February 10, 2014

Man or woman or both? (The Rayka & Jack Dialogue 2)

Last year I had a very interesting email conversation with Rayka, a young Iranian girlfag and female to male crossdreamer. This is part two of our edit of that conversation. Part 1 can be found here.

If anyone have doubted the existence of female to male crossdreamers, this conversations should end that misconception.
Adam Lambert, girlfag icon.

In this part we discuss to what extent childhood experiences and hormones may shape our crossdreaming, and how to find word that can be used to describe who we are.

(Apropos words: A crossdreamer is someone who gets excited by the idea of being or becoming the other sex. A girlfag is female bodied person with a strong affinity to gay male culture and who may imagine herself being a gay man with a gay man).

What causes crossdreaming: Childhood, hormones?

I just wanted to know more about the theories about social and psychological causes of crossdreaming. I heard that getting raped at childhood might cause this condition. Well I experienced this! They say for a female, being raped may cause her hate her femininity so she wants to be a boy cause it feels more secure and less vulnerable! 

And there's also my hormonal problem. My body produce more testosterone than normal and causes some problems. Once my mom told the doctor that I'm so boyish and she said many girls with this problem are like that. As I read, it's also so common among FTM [female to male] transsexuals! 

I wonder whether this problem makes me boyish or me being boyish causes this problem! Something else: I have a butch lesbian sister! So many variations in a family, aren't there? But I have read somewhere that it actually makes sense, like, it's something in the family's genes!

Childhood crossdreaming

Illustration  of Iranian woman, based on photo
by Harris Shiffman. This is not Rayka, but
she could have been.
Childhood crossdreaming huh? Reading the trans people stories, I always see that they knew it in their childhood, but,well,I wasn't aware of this until about about [a couple of] years ago.

But I remember that I always (and right now) imagined the life of a boy (which I then realized was me!). I have  liked feminine boys since an early age, but don't remember if it was before that abuse incident or not.

Sex identity versus gender identity

You write: "I guess I am 'gender queer', but 'sex woman', if you see what I mean."

Exactly the same here (a male sex but an androgynous one); that's why I said I'm not transsexual. But, you know, I actually would like to transition to some extent. I always dream about it: top surgery and a low dose of hormones that gives me a deeper voice!

What irritates me the most is the idea that maybe my identification is not true; I just can’t be sure about anything…

Hey, seriously, why are FTMs  so much less visible than MTFs [male to female crossdreamers]?!

More on what causes crossdreaming

 I am truly sorry to hear that you have been through such a horrible ordeal. I cannot even begin to imagine what that does to you.

There are many psychologists that point to childhood abuse when trying to explain this.

My problem with this kind of thinking is that you can explain anything with everything. I had a dominating and abusive mother who hated men; ergo I try to please her by trying to become like her? I have also seen MTF crossdreamers explain their conditions by arguing that their abusive fathers made them want to be a woman (in order to escape his harsh upbringing).  Some have even argued that the young boy feels sorry for his mother's lack of a penis, and rectifies this by becoming a woman with a penis!!!

I guess some of this could be true, and that explanations like these may make sense to some of those involved, but there is no way for us to control the facts. Besides, most kids do not become crossdreamers, in spite of them having a dysfunctional childhood. Moreover, the diversity of crossdreamer life stories leads me to believe the cause is found somewhere else, although your personal life story will color the way you experience and express your crossdreaming.

I have heard of both chromosomal and hormonal factors causing gender variance, but if this is the case in your life, I guess the hormones comes first, and the crossdreaming after. I have not heard of crossdreaming causing hormonal disturbances. I did have my testosterone levels checked and they were a bit on the low side, but to be honest with you, I do not think this explains anything. There are too many MTF crossdreamers with normal hormone levels.

You have read my post on Jaimie Veale, and she has a readable summary of hormone/transgender research in her thesis. And on an aggregate level some researchers say they see patterns in the genetic relationship between parents, children and siblings. She also found that transpeople are more likely to have gender variant people in their families. Maybe you and your sister share the "butch" part of the gene set, but not the gynephilic [woman-loving]  one.

I have no close gay relatives. As for crossdreamers, I have no idea. They would never talk about it, anyway.

