If you’re reading this website, it’s highly likely that you are transgendered to a degree, even if you don’t accept that definition fully, or don’t think it applies to you at all. However, what I will attempt to explain will also work with other reasons. Nevertheless, we transgendered persons have a very focused reason for having to deal with our urges, anxiety, frustration, irritation, disappointment: we wish to crossdress (or even go all the way through transition), but for some reason, we cannot. This triggers all those deep feelings, and we need to cope with them somehow. For some, coping is way too hard and requires professional help — medication and therapy. For others, the best way to “cope” is simply to transition — problem solved! For most, however, that might not only not be an option, but be the source of more worrying, more anxiety, and even more frustration.
Now I have to start with a big disclaimer. I’m not a therapist. I’m not a health professional. I’m not even qualified to talk about what I’m going to talk about — a method which can help to deal with the urges, the anxiety, the stress, the depression, and the disappointment. However, I’m just very fortunate for having met the people who taught me this method, and for which I’m very grateful, and I can only hope that it will be of any use to you as it was for me.
And next, I should warn beforehand that none of these methods “work fast”. Often people who are desperate will try pretty much anything to get rid of their frustrations, and, as such, expect immediate results. That’s only natural: when we’re in a bad mood, we want it to go away quickly. Now, these methods take a long time to actually have some effect. Don’t expect to follow them for a few days and see immediate results. In fact, the higher your expectations, the longer it will take for them to work — because, fundamentally, they’re methods to deal with way too high expectations. This — hopefully — will become clearer below.
I use this method to deal with my own urges, anxiety, and frustrations, and have practiced it for half a decade. However, that doesn’t mean anything. I still have urges, anxiety, and frustrations — they’re just a bit easier to deal with. When describing the method below, there might be some unintended errors, because I’m really not qualified to explain it fully. Thus, don’t be disappointed with the method itself; it’s just my own incompetence in explaining that rendered it in a confusing way which might not be very understandable to you. Fortunately, there are good experts easily available with which you can discuss the method, and who will be able to explain it flawlessly to you — rely on them for good advice, not on my poor understanding.
And the final warning is to let you know that if you feel that your condition is hopeless — please, please go and visit a therapist! Several will be familiar with the special requirements and needs of transgendered people and can provide you with immediate relief. I understand that for many of you things like “shame” or the refusal to “come out” (for whatever reasons) are big incentives not to look for a professional therapist, and so you’re turning to the ‘net for help. I actually understand that quite well — I went through that route myself, but my own case is relatively mild. If your case is serious, you need professional help, but there is nothing to be “ashamed” of — health care professionals who are experts in the subject of transgenderism are able to deal with your issues. Don’t rely too much on what you read on the Internet for treating yourself at home because you’re “ashamed” to talk to a doctor or a specialist about it; instead, use the Internet to research what professionals are available in your area, see which ones are more discreet and have good reviews, and place an appointment with them. You will be in safer hands that way.
My motivation for writing this article
I have stumbled across a website known as Stop Crossdressing about a year ago and revisited it recently to see what the author, “Jared”, had added to it [note: the site seems to be down since mid-2013, thus I provided a link to the Internet Archive instead]. To keep it simple: Jared, a crossdresser with a strong Christian background, believes that crossdressing is “wrong”, for several reasons. He read a book to help those who want to break the habit of sex addiction and considers crossdressing to be nothing more than that: an addiction. Jared is reasonably well-informed and documented. He knows all about crossdressing, read everything he could about it, learned that it’s usually understood by the medical community that you cannot “cure” crossdressing, and so forth. He’s also highly rational and very intelligent (which is not unusual for transgendered people!) and so he proposes a method to “break free” of the crossdressing habit. He’s also very honest: since making the decision, he relapsed at least twice, and is very open about his experiences — showing how hard it is to “break free”.
But why does Jared ultimately want to stop crossdressing? It’s not just because of his religious/moral convictions. Ultimately, what he feels is that the urge to crossdressing drives him to a high degree of insatisfaction, which can lead to anxiety, frustration, and, ultimately, depression. So he wants to get rid of that urge. By looking at crossdressing as a habit, or an addiction, he can change his mind to believe that it’s “wrong” to crossdress, develop a mindset that only wants to get rid of the frustration and experience a certain degree of happiness, and, to do so, he has to stop feeling the urge to crossdress. He reasons that once he is deeply convinced that crossdressing only leads to insatisfaction, his mind will break free of the habit. His relapses only show that, at some point, he’s not fully convinced yet that crossdressing is so “bad”, and so he keeps returning to it. Recently, he has been experimenting with a typical association of ideas: crossdressing leads to sexual arousing; it’s a sophisticated form of assisted masturbation; so if he gets rid of the desire to masturbate, his urge to crossdress will disappear as well. So far, he seems to be “winning the battle”, according to his latest entries.
Now let me explain first that I understand Jared very well. The urge to crossdress is very strong for some — so strong that it only leads to suffering of some sort, even if it’s just thinking about it all the time and sighing out loud “what a pity that I can’t crossdress until the weekend!”. All transgendered people feel exactly like that to a degree: we’re usually never happy at the level of crossdressing we can do. If we’re able to dress once per year, we want to do it every month. If we can do it once per month, we want to do it once a week. If once a week is actually possible, we want to do it every evening. And if we spend all the time at home crossdressed (I know a few CDs who do exactly that, with encouragement from their wives), we start feeling the urge to dress all the time, and, well, why not go through transition then? In fact, “transition” is one of the surgical procedures with the highest degree of success in the history of medicine — success rates are usually around 98% or 99%. It’s also surprising that although to a degree, a transexual will encounter a whole new host of problems and complications — hate, rejection, discrimination, even rape — they prefer that to the constant urge to be a woman without the possibility of doing so. It just shows how powerful the urge can be.
So Jared is right. For some, the urge to crossdress is so strong and powerful, and the frustration from the lack of crossdressing so intense, that the actual crossdressing session is just a “temporary relief”. For a few hours, if you’re lucky to get those few hours, the desire subsides, and you experience something akin to a sense of happiness. But it’s temporary. And you know it will go away once you return your clothes to the closet. Some of us, even while crossdressed, are already pining for the next session — because they know this one will not last much longer — and don’t even enjoy themselves much. What’s the point in dressing, after all, if all you can think about is that “it’s never enough”? This is the route that leads to depression.
Jared thus suggests that stopping that cycle is the only way to avoid the traps of anxiety, frustration, disappointment, and eventually depression. This is, of course, the point where I disagree, but the reasons for doing so are a bit more subtle.
Many might feel attracted to Jared’s methods — finally, a way to deal with the urges! — but be put off by his writing style, since, even if not always obvious, it’s rich with religious thoughts, expressions, and morality.
Now most religions in the world, to a degree, condemn crossdressing — more or less strongly, of course. Some Islamic countries will simply put crossdressers in prison, because “it’s an offence to God”. In Christian countries, most of which have a secular state, we’re a bit more tolerant. In our countries, crossdressers are merely subject to discrimination and hate, but not treated like criminals or mentally disabled people by the State. Putting it very simply, the major reason why most religions condemn crossdressing is that they consider it (like Jared does) a sex addiction. Sex, because it causes pleasure without divine intervention, is considered undesirable — it means that humans, on their own, can forfeit God as the only source of happiness. This is, in fact, the only reason for forbidding everything which gives pleasure by itself — in most theologies, the ability to derive happiness without the need of a God is very troubling. For millennia preachers have thus preached that everything that causes pleasure is Evil and that God does not want us to have pleasure on our own, but only by establishing a link with Him. Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll question this “only source of happiness”, and, as such, they’re “forbidden”.
A few of the more forward-thinking religions tend to view transgendered people as “lost lambs” who have to be “brought back to their rightful place in front of God”. At least, these religions replace hate and discrimination with love and compassion: they seriously believe that a transgendered person is just merely confused but can nevertheless still be “saved”. To be honest, some of these religions actually freak me out.
Recently I saw one magazine from one of these religions with an article on how a transvestite performer “found God again” and abandoned crossdressing. You should have seen the pictures — my words cannot convey the horror of what I felt when reading that article. The first picture showed this person in her feminine role. She was way beyond gorgeous; she was a diva; she was more womanly than any other woman I have seen, and definitely pageant material. She also had a wonderful life as an entertainment performer and earned quite a lot from her performances, enjoying a comfortable life. But more important than all of that is that you could see in her radiant smile and the twinkle in her eyes how absolutely, magnificently happy she was. With her gorgeous body, she was adored by everybody, she was famous, rich, powerful, and truly happy with herself.
By some stroke of bad luck — the article didn’t explain how it happened — this fantastic, happy person found one of the preachers of the organisation (I always wondered, “what was the preacher doing in a transvestite show??”). Somehow he managed to brainwash her and tell her that her soul was lost but could still be saved if she agreed to go through a process of “reverting” her transgenderism. And then we get to see a picture of the result: an ugly, skinny guy with a receding hairline, wearing an even uglier T-shirt, and some sort of agricultural implement. The smile was lost, never to come back; the shine in the eyes disappeared completely. This guy was a hollow shell with no will of his own; unable to earn money to sustain himself, he became a farmer (a rather unsuccessful one). Obviously just looking at the result I could not believe any of the quotes saying “I’m now much happier”. Really. Just one look showed me that this guy was a complete wreck, a mere shadow of what he once had been. And totally apathetic and unable to think for himself; he had no more urges because he was completely brainwashed not to think by himself. The article finished, of course, saying that anyone feeling similar “urges” could be “saved” just like this guy was “saved”.
Of course, Jared is much softer in his approach, but rational people who are transgendered easily reject most religions, since those religions don’t offer a solution except for convincing yourself — auto-brainwashing — that what you do is “evil” and you should stop. Now. Put into other words: these religions are not interested in dealing directly with the urges and the insatisfaction related to those urges — like modern psychology does — but just in terminating with the cause: stop crossdressing, and you won’t feel any more urges, sooner or later. Oh, and God will love you for that.
Naturally enough, this gets easily rejected by many crossdressers. Unless, of course, they’re desperate, and the only solution left — before going beyond the abyss, i.e. considering suicide — is simply to “stop”.
Well, I know this is not the only solution. There are, indeed, methods to deal with the urges, the anxiety, the disappointment, the frustration, the insatisfaction, and eventually even preventing depression ever to appear, without needing to adhere to any religion or philosophy, and this is what I propose to explain a bit — not necessarily because I’m good at those methods, or even because I’m good at explaining them, but mostly to encourage anyone reading this to look for a qualified teacher in those methods, and get good instructions from them.
