August 6, 2020

Crossdreamers in the Movies: The Bugs Bunny Story

2020 US stamp of Bugs Bunny crossdressing.
This is not a prank. The American cartoon character has actually been a positive role model for crossdreamers, queer and transgender people.

In the very interesting Netflix documentary Disclosure, on transgender presentation in American movies and TV, the transgender movie director Lilly Wachowski (of Matrix fame) tells the story about how the Bugs Bunny movie What's Opera Doc? helped her in her transgender journey.

The actor Laverne Cox agrees: "It was just fabulous".

As the documentary explains, most Hollywood representations of crossdressers and transgender people have been  transphobic at the core. The positive view of Bugs Bunny may therefore come as a surprise.

US Crossdreamer Stamp

Given that the US Postal Service is now celebrating Bugs Bunny's 80 year anniversary with a series of stamps, two of them depicting him as a crossdreamer, I decided to write  more about this over at my Trans Express blog in the article "Bugs Bunny as a Positive Transgender and Queer Role model".

Role models 

Here I would like to look into how important media coverage is for young trans and queer kids who are trying to find out who they are. They do not read science papers or follow LGBTQA media. They watch cartoons, play games and read comic books, and if they cannot find anything there (or have good friends who can help them), they will have no language to help them.

The young MTF crossdreamers Lilly Waschowski and Laverne Cox watched the cartoon below and saw a male assigned person dress up as a woman with great confidence and with no shame, embodying femininity with impressive bravado and in a positive way. 

Sure, today we will probably comment on all the gender stereotypes, but the fact is that Bugs Bunny embodies a proud and beautiful crossdreamer (or crossdresser or drag queen or trans woman) in a way that is affirmative and helpful.

July 14, 2020

Sex, gender, biology and culture in the chaos that is the transgender debate

Photo of chromosomes with the caption: You are not a chromosome

You need both biological and cultural perspectives to understand what makes transgender people trans. Some anti-trans activists deliberately try to ignore this fact  is in their quest to invalidate transgender people. Here's why they do this.

Recently I got a question over at tumblr from a person who wanted to understand their transgender friend a little better, and who wanted to know more about concepts like sex and gender.

For those of us who are debating sex and gender on a regular basis, the answer might seem pretty straightforward. For those who are not well versed in the gender debate, however, what may seem straightforward is normally not.

You can read my answer over at tumblr: What is the difference between sex and gender?

The article basically presents the five different phenomena people refer to when using the term "sex":
  1. Biological sex
  2. Sexual characteristics
  3. Gender expressions
  4. Gender roles
  5. Gender identity
Much of the confusion and misunderstanding found in gender and transgender debate is caused by people not being able to distinguish between these different phenomena.

There is one interesting dimension I did not explicitly discuss in that article, and which might help us understand the current sex/gender/transgender debate a little bit better. 

This dimension reflects the difference between biological and cultural processes, and the interactions between them. It is used in the arguments of both trans and anti-trans activists, but not in the way many people think.

May 21, 2020

The Autogynephilia Theory Debunked by New German Study

transgender asian woman with asian woman

The autogynephilia theory of Ray Blanchard has been part of the transgender discussion since the late 1980s. It is currently being aused by anti-transgender activists in order to undermine the legitimacy of transgender identities. A new German study proves – again –  that the theory has no foundation in reality.

If autogynephilia theory is a completely new concept for you, you might want to read the following  short summary of what it is all about. If you already know the theory, you can skip the next part.

A very short introduction to Ray Blanchard's theory about the two types of transgender women

Blanchard's two type theory on transgender women and MTF crossdreamers has its root in the late 19th century idea that gay men and lesbian women are "inverts".  According to this way of thinking a gay man has a female sexuality and a lesbian woman has a male sexuality. This is why, the story goes, all gay men are effeminate and all lesbian women are butch.

This isn't true, obviously, but it was a neat and simple to understand model. Transgender women were extremely effeminate gay men and transgender men were extremely masculine lesbian women.

This is the basis of Blanchard's category of "homosexual transsexuals" (HSTS). Trans women who love men are gay men who try to seduce straight men by presenting as women.

The people who came up with this model  faced one serious challenge, though. There were transgender women who loved women.

