November 8, 2013

When men loving men crossdream

Part 1 of the "Gay" vs. "Straight" Crossdreamers Series.

Crossdreamers get aroused by the idea of being the opposite biological sex.
Feeling sexy, AKA autogynephilia.

It was the existence of crossdreaming male bodied persons who made Dr. Ray Blanchard of Toronto develop his infamous autogynephilia theory, where he argues that (1) male to female crossdressers and transsexual women who love women are of the same kind and (2) none of them are women.

One of the fundamental tenets of the autogynephilia theory is that male bodied persons who are attracted to men (homosexual men and androphilic/man loving trans women) cannot experience crossdreaming fantasies (called "autogynephilic fantasies" by these researchers).

That is: Male bodied people attracted to men can not get aroused by the idea of being a woman -- not even if they are trans.

(I guess it is implied that the same applies to XX lesbians and XY trans men. Female bodied persons are for some bizarre reason often exempt from the pathologization of trans people.)

The main point here seems to be that it is the very arousal from imagining yourself as a man or a woman that marks you as a paraphiliac or a pervert. Gay men and women and heterosexual trans men and women are also considered mentally ill by Blanchard, but then for different reasons.

Being a sexy woman

I have always found the idea that pre-op man-loving (androphilic) trans women do not get turned on by the idea of having a female body strange. After all, how can trans women attracted to men imagine themselves having sex if not as women?

And if they do fantasize about having sex as a woman, wouldn't the very idea of being a sexy woman become arousing by association? After all, women born women experience "autogynephilia". Women's sexual fantasies are full of scenarios where their beauty makes men (and women!) desire them. And yes they get turned on by this very scenario. Read a couple of steamy romance novels, if you do not believe me.

Which leads me back to the main question: Why do not androphilic male bodied gender bending people report crossdreaming fantasies?

The story of jynx

It turns out they do. 

Here is  a comment  over at PsychForums. written by "jynx", which gives one clear example of a gay man getting excited by the idea of being a woman. I am taking the liberty of quoting some of the text here.

I am using the male pronoun as he is identifying as male in the text. He is in his early 20's now, but tells of early childhood experiments in femininity. Please note that English is not his mother tongue:

"When i was 3-4 years old, i put towel my hair. I imagined towel is my girlish hair and i was a girl. I often imitated female characters on tv. My dad reprehended me because of these things so i didn't put towel my hair anymore."

The feminine side of his personality continued to express itself as he god older:

"When i was 5-6-7 years old, i played playstation with a guy. When it was a fight game and included female characters, i always chose a female character. When we played wife-husband games, i was always a wife. But i didn't play barbies, try to wear female clothes or try to damage my penis. But my acts was so femimine. Also, my face had feminine traits. I had big, innocent eyes, red, shining lips like a girl."

So far, this story reads like the stereotypical narrative of the effeminate gay boys of researchers like Zucker, Blanchard and Bailey. But then the story moves in another direction. jynx does what many gynephilic crossdreamers do at an early age. He tries to adapt to the life of a man. He goes on to tell about being bullied for his feminine acts in primary school, and his attempts at trying to act like a guy.

It is absolutely clear from what he tells us, though, that he is clearly sexually attracted to men, unlike the more typical male to female crossdreamer, who is attracted to women.

Attracted to the male form

"I was attracted to only guys since i was 5/6 years old, especially masculine guys. Thinking of kissing a female disgusted me. I masturbated to think only[of] guys."

According to Blanchard & Co, "autogynephiles" may imagining themselves having sex with men, but they are never attracted to the male form. jynx clearly is.

jynx says that he did not do "classic masturbation", as it caused him pain. Instead he rubbed himself against the bed (a kind of masturbation preferred by many crossdreamers at this age).

"I only did this masturbation when i was dressed (underwear, tracksuit). I was only sexually aroused watching straight porn, man/woman kissing. Man/man kissing, sex didn't turn on me so much. Because i liked imagining myself a female."

