…or how to confuse fact and fiction
One of the things that drives me nuts in trying to have a conversation with anyone on the topic of the two type topology of transsexual etiology is that those that oppose it confuse theory and phenomena, often trying to paint the presentation of autogynephilia, which is an observable phenomena, as “merely a theory”. This reminds me greatly of the tactic of Creationists, to paint the observable phenomena, “evolution” as “only a theory”! Seriously, one first observes phenomena, then develops a theory that places this phenomena into a greater picture of how it operates and interrelates to other observed phenomena.
For example, we observe that all mass objects here on earth “fall down”. We observe that big objects in space orbit each other. Two phenomena, one theory, gravity. Through much observation, testing, calculation, etc. Newton developed his “Universal Theory of Gravity” which stated that all masses attract all other masses proportionally to their masses and inversely proportionally to the square of their distances. The theory has a predictive power. This is an important point of science. A theory should have both the ability to explain the already observed phenomena and to predict other, potentially as yet, unobserved phenomena, so that we can test this theory. In the case of Newton’s gravity, that seemed to pass all tests until the early 20th Century when the orbit of Mercury didn’t agree perfectly… but a new theory of gravity, called “General Relativity” proposed by Albert Einstein, did explain all previously observed phenomena, including the issue of the orbit of Mercury. Plus, it made a rather startling new prediction, one that could only be observed when a solar eclipse was observed, that the light of distant stars would be bent by the intense gravity found near the surface of the sun. This was observed, and General Relativity became the new and improved theory to understand how gravity behaved.
So, back to autogynephilia. This is an observed phenomena. NOT a theory. I’ve already explained how one hypothesis has met several tests… that there are two types of transsexuals who have been shown statistically to have certain common traits with-in each type and two correlated and mutually exclusive traits. As a reminder, those traits that correlate are gynephilia and autogynephilia. The traits that are anti-correlated are exclusive androphilia and autogynephilia.
This correlation leads to proposing another hypothesis, namely, that for autogynephilia to exist, there must be an underlying gynephilia. For someone who is androphilic, there is no existing gynephilia to lead to autogynephilia. The data would support this hypothesis extremely well. In fact, as I have shown in my earlier post, analyzing Leavitt and Berger’s study, that correlation is very, very high… perhaps showing an effect size that is higher than many experimental results in psychology that are accepted and not considered in any way controversial. Just to remind ourselves just how strong the effect size is, let’s revisit the data, looking at only the issue of reported autogynephilia and a history of sex with females:
AGP: 6.7% 33.3% 50%
Sex w/f: 0% 33.3% 58%
This data, as all real data sets, is expected to have some “noise” in it. That is, real human lives are messy. We all have things that make us a little different than anybody else in the world. But, this data set is amazing in that the groupings were made on an entirely different basis, yet we discover, that the more transsexuals that are in a group that have had sex with women, the more that group will have transsexuals that also report being autogynephilic. Further, the ratio, from the data, is nearly one to one. Again, given the noise, and the relatively small number of subjects (n=81), this is an amazingly strong correlation. I feel perfectly confident that we can now create the “formula” that for a transsexual to be AGP, they must also have gynephilia. As I already pointed out in my earlier post, another hypothesis is that for a gynephilic male to be “transsexual”, that male must also be autogynephilic.
So, that’s a testable and now tested hypothesis. But not quite a theory. The theory which has been developed is that autogynephilia is related to another phenomena in a theory called “Erotic Target Location Error”. Although, perhaps the word “error” is both unnecessary and potentially judgmental. I would have suggested “auto-mapped”, that is that the erotic target is mapped back onto the self, which is both accurate, descriptive, and free of pre-judgment. So, how does this larger theory fit?
The theory of Erotic Target Location Error states that there is an independent dimension to erotic desire in which for each erotic target that is observed in the human population, there will be those minority of people who will remap that erotic target back onto themselves. That is, if there are men that are attracted to women, there will be a small minority of them that remap that image onto themselves, i.e., exhibit autogynephilic arousal. That also means that if one is attracted to something as esoteric as amputees, there will be a smaller group who will also remap that onto themselves, and exhibit the erotic desire to appear to be, or actually be, amputees. This is in fact observed.
Shown below is a table of a few possible erotic targets and their associated Erotic Target Location Error behaviors:
So, according to this theory, we can explain the appearance of apotemnophilia, the erotic desire to become an amputee. It also explains the appearance of pedovestism (erotically dressing as children), and the erotic desire to surgically alter one’s appearance to more closely approximate that of a child’s (Michael Jackson comes to mind). It also predicts the appearance of autoandrophilia in men. This last one was suggested as possibly being found in body-building gay men, but it would be difficult to detect and differentiate from simple desire to better one’s sexual appeal to other gay men. However, Lawrence has found an example and published his case history:
This theory also predicts the existence of autoandrophilia in female bodied people. It has been noted that female bodied people are much less likely to show any sort of “other” sexuality, when compared to male bodied people. However, in large numbers, we should be able to find examples… and in fact we do. There have been any number of documented cases of female transvestism, erotic cross-dressing in very masculine clothing. There is also the interesting phenomena of “transfags”, Female-to-Male (FtM) transsexuals who are primarily interested in men. Although considerably less numerous than gynephilic MtF TS, they do exist. Further, studies show that they, in an exact mirror parallel with their autogynephilic MTF counter-parts, show greater femininity in childhood than their gynephilic FtM compatriots, etc.
