On the Science of Changing Sex

When the Numbers Add Up…

Posted in Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on June 17, 2017

female_scientistOr, Scientific Numerology

Sometimes, when one spots numbers that seem to be awfully familiar, they cause us to wonder.  Well, I think I spotted either an amazing random coincidence, or a basic connection between the incidence of autogynephilia and autoandrophilia in the general population and the incidence of potential gender dysphoria found in teenagers.  Check out these numbers.

From the Sumia study  0.5% girls compared to 2.2% of the boys had indicated such potentially clinically significant dysphoria.  Note that this is indeed potential, not clinically significant distress.  While in the Langstrom study 2.8% of men and 0.4% of women reported at least one episode of transvestic fetishism.

Again 0.5% vs. 0.4% for natal females and 2.2% vs. 2.8% for natal males.

So, random coincidence?  Or underlying correlation?  We need further study.  But I’m willing to put a high confidence estimate that this reflects that the GIDYQ-A is picking up on the connection between autogynephilia / autoandrophilia and mild gender dysphoria.

Further Reading:

Essay on Autogynephilia causing gender dysphoria in late onset transwomen


Sumia et al., “Current and recalled childhood gender identity in community youth in comparison to referred adolescents seeking sex reassignment”, Journal of Adolescence

Langstrom, et al., “Transvestic Fetishism in the General Population”  Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, (2011) http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00926230590477934

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Mommy, Where Do Autogynephiles Come From?

Posted in Transsexual Theory by Kay Brown on May 31, 2017

female_scientistOr, What Causes Erotic Target Location Errors?

Everyone who has an unusual quirk in their psyche asks one time or another what made them that way.  Most people in our modern society look to their past for psychogenic causal factors.  For example, people who are depressed look for events in their lives that were depressing.  This is likely the result of the pseudoscientific pontifications of psychoanalysts and their spiritual offspring, always trying to explain all behavior in psychodynamic terms.  As we shall see, these explanations don’t hold up when examined against the evidence.

Perhaps the most easily debunked hypothesis is that autogynephilia is caused by too much exposure to pornography.  Yes, I’ve seen this being seriously put forth.  It’s not totally a crazy idea in that autogynephiles often are interested in erotica, especially autogynephilic erotica.  But this is confusing cause and effect.  Interviews with a large number of autogynephilic men reveals that their autogynephilic ideation and interest began around puberty, before they had exposure to erotica or porn, and usually long before they had access to autogynephilically oriented erotica.  When they do find such erotica, their interest is rewarded be their previous experiences of cross-dressing or cross-dreaming associated sexual arousal and masturbation.

Interestingly, for both autogynephilic and autoandrophilic youth, certain genres of anime and manga offer a soft-core, romantic, erotica.  This too has been suggested as the source of their sexual interests.  One can well imagine coming across and finding such material interesting and rewarding viewing/reading before one becomes fully aware of one’s sexuality.  But again, it is the cause?  Would a young person with no underlying erotic target location error proneness find such material sexually arousing or romantically rewarding?  I sincerely doubt it.

We know, from direct observation and from parental report, that autogynephilic arousal can occur before puberty, before learning to read even.  Thus, exposure to material around puberty and subsequently seeking further material is likely to be a result, rather than a cause.

One of the most bizarre neo-freudian hypothesis that is fervently supported by a small minority of autogynephiles is that it is the result of “emasculinization trauma”.  In this model, sometime in a male child’s past, a little boy has his fragile masculine ‘feefees’ so badly hurt that he retreats to romantic and later sexualized fantasies of not only being female but being forced to be female or feminized.  This hypothesis seeks to explain both why they are autogynephilic, but also masochistic, combining the two.  It is true that “forced feminization” is a very common autogynephilic/masochistic fantasy.  However, the evidence for actual childhood trauma associated with autogynephilia is weak to non-existent.  Further, while it is well known that paraphilias tend to cluster, and that autogynephilia and masochism is one of the most well documented of such clustering, only 25% to 30% of autogynephiles also exhibit masochism, while the converse is also true, that only 30% of masochistic men are also autogynephilic.  But, for the rest?

Another problem with these psychogenic hypothesis is that they don’t explain the rather well known phenomena of familiar clustering of both autogynephilia and autoandrophilia wherein if we find one proband in a family, the odds of finding another are very high.  For example, consider the Wachowski family with two siblings that are both “late transitioners”.  Given that only 90,000 people out of over 300,000,000 people in the US transition, this would seem to be far above random chance, and it is.

Of course, the majority of autogynephilic transgender folk, from serious cross-dressers to post-op transwomen, reject the above hypothesis in favor of those they deem ‘gender affirming’.  There are a number of them ranging from the non-specific idea that somehow being gender dysphoric leads one to become autogynephilic in some unspecified mechanism to the odd notion that all women are autogynephilic, that autogynephila is just part of normal female sexuality.  Given that these obviously implausable hypothesis seem to be popular among autogynephiles themselves, when we see a minority of sexologists and transgender caregivers voice support for them, we naturally suspect that they may themselves be secretly autogynephilic.

