The psychological origins and causes of erotic crossdressing (+ why transvestite is a dumb term!)

by Felix Conrad - Clinical Philosopher on March 16, 2018

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Point A – a human is born a male.

Point B – forty years later he wants to chop his balls off and change his name to Tammy.

Question: what the hell happened between point A and point B? Where should we start if we want to understand the phenomena?

Answer: at the beginning.

CHAPTER 1 – The Beginning

For many femephiliacs, crossdreamers and late onset transsexuals, the first cross gender experience is what psychiatrists call… a ‘transvestite’ experience. So, let’s begin by asking ourselves what a transvestite is, and how it relates to problems with gender identity.

There are two definitions of transvestite: the savvy one – relevant and necessary to readers of this book – and a dumbed down version for members of the public and the psychiatric profession.

The dumbed down version is this: a transvestite is a person who derives sexual stimulation from wearing the clothes of the opposite gender.

The savvy one is: a transvestite is a person who derives sexual stimulation from wearing the clothes of the opposite gender; however, this is just a part of a deeper sexual fantasy about being a woman, which in turn is part of his Deeper Female Self – which may, or may not develop, as he grows older.

So for our purposes, there isn’t really such a thing as a transvestite – there is only transvestite behaviour. Wearing women’s clothes is just one of various ways in which crossdreamers stimulate themselves sexually in their broader erotic, disposition to being a woman. They might equally be turned on by stroking their chest and imagining they were breasts, or by having sex as a woman. Saying he is a transvestite is like saying a heterosexual having sex in the missionary position is a missionaryist and like trying to define his sexuality by the fact he has sex in the missionary position. We all know that that is just one position and part of his heterosexuality.

Before we examine further, however, this early erotic behaviour towards the feminine, let’s just think for a moment about the clothing of the opposite gender. Why does it start with that, and why does women’s clothing exert such a powerful and lasting hold over the femephiliac erotic interest?

We do not know the exact scientific reason but I will relate to you recent thinking on the subject…

Femephiliacs inherit their erotic taste genetically. Quite literally, there is a gene which means that their principle erotic interest will be to behave and look like a woman. At some point in the child’s development this gene is activated and the first thing he does is to identify the female in his environment.

Now, because we are not living on a desert island paradise where everyone is naked, he can not identify women by their secondary sexual characteristic of vagina, and similarly – due to concealment and differences in size – breasts are not so striking, either. Also, in a world of gender equality where men and women have the same jobs and both change nappies and do housework, there is less demarcation of behaviour and roles. In fact there are not as many feminine identifiers in the environment as you would think, which means the infant locks on to the most visible and striking sign of womanhood available: their clothing. And of course, clothes that are markedly different will make more of an impression. Therefore – a bright pink, satin dress, screams much more of the female than a pair of jeans. And this would be even more so if the process occurs at an age – so young – the child is not sufficiently observant to notice minor details like makeup and only registers great swathes of moving, shining colour.

Thus the child – directed by the gene he inherited – has initiated a process which will result in an erotic association with clothing. It is the environment’s clearest characteristic of the goal of his desire: womanhood. Furthermore, because this is the first erotic stimuli that the child is exposed to, it is the strongest and – despite the addition of subsequent erotic stimuli as he develops (breasts, vagina etc.) – it often remains the strongest.

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If you have a problem with that theory then you could choose a more practical explanation. What the individual seeks in his fantasy is to cross gender. Clearly, however, he cannot just walk up to a chest of draws, take out a vagina and put it on. Clothing, however, is an easy jump to the other gender: open a draw, take out an item of clothing and, hey presto, you have a cross gender experience. Clothing has, therefore, a magic force to the individual who is interested in being the other sex.