On a personal note, I have personally met and conversed with over a dozen such autoandrophilic FtM transsexuals since first encountering one in 1977. Although the plural of anecdote is not data, these conversations have convinced me that they are indeed the mirror of the far more common AGP MTF transsexual. And in the case of two of them, in a conversation in 1996, in company with a masculine gynephilic FtM, independently noted the similarity of themselves to AGP MTFs, and the similarity of the gynephilic FtM and myself, using the terms, “early” vs. “late” transitioning, how refreshingly honest and insightful, compared to today’s near universal denial found in the AGP TS community.
…or slight of hand with statistics
One of the critics of Blanchard’s work, Madeline H. Windzen, challenged his research by misrepresenting how statistics works in science. Most people are rightly suspicious of statistics, not having been exposed to it as part of their education, save perhaps, learning to calculate simple odds. Goodness knows how many times is it misused to mislead consumers in commercials for example. However, Windzen mislead by playing to that suspicion, by setting up a false straw man to be knocked down:
On the linked page, she sets up a hypothetical data set that has easily differentiable clusters on a two dimensional graph. After explaining how easy it would be to differentiate them in her hypothetical graph, she then shows us Blanchard’s actual data, then, with a slight of hand, asks us to draw the wrong conclusion, that there are no clusters, nor differences between categories in the data!
“But, wait! Isn’t she right? That seems to make sense to me,” you might say.
No, it isn’t right.
Let’s set up another case… a real world case. Let’s consider a histogram, a graph of how many people are a given height. If we were to plot this, we would find a classic “bell curve” centered on 5’7″ tall (at least for adults living in the U.S.). There are no obvious clusters present in the graph, as only one peak is present. But consider, people come in two sexes. If we plot the two sexes on the same graph, we find that we now have two new bell curves centered on 5’4″ for women and 5’10” for men. These two curves also over lap a great deal. Also consider, that if we add those two graphs together, we, by definition, get the first curve. In other words, those two curves are “hidden” in the first. but we know its in there.
Knowing something about these hidden curves, we can make some statements about using the first curve. For example, if we know that someone is 5’7″ tall, the probability, the odds, that someone is a man or a woman is exactly half, 50%. We know that if someone is taller than 5’7″, the odds that they are a man are greater than 50%, if shorter than 5’7″, the odds are less than 50%. The further away from 5’7″, the greater the odds for one sex over the other.
Thus, mathematically, statistically, we can use the original curve to create statistical correlations with other data, that can be correlated with yet other data. For example, if we find that the shorter a human being is, the longer they live, as a group, we can also say, with some statistical probability that since shorter humans are more likely to be female, then we can also say, that female humans are more likely to live longer. Thus, we can use a data set that would appear to have no discernible clusters to learn something about two very real categories of people… even though we can’t draw neat little boxes around the groups.
This is the case with Blanchard’s data set. We actually have two very real and different groups, that overlap in the graph. There is one group, whose scores center on +12, -6 on the graph, while the other group is quite literally all over the map! The scores of the autogynephilic category is very very noisy, while the feminine androphilic category is tightly clustered. So, if we make an arbitrary grouping, centered on +12, -6, we will find that we have a higher chance that individuals with that score are feminine androphilic type than any other area on the graph. We know that we will get some individuals who are AGP inside of the cluster, and we know we will leave some feminine androphilic transsexuals outside of the cluster. But, we know that we have a higher probability that a given individual will be feminine androphilic inside, and a higher probability that a given individual will be AGP on the outside. Thus, we can now, statistically learn things about the two groups, differentiate their characteristics.
From the differences between the groups thus determined, we learn that only 10% of the individuals scoring near +12,-6 reported erotic cross-dressing and autogynephilic ideation, while those outside of this cluster in all three of the other quadrants, a much much higher percentage reported autogynephilic arousal. Thus, we know that the instrument is not that good at separating the two types, just as height is not that good at separating the sexes, but both instruments, Blanchard’s Modified Androphilia & Gynephilia Scales and the yard stick work well enough to let us statistically say things about the groups in question.
So, back to Windzen. She clearly is an intelligent and knowledgeable educator. So, why did she not explain, properly explain, how statistics is used in general, and how Blanchard used them in particular, to learn, about the two types? Instead, she questioned why he didn’t use another method, letting the reader wonder if it was really Blanchard who was pulling the statistical slight of hand? In fact, she knows, but failed to report, that Blanchard had actually used a another, equally valid software tool that is designed to find such “latent clusters”, to find the best way to draw the lines around possible clusters in the data. He did the best he could with the data he had… but Windzen suggests otherwise. Why did she pull such an intellectual sleight of hand?
