Unorthodox Transgender Love
A crossdreamer is understood as a person who get aroused by the idea of being the other sex.
Some researchers, like Ray Blanchard, believes this is caused by some kind of "erotic target location error" ("autogynephilia").
Others, like transactivist Julia Serano and myself, understands it as one of many ways of expressing an inner, repressed, counter-sexual self ("an inner woman or inner man").
Meet the girlfag
Sahar is a male to female transgender crossdreamer who has joined up with a girlfag.
Note that "a girlfag" is often defined as "a biologically female individual who feels a strong romantic or erotic attraction towards gay or bisexual men, or their social environment."
I suspect that many girlfags are in fact female to male crossdreamers who feel attracted to gay and bisexual feminine men because these men seem to leave room for women with a pro-active, "masculine" and "thrusting", attitude. They may fall for the feminine side of gynephilic M2F crossdreamers as well.
I have already refered to Sahar in the post Girlfags and Gudykes, Unite! He clearly believes Girlfags are very much like male bodied crossdreamers, only in revers.
Talking to girlfags
"Well as you know, I've been talking to girlfags," he tells me. "I actually seem to be one of the few that do this. They really are truly amazing and they always respond if you write to them."
Sahar's personal journey will feel familiar to many a male to female crossdreamer. He unearthed the crossdreamer side of his personality earlier this year, and his whole world fell apart. His academic achievements took a serious blow:
"I had this just awful mindfog, the same one Renee talks about. I couldnt think of anything else but about agp [autogynephilia, ie. male to female crossdreaming]. I then went into a period of that gut wrenching feelings whenever I saw a beautiful girl. That got worse and by [late summer], I was having full blown dysphoria. I couldn't look in mirrors. I felt so terrible all the time. I didnt want to leave my room as i didn't want to see another beautiful girl. I stayed in my room nearly all day, sometimes I'd even shed a tear. I struggled with going out with friends. My mother would cry as i wasn't talking much and wouldn't tell her what was wrong. ... I was sooooo very confused, and just in a very bad place."
Dysphoria and narcissism
This feeling of gender dysphoria -- i.e. a strong feeling of being the wrong sex, often followed by deep depression -- is found among many, but not all, crossdreamers. I definitely know what he is talking about. The mindfog he is talking about is very similar to the condition I have called spellbound.
Among psychiatrists like Ray Blanchard this mindfog is taken as a sign of narcissism. You are an autogynephiliac, a man in love with the idea of himself being a woman. He has internalized his external love object, and the reason he gets depressed is partly that he is unable to love a real woman out there and partly the fact that he cannot really become the woman he loves: himself.
I find this theory extremely convulted. I believe it is a good scientific principle to see if there is a simpler theory that fits the observed facts first, and in this case that means taking the feelings of Sahar seriously. He feels pain because he wants to be a woman. Maybe this is because he, in some way, is a woman. Not in the sense of a person being a helpless, submissive and caring Barbie (or any gender stereotype you might want to consider), mind you, but in the sense that parts of his basic level "wiring" or "programming" is more like the one you would find in a majority of women.
Sahar's experience may be interpreted in both ways.
Help from Jasper
Sahar took control of his own life:
"I then talked to girlfags. At first conversations were pretty straightforward. Just learning about each other. I'd ask so many questions and they would always reply. I found out how their inner masculinity manifested and how they were dealing with it all. It was at this time i started really watching Jasper Gregory's stuff and I also wrote to him. That message seems like my opinion was very concrete. In fact I was just hopeful he was right."
Jasper has a very interesting alternative theory of autogynephilia. For him autogynephilia or crossdreaming is "the erotics of manifesting the feminine social imagery". For him all sexual desire -- including "normal" heterosexual sex -- is fetishistic. As he says: "Real world desire is immanent to every aspect of life."
Jasper gave Sahar the hope he needed to get on with his life.
"From that hope, I managed to [get back on track]. I no longer had the mindfog but the dysphoria remained."
Jasper gave him the respect he needed to start accepting himself.
The Girfag Girlfriend
"I then talked to a girlfag in particular. She is awesome. And its got pretty erotic i must say. I can honestly say though beautiful looking, she is 100% masculine. She tells me that she has that pelvic thrust that my guy friends do all the time. She feels protective over me. She likes to call me baby and i love that. Her fantasies are just incredible for me to hear. Interestingly she isn't so good socially. She accepts that she is like a nerdy guy. (And she really is)..."
He then gives two citations from a discussion between whyxslup and me at this blog. Whyxslup is very much in line with Jasper. Like both of them I believe that gender expressions are socially constructed and that no personality trait is uniquely male or female.
I have the deepest respect for both of them. Unlike them, however, my gut feeling is that at least some crossdreamer conditions have a biological core beyond language and culture.
