June 25, 2012

The Transgender Jung

Carl G. Jung
On using  Carl Gustav Jung's model of the psyche to describe transgender experiences.

I have posted a few articles where I have been using the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung to discuss the transgender psyche.

Only one post remains, but before I publish that one, I would like to take a look at to what extent Jung discussed transgender conditions.

Here are all the posts in the transgender psychology series:
1: The Role of the Unconscious
2: The Ego and the Complexes
3: The Shadow
4: The Animus and the Anima
5: The Other Side of your Transgender Soul - from Dostoyevski to Buffy the Vampire Slayer
6: Transgender and the mind and body conundrum
7: Spellbound transgender
8: Ponyo for Crossdreamers
9: Falling in love with your own anima

See also guest post by  Jocelyn Muchlinski: Waking Up the Anima – Jung Applied to Transgender Women

Jung ignored the transgender

Did Carl Gustav Jung himself say anything about crossdreamers, crossdressers or transvestites?

As far as I can see, he did not.

That is a bit peculiar, really, as there had already been  published some interesting research on trasvestites in Berlin, which might have given him some input on his discussion on the crossgender nature of the collective  unconscious (Magnus Hirschfield: Die Transvestiten 1910)

In spite of arguing that both men and women deepest down are cross-sexual (sharing traits of both sexes), Jung is unable to leave the idea of there being some kind of normal male sexuality or female sexuality. People who cross these lines in real life (as opposed to in dreams or in art) therefore suffer from some kind of abnormality.

Mixing sexual orientation with gender identity

First of all, he -- unlike Hirschfeld -- seems to be   mixing up homosexual and transgender conditions, which was typical at that time.

Basically, Jung understands gender variance in men as a result of a mother complex. A young man should free himself of his anima fascination of his mother. If he hasn't done so, that may indicate some kind of stunted emotional growth.

"In  homosexuality, the son's entire heterosexuality is tied to the mother in an unconscious form; in Don Juanism, he unconsciously seeks his mother in every woman he meets. The effects of a mother-complex on the son may be seen in the ideology of the Cybele and Attis type: self-castration, madness and early death." [These Ancient cults used trans women as priestesses and temple prostitutes, Jack's comment].

"Because of the difference in sex, a son's mother-complex does not appear in pure form. This is the reason why in every masculine mother-complex, side by side with the mother archetype, a significant role is played by the image of the man's sexual counterpart, the anima."
(Collected Works 9/I para 182)

So due to some complications it his relationship with his mother, a homosexual (and presumably also a transgender) male bodied person is likely to be unduly influenced by his anima. He can therefore develop a feminine personality (Collected Works 9/I para 355).

This is not a very flattering view of homosexuality -- or transgender for that matter.

The good friend

Still, Jung clearly feels uncomfortable by pathologizing  these conditions in this way:

"Since a 'mother-complex' is a concept borrowed from psychopathology, it is always associated with the idea of injury and illness. But if we take the concept out of its narrow psychopathological setting and give it a wider connotation, we can see that it has positive effects as well. 

"Thus a man with a mother-complex may have a finely differentiated Eros instad of, or in addition to, homosexuality. (Something of this sort is suggested in Plato in his Symposium). This gives him a great capacity for friendship, which often creates ties of astonishing tenderness between men and may even rescue friendship between sexes from the libido of the impossible. He may have good taste and an aesthetic sense which are fostered by the presence of a feminine streak. "
(Collected Works 9/I para 164.)

The fact that a man (gay or not gay) has a feminine disposition may make a more empathic friend and care giver, which is a good thing -- also in Jung's universe.

The transgender as a reflection of the hermaphroditic archetype

In another discussion Jung actually refuses to consider a man dominated by his anima as ill:

"The growing youth must be able to free himself from the anima fascination of his mother. There are exceptions, notably artists, where the problem often takes a different turn; also homosexuality, which is usually characterized by identity with the anima. In view of the recognized frequency of this phenomenon, its interpretation as a pathological perversion is very dubious.

