Trans or just a fetish?

The question “Am I trans or is it just a fetish?” has to be one of the most common questions that is asked by people considering MTF transition. This question shows up over and over again on reddit’s r/asktransgender and other transgender forums. They almost always answer “yes, you are trans” and there is even this handy website to determine whether you are transgender or not. (Always yes!) (EDIT: the website is no longer around)

I think it is very important to deconstruct this question and analyze it as I think it explains some of what is going on around this issue. First, there is an implied hierarchy. One can either be trans or “just” have a fetish. The word “just” implies that this is a lesser state. Also you “are” trans but “have” a fetish. One of these things is an identity, and the other is a stigmatized mental illness. I know I would prefer to be something than to have a mental illness! There is also an implied either/or to the question. One is either trans or just has a fetish, not both. I’m not saying that having a fetish is a mental illness, just that is what is implied by the word.

People with trans identities are definitely stigmatized in many contexts, that is true. However, there are certain subcultures where being trans can be considered positively, perhaps in some queer, academic or liberal contexts. In nearly all contexts being viewed as a woman with an unfortunate issue with a wrongly sexed body, is much less stigmatizing that being viewed as a man with a fetish. This adds to the view that being trans is a more desirable state than “having a fetish”. Even in the fetish/kink community itself cross-dressing is considered one of the lower status kinks to have.

This hierarchy has existed in the trans community in a long time. Kate Bornstein wrote about it the 90s. Post-op transsexuals were at the top of the the hierarchy, followed by pre-op transsexuals, and then transgenderists (which at the time was not an umbrella category but instead was a state intermediate between transsexual and transvestite), followed by transvestites, and then fetishistic cross dressers at the bottom. This hierarchy creates a bias towards identifying as trans vs. “having a fetish”.

A larger problem is that emotionally charged words like “fetish” leads one into the realm of moral reasoning. In moral reasoning, things are good or bad, as opposed to analytical reasoning where things are true or false. Moral reasoning activates tribalism and divides us to moral tribes. When two opposing moral tribes discuss an issue it can be difficult to impossible to find compromise. The discussion of trans issues in an objective way becomes very difficult because there are factors on all sides that throw the discussion into the realm of moral reasoning. On one side there is the use of stigmatizing terms such as “autogynephilia” and “fetish” which are sometimes used by enemies of trans people to shame them. On the other side there is the use of social justice ideology which also throws things into the realm of moral reasoning. Once one side uses moral reasoning, the other side than also veers into moral reasoning and communication stops. Moral reasoning also trumps analytical reasoning which means that analytical reasoning tends to stop when moral reasoning is invoked. A good sign that you are in the realm of moral reasoning is when you believe that the “other side” is 100% wrong about everything, whether this be liberals, conservatives, men, women, trans activists, radical feminists, or who ever else. I recommend reading my favorite social psychologist,  Jonathan Haidt if you want to learn more about this issue.

My general view is that you don’t choose to have these thoughts and feelings but do have some ability to choose what to do with them. Some people have more ability to choose than others depending on their particular circumstance, this depends on the intensity of their feelings, the psychological circumstances that surround things, as well as their personal temperament. In many cases the “fetish” will be far less disruptive and be manageable. Transition creates many difficulties as well, and does not cure dysphoria, it only manages it. I think it is better thought of as a chronic condition that can be managed in a variety of ways, and the task is to figure out the best way according to your own circumstances. Also not only is term “fetish” stigmatizing it is incomplete, as there are often deeply meaningful psychological components attached as well and it is not usually just a sex thing.

This phenomena can itself be divided into several different parts some of which have the potential to cause problems others of which do not. Part of it all is simple fantasy. Fantasy itself is not harmful, and also cannot be controlled. We fantasize about what we fantasize about, and lots of people have all kinds of strange and wonderful sexual fantasies. This is just what happens when our modern brains intersect with our primitive sexual instincts. Fantasy itself is never a problem, it is only when it becomes combined with something else that it is a problem. Even for those with particularly unfortunate sexual fantasies that would cause tremendous harm to enact, the fantasy itself doesn’t harm anyone. Also, trying to prevent thoughts doesn’t usually work, and only strengthens them.

One example of when it becomes a problem is if it develops obsessive qualities or becomes compulsive. Another is if impedes the ability to form relationships. Yet another is if it causes one to violate the boundaries of others in some way.

If it is used as a coping mechanism, this can be okay in moderation. However, like most coping mechanisms there is a tendency to escalation and requiring more and more of the “drug” for the same effect.

Also, it can be tied into psychological needs. Sometimes it is tied into an experience of an “inner woman” which some people who experience this phenomena have. Jack Molay writes about this here and here.

