November 21, 2012

The Yaoi Culture and the Female to Male Crossdreamers

Typical yuoi manga cover.
From Houyou Hikken.
Note the German title: Your Heart! Yaoi is a
global culture.

What makes women, world wide, write and read comics about men having sex? Crossdreaming, of course!

There are scientists who deny the existence of female to male crossdreamers, that is female bodied persons who get turned on by the idea of being a man. As far as these scientists are concerned only men can be what they consider "paraphiliacs" or "perverts".

Ray Blanchard, who came up with the "autogynephilia" theory, belongs to these researchers.

I have through several blog posts documented that not only are there female to male crossdreamers among us now; we find them in a wide variety of cultures and they have most likely always been here.

In other words: This is not a purely cultural or psychological phenomenon.

The reason the researchers do not see the FTM crossdreamers, is that they do not look for them.

Today I am going to present to you the fascinating world of female to male crossdreaming, and prove to you that there are large numbers of girls who dream about being boys out there.

They have their own thriving crossdreamer and crossdresser culture, in which we find a lot of parallels to their male to female counterparts.

Welcome to the world of Boy's Love and yaoi!

Thanks to Uli Meyer

I am very grateful to the German researcher Uli Meyer. In her article "Hidden in straight sight: Trans'gressing gender and sexuality via BL" in the anthology Boys' Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-Cultural Fandom of the Genre  she has managed to make the female bodied crossdreamer visible for themselves and for the rest of us.

She has put them within a framework that makes sense, not only for the people involved, but also for people like me. I am using that article actively in this post. Do read the original! Her work is going to change our understanding of what it means to be transgender.

Some words about words

When you try to write about female and male bodied crossdreamers at the same time, it is easy to get lost in the terminology, as the inter-gender dynamics are a bit unusual.

Rutta to Kodama, yaoi comic presenting
a male same sex relationship. Note that
both look quite feminine, but the
uke to the left more so than the
dominant seme to the right. In manga
large eyes might signify both
child like innocence and femininity.
In this post MTF refers to male to female, i.e. male bodied persons who dream about being women or -- in the case of transsexuals -- transsexual women who have realigned their female mind with their hormonally and/or surgically altered female body.

FTM means female to male, meaning people with two X chromosomes who fantasize about being men, male being their target sex. FTM crossdreamers might call themselves "girlfags" online, a word most of them  do not find offensive.

Some crossdreamers may identify with their target sex, living at the transsexual end of the transgender scale. Unless they have transitioned, these often experience gender dysphoria, a deep unease from not having a body that fits their "inner woman" or "inner man".

Other crossdreamers identify with their biological birth sex, arguing that their fantasies do not entail another sex or gender identity. Most of these do not report  dysphoria. Note, however, that there is a lot of denial and repression going around. The crossdreamer's journey may be a trip from  one end of the scale to another.

I consider all of these people transgender, in the umbrella term sense of the word.

The terms "inner  man" and "inner woman" are metaphors referring to whatever it is that seeks expression through crossdressing and/or crossdreaming. I truly believe there is a biological core to crossdreaming as well as the transsexual condition, but the terms are helpful even if there isn't one.

To avoid confusion as to what the terms "heterosexual" and "homosexual" refer to (birth sex or target sex), I refer to people who are predominantly attracted to women as "gynephilic" and people oriented towards men as "androphilic". Believe me, it is easier this way!

I refer to FTM crossdreamers as women if it is clear that they publicly identify as such, and as men if they tell us that they are men. Transmen are men in my book. End of story!

What is BL and yaoi?

An uke is the submissive receptive partner in a yaoi gay
male relationship.
From the blog Manga Freak.
Male bodied male to female crossdreamers have different ways of expressing their "inner woman".

Some crossdress. Some explore their female avatar in online gaming. Others write stories or TG captions (illustrations accompanied by ultra short TG transgender stories).

They are all trying to express a side of their own self that the society around them does not accept. These are men who not only dream about being women, but who even would like to have sex as women.

The FTM crossdreamer culture has had a different cultural trajectory and history. At this moment in history their main way of expressing their "inner man" is through Boy's Love and yaoi, which at its core is a genre of Japanese style comics.

