Thursday, 3 January 2013

The Story So Far...

A couple of things prompted this blog post. First, it's the end of the year, which always makes me want to take stock of things which have happened over the last 12 months. Secondly, I came across another blog, Stop Crossdressing, quite recently, and having read quite a few of the more recent posts and discussion, I found myself wanting to repeat on there a lot of things which I've posted on other people's blogs. (Stop Crossdressing has been taken down since I wrote this post).

Vivienne

So I decided that a bit of summing up is in order. I've learned a tremendous amount about myself over the last 12 months, and I've profoundly re-evaluated my views about crossdressing. My plan is that, by putting this all together in the one place, I can crystallise my thoughts (always helpful, I have discovered), and also refer other people to here if they want to know my point of view. Regular readers won't find much that is new, but new visitors will hopefully find all my points here in one place.

For ease of reference, I have grouped everything into headings. Some of this stuff is overlapping, so please read to the bottom before you write in to complain about something!

We are all the same

First, we are all the same (provided we are talking here about men who wear women's clothing). Regardless of whether you call our behaviour crossdressing, transvestic fetishism, crossplaying, or whatever, just about everyone who comes to this site (and just about everyone mentioned on here) has the same inner motivations, which arose, at least in the first instance, for sexual arousal. (I am a "lumper", not a "splitter").

For some of us, those motivations are so strong that they overthrow us; for others, they are less strong and can be managed more easily. But all of us, all the time, feel the same desires and tendencies. For some of us, the fiery sexual component has mellowed into a gentler gratification which may not even involve arousal, but for some of us, it's still all about the sexual arousal.

For all of us, I feel sure, there is no other activity which provides the same relief and pleasure.

Alongside the assertion that we are all the same, but independent from it, is my deeply-held belief that no group is somehow more proper, more meritorious, more deserving of sympathy or recognition, than any other. I believe (and have repeatedly stated) that we have more that unites us than divides us, and that we ought to be generally respectful and courteous to one another at all times.

Crossdressing as an addiction

The concept of addiction is an attractive one for some commentators. Certainly crossdressing behaviour can have features resembling addiction, in that crossdressing desires are sometimes unrelenting and all-consuming. The person would rather be free of those desires, and they cause tremendous self-loathing. And the framework of addiction offers the prospect of rehabilitation, and eventually cure.

But for many common addictions (tobacco, alcohol, drugs, gambling) the initial activity is unpleasant. I still think smoking is loathsome, and I remember drinking my first beer, and hating it. I had to work at it to tolerate it, then enjoy it (which I now do). I have no desire whatever to take drugs, or to gamble (I don't even play the Lottery). On the other hand, I was drawn to crossdressing from my earliest memories, certainly before starting primary school, and the very first activities were pleasurable from the very outset. So I don't consider crossdressing to be an addiction in the same mould as those other things. However, it can certainly become one, if allowed to get out of control.

The morality of cross-dressing

The act of a man wearing women's clothing or cosmetics is morally neutral. I don't consider it intrinsically harmful in any way. In particular, I reject claims that there is somehow a biblical or Christian prohibition against crossdressing.

But crossdressing can be tremendously damaging and harmful. The reason is that many crossdressers seem to pursue crossdressing excessively, and it takes away time and money and other resources which could be better spent looking after a family, or a spouse, or a job. When crossdressing reaches the stage where it prevents someone being able to live a normal life, it's too much.

I frequently use the analogy of golf. Like crossdressing, golf is morally neutral. A couple of rounds a week is fine, but there are some guys who want to play golf all the time; they spend excessively on memberships and green fees, and on the latest clubs and equipment, and their wife might be called a  "golf widow". For those guys, golf is interfering with their ability to lead a normal life and has become excessive. But that doesn't make golf itself intrinsically immoral.

Who is in charge

Amour de moi en femme?
Without doubt, I wish I could be free of my crossdressing desires. They have caused me a considerable amount of personal unhappiness, self-loathing, and marital strife. I am not a "happy crossdresser". It seems I have two choices: either crossdressing is in charge of me, or I am in charge of crossdressing. It's clear for me which of us needs to be in charge.

Deciding that involves making an active choice about the priorities in my life. My marriage is more important to me than my crossdressing. My children are more important to me than my crossdressing. My career is more important to me than my crossdressing. On the other hand, setting aside crossdressing permanently costs too much in terms of mental and emotional effort: I become moody and tense all the time, and am no fun at all to be around. I know that my crossdressing feelings won't go away, no matter how long I desist.

So what I am seeking is a middle ground: to permit just enough crossdressing to assuage my yearnings, but not to pursue it to such an extent that it interferes with my normal life. You might well point out (and I would agree with you) that I am seeking to have my cake and eat it too; that such a balance won't be easily struck. But that's what I am aiming for.

Nobody can sum up my feelings better than old Polonius: This above all: to thine ownself be true.

Autogynephilia

Autogynephilia (or autogynaephilia if you speak British) is the word coined by the sexologist Ray Blanchard to describe "a man's paraphilic tendency to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman". Initially I resisted this description of myself, but after coming across Cloudy's blog On the Science of Changing Sex, I accept it as the only theory which fits all the facts and behaviour as I observe them, in myself and others.

The reason this troubles me is that I had considered that crossdressing was not a sexual thing for me; instead, it seems mostly to be about emotional expression and sensual pleasure these days. However, Blanchard's theory is that it has its roots in sexual arousal, and, though it makes me very uncomfortable to admit it, this is absolutely true for me. On the other hand, although the root of autogynephilia is sexual, sexual gratification isn't (by any means) the only reward which it provides, and emotional and sensual pleasures are comfortably within its purview.

Autogynephilia is also (I believe) the reason that late-transitioning transsexuals (like Caitlyn Jenner for example) desire to change sex, although in most cases by the time transitioning occurs the sexual aspect to it has mellowed into a sensation of comfort or belonging in the female role.

Addendum 22nd September 2015: I am extremely indebted to Alice Dreger's wonderful book, Galileo's Middle Finger, for providing the French translation of autogynephilia. In contrast to what I think is a very clunky and uncomfortable term, in French it is amour de soi en femme, (love of oneself as a woman) which sounds positively lovely.