Crossdressing is in the mind
Let’s start at the beginning. Many of you who are transgendered to a degree asked this question over and over again, at the very least when you started crossdressing: “Why am I this way?” Or perhaps you turned the question around: “Why don’t other guys feel the same way I do about dressing as a woman, since it’s something so great?” This, of course, is not restricted to crossdressing: you can apply it to everything. For instance, one of my friends is constantly teasing me to try a plug because it’s so exciting to feel penetrated from the behind, and she cannot understand that, for me, it’s something that just hurts a lot (also, I have surgically removed haemorrhoids half a decade ago, and I’m not so keen in having anything hurting there). On the other side of the coin, it’s hard for me to explain to a non-smoker (or, worse, to an anti-smoker) why smoking is so pleasurable for me. A non-smoker, especially one that had tasted at least one cigarette, will only see the bad side of it: it smells horrible; smoke makes you cough or even vomit; the nicotine buzz will give you a headache; it leaves a terrible after-taste; and, ultimately, it will destroy your health. And people enjoy all that? Non-smokers can only conclude they’re out of their heads.
Nevertheless, most of them went through similar experiences with beer or coffee, and now enjoy both substances like everybody else, and never stopped a minute to see that smoking is pretty much the same. We get used to everything and it becomes pleasurable once you’re familiar with it.
When it comes to crossdressing, my wife often says something similar. There are, of course, crossdressers with perfect bodies, and all they need is to wear a dress. Simple. I’m obviously not one of them: I require extensive padding, corsets, lots of cleverly applied makeup, and a wig. When I first started crossdressing, all this was painful to wear and do. It took me a while to discover how wonderfully comfortable corsets can be when they’re properly worn. Still, it’s true that sometimes the whole experience is not totally pleasurable — after 10 hours of wearing high heels, in some cases, my feet hurt a lot. Or if it’s too hot, the wig becomes unbearable. Or the bra might be chafing and rubbing at the skin and hurting it.
But do I care? No. That’s what my wife teases me about: she says that I spend hours to look vaguely feminine, getting subject to what amounts to physical torture, just to look pretty. While — in her opinion, of course — I would be much better off just by accepting that I’m not a woman and enjoy my male body, which doesn’t require anything to look like it does.
At this point, all of you crossdressers will side with me and say that my wife doesn’t really understand what’s crossdressing all about! We will bring out our lists of justifications of why we take pains to achieve a minimally female image for our pleasure, but, roughly speaking, they will come to the same point: it’s the way we are, we cannot change our nature.
A few decades of medical research on the subject of transgenderism will validate that opinion. At best, researchers will try to explain some issues by pointing to genetic makeup, or certain hormonal imbalances during foetal development, which were not enough to suppress a different sex. All animals, obviously including humans, are born female — being female is the “default” [Note: this claim has been challenged — science advances! — and in more recent articles I address a more current explanation]. It’s the appropriate enzymes, hormones, and other proteins coming from the XY chromosomes that will subtly change the chemical environment during the early stages, and make a foetus develop as male. Females don’t require extra chemistry. In fact, there is a medical condition known as Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome where the androgen receptor is not functional, and, as such, an individual with XY chromosomes (legally a “male”) will develop externally as a woman instead (but will lack a uterus). This is very uncommon (about 1 in 100.000) but just shows that the difference between male and female is not even determined at the genetic level — a slight mutation is enough for us XY-carriers not to develop as males.
It is conjectured — but not yet scientifically proven — that transgendered people might, during foetal development, be just very slightly insensitive to androgens. The difference is too slight to trigger any external, physical characteristics. But it has been proposed that the brain, which is far more sensitive to tiny variations, might not fully develop as a “male” brain. While all this has been the subject of recent research, it’s still very much in the speculative stage. It is, however, enough to show that crossdressing is not merely a “whim” or a “disease”, that can be “treated” and “cured”. There might be physical reasons for transgenderism.
Until those are figured out, all we know is that the mindset is certainly different, even if science doesn’t know why. The “why”, at this stage, is not so important: what matters is to recognise that there are differences, and those differences cause suffering, whatever the true origin might be.
Now here comes the tricky part: even though we all have a mind, science doesn’t exactly know what it is. It seems a bit paradoxical: if we have a mind, we ought to know what it is, right? But no. It’s one of those things that we can identify and recognise when we experience a mind, but not exactly say what it is. Let’s show this by means of an example. Even a small child knows that a fluffy teddy bear has no mind, but a cat does. We might conjecture if plants feel anything, but we know that a fly is hurting when we rip its wings off. Obviously, depending on our own beliefs and moral systems, we might say that animals “have no soul” and are “driven by instinct” and “do not feel like we humans do” — even if there is no evidence for saying that — but the whole point here is not to discuss what animals feel or don’t: it’s just to show that we can immediately know what has a mind and what has not. It’s easy to recognise, but hard to describe what it is!
What is harder to accept, but vital for us transgendered people, is that the mind is not the body. When the body dies, in the immediate second after its death, we know there is no mind there. However, most physical processes are not instantly stopped when the body dies. A few seconds after its death, there are still a lot of chemical processes going on, just as before. But the mind is “gone”. But more weird is what happens when you’re in a coma or go through general anaesthesia — a routine procedure these days. Your mind is literally “shut down” during coma or surgery, but the body still functions normally. However, when going through anaesthesia, the mind “recovers” on its own and continues to operate normally. The same happens when fainting, which we computer geeks describe as “rebooting the brain” — the mind shuts down for a while and recovers again by itself. During that period of time, you have no consciousness whatsoever — it’s not like “deep sleep”, where you might have dreams and have some idea of the passage of time (even if dreams seem to take much longer than they actually take).
So… clearly mind and body are very strongly related, but they are not “the same thing”. Here is where transgenderism plays a role: it’s when the mind, somehow, to a degree, thinks that it’s not exactly aligned to the body’s gender.
Now, these “misalignments” are hardly uncommon. Anorexia is triggered by a mind that believes that the body is “too fat” — no matter how much the body actually weights or looks like. In fact, it’s actually quite rare that people believe they have a “perfect body” — when they do, we call them narcissists! So somehow it’s viewed to be “healthy” and “normal” if you’re not entirely satisfied with your body! Also, of course, as we age, our perception of our body changes — as it gets older and less functional, we tend to dislike it more and more. It’s the degree of rejection of one’s body that marks the difference between a healthy individual or, eventually, a mental disorder of some kind. On the other hand, transgenderism is not a “mental disorder” in the sense of something that “develops”, but in the sense of a permanent condition: the individual’s mind clearly “was born” rejecting (to a degree) their physically assigned gender, and all they can do is to deal with that.
Jared’s strategy on the Stop Crossdressing website is to persuade himself (and others who follow his techniques) that having one’s mind “misaligned” with the body’s physical gender is “wrong”, so he tries to “convince” himself otherwise. This is a mix of a suppression technique (avoiding feelings, thoughts and emotions that trigger the crossdressing urge) and an adoption technique (training the mind to accept that the male body is something desirable, exciting, agreeable, and pleasurable). These techniques can work to a degree — after all, similar methods are used to “cure” addictions — but they all have a catch.
First of all, they might be very stressy by themselves. It’s hard to “train” one’s mind, and if we’re “training” it to suppress pleasurable things, the mind resists the change. This is one of the reasons that we see religious fanatics becoming very unbalanced people, full of resentment, envy, and negative thoughts — they condition themselves so hard to suppress their urges and desires, that they get furious with pretty much anyone who is enjoying themselves.
But the reverse is also true. Simply following our urges and desires also leads to problems. At the very least, we will quickly discover that those urges and desires increase more and more. There is no stopping them! So when we’re constantly following those desires, we will need to follow them more to feel the same degree of momentary happiness, which seems shorter and shorter. This is the problem I alluded to before: we’re never happy with the amount of crossdressing we do, until, finally, the option seems to be to crossdress all the time. When that is impossible, no matter how much we have indulged in crossdressing, it will ultimately fail to please us.
You can see at this point that this is the bare core of “addiction”, and, as such, Jared is not totally wrong when he follows the theory that crossdressing is a form of “sex addiction” (because, for Jared, crossdressing is linked with masturbation). Other addictions work like that, too. Alcoholics will, indeed, need to consume more and more alcohol to induce the desired state of stupefaction that they require; but at some point, even a small amount will induce ebriety, just not with the desired intensity. Typical drugs will also require more and more consumption to trigger the same effect. But it’s not just chemical substances that cause addiction — take the example of hoarders, for instance. They also will buy more and more things they don’t use until they cannot even live inside their houses, crammed full with useless things, but they don’t even notice that — all they know is that they have “never enough”. At a milder level, some people will compulsively and obsessively buy more and more dresses and shoes but feel they have never the “right” thing to wear. In fact, all our consumer-oriented society is based on the fact that we need “more and more”.
But not all addictions work the same way. Smoking, for instance, is a bit different: at the beginning, you will quickly consume more and more cigarettes per day, until you reach an equilibrium, which is different for everybody. When you reach that plateau, you will not feel the “urge” to smoke “more and more” — you’ve reached a limit. However, you will feel the deprivation from smoking less — that’s why it’s a very hard addiction to get rid of because it’s almost impossible to “smoke less and less” until you stop smoking. You either cut it completely, forever, or it won’t work. But lots of people are “casual smokers” — they can just smoke socially and never become addicted, or smoke so little per week (say, a handful of cigarettes) that they’re not considered “addicted”. And, of course, these people, they can stop smoking at any time. Why? The explanation is beyond the purpose of this article — I might write on it another day — but the whole point here is that not everything is an “addiction”; that “addictions” are not merely physical (like hoarding, for instance); that some of those addictions are purely mental, others are physical; and, of course — and this is my point — just because something looks like an addiction (like Jared suggests) it doesn’t mean it is an addiction, but can be something entirely different altogether.
Now we humans are mastermind pattern-matchers — we find patterns even when there aren’t any! We give significance to things that don’t mean anything, just because our brains, evolved from the most deadly predator on Earth (yes, that’s what we are!), are extraordinary pattern-matching tools. This gave us lots of wonderful abilities, like the ability to read, write, and use logic to analyse and discuss things. But sometimes we stretch analogies too far! That’s the bad side of excessive pattern-matching. Jared, and some early psychiatrists — and almost all prominent religious figures — “believe” that transgenderism is “just like a habit or addiction”, and, as such, can be “cured” using the same techniques (i.e. just stop doing it, and stick to that).
We know this is simply not the case. A transgendered mind just works differently.
Observing the mind: it’s just thoughts!