Boy's Love,  BL  or yaoi comics contain stories about gay male relationships. They are written by women, though, and the readership is mainly female. Boy's Love female readers identify with one or both of the male characters in these stories.

Hiding in plain sight

The FTM crossdreamers are hiding in plain sight. Even in Scandinavia I have found science fiction and comics shops with separate shelves devoted to yaoi. No one seems to notice and no one seems to care, but the fact that this store find it profitable to sell yaoi comic books to Scandinavian girls and women, says a lot about how common the yaoi fans are.

It is interesting to see how this predominantly  Japanese cultural expression is adopted and absorbed by women in countries as diverse as Scandinavia, Germany, Austria, Brazil, Indonesia,  and the US. Korea has its own comics tradition,  manhwa, out of which yaoi is the best selling sub-genre.

The diversity of cultures also tells me that the enthusiasm for yaoi cannot be understood as a cultural reaction to the oppression of women alone. Such an explanation may make sense in Japan or Korea, but not in the same way for liberated young teenagers in present day Norway, Sweden or Denmark.

Yaoi is an acronym that stands for yama-nashi, ochi-mashi, imi-mashi (no climax, no point, no meaning), meaning episodes lacking any overreaching structure. It is sometimes understood as sub-gendre under Boy's Love. In this post I will use  terms BL and yaoi as synonyms.
Slash fan art depicting Harry Potter and Severus Snape.
Artist: Yukipon. Taken from Wikipedia.

Slash

Note that there is another genre associated with yaoi called slash. The word slash refers to the forward slash on the keyboard.

Most slash comics and stories are made by fans of existing entertainment franchises. However, they will rewrite  characters from popular culture  as a homosexual couple, like in Kirk/Spock.

You find female writers writing stories about gay love for a female audience in the slash tradition, as well.



Yaoicon cosplayers dressing up as the comic book
characters Roxas and Soras. Photo: Agius. I have inserted
an image I believe is a fan drawing of the original characters.
Cosplay

Fans of  yaoi and slash will also crossdress. This is called cosplay.

Cosplay involves dressing up as a fictional character, in this context characters from manga or anime (Japanese style animated movies).

You may find such crossdressers at regular comic and manga/anime conventions, but lately  there have also been separate yaoi-cons where the female fans dress up as bishonen, the beautiful, androgynous boys  of the Boy's Love genre.

It seems to me that the fans may also express their sexuality at these conventions, as they make out with both boys as well as girls dressed up as their favorite male yaoi characters.

The myth that there are no FTM crossdressers is clearly wrong. Again: The FTM crossdreamers are hiding in plain sight. Everyday crossdressing for them would include jeans and a shirt, hardly noticeable even in transphobic communities (Saudi Arabia and the like excluded).

Bars and meeting places

In Japan you will also find BL bars where female customers are served by beautiful feminine or androgynous  men.

"Butler cafés such as Café Edelstein actively try to recreate the atmosphere of a BL manga in that it pretends to be a boy's school and its uniformed hosts play the roles of school boys, "
Meyer explains.

There are also bars where "straight" women may rent female to male crossdressing bishonen. As Meyer says: "If the customers wear male costumes themselves, they can engage with the hosts in a male/male constellation bringing BL to life."

Butlers at Café Edelstein personify BL manga characters.
Photo Tonu Hanai, taken from the Guardian
The love of gay male sex

But is this truly crossdreaming?

Some researchers (like some of the other authors in the anthology linked to above) have argued that yaoi is really about female empowerment and liberation. The female readers explore the idea of being men to strengthen their own independence, and counter-balance a repressive, paternalistic, culture.

Many of these researchers are schooled in post-structuralist gender theory and women studies, and in their universe everything human is a game of words and symbols, which makes it hard for them to accept any natural or instinctual basis for what is going on here. Because of this they often miss the transgender and sexual dimensions of yaoi.

There may be something to  their observations, but theirs cannot be the whole explanation. The focus of most of these stories is on seduction and sex --  explicit sex and even rough sex. So this is definitely about arousal.

