February 1, 2015

Can the crossdreaming concept stop trans women from accepting their identity?

Recently there was an interesting discussion about crossdreaming at the /r/transgender subforum (or "subreddit") at Reddit, the online social community.
Illustration by cienpies

A trans woman who calls herself Vancitygal criticized me for hiding the fact that most crossdreamers are transsexual people living in denial.

I asked neotecha, one of those taking part in the discussion, for permission to republish the following comment, which I think goes to the heart of this issue.

neotecha on crossdreaming

This is what neotecha said:
I'm happy to discuss this to anyone has further questions. 
For myself: I actually founded /r/crossdreaming and was an active participant in /r/autogynephilia, back before we split the subreddit. Yeah, go in there and my name is still in there, and also the top sticky post asking for moderators. Yes, I did come out as female, and I have started transitioning and I love it, but my experiences don't imply that everyone there shares them.

I want to discuss something that I feel the nuance is not being addressed here. What is Crossdreaming and what is Autogynephilia?

Autogynephilia refers to "Blanchard's Transsexualism Typology" (as the wikipedia article is listed as), which initially created the divisions that trans women attracted to men were actually really feminine gay men that were trying to find new partners, where gynephilic trans women actually had a "Erotic Target Location Error" that made themselves see the object of their attraction in themselves.

Long story short, this has been heavily criticized and currently sees mixed but fading support and it has gone through several more revisions over the years. I actually can't even tell you what its current state is.

Either way, many people don't believe it's a valid theory, including the mentioned Jack Molay. But there's a problem, some people who identify as male still have sexual fantasies based around the idea of themselves being a girl, turning into a girl, being feminine, being humiliated and treated like a girl, etc. These people exist, regardless of whatever reason for why people come up with. So what Jack did is create a new term "Crossdreaming" to describe this idea, in an attempt to separate it from Autogynephilia.

It also contains some nice parallels to crossdressing as well. Not every trans person crossdresses because it's sexual for them, but that doesn't mean that every person who does it is actually repressing being trans either.

His personal theory is that crossdreaming is caused by a person basically being transgender, even if it doesn't cause a person to be dysphoric enough that they identify as female or justify transition.

My personal thoughts on this:

Regardless of why you think they do what they do, my #1 issue with labelling them all as trans and telling them to get started [transitioning] is that it breaks the rule in the trans community of self-determination -- you are who you say you are. I cannot know them any better than some psychiatrist telling me that I'm "actually" cisgender or that being trans is an illusion.

From there, I have spent a lot of time in that community, and the people are definitely aware of the chance to transition. It's just something that doesn't interest them because they're happy being a guy. If that works for them, more power to them.
Are all crossdreamers transsexual?

I do not think that all crossdreamers are transsexual.

I believe crossdreaming is caused by a large number of variables, many of which may vary in quality as well as intensity. This is, as I see it, why some crossdreamers become gender dysphoric and identify with their target sex, while others do not.

That ought to be OK! There is no need to shoehorn everyone into the same destiny.

Can the crossdreaming concept stop trans people from accepting themselves?

Vancitygal raises an important question, though: May the existence of non-transsexual crossdreamers and the fact that we have coined a term that embraces all types of crossdreamers, stop some gender dysphoric, transsexual, women from accepting their inner identity?

Most of the feedback I get from trans women who know about the crossdreamer concept is the opposite. Most of them tell me that reading and talking about crossdreaming have helped them get out of the destructive circle of self-contempt and shame. Facing their crossdreaming became just another stepping stone in their journey towards transitioning.

Still, I have also seen that gender dysphoric men and women  make use of any concept or theory in order to keep up the belief that they are "normal people". So I can see how some of them might hold on to the crossdreaming concept, seeking solace in the idea that "at least they are not transsexual".

It takes a special kind of reading, though, to interpret my writings to mean that no crossdreamer is transsexual. I have never said so.

The crossdreamer journey

I think we have to accept the fact that the crossdreamer and/or transgender journey often is a very long one. There is much that has to be digested -- from internalized shame to social stigmatization -- before a crossdreamer is able to make peace with him- or herself and society.

That destination may be transitioning, but it may just as well be another way of living with gender variance.

You can read the rest of the reddit discussion here!

See also: Are all crossdreamers transsexual? Is Jack?


  1. It should be understood that cross dreaming does not necessarily make one either transgendered nor transsexual. However its presence does not negate the possibility that one fits either description. Transsexuals would routinely deny its presence for fear that it would disqualify them from being genuine candidates for transition.

    As jack has stated here on many occasions, this is a very complicated area of human development and no one (not even those of us who experience it) really comprehends.

    Our only recourse is to know our own heart and mind and proceed to accept ourselves first and then proceed accordingly. This is not exact science but a meld of human emotion, socialiization and biological predisposition.

    We have barely begun to understand it.


  2. Yes, this is sort of a long time, no chat. This year will be 5 years since I first posted to my blog. Has it really been that long?

    In your post you mention a couple of things that strike very close to home. Where you mention crossdreaming as a stepping stone into transition. In my own personal experience this was exactly the case.

    Five years ago, I was still very closeted. Not even dressing, I had only one "out" that I had available to me at the time. I was at the time trying to hold together a male identity that was pretty fragile to begin with, and it was soon to unravel in amazing ways. I considered the question, "I can't be the only person on the planet who does this." I turned to the internet. Just about everything that came back to me said, "Transsexual." To every one of those I answered to myself, "That's not me." Then I came across the concept of autogynephilia. At the time this was the perfect response. It allowed me the ability to explore my feminine side and still maintain a sense of masculinity.

    Autogynephilia was a kinder and gentler way for me to move toward transition. Hitting my wall in the spring of 2011 was a traumatic event. As type VI on the Benjamin scale I wouldn't have survived if I didn't have a landing place a year earlier.