Perhaps it is because she thinks she can? How many people understand that their chances of being struck and killed by lightning are greater than their chance of winning their state’s lottery!
So, far from bringing Blanchard’s work into question, and certainly even further from “debunking” it as I’ve read some bloggers claim, Windzen has only made us question her.
(Addendum 11/21/2013: Blanchard’s observations discussed here have been repeated by several more recent studies, which I have written about else where. You may wish to read further on my essay What is a Transsexual?)
… or at least of mistaken theory.
Case histories are often used in the medical, psychological, and therapeutic literature to explore and illustrate more general concepts. Reading such case histories sometimes allows us to reinterpret the case, come to different conclusions. Consider the case histories posted by Anne Vitale, a therapist specializing in gender issues:
In this first case history, her client, “S”, had been living as a woman for approximately twenty years, but recently entered a relationship with a straight woman. To please the new girlfriend, this AGP transsexual ‘de-transitioned’ to living as a man and began taking male hormone, testosterone. The use of testosterone is known to increase libido, which was the desired effect. However, with the use of testosterone came the desire to cross-dress, largely defeating the purpose for taking the testosterone, that of increasing his partner’s approval of him.
In case #2, an internet correspondent reported essentially the same effect:
“That’s the third time I’ve taken testosterone and every time I’ve had overwhelming desires to present myself as a female.”
In both cases, testosterone increased the libido, which in turn increased autogynephilic desire. These cases are very easy to interpret and understand if one understands the nature of autogynephilic desire and arousal as an essential part of their sexuality. Increasing libido simply increases the expression of their sexuality which is autogynephilic.
However, quite inexplicably, Dr. Vitale, who clearly knows about the autogynephilic model from her reading of the literature, proposes a new model of “testosterone toxicity” to explain the effects. All jokes about “testosterone poisoning” aside, this model fails Occam’s razor; Autogynephilia easily explains these two cases.
This brings us to the topic of gender therapists in general. Given the natural predisposition of the type of people who enter this field to want to help relieve the suffering in their clients, there is a danger that they may begin to accept, uncritically, the narratives that their clients present. It is doubtful that the therapists are completely fooled, but over time, failure to directly question AGP individuals on the nature and consequences of their sexuality has led to unquestioned acceptance of the “hidden feminine gender identity” model, and even of the more unlikely model of female brain sex etiology for clearly masculine, heterosexual male’s desire for somatic feminization. This unquestioning acceptance does not serve their clients’ best interests.
The widely held conception that transsexuals suffer from a disturbance of gender identity is at best only a secondary effect. The cause must necessarily be different for autogynephilic (AGP) and young transitioning (feminine androphilic transsexuals ) Transkids, as their etiologies are unrelated. Clearly, almost all people do identify as members of one or the other social gender, nearly always congruently with their biological sex. But does that necessarily mean that self identification with a given social gender is directly the result of biological brain sex as many transsexuals claim?
Human beings are not computers, with an unchangeable Read Only Memory that includes an ID serial number and name. Instead, we must learn, or create, our identities as individuals. Likewise there is no innate neural circuit that may be unambiguously read out that indicates one’s gender. Instead, we must infer this from the outside. But many MTF transsexuals, most of whom are clearly male and masculine in both behavior and appearance before (and most often after) transition declare that they do have a sense of having an innate “female gender identity” despite all appearances to the contrary. This seeming contradiction with the experience of the rest of human society begs explanation.
Children naturally gender segregate, play in same-sex groups, beginning around age three. By age five, this preference is pronounced. This segregation appears to be based on play style compatibility [Moller & Serbin]. These play styles are not simply based on toy preference or sex role stereotyping, but on differences of social skills and interaction. Girls are self-segregating on their “pro-social” interactions, specifically, the use of polite suggestions and acceptance of others’ such polite suggestions, a give and take that seeks to maximize social harmony, while boys make direct demands and are disruptive [Moller & Serbin]. Feminine boys are noted to prefer female playmates around the same age. These boys may also be searching out playmates with compatible play styles, as “boys play too rough” [Green]. The girls may in turn be accepting of these feminine boys on this very same basis, as these boys’ evident pro-social skills and play preferences mirror their own.
As children are largely sexually undifferentiated until adolescence, save for genitalia, which remain largely hidden beneath clothing, they must use other clues for gender attribution of their peers. Sex specific clothing serves as one such gendered clue. So does play style and play content preference. For young feminine boys, this latter gendered clue provides strong evidence, to themselves, that they may be better off as girls, may in fact be girls, despite others insistence on their being boys. Feminine boys are notable for their preference for female roles in play acting, being “the mommie” or the “nurse” over being the “daddy”. As these feminine boys may then wish to be considered to be girls by others, so as to enjoy greater social acceptance within their preferred female circle, they may also prefer girls clothing to provide further gender clues that are compatible with their growing awareness of their greater similarity to their female playmates.
Sounds like these boys are headed toward growing up to be a transsexual?