Now if “suppression” doesn’t really work — it will just make us unhappy — but getting dressed “more and more” also leads to “more and more” disappointment and frustration, what can we do?
Some will say at this point, “learn contentment”. Find an equilibrium. Don’t suppress it too much, but don’t follow your urges too much. Find a middle way — avoid extremes. These are all good advice, but… how do we actually do that?
To understand that, we need, at first, get rid of a lot of social conditioning we have regarding things like pleasure/pain, feelings, sensations, emotions, and thoughts.
Traditionally, for centuries, we were taught that all these things are different. For instance, when we feel pain, we immediately react; until very recently, we called this action “instinctive”, since the brain didn’t need to “think” about it. Nowadays, modern science has sort of discarded the notion of “instinct” — something artificially introduced by religions to separate “men from the beast” — and explain everything with levels of consciousness and complexity of thought, and so forth. But the point remains that we have been conditioned for centuries to believe there was a difference between “instinct” and “rational thought”.
Similarly, we say that we feel emotions, and react to them, because emotions are biologically conditioned, and there is nothing we can do to stop them. We can even explain them through evolution: for instance, “fear” triggers adrenalin in our bodies, allowing us to run to escape the source of fear, so animals developing this fear/adrenalin relationship did manage to escape predators and enemies, and reproduce — while others, not having developed “fear”, might have been too slow to react. Of course, this is an oversimplification — things are way more complex — but, again, the point is that we commonly say that fear is irrational, we cannot control it, we’re at the mercy of what triggers fear and can do nothing about it.
Get a list of emotions and feelings, and it will be the same thing over and over again. We might not even agree on the same list, but most people will be socially conditioned to believe that emotions and feelings “just happen”. They’re “juices flowing in the body” and outside rational thought — in fact, a lot of emotions are known to trigger chemical changes. Tears collected from someone laughing have a different chemical composition than the tears from someone weeping in distress. Anger triggers a rise in blood pressure and the blood capillaries near the surface of the skin get irrigated; we feel the heat radiating from our face because of that. On the other hand, some chemical or physical changes inside our bodies clearly trigger emotions and feelings; thus, we feel hungry because the stomach is empty (to give a simple example), or we are driven to the toilet because the bladder is full. Pain and pleasure are also usually explained that way.
It’s very hard to think about all these things differently because we’re so used to this explanation!
Here is my challenge: observe all these categories for what they really are — what your experience is — and not from what you’ve learned at school, from parents, from friends, or from browsing the Internet. This takes a certain amount of critical thought and an open mind!
Let’s start with a simple example: pain. Pinch your leg. It hurts. We will say, “the leg is hurt, so I feel pain”.
But let’s analyse this more critically. Is the pain a characteristic of the leg itself, i.e., can the leg feel pain by itself? If you observe it closely, you will quickly come to examples where this is not the case. For instance, if you’re deep asleep — not merely in a dream state — you can get pinched and you won’t feel any pain: you’re asleep! Obviously, the same happens when you’re in a coma or during surgery: you can “shut off” pain that way. But let’s not be dramatic: I’m sure you have felt “pins and needles”, or a leg that has “fallen asleep”. Have you pinched yourself when that happened? Did you feel any pain — or even the touch of your fingers on the leg’s skin? Finally, of course, if you pinch a corpse’s leg, it’s clear that the corpse will not feel any pain — they’re dead.
So it’s not merely the leg that feels pain. There has to be “someone” that registers the pain. We will say, “oh, of course, it’s the brain”. Well, that’s not quite correct. It’s true that signals from the pinching arrive at certain parts of the brain and it will thus register pain. But the same happens when you’re asleep or in a coma; the difference is that the brain, even though it receives the same signals, doesn’t register anything. Don’t shrug this away by saying “in those cases the brain is anaesthetized, so obviously it doesn’t ‘feel’ anything”. It’s not so simple! Medical science doesn’t really know what “anaesthesia” actually is, all it knows is how to induce it artificially, how to maintain it, and how to trigger the “waking up”. Science doesn’t say what it is — we just describe its effects.
There is this old joke that to get rid of a headache you should drop a hammer on your toe — then you will forget all about the headache. That’s certainly true, but it’s not obvious why! But you can be a little less dramatic. Imagine that you have been stung by an insect and now it hurts a lot; but in the meantime, you get a phone call from your sweetheart. What happens? Sure, you might complain a lot about having been stung, but, as the conversation flows, and you get more enthusiastic about your loving partner, the pain subsides — at least until the phone call is over. You might say that this is not really what happens in your case, but I have more examples like that — just bear with me for a moment.
The point here is to observe “where is pain”. And if you are paying attention, there is only one point it can be: it’s in your mind. Now I’m not saying you’re “imagining things” — not at all! It’s quite obvious that, under normal circumstances, if you stub your toe while kicking a rock, it will hurt. There is no question about that. It doesn’t matter if the pain is “in” the rock, “in” the foot, “in” the brain, or wherever else: all you know is that it hurts. But — and this is the important point to recognize! — this pain doesn’t exist by itself. It requires a lot of things to happen at the same time: you need to be awake and conscious; the foot has to kick the rock; you need to be focused on the pain and not on something else, etc. If all circumstances are present, then, yes, you register pain. If some of them are absent, you don’t. The lesson here is that pain doesn’t exist by itself, it requires a conscious mind that is aware of the pain, and a lot of circumstances to trigger it.
Let’s switch from pain to pleasure. Imagine your favourite dish or dessert — let’s say it’s ice cream. Now imagine you’re enjoying yourself eating a delicious portion of ice cream, and suddenly you get a phone call from your broker, saying that they lost all your money. Or a relative has just died. Or your kid at school has flunked an exam. What happens? For most of us, suddenly the ice cream “turns to ashes in our mouth” — we lose appetite, it doesn’t taste as it should, all because we’re worried about something else. Conversely, something you don’t really enjoy eating may be much more pleasant if you’re surrounded by good friends and having a lot of fun together (that’s one reason why we tend to drink too much — we’re not really paying attention to how much we drink while we’re having fun!).
So where is the “taste”, the “appetite”, the pleasure of eating some foods and not others? It’s in the food itself? Or is it just like the pain example — you need to be conscious of what you’re eating, the food has to be around, you need to be eating it, you cannot be distracted. When all that happens simultaneously, then, yes, you’re tasting food you like and enjoying yourself.
Now let’s analyse other emotions, like, for instance, anger. We say that certain people or situations anger us, and we shift the blame to them. For instance, at school, we might say that a bully is universally hated by everybody, bullying is not acceptable behaviour, so that bully is what triggers our anger (and very rightfully so). The bully is inherently deserving of our anger.
However, that bully will have loving parents who adore him and think the best of him. He might have other bully friends. So how can that be possible? How can the same person trigger love, friendship, adoration in some, but “universal hate” in others? Evidently, all we can say is that the bully’s actions go against our own ethical conduct, and, as such, we dislike the bully — and everybody sharing the same ethics will agree with us, so we must be right (and the bully’s parents, friends, and so forth are all wrong).
But if we analyse things the same way, we will see that this is not really the case. A typical example: let’s look at our relationships. A few among you might be living with their first love in a never-ending relationship and miss the point, but most of us will have gone, at least, through a few relationships. What happens is that we think the best of the world of a newly acquired partner and all is rosy and cheeky at the beginning. Then, over time, we learn more and more disagreeable things about that “perfect partner”, who suddenly is found not to be up to our incredibly high expectations. And vice-versa: one day, harsh words will be spoken, a certain behaviour will not be more tolerated, and that person who was our best friend will become our worst enemy. We will say that this person has changed, that it wasn’t the same person we first started to go out with, and so forth. But we forget that we are not the same, either! But clearly, it’s not only the other person that suddenly became completely unacceptable — after the breakup, that other person might quickly find a new lover, engage in another relationship, and clearly become another’s source of love and veneration.
So in these emotions, we see, once more, that it takes a bit more than just being adorable, sexy, perfect in every detail — because the same adorable, sexy, perfect person can be paradise in one moment, but hell in another. In the beginning, we say that there was “chemistry” between both lovers, which made “their hearts beat as one” — but somehow the chemistry is gone at some point (and we shift the blame on our former partner for having changed and failing to meet our expectations). So where is this “everlasting emotion of love”? To be blunt: it only existed in our minds.
At this point you will complain that love is not just that; it’s also passion, lust, and the desire to make them happy. These are visceral emotions, coming “deep from within”.
But we have to take a look at all of that carefully. What triggers that passion and lust? If it’s the person’s body, what happens when the body changes — when it grows old or catches a disease? Well, we’ll say that chemistry doesn’t last. But the truth is that someone incredible attractive, once they behave in a way that makes us angry (instead of loving and caring), suddenly loses all their attraction. However, to a third party, that person might continue to be attractive, and they might be baffled about your reaction — isn’t it still the same gorgeous body?
To summarise: all these emotions, feelings, sensations, and so forth, no matter how we list and classify them, don’t exist by themselves. Instead, they’re a complex interplay of circumstances which trigger them. And where are they triggered? We usually think (mostly through social conditioning) that they are either triggered in the body or somewhere in our brain. And while from a perspective of neurochemistry this is not entirely incorrect, one thing is to describe the physical properties associated with these emotions and feelings — neurological signals travelling our nervous system, hormonal messages being carried by the blood to the brain — the other thing is who or what experiences them and labels them as emotions, feelings, and so forth. And there is just one answer: it’s our mind doing the labelling. There is no place else for that to happen.
Let me recap. One thing is describing in acute detail what happens at the biological level; we can do that, and we have more and more sophisticated techniques to do so. The other thing is actually experiencing the emotions, feelings, and so forth. The experience happens in the mind. And this is why the same set of circumstances — the same set of triggers — will produce different experiences depending on our mindset.
There are typical examples to show how this works. Imagine that you’re strongly attracted to women. In the first scenario, you go to a club, full of octogenarian men, dancing to the latest hit by Jay Lo. Disgusting! In the second scenario, you go to the same club, listen to the same music, but this time, the club is full of young supermodels enjoying themselves. They might even be doing exactly the same choreography as the grandpas in the first scenario. Why do you feel “different”? It’s the same music, the same sound, even the same dance movements. But in one case, you enjoy yourself tremendously; in the other case, you just feel it’s revolting and disgusting. What’s the difference?
“Well, I don’t feel attracted to 80-year-olds!”
And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? So the “difference” is really how your mind finds some things attractive, and other disgusting. But, in those same scenarios, an 80-year-old grandma would rather prefer the first scenario, and find the second scenario an attack on morality and just pure depravation! It’s not the scenario by itself that is to blame, it’s the way people’s minds label and categorise things.