Here are Sahar's quotes:
"The female body is simply a part of the web of feminine associations of which ones self-image is subjected." (whyxslup)
'I doubt that, but even it this is the case, there may still be a subconscious feminine self causing this association.'(Jack Molay)
Curing the dysphoria
"For me this is at the root of everything. Do I have a 'inner woman' or 'inner femininity'? For me its definitely not just fetishes and I'm not sure I believe the person if they say that. It [is] all encompassing. I love feeling feminine and that can be in the way I move, in the way I interact with people etc. I now hate wearing masculine clothes, and I am on a diet to reduce my muscle size.
"But after embracing my male body with the help of a girlfag, the dysphoria has completely disappeared. No more do i get that gut wrenching stomach turning feeling when i see a sexy girl. i want to be that sexy male that the girlfags talk about. I now no longer crossdream. I am just a beautiful feminine male being taken by a girlfag.
"At first i could not believe the masculinity in a female and believe the femininity when presenting as a male, and so it could not work in fantasies, but after speaking to one in particular I can feel it, and now I fantasise about being desired and being dominated by a woman as a male. And being told that I actually am beautiful as I am, as a male, and being told her fantasies and my place in them has made me so much more balanced. She says I'm sexy, and cute etc. I find myself constantly aroused during entire conversations with her. I have come to realise how feminine my sexuality is and just how amazingly masculine her's is. I don't look at my bone structure and feel pain. I don't look at my height with sickness.
"I say this as at this moment I feel very balanced, and I'm productive again and can be cheerful and not think of agp for hours and hours. I think that maybe the female body is just an association with femininity, and one that I have stopped. But I am worried that I am wrong and Jack you are right. I worry that in a few months, I'll realise that i was just deluding myself and ill start crossdreaming again. The crux of it all, is whether I have a 'inner woman' or 'inner femininity'. I guess ill find out soon enough..."
Acceptance and healing
My first comment to all of this is that I think has already demostrated that he has an "inner woman" or "inner femininity". It is a fair guess that the reason his dysphoria has disappeared or subsided is that he has finally been recognized and valued as "feminine" by someone who truly matters to him.
He has been reaffirmed as as desireable sexual being by another human being. He has been seen. He is loved for who he is. This is the kind of affirmation all human beings need: the foundation for all psychic health and happiness. This applies to our roles as a social and spiritual beings as well as our roles as a sexual beings.
As for the sexual side, a basic course in psychodynamics will tell you that pyschological health is dependent on having a healthy outlet for your sexuality. Sahar, like many (most?) male to female crossdreamers, is wired the majority of women in this respect: He wants to be the catcher and not the pitcher. And what do you know! Here is a woman who desires him for wanting to be the bottom! The frustration and feeling of inadeqacy most M2F crossdreamers feel when being with the women they love is absent.
His girfag lover reaffirms his feminine longings and expressions, while at the same time being sexually attracted to his male body.
In this scenario three myths are challenged:
- That all men ough to be agressive and all women submssive
- That all women ought to be feminine and all men masculine
- That all people who violate rules 1 and 2 are homosexual
We have in fact seen that body, sexual orientation and the feminine/masculine spectrum can be completely independent of one another.
We have now come to a point where language fails me. I am using the male pronoun for Sahar, simply because he does so himself. The male pronoun is here referring to his male body. If he feels his "inner woman" requires the female pronoun, I will definitely use it. In fact, if we are to follow the basic rule of all transgender and transsexual discourses, it is that we respect the inner sense of self, which in this case is feminine. In which case Sahar is a woman in a man's body.
This is where it gets really interesting. If Sahar is correct in his assumption that the respect given by his lover has cured his dysphoria, then he is not a woman trapped in a man's body. His feminine self is at peace with his male body, in the same sense his girlfag friend is at peace with her female body. He is, in a sense, a woman in a male body.
A fetishsitic explanation
Does this prove that Jasper and whyxslup are right and I am wrong? In other words: Sex identity is a socially constructed, fetishistic complex independent of any biological or instinctual bias?
It seems to me Sahar's story can be interpreted either way:
If we say that all sexual preferences are fetishes, i.e. preferences caused by various types of symbolic associations, then Sahar's preference for a dominant, "masculine", girl, may be a result of -- let's say -- some childhood experience that made him associate desirability with submission. This has then led to the desire for a female body, as the cultural context symbolizes submission with the female body. The female body here being a symbol of feminine behavior and desires.
(I am not referring to Jasper or whyxslup here. I am making this up as I go.)
In the same way crossdressers may associate nylon stockings with femininity and get turned on by wearing such stockings. Other men may be turned on by breasts of particular sizes, ankles, a specific perfume, blonde hair, wearing leather and so on and so forth. These are all personal associations, not preferences programmed in the genes.