I am sure there are those that will argue that him watching straight porn proves that he is not androphilic (man-loving) at all, but an "autogynephile" pretending to be attracted to men.

The fact is, however, that watching straight porn make perfect sense if you are a androphilic transsexual woman. As such, you are heterosexual, and straight porn should turn you on.

Turned on by being female

But is he crossdreaming for real? Or is he just enjoying the idea of having sex as a woman?

To tell the truth, I find it hard to understand the difference, but for the "autogynephilia"-tribe this is very important. You have to get turned on by the idea of having a female body.

He does:

"Sometimes i imagined myself having woman breast and vagina and wished i was a female. I really don't like anal sex. I thought I wish i was female and have vaginal sex."

One might argue that this paragraph is ambiguous. His fantasy of having a female body is a practical one as he finds gay anal sex painful. But given that this is written in the context of him having sexual fantasies of being a woman with men, this looks very much  like crossdreaming to me.

Failing the stereotypes

The myth is that drag queens dress up as
women in order to violate gender roles. It is
all about art, apparently. Really?
Photo: Karen Struthers
He continues to stray  from the script of Dr. Ray Blanchard, the creator of the autogynephilia theory.

As an androphilic (man-loving) effeminate male or transsexual woman, he should behave according to feminine stereotypes, also as regards mannerisms and interests.  He does not. Instead he follows the script given to many "autogynephiles".

"İ entered puberty very earlier. I became hairy and had a beard very earlier. My feminine face turned into a very masculine, macho face. But i still felt somewhat a girl. i didn't like my hairy body and beard. I didn't have a problem wearing men clothes except suit, pants and tie. I also didn't interest in women clothes, makeup, shopping, fashion. I liked wearing plainly. T-shit and jeans. That's all."

This paragraph reminds me of what trans activist Julia Serano tells us in her book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. The fact that she did not lived up to the feminine stereotypes did not make her less of a woman.

In spite of not behaving like your typical crossdresser, jynx does identify with traits considered more feminine in our culture:

"Since i was [in] elementary school, my voice was neither very feminine or very masculine. But i didn't use any cusses when i was talking. Using cusses felt me weird. I also didn't interest football, basketball, cars. Now, i asked some people i am feminine or not. They all say i am not feminine. Even when i say i am attracted to males, they are surprised. But i was very confused my sexual identity in my whole life time. Maybe i suppressed my feminine side since i was bullied in primary school. Maybe i also wanted to wear woman clothes and be a real woman but i suppressed it too. I don't know."

Like many of us, jynx tries desperately to find a template that can fit his life, but he does not find it.
By the way, the fact that he avoids wearing women's clothes does not mean that he is not a crossdreamer. Many crossdreamers, myself included, do not crossdress. The reason Blanchard gave up classifying "autogynephilia" as a fetish in the first place, was exactly because he found too many non-crossdressing "autogynephiles".

Gay male or straight female?

"Do you think am i a gay male," jynx asks, "or a straight female in a man's body?"

I cannot answer that question, as jynx does not fit well into the pigeon holes provided by society.  But it is clear to me that jynx is a crossdreamer.

What this tells me is that any attempts at sorting trans people into two distinct categories in the way Blanchard and others do is impossible. Since sex and gender are the end result of a complex interplay between genetic, hormonal, personal and cultural factors, diversity is what you should expect to see. Diversity is -- in fact -- what we see.

In my next post I will look at female to male lesbian crossdreamers, before looking at the sexual expressions of man-loving male to female trans people.

Next: On crossdreaming lesbians and sexy trans women

[One paragraph and one sentence was added to this blog post a few hours after publication].

This blog post is part of the following series:
  1. When men loving men crossdream
  2. On crossdreaming lesbians and sexy trans women
  3. Autogynephilia: Bad Science Revisited
  4. What explains the difference between the two types of MTF transgender?