Crossdressing is common

If you look at my post here, you can see fairly reliable figures from the UK's Office for National Statistics about the prevalence of homosexuality in the population. I had previously read a figure of about 1% of males being crossdressers. A more recent figure from Anne Lawrence says that "up to 3% of men in Western countries may experience autogynephilia". I suspect this might be a bit of an overestimate; one swallow does not a summer make, and I suspect that regular, frequent crossdressers are fewer. We are probably on a continuum of frequency or intensity of crossdressing expression, which makes drawing any line pretty arbitrary. (Are you autogynephilic if you dress once a week? Once a month? Once a year? Or are you autogynephilic if you don't dress at all, but are troubled by daily thoughts about it? How do you decide? I touch on these difficulties in my linked blog post).

What Anne Lawrence also says (and I am sure she is right) is that the number of people who change sex from male to female is rising sharply. Lawrence suggests that this increase is largely accounted for by late-onset transitioners, who previously would have been denied sex-reassignment surgery.

In any case, there are a lot of us out there.

Crossdressing is lifelong and incurable

I believe crossdressing is innate to me. Crossdressing desires have been present from my very earliest memories. Though they have faded from time to time, they have never completely gone away. I do not believe that they ever will. I do not believe that someone can be "cured" of crossdressing in any meaningful way; not any more than one can be "cured" of homosexuality.

One one occasion I met an older crossdresser, who told me that in his youth he had been subjected to electric aversion therapy as a means of attempting to cure his crossdressing. He pretended he was cured just long enough to escape the treatment, before returning to crossdressing, which he had pursued for the rest of his life. It had cost him his marriage, and he seemed deeply unhappy, even though he was dressed at a social gathering. And no amount of military discipline could permanently make a man out of Jan Hamilton.

There is a small amount of evidence that anti-androgens (such as spironolactone) can have some effect at suppressing crossdressing tendencies. However, since the hormonal balance of the human body is akin to an orchestra, to meddle with it carelessly is likely to cause far-reaching and potentially permanent side-effects. I therefore don't recommend anyone to take any hormonal medication without thorough discussion with their doctor first.

Crossdressing tends to be progressive as one gets older; a clear and detailed description of how crossdressing manifests in each decade of life is given in Helen Boyd's wonderful book (which I wholly recommend to everyone) My Husband Betty.

Putting crossdressing aside

Many of my correspondents, and some of the other bloggers I link to, are people who have chosen to set crossdressing aside from their lives. Their motivations vary, from religious or spiritual reasons, through to repugnance at crossdressing, through to a desire to retake control of their lives.

I want to be clear that I wish these individuals nothing but success. I think I have quite a lot in common with many of them (and you know who you are!), and the reason for this is that I share with them a determination that crossdressing will not overwhelm me, and a strong moral sense which keeps me away from the less savoury behaviour of some of my fellow crossdressers.

I don't think that crossdressing can be put aside permanently without considerable effort. It’s sort of like being on a diet. At first, it’s OK to go without chocolate and pizza and the other things you enjoy, but after a while you come to miss them more and more. No matter which way you dress your salad or your rice crackers, you can’t make them delicious or satisfying. And then you find that you are using up all your patience and your energy resisting the urge to have a slice of pizza, and you are moody and tense all the time. You may even accept that chocolate and pizza make you overweight, and all those vegetables are highly nutritious and doing wonders for your digestion (and all that is indisputably true). But still, nothing hits the spot like a fresh hot pizza dripping with melted cheese.

It can be done; some people can manage it for ever, but it costs. I believe people who say they have successfully given up crossdressing and no longer feel the urge to do it are lying to themselves and everyone else; just as I believe people who say they prefer salad instead of pizza are lying to themselves (and everyone else too). You can deliberately choose the salad for all sorts of reasons, and I wish you nothing but the very best of luck, but to insist you don’t like pizza any more makes me highly doubtful.

Intersex and transgender

Intersex isn’t the same as transgender because sex isn’t the same as gender. Sex is a biological distinction (chromosomes, hormones and physical characteristics). Gender is a social distinction (roles and behaviour). And to add a third term, sexuality is about who you want to go to bed with. Usually they coincide pretty neatly, but not always.

It’s absolutely true that sex is not black and white, and neither is gender nor sexuality. Intersex people cannot reliably be assigned to either female or male; some of them have unusual chromosome patterns (karyotypes, such as XXY), and some of them have other syndromes which cause them to develop features of both male and female anatomy. Almost all of them are assigned at birth in to one or other sex, and raised accordingly. I believe that's because parents want their kids to be spared the agony of growing up different. On the other hand, some intersex people, when they become adults, are very uncomfortable with the sex they were assigned to.

I think some transgendered people do probably identify with intersex people (without knowing the science well enough) and use the existence of intersex people to justify their views, beliefs, behaviour, whatever. I can also understand how transgendered people might be slightly envious of intersex people (you might wish you were a man with breasts or a woman with a penis) and why intersex people might be uncomfortable with that.

I think what makes some intersex people uncomfortable about themselves is not the same as what makes transgendered people uncomfortable about themselves. I think most members of both groups are uncomfortable about themselves; I know I am. However, I flatter myself that I do understand the science as well as just about anyone.

I imagine a transgendered person saying to an intersex person: “See, I am just like you: neither male nor female.” I imagine the intersex person replying “You’re nothing like me. You started off as one, and now you want to be the other. Whereas I started off somewhere in the middle.”

As a lumper, I say to both: I understand that you both have different feelings and different biology. But, seen from the outside, you are both people who don’t neatly fit into the categories of male and female. Therefore, perhaps you have quite a lot in common after all (rejection, loneliness, doubt), even if you got there by different routes.

Crossdressing and LGBT

And that brings me on to LGBT. The whole notion of LGBT is exactly this: an attempt to lump together people whose behaviour and predilections don’t quite fit with the "mainstream". Before I started this blog, I had joined a closed internet forum for LGBT academics. I had thought that I would have something in common with them. I was, at the time, desperate to open a dialogue with like-minded individuals, but found (almost) nobody like me there. Though I posted about my own thoughts and fears and concerns, all I seemed to get was a polite concern; nobody (and we are talking about gay and lesbian academics) seemed to feel I had much in common with them. I had hoped to strike a chord, but failed.

