January 28, 2018

It is Time to Break the Vicious Circle of Transphobia

A look at how transphobia and homophobia cause male to female crossdreamers and transgender people to behave in ways that  confirm the prejudices of the narrow minded. It is time to break the vicious circle of transphobia.

The circle of transphobia is a circle, so you might start anywhere along it's curve, but let us for simplicity's sake start with childhood. In this presentation I will present a male to female crossdreamer and someone who has a clear female gender core (to use Felix Conrad's term). Much of the same applies to female to male crossdreamers and those who are somewhere in the non-binary and gender fluid parts of the gender continuum.

1. Childhood gender dissonance

A young male assigned gender variant child, will -- as the surrounding culture increasingly demands adherence to the expected roles of gender -- start to feel some kind of dissonance between what feels right and what parents, peers and friends expect.

As the kid learns the ins and outs of language, they may try to express this unease, buy telling their parents that they are not "really a boy" or by trying to express their dreams by other means, most likely through play. Preferring Barbies to toy guns has become a bit of a cliché in transgender narratives, but there is something to it.



The fact is that young kids, whether they are boys or girls, trans or non-trans, often choose freely between blue and pink if they are allowed to do so, so trans kids may not necessarily stick to girls' toys all the time. But I suspect that some trans kids are more likely to go "all the way", for the simple reason that this is an area where they may express their deeply felt identity.

They probably hope that playing with dolls will give them the affirmation other girls get from parents and peers.

2. The transphobic backlash

As more and more parents become aware of the diversity of sexuality and gender, the more likely it is that kids are not punished for expressing gender variance. These days progressive parents will simply allow the kids to find out for themselves.

But this has not been the case for most of the readers of this blog. Moreover, even now well meaning and tolerant parents may try to stop their kids from exploring "the other side" in order to save the children from social exclusion or to save themselves from social embarrassment.

Now the kid faces the transphobic backlash. They are told directly or indirectly that their behavior is not acceptable or wanted. This happens directly through words and violence, or indirectly as parents and peers withhold their acceptance and love if the kid decides to crossdress, says that they are a girl or by asking for a pink unicorn for their birthday.

I think we underestimate children's' ability to sense the approval or disapproval of parents and peers  and their desperate need to fit in and be accepted. They are, after all, completely reliant on their parents and they have to face the wrath of other kids, every day, on the play ground, in the kindergarten or in school.


This video is made by Norwegian mothers who are arguing against the fashion industry's ways of reinforcing gender stereotypes and stoppings kids from expressing all of themselves. See Sally's post:  It’s time to leave the girl’s and boy’s labels behind!

3. Suppression and denial

It is at this point that most gender variant kids break down, and succumb to the pressure of those around them. They start playing a game of make-believe, trying hard to become the "boy" their parents and friends expect and require.

There are a few exceptions to this general rule. Some continue to insist that they are girls, paying a steep price in the process. I suspect this has something to do with personality. They are less likely to be -- let's say -- introvert people pleasers.

We also see that many of those who resist in the end turn out to be androphilic (being attracted to boys). There is reason to believe that sexual orientation is inborn. If so, it makes sense that they already -- at an early age --at some level, understand that they should be allowed to love boys.

They therefore experience two strong drives towards self expression, one anchored in sexuality and one in gender identity, as opposed to "just" one. There is a part of them that understands that if they are to be happy as adults, they have to create room from both of these parts of themselves.

The kids who are predisposed for loving girls, may subconsciously conclude that it is better to play the role of a boy, as "girls like boys" and doing the opposite will lead to a life of loneliness.

They may still express some kind of gender variance, but they do so in areas that many people will accept as "normal". Avoiding sports and rough and tumble play may be accepted as long at is not accompanied by strong symbols of femininity. In the same way female assigned kids who love sports and rough and tumble play will often not be ostracized, partly because these are considered good skills in a male dominated society.

4. Puberty and reawakening

There seems to be a pattern here. Most of those who manage to suppress their "other side" are able to do so at least until puberty.

Some continue to have crossdreaming fantasies about being a girl. Other have such fantasies, but become "splitters": They refuse to acknowledge them as a real part of themselves. This has been described as ending up in "the inner closet", where crossdreamer feelings are sorted away as "just a phase".

Some again, become "dark crossdreamers" -- they have absolutely no recollection of ever having been transgressed gender norms, and any dissonance or dysphoria they might feel is explained as a depression caused by something else.

Somewhere between the age of 7 and 17 the crossdreamer will experience a "spark", usually some work of art (story, comic book, movie) that triggers a new awareness of their gender variance.

I suspect the sexual awakening of puberty also leads to an awakening of "the other side". Sexuality is an extremely strong force, and the hormone surges of puberty triggers any person to find a place in the landscape of sexuality and gender.  If the core identity is female, the instinctual drive is towards expressing oneself as a female in that cultural context.

Closeted crossdreamers can only do so in the closet, and one obvious way of doing so is by crossdressing.

