September 6, 2015

Felix Conrad Talks about Transgender Research, Crossdreaming and Beach Clubbing

Felix Conrad recently set up a new site called The Transcend Movement, focusing on crossdreaming and transgender issues.  We have talked to him about how to cope as transgender, his new ebook, his devastating dismissal of the autogynephilia theory and Brazilian supermodels.

On the beach
Trans philosopher Felix Conrad brings crossdreaming
to the beaches of the Mediterranean
(Photo: Design Pics/Tomas del Amo)

Felix, you have taken an unusual approach to crossdreamer blogging. Your site is not so much a blog, but more of a beach lounge or club for all things crossdreaming. What made you chose this form of communication?

My philosophy of design is quite simple... I look at what everyone else is doing, and then kick it in the nuts. Within reason.

We - and especially you - are in the business of online community building, so I decided to play with the idea of giving that community an imagined space... a beach club located within an ideal, coastal transgender community.

In this case I think my imagination got the better of me...but this is about cross'dreaming' after all.

I have also noted that you do not shy away from communicating crossdreamer dreams and desires in an 'in your face' kind of way. There are Brazilian super models, and more Brazilian super models, which fit well with the beach club theme, I guess, but which some might find sexist. Is this your way of opening up a discussion?

Sorry, Jack... no such lofty intentions. I have a long running obsession with Alesandra Ambrosio which both I - and my children - find completely ridiculous. So, when I claim my book will 'guaranteed turn you into a Brazilian supermodel' I'm laughing at myself.

I sometimes think there is a remarkable lack of humour in the transgender community. Being able to take yourself and life seriously, but realize that, in another sense you/it are absurd, is an immense liberation.

Femephilia and autogynephilia

In your book on crossdreaming you use the term femephilia to refer to sexual arousal at the idea of being a woman. What is the difference between this term and the term crossdreaming, as you see it?

Femephilia is a sexological term - like homosexual. It's cold. Crossdreamer is a term of popular culture - like 'gay.' It's huggable.


So this has nothing to do with Virginia Prince's femmiphilia concept?

...Whoops... this is where I admit I never got round to checking that out. So... that's a 'no.' To be honest... it's not a term I'm wildly enamored with. I use cross gender arousal and crossdreaming more.

You say you coined the term femephilia to avoid the term autogynephilia. Still, you call your book Everyman's Guide to Autogynephilia, and you use the term in the book. Is this an attempt to catch the attention of crossdreamers who have seen this term used online?

It's logistical. If I didn't use it... no one would find it on Amazon. The term is, I imagine, still the most common point of entry into our community.

I can't remember what I entered into the internet to discover more about my sexuality ... but the first thing it showed me was autogynephilia. That is something we should work on, by the way: we can't have people having that as their first exposure to crossdreaming culture.

The deeper female self

In your book you elegantly dismiss simplistic models of what causes crossdreaming, to the point of arguing that the discussion on whether it is caused by a sexual drive or a manifestation of a deeper female self is irrelevant. What do you mean by this?
Felix Conrad has brought a new sense of aesthetics to
the crossdreamer community.


The main reason it's irrelevant is that it's impossible to prove either way. I really don't understand why people don't get this: you cannot prove that autogynephilia causes transsexualism or vice versa.

Recently, though, I just feel burned out on the whole 'sexual motivation issue.' I've spent months writing about autogynephilia theory and my honest feeling is it was a waste of time.

Once you seriously analyse it from a philosophical perspective - and not a 'stroppy transgender perspective' (what I had before), you see that it really is laughable and so full of logical fallacies it is not worthy of serious contemplation.

My philosophy more and more these days is...

....'transgender...it is what it is...deal with it.'

What I mean is that the causes of the condition just aren't going to help you in any way... so you should focus on living with it here and now... not where it came from.

Coming out as what?

You have chosen to focus on what you call late onset crossdreamers and transsexuals who were born as men and who have a history of femephilia. I guess this is partly because of your own life experience. Can you tell us something of your story.

You know something Jack... for all my words, and blog posts, and books... I can honestly say that I don't know what the fuck is going on with me. I would probably like to come out to my friends... but I don't know exactly what I'd be coming out as.

