November 29, 2013

A Creative Crossdreamer Vocabulary, from "Affirmation" to "Crosswaves"

Language is power. It can set you free. It can help you understand who you are. By coining new words or reinterpreting old ones we make the invisible visible.
Crossdreams. Photo: IT Stock

For crossdreamers -- that is men and women who fantasise about being the opposite sex -- this is extremely important, because there are no words to describe their lives. Or, if there are words and narratives, they do not capture their own experience.

The term "crossdreamer" has been my attempt to establish a new word untainted by the  attempts made by some sexologists and psychiatrists at turning our being into an illness, or the common sexist bigotry that says that any man or woman who imagine him or herself as the opposite sex must be a pervert. To a certain extent this strategy has worked well, even if we always have to relate ourselves to the prejudices of the day.

Most communities, strictly or loosely defined, develop a more nuanced vocabulary to help them describe their own struggles and victories. According to Ole Henrik Magga the Northern Sami people of Scandinavia have 1000 words for reindeer. I do not think we need 1000 words for crossdreaming, but maybe we could test a few?

Based on comments and posts made by crossdreamers over the last five years or so, I have made  list of terms that may help crossdreamers interpret their own lives. The point is not necessarily that we are to use these words in our everyday discussions. My hope is that they will get us thinking.

I am planning to turn this dictionary into an e-book.

What I would love to see from you are comments that describe a crossdreamer feeling, experience or idea that might help other crossdreamers understand who they are in a better way. And who knows?Mmaybe we can even get others to see crossdreaming in a clearer light.

Below I have included my first proposals to get us going. Entries marked by an asterisk  are coined by me.


A crossdreamer is affirmed when is or her crossdreaming is recognized. There are three levels of crossdreamer affirmation:

Level 1: You realize that you are not the only one having such feelings. At this point any recognition might help, even if it by someone who invalidates you.

Level 2: You meet people who accepts you for who you are, and who do not try to discredit you as some kind of freak. You realize that you are just another variation in the great wheel of Life, and that there are millions of crossdreamers out there: women and men, gay and straight, young and old.

Level 3: You manage to affirm your own being and to love yourself as the one you are.


The fear of ambiguity leads to ambiviolence.
Photo: Robert van den Eijk
Sex identity, gender roles and sexual orientation are  fundamental parts of our belief systems, and they are policed by strong taboos and tough penalties for those who dare to challenge these beliefs.

Ironically, it is very often those that have doubts about their own sexuality and sex  identity who become the strongest upholders of orthodox beliefs. It is as if they want to control their own  ambiguity by forcing others into the pigeonholes of their narrow minds. This is, for instance, why you find so many gay preachers persecuting homosexuals.

Crossdreamers are often victims for this kind of ambiviolence. The male to female crossdreamers are harassed for being sissies in school. They are ridiculed for being sexual perverts when they grow up. They are penalized for not living up to the ideals of "the real man".  Moreover, they internalize the contempt of others, becoming their own tormentors.

The female to male crossdreamers may hide under the more positively loaded term "tomboy" when young, but even they may be scorned for their so-called  lack of femininity.

Creative crossdreaming 

The German resarcher Uli Meyer coined the term "creative transvestitism". I have adapted it as "creative crossdreaming" which means more or less the same.

Crossdreamers use their artistic creativity to express their crossdreamer self, to understand themselves and to engage in crossdreamer erotic fantasies. The Japanese female to male crossdreamer novelist Sakakibara Shihomi once said  that her creative work is the only possibility of fulfilling her libido.

Among the female to male creative crossdreaming genres we find yaoi/boy's love and slash. Male to female crossdreamers may write short stories, TG captions and comics. Among other forms of creative crossdreaming we find online role playing and gaming, as well as cosplay.

Creative crossdreaming is also found among more well  known artists. Pedo Almodóvar's movie The Skin I Live In, can easily be interpreted as a crossdreamer fantasy. Ernest Hemingway was most certainly a crossdreamer.


Most crossdreamers can tell you about the relief they felt when they understood they were not the only one having such feelings, and that there are -- in fact -- millions of crossdreamers out there.

In the Western hemisphere male to female crossdressers started formalised crossbonding by establishing newsletters and clubs from the 1950s onward. The organisations of the time were unfortunately often both  homophobic and transphobic. Later on some crossdreamers got engaged in the development of the LGBT movement (like the female to male crossdreamer Lou Sullivan).

In the early 21st century crossdreamers began finding each other online when searching for information about "autogynephilia". Lately there have been established blogs, sites and discussion forums for crossdreamers, this site being one of them.