Yes, such a theory can be used to explain Sahar's feelings, and I am sure there is a fetishistic aspect to his sexuality, as is the case with us all.
However, if it turns out that his gender dysphoria has been cured by the love of his girlfag, we face a problem. Fetishes do not go away if affirmed by someone else. If that was the case, there would not have been many S&M clubs around. In fact, fetishes seem to be strengthened by having someone else take part in the play.
To explain the (possible) "death" of his gender dysphoria within a fetishistic framwork, we must therefore stress the fact that longing for a female body is a displacement of a more fundamental need: Namely the need to be desired as a woman. It is the experience of being a woman that is the basis, not having a woman's body per se. When his crossdreamer girlfriend reaffirms his womanhood, the desire for a female body seems to go away.
But if one side of the fetishistic associations become more important than others, it isn't that far fetched to argue that that aspect may have an instinctual or biological core.
Beyond the fetish
Note that Sahar himself does not believe that all of this is a fetish only. And I have a large number of crossdreaming transgender people saying the same. Yes, they do get aroused by the idea of being the opposite sex, but there is so much more to this than a pure sexual fetish. This especially applies to those that experience gender dysphoria ( pain from the feeling of being the wrong sex). This applies to Sahar and it applies to me, and it definitely applies to those trangender persons that decide to transition.
I am very reluctant to dismiss these convictions, not only because they apply to me, but because theories of fetishes systematically have been used to discredit the lives of both crossdressers, crossdreamers and transsexuals. If people feel so strongly about this that they decide to turn their lives upside down through surgery, all of us should take a deep breath and consider once more whether there is something more to all of this than mere sexual desire.
Again: Sahar's case can be interpreted both ways: You may also argue that Sahar's need to be recognized as a woman/feminine being is based on something more fundamental, something instinctual, something based in biology. Then this core identity triggers all the culturally defined associations found in the fetish theory. What this basis is, we do not know, but it would explain why some people desire to be the opposite sex, while others are satisfied with a candle lit dinner.
To me the old transvestic fetishism theory, Blanchard's autogynephilia theory and the new post-structuralist fetish theory all taste of reductionism, i.e. attempts at reducing complex social, psychological and biological phenomena to one and only one cause. I have come to the conclusion that complex systems like human beings and their interaction with the surroundings should never be oversimplified in this way, which is also why I try to keep an eye on both biological and psychological explanations in this blog.
Carl Gustav Jung's critique of Sigmund Freud's theories apply also here, I believe. If everything is reduced to sex, nothing is sex.
I will come back to the new fetish theory in a later blog post, time permitted.
Sahar worries that in a few months, he will realise that he was just deluding myself and he will start crossdreaming again: "The crux of it all, is whether I have a 'inner woman' or 'inner femininity'."
As I said: He may perfectly well have an "inner femininity", even if he no longer suffers from gender dysphoria. His girlfriend has reaffirmed his inner femininity. She has not abolished it.
I am perfectly aware that there are transsexuals that have turned gender dysphoria into a virtue, and who claim that you cannot be considered a woman unless you hate your male body and go for sex reaffirmation surgery. Since I suffer from gender dysphoria myself, I can relate to that. But what makes perfect sense for them, does not necessarily have to apply to all transgender persons. Their dogma is just that: A dogma used to in a political struggle to keep the "pervos" at bay.
I know for a fact that "op or not to op" is not the only question of relevance here (although it is a very important one). There are crossdreamers who have to transition in order to find peace with themselves, and there are those that do not. But I am convinced that this is -- for all of them -- a question of making peace with your inner counterpart.
I sincerely hope that Sahar has found an alternative route to crossdreamer peace. I really do. And if my idea of getting your "inner woman" affirmed by a lover is what it takes, this may be the case.
But I am not sure.
From the litterature we know that the crossdreamer fantasies of crossdressers and crossdreamers subside when they find love, but they nearly always come back again when the relationship enters its more stable, post-euphoric, phase. It seems that both male to female and female to male crossdreamers manage to get some kind of affirmation when in love, and that this affirmation is enough to keep the inner man or woman at bay for a while. But he or she will not be denied. Maybe this is what is going to happen to Sahar, as well.
Still, there is a huge difference between the cases found in the science papers and the story of Sahar. Sahar is not in a relationship with a traditional heterosexual "ciswoman" who mainly affirms him as a man. He is in a relationship with a woman who accepts him as a woman.
The only parallel I can find to this, is the cases where the wife or girl friend of a male to female crossdreamer choses to respect their lover's inner woman, by taking part in role playing (See My Husband is an Autogynephiliac). In some of those stories, the role playing seems to be enough. In others the partner still ends up transitioning.
I am afraid the simple answers elude me.
This article is based on a post published at the Crossdreamer blog.