There has been a lot of politics on this blog lately. That is necessary, I am afraid, given what people say and think about crossdreamers. But today we are going back to the basics: to the lived lives of crossdreamers.
I will share an email I got from a reader with you and add my response. I think this is an exchange many male to female crossdreamers will find familiar as well as interesting.
Do add your own comments!
The life of Josie
Josie from over at Crossdream Life sent me following story:
"I'm thankful to finally have a name attached to this conditon and know that there are others, but I still feel sometimes so confused and conflicted. I'm sure that in this community my story and my questions are common.
When I was a little kid I don't remember being one of those that insisted that I was a girl. To my recollection I was fine being a boy, but I was always 'soft'. I've always been passive and introverted.
Iused to play with my sister and her dolls and saw nothing wrong with it but I did boys stuff too. I always liked to play sports but never excelled at it. I was always picked on by the alpha males in my school, especially in junior high, and I was never successful being a romantic interest for the girls. I was just too shy.
Dreaming of skirts
When I remember my AGP feelings starting to make themselves known was around puberty. The girls in my class started developing hips and breasts and I was thinking "That's pretty cool, I wish I had that too." By the time I was in high school I secretly wanted to be one of the girls.
I went to a Catholic school with plaid skirts and I would fantasize about being one of the girls in those skirts. God bless those skirts! lol
Anyway, 15 years later it's been that way ever since. No one knows how I really feel inside. I try to spend time with the guys but I struggle to relate to them. The more testosterone-driven the interaction becomes, the more I want to run from it. I always feel more at home interacting with the girls. It's always been that way.
Wired as a female
Ya know, in some ways I know my mind is still male. On the other hand, due to much study in gender psychology, I know in many ways that my mind is wired very much female. I can point to many examples that I've discovered that the way I am is very much in step with the way women traditionally are.
I'm not gay. I've never been sexually attracted to men. My eyes always go to the girls. While I love women so much, I also get insanely jealous of them. Sometimes I'll see a girl and I just want to go up to her and grab her and say "Do you have any idea how lucky you are? You're living my dream!"
For me this is not a fetish. Although when I masturbate I always visualize myself as a woman, it's not just about sex. I find so much comfort and pleasure just getting lost my my fantasies and just being...feminine. Just imagining what it would be like and what I would do if I somehow could magically live my life in a new female body. Walking around in a female body and feeling like I've been freed from a prison, like I'm walking on air.
Sorry if I'm boring you and going on too long. Like I said, I'm sure my story isn't unique in the least bit. But I just wonder "What the hell am I?" In some ways I'm male, other ways I'm female, but at my core my heart longs to be female. I'm attracted to women, but I want to BE one. I love women so much, yet I'm so jealous of them.
It's all so frustrating. It's almost like I'm two people stuffed in one body. One is a boy and the other is a girl and the girl is trying to get out. She's hurting and she's frustrated but there's so little I can do to help her.
We can put a fancy label on it (autogynephilia) but really where does this come from? In your opinion, what do you think causes this?"
The classic crossdreamer
Here is part of my response to Josie:
"In many ways your story is similar to mine. Indeed, the main ingrediens of a "classic male to female crossdreamer" (I hate the word "autogynephilia") is
1. An aversion to the rough and tumble play of boys as a child and a preference for girl company
2. Fantasies of being a girl in childhood
3. A mix of stereotypical female and male interests in childhood
4. Erotic fantasies of being a woman from puberty and onwards
This condition is expressed creatively through one or more of the following:
2. Role playing ( for instance through computer games or )
3. Erotic or non-erotic storytelling (short stories, captions or comics)
The "classical" female to male crossdreamers are very much the same, although they love the rough and tumble play of boys and often appear as tomboys as children.
A tentative explanation
I have worked on the Crossdreamer blog for four years now, and started studying the phenomenon in earnest a couple of years before that. In this time I have spoken to a large number of crossdreamers, I have read nearly all the literature and I have been in touch with some of the few experts around. I know believe I have some idea about what causes crossdreaming.
You will find the main arguments on the blog, but here is the short version:
What causes crossdreaming is a very complex phenomenon including biological, environmental, psychological and cultural factors. But even if it is mind-bogglingly complex, and there is no way science will give as the comprehensive answer in our life time, the core cause isn't necessarily that complicated.
Like you, I do not think crossdreaming can be reduced to a fetish (although it can be expressed through fetishes). And even if many crossdreamers follow the template of the "classic crossdreamer" above, there is to much diversity for there to be one psychological reason (like in a specific childhood trauma).