A person who gets aroused by the idea of being the other sex (relative to his or her birth sex). Crossdreamers is a subcategory under the wider umbrella term "transgender", which denotes a wide variety of gender varience, including crossdressers, drag queens, gender queer, and transsexuals.

Some crossdreamers identify with their birth sex, others with their target sex (i.e. the sex they dream of becoming). Some crossdreamers crossdress, others do not. Crossdreamers may be male bodied or female bodied. Their sexual orientation varies.


Many male to female crossdreamers crossdress. They put on female clothing in order to get some emotional and/or sexual release or to express a side of themselves that is forbidden their male persona. Some may even do so in public.

Female to male crossdreamers may also crossdress, and since they are allowed to wear "male" clothing, they more easily get away with it, i.e. people do not think of them as crossdressers.

To what extent all crossdressers crossdream (i.e. get aroused from the idea of being the opposite sex)  is a matter of debate. The argument is that "homosexual" crossdressers (i.e. those sexually attracted to people of their own assigned birth sex) are not sexually aroused by dressing up as their target sex. Hence drag queens and drag kings are not considered crossdreamers. I, however, fail to see how a butch lesbian going to a party packing will not -- in one way or the other -- be excited by her own manly appearance. Really!


The act or fantasy of doing something regarded as feminine (in the case of men) and masculine (in the case of women). The act itself is  culturally defied, and will vary from culture to culture and from time period to time period.
At the moment you realize that the crossdresser or
crossenacter is actually trying to find a way of expressing
a side of his/her psyche, the similarities
between his/her  testing of gender expression, and
the ones of kids, teenagers and fashion conscious
adults become obvious. (Photo: LUNAMARINA)

In her book Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive, Julia Serano points out that this kind of enacting is common among all people, trans or non-trans:

"It must be said that cissexuals [i.e. non-transsexuals] also emulate the behaviors of cissexual women and men. This is perhaps most obvious in children and teens who are in the process of learning how to act according to societal gender norms. Cissexual gender imitation also occurs in adults -- in fact, it's precisely what fashion trends and appearance-oriented advertisement rely upon."

Women oohing and aaahing over a pretty pink dress are considered normal, while  male to female crossdressera are called pervert for doing the same thing. People seem to find it hard to understand that at least parts of his psyche is similar to theirs. For trans women this should be obvious.

By the way, male to female crossdressers/crossenacters are often ridiculed for dressing up badly or acting out stereotypes. People fail to understand that while non-trans women get their gender expression experiments affirmed ("You are such a pretty princess!") and corrected ("Go easy on the mascara there, kiddo!"), the crossdresser gets nothing but negative feedback.

This is actually somewhat easier for female to male crossdressers (lesbian butch or androphilic girfags), as our culture has developed a loophole for women who want to wear masculine clothing. That does not mean that their lives are easy, though. Far from it!


A deep and intense feeling of grief and sorrow from that comes from the realization that your real life is  in some way misaligned with your inner life. Crossgrief often follow after soaring, i.e. the feeling of joy that follows from seeing the beauty of a woman (in the case of gynephilic, woman-loving, male to female crossdreamers) or a man (in the case of androphilic, man-loving, female to male ones).

Male to female crossdreamers often report that watching a beautiful woman make them painfully aware of the fact that they are not one.

Frequent bursts of crossgrief may be a sign of dysphoria.

Crossdresser (photo Discovod)


The male to female crossmopolitan identifies as a man, and has a good relationship with his own male body. He thrives in the traditional assertive male role as well as the more feminine caring role. For him his feminization fantasies are sexual spice and a way of getting in touch with his feminine side. He will feel no desire to transition for real.

Similarly the female to male crossmopolitan may love a good yaoi comic where dominant gay men have sex effeminate gay men, but she feels no need to become either of them in real life.

Crossmoplitians must not be confused with false crossmopolitans, crossdreamers who suppress gender dysphoria.


The intensity of a crossdreamers fantasies will vary over time. During the lulls they may feel close to "normal". The lulls always pass, however, to be replaced by surges.


  1. Jack this is all very positive and I think we need to feel bolstered by the support we get from sites like yours and others.

    I know in my own case I have been feeling whole for the first time in my life and the spin offs in other areas of my life have been nothing short of dramatic.

    Fact is I am creative and artistic as well as a scientist and this particular facet of myself is just another component to what makes me tick.

    I have been seeing a psychologist lately just to be able to talk general life issues with and he favours the idea that we are all unique beings on this planet and your left arm represents the things society demands and the things we are taught we must do while the right arm is who you are inside as a person. The key to life is blending those two sides in the right mixture in order to be a balanced and whole human being.

    I was also mentioning to him lately about Blanchard and the DSM and he cares nothing about that. He wants to know if I'm happy and content with myself and for the first time I can answer fully and assertively that I am.

