On the Science of Changing Sex

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall…

Posted in Confirming Two Type Taxonomy, Female-to-Male by Kay Brown on November 19, 2010

…Or, Who’s been sleeping in my bed?

critical-thinkingIn a relatively recent paper by Bockting, Benner, and Coleman, the sexuality of gay and bisexual identified transmen was explored.  Reading the paper, I came away with that odd feeling of dismay that one’s feels when one reads about “Columbus Discovered America”… meaning, until a white European finds the place, it wasn’t “known”?

I first met a ‘transfag’ (as he was playfully identified, taking the power of words away from ‘phobes) in the summer of ’77, while in line to see the Rocky Horror Picture show in the Tenderloin in San Franscisco.  As a 20 year old MTF ‘transie’, I was thrilled to count around a dozen MTF’s as my SF friends introduced others getting into line.  In the middle of this community gathering was a cute, short transman, being cuddled by his gay male lover.

In among a lifetime’s worth of memorabilia, is a treasured letter, written in ’81 from another gay identified transman that I met in L.A., thanking me profusely for having introduced him to the thriving gay transmen community there.

In the ’90s, Lou Sullivan worked to gain greater recognition of the existence of the gay transmen population, and of their needs.  Sadly, it seems, that many folks didn’t seem to know that they have always been a part of the trans-scene.

Only recently, has this community been the subject of scientific “discovery”.

One thing that has recently been explored, is the nature of the gay and bisexual identified transmen’s sexuality.  No surprise, they are discovering that like most originally androphilic female bodied people, their sexuality is rather fluid.  But one question does come up… given that the masculine gynephilic FtM’s are very much the mirror of the feminine androphilic MTF, both essentially transkids, both having very similar life arcs, etc.; Are the androphilic FtMs the mirror image of the gynephilic MTFs?

From the Bockting, et. al. paper:

An alternative interpretation of the transgender sexuality found to be emerging among our participants is that this is a form of autoandrophilia (sexual arousal to the thought or image of oneself as a man), the female analogue of autogynephilia believed by some (e.g., Blanchard, 1989) to be a core component of nonhomosexual (defined as not being attracted to the same natal sex) gender dysphoria (Chivers & Bailey, 2000). An exploration of autoandrophilia was not the focus of our study. However, more than two-thirds of the female-to-male participants did not report any history of transvestic fetishism (almost always found among transsexuals with autogynephilia) or any evidence of an erotic target location error (in this case, the target of eroticism being the thought or image of oneself as a man rather than another human being).

Does this mean that a little less than one third did report autoandrophilic arousal?

And earlier in the paper, refering to an earlier study, “only one of the nine Dutch study participants reported any sort of fetishism in his history”

Only one?  Only one out of nine participants reported autoandrophilia?  OK, we have absolutely one “proof of existence” example in the Dutch study, which is 11% of this tiny study… but the North American Study, as the above paragraph would suggest, indicates that perhaps 30% of androphilic FtM’s report autoandrophilic arousal?  If so, than this would be powerful evidence that androphilia in FtM transsexuals is indeed associated with autoandrophilia, and that at least some non-exclusively-gynephilic FtMs are in fact the mirror image of the non-exclusively-androphilic, autogynephilic MTF transsexuals.  They would simply be more rare.

My personal opinion is that these folk are indeed the mirror image of the AGP MTF transsexuals.  They just “feel” the same to me… To me, this is a beautiful symmetry, and is just more evidence of the fascinating diversity in the transcommunity.  Who would want us all to be the same?

Addendum 12/19/2010

Robert Stoller wrote an interesting paper, that I believe shed light on androphilic transgender experience.  But best to let one of the cases speak for him/herself:

“Today my sex life is mostly satisfied by masturbation, with transvestite episodes occasionally providing a pleasant stimulus to masturbation.  I’ve dressed as a man, replete with moustache, and had my partner call me by a man’s name. I take pleasure in being called by a man’s name. Dressed as a man, I’ve sucked my partner’s penis. I felt myself, during the experience, to be a gay male.”

