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15 October 2011

A Prolegomenon to a Typology of Cis Gender Variance


While there is variance of gender from male to female, from cis to trans, from authentic to bad faith, there are in fact very few Typologies of Gender Variance.

The best known are:

Harry Benjamin in The Transsexual Phenomenon, 1966
  1. Pseudo Transvestite
  2. Fetishistic Transvestite
  3. True Transvestite
  4. Non-op Transsexual
  5. True or Core Transsexual (moderate intensity)
  6. True or Core Transsexual (high intensity)
Ekins & King in The Transgender Phenomenon, 2006
  1. Migrating
  2. Oscillating
  3. Negating
  4. Transcending

Anne Bolin in “Traversing Gender”,  in Sabrina Ramet.  Gender Reversals and Gender Culture,  1996
  1. hermaphroditic genders
  2. two-spirit traditions
  3. cross-gendered roles in the manly heart tradition
  4. woman-marriage
  5. cross-gendered rituals

What each of these typologies have in common is that they are typologies of trans variance only, not of cis variance, and in fact contribute to the mistaken idea that gender variance is a synonym for transgender, that trans persons are at variance in not being cis.

There are in fact quite distinctive variants among people considered as cis-gendered.

Autogynephilia went wrong especially in that the idea was applied to transsexuals before it had been investigated in cis-women as to frequency and as to what are its normal manifestations.   The same goes for autoandrophilia in cis men.  Typologies of trans gender variance are likewise shackled.

I will be treating crossdreamers (to use Jack Molay’s term) as cis, in that that is how the people around them regard them.   Arguably they are wannabe trans, and might persuade a psychologist or a gender therapist that they are such, but one of the points that I will be making is that the dividing line between cis and trans is movable.

As with trans persons, cis persons can be arranged by psychological identification, and then clothing, hormonal and surgical enhancements.

Here are some of the variants within the cis spectrum:
  • persons who are quite comfortable with the gender of their body and, what is another way of saying the same thing, are not at all uncomfortable with the idea of or in the presence of transsexuals, genderqueer, drag performers, transvestites, etc.
  • persons who do not want to change their gender, but are nevertheless estranged from their current gender.   While there have always been such persons, post-structuralist theory has offered new ways to articulate it.
  • intersex persons who stay with the gender of rearing. Intersex is, of course, an umbrella term covering much variation of its own.
  • autogynophilics/autoandrophilics.   For many this is a phase typically starting with puberty where they are erotically excited at being the sex/gender that they are.   For some this excitement continues into maturity.
  • crossdreamers who have accepted their inner cross gender persona, are comfortable with trans persons, but have not or not yet decided to do anything about it.
  • a variant on crossdreaming is literary androgyny where a writer is able to pass, not in person but through his/her manuscripts as the other gender.  Examples would be Fiona Macleod, George Elliot, James Tiptree, Jr, Patricia Highsmith, and the female writers of contemporary gay romances.
  • persons who are uncomfortable with the idea and/or the presence of various types of trans persons.   On the model of the research that has established that male homophobes are erotically aroused by male imagery, we may speculate that persons in this type are crossdreamers in denial.
  • persons who seek out homosocial environments, be it the military, a convent, a feminist group, a male-only pool-hall as a validation of their biological gender.
  • hom(e)ovestites, who dress in a standard or exaggerated way associated with their own gender, even when it is not appropriate.  Examples are men who always wear suits, even when their friends are casually dressed; women who wear skirts and makeup when they are impractical.
  • butch men and women. For men this is an extreme homeovestity.  Butch women are taken by some to be a type of trans, but many butch women object that they are not.
  • There should be an extreme femme homeovestity, but apart from femme lesbians it does not seem to exist, probably because it is indistinguishable from the way that prostitutes dress – which is required for employment.
  • the bear culture that has developed over the last few decades, that appreciates the normal appearance of middle-aged and often overweight men.  This is still mainly a gay culture, but straight bears are becoming more common. 
  • same-sex hormonally enhanced cis-persons.  Most women in the developed countries spend some years taking contraceptive pills which of course are estrogens.  Until a health scare a few years ago, many women went on hormone-replacement therapy after menopause.  Estrogens again.   Some men into bodybuilding or athletic attainment like to take testosterone for greater achievement, but this is generally illegal.
  • cross-sex hormonally enhanced cis-persons.  Many men are put on estrogens to diminish prostate problems.  Women athletes sometimes take testosterone for the same reasons that men do.
  • surgical enhancements 1: plastic surgery.  Traditionally associated with women, this is becoming more common with men.
  • surgical enhancements 2: in vitro fertilization
  • surgical enhancements 3: body modification
  • surgical enhancements 4: Transhumanism. 