Is this hard to grasp? You bet it is. But it’s just because we’re conditioned to think otherwise.
And now, to end this chapter, we should finally analyse the last item on the list: “thoughts”. What are they? Where are they stored? Where do they come from, where do they go? When we have a thought, where is it? Don’t simply say, “they’re in the brain”. Neither you nor I can see our own brains. Yes, sure, they’re probably encoded there somewhere — but that’s not what we experience. We experience something completely different. We don’t need to know what kind of complex sugar structures our brains are consuming, what interconnections they’re building, what neurons are firing, what hormones are acting on the brain’s structure to change it every second… we don’t need to know any of those things to experience thought. We know that we can think even if we have no clue how it works (and thankfully, that’s the case). We don’t even need to learn how to have thoughts — they appear nonetheless, unbidden or not.
The hard thing is to realize that all that we have spoken so far — emotions, feelings, pain/pleasure, etc. — are not different from thoughts. But this is not easy to do. We have been trained to think otherwise. Thoughts are thoughts, they’re “under control”, they’re part of the rational mind, while emotions and feelings are not under our control, and pain/pleasure are altogether something different.
Well, our thoughts are not truly “under our control”, neither are those emotions and feelings completely “out of control”. In fact, there is absolutely no difference between thoughts, emotions and feelings — we’re just conditioned to think there is.
“What You See Is NOT What You Get”
Curious so far? 🙂
Let me bring Exhibit A into this discussion. I’ve deliberately used a smaller size because it has less definition that way. Show this picture to any of your heterosexual male friends. At a first glance, at such a small size, what this incredible pattern-matching machine which is our brain will do is to start labelling the image: it has a person dressing as a girl, wearing makeup like a girl, wearing her hair like a girl, smiling in a sultry way like a girl — so, yes, it must be a girl. Right?
Some of them might even feel the emotion of lust — it will come, unbidden, flushing the organism with hormones, and their brains will register pleasure and desire.
A closer inspection will show that something is not right. The nose is too big; the chin doesn’t look as it should; the hands are large; the shoulders are too wide. Oops. After all, it’s not a girl! All of a sudden, the lust and desire are instantly replaced by aversion, disgust, and even hate (for having been tricked!).
But the image is exactly the same! It hasn’t changed!
So how can possibly the same image trigger completely different “emotions”, “feelings” and “thoughts” in the small interval of a few seconds?
There is, of course, only one explanation. Heterosexual males are strongly conditioned (by upbringing, cultural norms, feedback from their peers, etc.) to analyse a certain amount of patterns, and, based on incomplete data, formulate a thought about what they’re seeing, which, in turn, gets the brain flooding the organism with hormones and similar chemicals, triggering mechanisms that the brain register later as “pleasure”. This happens almost instantly, and it’s a feature of higher organisms like ours — we are very, very, very specialised in analysing lots of patterns very quickly, and, even with incomplete data, formulate a decision. In a sense, this is the base for what we call “intelligence” and appeared through evolution: our ancestors living in the savannah had to deal with tigers hiding in the underbrush. Tigers are very good at hiding, and they’re very quick at leaping to catch their prey — delicious human beings 🙂 So we evolved to read “hints” and “clues” from the environment, which do not show us the tiger but let us infer that a tiger might be present. We might hear twigs cracking. We might notice that the underbrush is moving, but there is no wind. Birds might suddenly take flight from some trees. We put all these hints together, think “there is a tiger hidden there!” and start to run, before it’s too late.
So we do not see a tiger at all, but we think, based on incomplete data, that the tiger might be there. We’re so good at doing this that our ancestors actually survived to pass along their genes until our days. Sure, they were wrong in many cases: sometimes there simply wasn’t really a tiger there, and they were running away from ghosts… but that’s fine. It’s better to run away when there is no tiger than to be unable to read those hints and get eaten! This means that evolution favoured those intelligent primates of the species homo who managed to survive being eaten by tigers by being quick at reading hints and clues and coming up with the idea of a tiger, even when there was nothing there. Because we quickly became very good at doing this, we avoided most tigers, and, to be honest, we didn’t run away so much when there weren’t any tigers.
When an heterosexual male (or a homosexual female!) looks at the picture above, they’re just using that very same mechanism, inherited from our ancestors, to formulate an image, an idea, a thought of “a girl”, picking up clues here and there — but, in this case, getting it wrong. With more clues — less incomplete information — they will get it right. However, “girl” or “guy” trigger different reactions.
What matters here is that these people “see” a girl when there is nothing of that sort there. Well, not quite. There are hints and clues, after all. I do dress like a girl; I do wear makeup like a girl; I do wear my hair in a style that girls usually wear. However, I’m not a girl — but this is something I know! Others might just assemble from all those hints and clues something that is not there. But, in their minds (in the absence of more clues), they see a girl, and they react to what they see as if there was really a girl. Putting into other words: it’s irrelevant if I’m a girl or not; all these people are doing is to assume something from their perceptions (what clues and hints they see) and mental constructs (what their social conditioning tells them how a girl should look like).
This is a very crucial point to understand. The way our mind works is to create ideas and thoughts about what we think we see. We do see things that are not “really there”, but that’s just because our minds work that way. And we act — we decide things, we think new thoughts — based on what we perceive, and our interpretations of our perceptions. That’s all we do.
However, our fundamental problem is that we’re firmly convinced — it’s a dogma we have written in our hearts — that what we perceive is “really there”, that is, we believe (irrationally!) that everything we see (or hear, smell, touch…) does really exist.
In fact, as Exhibit A shows so well, this is hardly the case: we can be very easily fooled to “see” something that isn’t really there (and act upon it as if it exists).
On the other hand — and this is also important to understand — we cannot shrug everything away, brush it under the carpet, and say, “oh, nothing exists, it’s all my imagination, the world is an illusion”. No! Again, Exhibit A shows this quite clearly: there is something there for sure. We can describe a lot of characteristics in that picture — and even agree with them — and it’s obvious, for example, that there is a human being in it. That human being is wearing sexy female clothes. We can all agree on that. It wears makeup and a cute hairstyle. There is no question of all that. We might even agree on the names of the colours. The issue here is that what we cannot agree on is that all this put together is “a girl” or “a guy in drag” (unless we have more clues). So, depending on how many clues you can see on that picture, you create an image of reality as being “a girl” or “a guy in drag”, and attribute reality to that image, and say: “that girl really exists”. When more clues are apparent, we say: “oh, it’s not a girl, it’s a guy in drag”.
When we realize that — where did the girl go?
Well, she didn’t go anywhere! There never was a girl there in the first place. So we imagined a reality which doesn’t exist, based on some things that are “really there” — a human figure, clothes, makeup, hairstyle — but when we saw what really is there, reality didn’t “change”. What changed was our mindset! First, we thought there was a girl there; then we thought it was a guy in drag. But neither is “reality” in itself: they’re just labels, that we use for our convenience to describe our perceptions of the environment surrounding us, filtered through our senses.
It’s when these complex things are clearly exposed that we get confused — or even angry. In the example of the heterosexual males getting angry because they were “tricked”, and putting the blame on the person “tricking” them, the anger is not really about “being tricked” or not. It’s a bit more subtle than that. What happened was the following sequence:
- A heterosexual guy starts picking clues and hints from the environment (in this case, the picture used as Exhibit A)
- From these clues, and social conditioning, an image forms (“this is a girl”)
- The reality, for that heterosexual guy, is now “this girl really and truly exists”
- The mind registers expectations about the desirability of this reality (“I want this girl!”)
- Qualities and attributes of that reality are exaggerated (“This girl is SO cool!”), and this produces a desire to “own” it
- The body gets messaged to trigger lust and passion
- The brain registers chemical changes
- Heterosexual guy, in “his” reality, now feels horny
- New hints and clues are revealed
- A new image is formed (“hey! this is a guy in drag!”)
- This new image contradicts reality as imagined before
- The mind is confused about what reality is “more real”!
- Since the expectations are now unfulfilled — “if this is not a girl, why am I horny?” — the mind registers the absence of the object of desire, and “something” or “someone” seems to have “robbed” it of the fulfilment of those expectations
- This registers as anger
At this point, well, the guy might be angry at the person showing the picture, angry at the poor innocent who is merely posing inside the picture and has no clue of what is going on, or, in some rare cases, angry at himself for getting so easily confused about reality.
This happens to all of us every moment of the day.
And the reason for that is because we take for “real” and “truly existing” everything which is, in fact, just our own perception of reality — just an image, just a thought, nothing more and nothing less than that. But because we stick to “our” idea of reality so strongly, when it’s finally revealed to not be what we thought it was, we either get angry or, well, frustrated and depressed.
So all our problems have a common cause: we are constantly making up expectations about a reality that only exists in our minds. We exaggerate the pleasure we derive from those expectations; or, reversely, we exaggerate the pain from the things we fear. When “reality” is revealed to be nothing that we have imagined, we “feel” anger, revulsion, despair, frustration.
But it goes even deeper than that: it starts with the belief that our own “self” — whatever we wish to call a “self” — also exists and has an inherent reality of its own. And this is at the core of all problems.
Gratifying the ego
What do we all want?
No, it’s not money, love, health, and being famous 🙂 To put it very simply: we all wish to be happy (feel pleasure) and avoid being unhappy (feel pain, anxiety, frustration, depression). We constantly search for ways of being happier, and to avoid being unhappy, but, unfortunately, we’re not very good at finding those ways.
Why? The problem is mostly what I’ve described above: we have wild imaginations! We believe not only that reality is something “out there” that exists on its own, but that this “self” we have requires constant pleasure and avoidance of pain to have ever-lasting happiness. This happens with all beings — humans and animals alike — but, of course, for each of us, what actually causes us happiness or unhappiness might be completely different: for a heterosexual male, Exhibit A might be a girl worthy of lust and desire; for a tiger, it’s just the next meal. Both are right! Or, if you wish, none are: there is no intrinsic reality to that girl, and depending on one’s perception, it’s a different object of desire (a sexual partner or the next meal).
What leads to unhappiness — all the time! — is because we’re so easily fooled by our perceptions, and thwarted in our expectations of what is real. The heterosexual guy, anticipating a night of romance and wild sex, gets frustrated when the reality is revealed that there had never been a girl there in the first place. The tiger gets frustrated because I run away from him, refusing to become his next meal.
It seems then that we should just drop our expectations, and things would be easy!