“One perversity, perhaps, is that I like the idea of looking like a rather feminine male.”

It is too much of a stretch to imagine that if this individual were active today, that s/he would be a gay male identified transman?  This paper is very well worth reading.  Personally, given that one of my friends from high school had exactly the same sexuality (plus another paraphilic interest in BD/SM) that I don’t believe that this is as rare as clinicians believe.  I just think it hasn’t been as well documented.

Addendum 7/4/2012

As an example of the fluidity of gay identified transmen’s sexuality, I have personally witnessed the transition of…  and had many conversations with an FtM who lived as a  lesbian until he transitioned and began HRT near age 40, in the early ’90’s, upon which he identified as a gay man.  He clearly articulated that before transition he felt awkward around men, which he clearly stated he had always been far more attracted to, as straight men wouldn’t let him be “masculine” in their relationship, which he desperately wanted to be.  He clearly has always been androphilic, but behaviorally gynephilic until transition.  As a lesbian, he was not “butch”, neither physically nor behaviorally.  After transition, as a gay man, he seemed mildly feminine, in spite of now feeling “masculine”.  Superficially, he would have appeared to have changed his sexual orientation, but here it is clear that he is auto-androphilic and remained behaviorally bisexual, the mirror of bisexual autogynephilic MTF transsexuals.

Addendum 2/12/2015

One of my faithful readers sent some cellphone camera shots of a page from her college textbook, Abnormal Psychology by Susan Nolen-Hoeksema (McGraw-Hill, 2013).  As she points points out,

“Specifically, the piece in question is a case report of an apparent “queer”/autoandrophilic trans man that displays some solid and strikingly similar parallels to the characteristics of autogynephilic transwomen. The parallels include a lack of childhood gender atypicality, lack of/minimal gender dysphoria during childhood and puberty, guy-on-guy autoandrophilic interpersonal fantasy, and suggestive “pseudogynephilia”/autoandrophilic interpersonal fantasy with women (specifically, interest in short, purely sexual encounters with women with a simultaneous lack of interest in relationships with them). Unfortunately, “no history of sexual arousal associated with or erotic fantasy involving crossdressing” was reported. In any case, aside from that (which could be suggested to be a la the case of Philip, among other possible explanations), my line of thinking here is that this case report and the aforementioned parallels could serve as a good piece of evidence in support of the argument regarding our affirmation of non-homosexual FTM transsexualism being the mirror image of non-homosexual MTF transsexualism.”

Case Study1Case Study2

Addendum 1/29/2017:  The question of whether autoandrophilia (AAP) exists in female bodied people has been answered in another study that looked at many thousands of people.  In it they found that 4.6% of males were autogynephilic (found the thought of being female sexually arousing), while 0.5% of females were autoandrophilic.  Thus answering two questions, first, do they exist (yes), second how many compared are AAP compared to AGP males (1:9)?  This explains why there are so many gynephilic (all AGP) transwomen compared to so few androphilic (and AAP) transmen:  Essay on paraphilias in the general population)

Addendum 7/7/2017:  I found another reference that adds further weight to the existence of autoandrophilia in female bodied people in which 2.8% of males in the general population reported at least one incidence of erotic cross-dressing while 0.4% of females reported such an episode.   This gives an AAP to AGP ratio of 1:7, similar to the above reference.  Essay on incidence of erotic cross-dressing in the general population.


S. Colton Meier, Seth T. Pardo, Christine Labuski, Julia Babcock, “Measures of Clinical Health among Female-to-Male Transgender Persons as a Function of Sexual Orientation”

Walter Bockting, Autumn Benner and Eli Coleman, “Gay and Bisexual Identity Development Among Female-to-Male Transsexuals in North America: Emergence of a Transgender Sexuality”

Eli Coleman, Walter O. Bockting, and Louis Gooren, “Homosexual and bisexual identity in sex-reassigned female-to-male transsexuals”

Robert Diekey and Judith Stephens, “Female-to-male transsexualism, heterosexual type: Two cases”

Dorothy Clare and Bryan Tully, “Transhomosexuality, or the Dissociation of Orientation and Sex Object Choice”

