Psychological Androgyny
DISCLAIMER: this page is entirely subjective and the material herein
should not be taken as gospel but rather as the opinions of one person

My Story

In an effort to explain more fully what psychological androgyny is, I will here use myself as an example. Twenty-five years ago, I had a girlfriend who liked the music of David Bowie. I eventually became a big Bowie fan because I found him attractive and wished I could be him. I felt great kinship with Bowie. I felt that I was androgynous just like he was, but since I didn't look that way, I resented it when others could effect the glitter / glam look -- because I was The Real Bowie Fan while they were posers.

My relationship with the girl who got me interested in Bowie went awry, and evolved into a demoralizing, unrequited love affair that left me dejected and quite distraught. In an attempt to find relief, I took a friend's advice and went to a gay disco (this was 1978). In the space of just a few weeks, I discovered that my attraction to males was mostly to feminine (as opposed to effeminate) and crossdressed males. In those days, there were not too many transsexuals of the shemale (pre-operative transsexuals who capitalize on their "full male function") variety, so what I encountered was drag queens, which are TG (transgendered) gay men with a heightened sense of camp and melodrama (in contrast, transvestites are straight and do not frequent gay establishments).

For the most part, my attraction to drag queens was emotional. I had crushes on them and would pine away, longing for their love. The few times I had sexual relations with drag queens, however, were not the best experiences, since the queens would remove their wigs, make-up and clothing first, thereby "breaking the spell," as it were. I had been looking forward to making love to a drag queen, not to her gay male alter ego.

I found myself not only drawn to males in women's clothing, but to the possibility of wearing women's clothing myself, and I did so a half dozen times. I wasn't sure why I wanted to do this, though. Two or three years before, I had on occasion wished that I'd been born a girl instead of a boy, but I had never really wanted to dress as a girl before. Now, I did. I found that drag queens generally didn't like it when their boyfriends showed as much of an interest in their clothing as in them, though. I really didn't understand my attraction to drag queens and wanting to wear women's clothing, so I went into the closet, telling myself that I was a closet transvestite, and I stayed in this closet for 23 years.

About a year and a half ago, I went to a Thai restaurant, and after about 10 minutes of intense scrutiny, concluded that my waitress had not been born female. We talked and I was quickly entranced and smitten. This was the first time I'd met and conversed with a transgendered male outside the context of a disco or a bar, and I was surprised to realize that I did not feel guilty about my attraction.

I went online and learned lots about transgendered folk, hellbent on discovering how it could be that I was both tranny and trannychaser. I had always been told that there was something wrong with being both. I took the COGIATI gender test and I scored as "androgyne," but I had never heard the term before, and since the score explanation described androgyne as someone who was androgynous, I automatically disregarded the description's relevance to myself on the grounds that I was not androgynous. After all, I didn't look androgynous, so how could I be? Eventually, I went to a gender therapist and concluded that I was indeed androgyne. I joined the androgynes internet mailing list at Yahoo and began to hash out with the list subscribership the finer points of androgyny, the results of which are this website.

Curiously, I met with a great deal of opposition in the androgynes Yahoo group when I proposed that just because someone looked androgynous didn't mean that he or she was androgynous. As a result, I came to feel that the terms androgyne and androgynous do not describe the same thing. I came to view the term androgyny as describing a look, a lifestyle or an identity, but viewed androgyne specifically as an identity. To this day, I bristle when referred to as androgynous because of all those years of wishing I could be like David Bowie, little realizing that I had been all along!

Androgynes: the Psychologically Androgynous

Psychological androgyny -- which is basically just another way of referring to the state of being androgyne -- can be maddening. Trying to display outwardly what is inside can be difficult, and the results are often interpreted by passersby not as "androgynous," but as "non-passing transsexual," i.e. the dreaded (by TGs) "man in a dress." Being born with androgynous looks is one thing. Trying to make oneself appear to be androgynous is another.

I am convinced that there is a huge number of androgynes who do not realize that they are androgyne because of two reasons. First, there is not a lot of data on androgynes as yet -- few studies, virtually no tabloid TV, nor movies on the subject. Second, most androgynes never "come out" because they don't "snap" like transsexuals do: they don't have a midlife crisis / epiphany where they suddenly decide they either have to live their lives as the "opposite sex" or take their own lives. Most androgynes live lives of quiet desperation, never discovering who and what they truly are: neither men nor women.

Female androgynes tend to recognize themselves less frequently than male androgynes do for two reasons. First, females in our present culture are able to openly wear pants and be assertive, whereas males cannot wear skirts and be passive without courting disaster. Second, the lines between butch, androgyne and F2M (as in female-to-male transsexual) are quite blurred in lesbian subcultures.