What happens next depends on a variety of factors:
  1. Where the crossdreamer is on the gender spectrum
  2. The existence and intensity of gender dysphoria
  3. The intensity of the sex drive
  4. The strength of the transphobic and homophobic conditioning and the related internalization and suppression
  5. The tolerance of the surrounding society
5. The transphobic backlash, part two

Some crossdreamers make another attempt at exploring their gender identity at this stage, especially if their parents have lost some of their hold over them.

They may explore alternative culture, find transgender friends online, join crossdresser communities and more. And some decide to test the water, so to speak, by talking to friends and family members about this.

What happens now, depends on how open-minded and understanding these friends are. Note that all people are conditioned by the prejudices of society. People are taught to recoil at the idea of "a man in a dress", and this conditioning is reinforced by the old medical tradition of labelling gender variance as sexual perversions.

Since the core identity is reawakened or reinforced by the sex drive, the dreams and behavior of MTF crossdreamers seem to confirm these prejudices. The crossdreamer may get turned on by the idea of becoming a woman, simply because that would let them experience sex as a woman, given that they are -- in fact -- fully or partly a woman. 

However, those around them sees only the man. After all, this is most likely a person that has perfected the act of playing the man. Indeed, some of them has tried out the tactic of "hypercorrection", becoming the most masculine boy in the neighborhood. Kristin Beck became a NAVY Seal in order to repress her true self. Ernest Hemingway spent years writing about his own gender variance in The Garden of Eden, while at the same time becoming known as the American archetype of masculinity.

So there is a chance that they may be ridiculed and despised for their feelings -- and they may lose their loved ones. 

Many adapt the narratives of their friends, believing that this is "nothing but a kink", that they are "fetishists" and "autogynephiliacs". Some do so courageously, trying to embrace being some kind of "liberated pervert" (reinforcing the transphobia of others in the process), while  others climb back into the closet.

Some  of the closeted ones may also contribute to the Vicious Circle of Transphobia, trying to oppress similar feelings in others, partly because other crossdreamers remind them of who they are, and partly out of a misguided attempt to save those persons from the fate they themselves have experienced.

Some might even punish their own kids for gender transgressions, trying to stop them from becoming as lonely and desperate as they themselves have been. And so the pain is transferred to the next generation.

That won't work, of course, because this is not something you can use willpower to overcome. This is an essential part of you.

Moreover, if you accept the narrative of your oppressor, you become the tool of your oppressor.


6. Liberation

In spite of the recent extremist and fascist backlash (as in Trump, Putin and religious fanaticism), the transgender community has come a long way towards greater tolerance and inclusion during the last ten years or so. This is part of an increased tolerance of LGBTQA-people in large parts of the world.

Even if the crossdreamer will not find this kind of tolerance in their own neighborhood, they might find som elsewhere. The Village People referred to this as "going west". Urban areas along the costs of both America and Europe seem to be more likely to accept variance in gender and sexuality than smaller communities inland.

This is also why I find that more and more crossdreamers find acceptance of their other side, whether they decide to live as men or as women. And some find their own way somewhere else, away from the people who refuse to accept them as they are.

This is we why crossdreamer liberation is part of transgender liberation, and transgender liberation is part of LGBTQA liberation. We are all trying to get free of the stifling prejudices of those who are not able to live in a world of diversity.


Butterfly caption based on an image by frimages. Photo of woman by kieferpix.

7 comments:

  1. liberation is the key Jack. We are all tired of suppression and being told was is acceptable and now is our time to stand up and be counted.

    Transition or not that is up to each person and their situation but regardless its time to stand up and be counted and come our of the closet which has been the most liberating thing I have ever done.

    ReplyDelete
  2. No relation with your post, but Tapatalk forgot me... «Oops! Account doesn't exist, please try again.»

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  3. I agree, Joanna! I agree.

    Orlanda, can you send the account ID to me and I will see what I can do. You are most likely trying to use the Crossdream Life specific login instead of the universal Tapatalk login. They are trying to get all to sign up for the new ID. Look for a link to the old one. It should be there somewhere. jack.molay@gmail.com

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  4. @orlanda

    When logging in look for the link in the sentence "click here to login to this group using your existing username and password."

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  5. Agree with every word of this article.

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  6. Excellent article Jack, thanks.

    In Joanna's comment she said, "... its time to stand up and be counted and come out of the closet..." So true but that can be so hard. I well recall attending my first TDoV a couple of years ago. I was so on edge but also wanted to at least lend my presence to encouraging visibility. Today, every day is TDoV for me.

    Joanna also wrote, "...which has been the most liberating thing I have ever done." Liberating and, for me, I have recently been thinking that for the first time in 30-odd years I may actually be able to stop going to a therapist.

    Thank you for all your writing and help. Say hi to Sally!

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  7. Well said.

    The other thing is that 'Suppression and denial" takes so much mental and emotional energy to maintain. That was a big factor in me coming our and transitioning, I ran out of steam to keep up the 'masculine' act.

    Constantly checking and policing myself, always finding distractions to avoid what I felt and alleviate my gender dysphoria. It was exhausting and totally futile.

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