have to communicate with the rest of us in a constructive manner.

Your blog and some other CT [classic transsexual] blogs have the separatists struggle has the main objective. That's fair. But because of that you constantly comment on the people you consider 'transgender' say and do. If it is OK for you to comment on them, it must be OK for them to reflect on your position.

You say you don't hate people like me; that you just would like to be left alone. Still, in this very blog post you manage to write that "To TGs, it is just a game. It is a game of sex and power, and the forces that drive forced TG inclusion are just as bad as rape." You are actually calling me a rapist. How do you think that feels?

You also indicate that I pay homage to the researchers that invented the AGP concept. If you have really read my blog, you would have seen that I probably have spent more time on criticizing the theories of Blanchard & friends than any CT blogger I know of. I find their theories simplistic, sexist and offensive.

Still, in your last paragraph you repeat some the main ideas from this tradition: 'Autogynephiles are straight men who have a fetish for femininity, while androphiles are self-hating, effeminate gay men.' Blanchard does not like the word fetish, but apart from that this is exactly what he and Bailey believe is true. What does that make you?

By the way: I am not a crossdresser."

(Purple gives another explanation of her standpoint here.)

February 2, 2011

Crossdreamer in a Bottle

Sarah has put up a new crossdreamer blog called Crossdreamer in a Bottle.

S/he says:

"I am what Jack Molay calls a 'crossdreamer', also known as an autogynephiliac. Like your more garden variety transgender person, this means I want to be female, but in my case (and the case of most of other crossdreamers I think), I don't already feel female inside, rather it is a deep hard-wired longing built into me that I can't shake or get rid of, and that I can remember having wanted since I was a child. Also, the thought of being female turns me on; so much so that it's my primary sexual attraction mechanism."

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