February 24, 2017

How Many Transgender People are There, Really?

The number of transgender people has been
seriously underestimated (photo: Llewellyn Chin)

There are more transgender people around than most think.

The New York Times reports that:
Nearly 150,000 American teenagers from 13 to 17 years old — or one out of every 137 — would identify as transgender if survey takers asked, according to an analysis of state and federal data that offers an answer to a question that has long eluded researchers
In addition to an estimated 149,750 transgender teenagers nationwide, accounting for 0.7 percent of the population ages 13 to 17, the Williams Institute Study estimates that there are 1.4 million transgender adults in the United States (some 0.6 percent).

The number of those who have transitioned is much smaller than the number of trans people

I am convinced all many of the studies on the number of transgender people (in the broad umbrella sense of the term) seriously underestimate the percentage of the population who are some kind of gender variant, and that this even applies to this new study.

One of the reason is that so many of the statistics are based on respondents that have already been involved with the health system. That is an extreme selection bias.

The other one is that they tend to conflate the word transgender with transsexual (someone who would like to or have transitioned) or gender dysphoric, numbers that do not catch those who are neither, or those who are living in denial or cannot go down that road for other reasons. Lynn Conway makes a good case for the higher estimate.

Some interesting web site statistics

I have no way of giving a correct estimate of much larger number of MTF transgender, but I got access to some really interesting web statistics from a person running a transgender caption/fiction site (mostly erotica), targeting male to female crossdreamers. The site had 1.6 million unique visitors every year. And this was not one of the biggest sites of this kind.

The great majority of visitors to such English language sites are American. So if we say that some 1.2 million of these visitors were from the US, and we count in the fact that a lot of transgender people are not into this kind of erotica, and that there are others who live in the kind of denial that stops them from finding such sites, wouldn't it be reasonable to believe that there might be as many as 5 til 10 million male to female transgender/gender variant people in the US alone?

Given that there are some 150 million people assigned male in the US, and that some of them are kids, that would leave us with a percentage closer to 5 than to 1.

And yes, I belong to those who believe that an erotic interest in crossing genders is a clear a sign of being some shade of transgender, in the wide umbrella meaning of the word. If you are gender variant, that will also affect your erotic fantasies.

Mine is no way a scientific number, but it makes me keep my mind open to the idea that being transgender -- in the wide sense of the term -- is much more common than most believe.

There are probably as many FTM as MTF transgender people

I do not think there is any reason to believe that there are fewer transgender people among female assigned transgender people.

I realize that this is often explained by the traditional idea that female biologically speaking is the default, and that male is caused by the addition of male hormones in the womb, but it seems to me that these days biologists are leaving such a simplistic model behind.

I suspect that the fact that fewer FTM transgender people are reported is caused by a combination of several factors: Cultural, in the sense that those assigned female can more easily express masculine behavior without being labelled as a sexual pervert. Until recently female to male transgender people were also less visible in the media and elsewhere. They had fewer role models, which made it harder for them to explore their identity. This is definitely changing now, as more trans men are coming out. There is also a medical side to this, in the sense that until recently it was harder to envisage transitioning with bottom surgery for those assigned female.

The narrow approach of the Williams Study

By the way, the Williams Study, which is based on data from the nation wide Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), reflects a relatively narrow understanding of the term transgender.

The respondents were asked:
Do you consider yourself to be transgender?
The first question may lead to many interpretations, and it is hard to see what the respondent is actually responding to (transgender as in transsexual or transgender as in gender variant).

If the respondent answered yes, they were asked:
Do you consider yourself to be male-to-female, female-to-male, or gender non-conforming?
The second question widens the scope explicitly, including gender non-conforming (and non-binary identities, I would surmise). Still, if they had interpreted the term transgender to mean transsexual, in the classic sense, they would not have seen this question.

If the interviewer was asked for a definition of transgender, the interviewer responded:
“Some people describe themselves as transgender when they experience a different gender identity from their sex at birth. For example, a person born into a male body, but who feels female or lives as a woman would be transgender. Some transgender people change their physical appearance so that it matches their internal gender identity. Some transgender people take hormones and some have surgery. A transgender person may be of any sexual orientation – straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.”
The definition seems to go back to a more traditional, binary, understanding of transgender, which again will influence the responses.

The analysis is an extrapolation based on adult responses to a federal survey. Given that the data is based on responses from adults (who are more likely to think of trans as "transsexual") as well as young people, I suspect this confusion has led the researchers to underestimate the number of trans youth in the US.

This blog post is partly based on an entry in a Crossdream Life discussion.

February 20, 2017

Interview with a Love Shy Crossdreamer

Last year I was contacted by a young male to female crossdreamer from Britian, who wanted to ask me some questions about how to cope with being gender variant. The conversation ended with me asking her a few questions. 
Photo: Hramovnick


(I am using female pronouns on her request).

The more I learn about crossdreamers, the more I realize that this is a diverse group of people. That is: You cannot make up a profile that fits all crossdreamers, in the same way there is no pattern of personality that fits all women or all men, all Europeans or all Asians.

(This also means, of course, that crossdreaming most likely is not the end result of one particular type of psychological event.)

