March 5, 2013

On male to female crossdreamers and how to establish a romantic relationship

How do you establish a loving relationship to a woman if you are a male to female crossdreamer dreaming of being a woman?

There has been a lot of politics on this blog lately. That is necessary, I am afraid, given what people say and think about crossdreamers. But today we are going back to the basics: to the lived lives of crossdreamers. 

I will share an email I got from a reader with you and add my response. I think this is an exchange many male to female crossdreamers will find familiar as well as interesting. 

Do add your own comments!

The life of Josie

Josie from over at Crossdream Life sent me following story:

"I'm thankful to finally have a name attached to this conditon and know that there are others, but I still feel sometimes so confused and conflicted. I'm sure that in this community my story and my questions are common.

When I was a little kid I don't remember being one of those that insisted that I was a girl. To my recollection I was fine being a boy, but I was always 'soft'. I've always been passive and introverted. 

Iused to play with my sister and her dolls and saw nothing wrong with it but I did boys stuff too. I always liked to play sports but never excelled at it. I was always picked on by the alpha males in my school, especially in junior high, and I was never successful being a romantic interest for the girls. I was just too shy.

Dreaming of skirts

When I remember my AGP feelings starting to make themselves known was around puberty. The girls in my class started developing hips and breasts and I was thinking "That's pretty cool, I wish I had that too." By the time I was in high school I secretly wanted to be one of the girls. 

I went to a Catholic school with plaid skirts and I would fantasize about being one of the girls in those skirts. God bless those skirts! lol 

Anyway, 15 years later it's been that way ever since. No one knows how I really feel inside. I try to spend time with the guys but I struggle to relate to them. The more testosterone-driven the interaction becomes, the more I want to run from it. I always feel more at home interacting with the girls. It's always been that way.

Wired as a female

Ya know, in some ways I know my mind is still male. On the other hand, due to much study in gender psychology, I know in many ways that my mind is wired very much female. I can point to many examples that I've discovered that the way I am is very much in step with the way women traditionally are. 

I'm not gay. I've never been sexually attracted to men. My eyes always go to the girls. While I love women so much, I also get insanely jealous of them. Sometimes I'll see a girl and I just want to go up to her and grab her and say "Do you have any idea how lucky you are? You're living my dream!"

For me this is not a fetish. Although when I masturbate I always visualize myself as a woman, it's not just about sex. I find so much comfort and pleasure just getting lost my my fantasies and just being...feminine. Just imagining what it would be like and what I would do if I somehow could magically live my life in a new female body. Walking around in a female body and feeling like I've been freed from a prison, like I'm walking on air.

Sorry if I'm boring you and going on too long. Like I said, I'm sure my story isn't unique in the least bit. But I just wonder "What the hell am I?" In some ways I'm male, other ways I'm female, but at my core my heart longs to be female. I'm attracted to women, but I want to BE one. I love women so much, yet I'm so jealous of them. 

It's all so frustrating. It's almost like I'm two people stuffed in one body. One is a boy and the other is a girl and the girl is trying to get out. She's hurting and she's frustrated but there's so little I can do to help her.

We can put a fancy label on it (autogynephilia) but really where does this come from? In your opinion, what do you think causes this?"

The classic  crossdreamer

Here is part of my response to Josie:

"In many ways your story is similar to mine. Indeed, the main ingrediens of a "classic male to female crossdreamer" (I hate the word "autogynephilia") is 

1. An aversion to the rough and tumble play of boys as a child and a preference for girl company
2. Fantasies of being a girl in childhood
3. A mix of stereotypical female and male interests in childhood
4. Erotic fantasies of being a woman from puberty and onwards

This condition is expressed creatively through one or more of the following:

1. Crossdressing
2. Role playing ( for instance through computer games or )
3. Erotic or non-erotic storytelling (short stories, captions or comics)

The "classical" female to male crossdreamers are very much the same, although they love the rough and tumble play of boys and often appear as tomboys as children.