Some Thoughts on Drag Queens and Shemales

Drag queens, like androgynes, constitute a different category than the standard TG (transgender) categories of TV (transvestite) and TS (transsexual), and yet, since they are the most visible of TGs in pop culture, many androgynes' first exposure to TGs other than themselves may be to drag queens. Insofar as many androgynes' attractions to other TGs are more a matter of gender affinity than sexual orientation, drag queens' clearcut homosexuality presents a problem. Are drag queens transgendered in the same way that TVs and TSs are? For the most part, I would say no, but the existence of shemales calls that assumption into question.

While it has been argued that androgynes are inherently bisexual since they can identify with either gender, it might be more apropos to call them homogenderal since they have a strong tendency to be attracted to both one another and "the opposite gender." In this context, it is understandable when an androgyne male is attracted to females, female androgynes, male androgynes, feminine intersex people, M2F (male-to-female) TSs and shemales. All of the these groups share a strong component of femininity in their psychological makeup, and yet, save for the females category, all also contain a distinct component of masculinity. What differentiates drag queens from other bio-male (or male-born) TG folks might be that their gender identities are masculine (like those of TVs?). My guess is that this has something to do with the fact that they identify as men who are attracted to men. Those people who are attracted to drag queens may have a non-traditional gender identity, but by and large, drag queens are gay men who have a need to parody, satirize or otherwise lampoon women for dramatic effect.

Shemales are the most maligned of all TGs because "the transsexual community" generally holds that a self-professed TS who doesn't despise their male genitalia isn't "a real TS." The fact that only an estimated 10% of TSs ever get SRS (sex reassignment surgery), however, implies that there are far more shemales in the world than so-called "real transsexuals." Think about it: for the non-op TS, the options are pretty much limited to either living one's life enjoying genital sex or not. The individual's H[R]T (hormone [replacement] therapy) regimen determines whether or not male function will remain viable or not, so such is a conscious decision. It is understandable that some people would rather not forego genital sex for their whole lives.

Questions Concerning The Nature of Attraction

The question arises whether or not a trannychaser (or "T admirer") is bisexual or homosexual for his attraction to T folk. TSs will argue that since they are women, their relationship with a man is heterosexual. Many chasers, however, will point out that the sex acts involved in such a relationship are of a strictly homosexual nature, and so there is a double standard. Things are trickier for the androgyne trannychaser because they identify as neither of the standard binary genders.

It is because of (male) androgynes' gender betweenness that relationships with drag queens are the least productive or viable. Would a male androgyne's relationship with a TV be any better, then? I would say no on the grounds that TVs are heterosexual and would find androgynes' genitalia an insurmountable obstacle. Why then would a male androgyne's relationship with a (biological) female work? It's because the androgyne is drawn to femininity in general, and what better source than a bio female? That said, it is androgynes' affinity for mixed gender messages that draws them towards people whose genders or bodies are mixed in one way or another. It is all too easy for an androgyne to conflate mixed gender with mixed sex, and therefore clothed TG individuals of all sorts can be attractive to an androgyne if and when there is an incongruity of gender and sex.

Oddly, the psyche tends to interpret both intersex and shemale individuals as being of mixed sex, and yet only the former can be of mixed sex. Shemales generally think of themselves as TS despite what the rest of the TS community might think. Their bodies can be confusing for androgynes in that shemales can be mistaken for having two genders or two sexes. For that matter, it has been put forth by at least one T-girl, Renee Reyes, that trannychasers are inherently transgendered. I tend to agree with this. As the argument goes, homosexuals are men attracted to other men, while trannychasers are not attracted to men but to women, despite the fact that many of these women don't have female genitalia (yet, if ever). Some trannychasers might be closet homosexuals who find sex with males who look like women to be less intimidating, but hardly all of them are. The proportion, however, is currently unknown.

I suspect that androgynes are predisposed toward trannychaserdom (or should that be trannychasing?) insofar as they identify with neither gender and therefore feel an affinity with people of mixed or otherwise unfixed gender and / or sex. This gives androgynes great freedom, and in a way lends weight to the term third gender, because since androgynes are neither men nor women, sexual orientation isn't really an issue.

Take the above as brainstorming or ranting, as you will. There are some things that I felt a need to communicate to others, and that's what I have done. The disclaimer at the top of this page applies.

-- Stephe, September 5, 2002




Since 2007, I have used the word androgyneity to describe the psychological androgyny of androgynes in order to differentiate psychological androgyny (which is a subjective state or sense of identity) from androgyny on its own, because on its own, the word androgyny can and often does imply fashion and physical aspects rather than gender identity.

There are far too many androgynes (myself, for instance) who do not appear to be outwardly androgynous, and it is painful for us to have to have to (try to) explain how it is that we can be and are androgyne without having an obvious androgynous appearance. For a relatively thorough explanation of androgynes and their androgyneity, I suggest visiting the main Androgyne Online page at http://androgyne.0catch.com, if you haven't already.

Just as all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares, all androgynes are (psychologically) androgynous but not all androgynous(-looking) people are androgynes.

-- Stephe, May 27, 2013

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This page first created 9/11/02. Copyright Stephe Feldman, 2002, 2007, 2011, 2013 and 2014.
Last update: 7/20/14.