On the Science of Changing Sex

Researching Parental Experiences of Transkids

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on April 4, 2014

Here is an opportunity for the parents of transkids to give feedback to a researcher looking into their experiences,

“Researchers at Case Western Reserve University are currently conducting an online study of the experiences of families of gender variant, transgender, or otherwise non-cisgender kids ages 10-17. The study involves completing questionnaires online about your experiences with the process of your child disclosing their gender identity to you and/or the process of your child’s transition, as well as questions regarding your emotions, attitudes, and preferences for potential psychotherapy interventions for families of gender variant children. Your child will also complete several brief questionnaires about their emotions and experiences with disclosing their gender identity. To participate, you must be the parent or primary caregiver of a child or teen ages 10-17 who identifies as gender variant, transgender, or otherwise non-cisgender and you yourself must be at least 18 years of age. You will have the option of including your contact information in order to receive a $10 gift card, although providing your contact information is not necessary to participate in the study. The information gathered from this study may help us to better understand the needs of families of gender variant children and ultimately help us to design therapies to help families better cope with the changes associated with their child’s transition.”

Please participate if you qualify, as we need as many voices and as broad range of experiences as possible:

http://psychology.case.edu/research/fear_lab/lgbtq_participation.html
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Becoming Visible

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on March 19, 2014

VisibleIf you are a transkid or gender-non-conforming teen living in or near New York City, consider Becoming More Visible.  It’s time to talk about your lives… but only if you are comfortable doing so.  Seriously, if your goal is to live “stealth”, then this is not for you… and I totally support being stealth, truly I do.  It’s your life and your decision.

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A Clinical View

Posted in Confirming Two Type Taxonomy by Kay Brown on February 14, 2014

I have heard and read a number of “late transitioning” transsexuals state that the two type taxonomy is not accepted in the “real world” of today’s gender therapists, the people most intimately knowledgeable of the transsexual population, thus proving that Blanchard’s theory is “wrong”.  Although I have met, during my prior research on our collective history, a few therapists who were completely unaware of Blanchard’s theory, most therapists are VERY well versed in the scientific literature.  Further, as I will show here, those who have been in the field the longest, have a strong psychology background, and have kept up with the literature, have come to understand and write about the two types.  But, many therapists who are fully aware of the issue, choose not to publicize that fact, or they may attempt to smooth over the issue, avoid directly using the word “autogynephilia“, using euphemistic and obscurantist terms instead.  After all, their lively-hood depends on autogynephilic transgendered people coming for help.

One of the most experienced gender therapists is Dr. Anne Vitale, having entered the field in 1978.  In a paper she wrote in 2001, she clearly describes the two types of MTF transsexuals and compares them to FtMs,

“Group One (G1) is best described as those natal males who have a high degree of cross-sexed gender identity. In these individuals, we can hypothesize that the prenatal androgenization process–if there was any at all–was minimal, leaving the default female identity intact. Furthermore, the expression of female identity of those individuals appears impossible or very difficult for them to conceal.

Group Two (G2) is composed of natal females who almost universally report a life- long history of rejecting female dress conventions along with, girls’ toys and activities, and have a strong distaste for their female secondary sex characteristics. These individuals typically take full advantage of the social permissiveness allowed women in many societies to wear their hair short and dress in loose, gender-neutral clothing. These individuals rarely marry, preferring instead to partner with women who may or may not identify as lesbian. Group Two is the mirror image of Group One.

Group Three (G3) is composed of natal males who identify as female but who act and appear normally male.  …  They tend to live secretive lives, often making increasingly stronger attempts to convince themselves and others that they are male.

As a psychotherapist I have found female identified males (G1) to be clinically similar to male-identified females (G2). That is, individuals in both groups have little or no compunction against openly presenting themselves as the other sex. Further, they make little or no effort to engage in what they feel for them would be wrong gendered social practices (i.e., the gender role assigned at birth as the basis of authority). Although I have seen some notable exceptions, especially in male-identified females, these individuals–at the time of presentation for treatment–are rarely married or have children, are rarely involved in the corporate or academic culture and are typically involved in the service industry at a blue- or pink-collar level. With little investment in trying to live as their assigned birth sex and with a lot of practice in living as closely as possible to their desired sex, these individuals report relatively low levels of anxiety about their dilemma. For those who decide transition is in their best interest, they accomplish the change with relatively little difficulty, particularly compared to G3, female-identified males.

The story is very different for Group Three. In the hope of ridding themselves of their dysphoria they tend to invest heavily in typical male activities. Being largely heterosexual, they marry and have children, hold advanced educational degrees and are involved at high levels of corporate and academic cultures. These are the invisible or cloistered gender dysphorics. They develop an aura of deep secrecy based on shame and risk of ridicule and their secret desire to be female is protected at all costs. The risk of being found out adds to the psychological and physiological pressures they experience. Transitioning from this deeply entrenched defensive position is very difficult. The irony here is that gender dysphoric symptoms appear to worsen in direct proportion to their self-enforced entrenchment in the male world. The further an individual gets from believing he can ever live as a female, the more acute and disruptive his dysphoria becomes”

As I’ve noted before, the social consequences for the two types of MTF transsexuals is quite dissimilar.  Before transition, Vitale’s “Group One”, is very visible, but becomes invisible after transition, while the opposite is true for her “Group Three”.  This brings up the matter of ‘Identity Politics’ in the larger ‘Transgender’ world.  Language is important.  For these essays, I’ve often, “held my nose” as I used terminology in the papers I’m citing, so as not to confuse my reader.  Here, Vitale has side-stepped the issue, by inventing de novo, just for the purposes of her paper, totally neutral language that is also completely non-descriptive and had it not been for her carefully describing the characteristics that define and contrast each type, we might not be able to compare her types with other authors.  But here, I can provide that map.  Her “Group One”, as Vitale makes clear, consists of MTF transkids.  Other names have been “core”, “true”, “early onset”, “ego syntonic”, and most controversially, “homosexual”.

“G1 boys, who have a strong feminine core identity, typically develop a sexual interest in other boys during adolescence and prefer girls as peer friends. Although they still desire to be girls, they appear to have significantly less anxiety over not being female then that reported by the boys in G3. I believe this is due to the relatively uninhibited open expression of their femininity. For example Monica was 19 years old when she reported to my office accompanied by her mother. She wore gender-neutral clothing but otherwise presented as female in voice inflection and mannerisms. The problem, of course, was that Monica was genetically male. Monica’s mother related to me that Monica had been more like a girl then a boy all her life. Her and her husband loved her dearly but thought of her more as a daughter then a son. Over the course of treating Monica, it became clear that although she was distressed over her male physiology, she was otherwise emotionally stable and very aware of the seriousness of her situation. Once it became clear that she was her own person and ready to undergo transition, a course of hormone replacement therapy was introduced. With the exception of having to face some extreme religious issues brought up by her much older brother, she accomplished an almost effortless transition from male to female. The presence of family support and little or no investment by the family or Monica in her being male made this transition straight forward.”

Vitale’s use of the phrase “feminine core identity” harks back to earlier work showing that this type of transsexual has developed a female gender identity as a young child, while the other type, had not.  She remarks that this type is very comfortable with their femininity and naturally find the idea of living as a girl to be agreeable.  This is called “ego syntonic” behavior, as opposed to Group Three’s “ego dystonic” behavior, where their desire to be female is unwelcome and out of step with their core identity as male.  Note also the reference to Group One being “emotionally stable”, making a tacit comparison to “Group Three”, who, as Smith put it,

“Homosexual transsexuals were found to be younger when applying for sex reassignment, reported a stronger cross-gender identity in childhood, had a more convincing cross-gender appearance, and functioned psychologically better than nonhomosexual transsexuals. … The more vulnerable nonhomosexual transsexuals may particularly benefit from additional professional guidance before and/or during treatment.”

Compare Vitale’s description of her “Group One” to the one I gave of transkids in a previous essay.

“The prototypical feminine androphilic transsexual was called a “sissy” by her peers growing up.  She avoided rough & tumble activities.  Her primary social circle consisted of one or two girls.  She actively participated in girls games and imaginary play.  … As a young teen, she became interested in girls fashion and make-up, often exploring how she might look as a girl by dressing up and experimenting with make-up, with occasional trips out shopping or hanging out with her friends.  This did not, of course, involve erotic cross-dressing.  She had crushes on boys at school.  … She was hassled, perhaps even bullied, by homophobic boys, but otherwise was reasonably popular in her chosen circle.  She was considered very neat and well dressed in boy’s clothes.  …  As she approached adulthood, looking at her own nature, her potential future, both romantic and economic, made a rational decision to transition to living as a girl so as to grow up to be a woman socially.  Her family may or may not have disowned her in late adolescence.  As she is naturally feminine and passes quite well, she found that she was socially and romantically more successful as a woman.”