As it happens, this blog has done quite well, and I have all but given up visiting that forum. But in the months when I lurked, I realised indeed that I had little in common with the regular posters. I dutifully tried to pitch into some of the conversations, and was treated politely and with tolerance, but without ever developing a sensation of feeling I belonged. And I never felt like attending any of the social gatherings which were held quite regularly. It seemed to me that all I had in common with them was my sense of isolation and self-loathing.

I think, though, for the "general public" (if indeed there are any left when you subtract all the trannies and queers and gays and whatnot), crossdressers are considered to be lumped in with homosexuals. How often have you heard an accusation that because a man wants to wear a frock, he must be gay? And how often have you heard crossdressers insist and demand that they are not gay? Where men are concerned, I think most gay men are attracted to masculine men, not feminine men. So crossdressing isn't an especially effective way to find oneself a gay male partner; Jaye Davidson said something of this kind, and I guess he would know better than most.

Crossdressing isn't an expression of inner femininity

I've left this until the end because I think it is one of the most controversial, and counter-intuitive things which I have discovered. It bears repeating. Men don't crossdress because they are innately feminine. Crossdressers don't want to be like women; they want to be like men think women are. It's true that many crossdressers (and here I include myself) didn't behave like typical boys when younger, and were aware something about them made them different from others, but they didn't actually consider themselves to be girls.

Instead, crossdressers are attracted to women (remember: crossdressers are not gay). It's just, for crossdressers, the attraction to women extends to themselves as a woman (the technical term for this is an erotic target location error). In other words, crossdressing is an expression of heterosexual desire, turned inwards. Anne Lawrence puts it more prosaically, and I refer you to her whole article here:
Thinking about autogynephilic MtF... as men who “love women and want to become what they love” offers a more accurate and more richly informative model for clinicians.
In other words, autogynephilia isn't just a sexual fetish, and to dismiss it as such angers nearly everyone, who insist there is a lot more to it (I know I think so). But it can be conceptualised as a whole suite of romantic or attractive feelings, directed towards oneself as a woman, even though most of us are also capable of directing these feelings outward to a female partner. I suppose that makes me feel a little better about the label of autogynephilia applied to me: it isn't just about the sex thing.

I personally believe that the reason some male crossdressers seek out sex with other male crossdressers, is that the sex partner each is attracted to is not the other one, but themselves in the female role, doing things which they consider it erotic for women to do. Add to that the sexual overlay that many men consider it erotic for two "women" to have sex together, and you have a powerful mix indeed. And indeed, each participant will tell you he is quite sure he isn't doing it because he is gay. See here for Helen Boyd's comment.

I also believe that many crossdressers are more sexually attracted to the woman they see in the mirror than with the woman they may be married to, and Helen Boyd offers plenty in support of this assertion too.

My final piece of evidence in support of this assertion is mentioned above: if you want to suppress crossdressing desires, you don't take more androgens (which, you might think, would make you more "manly"). Instead you take anti-androgens, which suppress male sexual appetite and behaviour. Why does that work? Because crossdressing isn't driven by femininity, but by masculinity.

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Anyway, that's been a lot of useful discovery for just a little over a year. For regular visitors, please do keep coming, and posting your comments; I find them extremely stimulating and valuable. For new visitors, do please browse through; one of my personal favourite, but least-visited posts, is this one.

All the best for 2013,

Vivienne.

41 comments:

  1. Vivienne,

    Tres Bien.

    You had earlier promised to pull all of this together... and you did so well.

    Tres Bien, Viviene.

    --Cloudy

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    1. Thanks Cloudy! I am still moving forward, but discovering your blog was a quantum leap.

      Vivienne.

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  2. I enjoyed reading this Vivienne. My question is: why do some transition and some don't? Just the thought of doing that makes me nauseous. I would never want to alter my body in that way.

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    1. Jared,

      This has been researched by Blanchard, among others, and found to have been highly influenced by the type of autogynephilic ideation, specifically, those who are most aroused by anatomic autogynephilia. OK, here's the translation. The more that a man finds the thought of having female genitalia a turn-on, the more likely he will later be she.

      I take it you do not fantasize about being physically female?

      --Cloudy

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    2. Hi Jared,

      Delighted to find you commenting on my post. I thought I had alienated you with my sceptical comments on your blog!

      I can't do better than Cloudy's answer. She undoubtedly knows the science better than me. My own answer would have been that some of us are less "affected" or "afflicted", if you will. To borrow Cloudy's own phrase, the difference between transvestites and late-transitioning transsexuals is one of degree, not of kind. In other words, we are all the same. What differs is how far we take it.

      Do please comment on anything else you read on this blog.

      Vivienne.

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    3. Vivienne- not in the least bit:)

      Cloudy - thank you for the explanation. I don't fantasize about having a female body, just dressing up.

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  3. Lot of good stuff here, lot of stuff I agree with, and a lot that I don't as you already know :)

    I'm a little hurt by this comment of yours - "It can be done; some people can manage it for ever, but it costs. I believe people who say they have successfully given up crossdressing and no longer feel the urge to do it are lying to themselves and everyone else"

    I have experienced real change, not only in behavior but also in desires. So have many others. I've linked to about 10 other blogs and many testimonies of those who have. I understand that you think my feelings will come back someday in such force that I will crossdress again. I think your view on that makes sense, though I disagree with it. But do I really seem like a person out of touch with my own feelings, that I am really lying to myself?

    It reminds me of my skepticism with transgendered folks. We only have their word of mouth to go on, do we trust that they feel the way that they do or do they not? But in the end, I always validate that their feelings of gender confusion and identity are real feelings. I have to trust them. But I think the way they choose to deal with those feelings is wrong, and I think their feelings do not mean they are truly the sex opposite to their body (like they think). But I still accept their feelings as real, and that they are not lying. Do you really think I am lying? Could it really be true that my life is actually worse now than it was when I used to crossdress periodically? Could it really be true that all my feelings of freedom, happiness, and so many other feelings are all fraud? It's all fake and I'm lying to myself?