Consider the notion put forth in the Nuttbrock study (which looking at the actual data otherwise fully supported the Two Type Taxonomy) that sexual arousal to cross-dressing is caused by finding cross-dressing to be “exotic”, invoking Daryl Bem’s “exotic becomes erotic” hypothesis.

Lawrence took exception to this misuse of Bem’s conception of the origin of sexual orientation that, “individuals can become erotically attracted to a class of individuals from whom they felt different during childhood’’.  I would take this a step further and point out that Bem’s idea is invalid on the face of it.  Same sex sexual orientation does indeed correlate with childhood gender atypicality, but is not caused by it.  Although not a valid scientific nor logical argument, I do find it noteworthy to explore Daryl Bem’s career of proposing equally bogus hypothesis including his ludicrous support for psychic phenomena and violating accepting scientific research norms.  In short, Bem is a pseudoscientific crank that has lead others to waste many thousands of research hours to debunk him.

But back to Nuttbrock, the idea that somehow an individual just happened to cross-dress one day and found it personally and/or culturally “exotic” leads to the obvious question… just how did this just happen?  How do pubescent boys accidently fall into their mother’s or sister’s underwear drawer and come out wearing some of them?  Seriously?  Of course, Nuttbrock is actually assuming that “late transitioners” cross-dress because their “female gender identity”.  But this also fails to match the evidence.  Recall that nearly 5% of men find the thought of wearing women’s clothing potentially sexually arousing, 2.8% have actually done so, and that 0.7% “identify” as “transgender”, these men are NOT accidentally or incidentally coming to wear these items.  Further, by these very numbers, we know that the vast majority of these transgender people are not gender dysphoric nor have female gender identities (yet), so it isn’t the case that they chose to wear these clothes as part of a sincere effort to pass as female (as is the case for androphilic transsexuals).  The well documented case histories of hundreds of both non-dysphoric cross-dressers and gender dysphoric “late transitioners” includes voluntary private cross-dressing, usually in lingerie, as teens, accompanied by sexual arousal and masturbation, while “early transitioners”/androphilic transwomen do not have histories of such autogynephilic behavior.  One would assume that for these androphilic transwomen, wearing women’s clothing would have been just as “exotic”.  The evidence clearly shows that autogynephilia causes gender dysphoria in a minority of these males, not the other way around.  Thus, Nuttbrock’s hypothesis fails to fit the evidence.

Putting oneself into the shoes of those who experience these phenomena, one could vaguely sense why these hypothesis might feel right given the specific nature of their experiences.  But those on the outside must rely on evidence, not experience.  The evidence does not support the hypothesis.

So if all of these ideas fail to explain or match the evidence, what does?  Truthfully?  We haven’t a clue.

We haven’t a clue.

Further Reading:

Essay on autogynephilic sexual arousal in childhood

Essay on autogynephilia causing “late transitioning” gender dysphoria

Essay on Nuttbrock Study and cross-dressing as “exotic”

“Follow up on Bem’s Psi Research” by Steve Novella

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Dangerous Thoughts

Posted in Science Criticism by Kay Brown on August 15, 2016

critical-thinkingIt has long been noted by sexologists, and folk in the “kink” scene, that if one has one paraphilic sexual interest, the likelihood that individual will have other paraphilic interests is dramatically increased.  Some of these paraphilic sexual interests tend to cluster.  It is these clusters that help sexologist delve into potential underlying common sexual functions that are distorted (hence the the common term “kink”).  One of these clusters is that of Voyeurism, Exhibitionism, Frotteurism, and Paraphilic Rape, that are grouped together as Courtship Disorders.  Another cluster is Autogynephilia & Autoandrophilia (most often found as “transvestic fetishism” = “erotic cross-dressing”),  Autopedophilia, and Apotemnophilia group together as Erotic Target Location Errors.  But there have also been many observations of of clustering of other paraphilias that don’t have obvious connections of an underlying common function (other than sexuality in general).

Given the current political climate and some rather pointed and ugly recriminations and insinuations regarding transgender people and the safety of women & children in sex segregated facilities, it behoves us to seek real data rather than polemical rhetoric.  In a very timely study involving nearly 6,000 subjects chosen because they are members of a twin birth, the incident rates and co-occurances of various paraphilic sexual interests was explored, including “transvestic fetishism” and “sexually coersive behavior”.

As has been known for decades, most people with an Erotic Target Location Error are male.  Males are about nine times more likely to have autogynephilia as females are to have autoandrophilia, with 4.6% of males aroused by cross-dressing and only 0.5% of females.  Please note, the number of females was not zero… only small.  Compare this number to the estimated 3% to 6% of females being exclusive gynephilic.  This ratio also fits the data we have on the relative numbers of gynephilic FTM transmen vs. androphilic/bisexual FTM transmen, adding statitical support to the hypothesis that androphilic/bisexual FTM transmen are autoandrophilic.

First, the good news for transfolk.  There was no independent correlation between transvestic fetishism (both autogynephilia and autoandrophilia) and sexually coersive behavior.  That is to say, that neither autogynephilia nor autoandrophilia alone has any effect on the likelihood, one way or the other, on whether an individual would be sexually coersive.