Vitale goes on to describe her “Group Three”,

“To add to their confusion, and counter to behavior typically reported in openly gender dysphoric boys, many cloistered boys actually preferred solo play with boys’ toys and had little or no interest in girls’ toys. For example I have heard more than one long-time post-op male-to-female transsexual speak fondly of having spent countless hours playing with an Erector Set or a Lionel model train set-up that their father had helped them build. Others described of designing and making detailed model airplanes, race cars and sailing ships. The more academic of this group report little or no interest in sports and rough and tumble play. To avoid castigation from their peers, they report spending a lot of time reading and studying. However, although these children appeared to be normal boys doing what most people would consider some normal boy activities, they may very well have been doing so while secretly wearing their mother’s or sister’s underwear, fantasizing about being a girl or both if they could manage it.

As sexual maturity advances, Group Three, cloistered gender dysphoric boys, often combine excessive masturbation (one individual reported masturbating up to 5 and even 6 times a day) with an increase in secret cross-dressing activity to release anxiety. In a post-op group I facilitated, Jenna (age 43) spoke fondly of the delight she experienced as a boy when she would find something of her mom’s in the dirty clothes’ hamper in the bathroom. Two others in the group laughingly agreed that they too took many a trip to the bathroom for the same reason. At the same time, in their public life, these boys report employing overtly stereotypical efforts to draw attention from their secret desires to be female by affecting appearances of being normally male. This includes dating girls, participating in individual sports activities such as swimming, running, golf, tennis, and for some, even body building.

Cloistered (G3) gender dysphoric boys appear to others and even to themselves to be heterosexual. Although as a group they are not especially active daters, they clearly prefer to date girls when they do date. Significantly, unlike other boys, their dating motives are markedly different. For these boys, being on a date with a girl is a chance to spend time with a girl in a way not generally allowed under other circumstances. Dating serves two purposes for these boys. The first is social, as it gives them the all-important appearance of being normal. The second is therapeutic. Being close to a girl’s softness, and even her female smell, has a mitigating effect on gender expression deprivation anxiety. The fantasy is not to make love to her but to actually be her.”

Note the rather direct description of use of female clothing as an aid to sexual arousal during masturbation.  We have another name for this behavior, “autogynephilic erotic cross-dressing”.  Note also the reference to dating girls.  Though she calls it “therapeutic”, I believe that she is describing the phenomena of autogynephilia being simultaneously dependent upon and in competition with conventional gynephilia.  Being with a girl has “mitigating effect” on experiencing autogynephilia, which Vitale euphemistically refers to as “gender expression deprivation anxiety”.  I’ve remarked on Vitale’s seeming obtuseness on the issue of recognizing autogynephilic sexuality when she sees it in a previous essay.  This is remarkable, in that even in her own words, she clearly describes autogynephilia, “The fantasy is not to make love to her but to actually be her”.

Very tellingly, as Vitale continues to describe older gender dysphoric individuals, her “Group One” simply disappear from her essay.  This is because, by that age, they have either transitioned and become invisible, or they don’t ever transition.  Simply put, there is no “late transitioning” “Group One” transsexual, while “Group Three” digs in and clings to their socially formed (core) male identity, while trying to ignore the cognitive dissonance created by their growing awareness of their autogynephilically enforced erotic ideal, their “desires to be female”,

“As more information about transition to one’s felt gender identity becomes available to the general public, we are seeing genetic males with strong core female identities and genetic females with strong core male gender identities present in their early twenties with the clear objective to being sexually reassigned.

The cloistered, natal males, on the other hand typically start to realize the seriousness of their dilemma at this age. It is common to hear reports of these individuals increasing the intensity with which they try to rid themselves of the ever-increasing gender-related anxiety. Many individuals paradoxically adopt homophobic, transphobic, and overtly sexist attitudes in the hope that they will override their desires to be female.”

As she describes her “Group Three” as adults, we clearly see the pattern of late transitioning MTF transsexuals,

“For those who continue to struggle inwardly with their gender issues into mid-life, new issues come to the fore. As a time when most people realize that about half of life has been lived and feel the need to make an accounting of who they are and what they have done with their lives, this period can be especially anxiety provoking for the gender-dysphoric individual. Decades of trying to overcome an increasing gender expression deprivation anxiety begin to weigh heavily on the individual. Family and career are now as deeply rooted as they will ever be. The idea of starting over as a member of a different sex has become seemingly impossible. The fact that the need to change sex has increased rather than diminished, despite Herculean efforts, is now undeniable.”

Thus, we see clearly two mutually exclusive clinical patterns described by a veteran gender therapist.  It is painfully obvious that there are two distinctly different types, with two different etiologies and life arcs.  Blanchard’s model of “homosexual” (yes, holding my nose) vs. autogynephilic transsexuality completely explains the clinical experience.

References:

Anne Vitale, “The Gender Variant Phenomenon–A Developmental Review”  http://www.avitale.com/developmentalreview.htm

Yolanda L.S. Smith, Stephanie H.M. van Goozen, A.J. Kuiper, Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis, “Transsexual subtypes: Clinical and theoretical significance”
http://akikos-planet.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/files/psychiatry_research__transsexual_subtypes_clinical_and_theoretical_significance.pdf

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A Grounded Theory…

Posted in Book Reviews by Kay Brown on February 8, 2014

Book Review:  Male Femaling – A grounded theory approach to cross-dressing and sex-changing

malefemalingRichard Ekins’ 1997 book is not light reading, especially Part II, which is rather densely written in “grounded theory” method of sociology.  But it is an important book for sexologists to read and understand since it delves into the world of what Ekins has termed, “male femaling”.  This is a wonderful way of putting it, since it succinctly pulls together catagories that are often treated separately and instills ‘agency’ (if I may be allowed to use post-modernist cant) to these practitioners, placing the phenomena as a verb, rather than treating these people as nouns.

Before I read this book, I was completely unaware of “grounded theory”.  I think it is worth reading up on it at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grounded_theory

There one may read that,

“Grounded theory method is a systematic methodology in the social sciences involving the discovery of theory through the analysis of data. … If the researcher’s goal is accurate description, then another method should be chosen since grounded theory is not a descriptive method. Instead it has the goal of generating concepts that explain the way that people resolve their central concerns regardless of time and place. The use of description in a theory generated by the grounded theory method is mainly to illustrate concepts.”

Thus, this book is not simply a travel guide, but a serious attempt to discern the social and introspective means of “meaning”.

To give you a flavor of the denseness of the text, in part of the book, Ekins explores what he calls, “masked awareness”.  This is what most of us would call, “information management”, or simply, secrecy or disclosure, passing or being read.  I’m simplifing here of course, but neccessary to translate this to a more lay reader.  He also makes indiscriminent reference to philosphers, scientists, and pseudo-scientists (e.g. Freud).   He makes a point of showing the “umbilical” relationship between sexologists, their theories, and “male femalers” without explicating how these theories have evolved as the science has moved forward, or how “male femalers” dissimulations have historically distorted some of those theories.  He simply isn’t interested.  He cares more about how these individuals resolve their search for “meaning”.

As I read the book, each and every word, from begining to end, I searched for references and examples of transkids (HSTS).  I found only hints, like Hamlet’s father’s ghost, whispering offstage.  I was dissappointed, as I had hoped that Ekins would compare and contrast transkids from AGPs.  It was only at the very end of the book that I learned that this had been deliberate, as his concluding notes on where he thought others should pick up on his research explains in recommendation 4:

“In my detailed illustrative material, the focus was on male femalers who consider themselves heterosexual or bisexual.  Although homosexual male femalers were quoted, such material is sparse.  The emphasis is, in part, a feature of the arena, but was also, once again, of my own predilictions, training, and abilities.  Certainly, the gay studies literature is a vast one and it largely fell beyond the scope of this study.  I leave to others the possibility of applying the conceptual framework developed here to predominately homosexual male femalers.”

Thus, two conclusions may be drawn from this.  First, Ekins, though he never mentioned it anywhere else, is keenly aware of the profound differences between “homosexual” and “non-homosexual” types.  And second, that though he never mentions the word, this book is ALL about autogynephilia, which he only obliquely refers to as “male femaling impulses” and “erotic femaling”.  The proof of this is found in the very descriptions of what these individuals do in the course of their careers as male femalers, in search of “meaning”.

Ekins divides the “ideal” path into five phases.  Where Ekins used “ideal”, I would have used “prototypical”, as “ideal” would seem to imply a normative value to this sequence, which may or may not apply.  The phases are:

Begining Male Femaling

Fantasying Male Femaling

Doing Male Femaling

Constituting Male Femaling

Consolidating Male Femaling

IF this repetitive use of the term “male femaling” feels odd… it certainly did to me… especially as though it seems to constantly screem, on every page, “MALE … MALE … MALE!”  As though to say, “Get it… these people are forever MALE!!!  Don’t you forget it!”