Most such feminine boys do not grow up to be transsexual. They grow up to be feminine gay men. Between the ages of seven and twelve, future gay boys show less femininity as they accommodate to the modern gay male identity [Green].
However, this early experience identifying with her female playmates often is the earliest awareness of a “female gender identity” and of cross-dressing in the very rare child that is to grow up to be a feminine androphilic transsexual; As she grows older, far from becoming less feminine, she becomes more so.
Thus, the source of gender identification and later of social gender identity for feminine androphilic transsexuals is found in the process of comparison of their own personalities and social interactions with the majority of men and women. A transkid observes that she is much more like her female friends, in nearly every respect, and unlike her male associates. She comes to feel that she would be better off as a woman, and after finding greater social ease and acceptance post transition, finds confirmation that indeed she is more comfortable as a woman and enjoys an easy détente with society that accepts her womanly presentation.
In contrast, autogynephilic males do not commonly exhibit feminine behavior and identification as young children. They experience a typically masculine boyhood, choosing and being accepted by other masculine boys as playmates. However, as adults, in transition, they report that they are “women inside”. They insist that all external appearances not withstanding, they have a “hidden female gender identity” that is at odds with their external anatomy and behavior. Where does this seeming contradiction come from?
The most parsimonious hypothesis would be that they are lying. Autogynephilia drives these men to want to feminize their bodies, but the medical system denies access to such procedures unless they lie, confabulate histories that more closely approximate feminine androphilic transsexual histories. Indeed, we know that this was historically true in some, but not all clinics. But since it is no longer true, that AGPs are actively accepted and accommodated in today’s boutique medical care system, the simple prevarication hypothesis cannot provide the full answer.
Most AGP transsexuals are sincere and honest in their assertion that they do experience a definite internal sense of having a “female gender identity”. Assuming that they are not lying, could there be another explanation?
The author has the unusual luck in having known, of having been on friendly terms with, a classmate during Jr. High and High School that transitioned at age 40, as I discussed previously in another post. Most revealingly, when pressed for reasons, MJ said that she knew that he was a “woman inside” because ever since meeting her future wife, she had used, needed, the fantasy that she was a lesbian, a female having sex with another female, while having otherwise conventional heterosexual intercourse. MJ literally equated obligatory autogynophilic ideation with having a “female gender identity”!!!
Conversations with other late transitioning transsexuals reveals similar admissions. If every time an AGP transsexual sees herself, in her mind’s eye, in a sexual situation as obligatorily female, this would provide strong evidence that she is indeed “female inside”. No amount of masculine behavior, manners, or appearance could countermand such an immediate and complete “proof” of her “identity”, once that connection is accepted.
The equation of autogynephilic ideation with “female gender identity” also answers another question regarding AGP transsexual life arcs, the issue of late transitioning. After all, if these individuals had in fact a female gender identity, why then would they wait so long to transition, often after years of marriage and career? The answer is that they did not in fact have such a female gender identity, or even identify with women, at first [Lawrence]. This lack of identification with women often is evidenced by sexism and male chauvinism [Vitale]. They, like the feminine androphilic transsexual, had compared their own personalities and social interactions during childhood and adolescence, with the majority of men and women, and originally found that they best fit in as men, that they were in fact, men. Indeed, this process is likely to be universal in early childhood as to go unnoticed in non-transsexual people [Diamond]. But for the AGP individual in adolescence, a cognitive dissonance is created by the growing awareness of autogynephilic arousal. This may be accommodated by partial or complete cross-dressing in private, perhaps for life. But for those few who experience complete and obligatory autogynephilic ideation as their only means for sexual arousal, the cognitive dissonance between their socially formed identity as men and their internal sexual self-image as female preys on them. This creates a struggle that may be evidenced by a “flight into hypermasculinity” as he tries to fight back the need to be female in erotic situations. As sexuality is notoriously non-refractory, it is the socially formed identity that must buckle if the internal struggle is to be relieved. The result is an acceptance of, and then staunchly defended, sense of a “female gender identity”.
This is not a “gender identity” in the usual sense [Parkinson]. It is instead, an autoerotic body image. But, as the idealized autoerotic body image competes with, is directly contradictory to, the socially formed identity, the inner sense of the difference between the two is blurred for the AGP transsexual. It becomes conceptually easier, far less painful, to accept that she is a woman inside, has always been a woman inside, than to remain consciously aware of the cognitive dissonance between being socially and sexually a masculine man and obligatorily, through no choice of her own, always a woman in her inner sexual life.
Green, Richard, Sexual Identity Conflict in Children and Adults (1974)
Lora C. Moller, Lisa A. Serbin “Antecedents of toddler gender segregation: cognitive consonance, gender-typed toy preferences and behavioral compatibility”, Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, Oct, 1996 http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2294/is_n7-8_v35/ai_19175930/pg_1?tag=artBody;col1
Lawrence, Anne, “Do Some Men Who Desire Sex Reassignment Have a Mental Disorder?”