    Maybe it would help if you would define more what you mean that I am lying to myself and others?

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    1. Hi Thorin,

      I am capable of lying to myself, and I do it all the time. I don't like to admit it, but the person that I am and the person that I want to be (or perhaps the person that I want to be believed to be) are not quite the same. It's pretty easy to convince myself some of the time that, actually, they are the same.

      If I can lie to myself, then so can you, and so can anyone.

      "But do I really seem like a person out of touch with my own feelings, that I am really lying to myself?" I'm sorry, Thorin, but yes, I'm afraid you do. I am certain you believe you are doing the right thing; I admire you for your views, and I wish you nothing but the best. I have no wish to hurt your feelings, but you did ask.

      Could it be true that your life is actually worse now? Only you can answer that. I am certain that you feel a sense of achievement and of doing right, and I don't think those are false feelings. There are plenty of good reasons to choose the salad.

      I have mentioned before that if crossdressing had completely lost its grip on you, you would no longer need to write your blog. An "ordinary" guy wouldn't write a blog exhorting others to quit crossdressing; and if he did I would think he doth protest too much!

      I believe, when you check your blog each day, it's a reminder to you that crossdressing is still a part of your life. That reminder makes you renew that choice every day not to pursue it. And if you make that choice every day, then you are not free of your feelings about crossdressing, no matter how you may justify it by being about helping others, or whatever.

      I hope you don't take this answer as offensive; it's only my opinion.

      Best wishes,

      Vivienne.

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    2. Vivienne, I understand your views, and am saddened that you think thus. But we can still feel free to dialogue. I hold nothing against you.

      You said - "I have mentioned before that if crossdressing had completely lost its grip on you, you would no longer need to write your blog. An "ordinary" guy wouldn't write a blog exhorting others to quit crossdressing; and if he did I would think he doth protest too much!"

      Interesting comment. I wanted to quit my blog almost a year ago already. Why haven't I? All the testimonies that I receive all the time of the men I am helping through my blog, and through my email prayer chain. Right now, it's mostly work. It's work right now just having this dialogue. But I believe it is a ministry that God has called me to for this time. So I keep my blog, I keep my email prayer chain, and I keep writing posts. Yes, it does help me to remember regularly why I got CD out of my life. But I could very easily do without it, and would prefer to be without my blog, if I didn't feel called to keep it going. There are very few voices like mine on this issue on the internet.

      You said - "I believe, when you check your blog each day, it's a reminder to you that crossdressing is still a part of your life. That reminder makes you renew that choice every day not to pursue it. And if you make that choice every day, then you are not free of your feelings about crossdressing, no matter how you may justify it by being about helping others, or whatever."

      You are right. Read my blog more carefully. I never ever said I am totally free of desires for crossdressing. But a drug addict can still have some desires for his drugs, but still enjoy his life far more than when he was doing drugs. Whether you agree that CD is an addiction or not, it's a simple analogy that works. You can have desires for something which are not as strong as your desires against it. Yes parts of me still desire crossdressing. It brings sexual pleasure. But more of me doesn't want it. And overall I am far far happier without it. It's very simplistic of you to think that because I have some small desires for it still that my life is not better off without giving in to those desires. What if I desired to have an affair instead? If part of me wanted it, but most of me knew my life would be worse with it, I wouldn't do it. That's where I'm at with CD. That's not suppression. That's common sense. You do what you most want to do, and control yourself.

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    3. Hi Thorin,

      We are at risk of letting this get out of hand, and derailing the discussion of this post. I thought I had made myself clear above, but I will be more concise. I believe you are capable of lying to yourself about your success in setting aside crossdressing. Whether you have or not, I cannot possibly say with certainty. Using myself as the template, I would say there is a pretty good chance. But what does it matter what I think? And finally, where others might possibly think less of you if this is the case, I promise not to (which seems a pretty Christian attitude, I think).

      I accept you when you say you would be honest on your blog if you resumed dressing. This is because the honesty you display is so forthright it makes me uncomfortable sometimes. I suppose it isn't easy to be that revealing, and you've had some practice before.

      I also accept you when you say that if that happened you would pick yourself up and try again. Once again, this is an admirable sentiment.

      But finally, don't misquote me. You know very well that my attitude is not "if you can't get rid of the desires completely, then why try to go against them at all?". You know very well that I keep a very tight lid on my crossdressing, so that it doesn't get out of hand. But "doing the best we can" seems to be something we have in common.

      Now can we wrap up this line of discussion?

      Vivienne.

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    4. Certainly, I wasn't trying to get you frustrated, just looking to understand you more, and hopefully helping you to understand me more. Done for now :)

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  4. Hi!

    I just came across your blog while checking the spelling of Grayson Perry (the wonder of the internets! :-) )

    I'm trying to think of a diplomatic way of putting this, but as that has never been one of my qualities, this might come across as a bit blunt. You're not going to arrive at *any* understanding of your feelings by reading the anti-crossdressing blogs you've linked to. You might want to check your presumptions about whom gay guys and lesbians want to date while you're at it.

    Oh, before I forget: I've argued, for years, that the transgender and transsexual communities have very little in common with the gay and lesbian communities. I've been in NYC bars while in a skirt, and I can tell you the reception can be "frosty". Sometimes it's okay, sometimes it's not; it depends on the clientele. Most of the gay guys I know don't want to date a guy in a dress; some do, some don't, some have, some haven't, most aren't interested. As you've discovered, gender, sex and attraction are all different.

    Thorin25 is absolutely wrong in that penultimate paragraph. "We only have their word of mouth to go on"? That's beyond insulting. (It's also presumptuous and pompous, but we can ignore that.) On the other hand, it's so gracious of him (?) to grant that we transgendered and transsexual folk are "not lying". He feels the way he does, and good for him. But what he's doing is casting aspersion upon *my* feelings about *my* life. By granting that I might be being honest... Well sod that for a lark, I can tell you!

