Transsexual Analysis: 7. Perversion or lifestyle choice?

Transsexual Analysis

Nature vs nurture: humans are diverse  |   Diversity in society  |   Woman in a man's body?  |   Trauma can shape us  |   Emasculation trauma

Trauma and sexuality  |   Perversion or lifestyle choice?  |   How to treat?  |   Superficiality  |   Problems and reversion  |   In summary

7. Perversion, lifestyle choice or survival necessity?

The pain of separation

We have established that there tends to be some kind of actual or sublimated sexual arousal involved in private cross-gender activities. These activities often become increasingly overt in time due to increasing desensitization and gradual liberalization of societal attitudes. The satisfaction gained is based on alleviating the pain of intensely humiliating emasculation.

Cross-gender thoughts and/or activities can start very early in life, and their commencement before school age is not uncommon. Our sexuality normally starts to develop in earnest around age 11 or so, with variations between individuals.

Therefore, by adulthood those with autogynephilic feelings have already been involved in their "self-relationships" for some years by the time they start acting on those feelings in a serious way. It is no accident that wives of autogynephiles and transvestites report that they feel as though their husband is somehow cheating on them with "that other woman", that is, the cross-presented husband.

As mentioned previously, when we are in harmonious long term relationships the sexual arousal we experience during the early stages is variably replaced by a sense of comfort and wellbeing. If the relationship ceases, for whatever reason, then crippling grief and pain may be experienced after so many years "together".

This provides some indication of how high the stakes can be in the aforementioned "self-relationships".

The pain for an adult autogynephile who has been in a "self-relationship" since an early age can be almost as catastrophic to the person as the loss of a long-term, much-loved partner if s/he starts to feel that the "relationship" is no longer viable, perhaps due to ageing or life circumstances. Remember, this cross-gender "other person" has been with an autogynephile for all of his/her adult life, and generally through much of childhood too. This "other person" has helped cushion him/her from perhaps the most traumatic feelings he has ever experienced.

So cross-gender identity/fantasy can be extremely important to autogynephiles. It is rare that marriage partners form bonds that commence during early childhood, so it would be fair to say that many marriages lack the intensity and longevity of these "self-relationships".

This may explain the extremely high suicide rate of gender transgressors, caught between the rock of their desires and the hard place of taboo. Such people may try for decades to "cure" themselves through suppression, denial, distraction, oppositionalism (eg. engaging in hyper-masculine activities), meditation, prayer/religion, cognitive therapy, electroshock therapy, etc, and when it comes to no avail, their options appear to be narrow.


The scorn and abuse heaped upon people "married to" their cross-gender self (often from within the trans-community) is based on a misunderstanding of these people's motives. In the case of the trans-community, disgust with trans-fetishism can often be encapsulated in the adage: "we hate most in others what we hate about ourselves". Simple projection.

The fact is that trans-fetishists are rarely perverts of dubious intention. They hurt nobody except, arguably, themselves. The only pain they generally inflict on others is the breaking of relationships when they finally "come out", a pain that would not have occurred in a more mature and tolerant society. They are simply people who have become dependent on a psychological and emotional support mechanism.

It is therefore important that autogynephilic desire be destigmatized within trans-community (and elsewhere). It is nothing more than a trait which, since it stemsg from childhood emasculation trauma, says nothing definite about a person's worth, innate femininity or masculinity, nor his/her claims of validity as a sex change candidate. There are many other criteria, as discussed later, which are more important.

How can it reasonably be argued that an autogynephilic transsexual should not change roles if it results in her being a happier and more productive and engaged citizen?

The options - crossgender lifestyle choices

Ultimately, the best space for a person with trauma-induced autogynephilia to occupy in life depends on how incongruent their mentality/emotions are to their physical self, the intensity of trauma, and the level and nature of their other-centered sexuality.

It should be said that a person with autogynephilic desires will also have a "normal" sexual orientation, be it straight (many autogynephiles take on a heterosexual role in the male lives), bisexual or gay, although this other-centered sexuality will most likely be weakened because it is shared with self-oriented needs.

So there are a number of lifestyle choices available to gender transgressors in these comparatively liberated times, the choice being dependent on both the above-mentioned factors and fear of taboo:

Each of the above options may include gay, bisexual or hetero sexuality, regardless of what one terms "gay" or "straight" in this context.