Vitale, Anne, “Sexism in the Male to Female Transsexual” 1997
Parkinson, Alex, “The Gender Identity Fallacy, How an Irrational Concept Prevents a Rational Understanding of Transsexuality”
Milton Diamond, “Biased-Interaction Theory of Psychosexual Development: “How Does One Know if One is Male or Female?”
Uhmmm, your what hurts?
The word comes from “auto”, meaning ‘self’, “gyne”, meaning ‘female’, and “philia” meaning ‘love’. In other words, the “love of oneself as a woman”. In the simplest analysis, autogynephilia (AGP) is a set of sexual interests and behaviors that includes the more commonly understood term, transvestism. But where transvestites use garments of the opposite sex as aids to their autogynephilic ideation, there are other people who do not use such physical aids. Instead, they may imagine having part or all of their body being or becoming the opposite sex. So, Autogynephilia is to Transvestism as Rectangles are to Squares, simple huh?
OK, enough pussy footing… we know most transvestites are men… so most autogynephilics are men? Well… duh! Although there are women who are autoandrophilic, including transvestism, it’s really really rare. We don’t know why.
But back to autogynephilia, the word literally means the love of oneself as a woman. Although transvestism is the most common expression, it can exist without it. For example, a fairly common AGP sexual fantasy is for a man to imagine oneself as a nude woman. One might also include an admirer in the room, but the focus is on the physical self. One can’t use female garments to aid in a fantasy where one is nude! Blanchard’s study of such AGPs has shown that the more sexually aroused by, focused, a man is on having a vagina, the more likely he is to go onto to transition and request Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS). After all, if an AGP is satisfied by temporarily assuming the clothed form of a woman, the more likely he is to be comfortable with remaining simply a transvestite. But, if one’s sexuality depends on obligatory autogynephilic ideation of being anatomically female, then one grows ever more hungry to realize that fantasy in real life. Of course, both forms of autogynephilic expression often coexist. After all, one could fantasize about being female bodied, underneath that glamorous Versace dress. In sexual relations with their girlfriends and wives, a common fantasy for an autogynephilic man is to imagine that he is a lesbian having sex with his lesbian partner.
I had a friend in Jr. High. Lets call him MJ. MJ was the ugliest boy in the class. No joke, he was. He was also short, clumsy and klutzy. There was nothing feminine about him, though he was quiet and withdrawn. He had a funny way of slurring his words that suggested a birth defect like a split palate. No one liked him, as he seemed to have an invisible sign stuck to his back that read, “kick me”. He tended to drive away potential friends with his tendency to whining and neediness. He could count on one hand people who would be civil to him. I was one of them.
Our freshman year in high school, a group of mischievous “popular” girls set out to play match-maker for one of the girls in school, lets call her JM. JM was the ugliest girl in the class. No joke, she was. JM was loud, boisterous, exuberant, and you couldn’t help but like her. The match-makers settled on my friend MJ as her match, thinking it a funny joke. But the joke was on them… they had indeed made a perfect match. Her outgoing personality brought his personality out. His quiet thoughtfulness calmed and soothed her over-exuberance. They were literally joined at the hip, often walking side by side with a hand in each others’ back pocket. Together, they canceled out the ugly and were the cutest couple on campus… as in the way that really ugly, funny looking dogs are “cute”. They married right after graduation… but I had moved prior to that, so lost touch.
Years spin by…. and I end up back in touch with them, still together. But now, MJ is fawning all over me, saying how “lucky” I was to have transitioned so early… yes… he, at the age of 40, had decided it was high time to transition.
I counseled caution, knowing that he was never going to pass. I asked, “How are you so sure that you are a woman?”
“Because every time we have sex, I have to imagine myself as a lesbian to have any response.”
I was floored! MJ’s “proof” that he was a woman inside was simple autogynephilic ideation. It had worn at him… over the years he first tried to use anti-psychotics, tranquilizers, alcohol… anything to push back the shame that he felt for his sexuality. But with each passing year, the need to do more to include that aspect of his inner life as part of his everyday life grew. First, he wore skirts privately at home. Then in public. Never popular, he drove away all of his remaining friends due to his constant obsessing over whether this meant that he was a woman or a man. Then, at the age of 40, he was asking me for advice about hormones. I told him to see a doc… and looked over his head at poor JM, who though still loving MJ, knew this was the end of their marriage.
JM’s experience is similar to most autogynephilic transsexuals, in that autogynephilia is both a spectrum and a progression from transvestite to transsexual. As an old joke in the transgender community has it: What’s the difference between a transvestite and a transsexual? Two years!
There are five major categories of autogynephilic expression / interests: Transvestic, Anatomic, Behavioral, Interpersonal, and Physiological.
Transvestic, crossdressing to simulate the appearance of a woman, is the most common, or at least visible, type. It is listed in the DSM as “transvestic fetishism” but this is a misnomer, since it is not a fetish per se. A fetish is the use of objects as an erotic focus (e.g. shoes), as a substitute for a live person. But here, a live person is most definately still the focus, themselves. Transvestic autogynephilia is an erotic focus on temporarily changing one’s appearance to that of a woman. The clothes are not a true fetish object, just a means to the appearance change. A more extreme form of this is to wear latex/silicone femmeform ‘skin’ and ‘mask’ that cover much of or the entire body. While commonly found in AGP transsexuals, not all males who experience transvestic autogynephilia become transsexual, most remain cross-dressers.
