February 1, 2015

Can the crossdreaming concept stop trans women from accepting their identity?

Recently there was an interesting discussion about crossdreaming at the /r/transgender subforum (or "subreddit") at Reddit, the online social community.
Illustration by cienpies

A trans woman who calls herself Vancitygal criticized me for hiding the fact that most crossdreamers are transsexual people living in denial.

I asked neotecha, one of those taking part in the discussion, for permission to republish the following comment, which I think goes to the heart of this issue.

neotecha on crossdreaming

This is what neotecha said:
I'm happy to discuss this to anyone has further questions. 
For myself: I actually founded /r/crossdreaming and was an active participant in /r/autogynephilia, back before we split the subreddit. Yeah, go in there and my name is still in there, and also the top sticky post asking for moderators. Yes, I did come out as female, and I have started transitioning and I love it, but my experiences don't imply that everyone there shares them.

I want to discuss something that I feel the nuance is not being addressed here. What is Crossdreaming and what is Autogynephilia?


Autogynephilia refers to "Blanchard's Transsexualism Typology" (as the wikipedia article is listed as), which initially created the divisions that trans women attracted to men were actually really feminine gay men that were trying to find new partners, where gynephilic trans women actually had a "Erotic Target Location Error" that made themselves see the object of their attraction in themselves.

Long story short, this has been heavily criticized and currently sees mixed but fading support and it has gone through several more revisions over the years. I actually can't even tell you what its current state is.

Either way, many people don't believe it's a valid theory, including the mentioned Jack Molay. But there's a problem, some people who identify as male still have sexual fantasies based around the idea of themselves being a girl, turning into a girl, being feminine, being humiliated and treated like a girl, etc. These people exist, regardless of whatever reason for why people come up with. So what Jack did is create a new term "Crossdreaming" to describe this idea, in an attempt to separate it from Autogynephilia.

It also contains some nice parallels to crossdressing as well. Not every trans person crossdresses because it's sexual for them, but that doesn't mean that every person who does it is actually repressing being trans either.

His personal theory is that crossdreaming is caused by a person basically being transgender, even if it doesn't cause a person to be dysphoric enough that they identify as female or justify transition.

My personal thoughts on this:

Regardless of why you think they do what they do, my #1 issue with labelling them all as trans and telling them to get started [transitioning] is that it breaks the rule in the trans community of self-determination -- you are who you say you are. I cannot know them any better than some psychiatrist telling me that I'm "actually" cisgender or that being trans is an illusion.

From there, I have spent a lot of time in that community, and the people are definitely aware of the chance to transition. It's just something that doesn't interest them because they're happy being a guy. If that works for them, more power to them.
Are all crossdreamers transsexual?

I do not think that all crossdreamers are transsexual.

I believe crossdreaming is caused by a large number of variables, many of which may vary in quality as well as intensity. This is, as I see it, why some crossdreamers become gender dysphoric and identify with their target sex, while others do not.

That ought to be OK! There is no need to shoehorn everyone into the same destiny.

Can the crossdreaming concept stop trans people from accepting themselves?

Vancitygal raises an important question, though: May the existence of non-transsexual crossdreamers and the fact that we have coined a term that embraces all types of crossdreamers, stop some gender dysphoric, transsexual, women from accepting their inner identity?

Most of the feedback I get from trans women who know about the crossdreamer concept is the opposite. Most of them tell me that reading and talking about crossdreaming have helped them get out of the destructive circle of self-contempt and shame. Facing their crossdreaming became just another stepping stone in their journey towards transitioning.

Still, I have also seen that gender dysphoric men and women  make use of any concept or theory in order to keep up the belief that they are "normal people". So I can see how some of them might hold on to the crossdreaming concept, seeking solace in the idea that "at least they are not transsexual".

It takes a special kind of reading, though, to interpret my writings to mean that no crossdreamer is transsexual. I have never said so.

The crossdreamer journey

I think we have to accept the fact that the crossdreamer and/or transgender journey often is a very long one. There is much that has to be digested -- from internalized shame to social stigmatization -- before a crossdreamer is able to make peace with him- or herself and society.

That destination may be transitioning, but it may just as well be another way of living with gender variance.

You can read the rest of the reddit discussion here!

See also: Are all crossdreamers transsexual? Is Jack?

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!