August 30, 2010

August 26, 2010

On crossdreamers and the role of transgender pornography part 1

Are men that feel attraction to transwomen and crossdressers really erotic crossdreamers (referred to as "autogynephiles" by some)? If so: Can this fascination give us insight into their transgender nature?

This is a blog that boldly goes where even the boldest of angels fear to tread, simply because I believe knowledge can set us free. You have to face your dragons and trolls if you are to reach the next level. This is also why I believe we have to go into the fantasy life of crossdreamers to find understand what makes us feel the way we do.

Several of you have asked me in comments and emails to look into the topic of "transfans"or "transsensuals", i.e. men who are attracted to MTF (male to female)  transsexuals or crossdressers. In this post I am going to see if that phenomenon can help us get a better understanding of crossdreamers in general.

Fantasy "shemales "are not real

"Shemnale" is a slur used to describe the role "pre-op" transgender women who take part in porn play in the fantasy lives of those who watch this kind of pornography. Now, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I do not believe that "shemales"  exist in the real world! I am willing to discuss the possibility, but when I write about them it is as fantasy objects of desire. 

In this way they are similar to the nymphomaniac blonde and buxom bimbo of some male fantasies, or the handsome knight in shining armor you find in some female fantasies. Even though some may choose to play the role of the Blonde Bimbo or Prince Charming, that does not make them real. Behind the cliché hides a complex human being.

The people playing the roles of "shemales"

The models playing the roles of "shemales" are pre-op trans women  in real life. In other words: In real life they are not "shemales", but complete human beings like you and me.

A pre-op trans woman is someone who was originally assigned male, who has a female gender identity and who longs to become a woman also in body. In order to play the role of a "shemale", this person will normally have had to undergo some hormone treatment, electrolysis and surgery, but for some reason she has not changed her male genitalia. If she is playing the role of a "shemale", in porn or as a call girl, this is probably because she has decided to keep it for business purposes. She may be saving money for the final operation, though.

An MTF (male to female) trans women lives as a member of the opposite sex either full time or part time, without having "bottom surgery". She may have had hormone treatments or other types of feminizing surgery, but she has, for some reason, decided to keep her original genitalia. Such trans women will often argue that it is not the genitalia that define her as a woman, or there may be other more practical reasons for her choosing this option (money, health etc.). 

I am also open to the idea that there might exist feminine gay men who transition for practical purposes, without feeling alienated from their male bodies. But I doubt anyone would go to the point of having their penis removed to achieve this objective. I have never met one, and it seems to me they are for the most part a mirage created by sexist sexologists.

Some trans women who are acting out the role of "shemales" avoid the use of hormones. Instead they use every other means available to feminize their bodies. The reason for this is that female hormones will weaken their ability to take the male role during intercourse. This does not necessarily mean that they all are feminine gay men. It could simply be a practical business decision, or you keep it for love. If you are a poor feminine tran sgirl from Bangkok or Rio, you take care of your assets. This can be a cold and cruel world, indeed.

Fairy tale figures

Let me get back on track: When I use the word "shemale" it is to depict a fantasy figure. Even though trolls and fairies do not exist in the physical world, they do exist in the realm of myths, dreams and fantasies. 

They have a psychological reality that needs to be understood -- a reality that tells us something about who we are -- and so do the fantasy "shemales".

Do crossdreamers dream of "shemales"?

Many -- if not most -- crossdreamers say that they do not dream about trans women with a penis. The reason I can say this with some certainty is that I have access to a rich database of crossdreamer fantasies. These fantasies are published on transgender erotica sites like (as short stories), or as so called TG captions in forums and on blogs. TG captions are ultra short stories accompanying a photo or an image. Many of these "caps" are erotic fantasies. (For references, see TFCC).

If you read these stories (and yes, I have read a few), several patterns emerge, and I plan to explore them in some detail in later posts. As regards the topic of transsensualism I can say that although there are quite a few "shemale" fantasies out there, most of the stories found depict transformation into normal women.

In fact, a large number of crossdreamers posting on forums like Rachel's Haven explicitly say that they do not like stories with "shemales". This is mostly because they do not picture themselves becoming "shemales"; they dream about becoming full fledged women. But it is also because they feel no desire to interact with them.

However, some do admit to the fascination, and this is in itself interesting. There are feminization fantasies where the crossdreamer submits to a dominant transgender woman. This woman will feminize him by forcing him to act or dress as a woman, or he may be changed into a woman by surgical or magical means. These fantasies are very similar to the sissy and the dominatrix fantasies I have discussed before, the main difference being that the dominatrix in those fantasies is a natural born woman. In both cases, however, the crossdreamer submits sexually to the dominant woman.

What could make a crossdreamer dream about trans women with a penis? Is there anything in the life situation of a crossdreamer that would make this happen? Is there any mythological or psychological reasons for this admittedly strange phenomena?

I think there are, and I think that these explanations can throw some light upon the crossdreamer condition in general.

Alice and her admirers

Alice in Genderland is the only crossdresser autobiography I know of that doesn't hesitate to discuss the sexual motives of a crossdreamer. This alone makes it very valuable in a world where transgender fantasies are considered taboo among cisgendered and transgendered people alike.

Alice, AKA psychiatrist Richard J. Novic, has decided to live out her dream of being a woman, including dating and bedding men. She combines this outgoing life with living with a very tolerant wife. (See Alice in Genderland, A Crossdresser Comes of Age, NY 2009, and my interview with her). Note that Alice is not a transsexual. She also presents as a man.

