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Friday, December 17, 2010

Crossdressing Thoughts & Reflections - Alice

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A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine strongly recommended Alice Novic's book, Alice in Genderland: A Crossdresser Comes of Age.  I read the book, absolutely loved it, and recommend it highly to not only crossdressers but to anyone who feels that they fall under the transgender umbrella.  The book is brutally honest, yet entertaining, and a very easy read.

Doctor Richard Novic is a psychotherapist, based in Southern California.  As Alice, she has a website, Alice in Genderland, with information on her book and a series of essays, Through The Looking Glass, that, in her words, "...explore issues like crossdressing, transitioning, relationships, and sexuality from the special perspective of a fun-loving transvestite psychiatrist."  Links to the essays, below.

"An Illuminating, Gut-Wrenching Conversation with Ray Blanchard, Ph.D." "Going on a Manhunt"
"Autogynephilia, Bisexuality, and Mr. Opportunity" "Jury Duty in a Dress"
"2010 and Most Is Well" "What Can We Learn From Gay People?"
"Communication, Compassion, and Creative Solutions" "Am I Gay?"
"Interview on Writing and Therapy" "Face and Hair Revisited"
"Interview on Self-Publishing" "Why am I a Crossdresser?"
"Shifting Gears" "The Mysterious Case of My Vanishing Purse"
"Seven Great Myths Among Us MTFs" "The Two Types of Transwomen"
"An Artist Out and Proud" "Crossdressers and Hormones"
"A Woman on the Verge of Transition" "Could Yours Truly Be TS?"
"Analyzing the Poison" "Take Me Out To The Ball Game"
"A Pillar and Part-Timer" "Shall I Bring My Wife Along?"
"Manhunt Over: Thank Goodness"


I'm honored that Alice has agreed to do a guest post for our T-Central series on crossdressing.  

 - Calie




Why am I a Crossdresser?


Well basically because it’s been the most fun, fulfilling way for me to live. After all, what are the options: Be a man who holds back from crossdressing? Be someone who makes it her life? These paths are great for some folks, but I’ve found happiness walking right down the middle.

But let’s take a step back and ask a few more fundamental questions. What is a crossdresser? I define crossdresser as a primarily straight man who is profoundly satisfied to imagine himself as a woman. Does profoundly satisfied include sexually aroused by? You betcha, but it’s also much deeper than that, as many of you will discover with experience and age.

Why does an otherwise normal, healthy male become a crossdresser or transsexual? One explanation, derived from animal research, I call the intersex brain. It suggests that something happens as we’re developing in the womb that causes the brains of CDs and TSs to develop along female lines and be inclined to feminine behaviors later on. For instance, if male rats are exposed to extra estrogen during one particular week during central nervous system development, then later in life they’ll show a tendency for lordosis, a female mating behavior that involves arching one’s back to bring attention to one’s buttocks—like a bird shaking her tail feathers.

An alternative, more disturbing, explanation of why someone becomes a crossdresser is that of autogynephilia. By this theory, crossdressing or MTF transsexualism occurs when a heterosexual male’s attraction to females (his gynephilia) gets directed at himself (auto). The main evidence for this so far is that we crossdressers tend to be aroused by the image of ourselves as women and that pattern bears a close resemblance to the auto versions pedophilia and amputee-philia. Yes, there are men who are attracted to the image of themselves as children or as amputees, strange as that might sound. (For more, see the writings of Ray Blanchard, Ph. D.) As far as when or how a male’s normal attraction to females might turn itself inward, no one knows.

Just like the intra-uterine environment, one’s childhood experiences can also have a profound impact on brain biology and behavior. But whether we’re talking about autogynephilia, intersex brain, or a yet unknown mechanism, no particular childhood events or exposures have been correlated with crossdressing or transsexualism. As a psychiatrist, I once even worked with a Latin man whose mother used to punish him by making him wear his sister’s skirts. Subsequently as an adult, he suffered relationship and self-esteem problem, but bore no predilection for petticoats.