The illustrative examples used for “Begining Male Femaling” were universally autogynephilic, as this example shows,

“… I was 13 when I stepped, quivering with excitement into a pair of French knickers belonging to my sister.  I ejaculated almost immediately… The feeling was glorious and yet quite alarming and I felt as though I was leaking urine. … Some three days after this first ‘event’ I got home from school to find my mother out.  I went upstairs to do my homework and through the half-opened door of my mother’s bedroom I saw, hanging over a chair, a pair of her pink directoire knickers, obviously discarded in a hurry as she changed before going out.  That soft gleaming bundle turned my whole body and senses into a jelly-like state of desire and longing.  I had to wear them, to try and see if I was all right.  Would it happen again?  My answer was there almost immediately in my swift gathering erection as I struggled out of my clothes.  …”

Likewise, the later phases involved autogynephilic fantasy and enactments, sometimes very overtly erotic, sometimes more genteel, but still recognizably autogynephilic in substance.  In many of these fantasies and enactments, they were scripted, ritualized even.  I think this is a very important aspect of autogynephilic experience that can and does impact how autogynephilia will develop and express itself in the “real world”.  The examples were manifold and various, deeply detailed.  For me… I found myself skimming the pages, as there is nothing more boring than reading about someone else’s erotic scripts, which one does not share.  I suppose that for Ekins this isn’t an issue, given his own self referenced “predilictions”?

I found the section on ‘Private Networking and the Constitution of Meanings’ to be very informative and enlightening.  This may be the most important part of the book, as Ekins demonstrates that peer interactions and the ‘umbilical’ relationship between sexological theories and male femalers influences how one comes to identify oneself and how that subsequently influences one’s career as a male femaler.  Specifically, how does one come to think of oneself as a transvestite / Cross-Dresser or as a transsexual.  Ekins as much as states that there is no substantive or essential difference between them, to which I whole-heartedly must agree.

In the final phase, Ekins lays out three possible paths that a male femaler might take, in typical fashion, ignoring that we already have names for these paths, he calls them, “aparting”, “substituting”, and “integrating”,  I would have called them “closeted cross-dresser”, “transition / transsexual”, and “out / gender fluid”.

“It is instructive to organize the major modes of consolidating around three possible ‘solutions’ to the problems posed by disjuctures between male and male femaling selves and worlds.  I call these ‘aparting’, substituting’, and ‘integrating’.  In ‘aparting’ the emphasis is upon maintaining rigid boundaries between male worlds and male femaling worlds.  In ‘substituting’ the male femaling world increasingly takes over from the male world.  It is in fact, to a greater or lesser extent, substituted for it.  Finally, in ‘integrating’, the attempt is made to transcend previous positions which entailed disjuctures between male and male femaling selves and world, in order to foster the emergence of an ‘integrated’ position which seeks to transcend the conventional arrangement between the sexes.”

This book is mildly dated in that it was written in 1997, before Blanchard’s work become as widely known today.  I would recommend this book for sexologists and therapists, to explicate more fully the lives and search for meanings of autogynephilic cross-dressers and transsexuals.  But I would not recommend it for either the general public or for cross-dressers and transsexuals themselves, unless they have a strong interest in theory.  It just doesn’t read very easily.

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Something worth supporting

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on January 8, 2014

The Kickstarter campaign has ended and has reached our goal.  Thank you for your support of this very important film.

A new kickstarter funding effort is under way to fund a film on homeless transkids…  something worth supporting… and I’m putting my money where my mouth is… How about you?  Together, we can help our community.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/938077425/becoming-more-visible

This project has its own website as well.  Transkids teens are the most likely population to become and remain homeless of ANY single group.  Why?  Because we make our parents uncomfortable.  We make potential employers uncomfortable.  This is not a new problem… but it is a problem that should and can be solved.  But first, we need society to recognize transkids unique issues and vulnerability.  We need to increase the visibility of this “invisible” population of transgendered people.

Before we can solve a problem, we need to recognize that it is a problem.  Transkids comprise only a tiny fraction of teenagers, but a disproportionate percentage of homeless teens.  Transkids are extremely likely to be rejected by their natal families.  Over half of rejected transkids experience homelessness.  They are difficult to place with foster families, who are typically unprepared to help transkids, and often just as likely to reject them for the same reasons that their natal family did.  Group homes can be just as bad, as they expose transkids to daily belittling and bullying, both subtle and unsubtle.  Further, many group homes will insist that transkids dress and present themselves in their natal sex, disrespecting their gender expression.

This is your chance to be part of the solution.  This film will document the lives of real transkids, allowing them to express the issues they face, in their own voices.  But this film needs your support to reach the screen.  So pull out that credit card and pledge your support.

Also, please Share this on your facebook page and post on forums to help get the word out!

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Queen…

Posted in Book Reviews by Kay Brown on December 25, 2013

Review:  The Man Who Would Be Queen – The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism

TMWWBQ CoverJ. Michael Bailey’s book was written ten years ago, in 2003; So I thought this last month of 2013 was a good time to review and look back on the book and its aftermath.  The importance of a book is measured in how it encourages people to think about and discuss, even if they don’t agree… maybe especially if they don’t agree… on its thesis.

The main thesis of TMWWBQ is that homosexuality and gender atypicality are highly correlated.  Most of the book is about the scientific research that has shown that the folk-wisdom (sounds better said that way than “stereotype”) that gay men were usually notably “sissy” or “effeminate” as boys and that most “sissy” boys grow up to be gay men.  Of course, also as part of this thesis, is that there is a continuum of femininity, and that the most feminine of such “homosexual” males grow up to live as women, to seek out hormone and surgical interventions to feminize their bodies to match their feminine personalities and natural manners.  But to explain who he meant, he also had to describe and delineate those who were not on that continuum, but are often conflated and confused with them, namely, autogynephiles, especially, autogynephilic transsexuals (AGP).

This set off a firestorm that quickly became a witch-hunt against Bailey, led by several noted transwomen.  I needn’t explore that episode, as it was well documented by Alice Dreger in 2008.  Instead, I want to explore how the science regarding transsexuality that Bailey touched upon has evolved since then, in part because of TMWWBQ and the fuss that those transwomen made, and continue to make.

But first, I should point out that it is very likely that Bailey understood that his book might upset some in the AGP transsexual community, as in his closing notes on suggested further reading made clear, “For an article that angered many autogynephiles – but which provides a sympathetic portrayal of both cross-dressers and their wives – See Amy Bloom’s “Conservative men in Conservative Dresses, “… ” or when he suggests reading Anne Lawrence’s website,

“Anne Lawrence maintains an awesome website for transsexuals, Transsexual Women’s Resources, (www.annelawrence.com/twr), and one section of her site is devoted to autogynephilia. … Not only does she have clear explanations of autogynephilia, but she also includes testimonials of transsexuals who have visited her site and read about the concept.  Most of them are thankful that someone is finally talking about the sexual side of transsexualism.. Some say that the finally understand themselves.  A few are angry with Anne for embracing Blanchard’s “wrongheaded” ideas. … “

But Bailey could not foresee that he would be vilified and deliberately defamed as he was in the aftermath of the book’s publication.  Many of the people who continue to do so have never read his book, even though they can read the key chapter regarding AGP transsexual women online, or even know that Bailey was sympathetic to transfolk, speaking warmly and openly, that they should be respected and supported.  For example, after quoting Paul McHugh, the &^%$#@! (expletive deleted) who shut down the Gender Clinic at John Hopkins, “[The focus on surgery] has distracted effort from genuine investigations attempting to find out just what has gone wrong for these people – what has, by their own testimony, given them years of torment and psychological distress and prompted them to accept these grim and disfiguring surgical procedures.” Bailey rebukes McHugh,

“One problem with McHugh’s analysis is that we simply have no idea how to make gender dysphoria go away.  I suspect that both autogynephilic and homosexual gender dysphoria result from early and irreversible developmental processes in the brain.  If so, learning more about the origins of transsexualism will not get us much closer to curing it.  Given our present state of knowledge, saying that we should focus on removing transsexual’s desire to change sex is equivalent to saying that it is better that they should suffer permanently from gender dysphoria than they should obtain sex reassignment surgery.”

Bailey is being too polite, but basically spells it out, McHugh has no sympathy for transfolk, saying to us instead that we should suck it up and be men, or more colorfully, that we should “eat $#!+ and die”.  I doubt it would surprise many of my readers to learn that McHugh is a conservative observant Catholic, who substitutes religious intolerance for pragmatic palliative medicine.  It astounds me that Bailey, friend as he was to the trans-community, should be vilified and hounded, while the likes of McHugh are barely noticed.  But then, I think an observation made by one of the original 2004 authors of the transkids.us website explains it all, it wasn’t that Bailey was wrong, but that he was too right.

When Bailey wrote his book, Blanchard’s papers were the latest thing in transsexual research.  It summed up and explained the confusion of the past researcher’s work, most notably Person & Oversey, Stoller, and Meyer.  It brought together and explicated, in a concise way, what had been coming together already, but slowly, and sadly, under the burden of psycho-analysis.  Blanchard swept away the unscientific notions and put the study of transsexuality on a firm scientific foundation.  But, as all will admit, much of his original research had yet to be properly replicated.

Ironically, I believe that the transsexual community’s violent objections to Bailey’s book, and by extension, his defense of Blanchard’s work, inspired others to replicate his research.  Most of the key data showing that there are two (and likely only two) types of MTF transsexual have been very convincingly replicated by Lawrence, Smith, and Nuttbrock.  The only paper that no one has attempted to replicate yet has been the one where Blanchard tested “non-homosexual” transwomen who denied being aroused by autogynephilic ideation on whether that was really true.  His paper showed that they did become sexually aroused by listening to spoken narratives of cross-dressing, while control (non-AGP) men did not.  I sincerely hope that this study is replicated, as it would answer the only remaining possible question as whether there was a “third” type of transsexual as some claim.

