Here’s an interesting issue for you to address.
Do you find that the expansion of a TG’s feminine self results in female and emotional behavior and feelings only in that (second) persona…or that it also causes changes in that individual’s underlying male behavior (and maybe sexuality) ?
Thanks, Nancy. I believe that the expansion of the feminine self impacts the whole individual and may affect other people in their life as well. In this June column I’ll address the first part; how the expansion of the TG’s feminine self results in female and emotional behavior and feelings and how that affects their male behavior. In the July column I’ll address how that causes changes in the individual’s sexuality.
Let’s first explore your phrase “expansion of the feminine self”. I like it. It describes a true phenomenon. Over some period of time change occurs and the individual feels an increased need to express the female aspects of the self. The person may have always had thoughts or feelings or fantasies that involved expressing femininity, but there is now an “expansion”. What happens in an expansion? The thoughts are more central, prevalent, distracting, and persistent, the feelings get stronger and more urgent, and the fantasies become more vivid, more varied, and sometimes more extreme. For some, there is a desire to share with other people, when in the past they were very private. People may want to go out crossdressed, meet other crossdressers, or actualize fantasies that were previously internal. With this increased energy and activity, the female aspect becomes more tangible and real. She may go from being a vague concept to a person with a name, a wardrobe, a personality, and friends. The expansion is almost always characterized by a shift in feelings. These feelings are challenging to describe because we really don’t have the language to discuss “feeling female”. But apparently people know it when they feel it. And if you feel female enough you want to express yourself as female and to have others to see you as female.
The people who are experiencing this expansion are not living full time as women. They live as men while these feelings and thoughts are increasing and demanding expression. If they attend a group like CDI they can experience the pleasure of expressing themselves and being seen for who they are for a few hours. But there is a backlash; a vacation from suppressing these feelings can make it more uncomfortable, even painful, to go back to suppressing them in everyday life. It’s like buying a product with intricate packaging; it’s almost impossible to put it back in the box exactly as it was. As the female aspect gains strength and confidence, the male role is challenged from within. Once back in the box, in male mode, what happens? The female self does not always just disappear. She coexists. Bodily gestures, voice inflection, references to female self, may be subtle cues to the self or to others that the female self is present. People report an increased interest in stereotypic feminine things (such as clothes or shopping), an increased sensitivity to other people, and an awareness of crossdressing, or LGBT or women’s issues. And if she has made friends in female role, then she has a social life which reinforces these interests. If she has a place to be fully alive and progressively three-dimensional (like CDI), that is another source of expansion. All of this has an inevitable effect on the male aspect of the person.
Some people are very good at keeping these changes internal and no one around them can detect that anything is different. But there are also people who share themselves in such a way as to betray the expansion that has occurred and people will see that there is something different in the way the person presents, speaks, moves, or the things that he says. I think that this “leaking” comes from resistance to hiding and is also an attempt to communicate the inner self with others in a desire to be seen and accepted.
All of this does not address why there is an expansion. Why this increase in feminine feelings to begin with? No one knows. It could be biochemical, or it could be inspired by something you saw or read or someone you met. It can be precipitated by a change in schedule or change of place that allows for more opportunity to dress. Increased stress or decreased stress can both bring on feelings. And once a person has a steady opportunity to express their female self, then she may want more and more expression and that becomes a source of expansion.
Expansion of the female self can have positive and negative consequences. Some people will become exhilarated and experience improved mood and increased sociability. They have freed themselves to express something important and they feel empowered by the action they have taken. Unfortunately, it is also possible to react with increased depression, anxiety, substance use, or withdrawal from relationships. Negative mental health issues arise in response to feeling frustrated, hopeless, angry, or guilty. Emotional distress occurs when one sees insurmountable obstacles to self-expression. Issues with family and partners may be a major factor in whether the expansion is greeted as a good or bad thing.
The more the female self expands the less room there may be for the male self. The expansion may even bring on thoughts of a gender transition. Of course, most people will not go through a gender transition; their female self and male self will both have a place and the male self will be the primary face to the world. The male self will inevitably grow and change over time and the experience of femininity will have an effect. But this effect varies dramatically from person to person. One person may say that because he has a feminine self which he does not fully express he is an angry person and can’t get along with people, while another person will say that his feminine self makes him a sweeter more nurturing partner for his wife. There is tremendous diversity in the CD/TG community and each person experiences this in their own unique way within the context of their life and relationships.
For all of these words I feel like I have just skimmed the surface of this issue. There is so much more to say on this subject, but I do not want to tire you, dear readers. I will pick this topic up again in July and address the sexual implications.
Hope that you are all enjoying the summer,
Dr. Katherine Rachlin is a clinical psychologist, gender specialist, and sex therapist in private practice in New York City. Her website is http://katherinerachlin.com. You can also reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 206-3636