Alice finds these men in clubs frequented by transgender people. The men approaching her are labelled as "admirers" by her. I guess the derogatory term is "tranny chasers". In the book she reports that she has asked them what makes them interested in a girl like her. Most of them end up with phrases like: "I'm turned on by women who've just got that little something extra." That is not much of an explanation, really.

One night she met "Darius", who confessed that although he was not a crossdresser, he did try it out at home once. "I was one big fat mama," he said. Alice soon found out that several of her admirers had tried crossdressing:

"With my illusions shattered, I now saw little difference between my all-man admirers and the ones at the bar dying to try on my stockings, give oral sex, and get fucked -- like I was when I met Prima back in Chicago [when Alice experienced being the bottom]. It all began to make sense. Deep inside every chaser beats the heart of a tranny."

The controversial use of terminology aside, what Alice says here is simply that most transfans are themselves somewhat transgendered.

Transgender prostitution

There is a group of pre-op transwomen and MTF transfeminine persons and trans women who work as call-girls. They often advertise their services as "shemales", "transsexuals" or "lady boys".

I have gotten several emails from crossdreamers who have approached such call girls. I have gotten permission to refer to one of them. Let us call him "GB". He is in his fifties and lives in London, UK.
GB tells med that at any given time there are more than 100 escorts of this kind in the Greater London Metropolitan Area. More than half of them are foreigners, often high class escorts that travel from country to country. According to him, many of them come from South-East Asia (especially from Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore) and from Latin-America (mainly from Brazil).

I have been unable to confirm these numbers. A cursory Google search confirms that there are quite a few of them advertising online, so he is probably not far off the mark.

The attraction

GB tells me that it was a deep and desperate emotional need that led him to approaching some of these call girls. And yes, that need was partly the desire to be the receiving part when having sexual intercourse, to allow himself to be the receiver instead of the manly male. 

He tells me that he feels no sexual attraction to the male body, although he wish he had, as being gay would have made his life so much easier. He loves women, though, and has even been married two times, but he find traditional love making unsatisfying. He tells me he feels forced to take an active role that is not his by nature.

He says that a majority of the transgender call girls in London actively advertise that they can take the passive as well as the active role. This clearly proves that they consider "submissive" men to be a market.

GB tells me that he learned a lot from meeting these girls, as many of them were outgoing, independent, talkative and with strong personalities. Many of them are also stunningly beautiful. I quote: "There is no way you can guess that these are not natural girls just by looking at them!"

In spite of this he stopped seeing them. This was partly a result of guilt:

"These women are in no way the drug addicted prostitutes you read about in the papers," he writes. "They are strong and independent business women. But they are prostitutes and I am not comfortable with supporting that kind of activity."

From what he tells me, however, there is another reason for him stopping seeing them as well, and that is that these women are not really into crossdreamers. They are attracted to active manly men, and only accommodate "bottoms" because of the money.

One of them told him that she loved straight men, and not gay men who wanted to take the passive role. She clearly mistook him for the active type. It is interesting to note that this trans woman classified crossdreamers as gay, in spite of the fact that they go to her -- a woman. This again confirms how language shapes the way we see the world.

The reason GB did not meet any gynephilic/lesbian escorts of this kind, is probably not a coincidence. It could simply be that woman-loving (gynephilic) transgendered women, pre-op or post-op, find the idea of having sex with men unattractive.

But even if Mr. GB had found one, this would not be a match made in heaven. Gynephilic trans women love women, not men. Moreover, they prefer to be the catcher, not the pitcher. If we are to believe Alice Novic GB is himself -- at least partly -- a gynephilic trans woman.

A better match for GB would be a female to male androphilic dominant transsexual or a FTM crossdreamer (the complexity of all this makes my head hurt!). They do exist but are relatively hard to track down. Besides, they want to look and act as men, and that is not necessarily what GB is looking for.

Crossdreamer vs. crossdreamer

GB said that the reason he went to shemale call-girls was to resolve the horrible dilemma of being attracted to girls, but at the same time longing to take the girl's role during intercourse. The shemale is a woman, but she has also the equipment needed to fulfill his desire for being the catcher.

Cloudy, herself an androphilic transwoman, made the following comment to my post Beyond the perversion:

"You [i.e. Jack] posed this question: 'Other autogynephilias "solve" this problem by imagining themselves penetrated by a woman with a strap-on or by a "shemale". There are a lot of "shemale" (pre-op transwomen) prostitutes out there that advertise the fact that they are "active". Maybe their customers are autogynephiliacs?' I can tell you from personal experience that yes, their customers are nearly all AGP [autogynephiliacs]. I've had friends who were 'working girls'... and I should point out, that in their personal love lives, they were not "active", but bottoms. But gynandromorphophilic [transfans] men will pay more than straight men, because of the relative rareness of an HSTS [man-loving trans woman] who will be "active". (I sure as heckfire wouldn't!) (...) On the other hand, AGPs are so commonly into 'she-males', that two reasonable passing AGPs meet, they often become lovers, both pre- and post-... BTW... many of these relationships get counted by the researcers as evidence of being attracted to men ! Note, that such is not the same as being attracted to non-AGP, straight, masculine men. Rather, it is the ability to map the process of AGP mediated desire for feminization of themselves onto their partner, to essentially map the internal AGP to the external AGP !!! To outsiders, this may sound strange, but it is actually quite common in the AGP trans-community."

I don't buy Cloudy's explanation for why some crossdreamers end up in relationships with other crossdreamers. But it certainly makes sense for them to do so. Not only do they get a soul mate who understands what they have been through and accepts their desires. They also get a female partner who is willing to play the active part when needed. If they are both post-op I guess they can make use of one of the many sex toys available.

