James W. Hicks, M.D.


In Flexible People, Sexual Types on October 17, 2010 at 9:00 am

Metamorphic is a term I invented to capture several different sexual types which have in common some degree of identification with the opposite sex. There are many theories about the features which define and distinguish the different types, for example by contrasting gender identity to sexual orientation, but we do not really have a coherent explanation for the wide range of combinations that exist in real life.

This is the most preliminary and uncertain sexual type in my model, so I hope you will bear with me and continue to give feedback until we get it right. Surprisingly, metamorphic features have turned out to be much more common in the profiles generated by my Flexuality Test than I expected.

In the most common metamorphic presentation, you are not only attracted to the opposite sex, but also sexually excited by the idea of imitating or becoming the opposite sex. As a child, you enjoyed wearing the clothing, shoes, accessories, or make-up of your opposite sex parent or siblings, and at puberty, you found these experiences sexually arousing. But in contrast to some boys and girls who later grow up to identify as gay, you are otherwise typically masculine or feminine and feel comfortable with the sex of your birth.

When you are with a sexual partner as an adult, you may ask to wear his or her clothes. When you are alone, you may cross-dress and arouse yourself in front of a mirror. You may wear undergarments of the opposite sex beneath your regular clothing in public and become aroused later when recalling the sensation. You may switch gender roles during sex, and you or your partner may use a strap-on dildo. You may have heard these sexual behaviors and preferences described as a cross-dressing or transvestic “fetish.”

For some who have these feelings, the desire to inhabit the body of the opposite sex becomes more intense. You may imagine yourself switching places with your partner or think of yourself in the role of the opposite sex when watching pornography. Though you consider yourself straight, you may have homosexual experiences (perhaps while cross-dressing) in order to better imagine what sex would feel like from the perspective of the opposite sex. A few men and women in this category eventually seek to live as the opposite sex, changing their wardrobe, taking hormones, or seeking surgery. Social scientists refer to them as “non-homosexual” transvestites and transsexuals.

In contrast, you may have identified closely, and for non-sexual reasons, with the opposite sex since childhood. You may feel you were born into the wrong body and consider yourself effeminate or butch, respectively, compared to other boys and girls, at least when you were growing up. Your interests and mannerisms may be more typical of the opposite sex. Children with these traits tend to identify as lesbian or gay when they grow up, and may be presumed to be gay by others. Some, who identify most strongly with the opposite sex, may seek to change their gender and may think of themselves as straight from that perspective. Like the other metamorphic type, you may cross-dress, take hormones, and eventually seek gender-realignment surgery, but out of a desire to live as the opposite sex rather than because you find it sexually exciting.

In clinical settings, metamorphic presentations are seen almost exclusively in men, but this may reflect the difficulty and distress felt by men who try to dress as women, rather than the actual incidence of cross-dressing. In Western countries, women can generally get away with wearing men’s clothing without attracting much attention, and “tomboys” are treated better than “sissies.”

Another variation of the metamorphic type would include those who feel that they are neither male nor female. You may dress and style your hair in a way that blurs the distinction between male and female (as opposed to cross-dressers, for example, who may exaggerate the traits of the opposite sex in the process of imitation). Some might feel uncomfortable with gender labels in the same way that others are uncomfortable calling themselves gay or straight. Some in this category may be most attracted to other androgynous individuals.

Finally, some who consider themselves unambiguously male or female may be most attracted to partners whose gender is ambiguous or paradoxically exaggerated, including transvestites and transsexuals. Again, this may be conceptually a very different group, but may also be a variant of the metamorphic type.

A recent example of the metamorphic type is Chastity Bono, the daughter of Sonny and Cher, who has legally and surgically changed his gender, and now goes by the name of Chaz Bono. He grew up lacking the interest of other girls and came out as lesbian before switching genders. The early 20th Century Brazilian, gay hustler, murderer, and transvestite, Joao Francisco dos Santos, portrayed in the movie Madame Sata, is another example. And though I don’t intend to speculate about the artist Prince’s personal sexuality, his stage persona exhibits heterosexual-metamorphic traits, evident in his hermaphroditic outfits, iconography, and lyrics. “If I were your girlfriend…,” indeed!

  1. I hope that in the future one can select what gender you want to be regardless of your actual sex, and change it like you would change clothes. Sometimes I want to be more feminine and sometimes I want to be masculine; it depends on how I feel. I should be able to express whatever I gender I feel like being regardless of the fact that I have a penis.