I think Jung’s writings on the anima are very relevant here. Jung described working with the anima as important to the psychological growth as those qualities can be integrated and produce growth. The anima can be an important guide. However, Jung simultaneously warns about the phenomena of “anima possession” where a man can become taken over by the inner woman. It was actually reading Jung and his phenomena of anima possession which first knocked loose my transgender identification.

In summary, a “fetish” or cross-dreaming are not lesser states to transgender identity. This idea can lead to preferring transgender identity which could potentially be far more disruptive to one’s life. Also, shame over sexual motivations can specifically lead to the preference for a transgender identity over other possible outcomes. This is a place where trans critics sometimes go wrong, by specifically shaming the sexual aspects of trans identity, they may be creating more of the very phenomena they oppose.

For some more related reading I recommend this essay by Ozy “Trans as Choice” and this essay by Angus Grieve-Smith “On the Slippery Slope”

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35 comments

  1. Quote from TWT: “My general view is that you don’t choose to have these thoughts and feelings but do have some ability to choose what to do with them. Some people have more ability to choose than others depending on their particular circumstance, this depends on the intensity of their feelings, the psychological circumstances that surround things, as well as their personal temperament.”

    This really resonated with me. I believe that each person who is dealing with gender identity issues needs a treatment plan that is tailored to their specific situation. Not everyone should transition. Not everyone should have SRS. I think we’ve lost sight of that.

  2. Am I weird in that I have no problem whatsoever with considering myself mentally ill? The stigmas of a fetish do nothing to offend me and I actually welcome them, I think it makes me a very unique person, per se. Where there are those who are transitioning around me, I’m being a “hipster” of sorts as I’d much prefer to not have the difficulties that come with transitioning or the attention they bring. I want my achievements in life to be judged, not because of what I look like, but because of my skill.

    Anyway, I, like few others(apparently?) have come to the conclusion that this, in my case, is an extreme manifestation of emasculation trauma. Being that I’m 22 years old and began masturbating at around 21, I have been very aware of how this “fetish” can change one’s perception of themselves, even unconsciously! It all started for me after around 5 months of learning about forced feminization erotica, I began having these severe panic attacks, seemingly coming from nowhere, followed by extreme dissociation and brain fog.

    Life for me had been going the same as it always has, but what has changed? Ah, I got it, “coming into my sexuality”. Something kind of clicked in me that day, I could be “one of those transexuals”. I desperately searched for information on the internet that would somehow prove that I was not a transexual at all, but a man with a silly fetish. This stage lasted for around 6 months.

    Every day, even now, I obsessively and compulsively masturbate to sissy erotica. Slowly, after every masturbation session, I can feel my whole psychology changing. There is this powerful fear of having to live as a woman for the rest of my life that grips me and keeps me cooped up in my house all day, but it seems to be this fear that brings me the most extreme amount of sexual pleasure I’ve ever felt. The thing is, I don’t actually feel “alive” without anxiety or obsession and I feel that whatever is actually behind this “fetish” could be the driving force behind my obsessive-compulsive nature which I’ve had since puberty and have been hospitalized for. Honestly, I feel like the extreme aversion I have to feminizing myself is actually causing me to want to feminize myself even more! As if my life is the template of the most extreme form of forced feminization there is.

    With all of that being said, I’m not sure what to do. On one forum of people they’d probably urge me to transition now because of my age and on another forum they’d tell me to repress my sexual desires and channel that energy into something else. Ideally I’d like to just get this mess out in the open. I truly feel like the privacy, embarrassment and self-loathing I feel regarding this fetish are destroying my mental health.

    1. I definitely agree with you on the basis that it is indeed the deep-seated fear of ever living out this “fetish” that keeps us coming for more. I’m beginning to believe that those who believe that our sexuality lies in our consciousness are correct. I also do not think masochism is healthy in the least bit. It feeds off of your fears and insecurities and amplifies them ten-fold. Psychologists are definitely not much of any help either, as the standard slogan now is, “if it feels good, do it!”. The thing is, it doesn’t feel good, it feels terrible. You are quite literally getting off on your greatest fears and experiencing them over and over again.

      I’m also beginning to believe that there must be some sort of strong emotion involved in the development in all types of sexuality, including heterosexuality, just those with fetishes kind of have a “crack” along the way, disabling them from experiencing a “healthy” adult sexuality. Honestly, we’re still in the dark ages when it comes to things like sexuality and we can only guess how much sexuality has an impact over one’s mannerisms and what their seemingly meaningless sexual fantasies actually do to help or hurt their psyche.