In this sense they would not be too different from a gay or lesbian couple where both are bottoms. With love and understanding they should be able to develop a sex life where they take turns playing the active and the passive role.

In part 2 I will look at the growing transgender porn industry. The amount of such material may indicate that the number of transgender people has been seriously underestimated!

Minor edits January 2023.

August 23, 2010

August 20, 2010

Transgenderims 2

Here is another transgender comic for you!

Click on image to enlarge!

August 17, 2010

HBS 3: What Harry Benjamin really meant

In this post I will take a look at what one of the giants of trans research, Harry Benjamin, really meant about what he called "transvestites" and "transsexuals".

The discussion of Rose White's book on the Harry Benjamin Syndrome and the idea that "true trans women" and crossdreamers belong to different species continues.

Read parts 1 and 2 first!

What about Harry Benjamin?

"So who are these HBS people that hold themselves clear and distinct from all other people on the planet?" Rose White asks. (Yes, that was a direct quote!)

"Put simply an HBS is a person who from first memory feels to be trapped in the wrong body just as Harry Benjamin described back in 1966."

But would Harry Benjamin have embraced White's book if he was alive today?

I can with great certainty say that he would have hated it!

Harry Benjamin

Harry Benjamin (1885-1986) was a German endocrinologist who late in life, in the US, started treating and doing research on trans women. His patient Christine Jorgensen made transexuals known in the US. His pioneering work remains very influential.

Benjamin was a man of his time and his use of language reflects that period, but all in all he was a very tolerant and loving man who embraced all trans women, including the crossdreamers, who he -- using the lingo of the day -- called transvestites.

Beyond the binary

In his book the Transsexual Phenomenon from 1966 Benjamin observes that:

"For the simple man in the street, there are only two sexes. A person is either male or female, Adam or Eve. With more learning comes more doubt. The more sophisticated realize that every Adam contains elements of Eve and every Eve harbors traces of Adam, physically as well as psychologically."

Because of this Benjamin does not operate with a binary system as the one of White (or Ray Blanchard for that matter):

"Coming back to the differences between transvestism and transsexualism, another simpler and more unifying concept and a corresponding definition may have to be considered. That is, that transvestites with their more or less pronounced sex and gender indecision may actually all be transsexuals, but in varying degrees of intensity.

"A low degree of largely unconscious transsexualism can be appeased through cross-dressing and demands no other therapy for emotional comfort. These are transvestites (Group 1).
A medium degree of transsexualism makes greater demands in order to restore or maintain an emotional balance. The identification with the female cannot be satisfied by wearing her clothes alone. Some physical changes, especially breast development, are requirements for easing the emotional tension. Some of these patients waver between transvestitic indulgences and transsexual demands for transformation (Group 2).

"For patients of a high degree of transsexualism (the 'true and full-fledged transsexual'), a conversion operation is the all-consuming urge, as mentioned earlier and as a later chapter will show still more fully. Cross-dressing is an insufficient help, as aspirin for a brain tumor headache would be (Group 3)."

Harry Benjamin was a "transgenderist"

So, according to Benjamin crossdressers and "true" transsexuals are different positions on a scale. Their "transsexuality" is the same (at least for some "transvestites" and transsexuals), while the degree of transsexuality differs.

He also refers to crossdressers who gradually move towards transitioning, exactly the kind of development White cannot accept.

"Nature does not abide by rigid systems," Benjamin says. "The vicissitudes
of life and love cause ebbs and flows in the emotions so that fixed boundaries cannot be drawn."

The Benjamin model

So how has it been possible for White to misinterpret Benjamin in this way? Well, she is probably projecting her own prejudices onto the book, reading what she wants to read.

Benjamin developed an interesting typology of the trans phenomena. Click on the image below to see his table.

Benjamin explicitly and repeatedly says that there are no clear boundaries between the columns, but White and others like her read it this way, because it gives them the order and exclusivity they so desperately need.

Benjamin does not deny the sexual slant to crossdressing. He also upholds the traditional theory that there are fetishistic transvestites, i.e. where the main focus of interest is on feminine garments. This he considers a sexual deviation. But at the same time he has a category of transvestites with a latent transsexual trend, where there is a "gender disharmony":

<- Harry Benjamin

"The second inception of transvestism is not fetishistic but in all probability the result of an inborn or early acquired transsexual trend of 'latent' character. (S.O.S. III). Those patients (like true transsexuals), invariably date the beginning of their deviation to earliest childhood. 'As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a girl' is a frequent part of their history.

"While it is quite possible that such statements may merely express the wish that it may be so, most evidence gained not only from patients but also from relatives points to the fact that transvestitic tendencies, in the great majority of all cases, were noted in the first five or six years of the child's life."

Benjamin is clearly confused about the cause of the different types of "transvestites". At the same time as he upholds a difference in etiology (cause) for the two types, fetishists vs. latent transsexual, he also opens up for biological men developing from fetishists to transsexuals:

"A sharp differentiation between a fetishistic and a latent transsexual inception of transvestism is not always possible. The fetishistic can gradually develop into the (basically) transsexual variety, as case histories have repeatedly shown me. The former, however, may well contain elements of the latter from the very beginning. Otherwise the initial morbid interest in one or several articles of female wardrobe would hardly have evolved into the desire for total 'dressing.' The basic transsexualism may therefore explain an occasional and, seemingly, progressive nature of transvestism."

How a fetishist can develop into a transsexual is not explained, but this is clearly what he says.