    Most transgender women aren't expressing what you said they are. And yes, I know what Helen says in her book; some of the definitions have changed since then. The vocabulary used to describe transgender and transsexual people has evolved, and it continues to evolve. I think if you ask Helen (I don't know, but she might still run a forum, MHB; you can find it via Google), she'd say that while her original assertion was correct for the people she was describing, it's certainly not the entire story. You'd have to ask her, anyway.

    Some transgendered folk want to express themselves in a sexualized way; most, in my experience, don't. (Goodness knows, you can find evidence of both on Flickr very easily. I once wrote about how transgender porn is the absolute objectification of women; I still consider that to be true. But that doesn't describe all transgender women! The people who like that whole scene should not be used to inform yourself of what most transgendered women perceive themselves as.

    Personally, I've struggled with the whole transgender/transsexual thing. Most people need a therapist to help them figure it all out. I know I did! But instead of flailing in the dark, seeking advice from ridiculous blogs that proclaim all you need is God, etc - you might want to think about seeking professional help. Life is too damn short to be spent hiding.

    Try some of the transgender-oriented forums, read some of the pro-transgender blogs. Stay away from the preachy, condescending anti-transgender stuff. Sure, some folk say they can "pray away the gay" (etc); but is it better to be true to yourself or to what such folk demand? Is it better to search for who you really are, or abide by the sanctimonious preaching of those who'd rather tell you who you are? Educate yourself about the language, the people, about the experience of being transgendered, the difference between transgendered and transsexual.

    You could worse than start at T-Central.

    As I said, life is too damn short. It's too damn short to be diplomatic, that's for sure. (Sorry. :-) )

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    1. Hi Carolyn,

      Many thanks indeed for taking the time to post such a provocative and interesting comment. This is exactly the sort of stuff I like: challenging and forthright!

      As you've read, I have quite a lot in common with Thorin and Ralph and a few others, and the reasons why are set out above. Most of my posts on their respective blogs are challenging their viewpoints.

      Thorin in particular was one of the earliest commentators on this blog; he and I disagree but have found a lot of common ground nonetheless.

      Actually, reading their blogs _has_ helped to crystallise my feelings. One can't come to a reasoned viewpoint on any subject without considering opposing viewpoints. It's helped me to see that I don't see value in going down the road they are on. You seem to think, on the other hand, because I respect them and wish them well, that I intend to emulate their example, and that's incorrect.

      I have read a lot on the internet which supports your assertion that sometimes the LGB brigade are welcoming to the T brigade, and sometimes not. But you're quite right: I have no knowledge whatever on who gay men and lesbians want to date. I am sure some have indeed dated crossdressers from time to time, but I don't think anyone would suggest this is especially common.

      I'm sorry that you disagree with Thorin's views, and the way he puts them across; you will have to take that up with him. But he is welcome to post his views here, as are you, provided everyone is polite. I must say, my reading of his post doesn't seem to cast aspersions on me, but then, I know what he is like.

      I am not sure what you mean when you say "Most transgender women aren't expressing what you said they are". Can you please elaborate?

      Helen Boyd's book MHB is in a class by itself. It's a few years old now, but I see nothing around me to think that the human beings she describes are behaving any differently. The vocabulary can evolve all it wants to; I think that there is a needless multiplication of confusing terms, which seems deliberately intended to obfuscate. It certainly obfuscated me, which is one reason why I really like the Freund-Blanchard model described on Cloudy's blog.

      I have in fact attempted to contact Helen Boyd via a number of channels without success.

      I don't mean to imply that all transgendered people want to express themselves sexually; but there are (as you allude) teeming thousands who do, at least if the Internet is anything to go by. I am sure there are plenty of others like me, although until I started this blog I hadn't found any!

      I am not "hiding"! And I have had professional help over many years. Everything in life has consequences, and the foreseeable consequences of coming out publicly are extremely undesirable. As a result, I am choosing to stay closeted. Until I started this blog, I was indeed "flailing in the dark", but I've since found a wide variety of perspectives which have really helped me achieve some clarity.

      As for reading pro-transgender blogs, I have read plenty! I have _absolutely_ every intention of being true to myself (which reminded me to insert my favourite line from Hamlet in the above post). As for educating myself, that's a lifelong process! (And I would submit that "transsexual" is a subset of "transgendered", not a different entity).

      Do let me know what you think of Grayson Perry!

      Vivienne.

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  5. Another fantastic exchange that I'm going to ruin by disagreeing with everybody :-) If I'm going to contradict a bunch of stuff on Thorin's blog, it's only fair that I give equal time here!

    It's not necessary to explore the entire lexicon, but it helps understand the various viewpoints if we can at least all agree on basic terminology. "crossdresser", "transvestite" (which to me mean the same thing but to others vastly different things), and "transgender" seem to have a different meaning among pretty much everyone who uses those words. For me, I see "transgender" as the broader (no pun intended, heh) umbrella that covers any disparity between birth sex and society's expectations of that sex, either through physical alteration, personality traits, clothing choice, whatever.

    Another thing that caught my eye was the idea that it's impossible to stop. Sites like Healing From Crossdressing and Stop Crossdressing are loaded with success stories. Do the folks involved still have urgings they need to suppress? Perhaps. Do they have better or worse lives as a result of attempting to stop? As Vivienne noted, that's really something only they can determine and any attempt to second-guess what's on their hearts is way above our pay grade. My point is that it's just as bad to judge others for trying to eliminate crossdressing, as it is for others to judge us for what we do.

    Speaking of judging, I have *never* seen any of that on the anit-CD sites I follow, or any attempt at religious conversion. They're more geared to "preaching to the choir" -- if you happen to share their religious convictions, it provides a common framework for discussing if and why crossdressing is something to be eliminated from your life. None of the blog authors have ever been anything but courteous to me, even though I openly state that I disagree what I do is offensive to God.

    Vivienne, I think there is a time for lumping and a time for splitting (and a time to reap, and a time to sow...) Lumping is useful when we're trying to find common ground and understand one another's different viewpoints. BUT... my attempts to get more involved in crossdressing communities has led me to places where the only thing I had in common with the participants was the fact that my underwear came from Woman Within. So "splitting" is handy when you're trying to connect with people who share your specific interests.