As well as being Blanchard’s “Bulldog”, Bailey also speculated about the nature and behavior of the two types of transwomen.  The most disturbing to me was on the relative paucity of marriages or even just long term relationships among “homosexual” (feminine androphilic / MTF transkid) transsexuals.  This hit home, as I myself had trouble finding a suitable long term partner.  In my younger days, I came to the conclusion that I may never find a husband, so I lived in communal housing with other transwomen and/or ally lesbian/bisexual/straight women.  These women became my “family” (platonic, though a few of them most definitely wished it had been more), even as I continued to date men, who never seemed to stick around more than a few months after they learned of my medical history… until my husband surprised me by asking me to marry him.  I still insisted upon a long engagement, because in my cynical and wounded heart, I feared that he would be like all who came before, and would wake up one day and say to himself, “WTF am I doing?”.  Bailey reports,

“Do transsexuals find partners?  Certainly, homosexual transsexuals find sex partners after their surgery, but do they find steady partners?  Do they get married?  I have already mentioned my impression that homosexual transsexuals are not very successful at finding desirable men willing to commit to them.  In part, this reflects the difficulty that men have with the notion of coupling with women who used to be men (no matter how attractive such women may be), as well as the difficulty most transsexuals have keeping their secret.”

So far, I could agree totally with Bailey.  It is difficult, but not impossible, as Green documented decades before him.  However, he goes on,

“But it also reflects the choices that homosexual transsexuals are prone to make.  My impression is that they would rather have a relatively uncommitted relationship with a very attractive man than a committed relationship with a less desirable partner.  Although the homosexual transsexuals I have met are all searching for “Mr. Right,” perhaps in vain, their sex lives have all clearly improved after surgery.  They can hide their past identities for a while, at least, and no longer have to worry about how to respond to attractive men who hit on them in bars.”

Here, I suspect that Bailey means, that MTF transkids would rather have a physically attractive partner… but he does understand the reality that those men who are most likely to want a transsexual wife are themselves transgendered, closeted cross-dressers, who transkids rarely find truly desirable.  So, he is partly right, but massively wrong.  He goes on to admit that he has only known street transkids, the type who work as “escorts”.  Thus, he has the classic issue of a “sampling bias” in that at the time he wrote the book, he had never had contact with the more respectable, “invisible transsexual” population of transkids who had managed to stay off of the street, and out of bars.  (For myself, I rarely went to bars, as I found the selection of men there to be of very low quality, and never of my own socio-economic or educational background.)  It is important to note that two thirds of transkids have never been ‘escorts’.  (Elsewhere in his book, Bailey notes that although common, around half of the transkids in one of his studies were never prostitutes.)  For this, less street wise population, their difficulty in finding husbands is not related to any putative desire to continue to date other handsome men when they already have a fine man in hand.

“When I asked Jaunita [...] about the best, and worst, reactions she had had from lovers after she revealed that she used to be a a man, she replied, “I have really never had a good experience.  The men always leave.” …  All the homosexual transsexuals I have talked to say that they wish they could find a man they could tell and who would love them anyway, but they all worry that such a man does not exist.  And they are all deeply suspicious of men who prefer transsexual to real women.  (These men have something similar to “sexual interest in she-males” and transsexuals find them weird.)  There is little incentive for the postoperative homosexual transsexual to be honest.”

Bailey’s book, because he fully understands and acknowledges that transkids are different than AGP, is one of the few books that really discusses the the problems that MTF transkids face.  It was refreshing… and at the same time… very disturbing and sad, to read what is essentially a tour guide to both my life and many of my past transkid friends and acquaintances.

“They [HSTS] are outcasts as children because of their extreme femininity.  They mostly come from poor, broken families, and family rejection is common.  … They have, in fact, had to cope with rejection and disapproval since childhood, because of their extreme femininity.  And they have not had the advantages that tend to instill respect in the social order.  The early chaotic backgrounds of so many homosexual transsexuals might help explain why they do not defeminize the way that most very feminine boys do.  A feminine boy from a middle-class or upper-middle-class family has more motivation to “hang in there” until he normalizes his gender role behavior, because he has a good chance at a conventionally successful future.”

I should note, that I was subjected to just such “disapproval” from an early age… and that I am from an upper-middle-class family that was extremely homophobic, and also very dysfunctional, though outwardly appearing normal.  Nothing less than being totally straight would have satisfied my mother, though my father actually tried to convince me to live as a closeted gay man when I was a teen (in essence, to live like his gay brother did).  I am estranged from my mother and all of my siblings… but my father, who was unwillingly divorced from my mother when I was a teen, is very supportive and proud of my accomplishments, both personal and professional.  Although I’m not at all convinced that Bailey is right, he is onto something, as it is likely that socio-economic status is likely one of the important factors in transkid decision making about whether to transition or not.

Bailey remarked upon the ethnic background of the transkids, noting that most of them were either Black or Latina, while the opposite is true of AGP transsexuals.  He related some speculations from his transkid informants about why this might come about, which didn’t seem to satisfy him.  Since the book was published, his observation has been confirmed in the Nuttbrock study of the trans-scene in New York City.  But more importantly, Lawrence has shown that the percentage of AGP transsexuals in a country is highly correlated with that country’s Hofstede Individuality Index.  I wish to point out here that the Black and Latino/a communities are both subcultures in the US, which have much lower Individuality Index scores… and thus are less likely to have AGPs transition within them.

In writing about transkids and AGPs, Bailey found himself having to educate his readers about the differences between them.  He wrote a somewhat tongue in cheek quiz, which I earlier blogged about, which is useful in learning the differences.

Bailey remarked upon and speculated on the general intelligence of “homosexual” transsexuals, saying he thought that they were below average intelligence generally.  As we now know, this is simply not true, as studies in the Netherlands show that as a group they have average IQ (98.86 to be exact, where 100 is by definition, average).

Thus, all in all, Bailey’s book has helped spur further research… and has largely been shown to have been prophetic and insightful.  I recommend that this book should be read, carefully read, by transsexuals and their allies, with an open mind and heart.  Don’t let a few unhappy, and very loud, individuals tell you what is “wrong” with Bailey’s book.  Find out for yourself.  I predict you won’t find that is it “wrong”, but “too right” for comfort.

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Pervert !!!

Posted in Book Reviews by Kay Brown on November 7, 2013

pervBook Review: PERV – The Sexual Deviant in All of Us

Jesse Bering’s latest book is very ambitious, attempting to cover nearly the entire gamut of sexual orientations and paraphilias known to science.  But this is not a text book.  It is written in a conversational style that at times (unfortunately) uses modern pop culture references that date the book even as it reaches the book stores.  At its heart, this book is a plea for understanding and tolerance for sexual minorities and paraphiliacs.  The title promises to show that we are all “deviants” of one sort or another, but ultimately fails, as he attempts to draw upon misguided ideas from our pre-scientific and sexually prudish past as his evidence.  As he delves into modern sexology, it becomes clear that most people are really quite boringly vanilla.  Oh… but those wonderfully “perverted” erotic outliers that he describes make the book worth the read.

Reading the book was like ‘homecoming week’, as Bering references and mentions many of my favorite (and not-so-favorite*) sexologists:  Anne Lawrence, Michael Bailey, Ray Blanchard, Meredith Chivers, Milton Diamond, James Cantor, Kurt Fruend, Richard Green, Ken Zucker, *John Money, and *Charles Moser.

Given that Bering attempts to cover the full range of modern research into sexual orientation and the paraphilias for a wider lay readership, his text necessarily skips along the surface, never dipping too deeply, like a stone skipping over the surface of a pond.  I found the book fun to read, but often wished it went deeper into each of the subjects.  But then, this book wasn’t really written for me, though there were a few hints of deeper import.

One of those deeper ideas, was a restrained, yet clearly scathing underneath, criticism of the trend in modern psychiatry to evaluate the paraphilias based on its supposed “normality” or lack of it.  Digging deeper, he criticizes Wakefield’s ideas of dysfunction and pathology based on evolutionary selected function.  (My reader may recall this from my essay on Anne Lawrence’s exposition on why autogynephilia was such a dysfunction.)  Instead, Bering would see an evaluation of paraphilias, especially by our larger culture, based on a metric of harmfulness.  (Here, I totally agree… as I already touched upon in the essay I referenced above.)

In keeping with his plea for understanding, in the hopes of generating tolerance in his readers, Bering touches upon the nature of intolerance, how we find sexual interests that don’t match our own to be “disgusting” and why that comes about.  The book would be worth reading for this alone.  I have to admit, I thought I was inured to just about every paraphilia out there… but Bering managed to squig even me.

No book so broadly covering sexual orientation minorities and paraphilias would be complete without covering transsexual and transgender experience and the research concerning them.  Gratifyingly for me, he gets it (mostly) right.  Bering takes note of the two types of MTF transsexuals and their relative percentages in different cultures, “There’s one big difference between male-to-female (MTF) and female-to-male (FTM) transsexuals, however, and this is the fact that whereas the vast majority (around 75% in the West) of the former are “heterosexual,” nearly all of the latter are “homosexual”, referencing Anne Lawrence’s research in a footnote.