      1. Yeah, I think the idea that we always must act on our desires is a harmful one. You are right that the mental health profession can push this, particularly with respect to sex. Part of being an adult is learning discernment and which desires are healthy for you to act on and which are not. This is to some degree an individual question I think.

    2. I think you are really on to something with the idea of just getting things into the open. Accepting your desires in the midway point between repressing them and giving into them. You can accept the desire and not choose to act on it. This might be easier said than done, especially as you say you have some issues related to obsessions and compulsions.

      It makes sense to me that the aversion to feminization causes the desire for feminization. These two things can exist in a feedback loop, being simultaneously afraid of something and desiring it.

      If it becomes too much I hope you find someone to work with about the obsessive-compulsive issues, as that might be a good first step to look at.

    3. “I began having these severe panic attacks, seemingly coming from nowhere, followed by extreme dissociation and brain fog.”

      That sounds like a trauma was triggered there. Do you know for sure you had a safe, sheltered childhood? Do you have memories of your whole childhood?

      Because I would recommend that you look into psychotherapy.

  3. “Also, it can be tied into psychological needs. Sometimes it is tied into an experience of an “inner woman” which some people who experience this phenomena have. Jack Molay writes about this”

    This is quite misleading, as a major part of this phenomenon, is the creation of (and emotional attachment to) that very notion of an “inner woman”.

    As always, it goes without saying, that a meaningful feminine psychology may have figured in the cause of the individual’s fetish, however rare it seems to be.

    1. The subjective experience of an inner woman is something Jung has written about quite a bit and is not limited to people with gender issues. People can access this through the process of active imagination and when one encounters figures like this in the psyche they seem to have a life of their own. Some people are drawn to the Jungian way of experiencing their psyches and others are not. I do think the inner woman exists as a subjective experience for many.

      I had an experience of an inner woman when I was working out integrating things before detransition and since integrating things I don’t have that experience any more, but still experience these fantasies.

  4. Good point about the self-creation of the inner woman.

    I thought that ‘Becoming What We Love’ by Anne Lawrence was a fascinating article for much the same reason.

    I’m not really sure I’m comfortable labeling this as a fetish, but despite trying to make it through a number of journal articles that dealt with the topic I must admit I’m confused as to the precise demarcation between a fetish, a sexual orientation, or a paraphilia.

    I’m kind of curious about zayn though, did you only start having these feelings after 21 when you started reading forced feminisation stories?

    I didn’t masturbate for the first time until around 21 either (I was actually starting to get a little concerned around 20 because I didn’t seem to be having wet dreams anymore and started to wonder if I may be developing some sort of medical problem) and when I did for the first time it was while reading TS erotica (not sissy erotica), but I’d been reading such things since high school, and been fascinated by such content since childhood.

    Are you saying that you’d never read any erotica like that before zayn?

    1. Yep, my first time purposely masturbating was at 21 years old, though my first orgasm was actually at 11 years old or so by “accident”, when I had my mother’s dress and panties on with a diaper underneath my clothes. I have read sissy erotica before, but the erotica I read centered more around the “adult baby” fetish, rather than the sissy stuff. Eventually, I started to read stories of men who were forced to live as sissy babies and found out about sissy captions, which gave me a strong urge to buy a pair of panties and a skirt from my local department store.

      I remember figuring out that sissy erotica existed at around 12 years old. I knew the erotica gave me “funny feelings”, but never actually discovered that what I was feeling was sexual arousal. Due to my very restrictive household, I was never really able to delve into anything sexual and thus I was not able to discover what really turned me on until I got my “freedom” at 21.

      I think these emotional leanings have always been there though. I remember seeing a show about transexuals on TV when I was pretty young and “young-me” saying “yes, that’s what I want!!!!”. I also remember being sent to a mental institution and meeting a transexual there and was very curious about her. Lastly, I remember being a member of an internet forum and there being an attractive transexual woman, the me debating on asking her “how did you know you were a transexual?”, this was before I had any real “conscious” desire of my fetish, or whatever you want to call it.

    2. Fetish and paraphilia are two different words for the same thing. I am also unclear about demarcation between those and sexual orientation. Part of me thinks they are essentially the same, and part of me thinks that there is a difference between sexual orientation towards a given gender and fetishes. Romantic attraction might be part of that, but people have been recorded to have romantic attachment to fetish objects also, so I am not really sure.

  5. Intelligent people prefer to have a fetish than the idea of cutting their dick in order to be taken as women as they know that nobody would take them as women, including themselves.

    Though, none of these wills are an illness. Why would a fetish be an illness ?

