There was a recent thread started on Fetlife that caught my attention, because it addresses something which activists worry about a lot: public acceptance of crossdreamers, crossdressers, and transgendered people. And it made me reflect a bit on what fundamentally is a problem without solution.
Because the Internet is fickle, and links tend to disappear after a short while, I’m going to recap on the topic in discussion. A member of FetLife got a request (apparently from another member) to stop posting such provocative pictures of herself, because it was transmitting the wrong image about crossdressers — namely, that crossdressers are all hypersexual and all they think about is getting laid (thus the explicit poses). This hurts the public acceptance of crossdressers, specially those that are not hypersexual and struggling to get some recognition and acceptance of their condition. The author of this request/complaint hints that posting explicit images/videos of crossdressers is doing the whole community a dis-service — we are all ‘guilty by association’, and even if some of us are not hypersexual, we at least condone hypersexuality (by being part of the same community).
This is a very tricky issue, which in the thread seems to be exposed as a black & white situation, while obviously it’s nothing like that.
First we should start with scientific fact. It has been long established that the crossdreaming/transgender community is, in fact, hypersexual. Hypersexual is a fancy post-modern technical term that designates what used to be known as ‘nymphomania’ — a term that designates an excessive sex drive in females — but extending it to all genders. It is a polemic issue in terms of mental disorder, because it implies that there is a ‘normal’ and ‘excessive’ sex drive. But who defines the limits? Granted, psychologists can draw averages, and arbitrarily define what groups are so much above average that they should be considered ‘excessive’, but that is not exactly very ‘scientific’.
Not being a psychologist, I cannot argue around this, just recognise that there are, indeed, many people who have a far than above average sex drive — ‘high libido’. And it’s also true that such persons might suffer from that, i.e. either because they’re ashamed (which is rare), or, more frequently, because they cannot have as much sex as they wish, and this makes them suffer. Suffering from a condition, no matter how artificially it sounds, is something that medical science is supposed to prevent. So, if someone is diagnosed with very high libido and is suffering from not being able to fulfill their urges and desires, they should get some sort of therapy to relieve their suffering. This is just common sense, and, as such, it’s worth studying it.
We might go for the ‘older’ classification of fetishist crossdressers (who only dress up because female clothing becomes their focus of sexual desire) and non-fetishists. But I think now that this classification is a bit naïve. Among all crossdreamers, hypersexuality is prevalent. For some, it’s the clothing, but for most, it isn’t. Transgendered individuals, either in transition or not, are also, in their majority, hypersexual. This might not be very obvious for those under transition, because, due to hormonal changes, the libido may come and go. For some, it might be gone forever. For others, by contrast, it’s the hormonal treatment, SRS, and the new life in a new body that suddenly gets their libido up. Again, there is no ‘black & white’ label for all possibilities, but it’s safe to assume that, in general, the whole spectrum of crossdreamers and transgendered people are hypersexual.
Now on top of that, of course, comes a personal attitude, often shaped by education. Most hypersexual individuals might not flaunt their hypersexuality publicly. They’re socially conditioned to ‘moderate’ the display of their hypersexuality, and, again talking about averages, most hypersexual individuals will externally present themselves as fully functional in a society that still represses overly sexual displays. Some, of course, are unable to do so (or feel so constrained if they have constantly to hide their true feelings that suffer terribly from it). The current stance of the media, in contrast to the more conservative society, actually promotes eroticism to levels that were not thinkable some decades ago — just take a look at the current fashion of proud moms taking their teenager daughters to photo studios to create erotically arousing images of their ‘little babies’, who then post those to Facebook and elsewhere… Such behaviour would be unacceptable some decades ago. Times change, and, as such, erotic display is more tolerated — to a degree.
Among the crossdreamer family, however, it goes well beyond mere eroticism. It goes into straight porn. Many social sites catering to crossdreamers struggle with the difficult choice: should they allow pornographic images in their sites, thus ensuring a larger audience (since most crossdreamers are hypersexual and searching for porn and available partners), or should they tone down their sites and disallow sexually explicit images, which will mean that way fewer members will find the site interesting — since crossdreamers with a low libido (or even asexual) are rare? Again, there is no easy answer — both solutions are possible, and the audience will be wildly different depending on the option.