Anatomic autogynephilia is arousal and desire to physically embody a female, with breasts and/or genitalia. It has been hypothesized to be the root cause of AGP transsexuality. Research suggests that those who experience complete anatomic autogynephilia are the most likely to want, and later to actually, socially transition. Though other research suggests that interpersonal autogynephilia may also play a large part in such decisions. Coversely, there are also those who, for lack of a better term, experience “partial” autogynephilia, in that they want to have women’s breasts, but retain male genitalia. Typically, those who are experience partial autogynephilia, choose not to socially transition, but may live as ‘gender fluid’ and take low doses of feminizing hormones.
Behavioral autogynephilia is arousal to activities culturally associated with women. It can be almost anything, from getting one’s hair or nails done at the beauty parlor in the company of women, shopping for women’s clothing while crossdressed, to speaking or singing in a feminine voice.
Interpersonal autogynephilia is arousal to the thought of being accepted as a woman, admired as a woman, to receiving admiring gazes from others, to having sex with others as a woman, even to having sex with men, even though they aren’t actually physically attracted to men. This last is also called autogynephilic pseudo-androphilia, and is fairly common. In these cases, the individual must be dressed as a woman, or be post-operative, to experience themselves as being a woman during the sexual encounter in order to be aroused in the company of men; the focus remains on the female self, the man is only there to admire that female self.
Physiological autogynephilia is arousal to the thought or simulation of female physiological functions. It can include sitting down to urinate, pretending to have menstrual symptoms (taking Midol for cramps, bloating, bleeding, using pads, and even placing tampons into one’s anus), pretending to be pregnant (pillows under maternity clothing, etc.), nursing a baby, and so on.
Any individual AGP male may experience any of the above in any combination and intensity. These sexual arousal patterns and interests usually surface in puberty, though occasionally they may surface earlier. Their overt sexual nature is most observable in adolescence, when these behaviors and fantasies are often enacted along with masturbation. As an autogynephilic individual matures, the overt sexual nature may become less apparent, while the need for the behavior, especially crossdressing and MTF transition, grows. Thus, erotic transvestism and autogynephilic transsexuality are both a continuum and a progression.
Autogynephilia often co-exists with other unusual erotic interests, most notably masochism including autoerotic-asphyxiation, sexual submission, bondage, and humiliation. Many combine the two where it becomes an intense interest in “forced feminization” fantasies and enactments in which an attractive women “forces” them to dress and take on female “submissive” roles such as “french maid”, etc. Research shows that about one of four autogynephiles have such interests.
It is important to note that autogynephilic males are not naturally feminine. Rather, they find simulating the appearance and behavior of women to be sexually and affectionally rewarding. Thus, over time, dedicated cross-dressers and AGP transsexuals work to perfect their appearance and presentation as women, or rather more often, their ideal woman, but it doesn’t come naturally. Since, as children, teens, and young adults, AGP individuals do not exhibit naturally feminine behavior, and may in fact be quite naturally masculine, even hypermasculine (e.g. Bruce Jenner / Navy Seal / fireman) right up to the moment that they announce that they are transgendered, this is why parents, siblings, and wives of AGP transsexuals are so often surprised when an AGP transsexual announces their intention to transition. Over time, their secret autogynephilic ideal of being female has warred with their original identity of being a man, until finally, the cognitive dissonance between the two must be resolved by abandoning their previous gender identity as a man. They may then state that they had always been feminine but hid it. But no one who is truly feminine can “hide” that fact from close associates for years on end. What they mean is that they always felt a desire to be feminine/female and hid that desire.
An important aspect of any sexual orientation is that of love, romance, emotional bonding. In a very real sense, autogynephilic cross-dressers and transwomen fall in love with their feminine self-image and want to give her more life and expression, not unlike the way that that a straight man who loves his wife wishes to provide her a safe and comforting home. Autogynephiles often have trouble expressing their feelings, finding it mysterious and confusing. This is why they cling to the notion that they “feel like a woman”, as short-hand for their love for their idealized feminine image.
Autogynephilia is an Erotic Target Location Error, in which the erotic object, femaleness / femininity, is sought after on one’s self, in addition to, or even as a substitute for, other people. It simultaneously depends upon and competes with heterosexual interest in women. Because of this, autogynephilia is not found in exclusively homosexual males (nor in heterosexual females, for the same reason). This is important in that there are two etiologies leading to MTF transsexuality, one is autogynephilia, as discussed here, the other is found in extremely feminine, exclusively “homosexual” males, who from early childhood, clearly act like and wish to be female. Think: Caitlin (nee Bruce) Jenner vs. Laverne Cox. These two types of MTF transsexuals should not be confused with each other, but often are by the media, the public, and even many in the the ‘transgender community’.