"The psychological findings show that it is rather a matter of incomplete detachment from the hermaphroditic archetype, coupled with a distinct resistance to identify with the role of a one-sided sexual being. Such a disposition should not be adjudged negative in all circumstances, in so far as it preserves the archetype of the Original Man, which a one-sided sexual being has, up to a point, lost." (Collected Works 9/I para 146, my emphasis)

At this point Jung points to another explanation. In this case the perspective is shifting from the feminine side of the anima/animus archetype to the archetype as a whole ("the hermaphrodite archetype"), also called the Syzygy.

The Syzygy

Hermaphrodite and the union of opposites
from Alchymical manuscript
In mythology the hermaphrodite has always pointed  to the ability to transcend categories and achieve wisdom.

Indeed, the term itself is a combination of Hermes (the messenger of the gods, and therefore the bringer of knowledge) and Aphrodite (the goddess of love). Jung, of course, knew this.

The hermaphrodite is an important symbol in alchemy, where it represents the much needed union of opposites: the masculine and the feminine.

And since the goal of the psychological process of growing up (the individuation process) is wholeness, i.e. making the unconscious known, Jung cannot but appreciate the value of being able to combine the feminine and the masculine.

So in the end Jung opens up for a positive interpretation of what I here have called cross-sexual conditions, which -- I guess -- could include both feminine homosexual men,  and male bodied crossdreamers, crossdressers and transsexuals, although he does not explicitly say so.

Jung needs a reinterpretation

Today it is very hard to uphold the idea that homosexuality  is some kind of gender inversion. Today sexual orientation is understood to be separate from sex identity, which makes sense to me. There are far too many very masculine homosexual men, and too many heterosexual crossdreaming men.

The idea that a man's feminine orientation should be caused by "a mother complex" is unsustainable. It was developed in a culture where a man with stereotypical feminine personality traits had to be ill. This also applies to Jung's universe, in spite of the fact that he ha developed a model that argued that every man has a strong feminine side.

If, on the other hand, the culture allows men to develop their feminine side, the relationship between the ego and the anima will change accordingly. As I will demonstrate in my last post in this series, that is exactly what has happened.

Start here: A Transgender Psychology 1: The Role of the Unconscious


  1. Hi. My first time here.

    I have read your observations with admiration for some time Jack, and not felt emboldened to contribute before.This latest post is very significant, for me at least.I am sure that Jung's thinking- if not his explanations behind his deductions- add hugely to the understanding we need of this complex field of human behaviour. It would certainly be good to trace the further development of his thinking by others in the psychological rather than medical fields.
    I relate most strongly to the concept of individual 'wholeness' he and you explore , and the implied transcendence of the male/female divide.
    If there is a single 'explanation' that seems to fit my own ambiguous gender identity and sexuality, this is it. In fact, though I am outwardly a man, the element that resonates most is the freedom from a male-female sexual division that I have come to take as 'normal ' for me, though often something very isolating as so apparently unfamiliar to most others. In my behaviour, thoughts and dreams the male and female seem to happily co-exist, albeit without the obvious extremes of either 'masculine' or 'feminine'role.

    Living in such a less prescriptive and structured gender place , has, not surprisingly, left me without much of the overt sexual energy of conquest/conquered, top/bottom, domination/submission that seems to go with the unending quest to match and copulate with 'the other half'. For me the question is 'what other half?'- there really doesn't seem to be anything missing, no gap to fill.
    Rather than the 'drive' to fulfill this form of expression/satisfaction, I look instead for a synergy and complimentarity in relationships, which seems to be not linked to another's gender or sexuality, but their own equivalent sense of wholeness and self awareness. This is clearly not the territory of the traditional sex drive,or the 'battle of the sexes', though the pleasure of the warmth of intimacy with women is certainly there for me to find, if very difficult to do so. I feel it usually drowned out by the raw physicallity others seem to need.

    I do not recall this area of 'cross dreaming' -maybe better described as 'gender fusion'- having been explored much on the site? I see it as somehere in the matrix of cross-sexuality, hermaphroditism and asexuality and it would be good to hear other thoughts on this.