    Crossdreaming didn't make me a transsexual. I was already a transsexual when I found out about crossdreaming. Crossdreaming made it possible for me to finally acknowledge what I already knew deep down.


  3. "Crossdreaming didn't make me a transsexual."

    Yes, this must be the main message, as I see it too. Crossdreaming is just one of many ways gender variance can express itself.

    I am so glad things turned out well for you!

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  5. I'm currently struggling with the exact issue, but coming from a slightly different angle.

    In the crossdressing community, the major issue, for me, is that it is filled mostly by sexual fetishists. Don't take me wrong: I believe that everybody has some sort of sexual fantasy, and should be allowed to fully explore it, so long as it is done with consenting adults and doesn't break any law. However, the problem is that crossdressing in particular tends to be seen as only a sexual fantasy or fetish, and nothing more.

    This leaves the crossdreaming aspect of the issue out of the discussion — in the sense that there is so much more to it than merely having a better sex life. I also tend to see that 'everything is gender identity dysphoria, or not'. Put it simply: I don't think there is really a difference in kind between crossdreamers, crossdressers who physically manifest their crossdreaming by wearing clothes of the opposite gender, and transsexuals (i.e. those successfully diagnosed with gender identity disorder). The difference is merely one of degree. However, at one end of the spectrum, there is no outwards manifestation of the gender dysphoria — pure crossdreamers just need their minds. Then there is a continuum where there is some physical manifestation, via dressing, adopting behaviours, and so forth. We come to part-time dressing/behaving as the opposite gender, or genderless expression, or genderfluid expressions, etc. At the 'milder' side of the spectrum, gender dysphoria is never diagnosed. At the more extreme side, it may or may not be caught. Finally, there are those who did successfully test for gender identity dysphoria, but they still have a wide range of options: from doing few body modifications to going all the way through transition.

    My challenge is mostly to get the word out that just because someone doesn't dress as the opposite gender all the time — or doesn't even dress at all! — they do not have any sort of gender identity dysphoria. The physical manifestation of crossdreaming is not the only way to 'diagnose' crossdreaming, and it's rather a poor one (after all, many so-called 'true' transexuals have never crossdressed before entering transition!).

    To Joanna I might add: the main problem of 'accepting ourselves first' is that, by definition, 'identity dysphoria' means pretty much the inability of accepting oneself. Once you 'accept' yourself, technically you don't have any 'identity dysphoria' any longer (by definition). Indeed, the main reason why transition actually 'cures' gender identity dysphoria is because once transition is over, one can finally start accepting oneself in the new role — thus 'eliminating' dysphoria (again, by definition).

    Non-transsexuals don't have that privilege: we need to 'cure' our dysphoria by not only accepting ourselves, but also accepting that we will very likely not get the same degree of 'help' that so-called 'true transexuals' will get. So it's way harder for the rest of us...

  6. Sandra I completely agree with you. But for those of us in the middle of the spectrum the first step must be self acceptance because it allows you to think more clearly and begin to grapple with how you must respond to your situation. I was stuck in a permanent loop of dissatisfaction until I accepted that this is the way I am. Now I am able to live as a gender variant pesom by espousing both male and female identities and expressing them both with pride

  7. Sandra has written a longer blog post where she elaborates on her idea that the majority of crossdressers are sexual fetishists here.

    It is well worth the time!

    Sandra: In your article you refer to sociological research documenting that 90 percent of crossdreamers are what you call sexual fetishists. Could you tell me what paper this is?

  8. Most people organize their life around sexuality :

    Men get married with women and live a boring life with wife and children to have free sex at home because their fetish is a female hole to fill in with their dick.

    So why would not people who have different fetish organize their life around sex too ?

    A man whose fetish is to have a female body should logically live to have a female body.

  9. @Anonymous,

    I really pity you if you think getting married is all about a fetish for female genitalia. You must live an extremely lonely life, indeed, if you really mean this.

    Marriage is about much, much, more than this.

    Above all it is about being loved for who you are: a wonderful, many-faceted human being with abilities and gifts, dreams and desires, faults and weaknesses. Marriage is about growing closer to another human being, and sharing joys as well as burdens.

    This is also ultimately what the transgender struggle is about: to be recognized as a real human being worthy of love, and not some kind of caricature.

  10. Hello Jack,
    I wanted to thank you for your blog, you help me figure out one very important part of myself.
    I didn't now what was the best to do it though.

    Now it's time for you to read a little:
    I have a strong feminine side that I was repressing for my whole life and was only letting it out by sexualizing it. I hate it but at least it was keeping me sane.
    A couple of months back I found the therm autogynephilia and I loved it since I didn't have to be transgendered. But it wasn't enough and I kept looking.
    Three weeks ago I came across the term crossdreamer and your blog. After reading a couple of articles the truth occam's-razored all the excuses that I was giving myself during my life.
    That night was followed by 6 days of pure joy like the one I have never experienced in my life because my femininity was finally getting out. But that part of me was living in fantasy and once it cached up with reality I experience a new form of pain for a week.
    I am stable now, finding out what I am going to do with myself with help of counseling.
    Regardless of everything thank you, I prefer the painful truth than to be blissfully ignorant.
    At the end, All existence is dukkha. :')

  11. Dear Yolyamanitzin Tem,

    I am glad this blog could provide you with a key to open and access those extremely important parts of yourself. The fact that this "coming out" to yourself brought you so much joy, tells us all how important it is.

    Yes, there "reality" strikes back with vengeance. There will probably be many backlashes of that kind before you find your way of expressing yourself in the world. But you are on the right track, and I wish you all the best on your journey!


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