Monday, December 1, 2008

Ethics and Crossdressing

Hmmm... well this was the begining post of a thread at a crossdressing website in the MtF section.

For whatever reason (they didn't give me any) the powers that be there deleted the thread so I'm bringing the discussion over here. Had I written it for this blog I would have tried to angle it a little differently to be a little more inclusive (for the great FtM blokes who drop by here every so often at least). So here restored to existence by the power of the cut-and-paste backup is my attempt to begin an examination, debate and discussion of the Ethical issues of and relating to Crossdressing.

(oh and the thread that got locked was because someone tried to consider as a comparison crossdressing and infant-fetish as compulsions)

The Ethical and Moral issues of Crossdressing


I'm posting this to try and discuss the importan Ethical and Moral Issues relating directly to crossdressing.

I don't want this thread to get locked up like a recent one was so please lets try and keep this discussion sensible, rational and calm. That way we can discuss the big problematic issues for CDs and CDing as well as address the criticisms of us from others.

It will be a long post but that is important and it should be an interesting discussion.

Firstly let me raise a basic argument for the validity of crossdressing and then we can discuss whether the argument holds up and issues with various common dilemmas that face crossdressers from secrecy to obtaining clothes to the closet to relationship issues.

Is crossdressing Ethical?

Crossdressing does not neccessarily involve interacting with the bodies of others. Whenever you interact with anothers body you generally require informed consent for it to be ethical.

Murder, assault, rape etc are acts without consent or expressly against a stated denial of consent. Children and animals cannot give informed consent to sexual acts.

If crossdressing is done for a purely sexual activity and involves anyone else then yes, informed consent is required. Non-sexual crossdressing does not require it. Sexual crossdressing done by ones self does not require consent.

In some things consent is assumed where it is not strictly stated otherwise. This is rare and dangerous. Yet in medicine, like performing life-saving resusitation, transfusions and emergency surgery informed consent is assumed
unless there are clear instructions otherwise like 'do not resuscitate' or 'no transfusions' medic alert jewlery or tattoos or the like.

Thus far crossdressing is Ethical.


This should be considered in several ways. There is harm to rights/freedoms, physical harm, unethical emotional/psychological harm and bizarrely enough till it's explained there is ethical emotional harm.

The consent issue is caused where freedom of action meets freedom of choice over ones own body. Freedom of speech is (debatably) considered constrained by deliberate attempts to cause physical harm. Yelling 'fire' in a crowded theatre is a common example. Telling lies about someone to harm their reputation impacting their social, political and economic well being is another. From this we get laws against libel, slander, perjury etc.

This is a big one. Many people see CDing as a deliberate lie/deception for the purpose of causing harm to social systems or to enable voyuerism or make sexual assault more practically possible, of women by getting access to 'safe spaces' and of men by tricking them into uninformed consent, where they consent to sex with a woman but not a TG woman.

Yet this is not the intention of crossdressers. Nor is it intrinsicly the consequence of it. So while this explains many peoples fear of crossdressing it is a myth not a reality (or its a possibility not a neccessary actuallity, so only if done for that intent would it be unethical) and crossdressing remains ethical.

Crossdressing interferes with no other freedoms directly. People who do not wish to see crossdressers are as free to look away as people who do not wish to see women in the workplace or black people not in chains or gay people kissing and holding hands in public.

Public harassment for example causes harm. It is done deliberatly with the intent to cause suffering or irrespective of the persons desire to look away. This can be difficult for people to grasp exactly. Essentially it is not the expression that is the true cause of the harm, it is the removal of a persons capacity to escape it. Bailing someone up on the bus for example. So long as they can turn thier head and look away or walk away from the speech through the loud-hailer then free expression which is upsetting is not unethical.

Certainly some people can find the views and appearance of others causes them emotional disstress. Literally any thing at all someone wears or says or does can trigger a disstress reaction in someone. There can be found no fair way of accomadating such distresss at others reactions to otherwise ethical expression/views/behaviour as it is easy to have two people each equally distressed at the other. The disstress of two racists of opposing races at the presence of the other is one example. Opposing religious fundamentalists another.

