Book Review: The SAGE Encyclopedia of LGBTQ Studies
When I was a young teen in the early ’70s, I scoured our home library (larger than most middle-class households) for anything that could help me with my horrible feelings that we now label “gender dysphoria”. We had a number of college psychology, biology, human anatomy texts, and one medical encyclopedia. I found exactly one reference of interest, but it declaimed, “There is no such thing as a ‘sex change’.” That’s it, one line reference in the negative. Of course, it was both a true statement and a lie of omission. It failed to explain that there was medical help, if only superficial. But superficial or not, hormones and SRS were good enough to make my life worth living. But before I found much better, and truthful, references at our local public library, that one reference left me despairing and despondent for my future.
As I’ve researched our collective LGBT history and science (especially when I was teaching my class on Transhistory through the Harvey Milk Institute), and of course, through my decades of LGB – and especially – T activism, I’ve read and collected many books and references. So one could imagine my delight in finding the SAGE Encyclopedia of LGBTQ Studies. But that was very short lived.
The first thing I do when I look at such purportedly comprehensive works is to see how they treat transsexual and transgender subjects. In this case. OMG! What a &^%$#@! mess! It is more than simply disappointing. It is deja vu. Consider the section on “Controversies”, the only section that deals with the central nature of transgender etiology,
“Autogynephilia – The term autogynephilia was first used in 1989 by Ray Blanchard, a sexologist, to describe a purported class of transgender women. Classifications of transgender women prior to this time tended to divide this group into those who were sexually and romantically interested in men as “homosexual transsexuals” and those who were sexually and romantically interested in women were classified as “heterosexual fetishistic transvestites.” Critiques of these classifications noted that the “homosexual” and “heterosexual labels were applied incorrectly, failing to recognize the gender identities of transwomen themselves. – These classifications also reflected mainstream stigma around transgender identity as they resigned many transgender women to little more than sexual fetishists. The autogynephilia label only intensified this view of some transgender women as sexual fetishists. The theory of autogynephilia asserted that many of the trans women classified into the “heterosexual fetishistic transvestites” category were primarily attracted not to women but to the idea of themselves as women. In this way, autogynephilia was proposed as a type of primary sexual-identity category for transgender women. Subsequent research has found little empirical basis for such a classification, and many researchers have criticized the classification as transphobic. – One particular critique of this classification system concerns its failure to recognize the way in which all sexual attraction depends on one’s own gender identity. For example, a critical component of both homosexual and heterosexual attraction among many cisgender men involves an erotic charge around one’s own manliness or manhood. To assume that such attachments to (and sexual desire motivated through) one’s own gender identity and expression, in relatation to another’s, exists only among transgender women, is misguided. Despite a relative lack of empirical support for the diagnoses of autogynephilia among transgender women, some segments of the radical feminist community endorse this diagnostic category in their own writing as well. … The most outspoken critiques of the theory of autogynephilia ahve emerged from self-identified transfeminist academics (e.g. Julia Serano and Talia Mae Bettcher), who have highlighted not only the lack of empirical support for these theories but also the underlying biases and assumption revealed in the very foundations of the theory itself.”
I highlighted three phrases as they demonstrate a rhetorical trick, repeat a lie three times and people will tend to believe it. Yes, I bolded the text because these are bald faced lies. The material claims that there is no empirical evidence for autogynephilia in transwomen. But we have numerous studies that put the lie to these statements, some of which were conducted by transwomen ourselves. To make this assertion is academic misconduct of the worst sort.
Because I know that most readers will only read this one page, I feel I need to point out that we have such empirical evidence in abundance, both prior and subsequent to Blanchard coining the term “autogynephilia” to replace the earlier terms “fetishistic femmiphilia” and “fetishistic transvestism”. Science depends upon repeatability, and these results regarding sexual orientation and autogynephilia have been replicated by Buhrich (1977), Freund (1982), Blanchard (1985), Doorn (1994), Smith (2005), Lawrence (2005), Veale (2008, 2014), and Nuttbrock (2009), in separate studies spanning four decades, collectively involving over a thousand transsexuals to date. In fact, this is one of the most repeated and reconfirmed scientific finding regarding transsexuality. The largest study, Nuttbrock et al. found that fully 82% of gynephilic transwomen acknowledge being autogynephilic, specifically, being sexually aroused by wearing women’s clothing. I have essays on this blog that extensively survey and discuss these papers and their abundant empirical evidence supporting the “assertion” that many transwomen are autogynephilic. Let me say this again in another way, we have empirical study after study after study that shows that the vast majority of gynephilic (attracted to women) transwomen fully admit to being autogynephilic. How much more plain empirical evidence do we need, proof using phallometry to measure the amount of sexual arousal? We have that too!