Whatever the cause, many individuals who have a crisis of gender identity later in life began their cross gender behaviour with clothes of the opposite gender, and this behaviour was sexually gratifying. And while it may not seem overtly erotic when a young child does this, it is quite clear from all the evidence, that very young children do have an erotic drive. At this point I do not want to enter into that debate; all we need to establish is that as soon as they develop a full erotic drive in puberty, cross dressing and cross gender fantasies will be an important part of that drive and we can say that their first significant cross gender experiences are sexual in nature. Furthermore, while they may have successful heterosexual sex, their principal fantasies will always be about crossing gender, and that will continue to be the case for the rest of their lives as testosterone powered males.

Now, talking of the rest of their lives, what will happen is that some femephiliacs will develop and explore their deeper female self. This may range from little more than an alter ego, to the creation of a new identity. When this identity becomes important to them they will question it. They will want to know where it came from, if it is valid, and should they continue developing it. And so they will search in their psyche for its roots and see that if they trace their cross gender behaviour back in time sequentially, it seems to have begun with sex, and that all through their lives the dominant activity in their cross gender behaviour was sexual. And even now, with this new identity which feels so right and beautiful and sublime and seemingly non sexual, they are still constantly fantasising and gaining sexual satisfaction from crossing gender.

Which all leads to the million dollar question…. 1) Is the drive to a cross gender identity which I’m developing now, motivated – deep down – by my sex drive?

Start Session 2… NOW

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Allison Wunderland November 10, 2015 at 9:35 pm

I very clearly recall my first cross gender dressing, panties secreted from the clothesline of an attractive neighbor. First thing I remember wishing was that my penis would go away.

Clothing signifies gender. Simple as that. Gender is a sexual thing, presentation of gender is a sexual act. Simple arrangement of “symptoms/behavior constructs a “fetish” paradigm — for the medical patriarchy, who can call it a pathology, and profit from diagnosis, treatment.

Best thing we might do for OURSELVES, is concede that we don’t entirely u derstand. It’s not a simple, flat, rote diagnosis. Sexuality is more complicated than any sort of linear discursion, any sort of nominative signification.

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yolo December 4, 2015 at 6:20 am

Wha if my interest in female clothes has very little to do with erotic aspects? for example I like heels, bags and long hair, non of which have a lotto do with sex. I also have little to no interest in wearing female underwear.

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Shae Guerin March 9, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Somebody here has very little more to do with their transgender ways than to philosophize and pick nits. Too bad; the time spent on this essay could better have been spent living life instead of examining it.

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Sandra M. Lopes March 24, 2018 at 10:34 am

… some of us also get a kick out of thinking about things 😉

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Bill October 8, 2017 at 7:53 pm

Hello Felix,
Above you stated “Femephiliacs inherit their erotic taste genetically. Quite literally, there is a gene which means that their principle erotic interest will be to behave and look like a woman. ”

Can you tell me if there is a genetic test for this gene? Can you point me toward some scientific research which describes or references this gene?
I am very interested in learning more about this.

Thank you.

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Transcend Everything October 20, 2017 at 5:48 am

Sorry, althought stated as fact…this is pure speculation on my part. Considered speculation…but speculation none the less.

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Kristina October 21, 2017 at 5:19 pm

Where do i join so i can finish reading the sessions? I cant get passed the third.

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Sandra M. Lopes March 24, 2018 at 10:48 am

Hmm. I wouldn’t call it ‘speculation’. Instead, I’d call it something much stronger: a conjecture. In science, a conjecture is a testable hypothesis that can be falsifiable — i.e. you can (at least theoretically) set up an experiment (or a mathematical proof) that will show that the hypothesis is false. Until such an experiment is devised, however, we can accept the conjecture as ‘temporary truth’, so long as it actually makes some sense.
Most of all the scientific theories existing today have started as conjectures at some point; it takes some time (and lots of thinking, experimenting, solving complex mathematical formulae, and so forth) until a conjecture gets either proven (and becomes a theory) or disproven.
Another conjecture that remains unproven in this area of knowledge but nevertheless has been extremely useful for advancing scientific thought about gender issues: the ‘gender identity core’ conjecture. The vast majority of scientists in this field accept that conjecture as true, and that is how it has explanatory power for almost everything we know today about gender. And before you ask, yes, there are some scientists who reject the gender identity core conjecture and have proposed alternative hypothesis, but all of them lack sufficient explanatory power (that is, they may explain some observed cases, but fail to account for most of them), and, as such, these ought to have been rejected long ago (but proponents of conjectures are very often stubborn and stick to them even in face of evidence that such conjectures are false…).