However, there is a catch — it will be hard to create a single environment that pleases everybody. As such, the choice will condition the kind of crossdreamers that will join those sites. And this poses a problem to another class of crossdreamers: the activists.
As said, hypersexuality is not uncommon across our societies, but it is repressed and hidden. If you browse around most non-crossdreaming social sites — say, Facebook — you will not encounter so many sexually explicit images. It’s true that porn accounts for 18-20% of all web traffic, but that still leaves 80% of non-porn around. That means that, in general, the vast majority of individuals in a society will ‘pretend’ that sexually explicit content does not exist, and expect everybody to ‘pretend’ similarly. You might hook up with somebody through Facebook, where that person just posts silly images of kitties or boring landscapes, and it’s only after a bit that they’re willing to show their ‘true colours’, reveal themselves as obsessed with sex, and drop all pretense. This is what we expect to happen: an external, hypocritical shell of prudeness — which, however, is functional in ou society! — but allowing anything to happen once you delve a little deeper.
But when someone happens to come across the crossdreamer/transgender community, this is not the case: in fact, the reverse is quite true. The majority of easily-available crossdreamer sites are sexually explicit. It’s just a minority — often centred around support groups — that is not. While actually there is a lot of non-sexually-explicit material (documentation, information…) about crossdreaming, the truth is that most people are not aware of it. If you’re a crossdreamer/transgendered person who just happened to find this site right now by chance, it’s highly likely that you won’t be able to name a single LGBT organisation in your area which supports transgendered people, but it’s as likely that you will know the names of a handful of websites where you can find sexually explicit transgender material — be it on ‘normal’ social websites like Flickr or YouTube, or specialised websites, or webcam chatrooms. Maybe, you, reader, are actually the exception — or else, why would you be here, since there is no sexually explicit content on my own site? 🙂 But just think how easy it is for a crossdreamer or transgendered person to ‘hook up’ with anyone and have a good time online, while actually finding support groups/forums/websites with deep, intellectual discussions about crossdreaming is not that easy!
Because we know that most crossdreamers are hypersexual, this doesn’t bother us. We’re used to it. The small minority who is not hypersexual just clearly states their lack of interest in sex, and moves on. They’re usually respected. They might get a few eyebrows raised — ‘oh, really?’ — but, in general, the community is tolerant about those minorities. It is in fact relatively rare that crossdreamers with low libidos get ostracised by the community; they are merely oddities (but aren’t we all?) but usually accepted. And this doesn’t mean that both types cannot coexist among differently targeted communities. In my own country, there are two major public meetups of crossdressers (with participation of a few transgendered people as well as some non-crossdressing crossdreamers, as well as fans, friends, and SOs of all). One is relatively ‘mild’ and is not meant to be a ‘sexfest’, but merely a gathering of friends going out. The other is very explicitly set up into a nightclub for hypersexuals, who also tolerate people with normal or low libidos — but they are given ample warning about what they are supposed to expect when going there. Both types go to both events. Similarly, online, it’s not as if the non-hypersexuals just hang around in boring chatrooms and never post pictures of themselves, while the hypersexuals are having all the fun on webcam chatrooms! Rather, both visit each other’s websites, according to their tastes. Non-hypersexuals also enjoy watching porn; and hypersexuals are also into deep intellectual discussions 🙂 So it’s much more fluid in our community, both viewpoints are mostly respected and accepted.
Nevertheless, it’s fair to say that when two crossdreamers meet, they usually assume that both are hypersexuals, because they will be right perhaps 90% of the time. Still, if one of them has a normal or low libido, this is almost always respected by the other one. That happens both online and in the real world. Our community, in fact, sets an excellent example on how people should be treated!