    Who we are as unique human beings is shaped by so many factors and one must be true to oneself.

    Crossdressing is simply one facet of who I am but it does not define me. This is something that the priest who married my wife and I told me when I revealed to him my secret. It didn't make any difference to him and nether has it made much difference to my friends, family, my children or my wonderful life partner.

    Well done.

  2. @Mitchell

    "I hadn't thought about how I criticized some as not looking enough like, or dressing enough like normal women tend to -- but if I were to do it, I really wouldn't want to go mainstream either, or follow fads. I'd want to be original, and creative, but then wouldn't be able to simultaneously look like women tend to... quite the obstacle... a wall of prejudice really"

    Find your own style that makes you happy. As I relaxed more and more in public my own innate sense of style in how I dress and present started to become very defined.

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  4. Thanks to your blog, I can safely say I am at least a level 1 affirmation, level 2 is a little iffy, since the people I have come out to as being a crossdreamer either are not around much to talk with or say that they are ok with me being that way, yet seem distant to the subject. For example, like not wanting to help with make-up or help shopping for cloths, saying I should be able to do it on my own. Seems like I've gotten more advise about shaving my legs from saying I'm curious to friends who don't know this side of me, then saying I want to know what it feels like, to friends that do know, again saying I should be able to figure it out on my own. I also find it interesting how the crossdreamer side of me can be sexually stimulate by thoughts and artist interpretations of man turning into women (comics and movies), yet also be intellectually stimulated without being sexually stimulated by things like articles on trans* issues or non-sexual comics that have trans* characters like Khaos Komix or Shades of A. Your vocabulary looks very good so far, and I can't wait to see more of it

  5. @Flexor

    Maybe I should come up with at term for the importance fiction and movies have for the self discovery of crossdreamers?

  6. @Jack Molay

    That sounds like a great idea and I remember the first time the thought of possibly changing genders came from seeing commercials for the movie Dr Jekyll and Ms Hyde. 10-15 years later after figuring out that those thoughts aren't going to go away (this was before I knew of terms like Tran* or crossdreaming) I search, found and bought a copy, watched it for the first time.

  7. @Mitchell

    "I bought three new jean jackets today. I look great in them"


  8. @Mitchell,

    Over at the Healing from Crossdressing I guess the male to female crossdreamer is considered the one doing false representation.

    But if I understand you correctly, you are referring to the male to female crossdreamer who does NOT represent as a woman, right? So the false representation you are talking about is you hiding your true, female, side from others.

    I am not sure this is so much a sin against others (or God, for that matter), as a "sin" against that female side. I certainly commit that "sin" every day and suffer from it.

    This also leads to what I would call "misaffirmation" (a variation of the term "affirmation") found in this blog post. Since I am so good at hiding her, I get constantly affirmed as "the good man", which does me little good at all.

  9. @Mitchell

    "It has been bothering me, and is a blow to my sense of integrity. The idea that I'm hiding, and misrepresenting, and am in fact reaping the benefits of seeming to be normal -- and only fear losing this. Being treated differently. It is such a difficult, and brave thing to present yourself honestly"

    This is something I do even more than either of you as some contacts I know only see Joanna and think se is a woman.

    I do feel its misrepresenting yet I don't do it to harm or to deliberately deceive as much as to feed that part of my soul that needs nourishment. I had originally tried to deceive to see to what degree I would succeed in passing as a female and once I had succeeded beyond my expectations it was too late to go back with some of these people.

    Do I feel I am hurting them in some way? No I do not since I am being entirely myself only in different wrapping and don't lie about any fact of my life other than my gender.

    Nevertheless I have decided not to increase my contact list as Joanna any further in order to propagate this charade any further.

    Keep in mind that the idea of sinning has to harm you and some other person and has to be a deliberate act to injure.

    I am a spiritual person but not a religious fundamentalist so I have trouble seeing how I am sinning by meeting these people for coffee and chatting.

  10. @Mitchell

    "I was somewhat struct with the idea of crossdressing being a sin because it is false representation."

    I personally think it's a sin to not be yourself. You can't help who you are. And most of us know that trying to bottle all this inside yourself just leads to pain and trouble. So the real sin is trying to maintain a false facade to make others comfortable at the expense of our own sanity.


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  12. @Thorin25

    "Now instead of crossdressing and letting out real parts of myself, I try to integrate those real parts of myself into my regular male identity, even if that makes me look or act a bit different than the stereotypical male of our society. And then of course, the negative things about myself, whether in my male-self, or female feeling part of self, are things that need to be worked on as I grow into a more mature less selfish, prideful, etc. person."

    That's what I've learned too. It's been a major part of making me much better as an individual.


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