A tentative explanation

I have worked on the Crossdreamer blog for four years now, and started studying the phenomenon in earnest a couple of years before that. In this time I have spoken to a large number of crossdreamers, I have read nearly all the literature and I have been in touch with some of the few experts around. I know believe I have some idea about what causes crossdreaming.

You will find the main arguments on the blog, but here is the short version:

What causes crossdreaming is a very complex phenomenon including biological, environmental, psychological and cultural factors. But even if it is mind-bogglingly  complex, and there is no way science will give as the comprehensive answer in our life time, the core cause isn't necessarily that complicated.

Like you, I do not think crossdreaming can be reduced to a fetish (although it can be expressed through fetishes). And even if many crossdreamers follow the template of the "classic crossdreamer" above, there is to much diversity for there to be one psychological reason (like in a specific childhood trauma).

This leads me to believe there is a biological component to this. It may be genetic or epi-genetic, but it does not have to. Many researchers today believe that both sex identity and sexual orientation is influenced by the amount of hormones the fetus is exposed to in the womb. It could simply be that crossdreamers are outliers on the curves of sexual brain development.

Shades of transgender

I guess you could say there are many shades of transgender, from those that clearly identify as the opposite sex on the one hand (transsexual), through those that refuse to identify with one sex or the other (gender queer) to crossdreamers who identify with their birth sex but nevertheless are fascinated by the idea of being the opposite sex. This variation should be expected if this is caused by the pre-natal hormonal balance. 

I have found that there is a lot of repression going on. Many crossdreamers fear the idea  of being transsexual so much that they are willing to construct the most outlandish theories to avoid that conclusion. This is why some crossdreamers seem to move from one end of the scale to the other throughout their lives. In short: Their defenses crumble. 

This especially applies to "heterosexual" crossdreamers (i.e. woman-loving, gynephilic male bodied crossdreamers,and man-loving androphilic female bodied crossdreamers). They cannot find a home in the gay community and believe that the only way of finding love is to play the role of the heterosexual male or woman. 

This often leads to a kind of "hyper-correction"; the MTF crossdreamers who join the army to toughen up comes to mind. The fact that such tactics do not work, reinforces my belief that this is something more fundamental and biological.

The crossdreamer dilemma

I have studied our FTM female bodied crossdreamer "brothers" lately, and the true dilemma of being a crossdreamers becomes clear: They dream of being a gay man with a effeminate gay man, but the gay men do not want them for the obvious reason that they do not have the right bodies and the right plumbing. 

They do hook up with straight men, but they are not necessarily interested in playing the game of being a submissive gay man. In other words: It is hard for them to find a compatible counterpart.

The same applies to the MTF crossdreamer. Many MTF crossdreamers are good husband material in all ways but one. Many women love them for their sensitivity, their love for children and female interests, their stability, and their love for intimacy and cuddling. But many of these women find it hard  to give  them what they sexually desire: To be the receptive woman during intercourse. 

And I guess most MTF crossdreamers do not even dare to ask for this type of love making, even though it is actually possible. Much of the frustration and suffering of MTF crossdreamers is therefore not complicated (even if crossdreaming is complex): They are never sexually satisfied."

Women's clothes feel right

Josie followed up with the following comment:

"I've done some crossdressing but not much. On one hand, I think my body looks ridiculous in women's clothes so that doesn't make me feel good. On the other hand, without seeing myself, being in women's clothes just feels...right. But I worry about getting caught in them so I don't do it often. 

Role playing is something that I do in fact do. I present myself as a girl online often and pass easily. No one has ever suspected that I wasn't a girl that I know of. I don't have to fake anything. I can just be myself. Sometimes I actually start to forget that I am a guy. It's a great escape. I play the game The Sims as a girl too. Writing stories is something that I've thought about doing but haven't yet.
What you have been saying makes sense. I have a background in psychology. It is fascinating to try understand how much of what shapes us is environmental and how much is biological. I do think there is at least in part a biological component to crossdreamers. I really do feel like it's just the way my mind is wired, and perhaps I am deficient in testosterone. I don't know. I do know that I just have a much easier time identifying with girls than with guys.

