October 30, 2011

The end of the chick flick -- on the media industry and gender

What comes first? Or inborn femininity or masculinity, or the expectations of the culture around it?

Those who have followed this blog will know that I am pretty much convinced that most of what we consider masculine or feminine is culturally defined, and that all "masculine" of "feminine" personality traits are -- in fact -- common to both sexes.

This does not mean that there cannot be some kind of pre-cultural personality core that is male of female, but it means that we cannot reduce what it means to be a man or a woman to, let's say, a propensity to ask for directions when out travelling.

The advertising industry has a set of categories that are closely correlated to cultural stereotypes. In this TED conference video, Johanna Blakely argues that the fact that women dominates social media will not make media more feminine. Instead they will kill off the genre categories like -- for instance -- chick flicks. The diversity among women will change the media industry.

 Johanna Blakley is Deputy Director of the Norman Lear Center (a media-focused think tank at the University of Southern California).

October 26, 2011

Zagria on crossdreaming

Zagria has put up a very  interesting post about gender variance and crossdreaming over at her A Gender Variance Who's Who blog.

She argues that one of the problems we are facing when discussing gender variance is that only trans people are considered gender variant. The act is that there is a lot of gender variance among "cisgender" people too.

Please note that cisgender  was coined as a term to describe those that were not transgender. Transgender is the starting point. Cisgender is the residual category.

Cisgender may be defined as  "gender identities formed by a match between an individual's gender identity and the behavior or role considered appropriate for one's sex" or "individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity".

In one sense I believe she is right, in the way that there are many people who do not consider themselves trans in any way, but who still allow themselves to cross the border of what is considered gender normative.

In my discussions with crossdreamers (people who get aroused by the idea of being the other sex) and crossdressers (people who like to display certain aspects of the behavior of the opposite sex through clothing and behavior), I find that many of them identify with their birth sex.

The inside and the outside

However, this an extremely complex issue, for several reasons:

October 24, 2011

Transgender love

A female to male crossdreamer made a very interesting comment on my "Girlfags and Guydykes Unite!" post.

She says:

'I am just learning about the "girlfag"  [female to male crossdreamers, in this case women who love men] idea and I think I really do identify as one. The idea of gay male sex turns me on, but when I read about the feelings of MtF crossdreamers, that also can actually turn me on. I think what I am attracted to is the mixture of masculine and feminine. I mean the confusion itself is attractive. I read one person's feelings of wanting to be sexually dominated, but also cherished, and I thought, I would love to give that to someone. It would make me feel strong and nurturing the way I want to.'

'... I think that in a better, freer world we would meet each other on a spectrum of sexual desires and not have to label that part of ourselves as different from our biological sex.

'But on the other hand, the presence of cultural gender norms actually adds some spice by creating taboos. Would it be as much fun to play to gender games it if wasn't just a bit "dirty"? I guess we'll never know.'

Note how she breaks down the dichotomy strong (i.e. stereotypical masculine) and nurturing (stereotypical feminine). By using her strong, aggressive, dominant side she could actually please a male to female crossdreamer so much that it would be like nurturing. 

This means that love between a male to female and female to male crossdreamer would actually be like transcending the traditional gender roles, while at the same time reaffirming them.

I am sorry if I sound too philosophically obtruse here, but she has made a very important point: We need the contrasts between feminine and masculine, yin and yang, the moon and the sun, earth and sky in order to make sense of our own multifaceted personalities. These contrasts help us navigate the world and our own feelings.

The problem is that since these contrasts have been fixated into dogmas by culture, we cannot make her leap into the sky and look at these dynamics from above. We are not allowed to. Even if we perfectly well know that men can be nurturing, and that many of the women in our lives have been much stronger than the men, we cannot use that insight to forgive ourselves: i.e. that it is OK for a man to cuddle and for a woman to f**k her sweet guy senseless.

I never seize to be amazed at how much pain our own stupidity causes us. We are not only the prisoners. We are the prison guards.

October 18, 2011

Transgenderisms: Outdated Psych Textbooks

It seems to be we know more about the dark side of the moon, than we know about sex and gender.

Oh sure, we believe we know it all. After all, what could be more simple: men are men and women are women and sometimes they meet and make babies, and that is all there is to it.

This is why being transgender is so interesting and so exhausting at the same time. As soon as you start to really look at sex, sexuality and gender all the certainties dissolve into thin air.