Bering also takes note of the other differences between the two, briefly discussing the two types of MTF transwomen and the controversy surrounding Blanchard’s research and Bailey’s book, “The Man Who Would Be Queen”.

Here’s where that considerable conflict I spoke of earlier rears its ugly head (and really, it’s all gotten quite brutal, complete with harassment and social-media wars between the opposing theoretical camps).   Whereas it’s clear enough to most researchers that homosexual transsexuals aren’t erotically motivated to permanently transform themselves into women (or men, in the case of FTM individuals) but simply want to rid themselves of the horrible gender dysphoria that has gnawed at them their entire lives (more often than not, these are individuals who’ve lived as very effeminate males or very masculine females since their early childhoods), some prominent sexologists believe that it’s a different story altogether for heterosexual MTF transsexuals (who tend not to have as many stereotypically “effeminate” characteristics as their homosexual MTF cohorts).  Thus, although it’s often misunderstood, the controversial theory that I’m about to describe applies only to one specific subcategory of transgender individuals: those born as biological males, who have a female gender, and who’ve only ever been attracted to females.

The controversy over the “real” motivations of these biological males who are attracted to women dates back to 1989, when the psychologist Ray Blanchard postulated the existence of a paraphilia involving “a male’s propensity to be aroused by the thought of himself as a female.”  He called this “autogynephilia.”  To Blanchard and others, heterosexual MTF transsexuals want to become women not so much to relieve their gender dysphoria as to actually incarnate their erotic target. … But Blanchard didn’t just pull his autogynephilic theory out of thin air.  …  In any event, if Blanchard is correct, then autogynephilia is basically a more pronounced form of transvestism; it’s not the clothes alone that arouse such men but the entire character and essence of the woman they seek to bring to life. … Blanchard’s theory of autogynephilia is one of the most battle scarred in all of modern sex research. … But valid or not, the very idea of autogynephilia is about as benign a paraphilia as I can possibly think of.  (Essentially, one is aroused by oneself as an idealized member of the opposite sex.)  Whether their “real” motives are erotic or the result of gender dysphoria, the personal distress so often experienced by any transsexual is the result of living a life ensconced as a harmless minority among an intolerant majority.

Thus, Bering makes it clear that the science has shown that HSTS, both MTF and FtM, clearly do not have (directly) erotic motives to transition, and expounds on how autogynephilia paraphilically motivates non-HSTS MTF transsexuals, but makes it abundantly clear that all transsexuals are deserving of respect and tolerance.  Importantly, it is in the footnotes that we see Bering supporting the theory, as printed on the bottom of page 163:

In her memoir, “Mirror Image – The Odyssey of a Male-to-Female Transsexual” (… 1978), the now-adult MTF Nancy Hunt describes her adolescent feelings as a boy in this way: “I was feverishly interested in girls.  I studied their hair, their clothes, their figures… brood[ing] about the differences between us.  I seethed with envy while at the same time becoming sexually aroused – I wanted to possess them as I wanted to become them.  In my night-time fantasies, as I masturbated or floated towards, sleep, I combined compulsions, dreaming of sex but with myself as the girl” (60).  And in her rather deliberately titled book, Men Trapped in Men’s Bodies: Narratives of Autogynephilic Transsexualism (… 2013), the self-described autogynephilic transsexual therapist Anne Lawrence provides many similar anonymous accounts of an underlying erotic motivation as shared by her heterosexual MTF patients.

I would recommend PERV for my readers, to gain a broader perspective on paraphilias.

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One in Twelve

Posted in Editorial, Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on August 27, 2013

One in twelve transsexuals is murdered.  That was the ‘back of the envelope’ estimate that I made back about 15 years ago for my transhistory class that I taught at the Harvey Milk Institute.  As I had posted some of my notes and power point slides on a website for that purpose, it was picked up by many in the LGBT community, much to my amazement, to become one of those unquestioned internet memes.  One in twelve “profoundly transgender” MTF was my estimate of how many of us were murdered in our (shortened) lifetimes.  That math was based on two numbers available to me at that time.  First that the estimate of how many transwomen there were was one in 11,200 male births, from a study in the Netherlands (which included both types of transwomen); second that at the time I made the estimate, that approximately one transwoman was murdered a month in the United States.  Either number may have been wrong, or subject to change over time.  However, with those numbers I estimated that of the 260 million US residents in the late ‘90s, 11,600 would be such “profoundly transgender”.  I defined “profoundly transgender” as those born males living full time, or nearly so, as women socially.  This by definition excluded private cross-dressers and part-time transfolk, who would not be exposed to transphobic violence in their daily activities.  If one of them is murdered per month, and one can normally expect to have had a life-expectancy of 80 years, then the lifetime risk of being murdered is approximately one in twelve.  An actuarian may take issue with my simplistic treatment, but the math is basically sound.

But, as I have been at pains to explain here on this blog, there are two types of transwomen, Autogynephilic (“non-homosexual”) and transkids (exclusively androphilic transsexuals), which do not have the same risk profile.  As I shall explain further, it is transkids, (i.e. exclusively androphilic) transsexual women who bear the significantly greater risk.

Further, this issue is not an academic one for me.  In keeping with the feminist credo that “the personal is political”, I share with my reader that my own life has been touched with transphobic violence.  When I was a teenager, I suffered a number of attacks and beatings, directly due to my gender atypicality, perceived (correctly) sexual orientation toward men, and my transgender status.  One of the worse beatings I suffered was when I was 14 years old, when two older boys, who layed in wait along my path through a dark orchard just a block from my home, first taunted me, then beat, knocked me to the ground, and proceeded to kick me viciously, all the while yelling homophobic slurs.  Their exact words included, “FAGGOT!” “PANSY!” “PANTYWAIST!” “YOU THINK YOU’RE A GIRL?” “YOU MAKE ME SICK!”.  Fast forward about five years, when I was 19, a good friend of mine, Tere, invited me to go with her to a beach party her crowd was throwing.  Tere was also my brother’s girlfriend, someone I had known for a number of years from high school.  Mind you, I had been out as both trans and into guys in high school, so a number of the kids at this party knew who and what I was.  Somehow, I stupidly didn’t think this might be a problem.  A couple hours into the party, after having had a good time talking with, and gently flirting with a number of cute young men, I was lured some distance from the party, where perhaps seven or eight young men surrounded me and started taunting me and laughing among themselves, “Are you a boy or a girl?”  “Hey, let’s pants it and see”…  At that point, I was terrified, knowing full well that after they had torn off my clothes to reveal my pre-op body, that I was would be beaten and kicked by four times as many, older and stronger, young men than when I was 14.  To my everlasting relief Tere jumped into the middle of the boys at that point and yelled, “You leave her alone!”  In the sudden confusion of her interruption, Tere grabbed my arm and escorted me at a very fast walk to my car.  I have no doubt that had Tere not intervened, I would have been hospitalized, at best, or killed at worst.

In the news, only this past month, was the beating death of 21 year old Islan Nettles on a street of New York City, the beating death of 16 year old Duane Johnson and the severe beating and attempted rape of her roommate, Kiki, in a slum of Jamaica, and the video recorded beating of a young transwoman in a park in Russia.  The “one in twelve” number may not be exactly correct… but it certainly seems to me to be close.  The website, “Remembering our Dead” has long memorialized these murders, but it fails to note that most of these deaths are of transkids, not their older and far more numerous AGP “sisters”.  Note that most of these murders are perpetrated by younger men… and their victims are mostly young transwomen.

Perhaps a couple more random examples that have stuck in my mind, to illustrate my point? In 1978, the transkid community in Los Angeles was saddened and horrified to learn of the death and mutilation of a young transwoman whose body was found in a dumpster with her (silicone enhanced) breasts slashed.  It was understood that she was to be seeing a new beau that evening.  About a decade ago, a young transwomen was murdered at a party in the San Francisco East Bay Area by a group of young men, several of whom it was later learned, had had erotic encounters with her before they had learned of her pre-op status.

I used to be confused by the motives of the young men who perpetrated these horrible crimes.  But one late night drive in my car, I chanced to tune in a talk radio show in which the topic was transsexuals. Led by a ‘phobic shock jock, his callers revealed their anger and hatred of young transwomen, especially pre-op transkids, who had “fooled” them into dating them.  Listening carefully, I learned that their reactions were driven by a very special form of “homosexual panic”.  The classic “homosexual panic” is created in insecure straight men when a gay man shows romantic or erotic interest in them.  The thought that then goes through their mind is, “oh my god… a gay man thought I might be gay too!”  But, though the anger and hatred may be great, it isn’t nearly the threat to an insecure man that the certain knowledge that, in the case of a cute transwomen, they had without any doubt been romantically and erotically attracted to a male bodied person, “oh my god, I’m turned on by a guy!”  The violence that that realization evokes is explosive and unreasoning.  Add to it young men in groups, men who need to prove to themselves and their buddies that they aren’t “fags”… perhaps add some alcohol or other mild intoxicant, the result is one or more beaten and dead young transwoman.