Closeted gay men

White repeatedly talks about crossdressers as being homosexuals. They are not, Benjamin says:

"The idea that transvestism may be a latent or masked form of homosexuality was expressed by several writers but particularly by the Viennese psychoanalyst, Wilhelm Stekel, and is still favored by some of his followers.

"The explanation seems simple enough, but to the unprejudiced clinical observer it does not ring true. Kinsey and his collaborators also consider it incorrect. There are too many clearly heterosexual transvestites and it could do no good to saddle them with another (the homosexual) emotional burden, a deviation that they often greatly resent and reject."

Benjamin does not conclude on the general etiology (cause) of all these phenomena, but it is clear that he is supportive of an "inborn, organic, but not necessarily hereditary origin."

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that White has not read Benjamin, she has not understood him or she is deliberately misusing his name for political purposes. I, a much detested "autogyne", am much closer to Benjamin's real position than White. Crossdreaming is definitely a Harry Benjamin Syndrome.

The Controversy

White's book is born out of an alliance of HBS trans women who aggressively fight crossdressers and crossdreamers, and who uphold the dogma that only they can be considered real women.

The Harry Benjamin Syndrome site is down at the moment. I have not been able to find out what has happened to it. "The Original Harry Benjamin Syndrome" site is up and running, though.

The group has been strongly criticized by people from the transgender community:

Laura of Laura's Playground originally sat up a site in support of HBS. She later turned it into a site against the HBS. She explains why:

"With such an impressive name you must be wondering how many medical doctors invented this medical syndrome? The answer is none. The inventor of this syndrome is a non-medical lay person. Charlotte Goiar claims to own the originating web site. Does this give her authorship? In addition permission was never obtained from Dr Benjamin's heirs to use his name. Can a layperson invent a Medical Syndrome? NO! Can A layperson write Medical Standards of Care for anyone? No! Can a layman change terms and definitions established for Transsexuals by Medical Doctors? NO!"

She says that in order to learn more she joined the Official Yahoo HBS Support Group, and found it to be an anti-GLBT group:

"People who asked simple questions and needed support, were diagnosed by militant members as being transgendered, perverts and fetishists. Gays and lesbians were also denigrated with frequent slurs. In fact those who did support GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender] rights were banned simply for supporting them. "

Is this important?

Why do I bother writing about this? Well, like all transgendered persons many crossdressers and crossdreamers struggle with guilt, shame, confusion, depression and grief. The growth of the Internet have given them a new arena where they can reach out and get in touch with other transgender people -- a place to get help.

Too often their cries for help are met with hateful and derogatory comments from HBS trans women. These comments seem to confirm the prejudices found in the rest of society. I have been in touch with crossdreaming teenagers who have considered suicide after meeting such an aggressive lack of compassion. It is important that crossdreamers and crossdressers realize that this group does not represent trans women in general.

The HSB/CT position can be defended

My point is not that it is wrong to uphold the belief that "HBS women" or "classical transsexuals" are completely different from crossdreamers. I disagree with this approach, but the position remains a valid point of view. It is this hateful way of communicating I cannot stand.

Ironically it is actually easier to defend such a standpoint using a more complex approach (gender identity as the combined result of a large number of biological variables) rather than the essentialist position of the HBS group and the "classic transsexuals".

They need to find one and only one part of the brain that makes them female, which puts them completely at the mercy of a handful of researchers. One thing is certain: science constantly develops and what is considered the truth today may very well be considered to be old prejudices tomorrow.

Using the much hated "transgender" approach you can argue that a female gender identity appears when a sufficient number of "feminine" traits are present in a sufficiently strong degree. You could say that a biological male is female when the combination of traits have reached critical mass. If you pass that tipping point the gender dysphoria becomes acute, and it is impossible for that person to live a harmonious life in her male body. Using this approach it becomes perfectly clear that a trans woman is very different from your average crossdresser, even if they share the same etiology (cause).

The reason the HBS group is not following this approach is probably because it cannot be used to stigmatize crossdressers, crossdreamers and feminine gay men as perverts. Their fear of being associated with these groups stops them from taking the obvious route, even if this is the route Harry Benjamin took in the real world, and not in the fantasy world of White.

For them it is important to be understood as stereotypical women, so that there can be no doubt as regards their right to call themselves women. The very existence of crossdressers and transsexual prostitutes means that they may be associated with people they believe are perverts and degenerates. Regular men and women may suspect that they too are "perverts" of this kind, which is why they so desperately try to keep a distance from them.

They take this as far as trying to change the meaning of words in order to achieve this goal. To White the word "transsexual" has become tainted because of all the crossdreamer trans women. Hence the need for the HBS term. For "classical transsexuals" using the word "transgender" as an umbrella term embracing all types of gender variation is offensive, because the word indicates that they have something in common with people like me. The fact that they offend me by finding me so toxic, does not seem to bother them. The goal apparently justifies the means.

I would love to see a constructive and fruitful discussion on the various forms of transgender lives, what causes them and how you can learn to live with them, but that means that the HBS group will have to find a way of communicating that is more constructive than the one of White.

Further reading:

Charlotte Goiar, the founder of the HSB movement, has written a knol that describes the syndrome.

For a a more serious defense of the "classical transsexual" position, see Anonymous T Girl. She is also highly critical of the HBS culture.

Harry Benjamin Syndrome Revealed: The naked bigotry of some transwomen against others (Hontas Farmer).

Harry Benjamin Derangement Syndrome (Below the Belt)

Harry Benjamin Syndrome - Transgender-haters putting the BS in HBS (Transboutique)

August 11, 2010

Autogynephilia, Bisexuality and Mr. Opportunity - the Alice Novic Interview, Part 1

Alice AKA Richard Novic is a refreshingly outspoken crossdresser, crossdreamer and psychiatrist who does not beat around the bush when it comes to discussing feminization fantasies. Nor does she hide the fact that she lives out her dreams in real life.