The section also includes misleading statements regarding the nature of autogynephilia, trying to confuse the issue with non-autogynephilic sexuality. With deceptive cleverness this writer has substituted the usual “women are autogynephilic too” meme by referencing men instead. But here too, we see that they use the classic rhetorical trick of confusing the map for the territory. Here, they suggest that non-transmen, both homosexual and heterosexual, experience autoandrophilia. But in fact, this deliberately conflates, or rather confuses, pride or even vanity in one’s masculinity with sexual arousal to one’s own maleness. This can only be done because the casual reader doesn’t know the exact nature of autogynephilia and autoandrophilia. These men are not getting turned on by simply being men. They are not being turned on by simply wearing men’s clothing, although autogynephiles do exactly that. (As I pointed out, the vast majority fully admit to sexual arousal to wearing women’s clothing.)
So, we’ve caught them out in a outright lie, in misleading statements meant to confuse the issue, but what about lies of omission? Oh yes, this they have done as well, in that they totally fail to include any mention of transsexual and transgender scientists and writers who support the two type taxonomy and the role that autogynephilia plays in the etiology of one of the types. Where in all of this encyclopedia is Dr. Anne Lawrence?
Actually, they do reference her. But in safety, only mentioning her letter regarding the need for better transgender medical care. But where are her papers, book chapters, and even a book discussing the nature and role of autogynephilia in transwomen’s lives? How can they simply make such an important transwoman’s work on the subject disappear and call this work “encyclopedic”?
(This is especially ironic in that Lawrence has written material, currently in press, entitled, “Gender dysphoria: Overview; Gender dysphoria: Diagnosis; Gender dysphoria: Treatment; Sex reassignment surgery. In A. Wenzel (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of abnormal and clinical psychology)
There is one other lie of omission… where in this “encyclopedia” is the voice of the exclusively androphilic and known to be non-autogynephilic transwomen? By printing this disinformation the editors of this work have given voice to only one of the two types of transsexual, and only the minority that are in denial of their autogynephilic nature at that, completely silencing the other. For an academic work that purports to give voice to the LGBTQ communities, this is a very serious cultural and political offense.
Finally, not content with outright lies, misleading comments, and lies of omission, they top it off with calumny, “underlying biases and assumption revealed in the very foundations of the theory itself.” That is to say, that this supposed academic work tops it off with character assassination of those of us, scientists and transsexual activists, who recognize the abundant (and socially obvious) empirical evidence for the theory, by implying that we are “transphobic” and “biased”.
I cannot condemn this work in any greater terms, knowing how deeply distorting it is of an area in which I have some knowledge. It leads me to distrust any areas where I may not have the in-depth knowledge to recognize any other lies it may contain.
I have to wonder, is deep disgust, how many transfolk are going to read this material in despair. As M. Taylor Saotome-Westlake, an autogynephilic and gender dysphoric (but not yet transitioned) individual wrote in reference to his own experience,
“A brief note on why all this matters. Independently of whether the two-type taxonomy is in fact taxonic, there are obvious political incentives to dismiss the explanatory value of autogynephilia, because it could be construed as invalidating trans women. I get that.
But here’s the thing: you can’t mislead the general public without thereby also misleading the next generation of trans-spectrum people. So when a mildly gender-dysphoric boy spends ten years assuming that his gender problems can’t possibly be in the same taxon as actual trans women, because the autogynephilia tag seems to fit him perfectly and everyone seems to think that the “Blanchard-Bailey theory of autogynephilia” is “clearly untrue”, he might feel a little bit betrayed when it turns out that it’s not clearly untrue and that the transgender community at large has been systematically lying to him, or, worse, is so systematically delusional that they might as well have been lying.”
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Book Review: In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi
This review is painful to write. The book was painful to read. I suspect that it was painful for Faludi to write it. Faludi is an excellent writer; one that I’ve enjoyed reading before. But in this book, she must confront the confusion of having a father become a post-op transwoman, at a very late age. As a reader with my background, having transitioned as a teenager, I remember MY confusion meeting such late transitioning transwomen with no clue as to how different they are from our conception of who and what a transsexual is and/or should be like… reading her book is like revisiting that confusion all over again, but with the addition emotional pain of having known a father all of one’s life – and NOT being able to reconcile the cultural image of a transsexual and the reality of knowing an agressively masculine man as one’s father.