It might be that some yaoi readers get aroused by reading such stories in the same way heterosexual non-transgender men get aroused by lesbian porn --  meaning that there is nothing transgender about it.

However, it is also clear that many female bodied yaoi readers  get aroused by identifying themselves with the male characters in the story, and that makes this crossdreaming in my book.

Note also that these women dream about being men with men. To the extent the word "sexual orientation" means anything to me anymore, I must say that their sexual orientation is mainly towards men. As women they are heterosexual. As men they are gay.

Again the parallel to male to female crossdreamers is clear, as a majority of male to female crossdreamers consider themselves heterosexual as men, and lesbian as women.

What the yaoi creators say about sex

Meyer refers to Takemiya Keiko, author of Kaze to ki no uta, the first shojo manga that contained gay male sex. She argued that through boy's love it is possible "to express dual personality (feminine and masculine) that is involved in human beings".

Her basic premise therefore seems to be that we are all -- in a sense -- transgender and that the yaoi genre explores this. Meyer, however, interprets this in a different way, arguing that yaoi readers are often girlfags (FTM crossdreamers):

Meyer says:

"BL fans' preoccupation with gay men can be understood better in context of the practice of girlfags and transfags, i.e. female-born persons who eroticize and identify with gay men.

"Semes [the proactive sex partner] don't eat cake. Ever."
From Junjou Romantica
"By identifying with one or more of the gay male characters in manga, the fans/artists cannot just take on a traditionally male gender role, but a traditionally male sexual position, which allows them to experience themselves, among other things, as penetrator (seme) and a male counterpart (uke) as penetrated.

"Thus, the transgression of sexuality and gender in BL can be quite literal, enabling its readers/creators to identify or feel with the male characters on a physical level, in a process I call 'creative transvestism'"

The strong focus on sex and intercourse makes it clear that this is more than an exploration of gender roles. Yaoi let its female readers explore the idea of being a sexual male in a man's body.

The "creative transvestism"/"creative crossdreaming" phenomenon reflects the strong psychological need to explore a cross-sexual identity in art and fantasy.

Violating the stereotypes

Much of the current harassment and stigmatization of male to female crossdreamers from the medical establishment (Blanchard & Co) and the extremist separatist HBS transwomen is based on the idea that MTF crossdreamer sexuality is a misdirected masculine form of desire. The same idea is found among totalitarian radical feminists who  believe that all transsexual women are men who try to rule women completely by  taking over their bodies.

The underpinning notion is that women are less sexually driven than men, and that women therefore would never get as obsessed with sexual fantasies as some MTF crossdreamers do. This argument disregards the fact that many crossdreamers and crossdressers do not focus that much on the sexual aspect of being transgender, but let us leave that for the moment.

Historically speaking the idea of the asexual woman appeared in Victorian Britain. Before the women were considered lascivious and emotionally unstable, while men where considered less sexual and more rational.  Anyone who lives in places where there have been true female liberation (like in Norway) knows that the idea of the weaker female libido is wrong, but this misunderstanding has been so deeply ingrained in Western culture that it creates prejudices anyway.

The fact that female yaoi fans love what can  be described as gay male porn, effectively undermines this notion of the asexual woman Many of the yaoi fangirls may be transsexual men at heart, for sure, but that does not change the importance of their existence. The cultural prejudice is based on the idea that the sexual drive follows the sex of the body, not the sex of the mind. The yaoi culture tells us that female bodied persons can be as sexually motivated as male bodied persons.

Meyer puts it this way:

"The fact that they [BL fans] are eroticizing gay men and acts is often ignored by commentators. By a similar logic, until recently, female-to-gay-male transsexuals (and male-to-lesbian transsexuals) were denied hormones and treatment."

"Girls are brought up with the expectation that they are somehow less sexual than boys. The 'innocent' artwork and design of most shojo manga (girl's manga) reflects this. In comparison, many shonen manga (boy's manga) are full of openly sexual, very physical imagery, while girl's manga frame references to sexuality in symbols and 'emotions'. Boys' manga would never get away with the degree of über-'innocence' that girls' manga display. It would look suspicious because 'everybody knows' that boys are sexually active, but 'everybody' still pretends that girls aren't"

Boy's Love/Yaoi retains some of the "innocent" aesthetics of of regular girl's manga, but the sex is explicit and far from innocent. BL and yaoi proves once and for all that female sexuality may be as aggressive and intense as  stereotypical male sexuality.