  2. Interesting, according to my profile I have metamorphic traits. I am female and while I love the aesthetic trappings of femininity (long hair, high heels, make-up) and wear them constantly I have always been told I behave “like a man” sexually and inter-personally. Even as child I would beg for the frilliest, pink dresses, and while wearing said dress I would refuse to be the “wife” when playing house. I would insist on being the “husband”. All of my male partners have been hetero-flexible or queer. I do enjoy strap-on play with my parters males especially. I derive a thrill from the mis match between my physical expression of gender and my behavioral expression of it. I guess I’m a psychological metamorph.

  3. I don’t think your proposed term will become popular. It doesn’t have the emotional link most people want when they describe themselves. When I hear “metamorphic” I think geology, not my body!

    The people who fall into this broad category seem most often to call themselves “genderqueer,” or “genderfluid.” I would be happy to link you to several communities and newslists created by transgendered folk.

    • I like your discussion of this in the Literotica forum. What I call metamorphic admittedly lumps together several different manifestations. I believe the scientific community does not have enough information at this point to speak definitively and precisely about gender identity and transvestic fetish and how they are distinct from each other and from sexual orientation (or how they intersect with sexual orientation). I lump them all together in one category partly because of this uncertainty and partly because my original focus was on sexual orientation on a spectrum between the monosexual extremes of gay and straight. I think that the genderqueer community and individuals are way ahead of the scientific community at this point, and certainly way ahead of my project. I’ve been thrilled that so many have taken my test, and I’m sorry that the test has difficulty analyzing genderqueer profiles. Many of the questions are based on the assumption that the gender of one’s partner and it’s relation to the test-taker’s gender is of importance. I do not expect “metamorphic” to catch on as an umbrella term, though I think the geologic connotation could be empowering, implying both fluidity and endurance.

      • Thank you for your replies, I am going to make sure that I recieve notifications from now on!

        I would say that gender identity is pretty much a distinct issue from sexual orientation. A transwoman could be completely heterosexual, or bisexual, or a lesbian. Of course it’s confusing to viewers since her body may look like a man’s– but from the inside, of course, she knows what she is. Same with transmen.

        It might be preferable to remove the category entirely, if the focus is on sexual *preference,* and possibly an addendum or preface saying that this test, unfortunately, focuses on cis-gendered folk since you don’t feel competent yet to make statements about gender issues… although I’d say you’re learning more about them than you expected to!

      • Thanks for checking back in, though I do want to point out that I wouldn’t characterize myself as incompetent in addressing these gender issues just because I lack the certainty you have. I believe that expressing certainty as a psychiatrist on these matters would be premature and misleading.

  4. In contrast to other posters, I think that ‘metamorphic’ is entirely appropriate. The word brings to mind Ovid’s classic “Metamorphoses,” that collection of poems about the transmogrifications of ancient personae.

  5. I recently tool the test and I am also the closest to “metamorphic”, however I can’t really relate to the explanation given to this term. As a child I wouldn’t wear dresses and would play in the forest, trees and with toys that are (sadly) more meant for boys. However, as I reached puberty I became more familiar with my own sexual orientation and found out I am gay (lesbian to be more clear on my biological sex). I am not a cross-dresser nor do I identify myself with the male sex. The only thing I have in common with the explanation of the term “metamorphic” is that I identify myself as female but refuse to dress as a typical female. My fiance is more female than I am, but she also likes to dress in a more masculine fashion. It is true that sexually I feel more comfortable and sexier when I dress masculine (pants, tanktop, watch, sneakers)…but I feel that this does not identify me as being less feminine.

    I however, strongly disagree with what is “male” and “female”. If I look at my childhood, I played with toys I liked (like Lego, action man’s, swords) unaware that these toys were meant for boys. It is very important to realize that there is a huge grey area between what is “typically” male and female. If you look at it strictly, every woman who wears pants can be considered masculine and thus would end up being described as “metamorphic”.

  6. What L said. The test, when it came to gender/sex, was terrible. It’s obvious you lack an understanding of those two terms, and how they’re fairly consistently used now. Gender is between the ears, sex is between the legs. I am a man that is now somewhere between the sexes since that’s what testosterone does to someone that is biologically female. And gender has more to do with your body map (and what bits you’re supposed to have) and it has less to do with what you’re ‘supposed’ to be interested in. And you’re basically pulling the pink is for girls and blue is for boys bullshit that’s pretty much been established as society rather than innate.

    And the crossdressers/fetishistic types? Them and the tranny chasers need to be in a category together. Leave the transpeople out of that category since we don’t fit anyway. The chasers and the crossdressers are about sexuality. Transpeople aren’t (or rather, they have sexualities that don’t involve gender/sex related fetishes, usually).