  1. Jack it is no secret that regardless of your orientation, dysphorics crossdream at some point in their lives. This is a well established fact from the studies and from the correspondance I have personally had with androphilic transsexuals. Typically it is often denied or underplayed due to fear that the patient desiring approval for surgery might be seen as less of a worthy candidate for transition.

    Once they transition then they just have normal sex or masturbate as women who love men and that's the end of the story. People like me who love women and don't transiton got labelled as perverts by Blanchard because we get turned on by the idea of being women in just the very same way.

    Blanchard does not treat androphilic transsexuals any better however because to him they're all men anyway but the point is that this is a discredited argument and is not a barrier to transition for anyone but rather how strong the dysphoria is.

  2. Tank you Joanna, any information you can provide to this effect is most welcome.

    I have many gay friends, but do not -- unfortunately -- know that many androphilic trans women. And I have found that the only efficient way of fighting this bigotry is by providing facts.

    Not that I expect Blanchard and Lawrence to see the light. They have already invested to much prestige in their theory.

    My point is rather to make crossdreamers see the theory for what it is: old fashioned sexism in a scientific wrapping.

    By the way. One of my gay male friends told me -- after several bottles of wine -- that in his next life he wanted to be reborn as a farmer's wife with big breasts. This was clearly a deep felt desire for him.

    When I later asked him about crossdreaming among gay men, he went successfully over to another topic. This was a secret that belonged to the tribe, apparently. The gay community has developed some very strong taboos against female identification.

    Still, that conversation started me looking for more examples. I have even gone through studies of the sexuality of gay men, but I have so far found nothing about crossdreaming.

  3. @Jack

    "Still, that conversation started me looking for more examples. I have even gone through studies of the sexuality of gay men, but I have so far found nothing about crossdreaming"

    One of the interesting traits of very effiminate gay men is that they allow themselves the open luxury of exhibiting their full plumage of femininity without fear whereas the average heterosexual male will vehemently attempt to hide it. This is how I dealt with my feminine desires all my life.

    At this stage however I no longer deny them and dont feel guilty or negatively towards embracing these desires when I am out as Joanna. I am that much happier for it in fact.

    The fact that I embrace this part of myself need not mean I need to transition. it only means that I allow myself a fuller range of gender expression that I previously denined myself due to social taboo which is itself an artificial construct.

  4. It was pretty neat hearing Jynx's story, and seeing how complex his life is. When I have tried to identify myself, I find I don't completely fit into one thing as well as I would like. It's calming to see that there is nothing wrong with complexity. There are parts of me that I consider gender-neutral, parts that are cross-dreaming, and parts that are homosexual male, though after all I've just said I wonder if the term gay and homosexual should be thrown out and replaced with words that describe your attraction to a certain gender without specifying your own gender. Anyways I always enjoy reading your articles and I look forward to reading the articles you plan on writing in this series.

  5. @Flexor

    "I wonder if the term gay and homosexual should be thrown out and replaced with words that describe your attraction to a certain gender without specifying your own gender."

    I use the words androphilic and gynephilic for this, but they are very technical and I have to explain them over and over again when I use them.

    And yes, I agree, respect for diversity is the key.

  6. @Jack,
    I would like to tell you something important regarding sexuality. This is also something I have discussed with my old friend Natalie and she has agreed with this viewpoint.
    I believe sexuality is not just about external attraction to someone or about physical act of sexual intercourse. Freud believed that our sexual libido is the origin of many creative aspects of life. Infact,many things we find visually or aesthetically stimulating under a non-sexual context can sometimes turn sexual if we are on a hormonal rage at certain stages of life, and this applies to men,women as well as trasgenders,ie., basically to all kinds of humans.

