tagReviews & EssaysThe Transwoman and Shemale as Anima

The Transwoman and Shemale as Anima

byCal Y. Pygia©

Along with the philosophical views of Sigmund Freud, those of Carl Jung have succumbed to the empirical demand that scientific principles relate to observable or quantifiable verification. Having fallen into disfavor, neither Freudian nor Jungian psychoanalysis is considered scientific today. Indeed, both are closer to quackery than they are to psychology--an astonishing turn of events when one considers the fact that, a mere generation or two ago, psychoanalysis and psychology were one and the same thing.

Those who want to make use of psychoanalytical concepts do so at their own peril. They must find a way to do so, if they expect to be taken seriously, especially as scholars, by using the ideas without the baggage of the systems which spawned these ideas. Joseph Andriano, author of Our Ladies of Darkness: Feminine Daemonlogy in Male Gothic Fiction, makes heavy use of the Jungian notion of the anima, but doesn't subscribe to the "psychology" of Jungian psychoanalysis.

Instead of accepting the existence of the anima (as Jung does) as a matter of fact, as a psychic image born of "a noumenal center or psychic ocean from which phenomena or archetypes leap out like breaching whales" or "a transcendent Idea," Andriano seeks "signs of the archetype," taking an inductive approach to the notion, so that, "when enough of them [signs of the anima as an archetype] appear, making an archetypal interpretation plausible," he employs "those signs to illuminate the primary text." This "approach," he believes, "avoids the most problematic Jungian assumptions" concerning the collective unconscious as a reservoir seething and bubbling over with an array of archetypes, the anima included among them (3).

In other words, archetypes, including the anima, are ideas that men create to symbolize their attitudes, beliefs, thoughts, and feelings about women: "Men often need to conjure certain images of women, which usually have little or nothing to do with real women," Andriano writes. "These illusions, whether Madonna or succubus, become delusions only when men forget that they are signs men themselves create to guide their way through life, love, and death" (5). It is only when men take these signs as pointing not to their own ideas about women but as realities in themselves that they experience the anima as a demonic entity that may haunt them, sexually and otherwise:

"Only when men mistake them ['numinous images of women'] for real 'demons' on the one hand, or real women on the other--or when men expect women to conform to archetypal patterns. . . --do they run the risk of 'nympholepsy' [being haunted, as it were, by succubae or other female demons of their own devise]. The Gothic texts. . . share this motif: men mistaking their own daemon for a fiend, or casting the women in their lives into archetypal molds, forgetting where the molds were formed. What these men fear most is the crossing of gender boundaries. The haunting is an incursion into the male ego's dominion: the female demon is seen as a usurper; she inhabits and insidiously attempts to exert her influence, to feminize the male" (5).

Andriano suggests that this dread is based upon men's belief that sexuality is polarized into two mutually exclusive opposites, one of which--the masculine--is held as superior to the other: "Since most men view femininity and masculinity hierarchically, they feel that the feminization of the ego is an insult to its integrity." Since most men, in both the Western and the Eastern worlds tend to believe that "it is better to be male than female," effeminacy is rebuked (5-6).

As a result, Andriano contends, "Gothic protagonists. . . as alter egos of the male authors who take these personae. . . fear the feminine in themselves because they do not want to be changed" from a superior sex which is "hard, rough, firm, courageous, penetrating, fatherly, protective, assertive, aggressive, or better yet, dominating yet gentlemanly and deferential to ladies" to an inferior one which is "soft, smooth, unassertive to the point of submissiveness, receptive, open, deferential to men, nurturing, sensitive, motherly [and] daughterly." It is this dichotomy of masculine-feminine traits and behavioral patterns that the anima, as demon, threatens: "Her very being defies gender boundaries, for she is aggressive both sexually and intellectually," because she represents "the return of the repressed" anima (6).

Not only is human sexuality polarized, with masculinity considered superior and femininity inferior, despite the fact that "the psyche appears to have been primordially androgynous," but this understanding of sexuality is also socially reinforced, Andriano argues: "For a man to fit in society, he must deny certain feelings and modes of behavior that society has labeled 'feminine'--meaning qualities the society has deemed more fitting a woman than a man" (6). This enforced denial is a mistake, Andriano argues, because it denies men access to feelings and behaviors that are not characteristic to women alone, but are common to all people, without regard to sex or gender: "But these feelings--whatever they be--anything from the need to nurture to the desire occasionally to be dominated--are feelings we have because we are human not because we are a particular gender" (6-7).