    Does that make sense? What I'm trying to say is, just hanging with other crossdressers gives me nothing to talk about with them when they are either in the process of SRS or they seriously want to be women. When I want to talk about the issues I face in my crossressing experiences, it's important to me to find others who are straight (preferably married so we can also discuss that aspect) and do not consider themselves women trapped in men's bodies. Not, as I always say, that there's anything wrong with it but I have nothing to contribute to conversations about hormones and passing and whatnot.

    Anyway, there are a ton of other subtopics that have come up here but if I try to respond to them all at once this post will be even more rambling and disjointed than usual.

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    1. Hey Ralph,

      Thanks for dropping by. Sensible, thoughtful points as always.

      Vivienne.

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  6. Oy, this internet connection! (Rural New Jersey, where electricity is a new fangled invention... (Not really, but only just)) I don't know if my comment went through, so forgive me if I'm repeating it!

    Vivienne, you might be interested in Lucy Melford's blog. She's a very positive writer, unlike the angst-ridden drivel of the "cure yourself" crowd. You could also take a moment to look at Samantha's blog, a young lass from Nottingham with a lot to say who says it well. And it's just about impossible to go wrong with the Chicago-based Rebecca. I especially recommend Lynn's blog, another married individual. Lynn is very positive but also pragmatic and realistic.

    (BTW, you've prompted me to think about putting a page up "Positive T-Girl Blogs", or something like that. I might do that this afternoon.)

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    1. Hi Carolyn,

      New fangled electricity? Hah! You probably have it piped to your home. Round here they still deliver it daily in bottles.

      But I do like your idea of "Positive T-Girl Blogs", and I will check out those other links you recommended.

      Vivienne.

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  7. Vivienne,

    Thank you for such an articulate and refined account of what is behind your crossdressing. I very much relate to all of it and while it is certain their are variations on this, many of us do fall very near to what you describe. I don't agree with everything you wrote and Ralph verbalized many of my concerns far more gently and with greater levity than could I.

    I do think that the addiction model is at this time the best model we have out there for attempting to control the behavior. (Hopefully more research will provide more effective alternatives). Most addicts of every stripe would agree there is no cure for addiction, as you have also asserted regarding crossdressing. The best one can do is work to minimize or significantly decrease the urges and not let things get out of control. For substances, that seems to mean complete avoidance. Behavioral activity that might include sexual or sensual arousal most likely won't include complete abstention.

    People in most sex addiction programs identify triggers and choose to eliminate certain behaviors but not all sexual pleasure from their lives. For me, that means no dressing or visually stimulating materials, at least for now. For others, maybe dressing one time a month might be something they could do. And yet for others, internet pornography whether might be eliminated for viewing due to its triggering potential to out of control behavior. Each individual has to develop a workable plan for themselves.

    I think support is essential and preferably face to face. However, the blogs by you and others are an outstanding supplement to face to face support. I've elaborated on Thorin's and Jared's blogs about my belief on why there are so few crossdressers that attend these meetings but shame and resistance to seeing the compulsive nature of crossdressing seem to top the list of reasons.

    John

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    1. Hi John,

      Thanks for posting your very kind comments. I think that the addiction model does have some merit, and I think that one way to manage compulsive crossdressing can be to treat it as an addiction (as you say, avoid the triggers, change old habits, etc).

      While someone can reasonably hope to avoid smoking, alcohol or drugs indefinitely, people with eating disorders have a more difficult time: they still have to eat something every day, making it much harder to avoid stimuli (kitchens, cooking smells, etc). Perhaps compulsive crossdressing has something in common with that, in that sexual feelings are not completely banished, but a "healthy" outlet for them is encouraged. I don't know, of course. This is only an idea which just occurred to me.

      I am greatly fearful that my crossdressing could easily get out of control. That's one of the reasons why I dress so infrequently, and one of the reasons I don't seek out social events with other crossdressers (which might reinforce acceptance behaviour). I believe this blog is a pressure-release valve, which allows me to explore some aspects of crossdressing in a controlled way without actually doing it.

      Vivienne.

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  8. Vivienne,

    The eating disorder comparison is exactly right, in my opinion. The blogs by you and others definitely serve a similar purpose for me as they do for you. In addition, they provide connection with others like me which is a great way to break the feelings of isolation that have been a large part of my life as a crossdresser. Prior to the easy access of the internet, I felt so lonely at times I longed to connect in person with other CD's even in drab just for the mutual recognition and understanding.

    As you have said, going out dressed to social events would relieve that isolation but might be reinforcing or triggering. I'm particularly interested in connecting with others who really want to seriously examine and even question their crossdressing. On many sites I used to visit, that was simply not the case-they were merely online accepting social sites. Now there is an abundance of thoughtful introspective bloggers like you for which I am truly grateful. The time is coming when I will join your ranks with a blog site of my own.

    John

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    1. Hi John,

      Many thanks for your very kind comments. Your own comments resonate with me. As a student I just about drove myself mad trying to figure out who I was. I wanted to sleep with girls, but I also wanted to wear their clothes! The public image of transvestites was (and still is) generally perverse or grotesque. I couldn't find any other viewpoint, and I couldn't open any conversation with anyone about it. The Internet has been an extraordinary resource. I remember watching with awe when I typed "transvestite" into YouTube, and I could have watched for weeks without repeating myself.

      I can still count on one hand the number of people who know that I am a crossdresser. I still have a very ambivalent relationship to dressing: I basically love it, and it makes me feel wonderful. On the other hand, I don't want to let that get out of hand, as I know it would have potentially awful consequences for my family life and my career.

      I remain grateful to you for pointing out a few useful blogs to me, and in turn for pointing me out to other bloggers; this has generated a fair bit of traffic.

      I would be glad to return the compliment when you start up a blog of your own.

      Kind regards,

      Vivienne.

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  9. Intresting blog post, Vivienne, but I found this comment hilarious "Because crossdressing isn't driven by femininity, but by masculinity".

    al the best,
    Chris

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  10. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for dropping by and posting a comment. I know it sounds very odd, but it's the only explanation which fits (1) the facts as they are reported in the scientific press, (2) the behaviours I observe among my crossdressing kin, and (3) the way I understand my own behaviour and motivations.