    Either way, do keep up the excellent work Jack. It is always a comfort and an enlightenment to visit this site and read your thoughts.

  2. @AB

    Welcome on board, and thank you for your kind words!

    Yes, I think your approach is worth exploring. For some the fcossdreaming take them to a point where both 'masculine' and 'feminine' personality traits are recognized and accepted, and I am sure this makes them richer and maybe even wiser people.

    As for the sexual part, some - like you - report that the sexual obsession disappears. Others keep on looking for the counterpart in the other, but now the mirroring goes against the traditional gender roles. Here at this blog we have had female to male crossdreamers join male to female ones, both appreciating the unorthodox role of the other.

    In any case, I think you are tight: The sexual dynamics may be replaced by other strands of love and community.

  3. I have often interpreted Jung to some extent as a bisexual trans lesbian. Why?
    1) Jung had a same gender experience but it was molestation which created a negative association with homosexuality and homosexuality was also taboo at the time.
    2) Those same gender feelings came up while in psychoanalysis with Freud. Freud wanted Jung to work through those feelings and Jung refused. Freud's response, "Jung appears to want to have nothing to do with men."
    3) Jung's wife was a far more grounded person than Jung. She exhibits attributes of many bisexual women that I know.
    4) Jung himself exhibits Don Juanism. When Jung broke with Freud he entered into a relationship with Toni Wolff a woman who could be dominant over his fragile psyche at the time. Jung had a previous relationship with another woman during his marriage.
    5) Women therapists and analysads flocked to Jung and as one of his female patients remarked, "Jung speaks my own language."
    Like many bisexual men I have known they possess very flexible psyches BUT the root of that psyche is that of a very feminine man. Some go off and marry (usually bisexual women), some decide to live a gay life but are most comfortable with other bisexual people and trans people. Some become trans lesbians with some interest in men. A bisexual man can make lots of different conclusions. But at it's core is a hermaphroditic person.
    A hermaphroditic person will experience some degree of gender disphoria. Today FtA trans androgynous persons take estrogen and do some alterations to their appears to correct that disphoria. What Jung did was surrounded himself with women, created an elaborate psychology, had two wives, and identified more with Hermes side of the Hermaproditic sense of himself. He always emphasized his his masculinity over his feminity as he would say his "Logos over his Eros".

  4. @Anonymous

    Do you think his interest in the anima archetype could be a reflection of this?

  5. I think if Jung was alive today his attitude concerning all of this would be very different. I do believe all men regardless of orientation would gain tremendous freedom if the individuated from their mothers and fathers. But Jung would have to face the overwhelming evidence that real gay men exist. In otherwords Jung looked at homosexuality from a bisexual perspective (as did Freud). For Jung a sensitive young man "possessed" by the anima ran the risk of 1) becoming homosexual (avoiding women) 2) becoming Don Juan (conquering women) if trans was more well known at the time I bet he would consider it yet another strategy of dealing with the anima archetype (becoming a woman).

    He considered these anima complexes a phase to get to a more unified sense of self (Hermaphrodite).

  6. Jack, how comes that in the article is not mentioned the most likely Jung forgotten masculine archetype, the Anima companion, "The double" of Michael Walker?

    And how comes that ther's no mention of the denied Dyonisus connection to it, substantiated in Jung dream of a huge phallus that, to his terror, blessed and dominated, refused in Jung's Shadow, his entire research, as someone at the end pointed out?

    To the reduce homosexual identity to a "femininization" or "psychic ermaphroditism" sounds very '800...

  7. //Jack, how comes that in the article is not mentioned the most likely Jung forgotten masculine archetype, the Anima companion, "The double" of Michael Walker?//

    When I wrote this blog post I did not actually know about the Double archetype of Michael Walker.

    If I understand Walker correctly, he thinks of the double as a kind of "male companion" (young or old), who may help a boy or man come to grips with his own role of being a man, acting as a man. In the same way there will be a female double for women.

    It seems to me that the double serves as a kind of internal role model, a bit similar to role models out there (best friends, relatives, teachers etc.)

