December 28, 2010

December 20, 2010

The cause of crossdreaming - the alternative slider model

I spend a lot of time presenting research on gender and sex in this blog, and some of it get pretty heavy. So, this time I have decided to write a popular presentation of what I believe crossdreaming is, without footnotes and Latin terms. You can find the references elsewhere on this blog.

I have previously compared the birth of a personality, gender orientation included, as a remix of humanity.

There are literally millions of variables that make up a human being: natural, psychological and cultural. Each and one of us is the end result of a particular mix of such traits.

Most of these traits are not gender orientated. And if you really look at the men and women you know, you will soon see that they do not adhere to the stereotypes of the movies and the adverts.

There are strong, aggressive, and power hungry women who run for public office. There was a time when they would be called "mannish", but not anymore.

There are shy kind, and compassionate men who love to play with their children. There was a time when a man would be found effeminate if he pushed the baby stroller. Now modern women find this a requirement in their partner. The Norwegian company Stokke and others now deliver a "masculine" stroller. Being compassionate has become a manly thing in my corner of the world.

It may be that there are some statistical differences as regards behavior between the sexes on an aggregate level, but it is weak and nothing like the one you see when it comes to -- let's say -- height and body mass.

In spite of this, there are times when even the diverse cultural language of the modern world is not flexible enough. There are men who find that they feel much more like women, and women who identify with men.

These are the transgender people, from crossdreamers who fantasize about having the body of the other sex to transsexuals who decide to step over the dividing line and become the one they are inside.

Two explanations

There could be at least two reasons for this:

The first one is that there is some kind of critical mass. In a male bodied person this point is reached when the number and intensity of his typical "feminine" traits reaches a critical mass, and he is no longer a man, but she is a woman. Some may live close to this tipping point. They are neither men nor women, or rather: they are a little bit of both.

The second one presumes that there is only one (or at least a limited number of factors) that determine gender identity. If this is the case it does not matter if a male bodied person has a large number of "feminine" traits. If the core trait that determines gender identity says "man", he will identify as a man.

I'll come back to what I believe is the case at the end of this article.

The one armed bandit

Allow me to simplify thing a bit to make this clearer.

Imagine a Las Vegas slot machine with a million wheels, one for each trait. Imagine conception as pulling the lever, and the resulting position of the wheels as a picture of your personality.

In the real world things are a little bit more complex. Some wheels are more likely to give a specific result than others. The position of the wheels may change throughout life as a result of external influences, but this picture should give you a rough idea of where I am heading.

Now, let's take away all those wheels that are not relevant to the formation of biological sex and gender identity.

Among those who believe men and women fall into two distinct compartments, the the perfect combination of symbols for a man would be the one to the right.

I guess we are talking about G.I. Joe here, the exact opposite of the hyper-feminine Barbie.

Barbie would be all pink Venus signs.

Now, how many real life Barbies do you know? Really...

No, I guessed as much. There can not be more than a Barbie per thousand women around, probably less. (Fortunately)

The fact is that in the real world we all come out with a mix of "masculine" and "feminine" traits.

The slot model

For the sake of simplicity I am going to reduce the number of gender relevant variables to seven. In the real world I would guess there are thousands, many of them overlapping, but this is for illustrative purposes.

Note that many of these traits are the end result of a large number of variables. The Human Genome Project has shown that we have far too few genes to couple traits like these to individual genes. The traits are the end result of a complex interaction between genes, proteins, hormones and more.

The fact is that factors in the surrounding environment man turn genes on and off. We now also know that you may inherit gene switch changes from your parents (epigenetics). Biology, psychology, society and the surrounding environment is constantly interacting in all directions.

The sex of the body

The first four variables (or slot "wheels") in my model are basic and instinctual. By this I mean that they are clearly determined by your biological make-up. You do not chose them. They chose you.
The first variable is the sex of the body. For most people this will be XX female or XY male.

This variable determines if your sex organs point outwards or inwards, whether your voice will drop when you hit puberty, or -- alternatively. whether your chest will start to swell. You know the drill.

I have used the traditional Venus and Mars symbols to represent the body sex.

December 19, 2010

Transgender terms compared

Using Google for transgender trend web search has always been hazardous: Too many searchers use some of these terms searching for adult entertainment. Hence the results do not give you an accurate picture of how people think about these issues.

Google has now opened its Google Books database for researchers. Using books as a proxy for public interest is also problematic, but these data do at least give you an impression of what scientists, scholars and fiction authors think about their usefulness.

"Since 2004, Google has digitized more than 15 million books worldwide. The datasets we’re making available today to further humanities research are based on a subset of that corpus, weighing in at 500 billion words from 5.2 million books in Chinese, English, French, German, Russian, and Spanish. The datasets contain phrases of up to five words with counts of how often they occurred in each year."

I have done a search comparing the use of some important transgender terms, namely: "transvestite", "crossdresser", "transsexual" and "transgender".