Still  some crossdreamers have more in common than others. Some, for instance, tackle their gender variance by isolating themselves socially.

Q: We have been chatting a bit about crossdreaming and loneliness over at facebook, and I would love to share some of your reflections with my readers. Could you say a few words about where you stand today?

Jennifer replied:
"I live at home with my parents and I work, I really want to cross dress and find someone who truly gets me but I'm worried about being mocked etc."
And that sentence sums up, as we will see,  Jennifer's major challenge quite nicely.

Q: I know that for you crossdressing has been one way of expressing "your other side". Could you say some more about what role crossdressing plays in your life?

Jennifer tells me that for her crossdressing has been an important outlet for crossdreamer feelings:
"Cross dressing helps me be the real me or Jennifer as I've come to know myself. It's like I hear her calling me to express who I really am and I love it, I need it."

February 11, 2017

Waking Up the Anima – Jung Applied to Transgender Women

Guest writer Jocelyn Muchilinski takes a new approach to using Jung's theory of the subconscious to explain transgender experiences.  


The anima represents the female
side of the male psyche
Painting by Indra Grušaitė 
Guest Post by Jocelyn Muchlinski

The Anima and the Animus

Carl Jung introduced a new vocabulary into psychology. Among the most important words in this vocabulary are anima, animus, and projection.

In this essay, I will commandeer these words and twist them to suit my meanings. Perhaps Jung will forgive me for perverting his language so freely.

The anima is the female soul in every human. The animus is the male soul.

I want to encourage readers to understand the anima and animus as two entirely different people living in the same body. I also want to suggest that the animus, in cisgender men, is one and the same with the man himself.

That is to say, the animus has the reigns of the ego. The animus is expressed and brought to life in the words, thoughts, and actions of the man. The anima, on the other hand, gains life by projecting itself onto female figures in the man’s life.

In this way, both anima and animus take an essential and substantial role in the life of the cisgender man.

Conversely, the anima is the soul and person of the cisgender woman. This woman, who is the anima incarnate, experiences her animus by projecting it onto male figures in her life. Projection of anima and animus occurs naturally first on the parents of a child.

Thus, for a boy, his first experience of his own anima is vis-à-vis his mother. For a girl, she sees her own animus—her male soul—in her father.


February 8, 2017

If There Was a Magic Pill


I got permission to publish this crossdreamer poem by Marion Raven Thorsdottir.

If there was a magic pill
Female Thor (Marvel)
That could make this innate urge go away
None of us would be here today
Why is it like this?
Because a society through its infinite
jurassic way of thinking
Has glorified war, violence, militarism
Scoffed at the moon Luna
The softness, the sway 
of the feminine wave
The life giving wave of of Yin
How much has changed
Our existence is no longer a sin
As if it ever were
how much things still are the same
None places either of us could go to
If presenting as we are today

With long standing internal strife
Hours, days, weeks, months, years on end
hoardings and Urges,
Anxiety and purges
Pain and pleasure all mixed together
Self imposed feelings of shame
Until some day
Finding that we are not alone
Listen to the ancient wisdom of the past
From places and cultures
Uninfested by fantasy fairy tales
Imposed on the world
Through conquest and war
Proclaimed as eternal Truths
How wrong they were
How wrong they are
Listen to the voices and signs from times
Before patriarchy replaced matriarchy
Where two spirits were respected
Feared and revered 
Listen to the water, listen to the wind
Also our voices of wisdom will be heard at last
As I take mine from the delicate storms of thunder

Is there a way 
Out of this rabbit hole?


February 3, 2017

On cooties and the gender binary

Illustration: DmitryMo
This week I published a short post over at my tumblr blog called "How to avoid transgender and gay cooties". This led to a couple of questions in the line of "What on God's earth is a cootie?" 

The cootie phenomenon does actually say a lot about gender and socialization.

I'll come back to that. But first, here is what I wrote:

How to avoid transgender and gay cooties
"We are all aware of the increasing problem of transgender and homosexual cooties.

A perfectly straight white man may enter a restroom and find himself in the company of a gay man. Before you know it the straight man starts singing songs from Broadway musicals, while growing a mustache. The two of them don’t even have to touch each other!
Transgender cooties are even more devious. A transgender person enters the women’s bathroom and soon all the women in that room have got trans cooties. They start dreaming about climbing trees, having independent careers and wearing jeans and leather jackets.

Fortunately there is a way of avoiding the cooties. Don’t think about them!

The fact is that you have shared a bathroom with both homosexual and transgender people many, many, times already, but you did not know they were gay, lesbian or trans. You did not think about it, so you did not catch the LGBT cooties.
 
Don’t think about LGBT cooties and you will be OK!"
"Cooties" is a term used by children. The Urban dictionary defines it this way:
When children reach the age where they notice the sexes are different the children claim a member of the opposite opposite sex will give you "cooties" if they touch you. 
In Norway the terms are "jentelus" ("girls' lice") and "guttelus" ("boys' lice"). If a girl touches a boy, the rest of the kids will cry out: "She touched you! She touched you! You got  girl's lice!" Or something to that effect.

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