November 26, 2021

What is crossdreaming?

What is crossdreaming? A crossdreamer is someone who, to a larger or smaller extent, is driven towards imagining and expressing themselves as another gender.

The narratives about what makes gender variant and transgender people who they are, have often been colored by the thinking of transphobic people. These negative  narratives are also retold because queer and trans people have to respond to such invalidating theories and rhetoric. 

But what if we for once leave the bigots behind and talk about crossdreaming from an independent and positive standpoint?

As I see it gender variance normally reflects some kind of mismatch between a person's assigned gender and experienced gender.  This is often referred to as gender incongruence.

But we have to keep in mind that such incongruence comes in different colors and intensities. Some end up identifying completely with "the other gender" (relative to the one assigned to them by society at birth), while others simple feel the need to express sides of themselves that others try to deny them, because this is not what "real boys" and "real girls" should feel or do. 

September 12, 2021

The Chinese Government Attacks "Sissies", "Feminine Men" and Nonbinary People

Nonbinary and androgynous people assigned male is  be one of the greatest threats to modern civilization, according to the Chinese Communist Party. 

The political fetishization of hypermasculinity is also relevant to the discussion about transgender and nonbinary people, as the new policy reflects the traditionalist fear of gender variance in general, and femininity in those assigned male in particular.

TV stations are banned from showing feminine men and "sissies"

Washington Post reports that on Sept. 2, China’s television regulator banned effeminate men on the screen, saying that broadcasters must “resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal esthetics,” using an insulting slang term for transfeminine men — “niang pao,” or literally, “girly guns.”

Associated Press reports that the National Radio and TV Administration fears the influence on Chinese pop stars, who – inspired by South Korean K-Pop singers, Thai models and Japanese movie stars – fail to live up to the masculine ideals of the party.

Chinese boy bands such as TFBoys, Uniq, Super Junior-M, and Exo-M have all been attacked for their use of makeup and feminine or androgynous fashion choices.

September 2, 2021

Women's Health Debunks Transphobic Autogynephilia Theory

"Leading Women's Magazine Finds that Many Non-transgender Women are 'Autogynephiles'! Read all about it!!!"

Well, to be fair, Korin Miller does not say a word about the  "autogynephilia" theory in the recent piece "Here's What It Means To Be Autosexual, According To Experts."

But here's the thing: The "autogynephilia" theory – which says that many trans women  are suffering from some autoerotic perversion where they are attracted to themselves as women (looooong story) – requires that cis women never get turned on by the idea of being sexy.

Because if cis women feel this way, autoerotic fantasies in trans women can be seen as a confirmation of the gender identity and not an invalidation.

Feeling sexy

Sensible people have know for a long time that many cis women may feel sexy and like what they see in the mirror. Autoeroticism is part of human nature. 

But when Dr. Charles Moser pointed out that cis women had such fantasies, the transphobes did everything they could to discredit him.

August 29, 2021

Why are Trans People Trans? (Part 3): Psychoanalysis and the Inversion Model

Thomas Ernest Boulton and Frederick William Park, androphilic female impersonators and crossdressers living in Victorian London (1869). I do not know their real gender identity. Photo colorized by Crossdreamers.

In part 2 of this article  I discussed the most popular ways of explaining what makes trans people trans today. In this final part I will discuss  psychological explanations for transgender identities, as well as the debunked two type model.

The Psychodynamic Model

Sigmund Freud was wrong about most things, but that does not stop him from being the most important psychiatrist of all time. His study of the subconscious helped debunk the quasi-rationalistic idea that what we are consciously aware of is all there is to the psyche. 

These days practically all psychologists and psychiatrists accept the notion that there are parts of our psyche we are not consciously aware of, and that what is hidden there does influence our "ego" (the conscious side of our mind.) 

Indeed, the concept of the unconscious is necessary if you want to make sense of the life journeys of many trans people, as social and cultural oppression makes they hide their transgender side deep down in their own minds, to the point where they can no longer recognize it for what it is. Crossdreaming and gender dysphoria are ways for the mind to bring that side up in the light of day again.