Some of you might have read her book, Alice in Genderland: A Crossdresser Comes of Age, or visited her site. Others will remember my post on her two type model of transgendered male to females: love-to-be-femme and act-femme.

If you have, you will know that she has taken the autogynephilia theory and given it her own unique twist.

Here's the first part of my interview with Alice.

On writing the book

Jack: I must admit I found your autobiography Alice in Genderland quite a revelation. Unlike many transgender men and women writing about their lives, you do not try to hide the sexual part of the motivation for what you do, in your case crossdressing.

I believe it is extremely important for male to female crossdreamers -- who you call "love to be femme transwomen" -- to see that there are others out there that share their dreams. Writing and publishing that book must have taken a lot of courage. What made you do it?

Alice: I guess two things really, Jack, the first is that I wasn’t satisfied with being just an average Jewish-American with a good career and a couple of kids. I had always stood out when I was young, so as an adult, I was looking out for something extra I might do.

When an opportunity to do neuro-imaging research at UCLA fell through in 2000, I looked to my transgenderism for inspiration. I was stunned by the fact that nobody had ever written the memoir of a crossdresser and that transsexual memoirists were just beginning to get real.

I thought we crossdressers could really use an honest, proud, and well-credentialed voice--I am, after all, a psychiatrist. I saw CD [crossdresser] after CD and many transsexuals wrack themselves with same kinds of confusion and self-doubt. I knew I could help them, and with a message that was much grittier and more thrilling than the standard stories we CDs and TSs use to comfort ourselves and our families. Alice in Genderland felt like a mission for me, and the courage for it came from a potent combination of compassion and ambition.

The two types of transwomen

Jack: You write and talk about the two types of transwomen: "love to be femmes", who include crossdressersand late transitioners, and "act femmes", who include early transitioners and drag queens. I can hear more than an echo of Ray Blanchard's "autogynephiliacs" vs. "homosexual
transsexuals" here, so this is a controversial point of view.

Could you say a little about how you ended up with this model, and to what extent it differs from the one of Blanchard's?

Alice: Sure. Quite simply I read Blanchard—and [J. Michael] Bailey, especially his The Man Who Would Be Queen. I was blown away by what they had learned about MTF transpeople; it totally explained all the disparate things I had seen and heard over the years.

Our landscape is not divided north-south between crossdressers and transsexuals; it’s split east-west between those who start out straight and those who start out gay. What a brilliant idea! I was kicking myself for not having seen it myself, but as a transperson I was still too attached to our own propaganda to realize anything that ran counter to it.

Maybe Blanchard and Bailey as non-trans people were free of such blinders? Not bloody likely if you’d ask me. I don’t think I’ve known of anybody who has an abiding interest in trans folk who isn’t one themselves deep down. So kudos to them for somehow being secure enough to see past their own blinders.

I felt like I was a physicist who had the chance to discover the Law of Gravity and missed it. But when I saw how Blanchard, Bailey, and TG physician Anne Lawrence were as harassed for their insight as Galileo was, I figured that missing out on the most radical and accurate theory of our time might have been agood thing. Nonetheless, I was happy to learn what I could from their work and thereby write a memoir that’s less self-serving and much better equipped to stand the test of time.

By the way, my love-to-be-femme versus act-femme model doesn’t differ at all from Bailey’s model, nor do I believe from your crossdreamers model. Only our terms are different, and I’ve even updated mine in my undying quest to be brief, descriptive, and hopefully not too offensive.

For the last few years I’ve preferred to speak of started-out-straight transwomenand started-out-gay transwomen. Starting out straight or gay is determined by who you longed for in adolescense. I prefer terms like yours or mine, Jack, because Michael Bailey’s terms make us sound perverted and could easily be used against us TGs.

Born like this?

Jack: I must admit that the hardest part of making sense out of crossdreaming and crossdressing, is that it seems to be caused by a very complex system of biological, psychological, social and cultural factors.What do you think? Are we born like this or do we become like this?

Alice: We crossdreamers, crossdressers, and started-out straight transsexuals have a certain mix of male tendencies and female desires. To me as a psychiatrist, that’s not so different from intersex people—or gay people for that matter. We know that most intersex conditions have developmental rather than hereditary, early childhood, or other environmental causes. So why should we be so different from them just because their gender differences are immediate and anatomical and ours are emergent and behavioral?

Because our transgender differences don’t show up until later, could family and social pressure be important causes? Possibly, but nearly all the families and cultures I know give kids a push in just the opposite direction, i.e. to behave more in line with the sex they were born into. In my opinion, family and social pressure don’t cause anything; they’re high walls that should fill us with awe for any human drives able to breach them.


Jack: Blanchard argues that autogynephiliac's [M2F crossdreamers] are heterosexual (gynephilic) while what he calls homosexual transsexuals are attracted to men. As he is grouping all other sexual variants together with the autogynephiliacs, I guess there isn't much room for bisexuals in his model.

Alice: I believe you’re right about that, and I, though, very active sexually with both my wife and boyfriend must agree. Both in the confessions I hear at work and in my readings of the research, there just doesn’t seem to be nearly as much male bisexuality as Kinsey led us to believe, nor perhaps any true male bisexuality at all.

Men seem to come in the standard straight package or the standard gay package. There just doesn’t seem to be a continuum of fellows in the middle who aren’t just bi-capable but who really love men and women absolutely equally. For whatever reason, a small but significant number of women occupy this middle ground, and on the whole women experience more fluidity in their preferences over time.

