April 19, 2015

The Problem with Arousal

Guest writer Joanna Santos argues that it is time we liberate ourselves from  models that reduce gender variance to sexual arousal.
Trans people are liberating themselves from the
stifling theories of the past. (Photo: moodboard)


By Joanna Santos

I have lived all my life with the knowledge that something was different about me. By the age of 4 or 5 years old, although aware that I was a boy, I had an interest in playing with dolls and trying on my mother’s shoes. But quickly enough I learned to suppress those desires because the messages I received were that I was not to indulge in these activities.

Since then I have come full circle and after a long period of reflection and angst (during which time I kept an almost daily blog), I have come to return to the state where I began my life. I have returned to being as true as I can to a nature that was always there but within the confines of the reality that I now live as an ageing adult.

After having read every book and every article on the subject of gender dysphoria I could get my hands on, I finally had to concede that there was not going to be a conclusive answer regarding the way I was made and why I was drawn to being a female. I had to finally accept without question that it made up part of my natural wiring and nothing was going to change that.

My gender expression need not be tied to my natal sex. No matter what society expects of you, it’s best to adhere to an expression that fits your comfort level and your self-image. This lesson was the hardest to learn because I came from an era where there was little latitude or permissiveness on that front. One was a male or one was a female and that was that.

Things have changed considerably since then.

We are now on the cusp of a revolution which I am still young enough to be able to witness first hand. Yes the same old arguments exist among the academics who will argue about Blanchard’s two typologies of transwomen and which one is more genuine but for me that is now entirely irrelevant because the true question is: “in which form do you feel most comfortable to live out your life?”


April 16, 2015

Chevalier d'Eon: Early Transgender Role Model

Fencing Match between Monsieur de Saint-George et Mademoiselle La
Chevalière d'Éon de Beaumont 
at Carlton House on 9 April 1787.
Engraving by Victor Marie Picot

By Sally

Chevalier d'Éon (Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d'Éon de Beaumont) was a French soldier, diplomat and spy who publicly lived as a woman in 18th-century London. 

image
Portrait by Thomas Stewart
D’Eon lived from 1728 to 1810 who appeared publicly as a man for 49 years, although during that time d'Éon successfully infiltrated the court of Empress Elizabeth of Russia by presenting as a woman. For the last 33 years, d'Éon lived as a woman.

The Chevalier d'Éon claimed to be assigned female at birth, and demanded recognition by the government as such.

King Louis XVI complied, but required in turn that d'Éon dress appropriately in women's clothing. When the king's offer included funds for a new wardrobe of women's clothes, d'Éon agreed.

April 2, 2015

Does the effects of hormones on transgender people prove that crossdreaming has a biological component?

Is crossdreaming purely psychological or does it have a biological basis? Hormones may give us part of the answer.
Illustration: xrender

There seems to be a general agreement among most psychiatrists who treat dysphoric male to female (MTF) crossdreamers and crossdressers that there is one "drug" that will alleviate some of their distress: Estrogen/oestrogen (the most important being estradiol/oestradiol), often misnamed the "female" hormone.

Estrogen and anti-androgens reduce possible emotional distress caused by crossdreaming

Harry Benjamin, the grand old man of transgender research, noted as early as 1966 that both "transvestites" (i.e. crossdressers) and non-transitioning transsexuals could benefit from taking estrogen, as it could be "helpful emotionally" or "needed for comfort or emotional balance".

There is little literature on this, but my contacts among therapists and activists confirm the well-known "secret" that doctors continue to prescribe estrogen to MTF crossdreamers, even when they do not plan to transition.

Some doctors  also prescribe antiandrogens, i.e. drugs that reduce the flow of testosterone, "the masculinizing hormone", in the bloodstream, or reduces the brains ability to make use of "T".

There are also antiandrogens that stop regular testosterone from being transformed into the more active dihydrotestosterone. The effects of antiandrogens are somewhat similar to the effects of estrogen: a reduction in the effects testosterone has on the mind and body.

Some doctors also combine the use of estrogens and antiandrogens to achieve the desired effect: a reduction in emotional distress and dysphoria. Crossdreamers who self-medicate on herbal alternatives often look for similar combinations, like when taking pueraria mirifica (for an estrogenic effect) and saw palmetto (for an antiandrogenic effect).

The two sides of sex hormones

It is important to note that you may influence the effects of sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen in two ways:

1. You may increase the amount of testosterone or estrogen in the body by way of pills or injections.
2. You may stop the body from absorbing the relevant hormones.

This relationship between "production" and "reception" of sex hormones is well known in sex research. It is not enough to produce the relevant hormones. You also need the appropriate receptors to absorb and make use of them. If a child with an XY "male" chromosome combination for some reason fail to develop the sufficient number of testosterone receptors, that child may develop a female body and mind.

It is also important to keep in mind that testosterone and estrogen are not really "male" and "female" hormones. A male fetus actually needs estrogen to produced the amounts of testosterone needed to develop a male body. The fetus transforms estrogen into testosterone, then the testosterone triggers the development of male sexual characteristics. At puberty another boost in testosterone turns boys into men.

On average men may have up till 20 times as much testosterone as women.

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