But that’s hardly an “easy” thing to do. Why? Because we have habits and tendencies that have accumulated over decades — in fact, from our most tender years of age, we’re told we have an identity (we are called by name, to distinguish us from others). We are told that we have to dress and behave in a certain way. Later on, at school, we’re taught that we have to compete with other fellow students and earn good grades. We are taught that in order to succeed in the dirty, competitive world out there, we need to acquire certain skills. We learn from parents, family, and friends to idealize the way we should live, the kind of partners we should pick, the behaviour we should adopt, and so forth — and we’re given methods to achieve all those things. Some of us will succeed here and there and find some comfort, at least temporarily. The rest of us will quickly find that things are not so obvious and that we get thwarted all the way by all kinds of obstacles.
Nevertheless, we are always told what to do in order to achieve “happiness”. We get so bombarded with ideas from others — who often are stuck with them because they have learned those ideas from others still — that they slowly cause us to behave in certain ways, think in certain ways until they feel “natural”. Learning, in fact, is a process where we attempt to do some things artificially, but, by repeating them over and over again, they become natural — we even say “second nature”.
We all remember how hard it was to tie our shoelaces, or to learn how to write, or, later on, how to drive a car. Our movements, in the beginning, were stiff, and required a lot of concentration; we would have our arms hurting a lot after the first driving lesson or headaches from the first writing classes. But by repeating these exercises over and over again, they became natural — they became “learned”.
The same, however, happens all the time with all kinds of behaviour, not just those that we pay attention to. We either accept our parents as role models and emulate them — and emulating them becomes “second nature” — or we totally reject them as models, and pick different ones, but we still start to learn to emulate those other role models instead. We read things from people that inspire us, and say, “I want to be like that!” and adopt their behaviour. At first, it might look and sound strange or funny, but, with enough repetition, it becomes natural. This happens all the time, even if we’re not aware of it. Even watching TV — we’re looking at role models, at marketing stunts showing us what items are desirable, at how people live who are allegedly more happy than us, and this makes us behave like them — or wish to do so. If you’re “immune” to TV, then you’re going to do the exact opposite: rejecting those role models, rejecting advertising, rejecting other people’s behaviour — but that’s exactly the same mechanism, just turned upside down.
Now once this mechanism is in full force — and it starts, as said, when we’re very, very young — we begin to create our own image of what reality should look like, based on our perceptions, our expectations, and our fears. But we also create our own image of how we relate to that reality, and call it “our self”. Even someone who admits “wearing a mask” when they go to work — playing the role of a ruthless businessman, for instance — and another mask at home — “the loving husband and caring father” — and still another at leisure with friends — “the cool guy who is a pleasure to hang around with” — will ultimately fully believe that there is a “core self”, buried within, perhaps under layers and layers of masks, which exists intrinsically, even though nobody has access to it.
But what is it? From the perspective of neurological science, all we know (from neurologists like António Damásio, for example) is that certain areas of the brain, when damaged, will make the “sensation” of self disappear. However, it’s anything but clear how the “sensation” of self appears in the first place. All we know is that “self”, like everything else inside our mind, is just a collection of thoughts — thoughts we have about ourselves, and how we ought to react to the environment.
Here, as you can see, is a problem. This “environment” depends a lot on our perceptions; so, this “self” somewhere “inside us” is reacting to something that ultimately is based on perceptions, and, based on those, we create a “self-image” which is just an assembly of thoughts upon perceptions upon thoughts upon perceptions… layer over layer over layer. We believe there is something beneath all those layers, but we cannot pinpoint what it is — it just remains that, just a belief. But it’s so ingrained in us, we have done such an effort to “believe” in that self, we have acted and reacted for so many years as if that self, deep down there, is really there… that we act and behave as if it really exists. In fact, we cannot act in any other way. And others — behaving just like that as well — are just reinforcing that thought: if others behave as if their selves exist (and we clash and have conflicts because of that!), we better behave in the same way, as well.
Based on that belief in a self, we feel the urge to gratifying that self: it needs to be pleased, and the way we please it is by learning — through social conditioning — what is allegedly “desirable” for that self. It’s at this point that ideas like wealth, pleasure, comfort, health, relationships, etc. pop in — these are seen by other selves as desirable, and so we want them for our self — ourselves! — as well. So, influenced by others, we attribute to all those things a lot of expectations and exaggerate their importance. When these things fail to please us, we’re immensely disappointed — something is wrong, either with us, with our methods, or with the universe-at-large, which is failing to provide us with the necessary ego gratification we desire so much. At this point, we start shifting the blame onto others who are perceived as obstacles for our self to achieve all those desirable things; and when we blame them, we hate them as well, and start to see them as far less important than pleasing our own selves.
It’s hard to break out from all this.
We transgendered people have actually a huge advantage. First of all, we know, deep inside, that “something is wrong” with the alignment between what we believe to be our self, and what we believe to be our body and its role in society. Putting in simple words: if we’re MtF transgendered people, we think that our self is somehow female, even if we don’t know why, while for some reason we got a male body. We wish to experience a female body; we also wish others’ perception to see us as female and not male. But, unfortunately for us, our body is not aligned with the perception we have of ourselves: there is a dichotomy here, which somehow feels “wrong”.
From a purely neutral perspective, we have two options: either we change the perception we have of our selves, or we change our bodies to match the perception that our selves have about the body. Needless to say, the latter is far easier to do, and this is the route that most transgendered people follow. The ones that don’t — i.e. autogynophilists who never crossdress — are not really “solving” the problem, they’re just avoiding it and forcefully suppressing their desires and emotions — sometimes successfully, but often with just a lingering depression over the horizon.
The problem, of course, is that our society has created roles for males and females, and, based on our physical bodies, we’re expected by others to act and behave like males, even if we are attracted to the role of the opposite gender. One could simply shrug it all off and say, “there are really no gender roles, these are just mental constructs like everything else”. This is quite right! However, it’s easy to say it. It’s very hard to actually realize it!
From a purely intellectual point of view, we could try the following thought experiment. Suppose that our society would change so that there were no role differences between males and females, and, because of that, both genders would dress the same kind of clothes, have the same names, etc. They would obviously, from a physical point of view, still be males and females and procreate through sexual intercourse. But externally, in their dressing, behaviour, jobs, and overall roles in society, there would be absolutely no difference. Would you still wish to crossdress?
This is actually a very interesting question, and I’ve heard that it’s often used in psychological profiling to determine the degree of gender dysphoria. For me, the question is pointless. I have the urge to crossdress in this society, because this society has split into male and female genders, attributed different roles to each, as well as different styles of clothing and behaviour, and I’m attracted to the role females have in this society. If I had been born and socially conditioned in that hypothetical, utopian society, I would have a completely different social conditioning, and the question might not even make sense.
But does this mean that male/female is “just social conditioning”? Well, this is again one of those questions that are hard to answer. In our society — not a hypothetical, fictional, utopian one — it’s mostly that, and there is little evidence of the contrary, but we cannot say that our physical makeup (guys are stronger, girls are more tolerant to pain) didn’t influence the original build-up of those roles. There have been few examples of societies where women had the dominant role — and even when they had it, they would still adopt a certain behaviour that would be familiar to us. For example, in the southern parts of the Iberian peninsula, which had been under a few centuries of influence of the golden age of Islamic civilization, women were land and business owners, inheritance went through the matriarchal lines, and men just did the hard work, but did not worry about money or sustaining the family — that was the role of women. To this day we still see echoes of that mindset. But that doesn’t mean that women in those regions dress like men, or that men are effeminate: the roles are not “reversed” in that sense. On the few examples of matriarchal societies, there is certainly a shift in some aspects of the roles, but men are still men, and women are still women — the major difference perhaps is that women tended to be less abused in those societies and more protected, since they owned the land and the money, and, as such, wielded more power. But this is very relative!
It is thus fair to assume that the physical constraints and the differences between the two sexes have influenced the gender roles, but it’s not “pre-determined” that these roles are “written in stone” and have to be expressed in just a certain way. In fact, in recent decades, we have seen how the external appearance of women has changed according to a change of certain role elements. With the rise of feminist groups, women became more financially independent, and far more accepted in the workplace in positions of power. Not surprisingly, though, as they rose in power, they emulated men more and more, often surpassing men in ruthlessness, because those typically male traits — harsh decisions, cold logic, ruthlessness, etc. — were viewed as being “part” of the role of “power”. So, in a sense, women became “more like men” to be able to compete for the same roles as men (at least in business). From the 1980s onwards — and perhaps even starting as early as the late 1960s — women’s clothing started to become more and more masculine. Trousers are now universally acceptable for females — as well as short hairstyles, no makeup, no perfume, letting hair being grown under the armpits, and all sort of things like that. Women swear as badly as their male counterparts and engage in the same habits, vices, and hobbies as men do. In fact, one of my biggest frustrations in the 1980s was that females lost so much sex appeal because all they wanted to do is to cut their hair short, forfeit accessories, wear jeans, a T-shirt, and comfortable (but ugly) tennis shoes.
The last round of feminism — Third Wave Feminism — sort of “corrected” this trend, and the genders moved apart again. Women discovered that they could be sexy and still wield positions of power. Women could attend the workplace in mini-dresses and high heels and get the same degree of respect from their colleagues as when wearing sneakers and stone-washed jeans. They could be elegant, sophisticated, gracious, feminine, and caring mothers, while still being intellectuals, hard workers, ruthless businesspersons, and so forth.
This is just to make my point — it’s true that “gender roles” are merely social constructs and nothing “intrinsic”. However, there is a strong tendency to split the roles across gender and attempts to “merge” roles, while not having exactly “failed”, have “bounced back”, sharpening the distinction between genders, even if it becomes socially acceptable to blur that distinction. We should take into account that during the Renaissance, men wore outrageous outfits with lots of colours, while women wore simple dresses in boring, faded colours. In the 18th century, dress code was much more uniform across both genders (especially in the upper classes, of course), as both genders would wear wigs, apply makeup and perfume, and wear intricate clothes with garish colours; women were expected to be witty and intelligent when conversing with men. The roles drifted apart again during the Victorian era, came closer together in the 1920s and 1930s, then drifted apart after WWII again, and came closer again after the 1960s.
So nothing is truly “written in stone” — it’s really mostly social conditioning, which changes over time. What seems to remain apparently “fixed” is that our society has a duality of roles, even if what each role actually is allowed to do or not to do, how to behave or not to behave, what to wear or not to wear, changes over time.
Now when we reject the social conditioning that is attributed to us — externally — what can we do?
Unfortunately, like all radicals who reject the established norms and rules, we are shunned. That’s the consequence. It’s not easy to be “outside the status quo“.