As such, if something is otherwise ethical yet someone finds that emotionally distresing it would not be right to curtail that, the disstress may well be real, but to have others comply to alleviate that disstress would itself be a great wrong! We can feel sorry for the disstressed person, try to help them overcome their disstress and of course enable them to withdraw as much as practical from the source of their disstress but only voluntarily and only to a point.

Example: A racist gets upset everytime they see someone not of their race. On the street, serving in stores, holding positions of authority. Just these people being present and alive may well cause them geunine profound real emotional disstress and pain. Yet it would be wrong to kill those people or to lock them up or expel them for the benefit of alleviating the persons disstress. We can try and help them cope wih the presence of other races, give them counselling and information to overcome their disstress. Thus ethical behaviour and ethical freedoms trump emotional disstress at anothers fair use of their freedoms.

Thus even if it upsets people crossdressing remains ethical while preventing crossdressing is unethical.

Now that gets really dicey for many when the person getting disstressed is a close friend or family member!

Ah but what about indirect consequences of harm?

Example. CD goes out. CD gets recognised. CD's family member suffers embarassment and loss of social standing etc.

Lets try this one for comparison:

Example. Young white woman goes on a public date with a black man in an area with a degree of racism. Is recognised. Womans family suffers embarassment and loss of social standing etc.

Both of these acts were done with no intention of those being the consequences. Those consequences only exist because of the unethical acts of others. Even if those people knew that such consequences were likely are they responsible for the consequences?

That involves determining whether it is right to suffer the consequences of others unethical behaviour by not conforming to that situation or whether it is right to go along with unethical groups by surrendering to their threats to avoid the consequences upon others.

Now thats just an argument for crossdressing by itself being ethical. Not crossdressing in secret or wearing clothes of others without asking or hiding ones crossdressing from ones partner. There are heaps of these sorts of things discussed here every day. Discussing these at a deeper level of ethics and morality may help everyone understand, cope with, consider and decide about these major issues.

Does anyone have issue with the points I've raised? Have views on the Ethics of other issues that face crossdressers?

Remember morality and ethics can be distinctly different and their are different schools of thought in each.

And this bit is really important.
Try not to just say that you think or feel something is right or wrong! This is about deeper truths than just feelings or unconsidered or unconcious or instinctive or reflex opinions.You must try and explain why your view is right or the view your criticising is wrong.

Hopefully we can all learn from such a discussion, hopefully we can all be challenged by such a disscussion and maybe even have our views on things changed by such a discussion.


Battybattybats said...

The following is posted on behalf of Ji:

You raise most of the points I would make on this topic. Here are some other thoughts:

There is a doctor out there that tries to stop children from seeing themselves as TG. He makes the point that if a white person wanted to be black, or a black person white... the most sound course of action would be to get that person to be more comfortable with their original birth pigmentation, as opposed to trying what he considers to be fringe psychological/medical procedures to correct the problem (Michael Jackson not withstanding). It's obvious that the child is not committing an ethical violation (read: innocent), but it seems to me that the doctor's motives bear scrutiny.

Regarding pedophilia for example, I'm now going to voice rather objectionable ideas to get at the underlying truth (the subject matter is just too disgusting, but sometimes finding the truth is a difficult process). Everyone agrees that violating a child for any reason whatsoever is as low as a human being can descend. It seems to me that the violation of an innocent victim in this way is the very definition of evil.

But the argument used for other things including CDing is "well,.. if it doesn't harm anyone". Now I play devil's advocate for a moment, and I realize this challenges a lot of thinking in many directions. I am a Star Trek fan. Many things technologically speaking predicted by ST have come to pass. Right now we are working on the technology of virtual reality. What if the "holodeck" becomes a reality someday. This is the question I ask: If pedophiles were someday able to live purely in a virtual environment and were willing to live permanently that way for the sake of their sexual psychology,... would it be ethical ? In other words,... if they could be banished to 100 miles below a planet's surface in a holo-generated reality for pedophiles to live any way that they want,.. would it be ethical to allow it at that point ? Someone could say, well.. what if they "got out", and were so used to their proclivities that they became a terror to some peaceful civilization somewhere ? I ask that this possibility be left out of the original question... let's assume that they are locked away forever in their own private world. What then ?

