Barbies going off to war

My past of gender struggles is tough for me to figure out. But every once in a while I learn something new that clarifies my own disorderedness in my body and soul. Most of my young life was very difficult in that I did not fit in with other boys, and felt extremely shy and self-conscious. In addition, at some points in my very young life, many of my friends were girls. But even when I had friends who were other boys, there was still a big part of me that yearned to be different. I would fall asleep at night thinking about being turned into a girl.

Did I feel true transgender desires? It’s tough to say. I used to think, “yes” I did. But I know now they were not as strong as the feelings and yearnings and struggles that some other transgender people face.

More and more I am thinking that it was largely about confusion about what gender means more than yearning to have a different body. I was trying to figure out what things are masculine and feminine, and wondering how I can be myself without crossing the gender lines which seemed so terribly important. Then again, perhaps, as I have argued elsewhere, this is what is really at the root of all transgender yearnings whether people realize it or not. What I mean is that people realize they don’t fit the gender stereotypes and they consciously or unconsciously come to the conclusion that they were born in the wrong body, the wrong sex.

Anyway, I remember playing with Barbies as a young child, especially with my sister. Although it was so long ago, I know that I enjoyed it. But at the time, I also knew that it was somehow not quite appropriate for boys. Even with my shyness, I managed to buy Barbie toys at stores by myself. I am not sure how I had such courage. But then eventually as I got older, I realized more and more that my other male friends did not play with Barbies and would be extremely ashamed to have done so. After that realization, that playtime activity stopped abruptly and I never went back, nor did I tell my friends what I had done. When my sister or others told people that I used to play with them, I would try to deny it, or say my sister forced me (which wasn’t true).  That’s the history.  Now only some 5 years ago, my sister and I were talking about differences between boys and girls.  She mentioned that when I played Barbies with her, she was commonly frustrated because I kept having my Barbies fight in a war.

So what does this piece of information tell me? It tells me I was more like other stereotypical boys than I realized, and with that, maybe it confirms that there are some general differences mostly common to all boys versus girls (while we have to avoid rigid stereotypes because there are many exceptions with each specific trait). And perhaps this tells me that I was really pretty well balanced as a child, being true to myself, being willing to play army games and also being willing to play with Barbies. Yet somehow, even with that balance, I struggled continually with shame, not fitting in, and questioning my sex. Perhaps this is due to the unfair and unhelpful gender stereotypes in our culture which would shame boys for playing with dolls. I can’t help but wonder that if those cultural pressures would have been different, I would not have felt shame in playing with Barbies, and I would have developed in a healthy way as a man, not struggling with my gender, which ultimately manifested in a warped sexuality, being addicted to crossdressing. Perhaps those who struggle with much stronger transgender yearnings experienced similar things. They felt the powerful pressures of gender stereotypes in our culture and ultimately went further along than I did in their confusion, thinking that they must have been born in the wrong body.

I am still processing all of this. Please give your thoughts, and your own stories. Don’t be afraid to point out to me if I am understanding something wrong here. I know that I felt relief to hear from my sister that I sent Barbies out to war. But why? Is it because I am still so influenced by stereotypes, that subconsciously I still don’t think it is okay to play with Barbies in the same way that girls do? Or is it simply relief to know that my personality as a child was balanced, similar in some ways to other boys, as it was also similar in some ways to girls, (rather than only relating with girls which I would indeed view as problematic)? Thankfully, today through prayer, through exploring myself using this blog, through God working in my life, through being transformed by God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, I am very secure in my identity as a man. I am not ashamed of my appearance as a man and can take pride in dressing as a man. But also, I feel free to be myself. I don’t feel great pressure to conform to rigid personality gender stereotypes in our culture. I am who I am. Yet I also recognize ways that I am different from the average woman, and how I am similar to most men. And I strive to conform my manhood to the way in which it is supposed to be according to God’s Word.  I am now very content in who God made me to be.