An interesting thing about autogynephilia is that it tends to run in families. It’s quite common to find two brothers, or father and son, who only after years of hiding their shameful secret, find out about each other. This suggests that there may be something genetic, or epigenetic, that leads to autogynephilia. Maybe someday we will know what it is… the question will be, will we be able to prevent it? And if we could, should we?
MJ and JM no longer live together, no longer speak to each other. MJ is going through periods of despondency, since she lost her wife, her home, and can’t find a job. She blames society’s transphobia for her problems, never taking responsibility for her own bad decisions and poor social skills. She has edited her history, placing the blame of her childhood unpopularity upon being “transgendered”… even though no one knew, nor suspected. Transition has not improved her life by any objective measure, in fact has been a complete disaster socially and financially. Yet, she is glad that she did so… and wishes she had done it earlier. I remained distant friends with both MJ and JM for years, but lately lost touch with them both again. Strange, but when I looked at MJ, she was happier… with a community of other AGPs surrounding her. And she’s no longer drinking herself to death. She may never pass… but she has found her place in the world. I wouldn’t take it away from her for anything.
For more information:
Book review of Men Trapped in Men’s Bodies by Anne Lawrence
Essay on the Origins of Cross-Gender Identity in Transsexuals
Essay on Autogynephilic Psuedo-Androphilia
… well, maybe not videotape.
One of the problems causing confusion in recognition of the two types is that autogynephilic transsexuals will, to first appearances either lie, or at the very least, distort their current, real sexual interests. The reasons for this apparent lying is worthy of its own study. But, one reason is usually that the AGP transsexual is under the erroneous impression that it is required to get needed medical services. They may feel that that an androphilic, feminine, transsexual will find it easier to access services, so may deliberately distort their own presentation to more closely match that. But, I feel that that is far too simplistic. It is far more likely that at that point in time, the distortion is actually accepted as part of one’s own personal narrative, in order to feel better about oneself, a defense against shame of being autogynephilic. Further, in at least one area of their lives, they may be expressing a wish about themselves, rather than an actuality. They may wish that they are more like the younger, prettier, more feminine androphilic transsexual. They may also do so because they want to be “real women”… and in their minds, “real women” are straight, primarily interested in men. Or, it may not be a serious distortion of the understanding of themselves, but rather their understanding of themselves is what is limited. To be specific, if an autogynephilic transsexual incorporates the ability to attract straight men into her autogynephilic ideation, she is attracted to men, right? Uh… no… she is still simply AGP, men have become a prop in her sexual ideation of being a woman. (No pulling punches, remember?)
So, if AGPs often do not report their current sexual interests in a reliable way, how is science to separate the two types when needed. Oh… and… how can we be sure that they actually are distortions?
Ok, Please read the paper at the following link, then come back:
The authors, Berger and Leavitt have fallen for a trap set by the distortions of the types above, and included many AGPs who are not in fact, primarily interested in men. But, they have accidentally given us the data to allow us to separate them. And by doing so, further demonstrate that there are in fact the two completely different group. Note that the author’s mistake was in using Kurt Freund’s Androphilia Scale, as modified by Blanchard. This instrument focuses on self-report, rather than on actual sexual history. It is my hypothesis, that using actual history is the only reliable method of differentiating real from potentially distorting self-reports of sexual orientation among self-identified transsexuals. Fortunately, we have that sexual history. So, let me reorganize the data:
Type: Avoidant Pleasure Inactive
Number n=15 n=30 n=36
Age 29.9 32.8 34.5
SD 4.2 7.5 9.6
time: 4.9 3.1 0.73
Transition: 25 29.7 33.7
Married: 0% 23% 47%
Penis “OK” 6.7% 83.3% 33%
Fetishistic 6.7% 33.3% 50%
Sex w/ female: 0% 33.3% 58%
females: 0% 33.3% 70%
Male toys 16% 46% 50%
Male playmates 16% 37% 47%
This paper was originally meant to explore the sexual practices of Blanchard’s “Homosexual Transsexual”. But Blanchard had only managed to statistically separate them out. But, if we examine the above data, we can see that Berger & Leavitt have managed to further separate them. Note that the $64K question has been asked, how much sexual experience with women did each have.
Looking at such small numbers, the standard deviation (SD) is almost the same as the range. So, the Avoidants ranged in age at transition from 20 to 30, the Pleasure from 22 to 36 and the Inactive from 24 to 42. Based on the fact that half of the Inactive had been married, and that they have not ever had sex with men, I would strongly argue that many, if not most, of L&B’s “Inactive” are AGP. Finally, fully 50% of the Inactive admit to having fetishistic arousal, that is… that fully 50% essentially admit that they are in fact AGP! Note the number who admit to sexual history with women is nearly the same as those that admit to AGP arousal. In fact, the statistical correlation, the most powerful method of determining a relationship, is 0.999036, so close to a perfect 1.0 as to essentially be so, given measurement and rounding error!