This leads me to believe there is a biological component to this. It may be genetic or epi-genetic, but it does not have to. Many researchers today believe that both sex identity and sexual orientation is influenced by the amount of hormones the fetus is exposed to in the womb. It could simply be that crossdreamers are outliers on the curves of sexual brain development.
Shades of transgender
I guess you could say there are many shades of transgender, from those that clearly identify as the opposite sex on the one hand (transsexual), through those that refuse to identify with one sex or the other (gender queer) to crossdreamers who identify with their birth sex but nevertheless are fascinated by the idea of being the opposite sex. This variation should be expected if this is caused by the pre-natal hormonal balance.
I have found that there is a lot of repression going on. Many crossdreamers fear the idea of being transsexual so much that they are willing to construct the most outlandish theories to avoid that conclusion. This is why some crossdreamers seem to move from one end of the scale to the other throughout their lives. In short: Their defenses crumble.
This especially applies to "heterosexual" crossdreamers (i.e. woman-loving, gynephilic male bodied crossdreamers,and man-loving androphilic female bodied crossdreamers). They cannot find a home in the gay community and believe that the only way of finding love is to play the role of the heterosexual male or woman.
This often leads to a kind of "hyper-correction"; the MTF crossdreamers who join the army to toughen up comes to mind. The fact that such tactics do not work, reinforces my belief that this is something more fundamental and biological.
The crossdreamer dilemma
I have studied our FTM female bodied crossdreamer "brothers" lately, and the true dilemma of being a crossdreamers becomes clear: They dream of being a gay man with a effeminate gay man, but the gay men do not want them for the obvious reason that they do not have the right bodies and the right plumbing.
They do hook up with straight men, but they are not necessarily interested in playing the game of being a submissive gay man. In other words: It is hard for them to find a compatible counterpart.
The same applies to the MTF crossdreamer. Many MTF crossdreamers are good husband material in all ways but one. Many women love them for their sensitivity, their love for children and female interests, their stability, and their love for intimacy and cuddling. But many of these women find it hard to give them what they sexually desire: To be the receptive woman during intercourse.
And I guess most MTF crossdreamers do not even dare to ask for this type of love making, even though it is actually possible. Much of the frustration and suffering of MTF crossdreamers is therefore not complicated (even if crossdreaming is complex): They are never sexually satisfied."
Women's clothes feel right
Josie followed up with the following comment:
"I've done some crossdressing but not much. On one hand, I think my body looks ridiculous in women's clothes so that doesn't make me feel good. On the other hand, without seeing myself, being in women's clothes just feels...right. But I worry about getting caught in them so I don't do it often.
Role playing is something that I do in fact do. I present myself as a girl online often and pass easily. No one has ever suspected that I wasn't a girl that I know of. I don't have to fake anything. I can just be myself. Sometimes I actually start to forget that I am a guy. It's a great escape. I play the game The Sims as a girl too. Writing stories is something that I've thought about doing but haven't yet.
What you have been saying makes sense. I have a background in psychology. It is fascinating to try understand how much of what shapes us is environmental and how much is biological. I do think there is at least in part a biological component to crossdreamers. I really do feel like it's just the way my mind is wired, and perhaps I am deficient in testosterone. I don't know. I do know that I just have a much easier time identifying with girls than with guys.
An essential part of the self
I don't wish to be rid of this condition. I feel like to deny my femininity is to deny my core self. I'm not unhappy with who I am on the inside. I just feel like I've been dealt a bad hand in life. Is there anything more miserable than not being able to identify with the skin you're in?
You feel like you're living a lie everyday of your life, but as bad as you want to reveal your true self, no one can see the real you. Ugh! There's nothing wrong with being a guy, but it's just not...me. I have no intention of transitioning to a woman however. That's just not a challenge I feel like I'm up for.
You're absolutely right, it can cripple your sex/relationship life. It's easy for me to be friends with girls. I get hugs and love and told how awesome I am. Romance is a different story. I know that I'm a good enough guy and decent enough looking that I can be in a meaningful relationship with a quality women. The roadblocks all exist in my head.
I really struggle to take things to a romantic level. For two reasons: one, I don't feel like I can be the man she desires. I'm not really a man. Physically yes, mentally no. Two, I know deep down I really want to be the girl in the relationship. I want to be lead, and held, and well...you know. I'm in that situation now. Threre is a girl that I'm working on a relationship with, but I'm having a really hard time moving forward. I'm afraid she's just going to get fed up and move on. I want so badly to tell her the truth about everything, but I'm scared of how she will react. That could be the end of our relationship right there."
Further reading (ADDED March 7):
Finding love as a crossdreamer
Autogynephilia and loneliness
Cosmo: The sex life of crossdreamers
Crossdreamer love, on the relationship between male to female and female to male crossdreamers
The loving wife of a crossdresser