  6. I was a virgin with women till 22 but masturbated from 12 thinking about legs of women in nylon. But had no fantasy to stick my dick in anyone.

    At 33 I started sex with men (always as a woman). After 8 years I started to love sex with men and started to kiss men. Now I hope to find a boyfriend and be his wife !

    I am not attracted to men and find most people ugly. So I am rather auto-erotic and probably because of my male body that makes me feel too gay with men and of my woman’s gender that makes me feel jealous of women.

  7. I feel pain sharing my story because when you are not identifying as trans people have less sympathy for you. I grew up in a very strict home with perfectionist parents. They were obsessed with what their friends and neighbors thought of them, so this burden was also placed on me.

    One day when I was 8 years old I felt an overwhelming urge to humiliate myself at school. This urge went against everything my parents had ever taught me, they had taught me to prove how superior and perfect I was. My method of humiliating myself was unbuttoning and unzipping my pants at school to expose my underwear to the other students. I loved the feeling of being disempowered, that they could see my underwear but I couldn’t see theirs. This was the intense awakening of my sexuality.

    My father hated gays and verbally bashed them constantly. I remember a news story about a gay pride parade and the negative reaction my father had to the news video of the strutting drag queens in the parade. It was the first time I noticed a connection between men wearing women’s clothes and homosexuality. It was that connection which became deeply embedded in my subconscious mind (I realize that most crossdressers are actually straight, but this is not how the general public views them so it was not how my young self viewed them, in my mind crossdressing was associated to homosexuality)

    In my college Spanish class my female professor told the class that her ex-husband was working as a drag queen downtown. Several of the students laughed at this. I didn’t laugh at all. I was fascinated with the idea of it, the story gave me a feeling in my chest like I was in love. I became sexually aroused and the thought in my mind was, “Oh my God, to have a job where you get to wear women’s clothes in public and you are exposed to the public humiliation of everyone thinking you are gay, that would be absolute heaven.” There was a part of my mind which was horrified that I felt this way, it was a completely emasculating idea.

    It was a few years later when I found Fictionmania and I loved that site

    1. I think you are very right that when you don’t identify as trans people are less sympathetic, I think that is one of the things that leads people to identify as trans.

  8. I will finish my story. When I read the stories on Fictionmania I was more aroused than from anything else I’ve ever experienced. I began to believe that my main sexuality was centered in crossdressing humiliation.

    I’m a supporter of wxhluyp’s theory of MEF because it makes the most sense to me based on my past. I’ve never viewed myself as having any kind of inner girl, the main factors in my sexual development were all masochistic.

    I very much agree with the earlier statement that “the aversion to feminization causes the desire for feminization” because I still have a voice in my mind which wishes I’d stop being aroused by this and begin acting like a real man. And that voice is terrified by the extreme feminized humiliation which arouses me. My ultimate fear/desire is to dress full time as a woman in public and in private and to have a gay marriage with a man. I’m straight in real life so that would be a tremendous humiliation.

  9. Just wanted to say – thank you soooo much for all the insight and wisdom you have shared on your blog. Pretty much every essay/post I’ve read has been absolutely stellar. My 15yo has just come to me and shared these feelings of being trans, and while I dont want to make him feel devalued by asking questions in the wrong way, I also think it’s utterly imperative that we are able to investigate this in a well rounded and intelligent way, stepping away from the ‘OMG OMG’ mentality of reddit etc. Your blog provides an excellent platform from which to do this, along with seeing a psychologist. Again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you:).

  10. I’m not sure I have much of substance to contribute to the conversation, but I enjoyed reading nonetheless. One thing that has been on my mind a lot lately is the relationship I have with trans identity. A lot has been written on the “true trans” narrative as well as the “fetishistic trans” narrative, but I find myself stuck somewhere outside both camps.

    Its a difficult subject for me to approach given how long I was invested in the idea of being trans and being a woman, and made even more difficult by the fact that I have noone with which to discuss it.

    Though probably an atypical experience, I grew up in a fairly egalitarian household with very little in the way of strict gender expectations. I wasn’t exactly encouraged to do feminine things, but nor was I strongly prevented. I was mostly left to pursue my own solitary interests like reading.

    Most of the my shame surrounding being perceived as feminine, I think, came from my peers. School was a particularly brutal experience for me and I blame that for a lot of the repression and trauma I had growing up.

    I’ll be the first person to admit that I project a rather weak personality. My attempts at ‘manning up’ later were mostly superficial and unconvincing. That is to say, I’ve always been bad at being ‘one of the boys’.

