May 20, 2012

A Transgender Psychology 4: The Animus and the Anima

In Dante's Divine Comedy, Beatrice,
his anima, guides him through
One of Carl Jung's most famous concepts is the Anima/Animus duo. The anima is said to be the woman in the man. The animus is said to be the the man in the woman.

It would be tempting to say that the animus is the inner woman of male to female transgender person and vise versa. That would be a mistake.

I will not argue that male to female transgender persons are possessed by their anima, or that female to male crossdreamers have suppressed their true femininity.

In fact, the Jung interpretation you find in this series, is very different from the standard "men are from Mars and women are from Venus narrative" many Jungians love.

The two stories about the anima and animus

It helps to keep in mind that Jung is telling two stories at the same time when presenting the anima and the animus. The first one is partly  misleading, I am afraid. The second one is more useful for exploring the transgender psyche.

The first story says that the anima is the unconscious feminine side of the man, the animus the unconscious masculine side of the female. Given that men and women are forbidden to accept their "opposite side", this unconscious side is underdeveloped.

When the man projects this anima onto women out there in the real world, he therefore reduces them to clichés. He might despise her or he might fall in love with her, but he is not seeing her for who she is. He is, in fact, not falling in love with a real woman out there, but in his own underdeveloped feminine side.

May 11, 2012

Are people becoming more tolerant of transgender?

Carmen Carrera as waitress
Now that Obama has come out in defense of same-sex marriage and a majority of Americans actually accepts homosexual relationships, it might look as if Western culture has reached a water shed as regards attitudes to what was once considered perversions threatening civilization itself.

I would guess that the fact that homosexuals have become visible, makes it much harder to keep up the idea that gay men are sex obsessed, child molesting, auto-erotic perverts, or that all lesbians can be cured by being taken by "a real man".

When the gay come out, the fact that they are complete human beings that cannot be defined by their sexual orientation becomes obvious.

The following TV program seems to indicate that this tolerance also encompasses transsexuals.

ABC is staging a transphobic scene in order to see how ordinary Americans may act, and they do -- in fact -- come to her defense.

It is interesting to note how men, who are supposed to be more prejudiced in this area, decides to defend Chris, the transgender waitress (played by Carmen Carrera,  at ranswomen who clearly identifies as "transgender".)

It was Cheryl who made me aware of this video, and she says that she would wish they would "repeat the experiment with a TS who did not pass or who was not good looking."

That would be interesting, as it would indicate if the tolerance also extends to those transwomen who cannot (or will not) live up to the feminine ideal of the day.

ABC article on the show.
Carmen Carrera on Facebook.

May 4, 2012

A Transgender Psychology 3: The Shadow

Voldmort may be understood as Harry Potter's Shadow
In this post I will look into the role of archetypes in the development of the transgender psyche, focusing on the "dark side of the soul": The Shadow.

The discussion is based on a model developed by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung.

(Click here for the previous posts in this series).


One of the parts of Jung's theory that I find problematic, is that his categories have a tendency of becoming absolute.

He warns us against this, though, reminding us that the psyche is not a rational place organized on the basis of scientific principles. This is probably why some of his concepts contains contradictions that are hard to sort out.

The word "archetype" is, in my opinion, very useful. It is used to describe the natural basis of many psychological experiences.

The archetypes -- or "primordial images" -- are expressed through symbols in dreams and art. The symbols may vary from person to person and culture to culture, but the underpinning reality may be the same.

In fact, even the symbolic expressions of these archetypes are often very similar across cultural borders. It seems to me, for instance, that we in nearly all cultures find the image of the nurturing mother goddess.

Strongly inspired by a patriarchal Judaism, Christianity tried to get rid of the mother goddess, but lo and behold: She popped up again in the shape of the Virgin Mary. The Virgin Mary even took over associated symbols from the Sumerian goddesses, like the moon crescent and circle of stars.

In other words: There is a psychological need underpinning the appearance of such symbols, and that the basis for that need can be described as archetypes.

(For a critical discussion of the interaction between archetypes and the mind, see my post on the mind/body conundrum.)

Related to instincts

Jung compares the archetypes to biological instincts. In the same way there is a hunger instinct that causes the sensation of hunger and the desire for a burger, there is a mother archetype that shapes your attitude towards motherhood.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!