Unfortunately, Freud's thinking did not really help queer and trans people in the long run. His psychoanalysis (which is part of the broader psychodynamic tradition) became instead a tool for oppression. 

August 28, 2021

Why are trans people trans? Part 2 ( A Look at Well Known Narratives)

In part 1 of this article I explained why we need to look into what makes transgender people trans. In this part I discuss some of the most influential theories and explain why I think one of them is better than all the others.

The theories attempting to explain trans identities

 I will focus on the four of the most dominant scientific models found during the last 150 years or so:

  1. The Rainbow Model
  2. The Body Trap Model
  3. The Psychodynamic Model
  4. The Two Type Inversion Model
There is also a wide research field addressing gender roles and gender identities in the social sciences and the humanities. Gender studies have, for instance, contributed greatly to our understanding of gender variance. 

But that tradition is most often based on a given acceptance of transgender identities, and is more interested in explaining the way social systems lead to oppression based on gender. It rarely considers the interplay between biology, culture and psychology, which I suspect is the primary concern of Tailcalled, who invited me to this discussion, so I will not describe it here. 

That sort of thinking has greatly influenced my reading of the science of gender and transgender identities, though.

The Rainbow Model

The dominant model for explaining transgender identities these days is what I will call the Rainbow Model. It is a non-reductionistic model, in the sense that it does not reduce sex and gender to a simplistic biological sex binary or one single factor of origin.

Modern research has uncovered a mind-boggling complexity as regards  the development of biological sex, both as applies to the development of the body (both prenatally and after birth) and the formation of a conscious gender identity.

August 26, 2021

Why are Trans People Trans?

What makes trans people trans? A lot of theories have been presented, and few of them survive the test of time. Currently the dominant model is what I have called the Rainbow Model, where a transgender identity is seen as the end product of a complex interplay of factors, some of them biological. In this three parter, I look at several approaches to explaining what makes trans people trans.

Tailcalled, who has been taken active part in the "autogynhephilia" debate over at reddit, has invited me to an online debate about what makes trans people trans. I can do that. We have agreed that we will both publish a blog post giving some pointers as to how see the "etiology" (cause) of transgender identities, as starting points for our discussion.

This is my blog post. Tailcalled's one can be found here.

So the question is: What makes trans people trans?

Sounds easy, doesn't it? All we have to do is to find some relevant scientific papers and take it from there. But it is not that easy. Not that I am dismissing the role of science in such a debate. I have been writing about this kind of research since 2009. 

The problem is that science is not a kind of platform where you can look at transgender lives with purely objective and disinterested eyes. Scientists are as human as the rest of us, and their preconceptions and prejudices directs their research questions and the way they conceptualize what makes trans people trans. 

Even the terms we use are fluid and ambiguous, because they have to be as we move through a cultural shift where traditional ideas about sexuality and gender are being questioned along a wide front. That is, as I see it, a very good thing, but it makes it harder for people to discuss this topic, as people from different communities have different life experiences and understand the relevant words in different ways.

June 29, 2021

14 Ways of Being a Transphobe (and still feel good about yourself)

Four women with speech bubbles saying I am not transphobic but...
"I am not transphobic, but..."  Illustration: yacobchuk/crossdreamers

Harassing transgender kids, stopping trans women from going to the bathroom and calling vulnerable trans women of color sexual perverts doesn’t make anyone look good, does it? 

So what can an anti-trans activist do about that?

Always  aware of the needs of  transphobic activists I have put up some advice over at Medium. Click here for your guide to being a transphobe with pride.


May 31, 2021 gets a new email reminder distributor

For those who subscribe to the email reminder service:

Google and Feedburner are closing down their free email distribution. We are moving over to Mailchimp, a well known and trusted email service.

For our subscribers the only difference will be that the email will now come from Mailchimp. You do not have to sign up again.

For readers who have not made use of this service, we have added a new subscription form in the right hand column of this page.

We do not share your email addresses with anyone else and we will use the email address to send you relevant information only.

(If you sign up and see a snail mail address for Crossdreamers: Do not take it too seriously!)

May 22, 2021

Science and Transphobia: Ray Blanchard is Now Assisting White Supremacists. Why?