Much of the book also deals with Hungary itself, which frankly, held no interest for me. Other readers may feel differently. It should be no surprise that as the book unfolds, told as part travel log to Hungary where her father now lives, part family history flashback that we see disturbing instances of inappropriate autogynephilic, even exhibitionist, behavior in her father such as entering her room while only half clothed, asking her help to get dressed, asking her to participate in wardrobe selection, excusing this behavior as “Oh, come now; We’re all women here.”
Later in her visit, the exhibitionist behavior is even more open, as Stefanie asks, “Can you leave your door open? You close it every night when you go to bed.”
“Because I want to be treated as a woman. I want to be able to walk around without clothes and for you to treat it normally”
“Women don’t ‘normally’ walk around naked,” Susan replied.
Also, clearly, Stefanie Faludi, as she is now, is totally clueless as to the level of privilege that she has enjoyed during a lifetime as a man before transitioning to an extremely non-passing transwoman in retirement, reveling in her ability to use gender stereotypes when it suits her, “Now that I’m a lady, Bader (neighbor/handyman hired to do odd jobs) fixes everything. Men have to help me. I don’t lift a finger,” giving Susan a pointed look, “You write of all of the disadvantages of being a woman, but I’ve only found advantages.”
In Stefanie’s wardrobe Susan finds a treasure trove of classic, over the top, cross-dressing fantasy outfits that as she describes it,
“might have outfitted a Vegas burlesque show: a sequin-and-beaded magenta evening gown with a sweep train, a princess party frock with wedding-cake layers of crinoline, a polka-dotted schoolgirl’s pinafore with matching apron, a pink tulle tutu, a diaphanous cape, a pink feather boa, a peek-a-boo baby-doll nightie with matching ruffled panties, a pair of white lace-up stiletto boots, a Bavarian dirndl, and wigs of various styles and shades– from Brunhilde braids to bleach-blond pageboy to Shirley Temple mop of curls.”
Stefanie even shares with Susan her collection of forced feminization fiction, downloaded from the internet, some of it written by her father, her character, “submitting to the directives of chief housekeeper while an all-female crew of iron-handed maids order “Steven” into baby-doll nighties, Mary Jane shoes, and a French chambermaid’s uniform.” Of course, her father waves all of this away, “I haven’t looked at that website for two years at least. It was just a–, like a hobby. Like I used smoke cigars, but I gave it up This was all before.”
“Now I’m a real woman,” she said, “But I keep these… as souvenirs. I put a lot of work into them; I don’t want to throw them out.”
Susan Faludi lets us in on the big secret about such transwomen,
“A reigning tenet of modern transgenderism holds that gender identity and sexuality are two separate realms, not to be confused. “Being transgender has nothing to do with sexual orientation, sex, or genitalia,” an online informational site instructs typically. “Transgender is strictly about gender identity” Yet, here in my father’s file folders was a record of her earliest steps toward gender parthenogenesis, expressed in vividly sexual terms. And here in FictionMania and Sissy Station and the vast electronic literature of forced feminization was a transgender id in which becoming a woman was thoroughly sexualized, in which femininity was related in terms of bondage and humiliation and orgasm, and the transformation from one gender to another was eroticized at every step. How to tease the two apart?”
In the book, we can see Stefanie trying to rewrite her history, especially in denial about her having violated a restraining order, breaking into her estranged wife’s house, and attacking her mother’s new boyfriend first with a baseball bat, then stabbing him with a knife, sending him to the hospital. Stefanie tries to play the abused woman in her retconned life narrative. It was all his ex-wife’s fault for not being accepting of him as a feminine soul. Fortunately, Susan, having been there, doesn’t buy into it.
It is clear from reading the book, that Susan Faludi has done her homework regarding the transgender scene of today. Susan takes a number of well earned swipes at famous transsexual memoirists and authors for their anti-feminist statements and attitudes, among them Julia Serano, Nancy Hunt, Jan Morris, Deirdre McCloskey. She also does the same with the so called “TERFs”, most especially Janice Raymond. There is even a passing reference, with one of the very few footnotes in the book, about Bailey, Lawrence, and Dreger being unfairly attacked for discussing autogynephilia. Unfortunately, she never once explains about the two type taxonomy, leaving the reader with the notion that perhaps ALL MTF transfolk are like her father.
If I have any issue with the book, it is this failure to cover this other big secret in the transgender world.
Book Review: Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine
I have to admit, as I began reading this book, I was ready to grit my teeth to plow through it, notebook and pen at the ready, to note every jot and tittle Fine got wrong, given the popularity of this book among those who identify as “gender critical” (Let’s be honest, that’s often a euphemism for “transgender belittle”). But I was wrong. Far from disseminating disinformation and disapprobation of transsexual folk, Fine is very respectful of transfolk and includes anecdotes by transfolk in support of her thesis. What I found instead was a delightfully accurate, and at times bitingly humorous, take-down of all of the (distressingly all too common) false stereotypes of men and women and their supposed differences and of the people who promote them. Fine is an intellectual after my own heart, one that I would love to have in my social circle.