ME: "Hi... everyone... I've called you all here so I can finally come out."
FRIENDS: "Come out as what?"
ME: "I'm still working on that one."

All I know is the following: my whole life, crossing gender was just about sex... and then one day it wasn't.

I will - over the next months - tell more of my story; I'm tiring of semi-scientific analysis and think I should just get to the point. It's what I call the 'mirror conversation'... you look yourself in the eye and go "who are you... and what the fuck do you want?"

Crossdressing and behavior

You write: "There isn't really such a thing as a transvestite -- there is only transvestite behavior." Could you tell us what you mean by this?

Transvestitism implies a hierarchy of desire with women's clothing at the top. But the clothing is just a medium of the true desire: to be a woman.

Coping with crossdreaming

I really appreicate you matter-of-fact, pragmatic, approach to crossdreaming. In many ways your book is a help-book on how to live with crossdreaming if you are not transitioning. Can you tell us what you consider the three most important coping strategies?

Alcoholism, excessive masturbation, and online communities.

No seriously, the three most important strategies are...

1. Reinvent what 'being a man' means to you - .
2. Reinvent what 'being a woman' means to you - .
3. Mash together 1 and 2... and create the new you.

Giving in to oppression?

There is one thing that worries me a bit, though. Your test for whether you should transition is "Am I going to be happy?" I am simplifying a bit here, but you seem to base the possibility of MTF happiness on whether you are going to pass as a woman or not. Isn't this playing up to the rules of a transphobic society? Shouldn't this be as much about changing society as us adapting to it?

This is a very, very important issue, Jack. You are absolutely right. A large part of my argument is that the person won't pass and will get a lot of negativity, and therefore shouldn't transition.

By this logic... a psychologist would have said to a gay guy in the 70s... "don't go out hand in hand with your boyfriend cos they'll beat you up." But it was only the pioneers going out hand in hand that conditioned people to the idea and then made it stop looking so strange and hate inspiring. So I get your point.

However, you forget one thing... as stated in the blurb for the book... it is specifically designed for people who - for whatever reason - can't or wont transition. I specifically warn that serious dysphoria cases should not read or buy the book. The book is to help people like you and me deal with never transitioning... and thus intentionally looks for the negative in transition.
Allesandra Ambrosio's reaction to
hearing about Blanchard's autogynephilia
theory.

That book was written from that perspective. My most recent essay was written more from a militant transgender perspective, and has a different approach.

However, I won't deny that I think 'passing' is an extremely difficult issue on so many levels. We live in an appearance obsessed society. Basically, Jack... I'm working on this issue.

Given your studies of crossdreaming and transgender, what books would you recommend to other crossdreamers, and why?

You always make me feel guilty because you are so well read in this area. I am appallingly under read. My recommendation would be general books that can be applied to crossdreaming. The one that comes to mind is Think your way to happiness by Windy Dryden.

This book is a basic course in critical thinking about your own thoughts and emotions. Every crossdreamer needs to know the difference between 'dream' and 'reality' and critical thinking is the key. That is one of the main reasons I like the term 'crossDREAMING'. Dreams fascinate me... dreams are both beautiful and powerful and dangerous.

The male to female crossdreamers without the ability of critical thinking soon get wrapped up in their dreams and when that happens they can start believing anything... that they look like Alessandra Ambrosio for example.

Links

The Transcend Movement, Felix Conrad's Crossdreamer Beach Club.
Autogynephilia: Everyman's guide to autogynephilia, crossdreaming and late onset transsexualism, by Felix Conrad (available as ebook from amazon and other online stores).
Think Your Way to Happiness (Overcoming common problems), by Windy Dryden.

9 comments:

joanna Santos said...

Very refreshing and typical of the newer generations not being stigmatized as we were. I do think there is a lack of humour in the transgender community and I know my own blog has been guilty of that.

I also wholeheartedly agree with Felix that you just deal with your condition because you can write about for months or even years and get absolutely nowhere.

Good for Felix!

Jake said...

Great article and incredible perspective on the matter.