An essential part of the self

I don't wish to be rid of this condition. I feel like to deny my femininity is to deny my core self. I'm not unhappy with who I am on the inside. I just feel like I've been dealt a bad hand in life. Is there anything more miserable than not being able to identify with the skin you're in? 

You feel like you're living a lie everyday of your life, but as bad as you want to reveal your true self, no one can see the real you. Ugh! There's nothing wrong with being a guy, but it's just I have no intention of transitioning to a woman however. That's just not a challenge I feel like I'm up for.
You're absolutely right, it can cripple your sex/relationship life. It's easy for me to be friends with girls. I get hugs and love and told how awesome I am. Romance is a different story. I know that I'm a good enough guy and decent enough looking that I can be in a meaningful relationship with a quality women. The roadblocks all exist in my head. 

I really struggle to take things to a romantic level. For two reasons: one, I don't feel like I can be the man she desires. I'm not really a man. Physically yes, mentally no. Two, I know deep down I really want to be the girl in the relationship. I want to be lead, and held, and know. I'm in that situation now. Threre is a girl that I'm working on a relationship with, but I'm having a really hard time moving forward. I'm afraid she's just going to get fed up and move on. I want so badly to tell her the truth about everything, but I'm scared of how she will react. That could be the end of our relationship right there."

Further reading (ADDED March 7):

Finding love as a crossdreamer
Wife of an autogynephiliac asks for help
Autogynephilia and loneliness
Cosmo: The sex life of crossdreamers
Crossdreamer love, on the relationship between male to female and female to male crossdreamers
The loving wife of a crossdresser


  1. I am thrilled to read others thoughts on this. I have been living a very similar experience of my self to what was explained above. I am now moving forward with actually transitioning my gender. It is so interesting how we can experience something so profoundly, and yet have so little tangible information about it. It is because of this, my gender experience has become very intuitive and differs from situation to situation. What has spurred my decision to transition is the awareness that this feeling has taken root, or maybe it has been all along. All of my wellness, my passion and love lies in identifying myself as a woman. That's just a no brainer to me.

  2. I think Jack has voiced the theoretical solution out loud many times - letting crossdreamers and girlfags meet each other. However, I find it incredibly hard to find any active communities of the latter group :( I'm in email correspondence with one amazing f2m crosdreamers and she reported being in an amazingly satisfying relationship with an m2f crosdreamer.

    'Ladies' & 'Gentlemen', the next step seems obvious. It's time to channel our frustration and repressed energy into creating a clean online place for crosdreamers of both poles to find each other. We lso need to do outreach within the f2m community, since they're likely even more marginalized and less aware of whatever that is this thing that is going on with their gender identity.

  3. This is exactly my dilemna although I have at this stage of my life essentially given up on finding a life partner. What I have found thus far is that people like us make for very unconventional lovers as we don't fit into male patterns and often have to imagine ourselves crossdressed or in some female role to achieve orgasm during intercourse. Its a very difficult road wanting to be with women while simultaneously wanting to be like them.

    Searching is often a frustrating and fruitless search so I believe the key is to focus on your own internal happiness and if that ends up attracting a romantic partner then its a bonus. There are after all bisexual women out there but weeding them out can draw lots of energy from living your life in a productive manner.

    I have stopped being apologetic for the way I am and am now moving beyond self acceptance to actually beginning to celebrate my transgender nature.

    I have so much sympathy for josie because I am intimately familiar with her dilemna. It cost me my marriage and countless hours of worry, guilt and shame. In the end no relationship is worth compromising who you are on the inside because the amount of compromise which comes from the wrong pairing can lead to more strife and frustration than that which comes from being alone and lonely.

  4. "There has been a lot of politics on this blog lately"

    Too bad you haven't addressed any of it.

    More laughable propaganda!

  5. I have added a list of other posts on the love life of crossdreamers (or lack thereof).

    I agree, we need to establish some kind of meeting place that actually works.

    The problem is not that FTM and MTF crossdreamers do not develop their own terminology or social signals. The problem is that they do it in isolation.

    Most MTF crossdreamers did not even know that the "girlfags" existed until very recently. How can you find someone you do not believe exist?