Study support


Meyer argues that there is yaoi research beyond her own that  confirms the sexual nature of yaoi enthusiasm:

"[Björn-Ove] Kamm has shown that yaoi has an explicit sexual function for some German and Japanese fans. [Mikuki] Hashimoto found that about thirty percent of the Austrian and Japanese cosplayers she interviewed (who were also yaoi fans) had sexual fantasies related to yaoi."

Research also shows that there is a considerable overlap between yaoi fans and yaoi creators. That is: The readers will often make their own stories.

As for the motivation of those that do not get aroused by reading and writing yaoi, we will just have to keep an open mind. Personally I find it hard to believe that there is not some kind of repressed or unrecognized sexual component to their fascination, but you never know.

There are male to female readers of TG fiction who will not admit to be sexually excited by reading such stories, and given that such fiction may express wish fulfillment that goes far beyond the sexual, they may be right. I am just having some difficulty clearly distinguishing the sexual from the non-sexual in this respect.

Note that I have selected non-explicit illustrations for this blog posts. Yaoi is often veeeery explicit, to the point that some series have been banned from Amazon.com for being pornographic. They often are.

Domination and submission

As in male to female transgender erotica one theme that reoccurs is domination and submission. Some MTF TG stories are tales of   dominant men becoming meek and demure  women. The fantasies allow the MTF crossdreamer to explore the idea of an existence where he/she does not have to live up to the cultural ideal of the aggressive and dominant male.

In FTM yaoi you will find beautiful submissive men being dominated by gay men. This has led some observers to believe that the female reader automatically will identify with the submissive feminine uke (the "bottom"), but that is not necessarily the case according to Meyer. Many  yaoi fans identify with the dominant seme, or they may shift their identification from one to the other:

"BL idealization and fetishization of male beauty is most extreme in the uke characters. In the sexual scenes of BL, it is mainly the body of the uke that is displayed. He is shown as passive, penetrated, and in the throes of passion, a passion that is derived from receptivity. His arousal and sexual reactions are the focus of the sex scene, in much the same way that women's reactions are the focus of straight pornography. In plots that contain violence or rape, the uke's pain and agony are sadomasochistically fetishized."

Note the comparison with straight cis-male porn. When non-transgender gynephilic men watch porn movies, they focus on the woman. The male character is uninteresting to them, even though they imagine themselves in the role of the male actor. In yaoi the focus is in the submissive uke. If we accept the parallel  that would mean that the female reader identify with the proactive and dominant seme.

Meyer again:

"It is often assumed that straight female readers of yaoi generally identify with the uke, the 'passive' character in the sex scene, meaning that the seme/uke relationships reflect hetero-sexual dynamics. This is clearly not always the case. I have talked to several fans and done som informal surveys at yaoi forums and groups in Germany and the United States, and many (at least one-third) said that they identify with the seme. In yaoi online and computer games, seme characters are often played by women. The point of view in sex scenes are either voyeuristic or from the seme to the uke, allowing the readers an easy identification with the seme."

Bend over Boyfriend

"In explaining yaoi's success," yaoi creator Takemiya said, "Yaoi's great because you can adopt both roles."

As Meyer points out it seems doubtful that she meant this is a purely metaphoric sense. Meyer sees a parallel to this in the BOB culture. BOB is another interesting acronym meaning "bend over boyfriend" and refers to pegging, where the female use a strap-on dildo to penetrate the male lover anally.

Meyer doubts that BL is about social and emotional equality, or at least not exclusively:

"It is about the availability of both sexual roles for both women and men, not just about ephemistically 'active' and 'passive' roles, but about who penetrates and who gets penetrated."

Meyer quotes the sex expert  Susie Bright, who gives voice to the feelings of the penetrating female to male crossdreamer:

"I would like more women with male lovers to know the pleasure of ravishing their husbands and boyfriends (...) because it's a deep emotional pleasure to be the one who holds the world in her hand, so to speak -- to be on top and going inside. When a man is vulnerable to you in that way, he's not only having physical pleasure from his prostate, he's also giving himself to you in such a completely open way that  can't help but be intensely -- dare I use the word -- romantic, in an ultimate, far-out, upside down kind of way."