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12 comments on “Barbies going off to war

  1. K York says:

    I just commented on the blog, but there is a typo (iPad turned cross dressing into crossers sing), so I am submitting two comments, please delete the one that has the typo.

    Anyway, I am wondering if anyone else has a similar story about playing with dolls now, and what you think about it.

    Here is my comment: At some point in the prayer group I was thinking of bringing up dolls. As a child I never had dolls (not even GI Joes, I was not big into fighting), and as an adult never had an interest until just recently, and as I quit cross dressing at New Years my interest in dolls soared. I now put the effort into dolls which I used to put into cross dressing and I think somehow they are two sides to one coin. It satisfies my feminine urge, but with me, as with my former crossdresssing, it is not a sexual thing. But I would be ashamed if other people found out.

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  2. cranmer says:

    Hi Thorin thanks for your reflections. I wonder if the issues regarding playing with Barbies are not so much the fact that they are “girls’ toys” so much as why they were attractive in the first place, and what it was that you felt you could do with them that you couldn’t with, say, Action Man. You say that you often played war games with them; for myself, I think that is probably a reflection of the normal and God-given differences between the sexes, and not just a reflection of cultural stereotypes. I don’t think that there is necessarily a problem with boys playing with Barbies or any other “girls’ toys”, in so far as they are not seeking to act out a gender role that isn’t really appropriate. There is something admirable in a boy recognising his capacity to nurture and care, but if say he began playing at breastfeeding with a doll I think that has crossed a boundary.

    Your reflections prompted me to do some reflected of my own. I always enjoyed war games when I was younger; I had a vast army of toy soldiers and spent hours carefully planning out battles and assaults. Likewise, I had several Action Men that I similarly loved playing with. One thing I do remember was that with my Action Men I was very particular about what I dressed them in; they had to be dressed and equipped in the appropriate uniform or kit for the mission. As I think about it, I wonder how much I was reflecting a tendency to attach too much value to clothes, which in turn is perhaps reflected in CD. Once or twice I do remember dressing them in my sister’s Barbie outfits, but I am not sure what prompted that or how frequently it happened.

    I guess like many men who have struggled with CD I have frequently struggled with feelings of shame and confusion. As a pastor’s son, I moved schools several times, and being shy and a Christian, did find myself struggling to fit in with other boys, who resented my faith and my father’s “unmanly” job. I have often wondered to what extent my difficulties relating to other boys affected me and led me to start CD as I felt inadequate as a man . At the same time, going to an all-male school and being quite slim, quiet, and caring, on a number of occasions I took female parts in drama productions. I never really enjoyed drama (and still don’t), but I did enjoy being dressed as a female and made up etc by female teachers. Several times I was complimented on my appearance as a female in a way I don’t ever remember being complimented as a male, and I wonder how much my CDing was/is an attempt to recapture that. It is interesting that if I ever find myself drawn to fantasising about CD, it is almost always in the context of drama or theatre. At no point however can I honestly say I have ever felt myself trapped in the wrong body, or desired to have a permanent change of gender as some have. Likewise, although I was playing often wives/love interests on stage, not for a moment was I ever attracted to the boys who played my “partner”; in fact I found the romantic bits deeply uncomfortable, even when dressed as a girl and feeling very feminine. I continue however to struggle with how I can affirm the qualities that I’m suspect contributed to me being often cast as a female without losing my identity as a man. I am sure that it is possible to be kind, caring, gentle etc as a man, but knowing what that looks like is more difficult. It frustrates me that in the world’s eyes those qualities are so often seen as feminine when surely they were demonstrated to their fullest extent in Christ. I once heard someone describe a “gentleman” as someone with “the strength of a man and the gentleness of a woman”. To me that seems a great description of Jesus, and I would aspire to that being said of me.