    On the other hand, what people weren’t seeing was the boy who would go home from school every night and wait until everyone was asleep so that he could uncover his secret stash of feminine clothing. The boy who would walk around his neighborhood late at night in his sister’s clothes both because it scared and excited him. And the boy who became disgusted with his own maleness.

    This has led to a lot of confusion and shame since then. From a relatively young age I was keenly aware that my sexuality was wrong. My first kiss was with a male friend, taller than myself, who pushed me against a wall and forced himself on me. I enjoyed it, though at the time I panicked.

    I was also discovering girls. All of my male peers were starting to. I tried to because thats what boys did. I didn’t want to be perceived as strange. But I guess I’ve always found women a little…lacking? What I was attracted to was the appearance of femininity. I was attracted to the softness of women, to their clothing, etc, but found vaginas rather boring.

    The feelings of discomfort and alienation with my body that I had been feeling since the beginning of puberty began to intensify. From my perspective I was becoming something foreign and strange. I was growing hair in unwanted places, becoming larger and my voice was getting deeper. I knew what I would eventually turn into and I became severely depressed.

    Around the same time I started to discover the net and found trans and crossdressing porn for the first time. That marked the biggest shift in my understanding of my sexuality up to that point. Suddenly I had something I could relate to, a male with all the softness of a woman and the body parts I found myself sexually attracted to.

    I felt like that was what I really wanted to be. I associated men with the kind of abusive behavior I received from the people around me. Men were everything I didn’t want to be – overly competitive, mean, rude, cold and ugly. I saw myself as a failed man. So I reasoned that on some level, there was probably a good reason for that. Of course the only other option was to be a woman. This kicked off the process of me finding out about trans people, and as I did I saw a lot of myself in their experiences.

    The problem was my narrative didn’t exactly match up. I had thoughts on and off since I was small that maybe I wanted to be a girl, both in and out of a sexual context. But I wasn’t exactly the model trutrans girl. So when I first started seeking treatment I lied about my feelings. More importantly, I lied to myself. I got heavily involved in the sort of trutrans online communities. I convinced myself that all the things I had experienced were just confusion along the path to finding my authentic female self. It felt good to be a part of a hierarchy on which I was at the top for once.

    So I transitioned, and I lived as a woman from the age of 18 to 25. In the time between I did make a lot of important discoveries. I let myself admit that I never had a strong desire to remove my penis apart from trying to fit in. That my attraction to real women was largely forced and a response to being traumatized by men and boys. That while I was going limp with my girlfriend I was thinking about men and trans women to get hard again. That one of the reasons I even transitioned in the first place was to become more like the kind of people I was attracted to – the effeminate men, twinks and trans women I masturbated to.

    But it was only in the last two years when I allowed myself to analyze my identity at the lowest levels that my female identity started to fall apart. I broke up with the woman I was dating and found another trans girl. Over time, they have been instrumental in helping me experiment with and understand myself as male and to stop feeling disgusting for my sexual orientation.

    Although I still experience dysphoria, it has become more manageable in some ways – particularly the social dysphoria. I don’t think I could go back to living without estrogen at this point in my life. I’m not sure if I ever will. The discomfort I feel with the thought of inhabiting a masculine male body is still something I don’t think I can deal with. I also seem to function quite well with a feminized endocrine system. However, I have let go of the premise of being a woman and allowed myself to just be me, a being whose gender is androgynous and whose body is as well.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story. I think stories like yours are very important because they show how people can find other ways to manage these feelings without falling into the mainstream trans narrative. I think there are many people who could do well with the solution that you have found of taking hormones, living the way you like to, and seeing yourself as androgynous.

  11. This article gives me the impression that the trans & fetish communities have been engaging in drama for decades (at least) & conflict within these communities that has created a lot of hard feelings among trans & cross-dressing people – often centered on questions of what this community uses the word “identity” to signify. Meanwhile, the rest of us, who were not party to the drama, (and do not spend hours every day contemplating, discussing or posting about how our entire lives are predicated on our sex organs//gender identity – imagine that) ask an honest question and get our heads bit off for our trouble. Then trans activists run around trying to conflate honest questions, and the flabbergasted reaction to being screamed at, with “trans people hated to death”.

    It’s parallel to the way that within black communities there is a pecking order among who has lighter and darker skin – while the white community doesn’t have a skin-shade hierarchy, and when a white person asks a question about a problem the black community wants addressed that person gets screamed at for “having white privilege”.

    Even though the non trans, non black people are in the statistical majority, that doesn’t mean that these in-group dramatics are the fault of the larger community. Any group that genuinely wants sympathy and help from the larger community would be wise to rethink how to communicate their problems, messages and hopes.