    There may also be a sexual -- or at least erotic -- component to the Double archetype, where hidden homoerotic or same-sex longings and desires may lay buried.

    I am not sure about this, but it might be that the double of Walker is related to what I have called the Ponyo -- the crossexual personality of transgender persons -- which are also, in some sense, doubles of the face or persona many of them show the world.

    The main difference is that the "double" or "Ponyo" of a male to female crossdreamers would be female, not male. They present as men, but their hidden side -- and spiritual guide -- is female. Likewise the female to male double of a female to male transgender would be male, and not female.

    //And how comes that there's no mention of the denied Dyonisus connection to it, substantiated in Jung dream of a huge phallus that, to his terror, blessed and dominated, refused in Jung's Shadow, his entire research, as someone at the end pointed out?//

    That is definitely a topic for a follow-up blog post. There is a strong Dionysian component of many crossdreamer fantasies.

    Lately I have looked into the role of the phallus in cisgender lesbian fantasies, and found that "phallic" fantasies may appear among those who are primarily attracted to women. In other words: Such fantasies may be connected to homosexual longings, but they may also point to something deeper and common to all men and women.

    //To the reduce homosexual identity to a "femininization" or "psychic hermaphroditism" sounds very 1800...//

    That was my point as well. This part of Jung's thinking has to be dismissed, as I see it. But there is still a lot to learn from what he has written.

  8. Thanks for your reply Jack.

    Actually the archetipical Double hypothized by Walker (if it does exist, but in actual fact also Hillman envisage its existence through an "additional axis" to Anima) would be not a human companion but an archetype per se, complementing Anima. That is, the forgotten (refused, see the problem of Jung with his homosexuality latency) archetype companion of Anima. So we are talking of a very incomplete Jung definiton of the psychic structure.

    The Double would be the same sex archetype, that means masculine in males and feminine in females. So, everybody posses a Double. In male heterosexuality Anima would be projected onto a female, in homosexuality, the Double will be projected onto someone of the same sex.

    According to Walker, the very origin/nature of Double, as illustrated by Plato's Symposium, will determine sexual orientation.
    Still is lacking a definition of the 2 type of transgenderism, but you're not getting anywwhere if the Double is not taken in account.
    More complete is the picture given by some american indian community, defining 5 "combination" btw gender and sexual orientation that is the right number.

    Walker's original pubblication, with his strong bias toward the origin of homosexuality, generate some confusion in the definition of the Double, that is (should be) a common archetype to every human.
    Guess how the Double present itself in a male visionary state? A phallus. From that, quite a few connection, Dyonisus included. I'm working on that larger picture.

    About Jung dream, i hope you did'nt missed that great article: http://www.madinamerica.com/2012/04/jungs-first-dream-the-mad-god-dionysus-and-a-madness-sanctuary-called-diabasis/

  9. What you say, makes good sense to me. The problem is that in the case of transgender people, it becomes harder to determine what is the anima/animus and what is the double. Transgender people -- and that includes those who fully identify with their target gender -- are most often forced to live as their assigned gender for years, and may even present as such for their whole lives. I suspect that that might cause the anima/animus to present as different genders, and that this may apply to the double as well. A trans woman who loves women are a lesbian, but while living as a man she also shares some aspects of the lives of a heterosexual man (given that she is forced to live as one).

    I am pretty certain that in my own life as an MTF transgender person who is oriented towards women, my anima/animus presented as a very strong and demanding anima. But I am not sure how this will play out for a gynephilic MTF transgender person or for one who is sexually attracted to men.

    It is a really interesting puzzle, though.

    And thank you for the reference. I will look at it at once!

  10. I think you've got the point Jack, which archetype is playing and which one is projecting onto the ideal partner, in the case of a transgender individual?

    You would appreciate that the biggest gift deriving from the introduction of the Double is the separation of gender identity and sexual orientation. Which is relevant for transgenderism and from that you can derive a lot.

    Lets start with the Ego, which stems from the world of the Soul and is a mere servant of the purpose of the Soul (intended as the sum of the achetypes of the unconcious).