Note that one of the Avoidant group admits that they don’t hate their penis… and that one admits that they have had AGP arousal. Perhaps that is the same person? We might even wonder about that person’s age… what if that was the oldest at transition? That would pull down the average age at transition to below 25 and the range wouldn’t go as high. Sadly, this paper doesn’t give us the details by which we could make such an adjustment. The same analysis is possible for the Pleasure group. This is strongly in agreement to our expectation that Blanchard showed that his “Homosexual Transsexual” group almost always transition before age 25.
Note the similarity in the numbers between admitted AGP arousal and having been married. Again, sadly we don’t have the data for whether those that had been previously married would be the same group, or highly overlapping group, as had admitted to being AGP. But, statistically, this could be a safe bet.
Again, looking at the Pleasure group, If only 33% of them are actually feminine androphilic type, the age at transition may or may not fall below age 25. We simply don’t have enough data from this paper to determine that. There appears *very* strong evidence that AGPs, and only AGPs, are comfortable with having sex with women. Finally, the similar results of the MMPI and DAP of the Pleasure and Inactive groups suggest that they are the same and radically different than the Avoidant group.
This data clearly shows that there are two groups, that one is clearly uninterested in having sex with women, actively interested in men, transitions younger, and exhibited more femininity as a child. The other is interested in women, is older at transition, and was not feminine as a child.
Seriously. Mention anything that sounds like you support any of the science performed by Ray Blanchard, Michael Bailey, or Anne Lawrence and you will instantly be on everyone’s hate list. Why is that? Why are the ideas and the replicable experiments that they have performed not been given serious thought? Even asking this question will generate a firestorm of either invective or derision.
But it shouldn’t be that way.
Many of the ideas explored by these and other researchers, most notably Kurt Freund, seem common sense to anybody who aren’t themselves transsexual or transgender, or what ever new term seems to be in vogue. Further, the data itself is simply that, data. We might have a different interpretation of the data, in fact, this is how science works, reinterpretation of the data based on new facts that join the old. But, we can’t dismiss facts. And we certainly can’t dismiss the facts or conclusions because they are uncomfortable, or we don’t like who studied them!
OK, to deal with the Elephant in the Room. I’ve read nearly all of the papers written by these three authors dealing with TS/TG issues. My opinion. I couldn’t agree more. There, I said it.
This is often questioned. “How can a woman with your history agree with them?” The answer, simple. They are right.
Oh, perhaps the fact that I’m 35 years post transition, nearly 30 years post-op, married to a wonderful man, and well past any drama over making tough decisions about my life has something to do with it. But, quite simply, the real reason is that the science is solid. The data fits. In fact, both the data and my own personal observations of literally many hundreds of transfolk for my entire adult life agree.
So what is the conclusion that is so controversial? Simply put, that there are two types of people who may call themselves “transsexuals” or “transgender”. They have two different etiologies, two different medical conditions, both equally real and valid, two different life arcs, and two different sets of medical needs. The only thing they may have in common is that they both may benefit from similar, though not necessarily identical, medical procedures, namely Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and somatic feminization or masculinization surgery, including genital Sex Reassignment Surgery SRS.
Note that here I include both MTF and FtM individuals. Although most of the science has been conducted on MTF populations, as being more numerous, I will explore FtM types, which show a similar pattern of there being two types.
So, what are these two MTF types?
The first group is obviously feminine from an early age and remain so through puberty. The are primarily interested in men. They have limited, if any, sexual intercourse with women. They transition fairly young, typically before the end of adolescence. They have never experienced autogynephilic ideation.
The second group is typically not obviously feminine (but may not be super butch either) in childhood. They may be primarily interested in women, bisexual, or asexual. (Though, as a group, even the asexual has had more sexual experience with women than the first group). They have had or even continue to have, autogynephilic ideation w/ or w/o erotic cross-dressing. They tend to transition later, often in middle to late-middle-age.
These two types have been observed by clinicians and researchers for decades. They have been called many different things over the years:
Primary vs. Secondary
True vs. Pseudo
Early vs. Late Onset
Homosexual vs. Autogynephilic
These two types had been noted as early as 1920 or so, described by Magnus Hirschfeld, who was Harry Benjamin’s friend and mentor. Robert Stoller simply called the first group, “transsexual”, while calling the second group, “Non-transsexual men who seek sex changes”. So, once upon a time, not long ago, the second group was not considered transsexual.
This led to a myth in the TG/AGP Transsexual community that only the obviously more feminine and androphilic types were accepted by the clinics of North America and Europe in the ’60s and ’70s. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the clients of these clinics were AGP. But, these clinics weren’t stupid. They tended show-case their more socially acceptable clients, the androphilic, feminine type. Further, it has always been this way; AGP transsexuals have always gotten surgery in larger numbers than the androphilic type, but only the most socially acceptable appearing, of either type, were show-cased in the media, save for shock television, which often sought out the “freaks” of every sort.
In other posts, I will delve into the science and what it might mean. But, at no time will I pull punches or use euphemism where direct language can serve.