Meredith L. Chivers and J. Michael Bailey, “Sexual Orientation of Female-to-Male Transsexuals: A Comparison of Homosexual and Nonhomosexual Types”

Stefan Rowniak and Catherine Chesla, “Coming Out for a Third Time: Transmen, Sexual Orientation, and Identity”

Robert J. Stoller, “Transvestism in Women”

Tsujimura, A., et al, “The Pattern of Sexual Interest of Female-to-Male Transsexual Persons With Gender Identity Disorder Does Not Resemble That of Biological Men: An Eye-Tracking Study”, Journal of Sexual Medicine (2016) {Study of n=13 exclusively androphilic (gay male identified) transmen.  The transmen’s sexual response was that of straight non-trans women.}

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Somewhere, Over the Rainbow…

Posted in Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on November 16, 2010

female_scientist♫…Skies are blue.

In Counting Noses, I attempted to determine the likely ratio of HSTS vs. non-HSTS transsexuals using the Smith (Netherlands) data.  This question was previously explored by Lawrence in various different cultures.  She noted that different countries presented widely different ratios, from 0% to 91% non-HSTS in various studies.  She noticed a pattern and tested a hypothesis that societal individualism corresponded with the prevalence of non-HSTS transsexuals.  Interestingly, the hypothesis was born out.  Ruggedly individualistic societies, as measured by the Hofsted Index had the highest percentage, while very socially interdependent societies had the lowest percentage of non-HSTS transsexuals.  The lowest numbers were found in Singapore, Thailand, Korea, and Brazil.  No surprise for those of us in the Anglo-American world; The United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States had the highest non-HSTS percentage.

The correlation with published measures of individualism and the percentage of non-HSTS transsexuals was 0.88, an amazingly high value for a sociological and psychosexual study.  In fact, I think this correlation could not have been higher, given that a statistical correlation can never be higher than the internal test/retest reliability of each of the measures, which are not likely to be much higher than this correlation.  Kudos to Dr. Lawrence for discovering this powerful correlation.

Personally, I was interested in determining if the HSTS populations in these cultures were similar or different than the HSTS population here in the United States.  So, I looked at the Tsoi paper from Singapore, which had the very lowest percentage of non-HSTS at zero and had near the lowest individualism index score at 20.  Thus, this was the most extreme differential in both percentage and individualism.  The question to be tested: Are Anglo-American and Singaporean HSTS transkids similar in behavior and life arcs?

Singapore HSTS Life Arcs
(Cumulative Percentages at Age Indicated)

Age:                                                             6    12   18     24 Total %
Start to feel like a girl                       27    74  99  100 100
First cross-dressing                          25    60   92    99  100
Idea of sex-change surgery             1     48   88  100 100
Sexual Experience
Love a boy (man)                                2     30   94    99  100
Petting with male                                 1     17   84    96    97
First sexual intercourse                   0     12   73    90    92
First boyfriend                                     0       8   72     92    95
Start to cohabit                                    0       3   23     54    59
Cross-dress in public                         1       4   65     90    95
Stopped wearing male clothes       1       3   41    78     87
Started HRT                                           0      0   38   80     90
Obtained SRS                                         0      0    1     21     50

Looking at the data from the Tsoi paper, we see that the HSTS transkids are essentially the same as the US HSTS transkids in every respect.  They typically transition before age 25.  In fact, looking at the percentage that had begun HRT in adolescence, we see essentially the same numbers as were found for the HSTS (androphilic) subjects in the Nuttbrock study:

New York Started HRT                 na    na    40     na     80
Singapore Started HRT                  0      0     38     80     90

Both the Nuttbrock study in New York and the Tsoi study in Singapore showed that ~38 to 40% of androphilic transsexuals had started HRT in adolescence!  The other data certainly fits my own personal observations… and of course my own life.  The earliest I can recall unambiguously being attracted to a boy was when I was 12.  I had my first serious crush on a boy at age 15.  I started cross-dressing in public in high school, in the afternoon/evening, exactly like Tsoi describes for Singaporean transkids.  I stopped dressing as a boy right after graduation, the same week I turned 18.  I started HRT that summer, started dating boys, and became sexually active that fall, as I started college.  I had SRS at age 23.  In Singapore, 21% of the transkids had had SRS by age 24 and 14% of HSTS transkids attended university.  From my experiences knowing a fair number of transkids here in the West Coast of the United States, I would say that my experience was fairly typical… and the range matches that of the HSTS in Singapore.