    Any good scientist will drop their theory as soon as a better one comes along, and I am no exception. Perhaps you've got one?

    Vivienne.

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  11. Hi Vivienne

    I don't appear to fit in with many other crossdressers. I'm heterosexual and generally prefer to wear female clothing. I don't wear wigs or try to pass as a woman. I have a female partner who is perfectly happy with my wearing skirts and female underwear.

    I don't want to change or cure myself. I would love it if society and people changed so that I could be accepted as I am, but I am realistic.

    My partner puts it very well. I don't have a problem but other people do if they can't accept me. Let's stop beating ourselves up and embrace the diversity of our being different.

    Regards
    Megan

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    1. Hi Megan. Well said. Thanks for posting. Vivienne.

      Delete
  12. Wasn't phallometry the tool that Blanchard used to advance his AGP Theory? As I've read, there was and still is a great deal of opposition to his use of the tool and what it contributed to his study results.

    Also, from my experience as a client of several therapists over the years, I've seen many that view the DSM as a necessary evil and not always as a helpful tool. Unfortunately, insurance companies require its use to provide payment for therapy sessions.

    John

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    1. Hi Vivienne and John,

      Cloudy, a proponent of BAT, explained her problems among crossdressers by claiming that she is just like Galileo, who presented a slightly refined model of the heliocentric theory originally proposed by Nicolas Copernicus, a Polish astronomer of the 16th century. Galileo’s theory was initially rejected by many of his contemporaries; and Cloudy’s ideas are, too. There is a little problem with that analogy: Galileo’s work gained virtually total acceptance within a few years. In contrast, Cloudy’s ideas are less accepted now than they were 10 years ago. Bad feelings toward Cloudy have other causes. As someone who once saw Copernicus’s preserved office at Jagiellonian University in Krakow Poland, I became interested in the initial controversy. Based on what I had learned, I could immediately see that Cloudy’s comparison of herself to Galileo was total nonsense. Most of the initial resistence to Galileo’s theory came from the Catholic Church, which insisted that God's Word was that the earth is the center of the universe.

      Vivienne, you tried to “explain away” the criticisms of the Core Autogynephilia Scale by claiming that the wording was merely a recognition that people may change over time, just as new automobile drivers may become less reckless as they grow older. Let’s look at the CAS.

      Core Autogynephilia Scale

      1. Have you ever become sexually aroused while picturing yourself having a nude female body or with certain features of the nude female form?
      2. Have you ever become sexually aroused while picturing yourself with female breasts?
      3. Have you ever become sexually aroused while picturing yourself with female buttocks?
      4. Have you ever become sexually aroused while picturing yourself with female legs?
      5. Have you ever become sexually aroused while picturing yourself with female genitals?
      6. Have you ever become sexually aroused while picturing yourself with a female face?
      7. Which of the following pictures of yourself has been most strongly associated with your sexual arousal? (a) As a nude women; (b) As a woman dressed only in underwear, sleepwear, or foundation garments; (c) As a fully clothed woman; (d) Have never become sexually aroused while picturing yourself as a woman; (e) Have never pictured yourself as a woman.
      8. Have you ever been sexually aroused by the thought of being a woman?

      The scale says nothing about changes over time. The critique of those who question BAT is that if researchers want to find out if a respondent can reasonably be classified as autogynephilic, then they should ask, “Do you have recurrent sexual fantasies while …,” not “Have you ever become sexually aroused while….” What someone did once as a 9-year-old should not be taken as a measure of what he/she does quite regularly as a 39-year old. Blanchard inflated his findings on autogynephilic crossdressers by stacking the deck.

      John, you are correct; but let me add a point or two. Charles Moser noted that research using the phallometric testing procedure (and published by Blanchard and two coauthors) found that self-identified “heterosexual crossdressers” had, on average, a small but statistically significant level of sexual arousal when shown stimuli portraying the kinds of events described in the CAS. But the clinical procedures also assessed sexual arousal in response to stimuli portraying men dressed as women engaged in intimacy with non-crossdressing men. The sexual arousal to the second was GREATER than that to the CAS-related material. Blanchard failed to report that finding. According to Moser, more recent research has established that not all MTF transgender persons are autogynephilic, and not all reasonably identified autogynephilic persons are heterosexual. There are gay autogynephilic crossdressers and heterosexual crossdressers who are NOT autogynephilic. That directly contradicts BAT and it directly contradicts two of your sections of Vivienne's “The Story So Far…” item.

      Best wishes to you both,
      Laurie

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    2. Hi John and Laurie,

      Thanks for posting, John. Always nice to hear from you.

      Laurie, as for Cloudy and Galileo. While I can see her angle, to compare herself to Galileo is too rich. Galileo happens to be one of my heroes and I've read a lot about him.

      When I apply the CAS to myself, I get 5 yesses and the answer to 7 is c.

      This blog is not about establishing some great and empirical truth! It's about me finding some meaning in my crossdressing, and in that it's been extremely helpful. I am not in a place to defend any one particular theory over any other. The strongest I would put my affiliation for the autogynephilia theory is: seems about right. Explains most of what I see, including my own behaviour. Seems to have some predictive benefit.

      Could I be wrong? Certainly! Could the theory be horsefeathers? Absolutely! Does it have critics? Dozens of them. Is it the truth? No theory is! Do I see something better? Not right now. But if you do, great! Stick with it.

      Vivienne.

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  13. Grok again. I would agree that setting CD aside costs. It can be done. But its like an amputation. An amputation of part of your soul.

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    1. Thanks Grok. FWIW I think so too.

      V.

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  14. Grok again. Another way to put it-part of my soul has been locked in a box, and hidden away. In return I get a cold, sterile sex role.

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    1. Hi Grok. It makes me feel very sad to read that. I wonder if you would care to elaborate this comment a bit?

      Vivienne.

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  15. This is a great blog, Vivienne! Glad to have discovered it (via the Crossdreaming page on Facebook). You might be interested in my own blog, subtitled "Journeys in crossdreaming, crossdressing and autogynephilia": www.alifemerelyglimpsed.blogspot.com

    Do you think "erotic target location error" is the right term? For me the word "error" is too redolent of Blanchard's judgmentalism.

