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July 16, 2006

Hivemind: How often do you cry?

Respected neuroscientist Ben Barres, who's also an FTM transsexual, writes in Nature:

As a transgendered person, no one understands more deeply than I do that there are innate differences between men and women. I suspect that my transgendered identity was caused by fetal exposure to high doses of a testosterone-like drug. But there is no evidence that sexually dimorphic brain wiring is at all relevant to the abilities needed to be successful in a chosen academic career. I underwent intensive cognitive testing before and after starting testosterone treatment about 10 years ago. This showed that my spatial abilities have increased as a consequence of taking testosterone. Alas, it has been to no avail; I still get lost all the time when driving (although I am no longer willing to ask for directions). There was one innate difference that I was surprised to learn is apparently under direct control of testosterone in adults —the ability to cry easily, which I largely lost upon starting hormone treatment. Likewise, male-tofemale transgendered individuals gain the ability to cry more readily. By far, the main difference that I have noticed is that people who don’t know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect: I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man.

I'm curious about how Dr. Barres defines "the ability to cry easily." Okay, this really a hivemind question: How often do you people cry?

I'll start: On average, I cry once every four to six months, almost always in absolute private, usually in response to deaths, or other major losses. Even then, I don't cry at funerals because my grandmother taught me that "tears are for beind the bedroom door." I know that's not necessarily the healthiest way to live, but I can't disappoint the toughest person I know.

No judgments.

Last week, I saw some of the next-toughest people I know crying over the World Cup. All the WC-weepers happened to have penises, but I'll just chalk that up to rampant sampling bias.

I've read statistics, albeit in throwaway papers, saying that the average American (male and female) reports crying every couple of weeks. Is this true?

C'mon. You can tell me. I just want to know whether I'm some sort of freak.


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This is but one report, but it is fascinating to hear. I wonder how much of these changes can be attributed to the testosterone and how much are the result of a full embrace of the new gender identity. I guess one way to find out would be for Ben Bar... [Read More]


I can't remember the last time I cried. I seem to believe that it was at my wedding 18 months ago, but don't recall whether I was just a little bit choked up at seeing my financee coming down the isle, or whether I there were actually any tears.

There are occasions that I feel as if I wish I could have a cathartic cry, but I can't really get it going.

Tears do not come to me easily, though my eyes sometimes well up a little when I something particularly sad crosses my mind. I also learned to suppress my tears, but I learned it from my dad instead of my grandma. Sometimes my eyes well up a little without any tears actually flowing when I see pictures of other people crying over the loss of a loved one (especially over a dead child). This probably happens once a week. But to answer your question to the best of my ability, I cry (actual tears running down my cheeks) probably twice a year. This excludes the loss of loved ones, which unfortunately for me has been 3 people in four years. After those losses I wept like a baby. It's one of those losses that still makes me cry twice a year or so, with many episodes of welled-up eyes in between.

I have not cut loose and actually full-on cried for longer than I can remember.

The last time I cried in a stifled sense, which was fighting the crying back, was 5 years ago at a funeral.

I get teary eyed occasionally from movies, etc. But that is certaintly not on any set interval.

I was never taught not to cry. I was also not really taught to express emotions in an outwardly fashion and ended up being the sort that internalizes things.

I used to cry pretty easily, as guys go. Harsh criticism has always brought it out of me, and I've been through several bouts of depression when it was daily or so.

I can think of maybe twice I've cried in the last year, both in response to particular situations.

I cry maybe once a year or so, fight 'em back a couple times a year. My girlfriend tells me she cries at least once every other week, which, she tells me, shouldn't freak me out nearly as much as it does.

As president of a state chess association, I visited the US Girls' Championship held recently in Chicago. (We're puzzled that relatively few girls choose to continue to play chess, even though they are competing with boys on even terms until age 8 or 9.)

I was stunned to see several girls, immediately after losing, burst into tears.

The point is not the tears. When I was in elementary school, I cried after losing a game (but in private, as Majikthise does). Bobby Fischer cried, too....

At this age, does fear of tears lead to fear of competing with boys (because if one loses, one might be embarrassed in front of boys)?

This is anecdotal & should of course be taken with a grain of salt.