Reading Fine’s book did bring up questions as to why ‘gender critical’ bloggers are so adamant that the book directly debunks any and all discussion of sexual dimorphism in the human brain, which many derisively call “LadyBrain” theories, when in fact, Fine clearly and correctly acknowledges that the human brain does exhibit recognizably sexually dimophoric features.
“It’s not, by the way, my intention to present myself as a neuroscience sceptic. Not only are some of my best friends, as well as family members, neuroimagers, but I also think that neuroscience is an extremely exciting and promising field, and can be usefully employed in combination with other techniques. I also understand that speculation is an important part of the scientific process. Nor is the topic of gender difference by any means the only area in which overinterpretation can occur. And I certainly don’t think that research into sex differences in the brain is wrong or pointless. There are sex differences in the brain (although, as we’ve seen, agreeing on what these are is harder than you might think); there are sex differences in vulnerabilities to certain psychological disorders, and hopefully greater understanding of the former might help to illuminate the latter. My point is simply this: that neither structural nor functional imaging can currently tell us much about differences between male and female minds. As Rutgers University psychologist Deena Skolnick Weisberg has recently argued, we should ‘remember that neuroscience, as a method for studying the mind, is still in its infancy. It shows much promise to be someday what many people want to make it into now: a powerful tool for diagnosis and research. We should remember that it has this promise, and give it the time it needs to achieve its potential – without making too much of it in the meantime.”
Fine’s thesis is not that sexually dimorphic features don’t exist, but that these features, whatever they represent, do not correlate with a putative difference in men’s and women’s minds. Fine doesn’t explicitely define what she means by ‘mind’, but one can infer from the material she covers that she is refering to cognitive and emotional functions ranging from general intelligence, mathematical aptitude, ‘mind-reading’ (emotional expression recognition), empathy, parenting skills, and caregiving. All of these areas are rife with false gender stereotypes that one sex is better at them than the other. Fine demolishes them one by one, showing how they arise and that they are demonstrably false.
Having demonstrated that these common stereotypes are bunkum, she then turns her attention to what she calls, “neuro-sexism”, the inappropriate use of neuroscience to uphold sexist stereotypes and beliefs. Here she really won my heart, as she rips popular authors who misinterpret, sometimes even just making stuff up about, the scientific literature on sexual dimorphism in the human brain. (A careful reader of my blog here will, I hope, find where I have done the same.) She also shows that this isn’t just harmless repeating of minor prejudices, but actually creating harmful changes in educational policy that undermines both boys and girls by creating a self-fullfilling prophesy regarding differential higher order cognitive skills (e.g. boys are better at math, but bad at language arts, and visa versa for girls).
Fine finishes the book by exploring how ubiquitous gender stereotypes are and how they effect the social and play life of even the youngest children. She carefully documents how even non-sexist parenting can’t protect children from being introduced to both stereotypes and to gendered play expectations. It is here that she tangentially refers back to an earlier comment that far from rejecting the notion that sexually dimorphic neural pathways in the brain may lead to sexually dimorphic behavior and even to gender atypical behavior in some individuals, she briefly mentions research that supports this hypothesis.
There exists female bodied people who were exposed to fairly high doses of masculinizing hormones due to Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH). These girls vary from conventionally gender typical to quite gender atypical in their play behavior. Given that the play behavior one is talking about is highly socially defined, such as playing with trucks, one is left wondering how and why this behavior comes about. One hypothises is that toys become gendered because of some inate property of them. This seems rather a stretch, given that toy trucks didn’t exist before real trucks were developed only a bit over a century ago.