Of course, none of the above has been corroborated by careful study.  So, to any researchers who may find my blog, I suggest the following protocol to test my hypothesis.  Present to two groups of young heterosexual men a photo of a very attractive young woman.  Ask them to write an essay on what a perfect first date with this woman might entail.  Half of the men you then inform that that the woman was “actually a boy who is hoping to “get a sex change” but is still pre-op”, the other half do nothing.  Then test both groups for implicit anger and animosity to transwomen and gay men, as well as their feelings about their own sexuality.  I’m betting that the group who is told that their “dream date” woman is a transsexual will exhibit a great deal more anger, transphobia, homophobia, and sexual orientation anxiety.

If I’m right, we can contrast this experience with transphobic discrimination experienced by older AGP transwomen.  Not to put too much of a fine point on it… ummm… lets be honest, fewer of them inspire as much erotic interest in younger men, the men most likely to perpetrate these crimes.  Fewer of them will date any man without that man knowing their full medical history, given the statistically known fact that few of them live “deep stealth” or successfully pass well enough.  All of this on top of the fact that most AGP transsexual women will have no interest in flirting with and dating any men.

Thus, when we subtract the number of older AGP transwomen, we can infer that more than one in twelve MTF transkids is murdered, and their greatest risk exposure is when they are fairly young.  Given that more transkids are people of color than AGP, this risk is also falling disproportionately upon transwomen of color, as noted by Shelby Chestnut in Matthew Fleischer’s story on Islan Nettles,

“If nothing else, Chestnut hopes Nettles’ death will bring to light the tremendous violence faced by transgender women—particularly transgender women of color.  Seventy-two percent of anti-LGBT murders in America affected people of color and 53 percent of those were transgender women”, Chestnut said.  “The only way to end anti-LGBT violence is to keep talking about it and let the public know that incidents like the one that left Nettles dead are hardly uncommon, Chestnut said. Victims of hate violence also need to have the courage to come forward and tell their stories.  Reporting violence helps end violence,” says Chestnut. “Unless we know where violence is occurring, we can’t do outreach in the area. We can’t reach out to the general public know that anti-LGBT violence shouldn’t be tolerated.”

I would add that it’s time that the larger LGBT community recognize that there are two types of transwomen, and that our lives, as transkids, including our risks of transphobic violence, are quite different.

References:

http://news.yahoo.com/transgender-woman-dies-beating-front-nypd-precinct-201642369.html

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/08/11/jamaica-transgender-teen-murdered-by-mob/2639995/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/20/russian-transgender-woman-beaten_n_3779723.html

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Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on May 30, 2013

♫♫Did Galileo pray?♫♫  – Ellis Paul

I’ve received a number of emails from a number of folks who have read and understood the implications of the science that I report on here, many of whom thanked me for writing about it in such a way as to allow it to be accessible and understandable.  To them, I’m glad you found the material of use.

On the other hand, nearly everyone one of them also reported that they had noticed that when discussing the science, they find that many disagree with the theory, and often deny that the phenomena that led to it even exists!  I will never be able to reach outright denialists.  If one does not even acknowledge that there are male  individuals who are autogynephilic, then one can’t begin to consider a theory of how that leads to gender dysphoria and transsexuality, and even less to the observation that exclusively androphilic MTF transwomen do not experience autogynephilia!  But, I do think it would be instructive to catalog, deconstruct, and respond to many of the objections to the two type theory.

{NOTE:  If you are coming into the middle of this and are not familiar with the two type theory please start with my FAQ}

The most common objection that I have heard is that “everyone” has rejected this theory.  Of course, by “everyone”, when queried, turns out to be most MTF transwomen on their discussion board.  This is the weakest argument one could imagine.  Consider that when Nikolai Kopernik (Nickolaus Copernicus in Latin) first proposed the heliocentric model of what we now call the “solar system”, and when Galileo Galilei’s observations supported it, it was vehemently rejected since “everyone” knew that the Earth was the center of the universe.  Truth by Popularity is  a common logical fallacy.

One commenter on a Reddit discussion had the temerity to pronounce that the scientific community and examined the theory and shown it to be wrong.  Fortunately, a very world wise woman answered simply, “Liar!”.  The scientific community that has any interest in the field has been steadily testing and showing that the data supports the theory and has been suggesting further studies to test Blanchard’s prediction concerning brain morphology.  {See my essays on Brain Sex}  Lying about the science isn’t considered a valid debating tactic.

Another common gambit is to say that their own personal story, their narrative, proves the theory is wrong.  Sorry, but sexology scientists aren’t terribly interested in what individual people’s narratives are, but what they, collectively, actually do.  Fans of the TV show “House” will recognize the eponymous character’s favorite catch phrase, “Everyone lies.”  Science depends on data; the plural of anecdote is not data.  The data clearly shows that the majority of non-exclusively androphilic MTF transwomen readily admit to having experienced autogynephilia while the majority of (self-reported) exclusively androphilic do not.  {See my essay on Social Desirability Bias for further info on unreliability of individual narratives}

Another tactic I’ve seen is to call into question the character and motivations of those who are doing the research or those that are writing about the science.  {See Alice Dreger’s research into the disgraceful persecution of Prof. J. Michael Bailey}  This is a combination of the ad hominem attack and the Genetic Fallacy, wherein one attempts to refute an augment based on who supports it.  Sorry, but shooting the messenger won’t change the reality underneath the science.  Once a hypothesis is known to the scientific community, the proposer is given credit for having done so, but after that, s/he no longer “owns” it.  Anyone can attempt to refute it, test it, and even modify it to fit reality.  That is exactly what has been happening the past three decades.  The Kurt Freund/ Ray Blanchard two type hypothesis has met every test that has been conducted to date.  {See my essays on supporting the Two Type Hypothesis}

An odd comment made on one of the Wikipedia pages regarding the theory made much of the language that Blanchard used in describing the process by which a scientist makes observations of a phenomena, makes a hypothesis, and then submits it to tests, perhaps by themselves, but certainly by others, and how that develops into a theory.  But the commenter deliberately distorted Blanchard’s acknowledgement that in science, ALL hypothesis and even theories are considered tentative, subject to ongoing tests and modifications, and even outright replacement, if found wrong, as somehow evidence that Blanchard was backing away from the theory, as though he may no longer support it.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  He believes that the theory is solid.  However, this is actually another example of the Genetic Fallacy, one arguing (if wrongly in this case) that the originator no longer supports the argument’s premise.  Again, once a hypothesis is proposed, no one “owns” it.

The most amazing argument that I’ve heard tell is that the theory is “pseudo-science”.  Most of those that utter this do not actually have a clear idea how to define what is and is not good science much less what would constitute “pseudo-science”.  But for the reader that wants to seriously consider this question, I strongly recommend the Wikipedia entry on the subject.  In it not only will one read what philosophers have suggested as solutions to the “demarcation problem”, one will also read the observation that many times when this accusation is made, it is groundless and motivated by a desire to devalue real science that is unacceptable to the accuser.  This clearly applied here as many who would be recognized as fitting the typical profile for autogynephilic transsexuality vehemently deny both being autogynephilic and the theory that describes how it operates to motivate non-exclusively androphilic males to seek somatic feminization.  However, the accusation can and should be directly refuted.

The most popular marker cited to argue that the Freund/Blanchard two type theory is “pseudo-science” is Karl Popper’s test that valid scientific hypothesis should be refutable.  Popper pointed out that Sigmund Freud’s theories of mind couldn’t be refuted because by definition his subconscious mind’s parts could never be directly accessed.  But the Freund/Blanchard hypotheses are based on directly observable phenomena, namely sexual arousal behavior.  Autogynephilia, gynephilia, androphilia, etc. are all observable sexual arousal patterns that may be observed both internally, and externally.  We can refute the theory (in theory) by simply finding that it isn’t true that most non-exclusively androphilic MTF transwomen experience autogynephila and/or that exclusively androphilic transwomen do experience autogynephilia.  This has been tested by a number of investigators and found to support the hypothesis.  But even if these investigators had not found support for the hypothesis, the mere fact that they can attempt to refute it puts the lie to the accusation of it being pseudo-science.

Addendum 6/4/2013:

I find it interesting to learn that researchers and educators in other fields have had similar experiences.  You may wish to read a wonderful blog entry by another scientist and educator, Steven Novella M.D., “Science by Intimidation

Many researchers get out of or stay away from controversial topics to avoid such attacks. These thuggery tactics have an effect – they stifle research and public discourse.

At the very least when people do engage in such activity they should be called on it. They should be made to answer for their thuggery and intimidation. Further, institutions need to recognize what is happening and stand by their scientists and educators.

I also hope that by discussing this phenomenon people will understand the psychology better and perhaps be less susceptible to being sucked into such groups.

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What is a Transsexual?

Posted in Science Criticism by Kay Brown on April 14, 2013

♫♫She Blinded Me with…  Science…♫♫

Science vs nonsense

In this entry, I’m going to try, real, hard, to explain the science behind what I’ve been writing about here for the past three and some years.  I’m going to try to break it down, telling the story of how it all works… and answer the various questions of the two type taxonomy doubters.