Male-to-female transsexuals, like transvestites, Andriano contends, are examples of men who have successfully integrated the feminine within their masculine selves: "Some men are more able than others to harness and focus these drives toward androgyny, to integrate the 'feminine' into their psyches," because, it may be, "they are more genetically predisposed" to do so. Their androgyny is shown, Andriano says, in a variety of manifestations, "from more moderate behavior modification (like becoming more nurturing, receptive, sensitive, less macho, etc.) to the extremes of cross-dressing. . . and even transsexualism" (7).

Although Adriano expresses his own hope that "society" will become "more androgynous," he points out that "to the man who fears that he will be 'feminized,' the drive toward androgyny appears to be a terrifying embodiment of a female Other because he cannot accept her for what she is--the deepest part of his own soul, or anima" (8). (One may also hope that the popularity of the transwoman and the shemale, or male-to-female transsexual who opts to retain her male genitals, may facilitate such acceptance of the androgynous character of men, just as transmen man promote the acceptance of the androgynous character of women.)

Although Adriano himself does not seek to ground the Jungian notion of the anima in men's pituitary glands as manufacturers of the estrogen and other female hormones which circulate through male anatomies (just as, perhaps, the female counterpart to the anima, the animus, might be accounted for by reference to women's pituitary glands' manufacture of testosterone and other male hormones), such a feat does not seem impossible. If the pituitary gland is responsible for the perception in men of feminine qualities within themselves and for the similar perception of women of masculine qualities within themselves, the chemistry of the body itself is a ground for the notion of the anima and the animus, just as, for example, the electro-chemical actions and interactions within the primitive "reptilian" brain of the brainstem may account for the Freudian id.

Be that as it may, it seems that men's minds create transsexuals before hormone therapy, behavioral modification, and the surgeon's scalpel do so.

In Andriano's analysis of "feminine daemonology in male Gothic fiction," the anima is monstrous. At one time, the transsexual--or her natural and mythological forbear, the hermaphrodite, at least--was considered a monster, if not a demon, a portent of God's disfavor, for which reason she was also considered sacred. Among male-to-female transsexuals themselves, however, it is unlikely that the hermaphroditic androgyny of their transformed state horrifies, for it is assumed voluntarily.

Transwomen, as male-to-female transsexuals are sometimes known, do not find femininity monstrous or horrible; they do not understand femininity as an "insult" to the "integrity" of their male egos. Instead, they see femininity as a welcome and desirable state, so much so that they are willing to alter their behavior, their dress, and their bodies, even to the point of taking female hormones and undergoing sex-reassignment (i. e., sex-change) surgery. Instead of seeing the feminine as something monstrous, demonic, and undesirable, transwomen view it as lovely, angelic, and desirable.

In literature, woman-as-anima is characterized in both these conflicting images, as not only monstrous, demonic, and undesirable, but also as lovely, angelic, and desirable; she is, as Andriano puts it, both "Madonna" and "succubus," all that is right and all that is wrong with women as men conceive of the opposite (and inferior) sex. It seems that in their own reading of women, transwomen, even as men, accepted the positive images of women and femininity while rejecting the negative. Instead of a monster, the men who would become women saw beautiful ladies; in place of demons, angels; in lieu of undesirable entities, desirable creatures. There was no evil stepmother or stepsisters for them; there was only Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, waiting for her prince to come and rescue her by falling in love with her.

Transwomen and shemales already know the lovely, angelic, and desirable aspects of women. However, they may well not have learned to think of woman as most men conceive of her in their "nympholeptic" nightmares. Transwomen, no less than male-to-female transsexuals who opt to retain their male genitals (shemales, as they are known in pornography and erotica), must, as women themselves, endure the same sexist, misogynistic, and misguided fear and loathing that genetic women have suffered from the days of Eve. Therefore, if they want to understand better the way that many--maybe most--men view women, to a large extent even today, transwomen and shemales should study the negative as well as the positive archetypal images of women--the monstrous, demonic, and undesirable anima--as well as the lovely, angelic, and desirable one which many men imagine actual women to be.

In her negative aspect, the anima goes by many names, some of the more commonly recognized ones being "Eve," "Medusa," "lamia," "femme fatale," "Gwendolyn," "harpy," "shrew," "phallic woman," "castrator" or "ball-buster," and, of course, "bitch." After all, the anima, in her negative aspect, as she is understood, by men (and, unfortunately, by many women as well), is a fierce and fearsome fiend, indeed; she is the enemy, and one should know one's enemy.

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byCal Y. Pygia© 0 comments/ 11718 views/ 0 favorites

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