I am a person who identifies as TG,... and CD now and again. The question I raise above I realize somewhat questions the validity of my own personal experience. It seems to me that an offshoot question from this one (and maybe just as important): what is *health* ? and is health (once defined) always the overriding goal ?

Battybattybats said...

To Dr Zuckers skin pigmentation analogy I raise the issue of people with partial skin pigment issues, where portions of them are dark and portions pale.

For many this is not a problem, for some it can even be an attractive feature to many but for some it is profoundly distressing. Some blotches or patterns on the hands is one thing, big marks across the face can be another.

And what about someone of African or Australian Aboriginal heritage born with a pigment variation resulting in completely white skin? Should it be considered wrong for them to want the same skin colour as their parents and siblings?

Also why should people not be able to change their skin pigmentation? We get tattoos. We pierce our ears. We pierce our noses, tongues and belly buttons. We pierce erogenous zones even. We increase or decrease breasts.

We change natursl bodily features all the time.

Why should any single one be considered off-limits? Surely there needs to be a rational logical reason why one case should be considered different to another.

At what point must we not interfere with the state of our birth? At what point if ever must we do so? At what point then is it ok to choose to do so?

Dr Zucker should take a look at ritual scarification, full-face or substantial body tattoos in indigionous cultures some of which are deliberately designed to help the body resemble totemic animals. There are tribes who cut the males penises substantially in two so the resemble the duel-penis of their totemic animals as their initiation.

A little bit of anthropology could go a long way in his education i suspect.

He has also raised the issue of those who feel they need to amputate a limb. This is interesting and I wonder if it may be caused by errors in the forming of the neurological memory-map in the brain. (I'm sure one day the entire fields of psychology and psychiatry will be swalloed and replaced entirely by neurology!). And some doctors have been advocating letting this small number of amputation-identifiers get their amputations, especially considering the number that dangerously harm themselves so that the amputation is medically required.

Regarding your hypothetical question. There are a lot of possibilities involved. For example, just because the victim is electronicly generated at what point can they be considered still 'not a person'. Too sophisticated a program may become the equivalent of a real victim to the point where their suffering could not be countenanced.

That said there are many ethics issues with how to deal with pedophiles as criminals still have rights especially the mentally ill. we need to protect society without abusing the criminals, a often difficult dilemma. After all a large proportion of the population are psychopaths, many the powerpath form, we cant just round them all up because they were born with an empathy-disability yet how do we protect society from the future serial-killers and CEO's they will become?

But if those people were able to relieve their desires without causing actual harm then through that ethical outlet and were able to have such self-control that they would never harm an actual person their actions could become ethical.

But unlike safe-words in BDSM that is not so easy to envisage. Certainly there are 'adult-babies' but would a genuine pedophile be able to suffice with that?

What about future robotics? Ah but again a future child-like robot may get so sophisticated one day as to be considered as sentient as an animal in which case that may easilly be the equivalent of bestiality.

As was once pointed out in one philosophy discussion an adult woman masturbating with a sausage is arguably commiting both bestiality and necrophilia. And a carrot can't give consent either so at what point do we consider a life-form aware enough to need to give consent and unaware enough to be capable of giving it making sex with it unethical? An interesting question and one that on short notice I'd say requires a central nervous system to need to give consent and an adult human level of conciousness to be able to give it.

But there are issues of mentally disabled people that might make that very complicated indeed and I don't know quite enough to be certain of the arguments on that.

As well as temporary cognitive impairment, for example if we consider any sex act with someone cognitively impaired as abuse then having sex with someone even moderatly drunk, far from insensibly so which would clearly be abuse, and giving consent would be rape because the judgement at the time of consent was impaired by alcohol then a huge proportion of the population both male and female are effectively rapists. And what about the common situation where both are inebriated and consenting at the time? Have they eached abused the other?

So if we compare crossdressing to the extremely common act of going out getting drunk and having consenting sex with someone who is also drunk so both people were cognitively impaired at the time of consent then crossdressing remains an extremely ethical act.

Serving and consuming alcohol looks not so good though.

And what about me, with the 'brain fog' symptom of my CFS. Clearly on a good day I have a very well-functioning brain though the brain fog is always present to some degree but on a bad one were someone to pick me up and I decided to consent how bad would my brain fog have to be for it to be considered problematic?

But crossdressing, that remains quite solidly ethical.