Many of us bisexual started-out straight MTF types like myself would seem to be a big exception to this rule, and perhaps we are, though I’m inclined to agree with the view Blanchard would probably have of me. He’d see me as a transgender version of a straight man and see my sexual interest in men as fetishistic, i.e. that I use men as the ultimate prop in my autogynephilic imagine-I’m-a-girl fantasy. Ouch!

At first I was offended by such a notion, but, disturbing or not, in the end it just seemed true. I guess that’s a little sad, but again I can assure you as a medically sanctioned confessor of a thousand souls, whether TG or mainstream we all use each other in relationships and that’s . . . A-OK, as long as it’s mutual and well understood. It’s just called making a life with others in areal non-greeting-card or stump-speech way.

Sex with men

Jack: Still, there you are, biological male married to a woman, openly having a male lover on the side. Many crossdreamers or love to be femmes report that they are 100% into women. Still, in their fantasies they are having sex with men. What is your take on this?

Alice: I think sexual fantasies, especially recurrent ones, are meaningful. In my personal and professional experience, your fantasies represent the desires you’d pursue if you could design your own circumstances. Now, these circumstances might be bizarre and these desires deeply troubling, but they give an accurate read of your innards, nonetheless.

As a rugby playing Freshman at Harvard, for instance, I used to be plagued by the thought of being thrown into prison, forced into a dress, and having to submit sexually to another man. Of course, at the time that didn’t mean to me that I was in anyway bisexual . . . because I was entirely unprepared for the potentially devastating effects that could have on how I viewed myself and my future. Seriously, I might have committed suicide if I’d had to face the fact that I deeply and truly wanted to go to bed with man and get fucked like a woman.

I think the “I just fantasize about it but don’t really want it” crowd are in denial the way I was back then. Why own up to a desire that might break your wife’s heart and rip your family apart if you ever dare to satisfy it? Why? Really, why? So, I’m totally sympathetic with these people even though I don’t buy what they’re saying.

And most will never have to face the truth, not unless Mr. Opportunity comes knocking. And I hate to break it to you folks, but he doesn’t often come knocking, not with teeth and a job and reassuring things like that. Just because you’re out drunk and sloppy and ready to fall from grace, don’t expect sizzling things to happen to you. It takes a lot of work. You have to put yourself in the right place at the right time, have your act together as a woman, and hopefully be young and slender enough for anyone male to care.

Alas, most of you classic crossdressers in your forties aren’t gonna be confronted with the chance to act out your most toe-curling fantasies, and I’m sorry. But at least your illusion of being purely oriented to women won’t be put to the kind of terrifying test mine ultimately was. And the sexual offers you’re likely to see will come from other crossdressers . . .and they might not be so tempting . . . and you might not choose to count them as men.

To Be Continued.

Click under for Alice's regular book...

August 8, 2010

HBS 2: The science behind the Harry Benjamin Syndrome

In this post I continue to the discussion of Rose White's book HBS The Harry Benjamin Syndrome Comes of Age.

Continues from part 1.

She blinded me with science

Rose White argues that crossdressers and real trans women (who she calls HBS) have nothing in common. The origins of the two conditions are completely different. While HBS trans women have a natural brain based femininity, the crossdressers have not, she argues.

So what about the science White is pointing to? Does science really prove that HBS trans women belong to a different race than crossdreamers who choose to transition?


White quotes an article by Zhou, Hofman, Gooren and Swaab from Nature 1997 (my emphasis):

"HBSS Harry Benjamin Syndrome Sufferers have strong feeling, often from childhood onwards, of having been born the wrong sex. - A female-sized BSTc was found in male-to-female HBS's -- the size was not influenced by sex hormones in adulthood and was independent of sexual orientation. - Investigation of genetics, gonads, genitalia or hormone levels have so far produced any results that explain HBS."

Those of you who have followed this blog know about this research already. It does indeed indicate that gender dysphoria may be connected to a biological male having a female sized BSTc - a brain region reckoned to be associated withgender identity. However, I could not remember that the four authors had mentioned the Harry Benjamin Syndrome explicitly.

I checked. This is what the paper actually says (and it is from 1995, not 1997, my emphasis):

"Transsexuals have a strong feeling, often from childhood onwards, of having been born the wrong sex. The possible psychogenetic or biological aetiology of transsexuality has been the subject of debate for many years. Here we show that the volume of the central subdivision of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTc), a brain area that is essential for sexual behaviour, is larger in men than in women. A female-sized BSTc was found in male-to-female transsexuals. The size of the BSTc was not influenced by sex hormones in adulthood and was independent of sexual orientation. Our study is the first to show a female brain structure in genetically male transsexuals and supports the hypothesis that gender identity develops as a result of an interaction between the developing brain and sex hormones."

(Zhou, Hofman, Gooren, Swaab: "A sex difference in the human brain and its relation to transsexuality." Nature 378, 68-70, 1995)

August 7, 2010

Books of transgender relevance

In my transgender resource section I have also added a list of books I have found relevant and interesting as regards the crossdreamer phenomenon.

I have searched through to see if they are available for sale, and some of them are. I have included these below.

Note that some of them are available as Kindle ebooks as well.

Feel free to add a comment about books you have found helpful or particularly interesting.

August 3, 2010

Transgenderisms 1

I suspect that I sometimes take the subject of crossdreaming and autogynephilia far to seriously, which is why I now have decided to add a comic strip to the blog.

I am completely unable to make a drawing, but thanks to the availability of stock photo and moder software, anything is possible.

Click on image to enlarge!