    1. Yes, this argument has been going on for a very long time, and was around in the 90s just as much as today but in a different form.

      What is new, I think, is the idea that no one is allowed to ask questions and merely questioning is a sign of hate. That is particular to some of the trans ideologies of the 2010s.

  12. I, for one, find it ironic that the non-fetishistic MtF crossdresser community ‘came up’ with the word ‘transgender’ at a time when they wanted to place some distance between those who crossdressed merely due a fetishistic attraction to women’s clothing (i.e. object fetishism) and those who had a fetishist attraction to act like a woman in order to get sexual partners (i.e. behaviour fetishism) — and those who crossdressed because, somehow, they wanted to explore their ‘inner female’. Because the latter group would neither fully identify with ‘male’, but not quite sure about if they could really identify as ‘female’ — they would be somewhere in-between, crossing the gender barrier when crossdressing — the word ‘transgender’, as opposed to ‘transexual’, fit them better, and it made a lot more sense.

    After all, strictly speaking, transexuals do not ‘change genders’, they merely change their body’s sexual attributes to better fit the gender they identify with.

    Nevertheless, it meant that the umbrella word ‘transgender’ became more and more associated with classic and late onset transexuals, and less and less with those who were merely ‘exploring the gender barrier’ (for the sake of exploring their feelings, emotions, interconnections with others — and yes, surely, why not exploring sex as well?). This created a problem for those who were ‘merely crossdressers’ (as opposed to ‘transvestic fetishists’, a classification still present in the DSM): not really ‘fetishists’ in the more strict definition of the term, but possibly not quite ‘transexual’ in the sense that they were 100% sure about their gender identity to go ahead with surgery and hormone treatments.

    In a sense, by pushing the word ‘transgender’ to become an umbrella word, we sort of left some people behind. Personally, I identify as ‘transgender’ and I certainly experience gender dysphoria to a degree (but a lot of other things as well!), but I’m much less sure about transition than a ‘real transexual’ (either classic or late onset) ought to be. And it’s not really about fearing to get some bits chopped off and others added — it’s more like fearing to face a world afterwards, a world with few friends and even less family, a world where unfortunately I still need a job to survive but might not be able to ever get one again, and if things are already complicated right now, they would become much harder after transition.

    As said, ‘true transexuals’, if I can use that expression, would never hesitate — they put their desire to align their body’s gender to the gender they identify with at the topmost priority in their lives, and have no qualms about discarding all the rest, including any family and friends who do not accept them, pack and move to another city, start their lives from scratch… you know the story. It’s pretty common to so many transexuals; I personally know a few who fit precisely in that stereotyped narrative, and yes, all of them are very happy about the decision they made.

    My own sexologists, psychiatrists, and psychologists are quite unsure where exactly to place me; I’m undergoing evaluation by two different teams, as required by law, and both are being extremely careful about any ‘labeling’ — lest they advise me incorrectly. Right now, for them, I seem to be one of those borderline cases, who might be more interesting, but much harder to evaluate and to advise properly, who fluctuate between ‘transvestic fetishism’ and ‘transexuality’. They have no doubt that there are some gender identity issues troubling my mind, but where exactly I fit in the spectrum is as yet unclear for them, and requires a few more sessions. It’s also pretty much possible that both teams disagree with their evaluation. I’m not surprised: I don’t identify with ‘transvestic fetishism’ — since I’m pretty much asexual and these days pretty much uninterested in anything related to sex anyway (masturbation is more like a bodily necessity which I need to perform once in a while, but not exactly something I feel to be as exciting as, say, eating chocolate 🙂 ) — but I have serious doubts about transition, something which so-called ‘true transexuals’ would never hesitate about. My doctors know all about that hesitation. In an ideal world, where I’d swim in pools of golden doubloons, where society would accept trans* people, and where all my family, friends, and job colleagues would be totally supportive and encouraging, well, then I would have no more doubts and hesitations and go ahead with transition, and pressure my doctors to do so. But I don’t live in a fantasy world, but in the real world, and it’s incredibly hard for me to make a decision that will make so many people unhappy (starting with my own wife) and ultimately might lead to a life under a bridge selling my body because there will be no other way to earn some money to keep on surviving… and as you can imagine, this bleak future is not something that excites me.

    In the mean time, the little I do is to go out with a group of very similarly-minded people, and we just go to public, not specifically LGBT-friendly places, and interact with cisgender heterosexual males and females without constraints — the point being that we wish to show the public-at-large that there are those who are not ‘sex perverts’ down in their BDSM dungeons, but, on the other hand, who have perfectly ordinary lives when presenting themselves as the gender they were assigned at birth, but nevertheless enjoy presenting themselves as the opposite gender whenever possible — without chopping bits off or adding extra bits.