“But another possibility is that girls with CAH are drawn to what is culturally ascribed to males. Thirty years ago, primatologist Frances Burton put forward an intriguing suggestion that casts the data from females with CAH in an entirely new light. She proposed that the effect of foetal hormones in primates is to predispose them to be receptive to whatever behaviours happen to go with their own sex in the particular society into which they are born”
Did you catch that? Fine is presenting, and never disputes, the idea that sexually dimorphic neuropathways may predispose one to identify, at least implicitly, as one sex or the other! Shades of “Gender Identity”!!! But please note, this is NOT the same concept of “gender identity” that is so oft described by autogynephilic transsexuals, but of an implicit identification with one’s sex, or in the case of gender atypical children, with the opposite sex. Sadly, Fine fails to follow up very far in this direction, because she is interested not in what we know from research also strongly correlates with such sexually dimporphic play behavior in young children, that of later sexual orientation in adults, but only in egregiously false stereotypes. Fine simply does not discuss sexual orientation, which is strange, given that sexual orientation is the single most sexually dimporphic behavior in humans and correlates with many of the sexually dimorphic structures in the human brain, far more so than any putative differences in higher cognitive functions. It is quite likely the reason that Fine doesn’t explore this realm of inquiry is because sexual orientation simply isn’t in dispute as sexually dimorphic. Let’s face it. Most people are heterosexual, attracted to the opposite sex. In the end, we might say that it is not so much that one has “male” vs. “female” brains, but “androphilic” vs. “gynephilic”… its just that there is a VERY high correlation between them.
Common wisdom says not to judge a book by its cover. But one can’t help but be struck by the uncanny resemblance between the cover of Ms. Heath’s 2006 Handbook and J. Michael Bailey’s 2003 The Man Who Would Be Queen. Take a moment to look at both, compare and contrast the two. Given the nasty fuss within the autogynephilic transwomen’s community regarding Bailey’s book, even deriding its cover, calling it transphobic and disrepectful, one can’t help but wonder if the editors at Praeger and perhaps even Heath herself, were making an insider’s editorial comment? Consider Heath’s own words, in fact the second paragraph of Chapter One, which states it clearly,
“When writing about a sensitive issue such as transsexuality, the temptation to right the wrongs is always present. However, it is equally important to offer readers a critical evaluation of what is known. By so doing, transsexed people will not be deluded by half-truths, and professionals and researchers will not be deterred by uninformed claims from disenchanted clients. This book treads a fine line between upholding the human rights of the downtrodden minority and ensuring that what is known about transsexuality and related conditions is presented accurately and understandably.”
Heath’s book was published before Alice Dreger’s history of the contretemps surrounding Bailey’s book, but I strongly suspect that she understood the wrongness of accusations against Bailey, given the cover and the complete coverage of the very material, the research into the true nature of transsexuality, upon which Bailey relied.
If I have any serious criticism of this book it is that although a wonderful aggregation of the research, it lacks the very “critical evaluation” that Heath states as a goal. Further, the work lacks a comprehensive synthesis of the voluminous data and accrued hypothesis, which was tested and found supported by them. It is left to the reader to perform these tasks. Given that in this absence, a critical analysis requires going back to the original papers, it is essential that a serious reader constantly refer to the many footnotes.
As an example of the failure to synthesize the information contained, consider how she covers the two type taxonomy and the evidence supporting it. In Chapter Five, Interesting Correlates of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation, she writes in a subchapter, “Relations Between Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation,
“Young transsexed woman are more likely to be nonheterosexual than are older transsexed women. Transsexed men tend to be nonheterosexual irrespective of their age at transition. This generalization suggest that the independence of gender identity and sexual orientation is difficult to discern… A contentious idea is to associate heterosexual transsexed people with autogynephilia, the tendency to be sexually aroused by one’s own image as a woman. … According to Blanchard, there are only two fundamentally different types of transsexuality in males: homosexual and nonhomosexual. In his view, nonhomosexual transsexed women, that is those with a sexual preference for women, are characterized by their propensity towards autogynephilia.”
She goes on for several pages covering the research and evidence, but then fails to note later in the book that other researchers are referring to the exact same two populations and their characteristics, while a critical reader can’t fail to note them. Consider her Chapter Seven, Transsexualism as a Medical Condition and her subchapter Primary and Secondary Transsexualism,
“Primary transsexualism is distinguished by its early onset, with clients reporting memories of cross-dressing when they were young, as well as partaking in feminine activities such as playing with dolls from an early age. Primary transsexed women who often exhibit homosexual preferences from adolescence onwards frequently enjoy greater success in transition than do their older counterparts. Secondary transexualism develops after a period of possibly fetishistic cross-dressing when the client starts to assume a more permanent feminine self-identity around puberty. Often secondary transsexed women prefer sexual relationships with women. They seek initial assessment at an older age … The primary transsexed group tends to present earlier for assessment, show better social gender reorientation, have less erotic arousal when cross-dressing, and experience fewer postoperative regrets than does the secondary transsexed group. … Differences between primary (young) and secondary (older) transsexed people have some diagnostic value.”
Note the clear connection between age of transition, sexual orientation, and “erotic arousal when cross-dressing”, also known as autogynephilia. Later in the same chapter, Heath discusses Anne Vitale’s Group 1 vs. Group 3, while completely missing the obvious, that these are simply names for the same groups as Blanchard’s and for the classic dichotomous Primary vs. Secondary transwomen.