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Sandra M. Lopes March 24, 2018 at 10:58 am

Oh, and I should have added that very likely it’s not one gene that dictates erotic interest. It’s far more reasonable to expect that it is a cluster of genes responsible for that, all of them linked together through very complex biochemical reactions that activate some and not others, and tracing exactly what is going on is, at this moment, a few orders of magnitude above our knowledge of how genetics is linked to so-called ‘innate’ behaviour. A better conjecture would be to say ‘erotic interest has a biological component’ in the sense that it’s not merely an abstract thought planted in the brain, but actually something encoded into our genome in a way we haven’t figured out yet. We’re not really very advanced in the scientific aspects relating our biochemical soup to actual high-level conscious thoughts.
But for the purpose of the discussion, we can simplify the conjecture saying ‘one gene dictates erotic interest’. It’s a gross oversimplification but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Saying ‘the Earth orbits the Sun’ is also a gross oversimplification — a better explanation would be that the Earth and Sun mutually attract each other and each orbits the other around a common point — which just happens to be very deep beneath the surface of the Sun because of the mass difference between Earth and Sun, so the gross oversimplification may not be good enough to do some precise calculations, but it’s more than good enough to explain the heliocentric view of our solar system. Similarly, attributing erotic interest to one, two, fifty, or a thousand genes, plus a complex interplay of biochemical agents triggering some of those genes or not others… well, we can complexify the issue as much as we want, but the oversimplification ‘one gene = erotic interest’ will still work as a reasonably valid assumption of what is going on for the purpose of the argument set in this article.

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Robert November 15, 2017 at 1:12 am

I disagree. Crossdressing can be an erotic fantasy about loss of control and adopting a passive role during sex without the crossdresser being uncomfortable about any other aspect of his gender. Equally, crossdressers may derive no erotic pleasure from women’s clothes, but wear them because they identify as women. The idea that erotic fantasies are linked, genetically or otherwise, to gender dysphoria is unproven.

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Transcend Everything November 16, 2017 at 9:31 am

Yes, there are many permutations of crossdressing and reasons. Thanks for pointing that out. However, this is a chapter about the type of crossdresser with both an erotic history of crossdressing and gender dysphoria.

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Joanna Santos December 3, 2017 at 12:11 pm

I would suggest that the typology that Felix writes about represents the vast majority of crossdressing males with only the dysphoria being wholly absent or full blown and leading to transsexualism. I have personally known of no one who dresses with zero erotic component although acknowledge they can and do exist. If you are attracted to women it is unlikely the eroticism will not be there unless you are homosexual.

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Sandra M. Lopes March 24, 2018 at 11:21 am