    I think it’s been mentioned on other posts before, but I also wonder for me how much CDing was related to difficulties interacting with girls. Growing up in a pastor’s home, I was always well aware of the seriousness of relationships, and the sinfulness of lust/extramarital sex. I took very seriously the Biblical commands to guard my eyes and thoughts, even though I longed someday for a relationship of my own . But combined with few opportunities to develop healthy relationships with girls and the ability to dress convincingly as a passably attractive girl, I wonder if CDing then also became a way of providing me with a “girl” of my own to enjoy, who would accept me for who I was and conform to my every wish. In my sinful heart, I could almost justify lusting after myself, in a way that I couldn’t after a real girl. I can now look back and see how warped that was. Not wishing to transfer the blame, I wonder how much some positive teaching on sexual desires and the opportunity to be friends with real girls outside my family circle would have helped. I would definitely say marriage has helped dampen my CDing desires, although not entirely.

    Sorry to write such a long post, but one reflection lead into another! Praise God for His acceptance of me in Christ and His transforming work in my heart by His Word and Spirit! Just writing this makes me realise that whilst I am far from the finished article, I am not what I was!

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  3. thorin25 says:

    K thanks for the comment, sorry for my delay in approving it. Yes that is something very interesting. It seems harmless at first glance, but with most things, whether sexual immorality, greed, pride, etc. it’s good to ask others who can pull us out of sin and delusions and rationalizations, just to be sure we are doing what is right. So I do suggest you bring it up with the prayer group. Maybe they will help you understand it better, maybe they will help you to not feel guilty about it and not see it as a problem, maybe they can point out some blind spots you have about it and why its not good. It would be good to see.

    I think it would be good to identify what “feminine urge” it is satisfying. That could be essential. I think on the one hand, it could be a part of your real personality you are letting out in a healthy way, doing a fun hobby activity, as a man. Whereas crossdressing is letting out that part of your personality in an unhealthy confused way, thinking you need to dress like a woman to feel those things. It might help also to know what you are are actually doing with the dolls….For me, I used to play all kinds of things as a kid that I can’t do now, because I don’t have the same kind of imagination. So that makes me wonder what you are up to. Perhaps your interest is in fashion and dressing the dolls? Or is the interest a parental thing, wanting to play with a doll as if it was your child? Thinking that through might help to determine your motivation and whether it’s something healthy or not. I’d love to discuss more with you here or on the prayer chain, or you could direct the guys on the chain to this conversation.

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  4. thorin25 says:

    Cranmer, I played all kinds of war games with toys too and did that far more than the Barbies. I think part of masculinity (maybe its in femininity too and is in all people to some degree) is the idea that fighting evil is a good thing. It’s not good for kids to glorify war. But I think it’s a God given thing for us to want to fight evil, and it’s a good thing and not sinful to prepare for battle.

    I definitely think, based on what you said, that those drama experiences paved the way for your crossdressing. It forged emotional connections to the experience that still pull you back.

    Keep striving to be yourself, to display so called feminine qualities! They aren’t feminine qualities, they are godly qualities. I encourage you to do some reading of biographies on famous men of history. You often find examples of gentle men, sensitive men, family men, loving men, etc. It can show you how to display those qualities as a man by hearing their stories.

    You said – “I think it’s been mentioned on other posts before, but I also wonder for me how much CDing was related to difficulties interacting with girls. Growing up in a pastor’s home, I was always well aware of the seriousness of relationships, and the sinfulness of lust/extramarital sex. I took very seriously the Biblical commands to guard my eyes and thoughts, even though I longed someday for a relationship of my own . But combined with few opportunities to develop healthy relationships with girls and the ability to dress convincingly as a passably attractive girl, I wonder if CDing then also became a way of providing me with a “girl” of my own to enjoy, who would accept me for who I was and conform to my every wish. In my sinful heart, I could almost justify lusting after myself, in a way that I couldn’t after a real girl. I can now look back and see how warped that was. Not wishing to transfer the blame, I wonder how much some positive teaching on sexual desires and the opportunity to be friends with real girls outside my family circle would have helped.”

    Let me say, Amen, this is true. ME TOO. I think that was many of our experiences. We didn’t get a healthy enough teaching about sex, and enough interaction with girls during puberty years, or pre-puberty years, and because we did not nurture those good real true desires that God biologically put in us, they came out in a confused way instead with our crossdressing.