HBS 1: The Harry Benjamin Syndrome Part 1

Some of you may have heard about the so-called Harry Benjamin Syndrome. It is a term developed by trans women who vehemently oppose any association between them and what I have called crossdreamers, among them crossdressers.

The argument is that science has proved that this particular group of trans women, the HBS women, are real women brain wise, and that transitioning crossdreamers and crossdressers are not.

In three posts I will take a look at a new book from the Harry Benjamin Syndrome camp, and see if their arguments hold water.

Please note that these blog posts refer to a use of language that many crossdreamers might find offensive.

Not in the Wikipedia

Fleur Black tried to get the following paragraphs into the Wikipedia:

"Harry Benjamin Syndrome is not the same as transsexualism or transsexuality but is the medical correct term for the very small group of people who genuinely feel to be trapped in bodies that do not match their brain.

"All who claims to be similar, but refuse to to accept the logic, tests, evidence and accuracy of HBS - Harry Benjamin Syndrome are bigots, fools, transgenders, transvestites, crossdressers or autocunniphilics."

(I love the word "autocunniphilics", a great pun on Blanchard's "autogynephilia".)

Violet Grey quotes this Wikipedia entry in her introduction to the book HBS Harry Benjamin Syndrome Comes of Age, a book written by Rose White.

"Unfortunately," Grey writes, "the Wiki board (...) allowed HBS to be lumped in with the transexualism label that many non-HBS crossdressing men claim in order to legitimise their autogynism and homosexual urges."

Harry Benjamin Part 2

Rose White is explicitly considering her book a continuation of Harry Benjamin's enormously important work The Transsexual Phenomenon. Benjamin had indeed argued that there were biological men who felt themselves trapped in a man's body.

White goes on explain why there is a natural continuation from his book, to the idea that the HBS syndrome is completely different from what people like me call other types of transgender conditions:

"Harry advanced the study of truly transexed people and codified diagnostic criteria that has still not been improved on despite the protestations of generations of transgenders and it is only fitting that the condition should actually be known as Harry Benjamin Syndrome - or HBS - to separate its sufferers from all the gay, lesbian, bisexual, crossdressers, transvestites, transgenders, genderqueers, autogynes, non-ops and others who claim to be afflicted with exactly the same condition that Harry found when in fact they have nothing but various degrees of mis-nurturing to account for their weird urges."

Not transsexual

One major point in the book is the need for a term that does not associate the HBS trans women with "transgenders". You may already have met classical transsexual activists that redefine the word "transgender" to mean autogynephiliacs and effeminate gay men only. White takes this line of argument to the next level, by arguing that the word "transsexual" has become tainted as well.

"In practices HBS do not like to have the word 'transsexual' applied to them as it has been adopted by a vast number of people who are not but not merely give the impression of being of opposite sex and/or gender to that they really are. Thus crossdressers, transvestites, genderqueers and similar claim the label 'transsexual' when in fact they are perfectly happy with their bodies and genitals and would not accept genital surgery if offered to them."

Naturally feminine

White argues that only HBS (and, I presume, XX women) are naturally feminine. All other transgender, wannabies, crossdressers, maningas (men how have SRS just for sex), non-ops are not.

The proof is that HBS' have a second puberty when taking female hormones, argues White:

"The MtF HBS shows it by behaving like stereotypical late teenage girls in taking delight in the changes brought to their bodies and faces by the estrogen regime and indulging in the love of shopping for fashions, makeup and accessories that so mark the teenage girls. (...)

"Now that we know about BSTc [a brain section that is thought to indicate a female gender identity] it is easy to realise that the truly-HBS brain will respond to the estrogen regime exactly as does the pubescent girl. If a wannabe transsexual does not show this adolescence to any great extent with an estrogen regime then the truth of the matter is simply that they do not have a female brain trapped i their male body!"

White goes on to say that watching a group of HBS women will be like watching a group of non-transgender girls:

"..the body and face language, ways of sitting, holding glasses or cups, and socially interacting will be totally female without any of the effeminacy displayed by gay men or the TGs. In comparison the TGs will sit and look exactly like blokes in frocks..."

The HBS girls are exactly the same as a non-transgender woman, White says. They even share their enthusiasm for high heels, colorful makeup, and bright jewelery. The book has a separate chapter on why HBS women love shopping.

(Seriously! I am not making this up!)

Painted nails

There is also a sales site for the book called The Harry Benjamin Syndrome Review. The site has a picture of a HBS woman's hand with painted fingernails. The ad explains that the picture was chosen to show that

"(...) to a HBS women finding time to do her nails and the money for pretty rings is important - those who claim to be HBS women but angrily assert they should not 'have to' follow such female pastimes are not really HBS or else they would 'want to' - this conundrum is explained in Chapter 14."

It isn't really. Explained in Chapter 14, I mean. Exactly how this test is supposed to exclude transitioning crossdressers is unclear to me. One thing is certain: trans women who find "pretty rings" less important are not real women, according to White.

What this means for non-transgender XX women with no interest in such female pastimes is not explained, either.

Crossdreamers are gay men in denial

White argues that her theory is corroborated by TGs [trangender people] being predominantly late transitioners with homosexual proclivities:

"I know one person like this who was the effeminate little boy and is now a unhappy unconvincing homosexual post-op who sits legs gaping and has zero femaleness -- not even a handbag! Others I have had short contact with dress as male as possible and hate women's shops!"

Th HBS women may "goodhumouredly" make fun of a real HBS woman's bad choice of an outfit, White says, but...