The most common fantasy among male to female crossdreamers is the exact opposite. They dream of being ravished, of giving in, of letting go, and for them this may also be intensely romantic.

I found the following clip from an anime expo. Note that the male bodied person is here playing the role of the uke (the receptive one), while the female bodied person is the aggressive seme. This is definitely yaoi cosplay.

(The scene is public, and the participants have apparently agree to have this posted on YouTube, which allows me to embed the clip here. This is not office material!)



Feminine aesthetics

One of the aspects of yaoi that confused me at first was the very feminine aesthetics found in the comics. The male bishonen have all rather feminine features, which also rhymes with the general preference of girlfags for effeminate gay boys.

Mayer puts it this way:

"BL is a medium that fetishizes and objectifies male characters as bishonen, beautiful boys. Their slender bodies are displayed, often in erotic or sex scenes, for the pleasure of the mostly female voyeurs. BL artwork emphasizes the 'feminine' qualities, such as expressive eyes, harmonious features, hairless skin, and sometimes beautiful outfits of the bishonen."

If the girlsfag were the mirror image of the MTF crossdreamer you should -- perhaps -- expect them to idealize the very masculine and muscular alpha guy with the square jaw. After all: The MTF crossdreamers also worship feminine beauty, and they cannot both be looking for the same thing, or...?

There are two possible explanation for this discrepancy. The first is that FTM crossdreamers who identify with the masculine seke would search for his/her counterpart: the effeminate uke.  This would mean that the uke's mirror character in the MTF universe would be the emotionally cold and hard dominatrix: the brutal  violator of men.

Spot the girl! Feminine traits are considered more
beautiful by both men and women. (From The Twilight Saga).
Note the similarity with yaoi aesthetics.
However, there may be another explanation for this, and that is that everyone considers feminine traits to be more beautiful in both men and women.

All the idols of teenage girls  look like girls, if you ask me. The boy band members, Justin Bieber, the Twilight stars - they have all delicate feminine features. It would seem the brutalizing  effects of testosterone are more aimed at intimidating other men than attracting women.

Ambiguous gender roles

Meyer argues that BL constantly challenge traditional gender role, and that the genre therefore go beyond a mere presentation of male to male to sex:

Ribon no Kishi or Princess Knight is the
story of an unborn girl who swallows
a male soul and becomes a male
trapped in a female body. The female
knight is the one on the left.
By Tezuka Osamu 1954
"Inversion or 'Third Sex' is ever-present in the forms of sissified boys, male-to-female transsexuals, female-to-male transvestites, 'intersexuals,' and characters who change sex or gender for diverse reasons."

As she points out, in a Japanese context transgender is often interpreted as a kind of "reincarnation accident",  where a male soul may indeed be trapped in a woman's body.

Meyer argues, however, that this is not always a matter of being the opposite sex by nature. Sometimes BL tells stories of people who are both genders at the same time, and these fantasies let female bodied persons express a dual personality, being both male and female.

Although I would guess the majority of male to female TG erotica has a complete sex shift as the ultimate goal, there is also a rather big sub genre of stories and captions where the main character may oscillate between being male or female, or where he is transformed into a kind of sexual hybrid: a "shemale".


From Le Chevalier D'Eon
In Boy's Love this gender blending goes even further. Some comics may combine lesbian, heterosexual and transsexual narratives, while the gay male plot is in the subtext:

"Set in pre-revolutionary France, Chevalier (Le Chevalier D'Eon) features an effeminate young hero being transformed into his sister, who used to dress up in male clothes, and was masculine: the man dresses up as a woman who dresses up as a man."

(The real Chevalier D'Eon, who lived in the 17th century, was a male to female crossdresser).

BDSM

Some  male to female transgender erotica has strong BDSM aspects of forced sex. This is also the case in BL. Stories may be set in all male environments like schools or the Japanese mafia, and may include depictions of rape and abuse.