The method: observe your thoughts
So finally we come to the actual method of dealing with all the above (and much more, since this method is not limited to the frustrations about the lack of crossdressing). Enough talk — this article is already huge! — and it’s time for some action 🙂
The first thing to understand is that all this happens inside our minds. It’s an idea that really takes hard getting used to since we are really so used to “shift the blame” to external things. What we have to realize is that if things did not happen inside our minds, we had no way of dealing with them! Thankfully — even if we, at first, might be reluctant to accept it — it’s because everything is about our mind and how we perceive things, that we can change our mindset, change our perceptions, and, as a result, get free from all those decades of conditioning — without, however, becoming crazy, shunned, disrespected, or totally alienated from reality. This method has exactly the opposite goal: to turn us into more functional, rational people; more tranquil (but not apathetic!!) and able to look at things more clearly, and, thanks to that, being able to act in a better way, both for ourselves, but also for others as well.
Seems perfect, right? Well, as said at the very beginning, it takes a lot of time. It’s not something you can learn and train for a few days, and expect immediate results. That’s hardly likely! We carry such huge baggage of social conditioning, habits, tendencies, acquired behaviour, and so forth — accumulated over decades! — that it’s simply not going to disappear, from one day to the next. It takes time!
What we do at the beginning is to get familiar with how our mind works. Once we start to grasp a little bit of that, we can use that as the foundation for further steps.
Now it’s very important to be clear about each point. Unlike Jared’s method — or even what some psychological trends propose — we don’t want to suppress anything about the mind or add anything to it. This method is not something like “Positive Thinking”, where you constantly “force” yourself to have “happy thoughts”, in the hope that you can train it, add it as a new habit which becomes “natural” after enough repetition, and “feel happy” all the time. This is just more conditioning — conditioning to suppress things or add things. We do wish to avoid any kind of conditioning whatsoever, no matter how “positive” it may sound!
So what we’re going to do is to observe. That’s the very first step of understanding: first, we observe, then we can reflect a bit on what we have observed.
To do that, it’s better if we’re in a relatively quiet place with a reasonable degree of comfort. If you have a garden, just sit on the garden bench. If you have a room with a view, sit in front of the window. If you have none of that, just pick a quiet spot at home with a comfy chair, and stay there for a while.
It’s good, for starters, to remove excessive distractions (you will quickly understand why). So, make sure you can have the TV and the mobile phone switched off, at least for a few minutes. Music is unnecessary. You don’t need special clothes, special chairs, or anything of the sort. Just a chair (or you can sit on the ground if you find it’s comfortable). Keep your back straight — just like at school! — because it will help you to pay attention (your grammar school teachers knew what they were talking about).
First of all, after you have sat down, remind yourself of your motivation for doing this exercise. You’re going to learn how your own mind works so that you can work with it and get rid of all your frustration regarding the unfulfilled urges to crossdress, and hope to achieve some mental stability. This motivation is very important — just think about this for a few seconds before starting the exercise.
Now, our mind is constantly grasping at things. Remember that’s what your brain is: a super-efficient pattern-matching machine which is constantly on the lookout for those tigers… and even if there are no tigers around, the mind will constantly wander to look out for them! So we need to give it something to entertain, when we get distracted (which will happen often, you’ll see). Ideally, it should be something you always have with you, which isn’t either very attractive or very repulsive, so that you can practice anywhere. The simplest thing is just to watch your breathing. We aren’t really “excited” about breathing — it’s just something we have to do! — but neither do we reject breathing as being unpleasant. So it’s a good start.
This is not about “controlling” your breathing or doing any kind of breathing exercises. Just observe the slight feeling of the airflow through your nostrils when you inhale and exhale. It doesn’t matter if you’re breathing deeply or shallowly, or quickly or slowly. While at first, we will have an immediate urge to “control” the breathing somehow, over time, we should not worry at all about “controlling”. Just breathe naturally. If you just have run up the stairs, the breathing will be quick — that’s all right, just observe it. Eventually, the breathing will slow down on its own. If it doesn’t, don’t worry, it’s not important how quickly or deeply you’re breathing — what matters is that you rest your mind on the tickling sensation of the airflow through your nostrils.
While you’re doing that, you will soon notice that thoughts will pop up in your mind. In the beginning, they might be things like: “this is SO stupid, what am I doing here??” or “why should watching my breathing help me to deal with the urge of crossdressing? I’m still feeling that urge, stronger than ever!” That’s all fine. There are no “stupid” thoughts, nor are there “good” thoughts. Just watch them, no matter what they are, and see what happens: they will appear from somewhere, remain a bit around, and then fade and disappear on their own.
Sometimes you will wish to follow the thought — like starting to think about what you’re going to do next, or when your next crossdressing session will be, what you’re going to wear, and so forth. When that happens, go back to watching your breathing — you’re just following a train of thought, creating thoughts after thoughts after thoughts, conditioned by your habitual tendencies. That’s exactly what we wish to avoid!
You’ll also get distracted often — a noise on the street, a door closing, a neighbour yelling, a pain in the back or in the legs, whatever. Don’t worry if you get distracted — just get back to observing the breathing for a while, and resume the exercise of watching your thoughts arise. So as you can see the breathing is like an “anchor” for this exercise: every time you get distracted, either from the outside or from the inside (your mind, your body), you just go back to the breathing. After a lot of practice, you’ll see that the breathing is not really necessary, nor is it the goal — it’s just a very convenient way of calming down the mind for a bit so that you can get back to observing thoughts again, which is the whole point.
And of course, we will have a tendency to start labelling thoughts: this thought is good, this one is bad. If I’m thinking about something positive, that’s “good”. If I’m feeling depressed, it’s “bad”. Stop labelling those thoughts; just watch them. During the session, anything that appears in your mind is neither good not bad; it’s just your mind which, by conditioning, is used to label things as good and bad. With this method we simply let thoughts remain unlabeled.
Similarly, we don’t extend or prolong “positive” thoughts or feelings, artificially “forcing” them to stick around. But we also don’t reject or suppress “negative” thoughts or unpleasant feelings or sensations. It takes some time getting used to it. You can start by observing painful or disagreeable sensations — like, say, your back hurting from sitting down with a straight back. Just observe that sensation, but don’t do anything to suppress it. You will actually learn quite a lot about pains, itches, and so forth — like everything else, they come and go. Their intensity is not the same. Sometimes they’re periodic — waxing and waning — but sometimes they’re very acute for a few moments, then disappear. Just watch all this happening — rest assured, you won’t injure yourself if you sit with a straight back for three minutes! Even the most irritating itch can be just observed for 3 minutes without scratching or considering it “bad”. You’ll see for yourself. Note that the pain or the itch (as well as any pleasant feeling!) will not “disappear” — in the sense that this technique is not about “removing” physical pain in the literal sense of the word — but your compulsion to do something about it will just diminish. You will learn that scratching an itch is really just a compulsive behaviour that you have learned to do automatically, but you have the option of scratching it or not — it’s up to you. So, just observe how it comes and goes. And, of course, when the session is over, and the itching persists, you can always scratch it by then — but, over time, you’ll see that it’s not really necessary!
Do this for, say, 3 minutes. It’s important to do it every day. 3 minutes is not much. To some people, I tell them to do it during the TV commercials — turn the sound off, straighten your back, and move your eyes off the TV. You can do the whole exercise during the breaks, and you won’t feel that you’re “wasting time” 🙂
At the end of the session, just remind yourself that by doing this exercise you did a small step towards becoming a more functional person (even if you don’t “feel different”! Don’t worry: remember, this takes time), and, through that, you will actually be happier, more able to deal with others, who will also benefit from less grumpiness and depression from your part. So it’s not just “for you” that you’re going through this exercise; if you’re happy, you will make others around you happy as well. Remember this for a few seconds, and you’re finished.
So, to recap:
- Sit down comfortably, with your back straight.
- Check your motivation: you’re doing this to learn to deal better with your urges and frustrations, and, through this exercise, become more functional, by being able to deal with that.
- Rest your mind on the airflow going through your nostrils, in and out.
- Observe as thoughts appear in your mind, remain for a while, then disappear.
- Don’t “follow” thoughts with more thoughts; don’t “recall” thoughts from memory if you just missed a thought for some reason; when you get distracted, just get back to watching your breathing.
- In the same way, if you get distracted with external things (noise, smells, etc.) or internal ones (sensations, feelings, pain…) just get back to watching your breathing
- Don’t label thoughts as “good” or “bad”, trying to extend them or to avoid/suppress them. Thoughts are just thoughts, they will come and go on their own.
- In the end, remind yourself that by completing this exercise you’re benefitting yourself — getting more functional, happier, less stressed — and this will also improve your relationship with others.
- Do this for 3 minutes, every day!
It’s very simple, right?
Now you may be asking, “what’s all that about?” and “how does this benefit me in any way?”
Benefits of getting familiar with your mind: don’t take things too seriously
This is like a spoiler for the forthcoming chapters 🙂 but you should understand it as an explanation of why this method works. Again, I should stress this point once more: don’t expect it to work quickly. If you’re so depressed already that you can’t even pay attention to your breath for 3 minutes, it’s very unlikely that you will see results “soon”.
What you will notice at first is that you have lots of thoughts! You might not even be able to keep up with them! That’s perfectly normal; what else is the mind is for, but for having thoughts? Thoughts are natural for the mind. The issue here is that you have all those thoughts all the time — you’re just not paying attention! But while observing the mind with this simple exercise, you’re actually taking some time to watch what happens, and it’s normal to see all those thoughts popping up.
With time, however, you will see that the thoughts will appear a little more slowly, and you will learn to watch them more carefully, and catch them at the moment they appear, follow them through while they’re there, and see them disappear.
Now what’s the point of all this?
A few years ago, my wife, for some reason, prevented me to crossdress on a certain day — she had other plans. I was really, really looking forward to that day, going to enjoy myself in some chatrooms with my friends (and some voyeurs!). I had planned it ahead for a whole week, constantly dreaming about what to wear, and generating huge expectations about how great that session would be, about how happy I would feel, and so forth. With just a sentence, my wife shattered all my carefully planned session, and what do you expect that my reaction would be?
Of course, seeing her as the obstacle to my expected happiness, I was full of anger and got ready to protest and yell at her. But something strange happened. I felt the build-up from all that anger seizing my body, and could observe it quite distinctly — it just takes a fraction of a second. I opened my mouth to say something nasty… and closed it again. Suddenly I realized that I really didn’t need to yell at my wife. It would just lead to more angry confrontations, and you know how it goes, nasty words piling up on each other, nobody having any reason any more, and just saying to each other things they will regret later on.