The story begins some years ago, when medical and psychology researchers tried to make sense of those individuals who were requesting ‘sex changes’.  They kept getting confused because the Male-To-Female transsexuals didn’t seem to have just one clinical presentation, one life story.  So, some of them tried to create profiles and categories, usually trying to squeeze them all into an already familiar theoretical framework.  A few people found several “types”, some found only two.  But why?  Shouldn’t there be only one?  Some decided that one of the types was a “true” transsexual, and the others a “pseudo” transsexual, or there was one “primary” and the others “secondary”.  Others found two, but called one type “early onset” and another “late onset”, almost as though there were only one type, but with two different symptomology patterns.

For more information see my essay on this early confusion.

But what was the meaning of this?  Many researchers agreed that one set was strictly “homosexual” with respect to their natal sex, transitioned very young, was feminine since childhood, and the other group was heterosexual, had “fetishistic transvestism” and transitioned much later in life.  Thus was born the hypothesis that was first fully articulated and tested by Kurt Freund, that MTF transsexuals always present with one of two unusual sexual interests, “homosexuality” or “femmiphilic fetishism”.  His concept of “femmiphilic fetishism” was that transsexuals “fetishized” both wearing female clothing and other aspects of simulating being like a woman.  He conducted a study in which he divided the MTF transwomen into two groups based on a questionnaire that statistically separated them into mostly heterosexual and mostly homosexual.  Then asked the BIG question, “Do you find wearing women’s clothing sexually arousing?”  He got a very strong statistical signal that said, yes, the mostly heterosexual group was far more likely to be sexually aroused by wearing women’s clothing than the mostly homosexual group.  This was the state of affairs in the late ’70s.

Enter a very bright and personable younger protegee of Kurt Freund’s, Ray Blanchard.  Starting with Freund’s basic hypothesis, he tested a further hypothesis using a modification to Freund’s questionnaire that placed androphilia on one axis and gynephilia on another axis, rather than as polar opposites along a single line.  This allows one to separate the asexual and bisexual individuals from the strongly heterosexual and homosexual, following up on a hunch that Freund’s method tended to lump half the asexual and bisexual individuals into each of the two other groups.  Thinking about it ahead of time, there is no reason to believe that bisexuals or asexuals would be more or less likely to be sexually aroused by wearing women’s clothing, cross-dressing.  But Blanchard had been talking to a number of candidates for surgery and noted that some who reported that they were not sexually aroused by cross-dressing were aroused by imagining themselves to be female.  So he asked about this same behavior of those who did report sexual arousal to cross-dressing and found that it was universal.  Freund was right, but it wasn’t simple fetishism… but something else… for which Blanchard coined the term “autogynephilia”.  In talking to individuals who were, using this new term, autogynephilic, he developed a new hypothesis, that if a male was gender dysphoric and not exclusively “homosexual” with respect to natal sex, then that individual would be autogynephilic.  This sounds like it is the same as Freund’s, and in a way it is, but it expands it slightly because it predicts that asexual and bisexual MTF transwomen would be autogynephilic.  Interestingly, he found that it  was true.  The data supported this hypothesis.

Having outlined the basic hypothesis, lets describe the two types of MTF transwomen.  If we take these differences between the two groups, and the similarities within each group, we can create a description of the “prototypical” member of each.  While no one individual will conform to the prototype in all respects, it still has explanatory value to describe each.

The prototypical MTF transkid / feminine androphilic (“homosexual”) MTF transsexual (HSTS) was called a “sissy” by her peers growing up.  She avoided rough & tumble activities.  Her primary social circle consisted of one or two girls.  She actively participated in girls games and imaginary play.  Her parents were embarrassed by her femininity, and may or may not have sought professional help in trying to discourage her behavior.  As a young teen, she became interested in girls fashion and make-up, often exploring how she might look as a girl by dressing up and experimenting with make-up, with occasional trips out shopping or hanging out with her friends.  This did not, of course, involve erotic cross-dressing.  She had crushes on boys at school.  Her peers thought she might be homosexual.  She was hassled, perhaps even bullied, by homophobic boys, but otherwise was reasonably popular in her chosen circle.  She was considered very neat and well dressed in boy’s clothes.  She sought out opportunities to interact with small children and infants, taking on babysitting jobs.  As she approached adulthood, looking at her own nature, her potential future, both romantic and economic, made a rational decision to transition to living as a girl so as to grow up to be a woman socially.  Her family may or may not have disowned her in late adolescence.  As she is naturally feminine and passes quite well, she found that she was socially and romantically more successful as a woman.  She actively dated men while pre-op, but assiduously avoided direct contact with her penis, finding that emotionally uncomfortable.  Being young and lacking capital, she lived several years as a woman, taking feminizing hormones, before having SRS to improve her sex life, replacing genitalia that she didn’t use with those that she did.  She may or may not have found a husband and adopted children.

The prototypical autogynephilic transsexual (AGP TS = non-HSTS) was accepted as a boy as a child.  She was often a “loner”, finding her hobbies and reading to be more rewarding, but still willing and ready to participate in rough & tumble play.  She often envied girls and observed them more often than most masculine boys.  As she entered puberty, she began erotic cross-dressing in private, often masturbating while dressed, usually with lingerie.  She found this shameful and hid her cross-dressing as best she could.  She entertained thoughts of living as a woman, often in very idealized situations.  As a young adult, she dated women, often finding it necessary to imagine that she was female to “perform”.  She typically hid this fact from her dates.  In an effort to deny her autogynephilic desire for femininity, she may have chosen to pursue a stereotypically masculine, or even hyper-masculine, career such as the military.  She fell in love and found that the previously growing desire to live as a woman abated for a while.  She married and had children.  Her need to cross-dress and use autogynephilic ideation then grew, as the first blush of their romance matured into committed love.  She agonized about it obsessively, trying alternatively to push it out of her thoughts and trying to appease it by cross-dressing.  She chose to dress and groom herself in stereotypically and unmistakably masculine fashion, with perhaps even a full beard.  At one point, perhaps in her early 30s, or in her late 50s, a set-back or other significant personal change brought all of these feelings to the fore… and she made the fateful decision that she could no longer ignore her sexuality.  After having tried to ignore the cognitive dissonance between her successful social identity as a man, husband, and father, and her obligatory autogynephilic image of being female, concluded that the female image is her “true” self.  She then made steps to begin counseling with a gender therapist, obtained prescription for feminizing hormones, began electrolysis and other procedures to effect a more feminine appearance, and then began the painful steps to living full time socially as a “transsexual”, since she didn’t pass very well and had too many social connections who know of her previous status as a man to be truly stealth.  She had SRS within a short time of nominally living as a woman, as she was impatient, feeling like she had waited long enough in her previous life as a man.  Her wife may or may not have demanded a divorce.

From here on in, rather than try to keep to a linear timeline, a history of the science, it may be more instructive to ignore the actual history and imagine a group of scientists who support the theory and a group of doubters, who like the disclaimer in the movies, are all fictional and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.  These groups may interact and have a dialog, along the way to discovering and testing the hypothesis and theory so far presented, and perhaps discover more detail and corollaries.

Every new discovery should have a new theory to explain why it works that way.  So Freund and Blanchard searched for one.  The theory that resulted is that autogynephilia is part of a set of phenomena, that when grouped together, is called Erotic Target Location Error (ETLE).  This lumps autogynephilia in with autopedophilia and pedovestism, sexual arousal at the thought of being a child and dressing like a child respectively, known in the ‘scene’ as “age play”.  It also lumps autogynephilia with amputation “wannabees” and “pretenders”, people who are sexually aroused by the thought of being or becoming an amputee or of pretending to be an amputee.  The basic theory of Erotic Target Location Errors is that for every conventional erotic target, there is a subset of people who also find the thought of being or becoming a member of that class of erotic target to be sexually arousing.  Thus, an individual who is attracted to amputees, a “devotee” who also has an ETLE will also “pretend” and if it is very strong, will also be a “wannabee”.  In this theory, the ETLE is both dependent upon and in competition with the conventional erotic target.  If the ETLE is stronger at the moment, the individual will be “asexual”, uninterested in other people.  Conversely, if one falls in love with someone, the ETLE may abate, at least for a while.

For more information, see my essay on Erotic Target Location Errors.

This theory also makes another prediction, that gynephilic “pretenders” and “wannabees” will also be very likely autogynephilic, as their erotic target is female amputees, they will want to become female amputees.  This is in fact what was found; fully 50% of “wannabees” were also autogynephilic.

For more information, see my essay on Autogynephilia in Amputee “Wannabees”.