    I totally agree that after the 2010s this issue, like so many others, has become incredibly polarized — with each group affirming to be holders of the Absolute Truth and disagreeing with all others. On the other hand, the media is always reporting about how diverse the transgender spectrum is. Yeah, right — it is diverse, but that doesn’t mean that people get along with each other: rather, it means that each individual thinks that they are right and the only ‘true transgender’, while everybody else is ‘fake’ and should go away — or simply kill themselves.

    1. It sounds like you have a really good sense about what some of the tradeoffs might be of transitioning and not. It is a tricky decision because there are real risks and unknowns on both sides. I wonder about the attempts of your medical teams to try to categorize you, in my sense that doesn’t really matter. Psychological diagnoses aren’t like medical diagnoses, in that they don’t map directly to causes and treatment, they are only a system for classifying symptoms. In my sense the real question that should be asked is whether transition would benefit you or not, based on all the potential positives and negatives as well as what impact it might have on others. So there are a lot of factors involved.

      I would really like to do something to reduce the amount of polarization there is, it does seem worse than in the past, even then there were plenty of arguments.

  13. It could be a dissociative disorder. One of my earliest memories of childhood was my mother dressed me and I happened to be fixated on one of my female classmates. I liked her hair and posture and wanted to be like her…so I had the same pants she had and was afraid if my mother made me wear these pants to school the girl would see I was her and my identity would disappear. But as a preface, I had many childhood surgeries to correct birth defects and was a highly traumatized child from the chronic sickness and misery of always being operated on and having poor bonding with my parents. When I was born I was taken away from my mother to be placed under special lights to stimulate my lover and this process took two weeks…but in the preceding years I was always sick from digestive disorders, chronic inner ear infections…rendering me deaf and speech impaired and zonked from all the operations to restore my hearing and cure infection. In fact , I’ve had a twelfth operation on my soft palette only a decade ago…I’m 39 years old.
    And will seek out further cosmetic procedures purely out of vanity in the future.
    My adolecent years involved bullying and teasing…although while attending a private school in high school , that wasn’t as bad.
    Academically, I’ve suffered although at one time I scored into academically gifted classes for science and English but never mastered the math skills…so they couldn’t work with me. Later they claimed I had ocd and add…so I quit school but easily passed high school equivalency classes being the most intelligent high school drop out they had seen so far due to my ability to write assays and show apititude. Basically I lost interest in school and just stopped going and by not attending they said I should just leave.
    As an 8 year old I was sexually molested and very close to my mother and not coordinated as a kid…so I think being called sissy and pansy and feeling weak but highly intelligent played a part in the transgender idea…it wasn’t fetishitic in nature for me…not completely anyway. But detransitioning after eight years…I guess I look at it as part of my personality that doesn’t have to be acted upon but I didn’t make a good candidate for the program due to size…or I would be turned into a woman…its actually quite facinating…I only quit because I don’t pass.
    Its not so much of a fetish for me after all those sex hormones…I don’t enjoy pornography or have many sexual desires. I don’t necessarily enjoy having no love life or children but have no regrets.

  14. I do not see how anyone could think trans is a better diagnostic than fetish !

    Fetish = it is easy, you put on clothes and make up, you have sex alone or with people, you ejaculate, the drive has gone, you are happy and can have a normal life.

    Trans = you feel bad because you see that your are not a woman and you want to be a woman, clothes solve nothing, sex solves nothing = you need a pussy to feel alive.

    So trans is the worst situation.

  15. I am a woman in 100% of my fantasies : I have no dick but a pussy in them and I have sex with a man.

    What does it mean ? Fetish or that I WORK LIKE a woman psycho-sexually ?

    In real life I do not like top sex as there is no top sex in my fantasies. So my sexual life as a man just make no sense. I had sex as a man because I was in love with women and to please them.

    Hence I can not get rid of the sexual drive as a man.

    This creates as dysphoria.

  16. >This is a place where trans critics sometimes go wrong, by specifically shaming the sexual aspects of trans identity, they may be creating more of the very phenomena they oppose.

    I think you misunderstand. I don’t know of any trans critic who has never shamed the sexual aspects. They do this in order to pretend that it is merely a fetish and so should not be shown any respect, for example by allowing trans women in women’s changing rooms, but more to express their disgust and try to infect others with disgust for us.

    1. I agree that trans critics very frequently shame the sexual aspects and use that to promote ill will towards trans people, and create more disgust for trans people. I condemn this practice.