Later on, I will see if I can find the time to look at variants of the various words.

Click on image to enlarge, or go to Google Ngram to study it.

As far as I can see, there are no surprises here.

The first term for any transgender condition was "transvestite" (although the meaning was soon narrowed down to "crossdresser".) It was born in the early 19th century.

December 13, 2010

The dominant crossdreamer

I got an interesting question in the mail the other day, and I would like to share it with you. Anonymous 22 asks: Why is it that most crossdreamers seem to be sexually submissive?

"While I haven't seen anyone definitely state such, it seems every AGP fantasy I've ever heard of, both personal fantasies and those in the form of written fiction, frequently use themes of submission as a component of the wish-fulfillment.

I've seen some people suggest this is so those who have such fantasies don't have to feel guilty about them, and also, as I think you may have spoken about on Crossdreamers, as the submissive element can sometimes function as a tie-in to femininity.

In addition, I have heard many personal stories on blogs, and such, wherein the writer suggests that in addition to being autogynephilic, he is also generally sexually submissive.

And of course, in the world of BDSM, forced feminization is a not apparently uncommon fantasy for male submissives; though I'm not one to speculate on the reasons for this; as someone is only somewhat knowledgeable of the specifics on that particular spectrum of human behavior. It might have more to do with the humiliation aspect of the practice.

So here is my question: Out of curiosity, have you ever encountered anyone who is both autogynephilic and tends towards sexual dominance in their fantasies?

December 3, 2010

What is feminine and masculine anyway?

On this blog I have been using words like masculine and feminine quite liberally. After all, that should make sense, given that crossdreaming is a transgender phenomenon, and boys who dreams about being girls should have a pretty good idea about what that entails.

I have gradually come to the conclusion, however, that I have no longer a clue about to what these two words really mean.

Femininity defined

Dictionaries are of no help, as they have a tendency of defining

a term like "feminine" as "associated with women and not with men", or -- if they are very advanced -- giving it a culturally relativistic definition: "Femininity (also called womanliness) refers to qualities and behaviors judged by a particular culture to be ideally associated with or especially appropriate to women and girls."

There are several reasons for my problem.

Gender equality

One is the fact that I have grown up in Scandinavia.

I have seen the "qualities and behaviours" of women change before my own eyes. Women not only have the right to vote, they practically run the place. Four out of six Norwegian party leaders are now women. The Conservative Party and the right wing Progressives are both run by what was once the "weaker sex". When Mrs. Gro Harlem Brundland ran the place, we had worried young boys asking their mothers if it was possible for men to become Prime Minister.

Women were traditionally supposed to be non-intellectual, emotional, passive and caring and completely unsuited for leadership. Men, on the other hand, had apparently no aptitude for child care.

It is strange to see how Norwegians now consider the willingness to take care of your kids to be as much a masculine trait as a feminine one. Fathers are expected to spend time at home with their new born child during the first year of its life. When I grew you rarely saw a man push a stroller.

The flexibility of language

Still, this is not only about changing gender roles. This is also a question of perception and language.
When I grew up, the traditional core family continued to be the norm. Middle class women stayed at home in a Mad Men kind of way.

That being said, people were pretty flexible when it came to determining to what extent one could call a man a man.

I remember my uncle Thomas and aunt Ragna very well. Thomas was a very small man with a weak disposition. He never talked loudly (if he talked at all) and was very nervous among -- well -- anyone. He was a businessman, although not a very successful one, as he lacked the kind of aggressiveness and stamina required to succeed.

He might have been the boss back home, but every body knew, to quote Woody Allen, that mom made all the decisions. Ragna was a formidable woman, a big and strong primary school teacher who faced no disciplinary problems what so ever. She had a strong willed personality and a lot of opinions about anything. She was the aggressive boss. He was the submissive partner.

But they clearly loved each other, an no one doubted the fact that she was a

woman and he was a man. No one would call her masculine or him feminine. And I believe the reason for this was they had four kids. They were as heterosexual as you get.

I am sure may uncle and aunt both faced problems when growing up. He was probably teased for his "effeminacy", while she was reprimanded for sticking her neck out. But in the end they were both accepted.

The eternal bachelor had it much harder. He was considered feminine even when he was not.

Here's my point: If you had asked them about what feminine and masculine meant I am pretty sure they would have repeated the stereotypes of the day: "Women are emotional and caring, men are aggressive and dominant." And they would do so even if they themselves behaved differently.

And as for the gay bachelor: He was turned on by men, wasn't he? And if you were turned on by men you were feminine by definition, even if you had the body and beard of a fisher man.

My mother definitely believed that women had a natural capacity for infinite love, but the fact is that the only person that had this quality in our house was my father. He was the caring introvert. She was the aggressive power player.

Hence there seems to be no connection between what people believe they believe and how they actually act.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!