Taking into account various sexualities, this means there are at least, broadly speaking, 18 options available to gender-transgressing individuals. If one adds additional options such as the taking of hormones, electrolysis, grooming (eg. hair styles, treatment of body hair, use of makeup, piercings) and cosmetic surgery, then the number of possible identity options can run into hundreds.

It is little wonder that gender-incongruent people frequently complain of feelings of confusion!

Issues with the various cross-gender options

Full heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality are not listed above because they are rarely possible when autogynephilia is present, unless the cross-gender needs are very weak and/or the person has strong will and determined to be "normal". Usually autogynephiles have a heterosexual background, regardless of their actual preference, because their "desires" are born of stigma.

Even when pure other-centered sexuality is embarked upon, some aspects of the person's sexuality and/or psyche will be sublimated and relationships may not be stable over the long-term, although there are many examples to suggest otherwise. Nonetheless, it is unrealistic to expect that people are capable of entirely and permanently breaking intense bonds that were formed during childhood.

So autogynephiles (and crossdressers) with strong cross-gender impulses are generally not capable of sustained normal sexual relationships without bolstering them to some degree with cross-gender behavior or fantasy.

In such cases, even though a relationship may appear typically heterosexual to others - even to their partners - the private world of the crossgender-fixated person is almost certainly not a purely other-centered one (they often require fantasy during sex to be fully aroused). This may well be to the detriment of the relationship, especially when "the medicine wears off" in middle age with a resultant escalation of cross-gender behavior. This dynamic (as discussed in Part 4) often results in broken marriages.

In the case of "heterosexual" crossdressers and autogynephiles, some women come to accept their partner's needs, but often they feel cheated because those needs cut across their own. If a crossdresser's or autogynephile's needs are fairly mild, then it is far easier for a compromise to be reached that works for both partners.

This pseudo-straight lifestyle option is not the only one fraught with complications.

Gay autogynephiles (and they do exist, although they are less common than their heterosexual peers) also may face similar problems in that a gay partner (as with heterosexual women) usually desires his partner's masculinity, not his femininity - so a gay autogynephile can run at cross-purposes with his partner. As with his/her heterosexual cousins, tensions rise if the cross-gender needs grow stronger with age. It is just as common for gay relationships to falter after one partner's gender transition as it is for heterosexual ones.

Part-time cross-living (for instance working as a male while living socially in the female role) provides its own complexities. M2F transgenderists can experience distress when reverting back to the masculine role. If his/her cross-living has a measure of secrecy, the transgenderist will need to deal with all of the typical problems involved with subterfuge living - fear of discovery and the need to lie or be evasive, and this tends to limit their ability to achieve satisfying friendships with others, which may lead to feelings of isolation.

The "out" transgenderist can expect some ghettoization of his/her social life, with social contacts and venues being limited to those who are accepting, often tightly restricted to the "queer scene" or social work/artistic/hedonistic scenes, so it is fair to say that this option is most accessible to certain personality types and those with certain interests and/or abilities.

The androgyny/"genderfuck" option can be even more complicated - where a person projects an indeterminate gender identity - with the same issues as the part-time transgenderist, although minus the subterfuge complications.

Again, the fields of potential long-term partners and social contacts are very limited for such individuals. In addition, the choice to live in "the gray zone" is only possible if the person's work environment tolerates it. Some organizations which deal with either the creative arts, academia, social work, the sex industry and the "gender industry" (eg. selling cross-gender prosthetics) will be the most likely realistic options.

It is also fair to expect that they will experience problems with work in any area that requires employees to declare themselves as "Mr" or "Ms", or to don semi-formal business attire. Highly talented individuals may carve a niche for themselves in a business enterprise, but there are perhaps not a lot of other options.

The above two options tend to be chosen by those with strong political beliefs in regard to visibility, and it is not uncommon for them to engage in trans-activism.

If the person finds none of the above-discussed options feasible, then they may seek to move towards permanent cross-gender living, with or without surgery. The wish for full-time transsexuals to have surgery may be affected by the following factors, either in isolation or in combination:

It is an unfortunate fact of life that prejudice often shapes the life choices those who are not gender-normal make. Further, full transsexualism with genital surgery presents its own problems, the main issue being that it is harder to "backtrack" if the person has doubts or finds the problems of transition too difficult.

In addition, for those who "pass" as woman, there can be problems with intimacy and openness - both in relationships and friendships - which are covered further in Chapter 8. Further, it is not unusual for the surgery to prove unsatisfactory to some extent.

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