    As such,if a person is not physically attracted to any gender, he or she can still experience a heightened rich internal libido/sexuality and may not be "asexual". Consequently, what you point out about the "gay male crossdreamer" may also equally apply to someone who in common western parlance would be thought of as an "asexual crossdreamer" because that person is asexual in the sense of not having physical attraction to a person, but could otherwise have a very rich internal sexual libido.
    This is the basic reason why such an overwhelmingly active component of life should never have been put into such boxes as "hetero","homo", "bi" etc. If at hetero versus homo spectrum exists,it is only along the external sexual orientation rather than the internal. Because, external sexual orientation is more of which body you are attracted to,which is something of an outside factor. But the internal sexuality cannot be categorized into hetero,homo polarities because it is concerned with the self such as desire to be sexy etc.
    Our internal sexuality is simply an enhancement or extension of our other creative mental sensibilities that were already wired in our brain since childhood. For the crossdreamer,a significant part of his creativity is his internal heightened sense of femininity (in whatever forms be it) and so,regardless of his external sexual orientation (hetero,homo,bi etc),it stands to reason that his internal orientation will be along similar lines. Maybe the fantasies will not be totally same because the external component of the orientation will differ, but the internal components are likely to be similar.
    So the gay male crossdreamer is likely to be aroused thinking of himself as feminine sexy and desired by a man while the gynephilic crossdreamer will see himself the same way except that he will feel delighted about being taken by a woman.

  7. Continued....
    So,this actually means it is this internal component of one's sexuality that could be a indicator of a person's gender orientation. What people like Blanchard and Bailey et-al have done is that they have concluded a person's gender based on his external component of sexuality and that is likely to be a wrong idea because external orientation is always about some other person and it does not define what you are internally but what you feel about some other person.

  8. That said however, just because a male sees himself or gets excited by imagining himself as feminine or female-like in certain sexual situations, does not necessarily indicate he has gender dysphoria or he is transgendered.The reason is that certain external factors such as the object of his external sexual orientation could influence how he sees himself relative to that person. For example a gay male might feel he needs to attract a man as a woman as that is the only way a man could desire another male. A lesbian might similarly feel ore like a man if she wishes to attract a woman who she feels is drawn to only men or masculinity.

  9. @abhirup

    " So the gay male crossdreamer is likely to be aroused thinking of himself as feminine sexy and desired by a man while the gynephilic crossdreamer will see himself the same way except that he will feel delighted about being taken by a woman."

    Distinguishing between an internal sexuality on the one hand and the external orientation to men, women or both on the other hand makes sense to me.

    This would also explain the confusion of MTF crossdreamers whose fundamental orientation is towards women, but who nevertheless fantasize about being with men. The fantasy of being with men could be an answer to an internal desire to be an attractive woman on the one hand, and the urge to be the receptive part during intercourse.

    But then again, there may be other explanations for this as well. Maybe the crossdreamer was bisexual from the start, but has suppressed this side of him.

  10. @Jack,
    It is not necessary that a person has to be PHYSICALLY attracted to men to enjoy sex with a man. There are certainly other aspects of such a sexual act which the crossdreamer or the MTF transwoman enjoys. Either it is the enjoyment of being submissive in the sexual act, or it could also be something else such as the desire to be validated as a woman. But the reasons are not known clearly and could well vary from person to person. Besides, there are lesbians (XX lesbian) who enjoy gay male porn for some kind of similar reasons.

  11. Women do not experience autogynephilia. A standard autogynephilic situation is getting an erection while cross dressing. Do you really believe women have corresponding experience while changing into their clothes? Do you really think women are aroused simply by the fact they have female anatomy or wear female clothing? You must read what Blanchard actually wrote. His examples are illustrative. One autogynephilic masturbated to the thought of himself as a women sewing in the company of other women. Or another to the thought of himself menstruating. I really doubt you would find the like fantasies in women. It is true that women have sexual fantasies. But the fantasy revolves around the sexual relation. Of course she imagines herself as a women. Why would she do otherwise? But it is not the simple fact of her femaleness that she finds erotic, but rather her relation as a female to the partner about whom she is fantasizing.