They attempted to solve this problem by focusing on the crossdressing of these "men". So the "transvestites" where straight men who got turned on by dressing up in female clothing – a  parallel to a fascination for rubber and leather, if you like. They were therefore put in the same category as other sexual perversions ("paraphilias" in the current lingo).

Blanchard still  thinks that both gay and trans people are mentally ill, but trans women who love women (including those he calls "pseudo-bisexual") are doubly so. Unlike the androphilic (man-loving) trans women, they are basically in love with the image of their inner female self, as Blanchard sees it. They are suffering from an "erotic target location error". They are "auto-gyne-philiacs" (broken Greek for "self-woman-love").

This means that Blanchard is expanding  upon the traditional "transvestic fetishism" model: It is not the clothing that is the trigger anymore, but the idea of being or becoming a woman.

As you can see, the model rests on one very important premise: What causes the transgender identities in the two categories (HSTS vs autogynephiles) has to be completely different. These women will have to have nothing in common beyond the desire to live as women.

If there is overlap between the two, the model's explanatory power is lost. The gender identity of man-loving (androphilic) trans women can no longer be reduced to an effect of their sexual orientation. The gender identity of woman-loving (gynephilic) trans cannot be caused by a "erotic target location error". Instead you will have to identify another factor or factors that explain their gender variance.

The German study of "autogynephiliacs" and "HSTS"

The German researchers – Jelena S. Laube, Matthias K Auer, Sarah Biedermann, Johanna Schröder, Timo O. Nieder, Peer Briken, Johannes Fuss and Thomas Hildebrandt – have been taking Blanchard's theory very seriously.

In their paper "Sexual Behavior, Desire, and Psychosexual Experience in Gynephilic and Androphilic Trans Women: A Cross-Sectional Multicenter Study" (Journal of Sexual Medicine) they make use of new data provided by 189 gender dysphoric transgender women recruited at four transgender health care centers in Germany.

May 8, 2020

Some reddit polls indicate that an increasing number of MTF crossdreamers would like to transition

Over at the Crossdreaming subreddit two members have posted some polls that give surprising results. They indicate that  male to female crossdreamers are much more likely to want to live as their target gender than many  previously thought.

By crossdreamers I mean people who dream about being "another" gender.

The methodological foundation for these polls are weak, as the concepts used are not clearly defined and we are not completely sure who the respondents are.

That being said, r/crossdreaming is a subforum that attracts people who are interested in the concept of crossdreaming, and the history of that forum tells me that most of the respondents are most likely people who are experiencing crossdreaming fantasies themselves, including – most likely – erotic ones.

The great majority are also male to female crossdreamers, i.e. they were assigned male at birth.

We should keep in mind that it is possible that those who are most likely to find this forum and its poll interesting are those crossdreamers who struggle with their gender identity. We do not know this for sure, but this may represent a selection bias.

In any case: The data tells us something interesting about this specific part of the transgender community.

So, what do the polls tell us?

May 2, 2020

This is why true diversity, and the acceptance of queer and transgender people, is the best way of addressing human suffering

The quest for finding safety in normalcy is a hopeless one. It is better to embrace the diversity of humanity, and let people be who they were meant to be. This also applies to queer and transgender people.

Korviday's brilliant queer analysis of Shrek

Why is it that so many people fear transgender and queer people, or any people that do not follow the norms, for that matter? Why do they want everyone to be like themselves... No, strike that. They do not want them to be like themselves, given that they are all imperfect beings... No, they want them to be like the idealized versions of themselves. The perfect man. The perfect woman. Why is that?

In the  video embedded below korivday uses the two first Shrek movies to discuss what causes this pressure towards “normalcy”.

It is not that these movies present Shrek as queer. They don’t. But they do give us a very good idea about what it means to be an outsider who does not fit the norm.

Korivday is using the interaction between Shrek and the powers that be (Lord Farquaad and the Fairy Godmother) to describe the way society forces queer people back into the closet.

It is a brilliant analysis, and I recommend that you watch it!

April 24, 2020

Transgender and Non-binary News on Flipboard

Here are four new Flipboard magazines on transgender, nonbinary and queer issues.