Ray Blanchard, the man behind the "autogynephilia-"theory, recently took part in in a YouTube livestream hosted by the  British racist and white supremacist Edward Dutton. Needless to say, doing so effectively destroyed what was left of Blanchard's reputation as a researcher. But why would he do such a thing?

In case you have never heard about Blanchard's two-type model of male to female transgender people, here is the su twitter version: Blanchard argues that androphilic transgender women (who are attracted to men) are effeminate homosexual men, while gynephilic trans women (who are bisexual or attracted to women) are fetishistic straight men (autogynephiles).

Very few experts on trans identities believe that trans women are mentally ill these days, so his position clearly makes him an outlier in the scientific community. His model does have an effect on the lives of trans people, though, and not in a good way.

I will not spend time on bunking the Blanchardian typology in this article. That has been done here, herehere, herehere, here, here and here. Instead I will look at how Blanchard's actions can help us gain a better understanding of the role of science in society, and especially how it can be harnessed by bigotry.

Hiding your transphobia in plain sight

Ray Blanchard managed to a certain extent to "pass"  as a serious modern scientist, as long as he restricted himself to publishing  in science journals, hiding his real intentions behind  paywalls and science sounding jargon.

Most people do not read academic journals. Moreover, the arguments, statistics and terminology used in such publications are often impenetrable to outsiders. It is therefore hard for them to see the what lies behind the insider terminology and the complex tables.  

May 3, 2021

Debunking the female brain vs. male brain myth (and why it is not as easy as it might seem)

Lise Eliot is out with a new interesting article on the idea that the brain is gendered (i.e. different between men and women). She refers to a new meta-study of research on biological research that, as she sees it, shows that there is no difference between male and female brains beyond size.

I am a big fan of Lise Eliot, who is  a Professor of Neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in the US of A. 

Her book Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow into Troublesome Gaps and What We Can Do About It taught me a lot about modern neuroscience, and how some scientists takes a too simplistic approach to how our feeling of being gendered is created.

I would argue, though, that the arguments she makes against this part of neuroscience does not prove that there is no biological component to gender identity and that transgender identities therefore must be purely psychological. More about that below.

Mars vs. Venus

In a new article over at Fast Company she writes:

Everyone knows the difference between male and female brains. One is chatty and a little nervous, but never forgets and takes good care of others. The other is calmer, albeit more impulsive, but can tune out gossip to get the job done.

These are stereotypes, of course, but they hold surprising sway over the way actual brain science is designed and interpreted. Since the dawn of MRI [Magnetic resonance imaging, used for brain scans], neuroscientists have worked ceaselessly to find differences between men’s and women’s brains. This research attracts lots of attention because it’s just so easy to try to link any particular brain finding to some gender difference in behavior.

But as a neuroscientist long experienced in the field, I recently completed a painstaking analysis of 30 years of research on human brain sex differences. And what I found, with the help of excellent collaborators, is that virtually none of these claims has proven reliable.

April 30, 2021

On my most popular tumblr-posts on transgender lives and topics

I have been posting transgender news and articles over at my tumblr blog since early 2014, and have learned a lot about that section of the transgender community in the process. 

Tumblr is dominated by younger people, and I can see that they – for instance – love positive stories about being trans and references to reputable science sources that affirm transgender identities.

You can read more about this in my article "What my most popular posts on tumblr can tell us about what transgender youth are looking for" which I have posted over at Medium.

(I am testing out Medium as an alternative way of making my content more well known.)

April 19, 2021

The Rise of the Left-handed Cult

The 20th century saw a dramatic rise in the number of left-handed people. Was it all part of a leftist conspiracy? Read on to find out!

Right now ant-transgender activists, left and right, are trying to tell the world that the current rise in the number of transgender people is caused by a transgender conspiracy.

RightLeftRightWrong tells a similar story about left-handed people:

The history of the sinister left-handed

In pre-modern times left-handed people were thought to consort with the Devil. Left-handedness in women might be considered proof of them being witches.