  12. //Of course she imagines herself as a women. Why would she do otherwise?//

    Exactly, and that is the point. A woman can get turned on by "feeling sexy", be perceived as sexy, presenting as desirable, and there is nothing narcissistic about it. It is healthy, natural and as it should be.

    MTF trans people grow up in a different setting. With a few exceptions, few of them are allowed to express themselves as a desirable woman, to have sex as a woman. The same natural feeling that leads many women to explore their sexuality in a welcoming social setting, forces many MTF trans people into social isolation, and that is how the "autougynephiliacs" of Blanchard are created.

    The fact is that most of the MTF crossdreamers I know do dream of having sexual and romantic relationships to people "out there", and their fantasies reflect this. It is much harder for them to make the sexual part a reality, however.

    As for fantasies about knitting and menstruation. Do you put up the same strict rules for "correct" fantasies for non-transgender people as well? I can assure you, the human imagination knows no boundaries when it comes to sex, and if these fantasies prove that these people are pathological, the majority of humanity are mentally ill.

    These particular fantasies are actually quite rare among MTF crossdreamers, but they are easy to explain. If you have been raised in a social context where knitting represents female companionship, dreaming about being accepted into that community becomes understandable. Menstruation is a symbol of having a healthy female body that can give birth to children. Many MTF crossdreamers long for that possibility, even if they know it is impossible. In both cases -- social inclusion and becoming a mother -- the fantasies opens up the possibility of having a sex life as a woman. There is no mystery here.

    Blanchard contributes to the very social order that causes the suffering of transgender people. Don't be a part of that bigotry.

  13. No no. The key term is "idea." A woman's sexuality is not mediated through the IDEA of herself as a woman. She IS a woman. A heterosexual male is not. That's the point. That's why these situations have erotic charge for him, precisely because he is turned on by being feminized. You can't feminize what is already feminine. Thus, it makes little sense to suppose a woman would derive similar erotic gratification from feminization fantasies. Ultimately, it's an empirical question; but the question you are asking is problematic for these very reasons.

    Do you suppose that if a "woman" were transplanted into a male body, her identity would manifest as erotic arousal to feminization? If so, how do you explain homosexual transsexuals? They manifest more femininity than non-homosexuals and don't (as a general rule) manifest autogynephilia.

    Really Blanchard proposed the concept to explain a curious phenomenon: namely why straight, conventionally masculine men would want to undergo HRT and SRS. Clearly it is not a question of gender variance, as it is in the case of homosexuals wishing to undergo similar treatment. So what's motivating them? To claim they are a woman on the "inside" is empirically unsound. We have no way to test such a claim. All we have are objective assessments of their behavior. Do they walk, talk, think, gesture, etc like a woman? Non homosexual transsexuals generally don't. Hence, it strikes a lot of people as curious they should want to become women.

    Ultimately I think everybody deserves to be sexually fulfilled. Sex is very important to a person's psychological health. And it's unfair to prevent these individuals from finding sexual gratification the way they do. It is also unfair to ridicule or humiliate them. But we should try to understand why people do the things they do. Simply put. This theory makes sense. I have yet to encounter a theory that more adequately explains their behavior.

    As for their supposed rarity, that is not true. They are a near universal occurrence in non-homosexual transsexuals.

  14. @Anonymous,

    Let me make this perfectly clear: No one who supports the theory of Blanchard is welcome here. Anyone who says that a gynephilic trans woman is a heterosexual man is a criminal in my book, and should stay far away from crossdreamer, transgender or LGBT spaces.

    I will respond to your comment, though, not for your benefit, but for the benefit of other readers.

    //Do you suppose that if a "woman" were transplanted into a male body, her identity would manifest as erotic arousal to feminization? If so, how do you explain homosexual transsexuals? They manifest more femininity than non-homosexuals and don't (as a general rule) manifest autogynephilia.//

    Only transphobic people use the term "homosexual transsexuals" to describe trans women who are attracted to men. They are heterosexual women, not homosexual men. Blanchard & Co uses this kind of terminology deliberately to invalidate trans women. There is no reason that the rest of us should do so too.