There was one other sad fact reported in the Tsoi paper:  That 35% of the HSTS transsexuals were prostitutes at some point in their young lives… a number that agrees with my own estimate for the West Coast of the United States.  Although higher than is found for natal females, this number is still a minority.  Consider; 65% of HSTS do not become prostitutes.  In my personal experience, and I can imagine it is similar in Singapore, the primary motivator for becoming a prostitute is to gain the extra income needed to obtain SRS, given that there is no public health coverage for SRS in these countries.

Thus, although there is a vast difference between cultures in the number of non-HSTS (and as we’ve shown ad infinitum, ad nauseum: autogynephilic) transsexuals that transition, the experiences of HSTS transkids is universal.

Addendum 12/3/2010:

Age:                                                             6    12   18   24 Total %

Stopped wearing male clothes       1       3   41    78     87
Become a prostitute                           0       1   23   32      35
% of post transition                             0    33   56   41      40

% becoming prostitute at age         0    33   58   37     33

The percentage of Singaporean transkids becoming prostitutes as a function of age of transition is highest for those transitioning as teenagers.  I believe this is an effect of family support.  One is more likely to transition earlier when parents kick them out of the home, which also necessitates becoming a prostitute for survival.  Transitioning after age 18 is often associated with having remained at home, and is associated with higher familial support.  Further, an older teen is more likely to find sufficiently remunerative employment.


Anne A. Lawrence, “Societal Individualism Predicts Prevalence of Nonhomosexual Orientation in Male-to-Female Transsexualism”

W. F. Tsoi, “Developmental profile of 200 male and 100 female transsexuals in Singapore”



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Posted in Confirming Two Type Taxonomy by Kay Brown on November 4, 2010

critical-thinkingIn one of the most misunderstood of Blanchard’s papers, he and his colleagues, Clemmensen and Steiner, explored the likelihood and areas in which MTF transsexuals might selectively ‘color’ their presentation of their sexual and gendered behavior history.  Many people on both sides of the debate have assumed that Blanchard was making a judgment upon “non-homosexual” transsexuals, saying that they were more prone to lying than “homosexual” transsexuals.  Actually, the data says just the opposite, that neither group is more naturally inclined to such distortion, generally.  However, the data does say that the more an individual is inclined to color their responses to questionnaires in such a way as to present as more socially desirable, the more likely that they will answer questions regarding sexual history and gendered behavior is such a way as to increase the likelihood of being accepted for SRS.  Is that so shocking?  That ‘trannies’ might ‘enhance’ their chances of getting past the gate keepers? (Gasp!)

But there is more detail to the study, that is important to note;  While both AGP and androphilic transsexuals were just as likely to color and shade their history, the AGP  transsexuals did so along all eight of the study’s scales, while HSTS did it only on one of the scales.

But, before we get to that, I think we need to explore how we know this, how Blanchard, et al. determined this.  They sought correlations between their sexological scales and the Crowne-Marlow Social Desirability Scale.

The Crowne-Marlow scale is a set of 32 statements that are answered true or false for one’s self.  Each statement is scored with either a zero or a plus one, depending if the answer indicates a tendency to color one’s socially desired behaviors.  Thus, the scale goes from zero to thirty-two (0-32).  The statements are very clever in that each statement, if answered in the non-socially desirable fashion, would still not be indicative of any pathology, and in fact might indicate self-honesty.  For example, one of the statements reads, “I have never intensely disliked anyone.”  If one answers “true” this is a socially desirable answer, most saintly indeed.  However, how many of us can honestly answer that there has never been someone, some time, that pissed us off so badly, that we still hold an intense and personal hatred for them?  (I can think of several such individuals instantly.)  The statements are also chosen to be “graded” from not likely to be that good, to likely to be that good, in that some statements might be honestly answered in the socially desirable manner by many, if not most people, for example, “I would never think of letting someone else be punished for my wrongdoings.”