Every valid scientific hypothesis and theory should be repeatable.  An independent group of scientists should be able to repeat a given experiment or observation and find the same result.  Doubters of the two type hypothesis insisted that it couldn’t be repeated, that the data was a fluke.  Some even wondered aloud if the data was cooked up by Blanchard, saying that he was a charlatan, a fake, a liar, with an ax to grind, that he didn’t like transsexuals and was out to hurt them.  But theories were meant to be tested and repeated.  So a number of scientists, both supporters and skeptics, repeated the studies of MTF transsexuals, asking if they experienced autogynephilia.  Here are the results:

“Type”     Nuttbrock  Smith    Lawrence     Blanchard

Year                  2009     2005         2005           1985

HSTS                    23%       15%           18%             15%

Non-HSTS         73%       60%          56%             75%

Each study was not identical in their method of categorizing someone as either ” exclusively homosexual transsexual” or “non-homosexual” nor identical in the questionnaire that was used to ask about autogynephilia.  For example, Lawrence, in the data above, made the autogynephilia cut at “hundreds” of incidents of arousal to masturbation during cross-dressing.  When she counts all such incidents, 87% of her non-HSTS respondents indicated that they were autogynphilic.  But all of them had roughly the same trend in the data, most “non-homosexual” transwomen acknowledge experiencing autogynephilia while only a few self-reported “homosexual” transsexuals do.  Blanchard’s original data was repeatable.  Blanchard didn’t make up the data.  No one was in any kind of conspiracy, as some doubters have claimed.  In fact, the Nuttbrock group would have loved to have proved him wrong.

Oh, but now our doubters point to the data and show that it isn’t 0% vs. 100%.  So… this theory can’t be right!  Some suggest that there might be another type of transsexual, one that is neither “homosexual” nor autogynephilic.  Others suggest that autogynephilia occurs in both “homosexual” and “non-exclusively-homosexual”.  Those scientists who are familiar with psychological, especially sexological, studies know that not everyone answers the questionnaires accurately, for different reasons.  So they could accept these strong, repeatable, trends on face value.  But, a curious scientist digs deeper.

Anne Lawrence looked at the answers she got from her questionnaires very carefully, suspecting that not everyone answered fully honestly, especially about their sexuality and found,

“six participants classified as homosexual based on their pattern of sexual partnering before SRS reported experiencing autogynephilic arousal before SRS. Two of these participants, both of whom reported “hundreds of episodes or more” of autogynephilic arousal before SRS, had been married to women and had been biologic parents before SRS, suggesting that their reports of no female sexual partners before SRS were inaccurate. Two other homosexual participants, both of whom also reported “hundreds of episodes or more” of autogynephilic arousal, had not been married and had not been biologic parents; one, age 33 at time of SRS, reported only one male partner before SRS; the other, age 44 at time of SRS, reported multiple male partners before SRS. The remaining 2 homosexual participants, both ages 38, reported autogynephilic arousal only “once or twice” before SRS; both reported multiple male partners before SRS and one also reported MtF transgendered partners.  Seven other participants who were classified as homosexual based on their self-reported pattern of sexual attraction before SRS but not on the basis of their pattern of sexual partnering before SRS also reported autogynephilic sexual arousal before SRS. Four of these 7 participants had been married, and 2 of these 4 had been biologic parents; only 1 reported any male sexual partners before SRS. Of the remaining 3 participants, 2 reported no sexual partners before SRS, and 1 reported multiple male, female, and MtF transgendered partners before SRS.”

For this reason, Lawrence looked at the original Smith data and recategorized those who had been married to women but reported their sexuality as “homosexual” to “non-homosexual” and got a stronger statistical signal, which I reported above.

For more information see my essay on Lawrence recategorizing subjects.

Thus, respondents were not accurately reporting their true sexual orientation.  Blanchard had similar suspicions about the reported sexual orientations and about the less than 100% reported autogynephilia in his non-HSTS group, so he did a study to look at the issue of social desirability bias, the tendency for people to respond to questionnaires with answers that they personally believe will make them “look good”.  Using the Crowne-Marlow Social Desirability Scale he found that in non-HSTS subjects, there was a high correlation with wanting to “look good” and down playing autogynephilia and sexual attraction to women, while simultaneously over stating sexual attraction to men.  Knowing this, we can get an increased signal strength when we limit the non-HSTS group to only self-reported exclusively heterosexual and the HSTS group to only teenagers, which in the Nuttbrock group gives us 82% vs 14% respectively.

For more information see my essay on social desirability bias in transsexuals.

There are of course, transwomen, who clearly fit the autogynephilic profile, who deny that they ever felt autogynephilia, but most DO own up to it when questioned.  This denial of sexual arousal to cross-dressing is not limited to transsexuals, it is also found in heterosexual cross-dressers, where only 85% of them admit to arousal, the same percentage as exclusively heterosexual transsexuals.  Blanchard wondered if the ones who denied arousal might simply be mistaken, or denying it due to social desirability bias, so he did a study using a device to measure penile erectile responses.  The results clearly showed that those who denied arousal, DID in fact become aroused when listening to erotic cross-dressing narratives.

Thus, the ‘wriggle room’ for there being a “third type” of transsexual is reduced to ever diminishing possibility as one looks ever closer at the actual people. But then a new group of doubters bring up the idea that perhaps autogynephilia is not the cause of their transsexuality, but an after effect.  But not all autogynephilic males identify as women, in fact, the majority don’t.  Even in those who later transition, female self-identification usually occurs only years after intense erotic cross-dressing or other autogynephilic ideation surfaces in childhood or adolescence.  The case histories, though not necessarily their narratives, of AGP transsexuals strongly suggests that autogynephilia causes gender dysphoria and subsequent female self-identification, not the other way around.

One of the best documentations that autogynephilia is the root cause of non-homosexual transsexuality was done by Doctor and Prince, who showed that cross-gender identification was most commonly preceded by years of autogynephilic cross-dressing, that transvestism and non-homosexual transsexuality are both a continuum and a progression,

“Among our subjects, 79% did not appear in public cross dressed prior to age 20; at that time, most of the subjects had already had several years of experience with cross dressing. The average number of years of practice with cross dressing prior to owning a full feminine outfit was 15. The average number of years of practice with cross dressing prior to adoption of a feminine name was 21. Again, we have factual evidence indicative of the considerable time required for the development of the cross-gender identity.”

Further, consider that those MTF transsexuals who transition earliest, who are the most innately and spontaneously feminine, who one would expect would have the greatest gender dysphoria and strongest “female gender identity” from early childhood,  “homosexual” transsexuals, never develop autogynephilia.

For more information on how the two MTF transsexuals each have different developmental routes read my essay on the Origin of Cross-Gender Identity in Transsexuals.

Faced with ever mounting proof of the fact that autogynephila is a universal and prominent attribute of non-HSTS, a group of doubters put forth the very radical and odd notion that autogynephilia is a normal part of female sexuality.  One doubter, Charles Moser, M.D., whose other scientific and therapeutic interests include bondage, dominance/submission, sadomasachism (BD/SM), etc. did a very small study asking natal women to respond to a questionnaire that was cleverly written to obtain positive answers to ambiguous questions that only superficially resembled questions used in instruments that are only valid for gender dysphoric males.  For example, one question asked if one fantasized about having a “sexier” body?  (One would hardly expect that women would fantasize about having an uglier one!)  Another question asked about becoming aroused while preparing for a sexual encounter with a lover.  (Such arousal would arise due to anticipation, not the mere fact of getting dressed in women’s’ clothing!)  Thus, the paper is of no scientific value in exploring the nature of women’s sexuality.

On a curious side note, there is a correlation between BD/SM in which about one out of three autogynephilic males is also into BD/SM and vice versa.

For more information about this study, see my essay on the lack of validity of Moser’s paper.

While it may be comforting to autogynephilic individuals to imagine that their very unusual and intense sexuality is the same as, or at least similar to, natal women, it is not.  Most women are sexually attracted to their sexual partners.  They are aroused by sexual ideation in which their partner is the significant figure, not themselves, their own appearance, nor their mode of dress, which, if present, is of a supporting, rather than leading role.

Finally, another hypothesis is put forth by doubters, despite their obvious lack of naturally feminine behavior, that they are still neurologically “female-like”, at least in some important way, the so called, “feminine essence” or “brain sex” hypothesis.  Blanchard, in response, made the prediction that brain studies would show that BOTH populations would be different than control males, but in different ways.  He further made the prediction that HSTS brains would be shifted toward the female morphology in sexually dimorphic areas of the brain, while AGP transsexuals would not.

The first major paper that was hailed as “proof” that late transitioning, non-homosexual, transsexuals had female-like brains was Swaab’s study that showed that the BSTc was feminized in such transsexuals.  But Swaab himself later showed that the BSTc was only sexually dimorphic in adulthood.  That is to say, that this area is very plastic, responding to sex hormones, the sexually dimorphic structure being an “activation effect”, casting serious doubt on the value of the entire study, that it was very likely that years of HRT was fully responsible for the feminization of the BSTc.  The next “proof” was the hypothalamic uncinate nucleus, INAH3, that also was feminized in non-homosexual transsexuals.  However, as I personally showed, this too was caused by HRT.  Other studies, too numerous to list individually here, are beginning to show that Blanchard’s prediction is correct.

For more information, see my list of essays on Brain Sex.

There will always be doubters and outright denialists.  But to those who read the literature carefully and yes, skeptically, the growing evidence that the Freund/Blanchard two type taxonomy is correct far outweighs the doubts.

You may wish to continue reading about answering the doubters and denialists in my essay, Don’t Shoot the Messenger.

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