Can crossdressing be acquired like an addiction? Yes, I first feared. No, I later learned. Yes in a way, I ultimately came to see. Yes, lingerie can feel like a tempting, euphoric thing. Once you break the ice, and reach into the panty drawer, you may never be able to stop.

But no, no regular straight man would find such pleasure in panties and be vulnerable to such a substance? I’m afraid not. Ask a few, in private of course, so you can be more confident you’re getting the truth. Most wouldn’t even be curious enough to try on women’s underwear. The experimental few who would, might experience a different kind of fabric and feel but not the euphoria that keeps us coming back.

Okay, I say as an M.D., but not everybody is at risk for alcoholism, yet it’s still considered an addiction. Maybe crossdressing is one that only we estrogen-tweaked pups are prone to. After all, once a one of us “borrows” his first bra, he may bring on a habit that can spiral out of control and jeopardize his marriage, job, and reputation. And that, my fine, feathered friends, is what defines addiction.

I must add two important caveats, though, that I believe keep crossdressing or transitioning from sharing the same category as cocaine. 1) Aren’t our people usually more stable and content after they’ve developed a crossdressing habit? 2) And if not, isn’t it more due to the harsh reactions wives and others might have to the habit, rather than the activity itself? Which is still very serious, though, and means that a person like me might find a few more lovers, but compromise my career, lose my wife, and still not find a husband, if I went woman full time.

Because we live in a culture in which crossdressing and transsexualism don’t put you on top of anyone’s wish list, most of us, at least at first, want to know Is there a cure? No, there isn’t, I must report, not at this time. I’m sorry, but there isn’t a cure for being gay or albino either.

Sure, with enough will power, support, and spirituality, you may suppress your more femme impulses, but then again, you might be able to go through life resisting your favorite sport or flavor of ice cream. There’d better be a great heaven, or you’d better get tremendous joy in living to please your loved ones, to make that worthwhile. Otherwise, I’d recommend getting as comfortable as you can with something others may find uncouth and casting your own small vote for change. You’ve got a lifetime to work on it!

Alice Novic, M.D.

To learn more about me than you’d ever dare ask, please see my smart, sexy memoir, Alice in Genderland: A Crossdresser Comes of Age (available now on Amazon.com).

13 comments:

  1. "Does profoundly satisfied include sexually aroused by? You betcha, but it’s also much deeper than that, as many of you will discover with experience and age."

    Interesting to think that these days if I'm presenting the physical Sarah, I'd rather be doing something besides just having sex. I like the look and feel of who I am. It's like having a glove that fits the hand like another skin. I enjoy having the outside appearance of how I feel on the inside. This is not a bad thing no?

    Sarah

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  2. Alice, as a professional and a medical doctor who is aware of the latest scientific lit, I'm dismayed to see so much prominence being given to Blanchard's pseudoscience. Why are we still dividing *gender-varient* by sexual orientation? The SAME science you refer to also handily disproves the link between the two. Just like some ciswomen are attracted to men, women, or both... so are transwomen and crossdressers. The current thinking explains the difference between the two as the degree (or lack of) androgenization of the perinatal brain. (the organization/activation theory) But it's a huge disservice to any transwoman who reads and takes blanchard's crap as even a remote possibility. Just because you'd be straight post-transition doesn't mean you are better or more woman than a transwoman who would consider themselves lesbian.

    Last I checked, women like to consider themselves sexy. That shouldn't be a basis to denigrate, as if only normal women are attracted to men and not the "idea of themselves as sexy." Misogyny is never okay, and neither is dividing gender-variant people by sexual-orientation.

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  3. I'm surprised you refer to crossdressing and transsexualism in the same breath, more than once. Despite what Dr. Benjamin thought, I don't see a link between the two. The former loves clothing and other accoutrements that are generally considered to be for women. The latter has a profound brain-body disconnect that requires treatment by hormone therapy and surgery. Crossdressers emulate women. Transsexuals change anatomical sex. How are those related?

    I suppose I should read what it behind the links, but since you posted this essay here, I figured I'd just ask.