If you always imagined the life of a boy, you experienced childhood transgender fantasies. Children may experience sexual feelings, but I have not heard about childhood sexual crossdreaming. In my case the fantasies was more about being a girl.

No clear line between trans and transsexual

You write: "I said I'm not transsexual but you know I actually would like to transition to some extent, I always dream about it: top surgery and a low dose of hormones that give me a deeper voice!"

This is very similar to what I am experiencing. I think there is no line between transsexuals and other transgender. This is more like different shades of gray. But since I am not transitioning I see no point in claiming to be a woman.

The invisible FTM

As of the invisibility of female to male crossdreamers: I do not think there are fewer FTMs than MTFs. It was the wide dispersal of yaoi that convinced me of this.  [Yaoi is Japanese style comics about gay male relationships written by women for women].
Yaoi artwork. Yaoi is stories about gay  male relationship
written and drawn by women for women

Maybe they are less visible because they/you have been given a little bit more leeway than we have when it comes to playing the role of a man. You may put on jeans and a sweater and get away with it. Men will be ridiculed for carrying their girl friend´s hand bag!

I guess some of this is caused by our cultures considering women of lesser worth than men. Wishing to be a woman becomes incomprehensible. Female attire is more easily sexualized as well, and a man dreaming of taking the woman's place in bed is violating some of the strongest taboos.

In other words: Men are, even more than women, forced to hide this side of themselves.  This has led to the growth of the crossdressing culture with associated organizations. There are to my knowledge no FTM crossdressing associations. 

That being said, there was no online crossdreamer communities either when I started my blog. There has to be some kind of critical mass to get things going. There is some promising action on the Livjournal girlfag group and the Facebook girlfag/guydyke group.

Let us think some more about this, and see what we can do about it. Having a separate FTM section on crossdreamlife.com has not worked so far.

Do you know of any other FTM crossdreamers in Iran, on- or offline, and is there any online scene for that kind of thing?

Sex, beauty and power

I'm reading The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, which was recommended by my professor and well...I was rewarded by a surprising male-male love in the book, so I feel I'm flying in the sky right now! I always wonder about the GREAT effect of the gay guys, relationships, pictures, films, porn, stories etc have on me, nothing is compared to it! I don't know about MTF CDs'  feelings toward lesbians, is it that strong?
Dorian Gray movie poster.

I think among those factors, one may be a little true: I somehow unconsciously assume femininity is related to degrading in every aspects: Women roles' in family and society, their clothing, even their shape of body looks weirdo to me!

Maybe it's my frustration of all I have endured till now or maybe it's the result of all those unfair attitudes toward women, even in western societies in my opinion. But I still feel proud when I encounter powerful or masculine women. God:  Power is so much more important than beauty, I wanna be the hunter not the prey!

Yes, I don't think friends would face our little sanctuary at crossdreamers any day soon! And they probably are not in the mood to read a full English website, you know!

Explaining your identity

Now my problem is  those friends who ask me where my breasts have gone! (cause I can't help not binding them all the time!). It's hard to explain, cause I'm still their girl-friend! I just say I've lost weight but it's still awkward! 

I frequently think that maybe I should try to consider me as a girl like the old days, try on more girly stuff, and maybe in the future some guy will make me feel more feminine! In the end; nothing is meaningful, what it means to be a girl or boy after all? It's just some kind of imitation or suggestion for someone in my situation; like when you are in the middle and you can't decide which side to lean but anyway, you have to get used to the confusion!

I know a girl from an Iranian Adam Lambert fan forum (you can understand my love for such guy I guess!) and she shared the same feelings towards him and gay men. I asked her about it and she said: "Maybe I'm a little masculine but am completely a girl with a girl's true emotions ( I actually don't know what the heck that is!) but I love men so much so, "more men= more pleasure!"

For me, I guess rather than the erotic side, there's some kind of affinity just like when I see the teenage or young boys, I would automatically repeat to myself: Hey, that's me!

However I have found a lot of Iranian transsexuals and lesbians on Facebook, but I'm neither a trans nor a lesbian, you can say; I'm just a crossdresser with a masculine side.

But the problem is, as you mentioned: There is no such thing as FTM crossdressing unless it's too obvious and it essentially should means that your either a lesbian or a trans! (tomboys are not considered to be that important and I'm not as masculine as a real tomboy!) So, there must be nothing wrong with me. 