I cry all the fucking time, sometimes a few times a week, just in response to frustration, weariness, or even (oddly) joy. I hate it, because like Dan said, if you cry in front of someone who doesn't cry, they tend to get really upset. To non-criers, tears signal that something is the Worst Thing Ever. I hate crying so much and wish I could stop it. It would be nice if we crybabies were given some space because I'll suck up and let a few tears fall and then when people get all flustered, the frustration of trying to tell them that it's nothing, I just cry easily, does make me sob.

In the last four years or so, I've only cried in front of one other person (an ex-girlfriend), but I've cried privately every couple months. And honestly? I love crying. I wish I did it more.

However, I'm puzzled somewhat by Amanda's comments. Other people crying in front of me has never bothered me in the sense she describes it. It makes me ache for the other person, but it doesn't make me believe the world is ending. Willingness to cry in front of me has always felt indicative of comfort and trust, so I sort of like it. (Is that sick?) Also, I'm a really good hugger, which helps.

I've had a revelation about crying due to a sequence of closely spaced horrible experiences - crying is good. It really flushes out the crap, and once you start, might as well tap the well deeply and think about a whole bunch of things that upset you. Bawl on, and then start dealing with the problems one at a time.

Also - if someone is crying, don't freak out. Depending on how well you know them, a hand on the shoulder or a hug is all they need. Let them know it's OK to cry and just wait for it to pass.

As to the numerical question - I was turning on the tap daily for a while, but now it's more like every 3-4 months. Before the Great Unpleasantness it was about once every 3-4 years, if that.

when my father died. a few minutes after saying good by to my daughter after we'd biked together 700 miles through the cascades. not more than 5 times in my adult life. Its a guy thing.

i was just in nyc a couple weeks ago and visited ground zero for the first time since 9/11.

i was stunned, even tho the mess had been cleaned up, and it looks mostly like a huge construction site now.

but i was incredibly sad.

an overwhelming blackness descended upon me as i walked down the steps towards the trains.

i saw a series of kid's drawings on the wall, and went over to look at them.

they were pictures drawn by kids to say goodbye to the ones they lost on that day.

i read one by a little girl who said she will always remember her daddy taking her on a picnic.

i collapses against a pillar and sobbed.

it was such a sad sad place. i am tearing up now just writing about it.

Jhupp, I think that might be the issue---it's not a willingness to cry in front of another person. Will has little to do with it. I tear up at stuff that doesn't upset me unduly, and it makes it seem worse than it is. And the effort to convince others that it's not a big deal is super frustrating. I freely admit I'm at the weepy end of the bell curve. I'd actually be relieved to find out of it's hormonal because then I could dispel concerns about me tearing up easily by telling people that I'm just hormonal.

I cry probably once a week, maybe a little more. It's just my natural response to feeling a bit sad or angry or overtired or overwhelmed. The last time was this morning when I heard that a friend was in hospital.

I cry at movies too, and when reading books, and once at an episode of The Simpsons. Put me in the "pathetic cry-baby" category.

Do not cry often. Cannot remember the last time I cried in front of others.

As some will know, I worked in the World Trade Center and happened to be out that day. Upon returning home that day, I spoke on the phone for a while, then met a friend for a while, and then went back home. And cried hard for a long, long time. And did the same for a number of consecutive days after that.

Had much cocktails a week later with a woman friend at the Manhattan Waterfront Ale House. She almost cried talking about what had happened, and she wanted me to join in also. I think that she thought I had "kept it in" for the entire week.

No, no I certainly had not. I would not think anything less of anyone, man or woman, who cried in public, but most of the time I'd think it's not a good idea. Letting it all out is fine, a little Irish or Japanese or Anglo-German stoicism in a public situation is fine also.

If you people don't cry, you're getting enough sleep. I don't cry often - Unless I'm fricking exhausted. Then I feel like crying constantly. By fricking exhausted, I mean several weeks of less than 4 hours a night every night. Then, I still avoid crying publicly, but I'll sometimes have to close my office door and cry at work or cry when I get home. Sigh.

I cry occasionally. I don't know exactly how often; I'm guessing about every week or two on average, but this is highly variable. Most of the times I cry, it's in response to something very moving I watch or read.