The book, while being somewhat encyclopedic, is very poorly indexed. For example, she frequently refers to researchers by name, but these names are not found in the index, making it difficult to find such references.
Even with its weaknesses, I recommend buying and referring to this handbook.
Book Review: Male Femaling – A grounded theory approach to cross-dressing and sex-changing
Richard 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.
Review: The Man Who Would Be Queen – The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism
J. 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. She also published a book that touched in on the topic in 2015. 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 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.
When I first read Bailey’s book six years ago, it was via a .pdf that he has on his website. He asked me NOT to publish the link. However, I just discovered that he posted a link to the file in comment on another’s blog. Thus, to me, this indicates that he now wishes to allow such links to this file. You may read The Man Who Would Be Queen here: http://faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/JMichael-Bailey/TMWWBQ.pdf
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.
Dr. Richard Green in his 1974 book on transsexuals, “Gender Identity Conflict in Children and Adults” wrote,
“The men who fall in love with and perhaps marry women who are themselves former males, by and large, have known their partners only as women. Their prior sexual experiences have been only with females. They consider themselves heterosexual and their relationships heterosexual. To varying degrees they are consciously and unconsciously aware of the biologic status of their partners, but it would be simplistic and would furthermore blur generally accepted definitions to call these men homosexual. Rather they are men who respond to the considerable femininity of male-to-female transsexuals, ignoring the dissonant cues of masculinity.”
Those very words, read when I was 17 years old, gave me hope that my dearest wish, to find and marry a straight man, hopefully to also adopt children, just might be possible, in spite of my own mother’s words of encouragement that “No man will ever love you, you know.” Fortunately, Dr. Green was right, and my mother quite wrong. Although there are few references, and almost no serious studies, that specifically look at the men who marry transwomen, either “early onset” or “late onset”, I believe from my own observations that most MTF transkids who marry, do find husbands who are straight and narrow (but not narrow minded), because gay men just aren’t interested in transkids. As by negative proof, Green describes a married couple in his book, a pre-op transwoman and a putatively, self-described, straight man. In quoting this man, he describes the day he met his ladylove,
“The first time I ever remember was she was walking across the street, and one of the fellows I work with said, “Hey, that looks like a guy wearing capris.”
Thus, this man knew she was a transwoman from the very start, as she was just barely beginning to transition. From the description given both by Dr. Green and by this man, it is clear that this transwoman was a classic transkid. This transwoman, in the same section, lamented that she very much wanted SRS, but was getting serious resistance from her husband,
“My marriage is not doing so good. It’s not good because my husband more and more has turned to — now he’s turned to more and more to homosexuality. It’s something I’ve found very difficult to live with. I could understand his turning to another woman, because of my position, but not another man. It really tears me up.”
Thus, we see that this transwoman has married a gay man who used her as a stepping stone in coming out. It seemed clear reading the book that this marriage would soon end, because when asked if she thought her husband was possibly against her transitioning she replied,
“Yes, I do, because were were closer before I started dressing as a woman regularly. The point was when I got my breast operation. It was one thing I didn’t understand. It meant so much for me to get this operation, and when I did get it, he was very cold for about two months afterwards. He was very nasty to me. and he told me that as time goes by I’m getting more womanly and more adjusted and this is bugging him.”
Thus, he showed that MTF transkids’ husbands are by and large heterosexual, because gay men lose interest as we transition. Green interviews a number of other men who are either married or engaged to MTF transkids, who were all clearly straight. Green was mostly right… but in some respects he missed a few nuances. Back in the early 70’s he failed to differentiate between transkids and autogynephilic transwomen, and the nature of the men who married AGP transwomen. But we still find hints. In his book he writes about a candidate for surgery who detransitions when he falls in love with a post-op transsexual. This individual is in fact gynephilic, and as a man who detransitioned, would be described as heterosexual, but he is also autogynephilic and gynandromorphophilic. While it is obvious why MTF transkids, who are, after all, genuinely androphilic would wish to find and marry heterosexual men. It has always puzzled me as to why obviously autogynephilic, and just as obviously, truly gynephilic, transwomen would chose instead to marry men. Further, just what motivates such men to marry these autogynephilic transwomen? Lawrence, in her 2013 book speculates,
“… some of them go to great lengths to maintain a facade of “heterosexual normality.” One can observe this phenomenon on a few internet web sites belonging to MtF transsexuals who fit the autogynephilic demographic (formerly married to women, male-typical occupational history, etc.) and have found men willing to marry them. On their web sites, these transsexuals clearly convey their pride in their status as married women; sometimes they even display their wedding photographs…”
I can almost see this… but it doesn’t explain the men involved, nor why these transwomen are able to maintain such relationships. Perhaps we saw a hint of who these men are, and what dynamic maintains the relationship in Green’s book, mutual gynandromorphophilia and autogynephilia? Consider that Green’s detransitioned transgendered individual likely still experiences autogynephilic arousal to cross-dressing? Could it be that such men who AGP transsexuals marry are themselves autogynephilic and gynandromorphophilic?