Obviously it’s not so smooth and positive as the above paragraphs might think. Transexuals usually leave the crossdreaming/transgendered community as soon as they finish their transition; they wish to get everything behind them as quickly as possible. Transgendered people frown upon crossdressers; the more advanced they’re on their transition, the more they scorn those who are not even planning their own transition. Among crossdressers, discussions start all the time about what are ‘real crossdressers’ and who are merely crossdreamers — ‘crossdressing wannabes’ who never made an attempt to ‘dress up’ (because they don’t need it, but ‘real crossdressers’ don’t see it that way…). Even among crossdreamers there is some friction between those who only need imagination, and those who wish to take it a step further but haven’t started yet. So, no, it’s not a perfect, ideal community — because there are so many different facets to it. Groups split quite often, as some ‘fundamentalist’ definition gets accepted by some members but not the others. Nevertheless, compared to other communities, crossdreamers/transgendered people are not among the worst.
Now picture this from the perspective from someone outside our community.
It’s highly likely that if they just randomly browse the web, they will quickly find sexually explicit material if they search for ‘crossdressing’ on Google (sure, they might also hit Wikipedia). The more they look for, the more they will be convinced that crossdressers and transgendered people are only thinking about getting laid. And, in fact, they might actually be right!
Now the trouble is that this attitude is contrary to the established social norms. While obviously most people want to get laid, they pretend that not to be the case, and in most cases, their social presence will hide their true feelings. Hypersexual or not, our society tells us to suppress our urges in public and to be careful. But the crossdreamer community is all about the reverse. They’re not hypocrites — they want sex, and they want everybody to know they’re available. Now obviously this is not the case for all crossdreamers. It is, for instance, extremely probable that you don’t think like that. You might even be hypersexual otherwise, but you are among those who also think that your inner feelings should not be so explicitly exposed to the public at all (if not, you wouldn’t bother reading 2000 words — you’d be posting your profile on cam4, xHamster, xTube, etc. and having way more fun that way).
However, for an outsider, this is not what seems to be the case. Outsiders are not reading blogs like this one. They’re shocked at how crossdreamers have no problem in discarding all social roles and presenting themselves as they really are. In fact, most of that ‘shock’ will come from a deep sense of envy — ‘how lucky are those guys dressed up as women, who have no inhibitions and are free to show what they’re after — while I have to suppress my own urges and desires and pretend all the time’ — and sometimes it’s envy and jealousy that drives many outside of our community to ferociously attack it publicly.
This attitude actually is quite widespread. Because I’m not open with my crossdressing, I can often listen in to conversations and not reveal myself. That allows me to learn what non-crossdreamers think of us. And I can certainly say that it’s just a tiny, tiny majority that understands why transgendered people need rights. The rest (and many, among the rest, are as hypersexual as most crossdreamers) is actually not really ‘shocked’ about ‘men wearing women’s clothes’, but about they being explicitly showing off their availability for sex. This is what bothers them! In fact, for most non-crossdreamers, the urge for a genetic male to dress and behave like a woman is only explainable in terms of fetishism — it’s always a sexual thing, no matter how things are explained. In fact, the truth is that most crossdreamers would not be the best people defending that crossdreaming goes beyond sexual issues — because most are exactly attracted to the sexual aspect.
I know that most of you will disagree. But that’s because most of you are part of a minority! While almost all of us will easily understand the sexual aspect of crossdreaming, you, reader, will very likely share with me the idea that there is far more to crossdreaming than this sexual aspect. Sure it’s important; sure it’s part of the whole experience; but it’s not all there is.
However, we are a minority. And we can’t successfully argue otherwise, because factual evidence — statistical numbers! — will show that we’re plain wrong. We can only represent our side of the issue — a tiny minority inside a vaster minority! — but we cannot speak for all crossdreamers.
Obviously this is one of the many fascinating cases where there is really no ‘black & white’ but just uncountable shades of grey. I have noticed that education plays a large role in the way how we present crossdreaming to others — both crossdreamers and non-crossdreamers. Several crossdreamer friends of mine are hypersexual — even some of the few transexuals I have met — but in public they effectively suppress their urges, just like non-crossdreamers, and this comes from their recognition (due to education) that our society is simply not (yet) built in a way where people can be publicly open about their innermost urges (except, of course, when talking to a therapist… or a beloved one!). As such, we can see public figures — university teachers, even some representatives — who are openly crossdreamers (some might be crossdressers, some might be transgendered), talk about the more deeper issues regarding crossdreaming in public, might be activists for more rights, but, in their privacy, will not think of anything else but get laid. But that’s acceptable behaviour in our society: being hypersexual is not a social stigma (unless, of course, it’s out of control). It’s something you keep to yourself (and close, intimate partners), but, in your daily activity, it’s not something you talk about.
