Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall…
…Or, Who’s been sleeping in my bed?
In 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 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?
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.
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.
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.”
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, 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)
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”