  17. First of all thank you, anonymous author, for this article and indeed this website, it’s been really interesting and personally enlightening to read.

    I was wondering if anyone would mind if i posted my personal history and little dilemma here? I’ve never shared this with anyone, and while I would look for advice on other sites I get a certain sense of confidence i get from the author and (most of) the commenters here. I know this isn’t too unusual of a situation, but i’m not really seeing other people with exactly my dilemma (although another comment here struck really close).

    Anyways. My name is Peter, i’m in my late 20’s and am happily married to my wife, whom i am very attracted to and enjoy “romancing” on a fairly regular basis. We plan to have kids, and i look forward to it. Physically i’m 6’1″ and a bit overweight, but not much (I used to be quite overweight though, which caused me great depression through most of my teenage years). There’s nothing about my looks, style of dress or demeaner that would suggest anything other than white, cis, vanilla gender mentality (well, maybe aside from my dislike of most “manly” pastimes like sports). Mentally I’m maybe a little north of middle of the pack, i’m a technologist by trade and i’m happy to say no longer prone to any anxiety or depression whatsoever. Emotionally i’m quite soft spoken and slightly introverted, which I figure is a leftover effect of my earlier low self-esteem.Overall, i’d say i am perfectly content with who i am 90% of the time.

    Here’s the more interesting part though. I’m pretty sure i qualify as a fetishist, but i’m not sure, and i would really love some input. Like many transsexuals, i had gotten into my mom’s clothes whenever i could from the ages 14 to 18, when i left for college. I didn’t start pleasuring myself until i was roughly 16, but that was probably due to my somewhat religious upbringing. I used to worry quite a lot about going to hell at that time, but my devotion faded away to nothing by the time i was 20. Anyways, during my dressup “sessions” I would try anything from the underwear to the dresses, swimwear, lingerie, all of it. I had even thought about make-up, but i was afraid i wouldn’t be able to get it off later and would be caught. I did however usually get something else off at the end of each time… if you get my drift. Occasionally i stowed away a nightgown and wore it in my locked bedroom overnight, but that wasn’t that often. This went on until i lost access to the clothes when i went to college, at which point i discovered “feminization” stories online. I especially liked (and still like) the “forced fem” ones, where i can hang off every word describing how the poor, reluctant crossdresser would be made to change his wardrobe and persona until he was effectively a woman. I was never interested in the sex scenes however, and while i have tried watching the live, porn version of it a couple times i’m just not turned on by it at all. I almost never watch porn of any kind to be honest, but i read those forced fem stories upwards of 4 nights a week, usually ending in self-pleasure. I never indulged in these stories after sex or before it, which implies to me a fetish, but yet I frequently (probably daily) daydream about being female and how great life would be if i could switch back and forth between genders. Sometime i like to look at the HRT before and after pics and dream about it. As time goes on i’m increasingly aware that my window is closing to transition, as i continue to build my life. I’ll consider that window nailed shut when my wife gets pregnant. So yeah, it’s been worrying me lately, and is largely what prompted me to write here.

    Since my urges are pretty manageable and i’m generally comfortable in my own skin, i think i’m just going to try to say “oh well” to the fantasy, and just continue to indulge online in secret. I don’t think i want to torpedo my marriage, our savings, my parent’s grandchildren dreams (especially after my sister just came-out of the closet, good for her) and my career just to try to quell my worries. This is where i’m at today.

    If you’re still reading, thanks for the attention! I didn’t mean to go so long, but writing this was actually surprisingly therapeutic. I’m incredibly open to any and all advice. Let me know if you think this is going to blow up in my face 10 years down the line, or if you can think of any way to cope.

    Thanks again and best of luck;

    -Peter

    1. There are accounts of people where it gets worse over time and then they eventually transition, but that is only one way it can go. Many people manage to live just the way your are and do so their whole lives and there is no reason to think you can’t be one of them.

      I think connecting to the things you truly value in life is what is important, and it sounds like for you that is your family, children and career. Life always consists of tradeoffs and we all have more possible paths than we can choose from. So, I think orienting yourself in the direction you want your life to be, and remembering that you are an agent and not just the victim of passive forces is important. Just compare the reality of being trans (not the fantasy) with your other options and choose the life you want to live.

      It is also normal for the urges and fantasies to come in cycles and get more or less intense over time. This can happen particularly in response to stress.

      Hope it all goes well. Best of luck!

  18. The link to the website to find out if one is trans or not,in the initial paragraph, is probably broken, it directs to a Tumblr post.
    Thanks for this article. And your blog is truly awesome, discoverd it a while ago.

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