    What kind of Ego is the one of an MTF? The Ego of a woman.

    Which are the possible expressions of such a feminine Ego?
    1) Projecting ANIMUS onto a (heterosexual)MAN and choose an array of targets in life (to be defined later), very similarly to an heterosexual WOMAN.
    2) Projecting the DOUBLE (of a feminine Ego) onto a (Lesbian) WOMAN and choose an array of targets in life (to be defined later), very similarly to a LESBIAN.

    What kind of combination is the MTF-Lesbian relationship?: ouch, something very complete and with the intense features typical of homosexual relationiship and longings.
    But with a plus relative to homosexuality: the biological bodies are set not only for reproduction and sex but also for an unheard erotical intensity (typical of homosexuality), unheard in heterosexual male-female sexual acts.

    As we know, penetration is part of lesbian activity, and reproduced with toys or other means: just imagine a lesbian woman that can connect with your feminine Double and Ego, so satisfying its longing for a female partner and so enjoy the sexual sensitivity of a woman, but that can, in the same time, have the bodily most perfect compenetration.

    Carefully thinking, the mix of the biological male-female, coupled with the same-sex affinity of such MTF-Lesbian, looks as miracle of nature....

    On a different plan, you can study what does it means the same-sex relationship (because at the soul level this will be) for the life purpose and on which plan is expressed. Basically is the openess toward the collective rather than the private, typical of heterosexual relationship, and the Dyonisac versus the Apollinean. Walker and few others wrote a lot about it.

    Unfortunately, about the relationships based on the Double, mostly has been written for males, but it should be something about Lesbian Double-based relationships, that would be the MTF case: it could be the same or different, to you to study.

    Tell me if that makes sense to you, the argument is fascinating.

  11. Of course the MTF double can project onto an heterosexual woman, as a male homosexual can fall in love for an heterosexual man. But the problem is that the partner will not correspond, or will do it only on some plan (sexual or affective) and so a true relationship is not in the cards...

  12. Just a last consideration about The Double and your post about "The faceless man".
    The archetype of the Double present itself in visionary states as a Phallus, as per Jung dream (the link i gaved you). And the archetype of the Double is in heterosexual mans too. So, to fantasize about some own powerful psychic inner symbol is not demonstration of any homosexual tendency: it will explain well how comes that the phallus can be an erotic fantasy of someone turned off by a man...

  13. //Carefully thinking, the mix of the biological male-female, coupled with the same-sex affinity of such MTF-Lesbian, looks as miracle of nature....//

    That is a wonderful quote, and yes -- this makes sense to me. I will have to take some time turning this into some kind of figure or illustration, because all of this is extremely complicated to explain to our binary brains. I will look into that.

    The myth has it, of course, that a cis lesbian/MTF lesbian relationship is impossible, as no lesbian will be attracted to someone will a "male" past of with male genitalia. The TERFs are aggressively preaching this gospel as are the Blanchard supporters. I do not think this has to be the case, again because they fall for a too simplistic model of sexual attraction, in the sense that they reduce the masculine and feminine to visual stimuli based on what the body looks like. Moreover, lesbians do -- as you point out -- often focus on the phallus (the dildo or the strap-on) or the masculine (as in the butch).

    I believe the Wachowski sisters are trying to make that point in their Sense8 TV series. But then again, they have been MTF crossdreamers and are lesbians themselves.

  14. Hi Jack,

    Yes indeed, they are not immediate concepts, even to explain the basics or the reason way. Some proper image can vehiculate a lot better.
    But it must be an archetypl image to have power, try Jung's "Active Imagination" tecnique :-)

    Be the "Jack de Molay", master of templars, of a brotherhood of a new outstanding uranian fusionary state :-)


  15. While searching for Jung, archetype, hermaphrodite, anima - animus, I recently stumbled over this "Hermaphrodite" from Michael Maschka: http://www.transmuthatio.de/d/bild_e.htm

  16. What a great find! Thank you. I am sharing this over at Crossdream Life and tumbr.



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