In the 19th century science and medicine were used to fight the threat of those left handed:
The infamous (but influential) 19th Century physician Cesare Lambroso, who identified various facial and racial characteristics with criminal traits, turned his attention to handedness at the end of the century and the start of the next and, perhaps not surprisingly, he identified left-handedness as a mark of pathological behaviour, savagery and criminality.
At the middle of the 20th century American psychoanalyst Abram Blau suggested that left-handedness was caused by perversity and the result of emotional negativism.

April 5, 2021

Yes, Ernest Hemingway was Transgender

PBS has made a new documentary
on Ernest Hemingway which presents their
gender variance. (photo by Yousuf Karsh)

Ernest Hemingway is know as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.  Hemingway is also known as one of the most macho male authors of the time. Yet, there is overwhelming evidence that the great author was some shade of transgender. 

Before we start: I am using the term "transgender" in its most common meaning here, i.e. as an umbrella term for all kinds of gender variance. 

We cannot know how Hemingway would have identified today, in a time that  is a bit more forgiving towards queer and trans people than the world Hemingway lived in. 

However, I will argue that given all the time they spent on trying to come to the bottom of their own gender variance, this was much more than a "fetish" (even if Hemingway, like most people, had their kinks). What we are facing here is a more fundamental nonbinary or transgender  identity.

Given that I do not know how Hemingway would have presented today, I stick to gender neutral pronouns.

My main sources on Hemingway's transgender nature are Mary V.. Dearborn's book, Ernest Hemingway: A Biography, and Nancy R. Comley and Robert Scholes'  Hemingway's Genders. (References below).

Fetish or identity?

Keep in mind that few of the authors who have looked into this side of Hemingway are transgender themselves, which often leads – as I see it – to some misinterpretations of Hemingway's  gender.

For some the very presence of erotic crossdreaming or sexual role play, immediately leads to the term "sexual fetish". This is a term that is actively used to invalidate trans people. 

Mind you, I am not saying that fetishes do not exist. Most, if not all, people have them.  But it should be pretty obvious that a transgender identity is likely to express itself through sexual dreams and desires as well. Instead of using fetishes and sexual fantasies to dismiss transgender identities, we should use interpret them in a transgender and queer context.

March 13, 2021

Is it possible for your true gender to change over time?


I got this question over at tumblr:

Is it possible for your gender to really Change?

Like instead of just unlocking your true identity (an oversimplification), is it possible for your gender identity to have shifted over time instead of just having been the One True Gender (or lack of gender) the whole time?

Here's my response:

There is much that is unknown about how gender identities are formed. The current scientific consensus seems to be that a stable gender identity appears relatively early in life, at around 3 years old at the latest, and that it is caused by an interplay between different factors.

Genes play a part, but there is no single “gender identity gene”. Many genes are involved in the development of both biological sex and the experience of “being gendered”.

Studies of identical twins show that if one is transgender, the chances of the other one being trans too, is much higher than pure chance would allow for. But there are a lot of cases where one is cis and another is trans, which tells me that although genes are part of the explanation, they do not tell the whole story.

Hormones seem to play an important part, especially in the womb, where the production of hormones and the cells’ ability to “read” these hormones, influence the development of both body and brain.

Your own personal life story definitely shape the way you understand your own gender identity. Culture and the social dynamics are therefore also important factors.

January 23, 2021

New study gives insight into the spectrum of gender as regards brains, psychology and mental health

A new study argues that 50% of people are some shade of androgynous and that this gives them an advantage as far as psychological health goes.

Male brains and female brains.

Is there such a thing as a “male” or a “female” brain?  Scientists have desperately scanned, dissected and mapped brains in order to see if there are any solid differences. Researchers have found some parts of the brain that seem to be different between men and women, but there are two important caveats:  

These differences are only found on an aggregate level, so there are a lot of men with “female” structures and vice versa. 

Moreover, scientists have never been able to fully document a causality between these brain differences and – let’s say – gendered behavior as reflected in interests, abilities, expressions and identities.

Men are not from Mars

One problem is that we have very messy and blurry notion of what it means to male or female, so the research becomes equally messy. Much of this research is based on culturally defined gender stereotypes, which are not fixed in biology in humans. Since culture and our ideas of the normative female and male behavior changes,  the scientists are basically trying to hit a moving target.