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    1. Hi Dabrela,

      Thanks for dropping by, and I am very pleased you like my blog. I will take a good look at yours too. I had a swift browse and I can see you are also wrestling with the same questions and issues as I am.

      I agree that "error" sounds pretty judgmental, and I know that Blanchard has upset a lot of people with his theories. However, I have left it in because that terminology goes with the theory. I think it seems reasonable for me to be sexually attracted to other people. For me to be sexually attracted to myself (in accordance with the theory) is pretty strange, and "error" would be a reasonable way to describe it.

      Vivienne.

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  16. Hi Vivienne

    Yours is a fascinating blog. Delighted for having found it. :) As a CD-TG I'm always interested to hear views from those of us who do it and think about it when we don't or can't. I'm in that situation at the moment but have dressed in the past.

    I don't feel shame about being who I am in that respect and like my female characteristics more than my male ones. My difficulty is with the lack of social acceptance. I can only hope that Conchita Worst's victory on Saturday in Eurovision (I voted for her) will be the start of a change in attitudes towards transgender even the rightful anger towards Russia's homophovia and transphobia having been taken into account.

    Two things stand out where I don't agree: the matter of autogynaephilia and the other relating to crossdressing as an expression of masculinity rather than femininity.

    The Autogynaephilia idea is a bit overblown. I can't speak for others only for me but rarely do I become sexually aroused by the thought of myself as a woman. For me it is a sensual experience rather than a carnal one. In so far as there is a rise for me is that I feel better about myself imagining me as a fully dressed woman. I have more sexual confidence and that is arousing. I have zero sexual confidence as a man.

    I used to think that my need to dress was a hightened heterosexuality but not anymore. My inner voice is and really always has been feminine. According to tests – and I've done a few with roughly the same results - I have quite an androynous mind (veerring towards the girl side) and socialise in a feminine way. When I was six I remember feeling dissapointed that I was male and found it frustrating that I couldn't be pretty and wear girl's clothes (I kept this to myself, of course), later wishing I could experiment with make-up etc. I might be attracted to the sort of woman I might have become in an idealised sense but I know what I look like as a woman and that's not it. I look presentable en femme but I'm not that good! :) To me this doesn't seem like a particular expression of masculinity and I'm happy with that.

    Best wishes

    Megan B.

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    1. Hi Megan,

      Welcome, and thanks for posting your kind comments!

      I absolutely agree that crossdressing for me is now a predominantly emotional and sensual experience, rather than a directly sexual one. Nonetheless, it retains a certain frisson for me, which nothing else quite provides.

      In psychological testing, I score highly in both masculinity and femininity. There are plenty of masculine things I do very poorly (field sports, guns, vehicles), but others I do really well (fixing and building things, organising, leadership). I certainly remember as a small boy being envious of the girls and the expressions they were permitted (which I was denied).

      Nonetheless, I cling to the view that many crossdressers are not acting like women, but acting like men think women are (or wish women were). I do have examples to offer, but you will have to email me.

      I don't think autogynephilia is the "truth", but it's a model which fits what I observe more clearly than any other I have encountered. As I have said above, just because it makes some people uncomfortable doesn't make it wrong. As with any model, it has some limitations.

      Vivienne.

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    2. Hi Vivienne

      Thjanks for that. I'll email you soon.

      Best wishes

      Megan B.

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  17. I am on record as being no great fan of either Ray Blanchard or Anne Lawrence (who I have corresponded with on a number of occasions). I also see two types of people mixed together here responding: one type is the fetish dresser who begins at puberty and can become addicted to his behaviour and another is a type III or IV dysphoric described by Harry Benjamin in his book the Transsexual Phenomenon. He described these people as being a mix between a transvestite and a transsexual. These people cannot be "cured" because they do not suffer from an addiction but they were born this way which is why they will never change.

    I myself fit this very description and holding my breath and praying will do nothing for me. I accept myself as I am.

    Gender dysphoria is a graded and scaled phenomenon and it is not cureable but instead treatable. If you fall into a Benjamin type V or VI the pressure is too great and you must transition.

    The autogynephilia theory is simplistic and only names a behaviour without explaining its origins or why its incurable. Anne Lawrence herself transitioned and Blanchard approved many surgeries for people he essentially thought of as fetishist males which makes no sense. If these people's lives were improved by surgery why were they not just happy dressing up as women and enjoying their fetish.

    Not very impressive science I am afraid.

    Thanks for writing this interesting post Vivienne...

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    1. Hi Joanna,

      Many thanks for your articulate and interesting comment. I had not heard of Harry Benjamin's "types" before (and I haven't read his book). It sounds like it might be worth my while to get hold of it.

      I agree with you that gender dysphoria is a gradation. However, it's not clear to me if it's a one-dimensional gradation, or perhaps a two or even more-dimensional phenomenon.

      On the one hand, you say that you will never change and you accept yourself, but immediately afterward say gender dysphoria is treatable. My questions to you are these: what would you say to someone who insists they don't require any treatment (other than transition)? And for someone who does want treatment for gender dysphoria, what treatments are there? Do they work?

      One of my forthcoming posts will be a discussion of the outcomes of sex-reassignment surgery, and whether the medical evidence is in favour of it or not. What I see right now is pretty much an evidence-free zone, with a great deal of flag-waving and pressure from interest groups taking place.

      Vivienne.

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    2. gender dysphoria is treatable in that its really about self acceptance an life management. Its treatable in the sense that not everyone who has it should transition and maybe cross gender expression will be enough. This is what you and I both do.

      I highly recommend that you read "The Transsexual Phenomenon" by Harry Benjamin. You will find a pdf copy online. Within its pages you will find your own story and hopefully some insight as to why you are the way you are.

      SRS is definitely not for everyone and I think most dysphorics (unless you are type VI) would be advised to avoid it like the plague. There is no guarantee you will be happier and the older you are in life the less likely you will have a good outcome.

      Take good care,
      Joanna

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    3. Thanks Joanna. I will check it out.

      Vivienne.

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