I'm a man, though not very testosteroney.*

Crying at all is a (relatively) recent development for me (I'm 28). Through my adolescence, you could've sat me down to watch a puppy starve to death and not seen tear one. Then came the depression. Ah, depression. There was a while there when I basically spent every morning on the train platform before work fighting tears. There was much ostentatious allergy-miming.

As of right now, I'll well up from time to time if I find something moving, and will have a good, cathartic weep, say, three or four times a year. Which is fine with me. I have to say I prefer actually feeling things to the wet-concrete deadness of depression.

*Perhaps Chef Boyardee can help with that?


My friend, I understand.

I cried all the time before I started hormones and I cry all the time since then.

One very important thing to remember about (most) trans people is that because we live surrounded by a culture that seeks to deny us what is really devastatingly obvious to ourselves we clutch at all kinds of nature straws to try to prove to people that we really are what we know we are.

You've always been good about trans issues and I don't think you're trying to hurt us by asking this question. But there are many many many people who do use this type of thing against us, to prove that we're not able to rationally study ourselves and the changes we go through because of hormone replacement therapy.

And maybe we're not. I think the instinct is to try to find an essentialism that proves we're real. And maybe we're wrong for trying to do that.

But we don't have a whole lot of other options available to us.

Every day, it seems, I read some comment or post that likens Ann Coulter to a trans woman and how yucky gross disgusting that is. I'm all for outing hypocritical closeted politicians and celebrities who bash other people for being what they themselves are. As far as I know, however, Ms. Coulter is not a trans woman, nor has she ever made a comment (good or bad) about trans people. I dislike Ann Coulter so much, I can't begin to explain, but the popular way of slamming her just ends up hurting me and mine. Please stop.

Long ago, I lived with a trans man from about a year before he started injecting testosterone until a year after he had top surgery and there was a *noticeable* difference in his personality. It wasn't Jeckyl and Hyde, but it was apparent that he had changed (and sadly, in his case, it was not in a positive way, and he became very abusive towards me). What caused that I have no idea. I imagine that T and E do cause changes (beyond the obvious and completely real physical changes), but they are going to vary a great deal depending on the personality of the person taking them. (As well as dosages, the age of the person when they begin HRT, and probably some other factors.)

I'm sorry if this is off topic and anonymous, but I'm being eaten up inside by my own lack of understanding of myself and my people and the vicious and inhospitable environment we live in and my need to keep silent and anonymous in order for people to not hate me on principle. I don't expect the internet is a good place for me to work these issues out. (Actually, I tried a long time ago before blogs really caught on and it was so incredibly frustrating I had to stop. No way could I handle it in the current atmosphere of blogging. I not only don't have thick skin, I begin to doubt if I have any skin at all. It's difficult enough just *reading* blogs. And I'm sure making this comment is a huge mistake on my part.)

It really is a different experience for all of us. I've never met two of us who have had to travel the same road to get to where we are and never met two of us who got to the same place along those many roads.


I'm totally with you, pifu. Beautifully said.

Oops, that was me. Forgot to put my full name - I'm on a different computer.

Oh, and I was messing with you guys. I have not a fucking clue what our friend pifu wrote. Even a comment thread about crying could use a little levity. Or I'll start crying.

sober: around 5 times a year. death, depression, general sadness, world cup.

stoned: even a movie like "sweet november" with keanu reeves (ugh!) can move me to cry a river.

I have to say that since i got married, crying in front of my understanding wife, and discussing the situation with her, has made the process more stress-relieving...

I can only remember crying in front of someone else since I was an adult, once. It was absolutely humiliating.

Yeah, what can I say, I grew up in a protetant boarding school. The stiff upper lip is hardwired. If you ever see me cry in public rest assured that something is very, very wrong.

I experience tears/runny nose rather easily, actually. A movie, book, or especially a piece of music can move me to tears pretty rapidly. Sobbing I don't do very often -- last time was in February when my maternal grandmother died. I'm much more likely to tear up when I'm depressed, of course. It's happened to me a few times at work, and I have to deploy the aforementioned "allergies" BS.

Interestingly, the BBC Sex ID Test says I have a "female brain." I found that result very interesting, although I'm not convinced there is such a thing in the strict sense.

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