About twenty years ago, a young transwoman in her mid-20’s called me up because she wanted me to meet her new boyfriend. This news very much surprised me because I had never gotten the impression that she was terribly interested in men. She had, after all, been in the Navy, on board submarines, for months at a time, and never felt any desire toward her shipmates (me? I would have gone nuts trying to keep my hands off of them!). We discussed our conflicting schedules and finally agreed that the best time would also coincide with her support group meeting time. So off I trudged to an AGP transgender support group meeting. When I finally met my friend’s new boyfriend, all was made clear… her “boyfriend” was also her “girlfriend”… as he was a classic and typical cross-dresser, fully dressed in women’s clothes for this CD/TG/TS support group meeting. To the outside world, they were a heterosexual couple. To TG ‘insiders’ it was known that they were a pre-op TS woman and a semi-closeted cross-dresser.
Some time ago, when I was still single, I was introduced to a man who sounded like a potential mate. He took me to classical music concerts, romantic drives in the country in his sports car, cooked a fine meal… seemed ideal… yet I wasn’t attracted to him, though he was to me, strongly. He broached the idea of marriage. It couldn’t have been described as a proposal, likely because he “knew” I would turn him down, because included in his reasons for why the match was perfect was the idea that we could share the same wardrobe, as we wore the same size 12 dresses. Although this was personally repugnant, we know for a fact that many autogynephilic transwomen would find this to be ideal.
In the Daskalos paper purportedly about changes in sexual orientation after transition, we see two more examples of exactly such relationships. In combination with autogynephilic pseudo-androphilia, this makes a potent brew of mutual sexual attraction. Exactly how many AGP transwomen have found such a mutually agreeable relationship with a cross-dressing man is uncertain. That such relationships exist is beyond doubt. This would make for a very interesting research paper.
You may wish to read more from Green’s book here.
References: Richard Green, M.D., 1974, “Sexual Identity Conflict in Children and Adults“, Basic Books
Anne Lawrence, 2013, “Men Trapped in Men’s Bodies“, Springer
Daskalos CT., “Changes in the sexual orientation of six heterosexual male-to-female transsexuals.” http://www.springerlink.com/content/pu44808u15q78k21/
Anne Lawrence, “Letter to the Editor” (in response to Daskalos) http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A%3A1018725518592
~LUCY!!!~ …Oops, I meant, ~Ethel !!!!~
Ethel Spector Person, of “Person and Oversey” fame, died on October 16th of this year. Her obituary in the New York Times said that her work was influential in demonstrating that there was more than one type of transsexual. To that, I would have to agree…
… but, I can’t agree that she was “totally right”, because, in fact, she was not. To understand why, we need to examine both the times in which she worked, and her own words.
First, where she was right. Ethel Person did correctly recognize that there were at least two types of transsexual. She recognized that one type was related to transvestites, and had a transvestic career before seeking sex reassignment. She described them quite well, when she stuck to pure observation. She also discussed another type, that was related to homosexuals. Here, she failed miserably.
Incredibly, she described both of these types as “secondary transsexuals”. Why?
Why? Largely because she too was caught up in the pseudo-science of psycho-analysis. She accepted as revealed truth that sexuality developed during, and was shaped by, early childhood experiences, and not just a little bit, but root and branch. She can be forgiven for accepting such, since after all, so did everyone else during the middle of the 20th Century. Today, with our knowledge of neurological correlates of sexual orientation, the fraternal birth order effect, and of epigenetics, it is easy to forget how even our recent fore bearers struggled to understand the likely biological origins of sexual orientation.
In her book, The Sexual Century, published in 1999, she recapitulated her earlier work. In 1974, she theorized a “primary transsexual” would be an individual who had developed directly to being an asexual transsexual without having first been either homosexual or heterosexual transvestite. This is because both homosexuality and transvestism, in her psycho-analytically informed world view, are both primary disorders, so– obviously, their transsexuality must be viewed as “secondary” to their primary disorder. Thus we read,
Primary transsexuals, as we have seen, are essentially asexual and progress toward a transsexual resolution without significant deviation, whether heterosexual or homosexual.