8 comments:

Jane Laplain said...

I find this very interesting, but I need clarification about what you personally mean by "cis" and "trans."

For me I define them, and thus tend to read the terms as:

Cis= People who experience little or no conflict with their assigned gender and the gendered meanings society attaches to their bodies, and thus either passively or actively encourage this original interpretation of their bodies. (In short, people who either or agree, or at least do not disagree that they 'really' are the gender society told them they were at birth).

Trans=People who experience great conflict with their assigned gender and thus are motivated to change and/or manipulate the gendered meanings society attaches to their bodies, using various means to do so. (In short, the people who fundamentally disagree that they 'really' are the gender society told them they were at birth).

Given that reading, I can see a huge amount of overlap between the categories you delineate here. But my question isn't about how I see it; I'm curious about how YOU define Cis and Trans personally.

Thanks, Zagria!

Jane

Zagria said...

The simple intuitive distinction between cis and trans appears to be straightforward. Benjamin assigned a value 0 at the beginning of his scale to what we would now call cis. However it is generally assumed that 90%+ are cis. When we attempt to distinguish different types of cis, it becomes clearer that the distinction between cis and trans is a) socially constructed b) we can make arguments to move some types across the line (although the persons will likely object.

The intention is to start a discussion. I do not intend to be dogmatic about where the line is.

Jonathan said...

I think It's bold of you to attempt this since people can get very protective about their own identities and definitions thereof.

For me, your portrayal of butch/femme is suspect on a couple of points:

1) "extreme (homeo)vestity" — no, a person can present as butch or femme without being at all extreme about it. In particular, lesbian femmes generally do not present in a way that is "indistinguishable from prostitutes".

2) "apart from femme lesbians it does not seem to exist" — no, femme does exist for men. Gay male femme is well established, and it is my contention that a lot of (cis and straight) transvestite men are in fact femmes as well (at least that's the viewpoint I'm trying to propagate with my own blog).

Good luck with this project anyway.

Jon

Jack Molay said...

The idea of discussing gender variance in cis and trans populations is a good one.

It is clear to me that there is a huge variety of gender expressions and personality profiles among both men and women, in the sense that the stereotypes are just that: stereotypes. Most people break at least one or two of the rules: Dominant women and nurturing men comes to mind.

When I read this post I get a very bad feeling, though. You use crossdreamers as a possible example of cis variants, and if I have expressed myself in a way that makes this interpretation possible, I have expressed myself badly.

You cannot use the outward expression of how people behave or how other people understand a person to label them as cis or trans. That would mean that transwomen who have struggled for years to come to grips with their own fate, were not trans until they made the decision to transition. And we would have to say that a gay man was homosexual until he came out of the closet.

It is the inner experience of sex that must be the determining factor.

If that is the case, I would argue that many, if not most crossdreamers, are trans, not cis.

They dream of being the opposite sex. This applies to the female to male crossdreamer who gets aroused by the idea of having sex as a man, and the male to female crossdresser who dresses up as a woman.

I realize now that even you, Zagria, may believe that all of these people are simply cis men and women who get a kick out of playing the role of -- or imagining themselves as -- the opposite sex, and that this is all there is to it.

This may be the case for some, but I can assure you that a significant proportion of the crossdreamers I know are truly gender dysphoric. Their deepest dream is to become the opposite sex completely, in body, spirit and social role.

I have had a significant number of teenage crossdreamers contact me with desperate please for help. Many of them struggle with deep depressions and suicidal thoughts. They hate their bodies, the norms society forces upon them and the fact that they have to hide their feelings. They are not only crossdreamers. They are transwomen, and even transmen.

I know that this is not your intention, but your post may be read as an attempt not only to push transsexual crossdreamers out of the transsexual part of the community, but also out of the larger transgender community.

The reason I think this is not the intention, though, is that it is close to meaningless. You would have to exclude most of the crossdressers as well, as they are very likely to be crossdreamers too, at least in parts of their lives.