Thus, the Crowne-Marlow scale has the unusual property that an honest saint may give the same high score as a dishonest sociopath.  So, a high score in no way indicates that one is a liar per se.  In fact, the scale is nearly useless as an individual test.  It is only in groups, large groups can we use the scale to look for meaningful inferences, in either the mean scores or in the correlations with other scales.

In his chapter comparing various scales of social desirability Paulhus noted that:

Crowne and Marlowe (1964) reported a mean of 15.5 (s.d. = 4.4) in a sample of 300
college students. In a more recent study of 100 students, Paulhus (1984) reported means of 13.3 (s.d. = 4.3) and 15.5 (s.d. = 4.6) in anonymous and public disclosure conditions, respectively. In a sample of 503 students, Tanaka-Matsumi and Kameoka (1986) reported means of l4.0 and 12.3 for normal and depressed respondents, respectively. In a sample of 650 Peace Corps volunteers (90% college graduates), Fisher (1967) found means of 16.1 (s.d. = 6.8) and 16.4 (s.d. = 6.5) for males and females, respectively.

Thus, we see that Peace Corps volunteers, probably the closest sample that we will ever find to saintly people, give scores in the range of 16.1-16.4.  But, Paulhus found that college students gave mean scores of 13.3 in an anonymous situation and 15.5 when they knew that someone they knew would be reading their answers.  So, folks tend to ‘color’ their answers when they feel that they might be judged in some manner by their answers?  Not much surprise there!

Compare these scores to the mean scores of the two types of transsexuals in Blanchard’s study of 17.68 for the “heterosexual” (non-homosexual) and 20.02 for the “homosexual” transsexuals.  Given that the scores for female Peace Corps volunteers was only 16.4, do we really believe that these transsexuals were more saintly?  Are we surprised that these transsexuals would be assuming that their answers to the other eight scales would be used to judge them, possibly used to deny them essential medical services, that they might wish to color their responses?  Also, please note, as did Blanchard, that if anything, the HSTS group was more likely to color their answers than the non-hsts group.

It is in the correlations with the individual scores on the Crowne-Marlow scale and the scores on the other eight scales used in the study that we learn something really interesting about each group (taken verbatim from the paper):

Correlations of Demographic Variables and Questionnaire Measures with
Social Desirability Scale ~
–                                                                                      All                Hetero        Homo
Variable                                                                  r           p            r       p           r      p
Age                                                                        -.04       NS     -.13     NS      .23  NS
Education                                                             .01       NS     -.04    NS      .18   NS
Item: Felt like a woman                                  .30     .001    .29   .011     .26  .034
Item: Rather live as female                           .27     .002    .34   .003   .01  NS
Feminine Gender Identity Scale                 .35     .001     .37  .001    .16   NS
Modified Androphilia Scale                          .28     .001     .25  .022    .02  NS
Modified Gynephilia Scale                           -.30    .001   -.38   .001    .18   NS
Cross-Gender Fetishism Scale                    -.35    .001   -.48   .001    .08   NS
Item: Aroused by cross-dressing              -.29    .001   -.34   .003    .02   NS
Item: Masturbated cross-dressed             -.27   .002   -.34   .003    .06   NS

~The abbreviations Hetero and Homo refer to heterosexual and homosexual subjects.
Columns headed r are correlation coefficients; columns headed p are their associated one-tailed probabilities. The abbreviation NS means that the associated correlation coefficient was not statistically significant at the 0.05 level. (The smaller the number, the more “statistically significant; that is to say, that it is more likely to be “real” and not just chance.)