I have, over the years, become an active transgender and non-binary news curator. I am doing a lot of research when I write my blog posts and take part in online debates, so I might as well share what I find with likeminded individuals.

So you can find me on twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and tumblr.

Right now I am experimenting with a service called Flipboard. Flipboard is an app for smartphones and PCs that gathers news that might be of interest to you and presents it all in an online magazine format. I use it a lot, not only for transgender news surveillance.

Users can create their own magazines on Flipboard, where they share content they find interesting. Others can then subscribe to these channels, visit them and get news from those magazines in their main feed. Shared items may also pop up in search results.

I have made four Flipboard magazines that may be of interest to some of you. You do not need to register as a user to read the magazines in a browser.

If anyone is interested in becoming co-curator for any of these magazines, let me know. 

April 5, 2020

Julia Serano gives us the perfect antidote to transphobic pseudoscience

The trans activist and philosopher Julia Serano has written an excellent overview of the autogynephilia theory of Ray Blanchard, its history, its scientific flaws and its roots in traditionalist prejudices.

Crossdreaming is common

I joined the autogynephilia debate some 10 years ago, and have been trying to reduce the damages the theory has caused among gender variant people ever since.

I would say that one of the most important insights that have been brought up since then, is the insight that erotic crossdreaming or cross-gender fantasies are found among all kinds of people and not only among male to female "crossdressers" and gynephilic ("woman-loving")  and bisexual transgender women.

You find cross-gender fantasies among cis people. You find crossdreaming among trans women who love men. You find it among many of those assigned female at birth. This alone falsifies the theory, which requires that only "straight men" (i.e. lesbian and bisexual trans women) have such fantasies.

April 3, 2020

How to solve the transgender problem in sports

How to ensure fairness in basketball

I have been thinking about fairness in sports a lot. That is the kind of person I am.

The average height of men in the US is 175 centimeters. In basketball it would be only fair to ban those over 175 centimeters, as extra tall men have an unjust advantage compared to the others.

However, since the men that are 175 centimeters have a natural advantage over those that are 170 centimeters tall, we need to ban everyone between 170 to 175 cm as well. But this will leave the ones that are 170 cm heigh having an unfair advantage over those that are 160 cm, and so on and so forth, which leads me to conclude that the best  kind of basketball is the one where every participant is exactly one meter tall.

At this point we will also ban everyone who is below one meter, because you have to draw the line somewhere, right?

In Norway the average height of men is close to 180 cm. The average Sri Lankian man is 165 cm. The one meter rule will make sure that all international basketball games are fair. Err on the side of caution, I say.

(I am sure my American friends will find the use of the metric system here a little bit bewildering. Remember, though, that 1 meter is 3.28084 feet. I think we all can agree that it easier to remember 1 meter than 3.28084 feet.)

February 19, 2020

When does a woman look like a man? What AI can tell us about gender.

Most of the images are generated by an artificial intelligence (Artbreeder).
None of these persons exist in the real world.

The way an AI (artificial intelligence) interprets gender can tell us something about how we humans see gender. It seems there is a very narrow tipping point where we start to reclassify from male to female and vice versa.


Gulliver made me aware of a new artificial intelligence (AI)  based app called Artbreeder over at Crossdream Life. It lets you transform images and photos in a wide variety of ways, including merging photos of two persons and adjust "genes", i.e. variables that defines physical traits.

One such "gene" is gender. You can take a photo of a person, adjust the "gender gene", and watch how feminine traits turn into masculine features.

This software is using machine learning, and it  its calculations are based on  input from a vide variety of photos and pictures. I am not sure how they define feminine and masculine in these algorithms, but keep in mind that the input is culturally defined. AI has a tendency of reproducing contemporary cultural biases.

That being said, what interests me here is not how the AI sees gender, but how I see it, how human beings see it.

February 9, 2020

New research indicates a connection between genes, hormones and gender dysphoria

Newsweek reports of a new study of 30 transgender men and women  diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The researchers found what they described as 21 "rare" variants in 19 genes, in pathways in the brain associated with the sex hormone estrogen.

This may indicate an association between some gene combinations and the development of transgender identities.

There is no single "trans gene"

Every time I see an article like this, I feel a strong need to bring in the wider context. There is no transgender gene, in the same way there is not gay gene. This we know. Sexualities as well as gender identities are the end results of a complex interplay between various factors.