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  5. K says:

    Thanks Thorin, I will bring it up with the group, finding any hidden agendas that might be lurking would be a good thing.

    As far as how I play with them, well I’m not sure I would call it playing so much. I am interested in their fashions and have designed some clothes for them that I have had folks on Etsy make for me and I set them up in little dioramas and take pictures of them. It’s sort of a collector thing, but with definitely an emphasis on fashion. In my own (male) clothes I like to be color coordinated and take care in choosing my clothes, although I’m not always neat about how I wear them (shirt-tail coming out, etc). I’m not at all projecting parenting issues on them, although it is fun to think of them as my daughters, especially since my own 2 (grown) daughters live so far away (a 7 hour drive). But in reality I don’t think of them as substitutes for my own children; my own children are much more important to me.

    Anybody else who has any ideas please chime in.
    Thank you.

    Thanks for sharing Cranmer, an interesting life you have led! I pray that The Lord leads you in the way everlasting and guides you into the way of righteousness for His name’s sake, and by The power of His Spirit in you.

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  6. thorin25 says:

    Hmm, it’s a tricky one. I think you know your own heart, and so you can figure out what is best on this issues better than we can perhaps. Be honest with yourself and take time to process it. Don’t just take it lightly. If you hadn’t struggled with crossdressing, perhaps you could take it lightly. But since you are you, its best to keep processing and evaluating.

    I’m thinking like I said before that it’s probably a harmless hobby, that is much healthier than crossdressing. That’s my opinion. I’d be curious to know what your wife thinks?

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  7. K says:

    Ha ha, that would be interesting! But she is my ex-wife and we haven’t been together for years. What would be more interesting to me is knowing what my kids would think if they knew (all grown and live in different cities far away, my older son was here last weekend, but I didn’t show him the dolls!).

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  8. thorin25 says:

    It’s something to think about. If we are doing something that we would be ashamed for our family to find out about, that could, (but not in every case), tell us that we are doing something we shouldn’t be. Thanks for the good conversation, may God continue to guide you as you read his Word, pray, and dialogue with the Church

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  9. K says:

    Agreed. Thank you, will keep it in prayer and dialog. Would like to know what other guys here think.

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  10. robmilliken says:

    Wow brother K hadn’t thought of dolls as an innocent outlet replacing cd’ing? Innovative idea as long as you don’t end up admiring them I suppose? Funny as a 5 year old part of my introduction to cd’ing with my dysfunctional mom was playing with big Sis’s 1961 Barbie doll complete with her own black patent leather case. Which opened to reveal all her wardrobe and even little drawers built into the bottom of the case for all her accessories, heels, etc.. My sister still has the doll and plans to pass it along to her daughters. If dolls works for you that’s great! For me though it wouldn’t do… As a kid I was told that “little sissies” were suppose to act like girls and play with Barbie, jewelry, and makeup. I soaked up her teachings like a gullible sponge! I’m sure other brothers on this site have experienced similar dysfunctionality at the hands of supposed innocent female relatives, same as I. Total abstinence from any part of the “fem” world is a must for me as the enemy will always look for a cracked basement window to slip in and ruin my day… God Bless, you’re in my prayers!

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  11. K says:

    Thank you Rob. I didn’t have any issues with or interest in dolls growing up. Neither did my sister. We liked playing with stuffed animals instead. My older daughter always liked dolls, and still does at age 32, but I wasn’t interested in them when she was a girl. So it is a new thing for me . . .

    Good thing is, I don’t want to look like Barbie!

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  12. Michael29 says:

    As someone who’s struggled w/ the transgender side of things – not that I ever tried to transition w/ hormones or surgery, though just allowing thoughts of wanting to be the other gender to occupy my brain & it dominating, & then the feelings taking root, & etc… – I think I can say that the 3rd paragraph you wrote is VERY true indeed. Dwelling on trying to understand what is masculine & what is feminine is very much a part of the process of this struggle!!

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