    I have been in touch with a lot of androphilic MTF transgender persons (transitioned or not) who experience crossdreaming. Blanchard's own data confirms this, and the only way he can get around that fact is by saying that non-androphilic MTFs lie when they report no crossdreaming, while androphilic MTFs never lie.

    This is pure nonsense. Androphilic trans women have often a background from the gay and LGBT communities, and are therefore more likely better schooled in how to please the gatekeepers than the gynephilic ones. If any group of trans people would have the common sense to lie to a transphobic person like Blanchard, the MTF androphilic group would be the one.

    That does not mean that I believe that most of them are lying when they say that they have not been experiencing crossdreaming (although I would not blame them if they did). They are simply interpreting both the question and their own experience differently.

    The fact that so many of them have a background from the gay male community means that they have had more room for expressing both their sexuality and their true gender. This means that many of them can go beyond dreaming, to acting. They can have sex with men and get their identity (or at least their femininity) confirmed that way. As soon as that happens the idea of being your target sex will become less arousing in and for itself.

    In this respect they experience the world more like most non-transgender women will do. Crossdreaming is not necessary, because they are able to live out their sexuality in real life.

    Even those androphilic trans women who are not able to live out their sexuality, do at least find some confirmation in the traditional gender stereotypes. They love men, as women should do according to culture.

    The gay male community has become increasingly hostile to the expression of femininity in male-assigned people over the years, but nevertheless, it remains much more tolerant than cis male communities. In other words: The androphilic MTF are much less likely to repress their femininity and their identity than the gynephilic MTF transgender persons.


  15. (cont.)

    Transgender MTFs who love women often go to extremes to repress their female and/or feminine side -- feminine gender expressions included -- because they are told that women will not love them if they do not live up to the masculine stereotypes. Not only do they therefore appear less feminine than the androphilic ones; they sometimes overcompensate by choosing hyper-masculine expressions and interests.

    What Blanchard fails to mention, however, is that many of these MTFs, whether they transition or not, continuously express stereotypical "feminine" traits (compassion, introversion, peace-making etc), but never the ones that might lead others to suspect them of being effeminate or gay, because by doing so, they believe they will condemn themselves to a life of loveless loneliness. Blanchard cherry picks the feminine traits that seems to confirm his theory and disregards the rest.

    Blanchard's autogynephilia theory is a pseudo-science of the worst kind: It is part of a complex of cultural ideas that causes the suffering it pretends it is trying to alleviate.

    The banal stereotypes of this system (all gay men are effeminate/no straight man can express femininity) are causing the repression, self-hatred and shame experienced by gynephilic and bisexual MTF trans people. Their loneliness and isolation, which are caused by people like Blanchard, is then given as proof of them being perverts.

    //Ultimately I think everybody deserves to be sexually fulfilled. Sex is very important to a person's psychological health. And it's unfair to prevent these individuals from finding sexual gratification the way they do. //

    I find this comment extremely patronizing and offensive. You belong to an intellectual tradition that forces people like me deep into the closet, and now you feign some kind of sympathy, giving me room -- far back in the closet -- to live out a sexuality you think of a perversion. Now, that is sick.

    Stay away from this blog. Further comments from you will be deleted.

  16. AGP isn't "feeling sexy". Its an autosexuality with a twist. The twist being aroused by oneself as the opposite sex in this case an AMAB being aroused by being female.
    Framing it as "just feeling sexy" does a disservice to autosexuals and their experiences both cis and trans.
    We also don't know of autosexuality is "innate" like homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality or asexuality or if Autosexuality is developed, nor do we know of any sexuality is innate or developed.
    However autosexuality whether alone or accompanied by other sexual orientations is valid and not mearly "feeling sexy/attractive/hot".
    That's as reductive as saying AGP/crossdreaming is nothing but a fetish and therefore invalidates a person sexual or gender identity


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