  7. I would like to experience being a woman.. It´s been alright as man, but I can´t help wondering.

  8. Think metamorphic is the nearest description of me that I have found. One odd thing about me is that in real life women excite me more. At the computer I look mostly 80% at CDs, Trannies or Gay. I like lesbians too and usually identify with the more docile one in porn. I crossdress and while I think of gender change fear stops me. I feel I would really like breasts and have breast forms..

  9. i am happy with who i am, i am both male and female ive had girl and boy friends, dress as male and female i talk to my male friends as a man and girlfriends as a female even go shopping with them ive made love to a woman and a man, both are beautiful may be the world is not just 2 sex’s after all may be there are 3,4 or 5 sex’s in the world dressed as a woman i get hit on by st8 men and women but gay men hate me they think im selling out gay men they say i am male not female but i have a real penis and real breasts, i am lucky blessed even this is who i am remember, god peace and love be on him made everything male and female so why not us i just see the world from both sides at the end of the day i am who i am

  10. Thank you so much for including metamorphic as a category. I’ve identified as queer lesbian for some time, but I can definitely still feel the urge to look at guys, not in a sexual way, but in a kind of envy; I don’t really identify specifically as male more than genderqueer, but I’ve always just thought I’d be very comfortable looking like a man. I regularly dress androgynously (think the style of teens to twenty year old of both genders, jeans, sneakers, tee shirts, collard button up shirts, boots, etc.), cut my hair short, do not wear make up or overly feminine jewelry.This is how I think I should look, as neither male nor female, maybe preferencing some male styles a little more. I’ve sometimes even played this strange kinky game with myself where i put on sexy female underwear stockings and garters on under my clothes so nobody can see them and felt so naughty being out in public this way and I always thought “this is strange…you’re feeling naughty about wearing women’s clothes and you’re biologically a woman”. I think my biggest issue is that I am really not fully female and not fully male, I know for a fact that this part of my brain never actually developed these distinctions in myself. I remember being a child my favorite game was dress up, I could easily switch from being a cute princess to being Robin the Boy Wonder. I’ve sometimes wondered if I was a transexual, and I would be much more politically and socially benefitted if I were just a man already. I never considered gender change because I realize I’m really not a man either; I might be more LIKE a man, but I’m not a man: I’m not a woman either. So metamorphic might be the best category for me. Thank you!

  11. I’m a 24 year old female and I’ve never identified with being ‘female’. I’ve never identified with being male either, though I lean more towards that than female. Generally I just consider myself gender neutral. But I don’t really fit into the ‘androgynous’ category either; my body is unfortunately very ‘womanly’, and I like to have medium length hair, so my physical gender is pretty obvious. I dress only in men’s or unisex clothes (aside from underwear for obvious reasons). But I am also straight and not attracted to androgynous looks either. Though I am told my taste in men is ‘odd’ (I like lanky dorky types), but that’s about it.

    When I did this test I got 10 for straight and 5 for metamorphic.

  12. Thank you so much for this. As someone who is AFAB “two spirit” thirdgender/fluid/queer , most sexual orientation scales don’t accomodate me– and often the questions, because they refer to “opposite” genders are virtually impossible to answer. What is the opposite of genderfluid? What is the opposite of thirdgender. I identify as male, female and third. My masculine iteration is Dominant and interested in men in a toppy gay way. My female iteration is submissive and interested in men in a bottomy straight way. Which makes me (as best as i’ve been able to figure out) both gay AND straight but NOT bi. And while ive tried using the label pan, it gets confusing for others. *Gender* doesnt have anything to do with who I am attracted to. I am attracted to all gender identifications, but *sexually* i am interested in male bodies. Which all makes sense until I unpack that my masculine iteration is married to an intersexed XY male who was AFAB, transitioning… and I relate to his body as a male body, in spite of how his gender is usually assigned female by others…because HE experiences his body as male. But attraction to cis women (female identifying in a female body)? There’s just nothing there…

    • I’m glad you found this scale more relevant. In retrospect, I agree with many who have commented that the scale does not sufficient deal with the wealth of transgender identity and experiences. I was focusing on sexuality rather than gender identity, and that is a limitation.

  13. I’m not sure if it’s because I was raised in the digital era and have plenty of experience assuming the role of various avatars (via video games), but I’m both sexually and intellectually aroused by the idea of taking on not only either gender role, but also certain characteristics of animals or even inanimate objects. I’d love to play the female, for instance, but playing dress up wouldn’t do much for me and I don’t like the idea of being stuck that way either. Basically, I wanted to tell you that you’re onto something with your concept of sexual identity metamorphosis, but that it may involve more than just gender roles, and that it may indicate a desire for more flexibility in the roles that we’re forced to play from birth due to the utter permanence of our physical forms.

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