February 23, 2012

You know you are a girlfag, when..

J. tipped me about a new blog for girlfags (female to male crossdreamers who are attracted to gay men).

The wonderful title You Know You are a Girlfag When tells us that this is not the place for extensive academic analysis. Instead we are presented with small sayings and aforisms that capture the life of girlfags.

"You know you are a girlfag when your husband thanks your best friend (who is a gay guy) for taking you out guy-watching and 'turning you straight'!

"You know you are a girlfag when you're disappointed a  hot guy hits on you because you had hoped he was gay."

"You know you are a girlfag when you follow loads of blogs that post pictures of guys kissing but sometimes you can hardly face your dashboard because it makes you feel so sad."

Male to female crossdreamers may find the strong focus on male gay relationships confusing, as gay males are not interested in female bodied persons -- even the crossdreaming ones. So why should a girlfag dream about gay men?

And the female to male crossdreamers may find their male bodied sisters confusing, as they sometimes dream of having sex with a man. If they were mirrors of each other, male to female crossdreamers should -- apparently -- only be interested in having lesbian sex. Right?

I think, in fact, the two groups truly mirror each other, and there are simple answers to the two questions.

February 12, 2012

The Kama Sutra on Transgender People

Crossdreamer women who enforces their will on their male lovers with a strap-on? The Kama Sutra has it all!

I have been working on this blog for several years now, and I have learned one important lesson:

As human beings we have an amazing ability to reinterpret reality according to our own prejudices or cultural stereotypes.

Our fear of chaos, uncertainty and social exclusion tempts us to go firm and fixed world views, reality be damned.

History as a teacher

One way of getting around this kind of intellectual lock-in is to look at the views of other cultures and other epochs.

What is "self evident" to us is not to them, and by watching an alternative system of beliefs we can learn something about ourselves.

Recently I presented a case study from the early 20th century work of Magnus Hirschfeld, showing that the crossdressers, crossdreamers and transsexuals of his time struggled with many of the same challenges as contemporary transgender people.

Still, Hirshfeld has been instrumental in developing the language we now use to understand transgender conditions. Although I think it very unlikely, it could be that Hirschfeld's liberal view of cross-gender behavior has created the crossdreamers.

Would it be possible to go further back and further away and see if we can recognize crossdreamer behavior elsewhere and "elsewhen"?

The Gupta Dynasty and the Kama Sutra

Recently I watched a documentary about the influential Gupta dynasty of India (320 to 550 AD). This was a thriving and influential culture, and its most famous literary work is the Kama Sutra.

The Kama Sutra is now known as a manual for sexual positions, and that part is republished again and again with both ancient and modern illustrations.

The work  is much more than a sex manual, however. It is a review of the understanding of sex and sexuality of the time -- or times, rather, as it is a kind of compendium based on works written over several hundred years. 

Maybe, I thought, I could find descriptions of crossdreaming in the Kama Sutra? Unfortunately, the editions I found online did not give me much, apart from some small glimpses into the world of proactive women. 

However, I soon realized that the versions found online were shortened and censored, so I bought myself a complete version, The Complete Käma Sütra of translated by Alain Daniélou .

February 2, 2012

New genetic study of male and female behavior

American scientists develop an interesting model of how genes and hormones influence sex behavior, a model that might also throw light on transgender conditions.

Regular readers of this blog know my skepticism towards reducing human gender behavior to biology alone.

The interaction between cultural factors, personal experiences, the body itself and the genetic variables is just too complex to be reduced to a simple "one gene determine all gender behavior" kind of theory.

Indeed, we now know that not only is the brain "plastic" in that learning changes it; we also know that genes may be switched on and off because of stress and various environmental influences.

On the other hand, the discussion of the transgender conditions taking place on this blog and in other online forums,  as well as my own personal experience, has led me to believe there is some kind of biological core to at least some of these experiences, including my own crossdreaming.

The social pressure to conform to traditional gender stereotypes is extremely strong, so strong in fact, that these transgender traits should have disappeared if they were anchored in personal experiences only.

I can see a clear parallell in homosexuality. I have many homosexual friends who get seriously angry when someone suggest their experience is based on "mother complexes" or teenage seductions. As one gay friend told me: "If that was the case, ten years of therapy would have cured me!"

Then, of course, there is the large number of heterosexual men with similar childhood experiences.

In other words: homosexuality as well as transsexuality are most likely to have a strong biological basis.

That does not mean, of course, that there are no same-sex relationships or no types of cross-gender behavior that are not anchored in these kinds of hormonal or genetic starting points. Humans behavior is amazingly diverse, and I suspect that both sexual orientation and gender behavior are quite flexible.

Simplistic biological models

There has been a tendency among biologist to fall into the trap of social projections.  That is: They take the social stereotypes of their own culture and projects it onto animal behavior.

Their interpretation of animal behavior is then taken as proof of the social stereotypes being based in biology. Nature trumps nurture, and sexism trumps humanism. (See my series on Joan Roughgarden for examples).

These studies are often based on a simplistic reductionism where all "masculine" behavior is understood as the effect of one single factor (for instance a gene or prenatal hormones).

Ray Blanchard's transgender theory is, for instance, reductionistic in the sense that sex identity, gender specific behavior and sexual orientation are chained together. A transwoman can only be feminine if she (or "he" if we use Blanchard's vocabulary) is attracted to men. If she is attracted to women, she is per definition masculine, ungainly and ugly.

The Nirao Shah study

A new study done by Nirao Shah and his group at the University of California, San Franscisco, is interesting in that it brings a new level of complexity to the sexual behavior arena.

According to them sexual behavior in mice (which are much less complex organisms than human beings) cannot be reduced to one single gene. Instead each gene regulates a few components of a behavior without affecting other aspects of male and female behavior.

The idea is that genes may trigger a wide variety of hormone mixes from life in the womb to old age, and that different "mixes" leads to different combinations of "male" and "female" behavior.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!