April 28, 2012

Transgender and the mind and body conundrum

An instinct for soccer.
Given the strong criticism om the very idea of using Jung for studying the transgender psyche, I think it is time for me to make clear what I mean about the interaction between mind and body and terms like "the inner woman" and "the inner man".

Can instincts and archetypes generate symbols?

In the discussions at this blog wxhlup has repeatedly criticized  me for arguing that crossdreaming may have a biological core.

Her argument argument seems to be that crossdreaming is an expression of symbols, semiotics or language, and instincts have no language. Instincts cannot be expressed in symbols, and therefore they cannot influence the way we think about ourselves and others.

Because of this, the argument goes,  it makes no sense to talk about "an inner woman"  or "inner man", as I do, or about  instincts or archetypes that shape the way we see the world. Instincts and archetypes are not cultural and therefore cannot be translated into language or symbols.

Similarly the biological base cannot generate the desire to be a man or a woman, since both sex and gender -- according to this line of thinking -- are social constructs and social constructs only.

If I understand this line of thinking correctly, this also means that Jung's idea of primordial biological patterns or archetypes influencing the content of dreams, myths and fantasies, must be wrong.

These symbols are not produced by the human body, but by the "language games", "schemata", "belief systems" or "semiotics" of human culture. They are produced by the "cultural software" and not the "biological hardware".

The role of symbols

I have actually learned a lot from the kind of post-structuralist philosophy wxhlup is so fond of. I have no doubt the cultural belief systems we grow up in wields enormous power over our way of understanding the world. That is: Our words and concepts and the word views they are part of, forces us to think in certain ways.

My deconstruction of the "autogynephilia" narrative of Ray Blanchard is indebted to the postmodern philosophy of Michel Foucault, and my constant nagging about the differences between the genders being negligible as regards abilities and personality traits is also based on this way of thinking.

April 24, 2012

The bigender sex switchers

A new study by Vilayanur S Ramachandran and Laura Case covers a transgender group that has gotten little if no coverage: the bigendered. These are people who experience a blending or alteration of gender states.

A new understanding of sex and gender

The variety of gender-challenging conditions seems to be growing day by day. Maybe it is the fact that scientists are finally beginning to realize that nature thrives on diversity and does not really care about our cultural stereotypes, or maybe it is caused by a morbid curiosity for new "perversions".

Regardless: The new concepts may make it easier for transgender people to gain respect for their humanity and unique abilities.

By the way: Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Laura Case do not consider gender variants perverts or paraphilicas, and treat transgender with respect.

The study is based on a questionnaire sent out to members of a bigender internet forum. The researchers excluded individuals with personality and identity disorders.


The authors point out that sex and gender are most commonly considered a single entity, but dissociations between external morphology, gender identity, body image sex, and sexual orientation demonstrate that at least four components interact together create a consistent - or less consistent- sex and gender identity for any given individual:
" Bigender individuals who alternate gender present a unique case where single components of sex and gender may vary within an individual."
That is: one day the person may feel like a woman, the next as a man.  A majority of the respondents reported that their gender switches at least weekly.

April 20, 2012

Ponyo for Crossdreamers

Another conversation between Jack and his inner woman Jackie, this time on what the Japanese animated movie Ponyo has to teach transgender crossdreamers (Yeah! Really! And it has a bit about Jung too...)

I wrote this dialogue between Jack and Jackie over a year ago, but at the time I decided not to publish it, as I considered it too strange.

It probably wouldn't make much sense to most of you. Now that I have started presenting my Jungian approach to the transgender psyche in detail, however, I believe  it may be of help.

Ponyo certainly helped me understanding more of myself.

 JACK: What do you mean, I get too academic? This blog is born out of my own life struggle, dammit. It is not academic!

JACKIE: Of course it is academic, Jack. There are not many in the world who have spent more time than you on deconstructing the autogynephilia theory of Ray Blanchard.

Not all transgender crossdreamers, crossdressers or transsexuals are interested in that kind of thing.

JACK: Well, they should be!