I too have spent much time wondering why and how this condition became a part of me. Perhaps it was my borderline abusive parents. Perhaps it was the bullying. Who know? All I know is that I have to live with it now. I'm only 21 years old but I'm really trying to put things in perspective for myself.

I love music. I'm a good looking male. My family is extremely supportive of me no matter what I do. I honestly want to just keep this whole thing a dream. It's unrealistic for me to ever transition, no matter what happens really. I've never been a fan of the "inner female" thing either. I just believe this is all a part of me as a whole. Creating other identities just sounds confusing to me.

I do get off to the thought of being feminized though. I love all things stereo typically feminine. I don't know whether to have sex with the women I like, or wear their clothes and become them. I kind of think of it as me being a sort of role model for people like us, who probably aren't ever going to transition.

Your advice is sound though, in taking what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman and forming myself out of that. The truth of the matter is that I'm just not okay with hormones.I don't care what people say, I won't take em.

joanna Santos said...

Jake you are doing the right thing. Make your own defintion of what it means to be you and don't let anyone tell you differently

Lisa Mullin said...

We don't take enough account of things like varying strengths of gender feelings, varying types as well and people's abilities to create psychological coping/denial/hiding/suppressing/etc mechanisms to deal with their dysphoria.

A lot depends on how the person is brought up, if they were from a place or time period where there is very strong hostility about being TG, then they will often try to suppress and hide it from everyone (even themselves).

Someone with a strong gender drive, but also strong coping (etc) abilities and conditioned socially to be guilty about being TG may go for a long time as (a) not showing any external transgender signs whatsoever (2) being part time in the closet or out and about (3) expressing being ‘gender fluid’.
This may go on for some time until those coping (etc) mechanisms start to break down due to the internal stress they entail. In the end their gender dysphoria will increase greatly and they will die or transition, perhaps after a time of being a part time trans woman, butch lesbian, etc or just plain attempting suppression and denial.

Some people have weaker gender drives along with good coping (etc) mechanisms and they may find a life ‘compromise’ that suites them (part time or gender fluid). Albeit they may go through a period of guilt (self loathing etc) until they come to terms with themselves and can finally achieve that.
This is a good and sensible path for those that can achieve it and greater social acceptance of ‘gender fluidity’ gives them far more options now than in the past.

In fact I predict that in the future the majority of transgender people will identify and express themselves as gender fluid and older terms for that (such as ‘crossdresser’) will go the way of the dodo.

Those that have a strong gender drive and good coping (etc) mechanisms, plus are brought up in a TG supportive environment will usually transition early and successfully.

I predict that in the future there will be few ‘late transitioners’ as those generations from earlier anti-TG times transition (or die) and everyone who does in the future (and there will be a far larger number than there is now) will do so in their 20s at the latest.

Perversely a strong drive and weak coping (etc) mechanisms can cause issues for a time until they have settled well into transitioning. The reason is that, pre transition, they are very emotionally vulnerable to things like bullying and exclusion and even self loathing and hatred etc (all precursors to depression and suicide). They will experience high gender dysphoria from an early age and struggle to deal with it.
Though transitioning is far better for them (life saving actually) it is stressful at first and can cause issues in those early periods, so they need good support to help them through that ‘awkward’ time until they settle down their dysphoria has finally disappeared and they become happier and more comfortable..

Partner, family, financial and social circumstances will affect all of the above greatly.

So you can be transgender, but socially express it only occasionally, regularly, never, or all the time. You can express it in different ways too, which is a more recent phenomena, giving people more options and freedom.

You can change over time as well. The classic is the person who suppresses it for ages until they cannot do it any longer and their dysphoria starts to spike.

You can transition in different ways as well:
Socially with no HRT or any cosmetic surgery.
Socially with no HRT but with some cosmetic surgery.
Socially with HRT and maybe cosmetic surgery.
Socially with HRT and gender affirming surgery (GRS/breast removal/etc) and maybe other cosmetic surgery.

That’s why transgender people are so complex…. there are as many ways of being transgender as there are transgender people

Jack Molay said...