As always, it is important to note that these are fantasies, not something these readers would like to practice in real life. A parallel is found in the erotic fantasies of non-transgender women. Research indicates that more than 50 percent of women have had erotic fantasies of being taken by force.

In the case of MTF crossdreamers the rape fantasy has been explained a way of relieving guilt associated with the desire of taking the typical female role during sex. This argument clearly does not work for the FTM crossdreamer fantasizing about taking a submissive male by force.

I suspect we are facing the extreme expression of  a basic natural inclination towards being receptive or being the penetrator. These roles does not per se imply that one sex partner has to be aggressive and the other submissive, but it may be that repressed longings generate more extreme expressions when they are given room in sexual fantasies and fiction.


Sissification of men

Among MTF crossdreamers you will find a separate fiction sub-genre called forced sissyficiation stories. These stories explores the humiliation of a man becoming a woman. As I have noted elsewhere, for the MTF this is the psyches way of reconciling the desire for the forbidden with the taboos of society. "It is not my fault. They forced me to do it!"

Yaoi may also contain stories about turning boys into sissy girl, but here it is clear that the female readers identify with the males dominating them, not the feminized sissy boys.

Meyer says:


A common theme in FTM crossdreaming manga
 is boys dressed up as girls. 
From Josou Shounen Anthology Comic 4v 01
"Voluntary or forced sissification, that is, dressing up male characters in women's clothes, is a staple cliché of BL manga....It seems that many BL fans/creators enjoy and fetishize the sissification, or male-to-female transgendering, of BL characters and real life persons such as pop stars, in a technique that resembles that of drag queens who call straight men 'girl', in BL boys and men get simultaneousyly subverted and appropriated as sexual objects."

Please note that most of TG erotica, being that MTF or FTM, is not sadomasochistic in nature. Crossdreaming often have fetishistic aspects, but cannot be reduced to a sado-masochistic fetish.


Are yaoi-fans basically transsexual?

Meyer believes that many female bodied BL readers and writers are "female-to-male gay" transsexuals.

She refers to the Japanese yaoi-style novelist Sakaibara Shihomi, who suggests that the condition may be quite common among fans of this genre and may in fact be the reason for its existence.

The anthropologis Matt Horn puts it this way.

"Although traditional, essentialist notions of gender were debunked by feminism, feminist formulations of radical constructionism have themselves come under serious scrutiny. Nature and nurture may condition one another in complex ways, and it may be that notions like a 'gay man in woman's body' (or 'lesbian in man's body'), and indeed the concept of 'transsexuality' are awkward attempts to describe manifestations for which we still lack adequate analysis. My own conviction from a decade of researching shôjo manga and yaoi is that such is the case with these fans, although it will require much more to substantiate these claims."

Magnus Hirschfeld
Meyer comes very close to my understanding of crossdreamers when she refers to the German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) and his concept of "transvestites".

Hirschfield documented the existence of women who love feminine men and masculine women, who have homosexual relationships with men and who felt they were homosexual men. Hirschfeld used the term "transvestite" for a wide spectrum of gender challenging expressions, crossdreamers included.

Meyer says:

"Hirschfeld's 'Transvestismus' is pretty close to today's umbrella term 'transgender', but as opposed to 'transgender', it emphasizes the 'act' of changing gender, not the internatl 'identity', making the change available for everyone."

The Canadian biologist and linguist Bruce Bagemihl quotes a FTM crossdreamer saying:

"A straight man can look good to me but ... when I know a man is gay, when he's picked up some of the gay male cultural tricks and mannerisms, I don't know, it just turns me on... Since I was 19 or so I've fantasized about being a beautiful boy in a loving relationship with a man." (Quoted after Meyer)

Meyer argues that the difference between a transfag (a female to male transsexual) an a girlfag seems to be one of degree rather than quality:

"A person might strongly identify with and even as a gay man, while still maintaining a female identity."

Lou Sullivan
She refers to transman and transactivist Lou Sullivan, who -- before he transitioned -- considered himself a "heterosexual female transvestite, who was sexually attracted to gay men."