The problem is in how to surgically define ‘erotic interest’. Cisgender women, when asked why they dress sexy, will also answer that there is something about dressing sexy that excites them. That doesn’t mean they are attracted to themselves in some form of erotic narcissism — it’s way more complex than that and tied to the role that presentation (including its major factor, clothing) plays in our society — Felix explained so well that, due to the relatively small sexual dimorphism in the human species (a fancy scientific word to say that males and females in our species do not differ much — we’re closer to cats, which have basically zero dimorphism [you rarely can tell a male cat from a female cat apart unless you’re really familiar with cats… or look at their genitalia], than to, say, roosters and chicken, where the sexual dimorphism is quite strong, not to mention peacocks or even… bees and ants), since we’re a gregarious species, we artificially accentuate the difference between the genders using clothing and behaviour, and this is engraved in our minds very early in the development of the brains. Thus, we humans get ‘conditioned’ from the earliest age to correlate sexual dimorphism to the kind of clothing each gender wears (and we are very likely the only species that artificially enhances its dimorphism, which has some very interesting evolutionary consequences, something which could make me go on for ages but I’ll stop myself before this comment gets too long to be accepted by WordPress) — and this goes so deep as to influence behaviour but also feelings and emotions. This is also a reason why in some cases someone fully clothed, but deliberately picking clothes that enhance all their curves, may be erotically much more attractive than being naked. In other words: while erotic interest is innate, it gets conditioned to be enhanced (or downplayed…) by clothing (and gender role behaviour). This works both ways, and obviously also for both genders; a super-tough guy who deliberately picks a tank top to exhibit his muscles and chest development may also feel a tingle of eroticism because he knows he will have an audience of drooling teenager girls when he exercises in the gym.
That wearing clothes is at the very least mildly erotic should not come as a surprise in a gendered society which uses clothes to enhance the almost-non-existing sexual dimorphism between the genders; what should, indeed, be surprising is that there do exist some people who claim not to be in the least erotically affected by clothing. That is strange indeed! (but I agree that such people exist)

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Chloe January 22, 2018 at 3:00 am

Thank you for allowing a forum for this discussion. I truly appreciate it. When I read all the articles about crossdreaming, I finally felt validated. Yet just as you described just because I get it. No one else does. This is what hurts. After my divorce and being told I was terrible and that I lied to everyone and hurt everyone I loved. In truth I agreed with all of this. I never denied that I was untruthful and that I hurt those closest to me. I allowed them to tell people the truth about what happened and they did, I accepted this, without argument. This was my punsishment, my secert was out. We all realize this may happen. What angers me is no one will accept my truth. I don’t want to be out and wild. I just want to be accepted by one person I love who loves me and won’t doubt what I tell them. I know that because of my history it is sexual, yet is more than that. I feel relegated to being either a fetishist, or a closet trans. I don’t want to be out, I just want acceptance from that one person close to me. I don’t want to be out and about just accepted by the one who loves me. This is the hardest thing to explain to people. I just want a lover to speak honestly to with honest, non-judegemental answers. I dont want to hurt them just an honest place to talk with out judgement.Yet this is the most difficult thing to achieve. Thanks for listening.

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Transcend Everything January 24, 2018 at 9:33 pm

We will always listen, my friend…

I’m sorry I can’t respond specifically but this is one of those deeply personal comments where some deeper story lies beneath the surface…and I don’t know that story. But please feel free to email me if you want to communicate more directly.

xx

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Lisa Mullin March 27, 2018 at 7:26 pm

I knew I was in trouble when I realised (back in the dim dark past even before I joined a part timer support group let alone went out in public as female), that I was simply more comfortable and relaxed dressed up.

Took me a long time (after transition in fact) to work out that what I was doing was a ‘mental trick’. I was using clothes to give me ‘permission’ to walk, sit, move, etc in a more natural manner for myself, that I couldn’t let myself do when dressed as a male…even in private. I just couldn’t drop my male act even when no one was watching me.

If it had only been sexual (and it was sometimes) I could have handled it better …compartmentalised it as a ‘kink’ but not actually ‘myself’. But it was the feeling of being comfortable that made me think more about myself.

That is when I (slowly) started to come to the intellectual understanding that I was transgender…sadly the emotional acceptance took much longer.

It was only much (much) later, post transition, feeling just as comfortable in daggy jeans and an equally daggy top that I understood what I was doing back then.

Funnily enough it was others that picked it first. Isn’t it always when you are deep in denial… Then I bit by bit remembered what I did and was like as a kid and how I had, quite deliberately, suppressed it all to ‘fit in’ and survive as a cis male.

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