    I have a gay friend who says that the only thing lesbians and gay men have in common, is that they have noting in common. But that was enough for them to develop shared symbols and meeting places.

    MTF and FTM crossdreamers actually do have something in common. We should be able to make something work.

    Are there anyone out there with the skills needed to set up a dating site? Or -- alternatively -- are there existing sites that can be used for this purpose.

  6. That would be a good thing jack...I am not one of those with the skills to do it mind you...

  7. Josie and I have similar paths we have traveled. All of that is very much my story. Fear and the consequences of trusting others I think plays a big part in our shyness now that I am in my forties. I still can't talk to women in any way that could lead to more....I just am not wired that way. When most of my peers were fostering those intimate life long relationships, I was in the midst of sending signals by my own female nature that helped make my situation one of never being intimate on any level. It has only been online I have come close to being truly "in a relationship."

  8. @Alexia

    "I was in the midst of sending signals by my own female nature that helped make my situation one of never being intimate on any level."

    Let's not beat about the bush: This Catch 22 situation is hell, and I know, because I have been there.

    There seems to be there are normally only two solutions to this "compatibility"-problem:

    1. You may find someone who are struggling with other problems and who will therefore meet our situation with patience and understanding.

    My girl friend is not a crossdreamer, but she has had a hard journey of her own, which makes it easier for her to understand what it means to be an outsider. Maybe there is an outsider out there for you as well.

    2. Female to male crossdreamers, if we could only identify them.

    (For those of you who do not know Lady Alexia: She has been an active participant of the TG scene for a long time, and has made some great contributions to the crossdreamer community. She has her own blog here:

  9. God I'm finally writing this! I'm a ftm crossdreamer, 22, from Iran and it sucks! here, I have no chance to express myself and really don't know what to do. I can cross-dress just at home!so I spend all day confused, lost and invisible. I read these posts and reverse them to ftm and they really make sense. I was always a normal girl with some weird dreams! I can continue being a girl if they let me to throw away almost all the signs of femininity! here in Iran transgenders are allowed to fully transition if they completely feel like the other sex and homosexuality is illegal!!! so I try to continue,repeating day and night to myself that I'm a girl and end up watching gay movies or porn and dreaming of turning to a boy someday! the man inside me has grown up more and more and wants to come out, he's driving me crazy. I tried to forget about him but...he has made strong muscles I guess! I found a gay boyfriend in internet. exactly my style: submissive,younger,feminine. he assumes me a transgender who needs to transition. I told him that I'm not sure cuz I feel the both genders in me but he says I must accept that I'm a guy.well it really makes me happy but is that the trues???

  10. Welcome Rayka!

    You are definitely not alone. Take a look at the following posts about female to male crossdreamers.

    Iran's policy on transsexual may seem a bit of a puzzle to outsiders, as no one expects the ayatollahs to understand transgender.

    When you look a little closer, however, it becomes apparent that they do not. It is just that they have a very old fashioned view about gay men, believing them to be effeminate "inverts". Surgery makes them women, and then their abominable attraction to men becomes all right.

    There is no room for crossdreamers in such a way of thinking. Indeed, I have Indian friends who say something of the same: There are terms for gay men and transwomen (hijra), but no understanding of crossdressers and crossdreamers.

    In my own country, Norway, the only crossdreamers that are seen (but not understood) are the male to female crossdressers. I don't think people understand there are FTM crossdreamers. There are even lesbians and transmen who would deny their existence.

    So, I guess we just have to go on talking, writing and making ourselves heard. That is hard under the best of circumstances. I have no idea how to do that in Iran.

    Maybe there are other Iranians out there, reading this?