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  4. I should have said that crossdressers not so much emulate women as gravitate toward stereotypical femininity. If a man were to wear what many of the women I know normally wear, I doubt he would consider it crossdressing.

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  5. @Ariel Oh, dear, we are back to that, are we?

    Stand up on your pedestal and look down on us if you will, but your broad-bristled brush strokes in monochrome black and white ignore the wide variety of crossdressing experience that has been expressed in this very series and elsewhere.

    Sure there are crossdressers that externalize the experience and are what you feel all CDs are: men in dresses.

    But, that's hardly the whole picture.

    There is more than the simple choice of male or female; there are those who are both and like being both. We are not dressing up and acting, as you seem to believe. It is a profound, internal experience.

    ...and yes, I am no less female in jeans and a t-shirt than in a mini-skirt and heels.

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  6. I gotta ask. Why is it that simple reason is always subsumed by CD's and their tired old TG meme of "trannier than thou". I noted nothing other than a valid question, ie; Why is cross dressing conflated with sex change?

    OK I get the part about CD's playing the part or FEELING the ROLE of women. But why is it when women ask a simple question like "What is that in your pocket, SUE?" that trannies, (OOOPS!!!!) SORRRRYYYY!!!!, cross dressers, ('femulators"?) get all hot and bothered and whip out the old trannier than thou" meme?

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  7. @cdjanie: No pedestal here. I just consider crossdressing and being transsexual to be different phenomena. I was surprised a psychiatrist who has specialized in these matters would link the two.

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  8. @ariel: I think that's over-simplifying what you said before.

    What came through loud and clear to me from your original comments was your contention that crossdressing is hardly anything more than men pretending to be women. Not only that, but you felt it necessary to add a second post to make the point that the women they are pretending to be are unrealistic (male-created stereotypes of) women.

    That is clearly different from being transsexual, I agree. But it is also quite different from what I am - and I am no transsexual.

    It seems to me that you do not recognize the possibility of more than one gender existing harmoniously and happily within a person... that having more than one gender exists only as an awful and conflicted condition that needs to be fixed by GRS and hormones.

    If that is your contention - please correct me if I have misstated it - then I disagree. I would suggest to you the paradigm of a continuum rather than that of "horse of a different feather."

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  9. It doesn't surprise me one bit, considering the source :)

    As far as the whole "trannier than though" thing goes, that is just what happens when married Cd'ers try to lecture TS women, pre and post, about TS. They have no insight into the condition or the lives of people who have lived through it.

    I don't think that the Cd'ers like Alice who issue these sorts of proclamations about how we are related realize just how profoundly insulting it is the women they are attempting to school. You can't even begin to compare the two, and connecting them in any fashion is not only inaccurate, it is blatant colonization.

    It's sad that someone like Alice would sign on two the two-type "theory" at this point. She could have done much good but instead chose to attack the legitimacy of women who have transitioned. It's not to late to do the right thing Alice.

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  10. Why should I believe that because someone has the initials "M.D." after their name or that their specialty is psychiatry, makes them knowledgeable in all things TS. This from the same Alice that looked me straight in the eye and said, "Are you really going to have your surgery?"

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  11. @cdjanie: The only things Alice mentioned are crossdressers and transsexuals. So I took issue with her conflating the two. And I described what each means to me in very brief terms.

    What you are describing sounds like what I would call bi-gender. I know people like that. But Alice hadn't mentioned bi-gender people.

    I know of all kinds of flavours of gender variance, and I'm sure there are more that I don't know of.

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  12. @ariel: Thanks for clearing that up. I do think there is some confusion about terminology and exactly what the term "crossdresser" covers. I think many people would describe the people you call "bi-gender" as "crossdressers" nonetheless, and lump them in with the others, as I previously thought you were doing. Frankly, I prefer your label.
    Regardless, it would be nice if the terms we used were more clearly defined.

    Thanks again for having the patience to get us to a mutual understanding.

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  13. This has been my complaint from day one when I first encountered the TG Tower of Babel.

    To try to clearly define ANY term clearly is to ignite a flamewar of truely biblical proportions.

    Just TRY it. I DARE you.

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