These researchers say the same thing to Newsweek:
The authors stressed in the study that they were not looking for a so-called "transgender gene," which might wrongly suggest that those with this gender identity are ill in some way. 
[J. Graham] Theisen said gender is on a spectrum, in the same way that eye colour is. Rather, they wrote, the aim was to "understand the complexities of gender development through the lens of genetics." 
A person's "gender identity is more likely the result of a complex interplay between multiple genes as well as environmental and societal factors," they said. The team acknowledged that categories like "transgender male" and "transgender female" alone aren't enough to describe individuals who don't identify as cisgender. For instance, others might identify as non-binary, or in numerous other ways. 
"While, in some individuals, a single genetic variant may be sufficient to result in gender dysphoria, it does not follow that that particular variant would be necessary or sufficient to cause gender dysphoria in the population at large," they wrote. 
The researchers are looking to enlarge the study to include more trans people. A sample of 30 is a small one.

The potential danger of such studies

I know that some trans people argue that we should dismiss such studies altogether, as they may be used to invalidate trans people as ill or to distinguish between “real transgender people” and “trenders”. There is always a danger of that.

February 2, 2020

The majority of transgender and gender non-conforming people experience changes in sexual orientation

Over at Mel Magazine Calvin Kasulke writes about trans people who seem to change their sexual orientation after transitioning. Research indicates that more than half of trans and gender non-conforming people become attracted to new kinds of people  throughout their lifetime.

The traditional story in this respect is the one about the trans woman who is attracted to women pre-transitioning, but who become interested in men after transitioning. Kasulke, however, documents that trans men may also experience a change in the way they are attracted to other people.

Trans men who have previously been exclusively attracted to women (and have presented as lesbians) may, for instance,  find themselves attracted to men.
Kai, a 21-year-old student in D.C., used to identify as a lesbian — until they started testosterone. Ever since, Kai has retired their previously held lesbian identity, both because they no longer identify as a woman and because they’re experiencing attraction to men for the first time.

“I think maybe before I wasn’t giving myself the option to be attracted to queer men, but now because I’m more comfortable in myself, [my] gender and gender presentation, I’m allowing myself that possibility,” they write via Twitter DM.

January 7, 2020

Sorry, gender cannot be reduced to biological sex.

Why is it transgender people cannot understand that biological sex is biological sex? That is pretty obvious isn't it? Or...?

The recent J. K. Rowling is a transphobic TERF debate has in many ways clarified what the anti-trans arguments boil down to.

Rowling gave her support to Maya Forstater, who – among other things – has argued that “I think that male people are not women. I don’t think being a woman/female is a matter of identity or womanly feelings. It is biology.”

Forstater's statement echoes a lot of similar arguments about trans people denying the reality of biological sex. How can sex be "socially constructed", when everyone can see that little boys have penises, and little girls have vaginas?

These common sense statements are  seductive,  partly because they seem so intuitively true  and partly because many  trans activist have found it hard to communicate their concerns in simple to understand ways.

Here comes a simple and common sense explanation for why Forstater's argument is wrong.

Words about motherhood

To put the whole discussion into perspective, I am going to use somewhat different, but related example, namely the concept of motherhood.

I am sure we all can agree that a good definition of "a mother" is a person who has given birth to a child. This truth actually applies to most mammals. The biological definition of "mother" therefore implies that the person in question is female, and she has a fully functioning uterus and fertile eggs.

But note that this is the biological definition of mother. It does not reflect the way we think of motherhood in a social and cultural setting.

I grew up with a friend whose biological mother had died giving birth to him. Her sister, who happened to be infertile and had no kids, adopted him. She and her husband raised him as their own. As far as he was concerned, she was his mother and her husband was his father, and that was the way the rest of us also saw it.

In other words, there is a cultural and social definition of motherhood that is different from the biological one. We could probably say that a mother is a woman who  who raises a particular kid and loves them and cares for them. The term "mother" is defined by the interaction between the woman and the child. She sees the kid as her child, and the kid sees the woman as their mother.

Moreover, the social role of being a mother also includes other members of the family and the community. They will also see this woman as the mother of this kid.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!