So, instead, I choose to be silent. I was still furious, of course. Still trembling with anger. But after a while, the anger subsided. I remained silent and made no comments. Then I thought a little more about this experience…
The emotion of anger had been very strong; I didn’t really “suppress” it. I felt it seizing my whole body and mind. It was not “dampened” or anything of the sort; it was just my ego’s natural reaction to being thwarted in my expectations, and, as a result, it was reacting as strongly as it usually does. However, I also realized that I didn’t “need” to be conditioned by that emotion: I had a choice. In this case, I had no idea what was the “best” choice, but it was clear that just yelling in anger and frustration was not functional. Instead, the silence seemed to be a good enough choice.
After all, I would be prevented to crossdress anyway. If I had yelled at my wife in anger, I would not only be prevented from crossdressing that day (which would not happen anyway), but I would have to deal with an angry wife as well. So, well, at least I could avoid that. I have no idea if she ever noticed how angry I was — she wasn’t looking directly at me when she spoke. But since I didn’t vent my anger and frustration at her, she remained calm and happy, and, while I was neither (at that moment at least), at least I didn’t make things worse.
The ability to be able to exercise my free will, at the moment I noticed that I was being “seized” by emotions that, until then, I thought to be “uncontrollable”, was a very liberating experience. I was well aware that actions have consequences; and acting in an angry way obviously would have consequences, disagreeable both to me and to her. Since then, of course, I became better and better at dealing with the anger and frustration when she simply thwarts all my plans with a single word or two.
You may think that this will turn me into a submissive person, never able to protest or defend my “rights”. Well, no, rather the contrary. In fact, I started to become even more critical and think: what are my rights? Do I have the “right” to selfishly indulge in pleasure, at the expense of my wife, who wants to do different things that will make her happy instead? What is important in my relationship? Do I truly believe in what I say — “I wish to make you happy for the rest of our lives?” If that’s taken to heart, what does it really mean? Well, for me, the answer is very simply: when having doubts about what is more important, my own momentary happiness, or my wife’s everlasting happiness, I choose the latter. But I do it of my own free will, not because someone tells me to do so (not even her!). And I do it even in spite of feeling all those emotions of anger, frustration, and despair — because I recognize them for what they are: just mental constructs, based on expectations I create for myself, but not really “existing” outside the domain of my mind.
This slowly made me learn not to take things too seriously, especially my own thoughts!
Similarly, I apply this technique to pretty much everything in my life, but especially to all issues related to my crossdressing sessions. You already know about my own frustration of not being able to dress more and go out more. I still feel frustrated, but there is a big difference now: I understand that all this frustration is just the result of high expectations. It’s my mind that creates this idea that I can only feel some happiness if I’m fully dressed, and, ideally, do that all the time. I exaggerate all the advantages of being dressed and attribute all bad things to be unable to dress. But all these are my ideas, my mental constructs, my deluded way of believing that I have a “self” which is female and “demands the right” to be female. I’m still pretty much convinced of that, mind you — the difference is that I know it’s just my mind being attached to those ideas and giving too much importance to them, to the point that I’m compelled to act in a certain way — being selfish, ignoring my wife’s needs, being a bit careless when going out, and so forth. So this first step is to be more honest with me — I’m very good at lying to myself about what truly makes me happy, and find all the wrong reasons for that. Well, as said, at least I recognize now that all these are just thoughts; and, like all thoughts, they come, stay for a while, and go.
The reverse is also true. I actually enjoy crossdressing much more. Why? Because, since I’m able to pay more attention to all details of my feelings while crossdressed, I can enjoy these feelings more fully. Being aware that the whole session is not going to last long — I would wish it to continue forever, but I know it’ll be just some hours — I will be paying attention to every moment of it, enjoying the taste of being crossdressed, instead of worrying too much about the moment it will end. And, when it inevitably has to end, and I need to pack all my things again, I rejoice in the short moment of happiness I had, which, like all others, will inevitably fade and disappear — but the good news is that I can experience it again in the next session.
It’s very important to understand a few points, so as not to raise a lot of expectations about this technique.
- Did I say that it takes a long time to see some results? 🙂
- You aren’t “suppressing” emotions at all. You will continue to feel them at full force, with the same intensity as before (or even more so, since you’re paying attention to them). The difference is that you will be free to act upon those emotions and feelings, instead of merely reacting to them in a conditioned way. This experience is tremendously liberating: you finally get a taste of what “free will” really means.
- You won’t “stop crossdressing”. You will continue to feel the urge — sometimes even stronger than before. There will be still strong, intense dreams and desires about getting crossdressed. But there will be far less frustration when you can’t crossdress, or the session did not go as you planned — you will understand that all the expectations are just thoughts, ideas, things that you make up for yourself. This will be experienced, not just intellectually analysed; and here lies the big difference. It’s not just words you read in a book (or on an article on the Internet!), but something you can train and experiment for yourself.
- Giving less importance to the power of your emotions, feelings, compulsions, tendencies, and habits also means that others around you will not be bothered so much because you will be able to break free of the conditioned response to those emotions. So, even if you’re in the strong grip of anger, you will be able to choose the way you act, and, if you have other people’s interests in mind, you will not vent your anger at them — because you can choose not to do so. This, in turn, will mean that others won’t yell back at you, of course, and improve your relationships.
- You will still make plans, have ambitions, set goals, plan ahead. Nothing will change in that regard. For instance, I have this crazy idea of emigrating to Brazil or Canada and go through transition there, away from family & friends in Portugal. I do still dream about that, and plan it. But it might never happen, because, well, all those plans are just thoughts in my mind, and, as such, they’re not very important. Things might happen or not. If they happen, they will have some consequences (what shall I tell people when I return?). If they don’t, I won’t shed tears — they were just ideas and dreams. Like the dream from last night, there is little point in worrying too much about it — it’s gone, it’s just a memory, it doesn’t truly exist any more. But I can cherish the memory!
- With proper training and enough practice, you can achieve the goal of enjoying crossdressing (or even transition!) to the utmost without even the slightest regret or fear of frustration for “not being enough”. But at the same time, you will not feel “awful” about it. In fact, all the suffering and frustration and anxiety will be gone. When you dress, you enjoy yourself to the utmost limit, but you don’t pine for it, nor will you regret the moment your session finishes, nor will you lose nights of sleep over the next session.
- Because you’re getting trained in the way your mind works, being able to appreciate the subtle interplay of thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, and so forth, you’re paying attention to them all, and, in that way, they’re far more intense. But you’re not conditioned by them, so you can enjoy them. For instance, the first times I went out, I trembled from head to foot, since I was so nervous — but, on the other hand, the adrenaline rush was great to feel. These days, I just enjoy the adrenaline rush. It’s not gone — I cherish it when it gets triggered with the anticipation of going out. However, I don’t need to feel nervous — it’s just an idea I have, some mysterious “fear” (about what?) which gets triggered and pops into my mind, but I don’t need to act upon that “fear” in a conditioned way. So I can just observe that feeling, enjoy the adrenaline rush, feel every nerve tingling… but don’t take it too seriously.
As you can see, this is pretty much the opposite of the results that Jared promises for his own method. He suggests eliminating the source of frustration by “cutting the evil at the root” — i.e. just stop crossdressing, and you’ll feel much better. Instead, I suggest that his method just creates two new problems: the first is that crossdressers enjoy crossdressing, and Jared’s method is to prevent enjoyment (because that enjoyment leads to frustration). The second is that Jared teaches how to suppress emotions, which will be only “deeply buried” on the lower levels of the mind but still there, to pop up when the right conditions appear — that’s why Jared relapsed twice already. You can bury and bury those emotions and thoughts as much as you want, but sooner or later they will pop up at the surface again, stronger than ever.
Instead, I think it’s rather more functional to simply observe what happens inside your own mind, recognize everything as being just your own expectations, and don’t give them too much importance. Like the most stupid thought popping up in your mind, it comes, remains for a bit, and goes — why give it such importance? Instead, enjoy whatever happens, without feeling compelled by your conditioning to extend a moment of pleasure (which will, sooner or later, go away anyway, no matter what you do). Just enjoy it 🙂 But between sessions, when feeling the urge and anxiety about the next forthcoming session, all you need to do is to observe those thoughts, see them fading away on their own, and just don’t give them more importance than they deserve.
Needless to say, this is far more difficult than it seems and takes a long time. On the other hand, what do you have to lose to start your training right now, except 3 minutes of your time every day? 🙂 It’s not much to ask for… and you’ll soon notice that you’re able to do it for 5 minutes, then 10, and so forth, until, at some point in time, you’ll be able to do it at every moment.
Where to go from here
I’m going to be honest with you: this method or technique to get familiar with the way your mind works, observing your thoughts without labelling them, is actually quite old, and it was first expounded by an Indian prince named Siddhārtha Gautama (usually known as the historical Buddha), some 2600 years ago, and put into practice by millions of people who, since then, have experienced the same results, and taught them to others, until the methods reached our days.
To do it properly, it’s not enough to read about it. We interpret words — like everything else! — according to our own perceptions. No matter how clear the instructions might be, people will misinterpret them, apply the technique wrongly, and be disappointed with the results. The only way to learn it properly is to get a qualified teacher. Fortunately, there are quite a lot of them around, many of which achieved precisely the same results as Siddhartha did — he was just a regular human being like all of us.
Unfortunately, there are always lots of unqualified teachers around, and if you wish to do some serious practice, it’s not very easy to figure out which is which. This has always been the case; it’s not the hallmark of the 21st century. So there are a few rules that you can follow when choosing a teacher.
The first thing to ask him or her is what their lineage is. Lineage is just a list of qualified teachers from which they have received the same methods and who have put them in practice and achieved the same results as Siddhartha. Any qualified teacher will be glad to point out his own teachers, and so forth, all the way back to Siddhartha himself. And you should check them up (at least, the ones still alive!) — these days, it just means sending them some emails 🙂 You should also ask them if they gave this person permission to teach. So, be very wary of those who are somehow reluctant to name their own teachers.
Secondly, they really should have some experience with the practice. Avoid anyone who just claims to have read a lot of books and attended a few workshops; that’s simply not enough. A qualified teacher will have years of practice (even though they might not be intellectuals, just normal people with an easy-going mindset). Decades of practice is, obviously, even better — none of my teachers, for instance, has less than 25 years of practice! And even then, they will still be humble and freely admit that they have lots of shortfalls… So avoid anyone claiming results with “just one workshop” or “a secret technique that will bring results in a month without effort, for merely $500”. All these are clearly frauds — there are no such methods.