I just always make a male avatar in sims [game] (I had invented a creative version of sims in my childhood too which reminds me of yaoi and manga characters!) and become happy when people call me mister, that's all, all the other girls do the same!!! (verbal irony or even irony of character!)

(to be continued)


  1. Very interesting. Thanks, Jack and Rayka.

    I was surprised, Jack, to read that you 'have not heard about childhood sexual crossdreaming'.

    Since this email exchange some months ago there has been some good activity on the crossdreamlife.com ftm forum. It just needs a little more input to really take off. Quite a few ftmers visit Crossdream Life who would stick round if they saw others sticking around.And many of the mtfers at Crossdream Life are keen to meet ftms.

    Deborah xx

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  3. @Deborah,

    Yes, this is about achieving critical mass, and so far the only FTM forum that has done so is the girlfag forum on Facebook. Maybe some of us male bodied crossdreamers can contribute.

    As for childhood sexual crossdreaming. To tell the truth, the only reference I have found is in a research paper that has been actively used to dismiss the identity of trans women. I cannot remember sexual childhood crossdreams, but do remember dreams of being a girl.

    The problem is, of course, that kids are inherently sexual beings. Their rough and tumble play is often sexual in nature. It is just that they do not think of it as such.

  4. I am skeptical about calling childhood play "sexual"

    The problem with crossdreaming really starts when the person realizes that their thoughts can induce orgasm and this only begins at puberty.

    Before that the play is innocent and the child does not realize they are doing something odd.

    When a young heterosexual male first realizes the conflict between his feelings for girls and the desire for his own feminization is when the trouble really begins.

    I can attest that for myself I never saw my childhood interest in being a girl as sexual in nature and certainly never understood it as such.

  5. Not long ago I discovered I am a FTM crossdreamer. Before that I used to think I was lesbian, but there has always been my strong attraction for gay and feminine men that I could not understand.
    Living in a post-communist country where all sorts of alternative sexuality was considered mental disorder, it was difficult for me to make my parents stop worrying about my future and in my youth I was taken to psychiatrists and had to go through hormonal tests and all. I’ve never experienced rape or any other type of violence whatsoever. Nothing is “wrong” with me. My hormones are within the norms. I also look very feminine and have never felt the need to look or behave otherwise. (Maybe that’s one of the reasons some of us are invisible?) Yet, I’m “boyish” in my thoughts and my sexual behaviour. I do not feel comfortable being at the receiving end, quite on the contrary. I’ve had fantasies about feminine boys since I was at high school and I used to be ashamed at first. I love watching high quality gay movies and I’m delighted at scenes showing guys being gentle and loving to each other. Nothing turns me on so much.
    My point is, perhaps hormones and looks are not so important. We are too complicated and we all have a soul that has no gender. Deep inside I have always felt like a gay man, even before I realized it, before I began to understand what was going on, before I ever knew others existed like me…

  6. @Mariam!

    Thank you for your comment and welcome to Crossdreamers!

    I find your final comment especially interesting: "Deep inside I have always felt like a gay man, even before I realized it, before I began to understand what was going on, before I ever knew others existed like me…"

    On the one hand this tells me how important language is when we try to understand ourselves. But the fact that you felt like a gay man even before you realized consciously that you were one, tells me that this is something that existed before you named it. This goes much deeper.

    But you are right, of course, hormones and looks are not so important.

  7. "My point is, perhaps hormones and looks are not so important. We are too complicated and we all have a soul that has no gender"

    I could not agree more Miriam

  8. Indeed, Jack, I didn’t have a name for it until very recently when, in my hectic attempts to find more information, I came across this blog! But this has always been part of me. And it kept coming back no matter how much I tried to avoid thinking about it.

    I am amazed at the huge diversity of preferences and inclinations, Joanna. I don’t think anyone perfectly fits into a single definition, but sometimes people need a word for what they feel.

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  10. yes a word for what one feels is a good thing. The problem is that with human nature being what it is, there will always be someone out there who is more than willing to "piss on your corn flakes" (so to speak) and denigrate what you represent.

    This is why it is important to just be who you are and as much as possible disregard those who would make you feel ashamed of who you are.


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