Personally I find it impossible to draw a clear line between transsexual and non-transsexual MTF crossdreamers, in the sense that they are to belong to two completely different species. Far too many transwomen have been both crossdreamers and crossdressers for that to make any sense.

This argument is strengthened when we look at the dynamics in the overall manga and anime culture. There is a huge Japanese entertainment industry targeting MTF crossdreamers, including commercial manga, anime and pornographic movies.

Some MTF crossdreamers come to the yaoi-cons as fans of lesbian manga heroines. Matt Thorn argues that female bodied yaoi fans and male bodied Beautiful Girls  fans are two sides of the same coin:


"If, as Sakakibara argues, yaoi fans are gay men in women's bodies, then it might be fair to suggest that many fans of amateur 'Beautiful Girls' manga are, as it were, lesbians in men's bodies, and not simply run-of-the-mill misogynists... In a sense, the two genres mirror each other, and speak to the desires of those who, by choice or circumstance, do not fit neatly into society's prescribed norms of gender and sexuality."

Unfortunately many BL fans look upon "Beautiful Girls" cosplayers and male to female crossdreamers (guydykes and transdykes) as perverts. In the social pecking order of manga fans the MTFs are below the FTMs, apparently.


Creative crossdreaming

Another parallell between female to male and male to female crossdreamers can be found in the creative process of writing erotica as a way of expressing both sexuality and alternative identity.

Meyer quotes Sakakibara who says that her creative work is the only possibility of fulfilling her libido. Writing BL manga may therefore be considered a parallel to TG story writing and captioning on the male bodied side.

Meyer argues, like me, that this urge to express sex and gender in creative works is also found in role playing games:

"In 'virtual reality', a process similar to creative transvestism can be observed in the form of people cruising the Internet or engaging in online role-playing games with a gender identity that differs from their everyday gender. Another example would be female-assigned persons who write gay male pornography under a male pseudonym  before transitioning from female to male."

In the comic and movie Tonari no 801(Yaoi) Chan,
the main character Yaoi-Chan has her
crossdreaming desire expressed by a green monster.

801-chan

In Japan yaoi culture is well know and part of mainstream media. The  manga
Tonari no 801-chan (=Tonari no yaoi-chan) tells the story about a boy and his yaoi obsessed girl friend, Yaoi-Chan.

Yaoi's crossdreaming is actually symbolically manifested as a green monster in the series.

There is  a movie version as well. Take the time to watch the following clip, In a humorous way it tells the story of a yaoi-fan called Yaoi-Chan and her boy friend.

Yaoi-Chan's urge to draw and read yaoi is  symbolized by a green moster who sometimes come between our heroine and her boy friend. There is a close parallell here to the dynamics between MTF crossdreamers and crossdressers and their wives and girl friends. (Again, this is not office material!)



Meyer does not find many Western equivalents to this movie, but argues convincingly that the British science fiction series Torchwood has clear slash and yaoi elements. (Proof here!)

To conclude. The male to female crossdreamers have female bodied brothers who find similar ways of acting out their inner nature, through stories, comics, movies and fantasies. I strongly suspect that both FTM and MTF crossdreamers are victims of some untraditional wiring which finds its expression through the cultural symbols of the day. This is the reason we appear to be mirror images of each other.

I guess there should be room for both learning, co-operation and love here. As it is now, the two groups barely know each other. We should do something about that.

Litterature

Meyer, Uli. "Hidden in Straight Sight – Trans*gressing Gender and Sexuality via BL." In Levi, Antonia, McHarry, Mark and Pagliassotti, Dru:  Boys' Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-Cultural Fandom of the Genre, 2010

Dru Pagliasotti: Are women who draw/read yaoi girlfags?

Matt Thorn: "Girls And Women Getting Out Of Hand: The Pleasure And Politics Of Japan's Amateur Comics Community", in  Fanning the Flames: Fans and Consumer Culture in Contemporary Japan (Suny Series in Japan in Transition) (full text found at Thorn's web site)

Click here for more blogposts about girlfags!

See also:


There are a lot of sites that host BL manga, yaoi or shonen-ai translated into English. They do not always respect copyright regulations, though:


Other posts about female to male crossdreamers ( and girlfags):



Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!