Thirdly, and perhaps even more important, a qualified teacher will just have one goal in mind: your own interests as a student. Anyone who still has personal interests at stake — be it money, power, growing their student base, reaching fame, glory, good reputation, or just having some nice-looking girls as attendants — are definitely not qualified. Such teachers are rare, but at the very least they should show good signs of being honest enough with what they do. This doesn’t mean that they need to live as hermits under bridges and be completely destitute; one of my teachers used to be a high-profile litigation lawyer for the Internet industry, the other is one of the top notaries in one major European city, another makes a living as a therapist, and so forth. It’s not how they look that matters. It’s what they set as priority. It’s easy to notice if they really place other people’s interests before their own.
While it’s hard to judge from the exterior, most qualified teachers will naturally be easy-going, good-humoured, establish warm relationships, joke a lot, enjoy life, have fun, be charismatic, and still be able to be very, very serious when they need to be. After all, what’s the point of following a method to reduce one’s compulsions and become more functional and happy, if all that happens is being stiff-necked, apathetic, and speaking in a monotonous, monochord voice? That makes little sense. A teacher without a sense of humour is something very weird indeed. Of course, there is a certain image, propagated mostly by Hollywood, that all these people have to be serious and so calm and relaxed that they’re almost asleep — and make their audience asleep as well. But that’s just Hollywood. Real, qualified teachers are fun people to be with. Otherwise, it would be rather pointless to learn their methods!
It is also important to understand that Siddhartha didn’t just teach one method. He knew very well that we are all different from each other, and what works for one person might not work for anyone else. Traditionally, it is said that Siddhārtha has left us with 84.000 different methods of achieving the same results, but of course, there are many more; the exact number is not important, what matters is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, which would be stupid to claim since we’re not exactly clones of each other. The method I’ve described is commonly taught by the Nyingma and Kagyü schools of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, but it’s just one of those thousands of techniques. Don’t be too surprised if you find a teacher that has a completely different approach; if he’s able to show that his lineage is authentically derived from Siddhartha, rest assured that his or her methods are correct — Siddhartha didn’t teach “better” or “worse” methods, or some that worked and others that don’t. All his methods work. They might just take longer in some cases, or be better suited for some kinds of people but not for others. I have to admit, for instance, that the above method was perhaps not the first one that leads to some results for me. I had to learn other techniques and go back to this one later.
This shows the importance of getting a qualified teacher, who will know a lot of different methods, and, based on your own experience with them, will be able to pick one that works best for you. It’s not unusual for the same teacher to teach completely opposite and contradictory methods to different students, and this might be a huge source of confusion for some! On the other hand, some outstanding teachers might just know a few methods, but they will be more than happy to point you to another teacher if they feel that none of their methods works for you. They shouldn’t be jealous of other teachers or manipulate students to join “their” classes and avoid others.
Nevertheless, it’s important to stick to one method, get familiar with your own mind, and continue to improve your training. Switching techniques, confusing methods or mixing them with each other, endlessly searching for other teachers in the hope that they might teach something different with which you’re more comfortable — that will lead to nowhere. It’s obviously acceptable to drop a teacher if you feel that his or her methods don’t work at all for you, but be honest with yourself: is it the teacher’s fault, the method’s fault, or just you that are too lazy to put the method into practice?
To finalize, I sincerely hope that this article has been of some use for you, and, at the very least, that you feel motivated to learn more. You should now end reading this article by looking again at the disclaimer!
Note (February 2021): for some reason, Google says that this old article has been read recently quite a lot of times. I’m actually sad to know that since it means that many crossdressers, during the pandemia, are looking for ways to deal with their crossdressing urges, since they have to remain indoors 24/7, with all their family around, without a single moment to be alone. It’s really tough to deal with all of that and deal with our own urges. Suppressing them is not a solution; I still consult with my psychologist every week (via Skype) because it’s really so hard to deal with this situation. Some of you are aware that I’m quite used to telecommuting, so that’s not an issue for me; also, my loving wife is well aware of my transgender issues — currently she is in a phase of denying those, but at least she’s aware — and I have no kids around, just two cats, who couldn’t care less about how I’m dressed.
In spite of all the above, the truth is that today marks a whole year without crossdressing; thinking back, I believe that this is the first year in the past twenty-five years when that actually happened. Every week my psychologist kindly requests me to find some time to crossdress; every week I have to tell him that, once again, I was unable to do so, because I don’t want to get into more arguments with my wife — not at this moment, when the pandemia is still strongly active, and will very likely remain so for another year or so.
I continue to do my meditation sessions, diligently, every day, exactly as described above. But I cheat: I’m actually also under medication to deal with major clinical depression due to my gender issues. It’s actually almost a decade since I started having real difficulties dealing with those issues; I’d say that I was quite optimistic when this article was written, that I could ‘overcome’ them in one way or the other. But now I’m much more objective and a realist about my own abilities: it’s clear to me that I’m simply not good enough with my meditation practice to be able to deal with gender issues on my own. You’d expect that, after well over a decade of daily meditation, I would have long overcome my own ‘urges’ and deal with all gender issues. Not so! How often have I said that this is a very long process, taking a lot of time, years if not decades? So, do not despair if you don’t see any perceptible changes at the beginning.
What I can say is that I still stick to almost all I wrote back in 2012. Meditation is the tool I use to explore my mind and figure out why I experience some things and cannot ‘change’ my mind so easily in order to experience others. I’m still at the very beginning, that’s all — just remaining functional thanks to medication and therapy. Medication, in particular, sort of ‘dampens’ the strong anger and frustration (or any other harmful emotion) that I feel so intensely — it sort of ‘slows down’ the rising of those emotions, so that I can then apply the meditation techniques to deal with them more easily. Again, ‘dealing’ does not mean ‘suppression’; it just means recognising and accepting that those emotions are part of myself, but I shouldn’t really give them the importance they seem to have. That allows me at least not to throw my anger and frustration on top of my wife; after all, she’s not ‘guilty’ for my gender issues, and neither am I — it’s just how things are!
Indeed, in my own lineage, it is said that all phenomena don’t have inherent existence, or, in simpler words, everything has a cause and a condition (in practice, there are usually many causes and multiple conditions). It is unknown to me what ‘produces’ gender issues such as those I experience, but it’s clear that there is a cause for those, and a condition that made those arise. Science is still divided when it comes to pinpointing a single ’cause’ for transgenderism; there might be some biological issues (such as the particular chemical environment that we experience while inside the womb of our mothers), and there are some other ‘epiphenomena’ at play here. That’s a fancy word to say that a situation arises due to a certain amount of causes and specific conditions — such as the notion of a ‘mind’ emerging from a brain — and, perhaps not surprisingly, this view is pretty much shared with the teachings in my lineage.
As a consequence, so my teachers told me so long ago, we cannot ‘reject’ the causes and conditions that turned us into what we are. Because we were born human, there are certain things that, as humans, we are able to do — and others that we cannot. Merely thinking that we might ‘become cats’ (or ‘channel a cat essence’) does not mean that we can, all of a sudden, faithfully replicate the way cats think, move, react to the environment, and so forth. We can certainly imitate them; we can imagine how they think or react to certain things if we watch them carefully. But we cannot ‘unbecome’ humans and ‘become’ cats — the human body simply conditions us in a certain way that prevents us from ‘being’ a cat. Note that this is not a criticism about those who feel deep inside them that they’re not human, but some sort of animal; I don’t know such people well enough (the few I know were mostly role-playing), so I can only have a very vague idea of what they feel. I can therefore imagine that there are causes and conditions that make them believe deeply and strongly that they are cats (or dogs, or any other kind of furry animal…), but simply cannot express themselves that way, because they have a human body, which totally limits (or even blocks) their expression of their ‘inner animal’. It’s not even a question of doing radical surgery (assuming that surgery could help) — we simply are too different from cats to be able to ‘transition’ between species. If such a thing were possible somehow, it would also mean losing one’s humanity — and all that comes with it, such as our human emotions, our ability to think critically, our ability to communicate and to use tools, and so forth. You can’t have both worlds.
Gender issues are a bit different — we don’t really wish to change species. Nevertheless, no matter how we think about the binarity of gender, it is clear that a certain sequence of causal events will ultimately ‘place’ us somewhere in the gender spectrum. We cannot ‘undo’ that sequence — it’s in the past, we cannot change the past — and that’s one of the main reasons why ‘blocking’ or ‘suppressing’ what we feel deep inside us does not work: ‘suppression’ assumes, to a degree, that we somehow can ignore our past and simply pretend that it didn’t exist.
But that’s not how things work. Somewhere during our embryonal development in our mother’s uterus, something happened, and the result was ‘us’. We cannot go back into the uterus and switch things so that, this time, we come out ‘right’ — i.e. with the same mind but in the ‘correct’ body. That’s just impossible from a purely philosophical point of view — we cannot ‘turn back time’. However, by carefully observing the sequence of events that lead to the present moment, we can (with a lot of practice) identify, here and there, the causes and conditions that make us suffer in the present. And then — and only then! — we can start to deal with those. If that leads to transition, so be it. I don’t believe that you can simply ignore, by sheer willpower, all those causes and conditions which produced those events, or phenomena, that makes us be what we are in the present. It’s not in our power to delete the past so easily.
On the other hand, we can certainly learn to cope with our inner selves, and accept them fully as they are (and not how we wished that inner self to be). I think that when this happens, the solution is at hand: we may either go 2ahead with the ‘Big Jump’ — full transition — or assume, with a deep feeling of contentment, that we’re fine by being ‘mere crossdressers’. But there is no one-size-fits-all solution: each one of us has a different sequence of events, of causes, of conditions, that makes us unique; therefore, the answer will be different for each one of us, and all we need to do is to find that answer.
I humbly admit that I’m not even close to that answer, and I’m sorry if my above article from so long ago somehow gave you the hope that I had a ‘magic solution’ for stopping your suffering, your insatisfaction, your anger, your frustration. All I can lay out for you is a path that will lead to all of that — but it’s one path that really takes a long time and requires a huge amount of stubbornness to keep going ahead and not turn back to the non-existing past and hope to return to the ‘good old times’. By forging ahead — and not get stuck in the past — all I can promise is that you’ll learn (very slowly!) about how to cope much better with those strong emotions (with or without the help of prescription drugs and the persistent therapy sessions), and, as you do that, you not only will feel much better with yourself but also be seen by others as a much better person — we all benefit from that.
On a side note, besides the above comments, I also fixed some broken links, corrected some spelling, and got the images back — they had been subject to ‘bit rot’, namely, old links that didn’t work any more… all of this article should be readable again.
If you’re reading this in 2021 — stay safe and healthy! All of this will pass; our species has survived many, many pandemics before, and we didn’t have the means and the knowledge we have today.