Looking at the two groups and correlations, one notices that on all eight of the sexualogical scales, for the “heterosexual” group the correlations are all statistically significant.  Further, the single highest correlation was on the Cross-Gender Fetishism Scale (a measure of autogynephilia) at -0.48.  For those familiar with psychological research and statistics, this number screams!  (No correlation would be 0.00 and perfect, one to one, correlation would be 1.00; so this number is half way between.)  That is a very high correlation telling us that this group, as a group, would like to color this scale.  That is, that the more likely that an individual is to have a high score on the Crowne-Marlow scale, the more likely they will have a low score on this autogynephilia scale!  Ok, this can be interpreted that individuals who wish others to see them as having socially desirable traits are more likely to minimize or deny experiencing autogynephilia.

Similarly, scores for gynephila and androphilia are colored to minimize their attraction to women, while maximizing their attraction to men, and so on down the line, to seem more “classically” transsexual (more like HSTS) perhaps?

In contrast, for the “homosexual” transsexual group, there was only one scale that has a statistically significant correlation, “Felt like a woman”, and only just barely “significant”.  This was a scale from one to three that indicates under what state of dress that they felt like a woman, with three being dressed as either a man or a woman, to never, which excluded the subject as not being “transsexual”:

Item: Have you ever felt like a woman?
a. Only if you were wearing at least one piece of female underwear or clothing (1)
b. While wearing at least one piece of female underwear or clothing and only occasionally at other times as well (2)
c. At all times and for at least one year (3)
d. Never felt like a woman (exclude subject)

But… BUT… do the math… there were only fifty-one “homosexual” subjects (N=51) which gave a mean score of 2.96 on this scale.  That would come from two subjects giving a score of 2, while the rest, all forty-nine of the others, scored 3.  Also note that that one other correlation almost reached the threshold for statistical significance: age, at 0.23.  That is to say, that a weak correlation was found with older subjects being more likely to have a higher score on the Crowne-Marlow scale.  This suggests to me that age will have a weak correlation with higher scores on the “felt like a woman scale”… thus… we might guess that those two subjects that answered “2” instead of “3” were younger than the average of the “homosexual” group… perhaps they were more tentative in their answers?  Overall, this isn’t much of a strong signal.  In spite of the higher mean score on the Crowne-Marlow scale, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence for coloring their answers.  Perhaps that’s because they didn’t feel that they needed to?

Addendum 1/15/2018:

Study after study has shown that around 80% to 85% of “non-homosexual” transwomen readily acknowledge experiencing sexual arousal to cross-dressing, at least in adolescence.  This leaves 15% or so who say that they didn’t.  As we’ve seen, social desirability bias is strongly operating.  At least some percentage of the population is not being honest.  Interestingly, there is a new study exploring the subject of honesty and dishonesty.  It was discovered that there are three types of people that I shall paraphrase as “always honest”, “mostly honest”, and the “never honest”.

Guess what the percentages were?

“always honest” = 50%
“mostly honest” = 35%
“never honest” = 15%.

Wow, what an interesting coincidence.

Many transwomen who are critical of the two type taxonomy have specifically called out Blanchard and any who accept and advocate the taxonomy as being ugly transphobes for having called transwomen liars.  But are we to suppose that transwomen, as a population, are somehow more saintly and honest than the general population?  Phhfft !


Addendum 2/16/2019:

I found another paper dealing with dishonesty in research studies that showed that around 10% to 20% of people were willing to lie in a survey just to make a few bucks, even as little as $5.  Wow, that’s an interesting coincidence; around an average of 15% of people are willing to lie for so small an incentive.  Can we really believe that transwomen, as a population, are somehow more saintly and honest than the general population?



Ray Blanchard, Leonard H. Clemmensen, Betty W. Steiner, “Social Desirability Response Set and Systematic Distortion in the Self-Report of Adult Male Gender Patients

Douglas P. Crowne, David Marlowe, “A New Scale of Social Desirability Independent of Psychopathology”

Delroy L. Paulhus, Chapter 2: “Measurement and Control of Response Bias”
J. P. Robinson, P. R. Shaver & L. Wrightsman (Eds), Measures of personality and social psychological attitudes (pp. 17-59)., Academic Press, Inc.

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