This naturally begs the question, resolution of what? The resolution of psycho-analytically hypothesized childhood sexual anxieties, of course. It is interesting that in her book, a tiny print footnote appears on page 97, “… I no longer regard homosexuality as a disorder…” So, perhaps we should forgive her for her earlier opinion?
Person’s “primary transsexual” is easily recognized today as being asexual autogynephilic transsexuals, as was specifically pointed out by Blanchard. Her description is quite detailed and accurate, but her analysis is flawed in that she failed to note the autogynephilia driving them.
On another page, we read,
We have concluded from a study of female transsexuals that there is no female equivalent of primary male transsexualism. In our opinion, the transsexual syndrome in women develops only in the homosexuals with a masculine gender role identity. Female transsexualism, therefore, can be classified as another form of secondary (homosexual) transsexualism.
In her equating FtM and MTF transkids as being alike, we see that she was quite right, despite the silly notion of “secondary transsexualism”. But, as alluded earlier, in her case histories she included descriptions of two individuals who she put forward as exemplifying male “homosexual transsexuals”, which as a modern reader will recognize, one was clearly not, while the other was what Kiira Triea so aptly described as an “in-betweenie”, a 25 year old individual that was right at the borderline between a classic transkid and a feminine gay man / drag queen, and unlikely to actually transition. This may be understood in the context of presenting not a middle-of-the-road example or two, but the most dysfunctional? After all, if one is a psychiatrist (as Dr. Person was) describing the course of a disease, one may present a particularly serious case so as to make its characteristics abundantly clear, rather than than a mild one? If so, she misjudged. From her book:
Case 1. C. is a fat, effeminate 32 year-old man who lives with his parents. He is compliant, nonassertive, and unable to mobilize much anger. Despite these inhibitions, he is engaging, affectively responsive, and easy to talk to . His adaptive competence is of a very low order. Although extremely bright and articulate, he failed to complete high school, dropping out in his senior year. He has worked only a total of two years in his entire life. His mother has always slipped him money, while both pretend to the father that he is working. … C. has been an exclusive homosexual as far back as he can remember. He now wants sex reassignment so that he can marry his current lover and live with him as his wife. …
…We interviewed C.’s mother who confirmed the familial history. … She had always known of C.’s homosexuality and fully accepted it, but refused to acknowledge his wish for a sex change. … As she saw it, his sole problem was his inability to work.
C. was an effeminate child. He played with girls and pursued girlish interests. He cross-dressed regularly with parental approval from early child-hood until the age of fifteen. The cross-dressing was theatrical and used to enhance C.’s fantasies of being a girl. It was never erotic, as in the transvestite, nor did it provide a feeling of comfort, as in the primary transsexual. His parents thought it was amusing that they often asked him to entertain. Once, when he was seven, they took him to relatives for Easter dinner dressed as a girl.
C. began a very active and pleasurable sex life when he was twelve. He engaged in various homosexual activities with peers, older boys, and adults. His sexual preference is passive anal intercourse, although he will reluctantly engage in other sexual transactions in order to please a partner. In such circumstances, he is capable of assuming the active role, but does not enjoy it. His sexual relationships have been mostly transient contacts with partners picked up while cruising. Prior to his present involvement, he had only one long-term affair. This occurred ten years ago and lasted for one year. C. was so upset when the affair ended that he became suicidal and had to be hospitalized.
After his release, he hung around with a drag crowd for about six months. Once again he cross-dressed, but only in public to be seen, never in private. … He received no narcissistic reinforcement as a woman since he lacked beauty, and the masculine homosexuals whom he was really after paid little attention to him since most of them wanted another man, not a drag queen. Thoroughly discouraged, C. gave up drag and returned to his previous existence, with its characteristic cruising. …
… Last year he went to Spain and met a presumed heterosexual with whom he lived. He engaged in face-to-face intrafemoral intercourse with this lover and fantasized himself as a woman. For the first time in his life he began to think seriously of sex reassignment: “I’ve known about transsexualism since Jorgensen. I could relate to this guy in Spain better if I were female. He wants me to stay in the the house and play the whole thing, be subservient.” … He is still hesitant, however, because he is skeptical that the lover will, in fact, marry him. …
This man is, in the common vernacular, a “Loser” and a “Bum”. He is an unattractive 32 year old gay man who has only recently thought of sex reassignment, and then only because a lover he met while on vacation has promised to marry him if he does. Ummm… yeah… and the check is in the mail! This man is representative of transkids? Seriously Ethel? Seriously?
~ETHEL !!!! You’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do!!!~