One of the scientists who constantly talk about “female” and “male” brains is Simon Baron-Cohen. His own research shows that only half of women have “a female brain”, as he defines it. Yeah, right...

Contemporary science is gradually giving up on the idea that men are not from Mars and women are not from Venus. We are all from Earth.

The adrogynous brain

To give you a recent example: Barbara Jacquelyn Sahakian, Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology at the University of Cambridge, and her colleagues Christelle Langley, Qiang Luo, Yi Zhang and more,  decided to use the connectivity between different brain areas as a measure of gender (as this kind of connectivity has been known to vary between men and women on an aggregate level).

January 21, 2021

With Biden We May be Back to the Transgender Tipping Point

In 2014 we had the "transgender tipping point". Then, shortly after, we had the "transgender backlash", as religious extremists, fascists and trans-exclusionary "radical feminists" tried to turn the gender clock back to the 19th century. Like most right wing extremist Trump skillfully played the transphobia card to rally his MAGA-base. With Biden we may now be facing another and much more positive shift.

As I have reported over at my Trans Express blog, the Biden administration has proven itself to be pro-LGBTQA and it is pro-transgender. It does nothing to hide it. Biden has already signed the first executive order on LGBTQA rights, and it reads like a rainbow manifesto:

Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love.

Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.

Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes.

People should be able to access healthcare and secure a roof over their heads without being subjected to sex discrimination.

All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.

The ban on transgender people in the military will be abolished any day now, and the White House web site has already started asking for pronouns.

January 1, 2021

Kourtney Kardashian on "Autogynephilia" in Non-transgender Women

Kourtney Kardashian implicitly debunks the transphobic "autogynephilia" theory in a new article on her Poosh site. She explains why  women may get aroused by their own bodies and sensuality, a kind of sexuality that is used to invalidate the identity of transgender women.
Kourtney Kardashian on Instagram

As you might remember the "autogynephilia" theory of Ray Blanchard argues that gynephilic (woman loving) transgender women suffer from an "erotic target location error" whereby they are sexually attracted to the image of themselves as women. 

"Auto-gyne-phile" means "Self-Woman-Love". 

Their crime is that they may get aroused by the idea of being a sexy, attractive woman.

These trans women are therefore suffering from a "paraphilia", Blanchard argues – basically a sexual perversion driven by a straight, masculine, sexuality.

But what about autosexuality in cis women?

As many have pointed out, this theory presupposes that cis women do not get aroused by their own bodies or by "feeling sexy". Because if they did, that would make this a female sexual trait, and even a human one.

Indeed, if it is found among cis women, you might  argue that finding such arousal in trans women is a clear indication of their female gender identity.

The autogynephilia supporters have dismissed this argument by pointing out that cis women do not have such feelings. They have, for instance,  done everything they can to undermine Dr. Charles Moser's study of "autogynephilia in cis women". In accordance to Patriarchal orthodoxy cis women only get aroused by male bodies "out there", or – if they are slightly more liberal – by female bodies as well. Cis women do not suffer from such "autoerotic" tendencies, as they are, I suppose, innocent and pure.

I would guess that a lot of women have played along with these beliefs, well aware of the fragility of the male ego. If women can get aroused by their own sensuality, who needs a man? 

I guess this is also partly why autosexual feelings often are classified as a kind of pathological "narcisssism", instead of a natural and enriching part of normal sexuality. It ruins the simplistic and banal narrative of the other sex being a kind of "magnet" that is attracting a person due to his or her sexual "magnetism" alone. 

Research documents a lot of autoerotic fantasies in cis women

Studies of women's sexual fantasies documents that cis women may perfectly well get aroused by the idea of being a sexy, attractive, woman. I doubt very much that the multibillion dollar fashion industry is driven by the need to attract men alone. In fact, many cis men show no appreciation of female fashion at all. I suspect may women dress up because looking good feels good.

You may perfectly well argue against this "submission to a sexist fashion industry" on a political level, but the fact that some women enjoy dressing up does not make them mentally ill.

And it is at this juncture that Kourtney Kardashian presents an important argument. Over at her site Posh she has published an article called "Are You Low Key Autosexual?".

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!