"...they will not sneer and snigger as they do over the simple crossdresser who they can see and sense has zero femaleness and only dresses for masturbation or to invade the woman's camp for some reason. These older women are all well aware that most men (sic!) get sexual thrills from dressing and that they look ridiculous with their lack of femaleness perfectly obvious in the ill-chosen finery."

HBS FTM transmen, on the other hand, will find that transitioning with hormones bring an increased enjoyment in drinks, cars, girls, and sports, according to White.

The bad and the ugly

White has a complex list of categories that helps her sort out the bad seeds: transgenders, maningas, amazons, fetishists, amputation fetishists, autogyne (a variant of autogynephile; she truly hates Blanchard but find his terms useful when it comes to dismiss fake trans women), malignant bisexual, homosexual, lesbian, pseudo-transsexual, regretters, drag kings, perverts, hermaphrodites, dual-moders, and so on and so forth.

The reason she makes this long list is to make sure that people know the difference between a real woman and the pseudo-trans women. In spite of her second puberty theory, White admits that it can be difficult to see the difference between a HBS and another person who has had surgery. I guess some of the "perverts" even have hand bags.

Her test of sorting out male perverts who want to look like women, by checking if they want to keep their male genitalia, is not fool proof either, as there are "autogynes" who go for the full surgery package.

"When these patients are healed and emerge they may be perfectly passable as the opposite sex or they may conceal their body modifications under the exactly the same styles of clothing they have wore all their mature life. Thus it can be impossible to know without direct confrontation and intrusive questioning if the person leaving the clinic is a HBS waiting to disappear into stealth, a lesbian too long on vaginal estorgen who now feels a flat chest better sums her up or just a man who got a vagina because he has seen the porn queens writhing and moaning in constant climax and thinks that if he had a vagina he would be able to have the same endless orgasms."

However, elsewhere she argues that a HSB person can easily spot another HBS among all the transgenders jostling under the transgender umbrella and instantly feel an affinity with them that is different from the feelings all the others engender: "How they do it is a mystery known only to HBS, " White says. She is right about that.

No homos please, we are British

I have tried to find out whether White allows for homosexual HBS', i.e. gynephilic trans women. I think not:

"Obviously everyone varies but by and large a HBS will have an internal image of themselves with a man and that man will be as idealised as any other woman's. This is in itself a marker of the difference between HBS and all other people under the TG umbrella who get sex change and choose same sex partners or get the genital surgery with sex in mind."

The HBS have many enemies:
"The enemies are Fouratist homos, the public, the press, bigots and fools, ignorant medics, penny pinching political manipulators, BRSS dykes, religious pedophiles, closet homos and unfortunately the unaccepting homos a.k.a. Manginas who themselves try to become HBS in the vain hope that masquerading as a woman will help them refuse to confess that they are just homos and not HBS."

Blanchard is Belzebub

White, who is British, wants the EU to get out of the clutches of the American psychiatric manual, the DSM, as this one is dominated by arch enemy number 1: Ray Blanchard. (The fact that the Europeans do not follow the DSM is apparently of no importance).

She often refers to Blanchard and his followers as BLZB (for Blanchard, Lawrence, Zucker and Bailey = Belzebub):

"He [Blanchard] is personally fixated on dreaming up all sorts of silly names for what are basically natural human conditions and persuasions and by doing so ensures that vasts numbers of people with simple desire to cross gender lines or go as far as sex change are labelled perverts, queers and freaks -- or has he has it peedoheebeejeebies, autogynes etc."

White is of course doing exactly the same as Blanchard does in her book -- i.e. labeling all non-HSB's as perverts -- but that is all right, I guess.

What does this all mean for crossdreamers?

White's use of language and complete lack of serious argumentation tell much of the story. I find it very hard to respond to this book as if it was a scientific, philosophical or political work. It is more like a piece of hateful extremist propaganda. It is homophobic, sexist and -- who would have believed it possible? -- even transphobic. It definitely undermines any serious attempts at turning the Harry Benjamin Syndrome into an alternative to the transgender narrative that presently dominate research and health care.

It is hard to imagine what could have possibly made White write this book. It could be that she has been urged on by others taking part in HSB discussion forums. But that does not explain why she ended up in those circles in the first place.

I have no problem understanding the existence of gay-bashers, racists, sexists and transphobic persons. Such people are normally driven by a deep sense of insecurity and a need to sort everything into neat and clean categories of good and bad, the clean and the tainted. Normally such persons project their own dark sides out on others, especially on people that do not follow the norm and they do not understand. By doing this they are able to generate a feeling of superiority and they get an easy target for their own frustration and anger.

But White is a transsexual woman. She has most likely been the victim of prejudice and bigotry herself. Like many transpeople she has probably been called a sissy, a fag, and a pervert, and she should therefore know better than copying the practices of her own tormentors.

But maybe this is the explanation. Maybe the crossdressers and the crossdreamers remind her of her own past, and the very fact that she once had the body and maybe even the mannerisms of a man. She therefore constructs this strange tale about this ultra-feminine stereotype of a second puberty, to keep the distance from a part of herself she would like to forget. If that is the case, we are witnessing a personal tragedy of gigantic proportions. Unfortunately that does not excuse what she is doing.
The classic transsexuals

There are some more serious activists out there who share White's contempt for "the trangendered" and who agrees with her idea that crossdreamers have nothing in common with what they call "classic transsexuals" (CT), even if they are angered by the bigotry of the HBSers.

So even if White's book cannot be taken seriously, some of the arguments require a serious discussion.

In the next two parts I will look into the basis for White's arguments:

Zagria believes the colors of Black, Grey and White are all names for the same "flower" woman, which sounds plausible to me.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!