So public organisations fighting for transgendered rights have twice as much trouble to go ahead with their arguments. They need not only to be able to treat transgendered people — either fighting for their right to therapy, or, if needed, transition — but they also have to fight the social stigma that forces hypersexual behaviour to be kept secret (when so many crossdreamers are so open and public about it). In my country, conservatives are shocked that transexuals are allowed to get free surgery, while cancer patients are not. It’s not exactly because they think that transexuality is a disease not worth curing; they’re not that uncompassionate. No, the problem is that the way they see it, a transgendered person who needs transition just wants to have better sex, while a cancer patient just wants to live. In the social norms of our society, ‘saving’ someone just because of having a better sex life is relatively low-priority, compared to saving a life of a ‘normal’ person (who might be hypersexual but naturally will never claim that publicly).
When that argument gets placed on the table, what can we say? We cannot argue that transgendered people care little about sex, what they wish is the right to lead a life in their rightfully expressed gender. Because, statistically, most transgendered people will care a lot about sex! It’s obvious that there will be a lot of exceptions, and it would be unfair for those exceptions to refuse them treatment just because they’re different, but the truth is that they are really just a minority…
For an outsider, allowing a transgendered person a free SRS or facial feminization surgery would be the same as allowing the national health service to give men larger penises or bigger breasts to women, because they want ‘more and better sex’. It’s hard to convince the general public otherwise! Specially because our arguments will be weak.
Fortunately, I think that the activist groups, as well as the majority of doctors, have done a great job at presenting the core of transgenderism. They have successfully placed the whole hypersexual aspect out of the picture and persuaded legislators to write laws that deal with the issue as a matter of national health — providing for free the only effective treatment for transgendered people, which is transition.
Crossdressers are another story. Legally, in most countries crossdressing is not forbidden. Legally, people cannot be discriminated by the way they dress (unless they’re in the nude), so that means that barring a man from work because he dresses like a woman is technically illegal. In practice, because of the sexual aspect of crossdressing, employers (or restaurant owners, or club owners) could reasonably claim that a person that openly professes their hypersexuality are a source of disturbance at the workplace (or in a public space), and might have a solid case to disallow the way they dress. They might hire them (or allow entrance to them) only if they accept to wear ‘appropriate clothing’. After all, a BDSM domme cannot go to work wearing her slutty underwear and a whip, either, for the same reason. While it’s arguable that a man dressing in women’s business attire is not at the same level as a BDSM domme, both kind of attire are immediately connected with a display of hypersexuality — even if either case might be an actual exception to the rule. In most cases, they won’t be. And, as such, unless our society evolves to allow public displays of hypersexuality, both examples will continue to be discriminated. But — and this is my point! — the discrimination is not against crossdressing (or BDSM) per se. It’s an enforcement of social norms that restrict public displays of hypersexuality. Again, legally, anyone can display their hypersexuality publicly; we’re not legally restricted. It is, however, socially enforced. Companies are allowed to enforce a dress code in their premises — and so do restaurants, nightclubs, casinos, or movie theatres.
I thus see that recently there has been a slight switch in mentalities regarding crossdressing (and, ultimately, transgenderism). It’s not exactly being against crossdressing; it’s not really about the clothes or the gender role any more. In fact, it’s all about the hypersexuality. We are all socially conditioned to refrain from publicly displaying hypersexuality. Crossdreamers don’t feel that restraint — when among their communities. Because they are so open about it inside their communities, this ‘spills over’, and the public at large knows very well what they think. And because non-crossdreamers are expected not to display their hypersexuality in public, they also expect crossdreamers to behave in the same way. This is, I think, the major issue, and one that will mean that crossdreamers, crossdressers, and transgendered people of all kinds will continue to suffer public discrimination.
At this stage, LGBT activists have two choices. Either they educate society to accept public displays of hypersexuality, or they educate crossdreamers to refrain their own public displays of hypersexuality.
Very honestly, I think that neither is possible.