Scientists and philosophers are doing one heck of a job trying to make sense of it all, but the thing is: Most of them try to force the square blocks into the round openings, in desperate attempts to make the story they grew up with continue to make sense. You know: men are men and women are women and sometimes they meet and make babies.


wxhluyp recommended Judith Butler to me. Butler is a post-modernist philosopher who has done a very important attempt at trying to get to the core about why it is that we think about sex and gender in the way we do.  I will come back to her philosophy later. Here I will just point to her story about what made her think twice about femininity and masculinity:

"...you might as well know that in the United States the only way to describe me in my younger years was as a bar dyke who spent her days reading Hegel and her evenings, well, at the gay bar, which occasionally became a drag bar."

It was there she experienced an "implicit theorization of gender":

"...it quickly dawned on me that some of these so-called med could do femininity much better than I ever could, ever wanted to, ever would. And so I was confronted by what can only be called the transferability of the attribute. Femininity, which I understood never to have belonged to me anyway, was clearing [sic] belonging elsewhere, and I was happier to be its audience than I ever was or would be being the embodiment of it."

Judith Butler: Undoing Gender, NY 2004.

It is quotes like these that tells me that the gay and lesbian community and transgender do have something in common (apart from being outcasts): Many of us are struggling with the traditional concepts of femininity and masculinity. They do not fit!

Over at Small Pecuiliar  Eyeteeth has made a wonderful series of comic strips presenting "Outdated Psych Textbooks" -- in the process revealing how helpless and speculative many of the theories explaining homosexuality are. 

I think they say a lot about the role of sex and gender in psychology and psychiatry and therefore something about how they often think about the transgender population.


(Click on images to enlarge!)

October 8, 2011

Two new crossdreamer and autogynephilia blogs

Please tell me about new and relevant crossdreamer and crossdresser blogs. Here are two that I nearly missed:

Autogynephilia and Stuff

Autogynephilia and Stuff is a blog established by ThinkingAboutGynephilia. "TAG" is an 18 year old man trying to make sense of his life as a crossdreamer.

There is only one post there so far, but that one is definitely worth a read.

Many of my readers will recognize the signs:

He writes:

"Since I was 12 I've had sexual fantasies of inhabiting a female body. This desire ebbs and flows, it is not consistent, I do not find myself desiring to be a female for the most part of my waking consciousness, and neither do I feel out of place in my male body. 

"I cannot, however, becomes sexually aroused unless I imagine myself as a female - even during the brief sexual encounters I've had in my life, for most of them I could only turn myself on by imagining myself as a woman, and having lesbian sex with my partner. I of course, did not tell her this - and for contiguous reasons, the relationship did not last very long; I was scared of intimacy."

"Am i mad? or just different?" he asks.

He is definitely not mad. The text tells me that this is a very intelligent you man with the spiritual resources needed to handle this mess.

Different? Well, aren't we all!

Please, write more TAG!

Mirror Sister

Mirror Sister is also written by a male to female crossdreamer, but this one is under control of the female persona: Deborah Kate. This blog is more of the artistic and essayistic kind. 

October 7, 2011

Spellbound transgender

I'd like to share a painting with you. It is called "Alvelek" (Elves' Play) and is made by the Norwegian painter Theodor Kittelsen.

I think it is relevant for many crossdreamers, because it says something about how male bodied persons can be ensnared or bewitched by their inner woman.

When that happens, their whole lives are at stake. If she can keep them spellbound, they will never be able to become what God or Nature wanted them to be. They will not be able to follow their "inner bliss", to quote the great Joseph Campbell.

The female elf in this case is clearly one of the many species of "little people" found in Scandinavian folklore.

A related being is huldra, a blonde and beautiful girl-like figure with the tail of a cow. While the elves are "over-earthly", huldra is more of the subterranean type.

While the female elf ensnares the man with her unearthly femininity, the hulder captures him with her animalistic sexuality.

Below you will see another painting by Kittelsen, called "Huldra disappeared". Huldra has lured a man into a swamp and he is now lost for humanity. He is probably also in danger of sinking  into the marsh.

Fairy tales are real

But these are all fairy tales, right? They don't mean anything real.

I can assure you they do.

The people who made these fairy tales were like all great artists: They tried to capture that which cannot be defined by science and dogma -- the parts of our minds that can only be reached through metaphors and symbols.

In these cases the fairy tales clearly tries to tell us something about how forces in the unconscious may ensnare us.

The man caught by the elf is caught up in her magical mist, like a fly in a spider's web. The man sinking into the mash -- into the underworld -- tells us the story about someone who is engulfed by his unconscious: The sub-conscious parts of his own psyche is dominating his life.

October 4, 2011

Transgenderisms 7

Another alternative look at the science of autogynephilia.

Click on comic to enlarge!

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!