JACKIE: Yeah, yeah, yeah... but they don't, so get over it! They want to share their life experiences, be seen, respected, affirmed, comforted.

JACK: This is a girl thing, isn't it?

JACKIE: I hope for your sake that that was a joke!

JACK: Of course it was. Now, what do you want me to write about?

Writing about Ponyo

JACKIE: I want you to write about Ponyo.

JACK: "Ponyo", the Studio Ghibli movie? You want me to write about a Japanese children's manga?

JACKIE: Yeah, that is what I want, and since I am the one with the female intituion, that is what you'll do.

JACK: But why?

JACKIE: Because the movie is about you and me!

JACK: Really? Ponyo is about you and me?

Sosuke and the gold fish

JACK: Let me see... The movie is about a five year old Japanese boy Sosuke who lives with his mother and father in a house at the top of a hill. His mother is working at a service center for the elderly and he goes to a kindergarten nearby. And yes, his father is a sea captain who is always absent... I fail to see...

April 16, 2012

A Transgender Psychology 2: The Ego and the Complexes

In my first post in this series I argued that there is a need to develop a language that makes it possible for transgender people to analyze and discuss their feelings and experiences.  I proposed that we make use of Carl Gustav Jungs's model of the psyche as a starting point for developing such a language.

Jung's model simplified

I have made an illustration of the model of Jung's in order to speed things up.

Think of the psyche as an onion. The whole onion constitutes the totality of the psyche. This totality, which consists of the psychic content you are aware of, the things you have suppressed and the parts of the psyche you still have not become conscious of,  he calls "the Self".

My interpretation of Jung's model of the psyche.  The sphere represents the totality of the psyche: "the Self".  The "normal" male psyche to the left, the female to the right. Click on image to enlarge!

I have tried hard to find texts where Jung discusses the transgender conditions. The closest I have come is a text where he writes about homosexuality. That text is relevant, and I will discuss it in a separate post, but please note that when I interpret crossdreaming and the transsexual experience within a Jungian framework, that is my interpretation, not Jung's.

The Persona

The outermost layer of the Self, the one directly visible to the world, is the Persona. The persona is the mask we show the world, a reflection of what we would like the world to see.

Jung says:

"The persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other hand, to conceal the true nature of the individual." 
(CW 7 paras 305-9)

April 9, 2012

A Transgender Psychology 1: The Role of the Unconscious

Transgender people need a language that can be used to describe their feelings. In a series of posts I will see it it is possible to use Carl Gustav Jung's model of the psyche as a tool for understanding the various transgender conditions.

Transgender crossdreamers, crossdressers and transsexuals may go through periods of emotional pain and confusion.

The most scary part of their experience is the fact that they lack the language needed to make sense of it all. Their surrounding culture -- family and friends -- have no idea about what they are going through, as they all lack the necessary reference points.

Fear and loathing

For crossdreamers this is especially difficult, for the simple reason that sex is defined as a unique and separate sphere of living in Western culture. In spite of all the talk of sexual liberation and tolerance, sex remains sullied and unclean in the minds of many, especially the kind of sexual fantasies and practices that lie outside the limited repertoire of traditional vanilla marriages.

Indeed, to the extent other people do have concepts of men and women getting excited about the idea of being the other sex, these are often followed by feelings of revulsion and contempt. Most transgender therefore go through periods in life where they try to forget or suppress their feelings.

At this moment in time the only transgender narrative that is accepted by society at large, is the classical transsexual narrative. This is the story where a person completely and unequivocally identifies with the culturally defined gender role of the opposite sex, and who -- without any doubt -- express a wish to transition.

The "ideal" transgender is a therefore a person who never has had any doubts about his or her cross-sexual identity, even as a child, and who therefore can use the  traditional language of sex and gender to express his or her feelings. Moreover, he or she is very careful not to talk about his or her sexual desires.

In fact, the reason so many seem to accept this narrative is that it is not a threat to the dominating ideas of gender roles and sex identity. Homosexuality is much more threatening, as is any fantasy or identity that blurs the line between men and women.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!