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Waking Up the Anima – Jung Applied to Transgender Women
By Jocelyn Muchlinski
Carl Jung introduced a new vocabulary into psychology. Among the most important
words in this vocabulary are anima, animus, and projection. In this essay, I will
commandeer these words and twist them to suit my meanings. Perhaps Jung will forgive
me for perverting his language so freely.
The anima is the female soul in every human. The animus is the male soul. I want to
encourage readers to understand the anima and animus as two entirely different people
living in the same body. I also want to suggest that the animus, in cisgender men, is one
and the same with the man himself. That is to say, the animus has the reigns of the ego.
The animus is expressed and brought to life in the words, thoughts, and actions of the
man. The anima, on the other hand, gains life by projecting itself onto female figures in
the man’s life. In this way, both anima and animus take an essential and substantial role
in the life of the cisgender man.
Conversely, the anima is the soul and person of the cisgender woman. This woman, who
is the anima incarnate, experiences her animus by projecting it onto male figures in her
life. Projection of anima and animus occurs naturally first on the parents of a child. Thus,
for a boy, his first experience of his own anima is vis-à-vis his mother. For a girl, she
sees her own animus—her male soul—in her father.
To a lesser extent, the boy will project himself (his animus) onto his father, and
consequently identify with the father. The girl does the same with her mother. This
explains why fatherless boys will often hypermasculinize or otherwise develop a
distorted, caricaturized version of manliness. And motherless girls will look feverishly to
magazines, TV shows, music, and books for women to identify with—to help them
Let’s set aside this pseudo-Jung theorizing for a bit and talk about something entirely
different. Namely, let’s talk about Ray Blanchard’s bilateral classification of transgender
women. Blanchard suggested that transgender women may be sorted into two distinct
types: the homosexual transsexual, and the autogynephilic transsexual. The homosexual
transsexual is the trans woman who begins life behaving like a girl—effeminate and
interested in girls’ toys and activities. Seeing this predisposition, parents will usually
presume their son is gay. When the “son” later comes out as a daughter, it is nary a
Contrariwise, the autogynephilic transsexual is the trans woman who begins life behaving
like a boy. Accordingly, it is much more shocking and unexpected when she reveals
herself to be a she. Parents tend to feel like the revelation came out of nowhere, and may
believe that perhaps their son is just confused. What they never understood, all these
years, was that their daughter was real and was growing—through surrogates.
The twist is this. The homosexual transsexual embodied her anima from day one. She
lived her true self directly and, like normal girls, projected her smaller animus on the men
around her. Meanwhile, the autogynephilic transsexual gripped and embodied her
animus, projecting her true self (her anima) on the women around her. Thus arose a
bizarre arrangement, whereby the autogynephile’s central essence—her bulky anima—
was dissociated away from her own ego and placed in others for safekeeping. The
animus, smaller and weaker, took the reigns of the ego.
This arrangement is much like that of the cisgender man, who embodies his animus and
projects his anima onto other people. The key difference is that, in these enigmatic
transsexuals, the projected anima is in fact the much stronger force and the rightful owner
of the ego. But something went wrong—and that thing is biological sex.
In homosexual transsexuals, their anima was powerful enough to retain control of the ego
despite masculine sexual differentiation. It didn’t matter how much testosterone was
pumped through that fetus; the anima was hanging on. In autogynephilic transsexuals, the
anima was thwarted by these biological forces. Masculine physiological development,
probably in concert with postnatal treatment as male, led the child to identify with the
animus rather than the anima.
This mistaken identification is unstable, and it eventually collapses. With collapse
(whether it be at age 23 or 67) comes crisis of gender identity and, eventually, complete
re-identification with the anima.
In the years or months leading up to crisis, the autogynephile will experience a gradual
and subconscious process of relocating her anima from other women to her own ego. In
the beginning, the autogynephile will be sexually attracted to women. As Jung would
explain, sexual attraction is the most primitive form of identification with anima or
animus. Over time, the anima will shift from other women to the autogynephile’s own
ego, and she will become sexually attracted to herself as a woman. This is the
autogynephile identifying herself with her own anima for the first time. It is no surprise
the identification begins in its most primitive form.
Gender crisis begins when the conscious mind realizes what’s happening. The animus-asego is under threat. The animus-driven ego tries desperately to cognize and categorize
what is going on. All the while, the anima is knocking at the front door of the ego,
bracing to reclaim the throne.
At this point in the process, the autogynephile may resolve to transition. This is natural,
and is the correct move. But the story does not end there. It is possible to come out as
transgender, take hormones, get surgeries, and live as a woman without fully letting go of
the animus-as-ego. Complete transition and self-actualization requires the trans woman to
surrender her man-mind. Only then can the anima totally claim the ego and become one
with the woman.
How does one go about surrendering her man-mind? It’s not easy. Old habits die hard.
Here I suggest a spiritual (or deep psyche) experience is needed. A man-mind cannot
think itself away. That would be like a snake biting its own tail and trying to eat itself out
The best one can do is to employ certain techniques that will set the stage for a deep
cognitive shift. Biological and social transition are a couple such techniques. Another
technique is to—by reading essays like this and hearing others’ experiences—develop an
understanding of what must happen. And pray. Not necessarily to a god, but to your own
subconscious and unconscious mind. Create the imperative and rely on unconscious
processes to do the heavy lifting. Perhaps you will find that your dreams change; or you
start feeling different as you go about your day.
A final technique, and the one that wound up being most useful to me, is voice
feminization. This is not necessarily surgery. For me, it was simply training my voice and
thereby “finding” my female voice. To a great extent, the essence of a person is
manifested in their speech. Accordingly, a new voice can be a new person. Maybe your
male voice is weighty and sets out facts, while your female voice is light and playful, and
concerns itself more with feelings. Maybe your male voice is short and to-the-point,
while your female voice is more meandering and eager to engage in light conversation.
For the time being, this is all I have to say on the subject. I was roused from sleep at 4:15
this morning brimming with these ideas, and I had no choice but to boot up my laptop
and write them down. It is 6:50 now, and I suppose I ought to return to bed. I hope you
have found this essay to be interesting and maybe even insightful, dear reader, and I wish
you the best of luck in all your affairs.
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