September 21, 2015

12 Essential Books on Transgender

Here's another look at my transgender bookshelf. This time I present books on transgender and queer topics in general.
Illustration by Olyzel

Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, by Julia Serano.

Serano has become our leading trans philosophers. This book is of special interest to MTF crossdreamers, as she is one of the trans activists that openly discuss crossdreaming in a non-stigmatizing way.

A fascinating discussion of the the transgender history of ideas, not only in the US, but also in Europe. Most of the models of transgender we find among activists and researchers these days were there 100 years ago.

The transgender phenomenon, by Richard Ekins, Dave King.
    Magnus Hirschfeld
A sociological approach to transgender. Includes a discussion of the autogynephilia theory.

Transvestites: The Erotic Drive To Cross Dress (New Concepts in Human Sexuality), by Magnus Hirschfeld.

This book was originally published in Germany in 1910. It remains one of the best books on crossdressing and transsexuality, written with empathy and a deep respect for the life journeys of the transgender persons he presents. Please note that for Hirschfeld the term "transvestite" is an umbrella term for all shades of transgender.

September 13, 2015

The Two Traditions of Thinking about Transgender

There are two major strands in modern sexology, both going back to the late 19th century. One is binary, gender conservative and interprets gender variation as mental illness; the other is liberal, trans-positive and understands sex and gender as complex continuums.

I have read a lot of transgender history. Too much, probably. This also applies to the science of transgender and the philosophy of transgender.
In her book Sex and Temperament from 1935, Margaret
Mead presented an amazing variation in gender roles
and expressions in different cultures, debunking one
and for all the idea that all masculine and feminine
behavior is inborn.
(Cover of 1950 Mentor paperback edition).

There is one important lesson I have learned from all of this: Every single original idea  had been presented before 1915.

The binary, pathologizing, tradition

100 years ago you would find it all:

The binary theory of two completely separate sexes, male and female, was already there. So was the idea that gender variations are perversions threatening society's "evolutionary fitness".

As now, many researchers argued that transgender conditions was caused by variations in the presence of hormones in the womb. This applied to sexual orientation too; many researchers had some difficulty keeping the two apart, then as now.

Others argued that it had to do with bad upbringing, blaming -- for instance -- strong mothers and weak fathers. Feminists, homosexuals and "primitive", non-white, people could also be blamed for spreading these "diseases".

Then, as now, the main fear was of the feminization of boys. Society needed strong, masculine, rational boys to fight wars, colonize the world and govern society, and because of this the emotional, feminine sissies -- gay or trans -- were a threat to the system.

(Tomboys and FTM transgender were also a problem, but did not constitute the same threat to the social order. After all, the fact that women wanted to be men made sense; the MTFs, on the other hand, had to be mad to desire the life of a woman.)

This binary tradition can be traced from Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing and his book Psychopathia Sexualis in 1886. via the Freudian psychoanalysts and John Money of the 20th century, up to the current autogynephilia theory of Ray Blanchard.

What unifies this tradition is not the explanation for what causes gender dysphoria or gender identity conflicts. The researchers will blame it on inherited degeneracy, hormones or feminist mothers, all depending on the researcher's natural inclinations and cultural context. What unites them is the need to present gender variation as something unnatural and unacceptable.

September 6, 2015

Felix Conrad Talks about Transgender Research, Crossdreaming and Beach Clubbing

Felix Conrad recently set up a new site called The Transcend Movement, focusing on crossdreaming and transgender issues.  We have talked to him about how to cope as transgender, his new ebook, his devastating dismissal of the autogynephilia theory and Brazilian supermodels.

On the beach
Trans philosopher Felix Conrad brings crossdreaming
to the beaches of the Mediterranean
(Photo: Design Pics/Tomas del Amo)

Felix, you have taken an unusual approach to crossdreamer blogging. Your site is not so much a blog, but more of a beach lounge or club for all things crossdreaming. What made you chose this form of communication?

My philosophy of design is quite simple... I look at what everyone else is doing, and then kick it in the nuts. Within reason.

We - and especially you - are in the business of online community building, so I decided to play with the idea of giving that community an imagined space... a beach club located within an ideal, coastal transgender community.

In this case I think my imagination got the better of me...but this is about cross'dreaming' after all.

I have also noted that you do not shy away from communicating crossdreamer dreams and desires in an 'in your face' kind of way. There are Brazilian super models, and more Brazilian super models, which fit well with the beach club theme, I guess, but which some might find sexist. Is this your way of opening up a discussion?

Sorry, Jack... no such lofty intentions. I have a long running obsession with Alesandra Ambrosio which both I - and my children - find completely ridiculous. So, when I claim my book will 'guaranteed turn you into a Brazilian supermodel' I'm laughing at myself.

I sometimes think there is a remarkable lack of humour in the transgender community. Being able to take yourself and life seriously, but realize that, in another sense you/it are absurd, is an immense liberation.

Femephilia and autogynephilia

In your book on crossdreaming you use the term femephilia to refer to sexual arousal at the idea of being a woman. What is the difference between this term and the term crossdreaming, as you see it?

Femephilia is a sexological term - like homosexual. It's cold. Crossdreamer is a term of popular culture - like 'gay.' It's huggable.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!