  11. @Rayka

    Hi, I am fellow girlfag from Peru. I guess being one of us in a country like yours must be hard. My heart is with you! Things in my country never were fair for women either. We are still 2nd class citizens here. Sons are still more welcome/loved than daughters. It is still expected that you are submissive and house chores are thought to be your responsibility just for the fact you are a woman. You have to "man up" if you want respect from men and not even then. This is the story of my life. Sometimes the desperation can make you take paths that don't suit you, like transitioning or going for a lesbian relationship. In my case, I sometimes crossdressed in public to show my disgust for the macho culture that is dominant here. I denied my feminity and i engaged in lesbian relationships trying to find release. It was a hard path but then when you find out who you really are, things are easier. Don't deny anything that comes natural to you. Your sexuality, your masculinity and your feminity too. You'll feel at peace with yourself and you'll get to find a balance in your life. Transition ONLY if this is what YOU want, don't let other people decide for you, nobody knows you better than yourself. If you don't feel at ease with the idea, then don't even consider it. People tend to think things in black or white. We are the living proof that nature doesn't. Being accepting with my self, with feminity and masculinity as well has helped me a lot to achieve my own identity. Don't change what you are just because you want to fit. If this gay guy can't see it, then he is not worth your time. I have met wonderful people in this blog/forum (crossdreamers-crossdreaminglife). MTF crossdreamers are the only kind of guys that i have felt in tune with. I am able to fully understand their struggles and viceversa. It is pure understanding regarding sexuality. In fact, it is very satisfying and exciting (MTF crossdreamers are damn sexy). Finding the best match for you goes beyond sexuality although, (there are many factors, compatibility among them) but as long as you don't need to hide who you truly are, things are way easier. Being honest is the best start for any relationship. I really don't know how easy is for you to express yourself in your society, but i'd personally leave for a country that guarantee my freedom of expression. Repression is something really painful. In my case, it led me to think I had an authentic man inside me that was taking over and over. Once i found ways to express my true self, i stared being more accepting with every single side of me, even my feminity (I know, as FTM crossdreamers we tend to deny our feminity in order to benefit our masculine side but this proved to be painful for me too). In yaoi communities you'll find girls like you and me, that share the same dreams and fantasies. Contact me whenever you want!

  12. Jack and Ariadna
    Thank u so much. your words really meant to me. you know the only thing I can do for myself now is to have a label. I can't help thinking about my gender identity day and night and still there's no answer! they say you should be yourself and stop labeling but its all I got to prove my inner masculinity and this confusion makes me depressed all the time. I can accept and deny it over and over a day! I really need to make a solid decision. I am a transgender or just a messy girl?! they say its sth only you can know but actually I can be both! moving to another country is so desirable to me but its not easy at all so it seems like I should keep this as a private sad secret to myself and just keep dreaming or try to forget about it if its possible! how u guys can be sure about urself?

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  14. Josie's experience is almost the same as mine. Although I wasn't happy being a boy, I accepted it. I played with boys' toys like cars and train sets and was happy with those although I might have played with toys if I had had the opportunity. Now I'm older, I have been finding it more difficulty in my gender difference. My girl sense is coming to the fore and the male side is receeding. I have gown to like some aspects of my masculinit being methodical and analytical but I feel more comfortable and confident with the female.

  15. My story is also similar to Josie's. I am further down the line, I've only had one girlfriend and that didn't last long (for other reasons). I've never had anyone since. I'm in my late 30's and becoming disinterested in finding someone. Sure I sit on and watch a parade of prospects go by, but I don't even approach them by email!

    Becoming transsexual is desirable to me. But it's so destructive a step to take without knowing for certain that it's the right choice, and so I find it hard to believe that it's still so under-researched. I sit in the middle going neither way and being miserable and depressed. I make myself more and more busy so I don't give myself the time to face it.

    To me, this is the reality of crossdreaming. I think somewhere in this blog Jack says "crossdreamers will never be satisfied".. you're damn right there!

  16. @Artemissy

    If you wait until the researchers have made up their mind before deciding, you will have to wait long. They know far too little about what is causing this, and there is no concensus.

    In other words: this is something we have to decide on our own, learning from others like us in the process.

    I have for many reasons decided that this is not for me, but I will in no way argue that this is a decision that is the right one for all crossdreamers. In fact, I think many will find that not taking the chance wil cause a lot of pain and regret further down the line.

    This is not only a psychological question about what is right or wrong. It is an existential chocie that ultimately may decide if you are finally allowed to be yourself. Whatever we choose, the price will be high. But not choosing is choosing too.


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