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. 

In other words, some gender variant people and crossdreamers follow the binary, while others are nonbinary.

Transgender people who have not (yet) transitioned often crossdream, but people who see themselves as non-transgender or cis may also do so. 

(The term "transgender" is a bit ambiguous, which makes things a bit complicated. I use it as an umbrella term for all kinds of gender variance, which  makes nearly all crossdreamers some shade of trans. But they will have decide how they would like to describe themselves.)

How to express crossdreams

Crossdreamers explore gender by various means, the most common ways being:

Crossdressing, as in dressing up in clothes that in this particular culture is used to express the target gender of the crossdreamer. These days cosplay is an arena that helps some gender variant people explore who they truly are. Some also explore their nonbinary side by mixing stereotypical male and female clothes, jewelry, make-up and hair styles.

Crossenacting, as in exploring behaviors, interests and expressions that is mostly found among members of their target gender. Yepp, some trans people use gender stereotypes to express their gender, but – then again - so do a lot of non-transgender people.

Through art, as in writing and reading stories about people who have "changed gender" or who have "crossed genders", making or enjoying illustrations and comics that reflect such dreams, or who make songs and movies to the same effect.

Erotic and non-erotic

Keep in mind that for many, cis or trans, sexuality is an important way of finding confirmation as a man, a woman or a nonbinary person. For this reason crossdreams may be erotically charged, as many other types of fantasies also can be, independent of gender identity or sexual orientation.

That being said, much crossdreaming is not erotic. Given what I have learned from other crossdreamers, I would guess that most of the crossdreams are not directly erotic in nature.

Note that crossdreaming is not limited to one "biological sex" or sexual orientation. You find crossdreamers in all parts of society.

Gender dysphoric and gender euphoric

The medical community focus on what is called gender dysphoria to determine whether someone is transgender. Gender dysphoria has been described as as experiencing "clinically significant distress or impairment related to a strong desire to be of another gender". 

Gender dysphoria is a way for the psyche to express the pain of not being able to be, express or being seen as the gender one truly is. This kind of dissonance  may be expressed through depressions, anxieties, depersonalization and/or aversions towards ones own body.

But gender incongruence may also express itself in gender euphoria, which is the opposite of gender dysphoria. This is the joy a crossdreamer may feel when they are able express their true gender,  or when someone affirms their real identity with respect, love and compassion.

Gender dysphoria and gender euphoria may live side by side in the same person, and there is no clear boundary between the two. That being said, I like to think of crossdreaming as an expression of gender euphoria – a celebration, if you like, of ones true identity.

Illustration: Getty


  1. Great insight into a very wide and complicated topic.

  2. I very much like the way you encapsulate the topic Jack. In the end it is a wide spectrum which includes dysphoric and non dysphoric people which results in different life outcomes. And yes, let's please leave the bigots out for once :)

  3. ...and yes euphoria and dysphoria can coexist something which I am often experiencing myself.

  4. Excellent Jack, thank you.

    Very well said: "(The term "transgender" is a bit ambiguous, which makes things a bit complicated. I use it as an umbrella term for all kinds of gender variance, which makes nearly all crossdreamers some shade of trans. But they will have decide how they would like to describe themselves.)"

    About gender euphoria: after I'd determined that I am trans I progressed through a process of discovery to determine how far I needed to transition. My experienced gender euphoria was like a compass needle that always happened to point toward "this step is good for me, let's continue." Many steps, some very small and reversible, some quite large and irreversible (e.g., GCS). I am almost surprised to have found that complete and utter transition was exactly what I needed all along.

    Now I have "life euphoria"!


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