On the other hand… that’s not the whole story.  As I mentioned above, the likelihood that one will have a co-occuring paraphilic interest is increased with autogynephilia or autoandrophilia, as the data from this paper showed.  And with THAT OTHER paraphilic sexual interest, there WAS a correlation with an interest in sexual coersion.

But, before going deeper into the data, it is important to explain a bit about the study and what constituted interest in sexually coersive behavior in this study.  The question asked whether the thought of persuing a range of behaviors from deliberate deception (not simple dating exageration) to acheive sexual contact, forcing contact, taking advantage of an incapacitated individual, to forcable rape was sexually arousing.  The raw numbers in the population at large were to be honest, more than a little disturbing; They were in fact horrifying.  The number of men who had an interest (not neccessarily actualized / committed such an act) in being sexually coersive was 18.5%.  That’s nearly one in five men indicated that the idea of performing a sexually coersive act was sexually arousing.  The percentage of women who found the thought of performing (not being the victim of) such an act was significantly lower at 3.6%.

Again, while autogynephilia and autoandrophilia alone were not independently correlated with an interest in sexually coersive behavior, when controlling for other paraphilias, this only meant that they were no more likely to have an interest in such coersive acts as the general population.  That is to say, that 18.5% of autogynephilic males without a co-occuring paraphilia is interested in sexual coersive acts.

So the good news isn’t that autogynephilic only males are less likely than other males… only as interested as other males in sexually coersive acts.

The bad news is the fact that paraphilias cluster and that there is an increase in the likelihood of co-occuring paraphilias and that as shown in this paper, sexual interest is some paraphilic behaviors correlates with increased interest in sexually coersive behavior, which in turn would suggest that autogynephilia and autoandrophilic people in general would be more likely to be interested in such acts.  And, sadly for transfolk, this is the case.  The number of autogynephilic and autoandrophilic people (the study lumped male and female “transvestic fetishism” subjects, but given that males are nine time more likely than females to experience transvestic arousal, most of the subjects are male) that are sexually interested in sexually coersive behavior is a disturbingly high 28.3%.  That is to say, that one in four finds the thought of performing a sexually coersive act to be sexually arousing.  Remember, this does not indicate that transfolk are more likely to actually act on such desires, only that they find the thought of it arousing.

Paraphilic Interest          Males          Females           AGP/AAP
Transvestism                     4.6%             0.5%                  100%
Voyeurism                          18.2%             6.3%                 39.8%
Exhibitionism                   4.3%              0.6%                  12.4%
Sadism                                 2.7%             2.3%                   11.5%
Masochism                         4.9%             8.6%                  24.8%
Sexual Coersion               18.5%             3.6%                  28.3%  (AGP/AAP alone: 20%)

What is surprising in this data is that the % of autogynephiles/autoandrophiles that were also interested in voyeurism is so high.  I personally hadn’t seen this suggested in the literature.  We see lots of references to the high co-occurance of sexual masochism.  It may be because of the relative ratios; AGP folks are about twice as likely to be interested in voyeurism as men in general, while they are five times more likely to be interested in masochism as men in general.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be as surprised as I am considering the oft noted intense interest in pornography among AGP transgendered people?  Perhaps pornography could be considered a watered down version of voyeurism?

Going back to risks of paraphilic sexual interests causing actual sexually coercive acts, the authors estimated from this and other data that perhaps one in three sexual assaults may be averted if all paraphilic individuals were identified and provided treatment interventions aimed at keeping them from acting on their sexually coercive interests.  This would, conversely, suggest that two thirds of such assaults are mediated by other factors including Rape Culture in a misogynistic male privileging environment.

Addendum 6/17/2017:

From an earlier study by NIKLAS LÅNGSTRöM, et. al., an interesting concurrence on the percentage of men and women who experience autogynephilia and autoandrophilia and co-occuring paraphilias as described in their abstract,

“We used a random sample of 2,450 18–60 year-olds in the general population of Sweden to study the prevalence as well as the social, sexual, and health correlates of transvestic fetishism (sexual arousal from cross-dressing). Almost three percent (2.8%) of men and 0.4% of women reported at least one episode of transvestic fetishism. Separation from parents, same-sex sexual experiences, being easily sexually aroused, pornography use, and higher masturbation frequency were significantly associated with transvestic fetishism. A positive attitude to this sexual practice and paraphilia indicators—sexual arousal from using pain, exposing genitals to a stranger, and spying on others having sex—were particularly strong correlates to the dependent variable.”

Note that the “particularly strong correlates” with fetishistic transvestism (transvestic autogynephilia and autoandrophilia) were masochism, exhibitionism, and voyeurism, the same group as in the Baur study.

Further Reading:

Essay on Erotic Target Location Errors

Essay on Autogynephilia

Essay on Autoandrophilia in Androphilic/Bisexual Transmen


Baur, E., et Al, “Paraphilic Sexual Interests & Sexually Coersive Behavior: A Population-Based Twin Study” Archives of Sexual Behavior:  DOI:10.1007/s10508-015-0674-2

Langstrom, et al., “Transvestic Fetishism in the General Population”  Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, (2011) http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00926230590477934

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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 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, 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”

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