"there are as many ways of being transgender as there are transgender people"

This is a very important reminder. Your observations of different personality types meeting different types of socialization fits with what I have observed as well. Jaimie Veale talks about young, introvert, "people pleasers", who do everything they can to adapt, to the point of repressing their transgender nature. No wonder they do not transition early; they do not even consciously grasp that they are transgender. I definitely belonged to that category for a while.

More outgoing MTF transgender may try the hypermasculinization strategy. Caitlyn Jenner, Kristin Beck and Ernest Hemingway come to mind. While other trans kids, especially those who channel their identity through clothing and traditional gender expressions at an early age, might find room for themselves when young, given that their parents get what this is.

All this variation leads to very different life trajectories, and we have to respect that. Above all, we have to help each other find a way of living with ourselves, where we are right now.

I am mildly optimistic right now, as I see that the younger generations seems to be more open to both sexual variation and gender diversity. They do not, for instance, believe in the strict divide between hetero- and homosexual.

However, the recent developments in India (where homosexuality has been recriminalized) and Russia (where LGBT people have become scpaegoats for everything wrong) tell us that we have to be vigilant and not let our guard down. This is in no way over.

joanna Santos said...

Lisa I strongly agree with your assessment. The problem in the past is that gender variance was not even remotely accepted in western society hence the result that you suppress, hide or fully transition and blend in. This is now changing and I can see my children's generation really understanding this much more than I ever did at theircage. I was a strong suppressor and it almost finished me. I don't think today's youth would do what I felt I had to then because society is far more tuned in to this issue today. We still have a ways to go but the progress of late has been exponential.

joanna Santos said...

Jack you are correct about vigilance. I think some of this backlash stems from the giant strides we have made which flies in the face of the less tolerant. This is why for example murders of transgender women are actually on the rise. I do see this as an adjustment period which will some bad with a lot more good.

Sandra Lopes said...

I blame myself for being too lazy to follow up your blog more consistently, i.e. in a serial way :) Instead I keep finding those hidden pearls of wisdom — 'hidden' for me, of course, because I just have found them :) — and getting delighted at what I read :)

I bought Felix's book today... and read it to its entirety from cover to end. Felix gets so many things right that it's amazing that he isn't a psychologist — because he so often sounds like my own psychologist, when yelling at me to do things in a pragmatic, realistic way :) Also, I love his language and humour. Yes, it's true that 'humour' and 'transgender' are not close kin: I think that comes mostly from decades of having transgender people being the laughing stock of society. I mean, with our societies becoming more and more politically correct, dressing men in women's clothes is probably the last thing still accepted in slapstick comedy... and I guess that we transgender people are not laughing. Perhaps that's what's wrong with us: we take everything way too seriously.

In any case, I loved the interview, I loved the book, and if someone is uncertain if they should grab it, after reading the interview — because Felix seems to show so many hesitations! — you ought to know that Felix has a double personality. On one side, we have Felix the Philosopher, who questions everything and therefore might sound a little more... dreamy (if I'm permitted the pun!). On the other hand, we have Felix the Pragmatist Counselor, who will tell you exactly what to do with absolute certainty. Yes, you might not like to hear what he's going to tell you. But that just means he's totally right!

I'm certainly going to review Felix's book on my own blog :)

Jack Molay said...

By using humor Felix achieves several things. He communicates that crossdreamers are like most people: We laugh, we cry, we tell jokes, we dance, we eat good food. By adding humor he humanizes us. He is also using humor with great effect when deconstructing our enemies. He treats Ray Blanchard and James Cantor in way that demasks them completely. His sense of humor cracks the shell of pseudo-science wide open, at the same time as it proves to the reader that Felix himself sees right through them. The emperors are naked!

There will always be a risk, of course. Communicating online, with the lack of gestures and facial expressions, and the diversity of the readers, means that you will probably be misunderstood from time to time. Felix once made a tweet promoting his new book implying that he was now a supporter of the autogynephilia theory. Both Blanchard and Cantor retweeted this tweet, which -- of course -- is hilarious, but I also got emails asking my why on earth this person supported transphobic pseudo-science. All in all, however, I think Felix' approach works very well, and I am looking forward to his next book!

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