On the Science of Changing Sex

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 dramically 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 sexualility 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 coersive 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 coersive 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.

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

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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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