Note that in the crossdreamer erotica sub-culture (yes, there is one!) the term used for identification is "transgender". Even M2F crossdreamers who are at peace with their sex identiy, identify with the term transgender.

I have too much to say about this, so I have taking the liberty of putting up a post here.

Zagria on crossdreaming

Take that as a compliment! I very much welcome the discussion.

Zagria said...

Jack,
a) this is a prolegomenon. The start of a discussion , not an end.
b) it was commonly said in gay lib that you were not gay until you came out. Closet gays and out gays are two quite different groups, although there is transition between the two groups.
c) if i somehow knew which persons will transition as transsexual in 10 years time, and named any one of them as transsexual, that person would probably object.
d) there was a time when I refused the label transsexual
e) we can place crossdreamers as either trans or cis to see what effect this has on our typologies.
f) the line between cis and trans is a social construction
g) What percentage are we talking about. Will crossdreamers as trans reduce cis from 90% to 80% or even 50%.
h) Charlotte Bach said that everybody has an attraction to being the other sex, which they can deny or asseverate.
h) most of my post is not about crossdreamers, but other variants.

Jack Molay said...

a) this is a prolegomenon. The start of a discussion , not an end.

I got that, which is why I gladly take part in the discussion.

b) it was commonly said in gay lib that you were not gay until you came out. Closet gays and out gays are two quite different groups, although there is transition between the two groups.

From a social point of view this is correct, but it makes no sense for the individual closeted homosexual. They may be struggling to accept it or come out, but being homosexual is already an important part of who they are. And these are the ones that suffer the most.

c) if i somehow knew which persons will transition as transsexual in 10 years time, and named any one of them as transsexual, that person would probably object.

Exactly! But unless we think about transsexuality as something you choose or something that is forced upon you by a corrupt society, the transsexual condition is something that is already there, and which you discover through a psychological/spiritual/existential process. (Unless you have been consciously reconciled with this fact for as long as you can remember.)

If we are to follow your way of discussing this we need even more terms. Pre-op transsexual does not fit, as he or she may be very much aware of his or her condition. I guess we have to find a better term than "latent transsexual".

e) we can place crossdreamers as either trans or cis to see what effect this has on our typologies.

Sure, and testing out crossdreaming as a cis phenomenon has even made it even clearer for me that it is not.

f) the line between cis and trans is a social construction

I agree. Nature does not care.

g) What percentage are we talking about. Will crossdreamers as trans reduce cis from 90% to 80% or even 50%.

I wish I knew. Crossdressers must be the biggest sub-category of transgender people, but we have no reliable numbers. Nor do we know how many of the crossdressers who experience cross-gender erotic fantasies. My guess is that the majority does.

h) Charlotte Bach said that everybody has an attraction to being the other sex, which they can deny or asseverate.

Nice! That would make everyone trans :) (Bach must have been a crossdreamer!)

h) most of my post is not about crossdreamers, but other variants.

Well...I am a crossdreamer. What can I say?

Zagria said...

Perhaps you should read my posting on Charlotte Bach.

Some percentage of cross-dreamers are pre-transsexual, that is they will embark on the transsexual journey at some point; others will not. Separatist transsexuals claim that the difference is a matter of genes, fetal hormones and the size of some brain parts. However there is no test that can be done while you are alive. Others say that choice and circumstance pertain as to if and when a person embarks on the journey. To that extent at least it is a choice.

Starla Trimm said...

While I understand and respect what you are trying to do, I have a lot of problems with the (alas) very human tendency to want to label, categorize, or neatly define people. IMHO, while there will always be some generalized sorting out of cross-gender identity and behavior, with broad commonalities and overlaps, in reality every person’s gender journey is unique. The question should not be what box one belongs in, but how that individual views their own personal essence, desire, and motivation. And those factors can not only change over the long run, but vacillate on a more temporal basis, especially for those who fall “in the cracks” between “types” or share characteristics of more than one “category” (whether one postulates four, or forty). Personally, I could have avoided a lot of grief in my life had I focused on what I, as a unique being, needed and wanted, rather than try to codify my identity into some preconceived package, or define myself in realtion to the life paths of others. The question should not be so much “what am I?”, but rather “who am I?”