This is the story about a video blog on autogynephilia and the reaction of transsexual activists. I also dare asking the question of whether AGP transsexuals can be called "real women".
(Continues from The Autogynephilia Debate Part 1.)
Mr. Autogynephiliac's controversial video blog
Over at YouTube, a 18 year old young man who calls himself Mr. Autogynephiliac, has established a video blog on autogynephilia. He is from the new generation of Internet savvy youngsters who use the social web to find themselves, helping others like him in the process. I admire his openness and his bravery -- you can feel his confusion and pain -- and the fact that he invite others to help him understand what he is going through.
Unfortunately, some TS activists cannot even stomach that someone uses the very word "autogynephiliac". Still, it is hard to attack an 18 year old male that admits to being transphobic while at the same time feels the urge to become a woman, and at first their protests didn't gain much traction.
If you watch his vlogs, it is pretty clear that his condition cannot be reduced to some innocent fetish -- a man that gets off by wearing women's clothes. It is clear that his whole identity as a man (or woman) is at stake, and that his gender dysphoria is as real as it is for any classic transsexual. So for a while he was able to publish his musings about his life and autogynephilia unmolested.
Samantha Zero as a role model
Mr. Autogynephiliac even managed to get an absolutely wonderful video comment from Samantha Zero, a M2F vlogger who has made a lot of insightful videos about transitioning. To me her video was a revelation, because here is a transwoman that openly admits that she had had autogynephile fantasies before transitioning (i.e. having sexual fantasies about becoming a woman) but who does not fit the stereotypes of autogynephiliac women presented by for instance Michael Bailey.
Samanta Zero is a young, intelligent and beautiful woman that could be a role model for may autogynephiliacs who wonder about transitioning. The problem is, of course, that she does not fit the traditional TS narrative. Nor does she identify as a transsexual. Given her intelligence, charisma and enthusiasm that seemed to make her video a threat.
Mr. Autogynephilia walks into a minefield
At this point Mr. Autogynephiliac made the mistake the activists needed. He prematurely made a video presenting his own theory of autogynephilia. I am probably partly to blame for this, as he had found many of the elements of his theory here on this blog.
When presenting the theories of Blanchard & Co, I have probably not been clear enough about what are their ideas as opposed to mine or alternative views on autogynephilia.
A transgender/transexual continuum?
The essence of his thinking deserves further discussion, however.
He tries to make sense of the two types of transpeople presented above, by arguing that they represent different mixes of gender orientation. Hence a "primary transsexual" could, according to him, be about 75 to 100 percent female, while the "secondary transsexual" (the autogynephiliac) is about 50 to 75 percent female. (Let's not get hung up in the numbers. They are nothing more than guesstimates on his part.)
"Secondary transsexuals have a weaker feminine side. They would benefit from transition but would still remain very self conscious about their femininity. He may also chose to continue living as an Autogynephiliac with a 'transvestic fetich'.
Primary transsexuals according to this theory would benefit much more from transition. It would remove the dysphoria which they feel towards their masculine bodies and would go on to live as very comfortable and feminine women." (Quote from his YouTube video-presentation)
All right. He seems to argue that there is a continuum between autogynephiliacs and what I have called "classic transsexuals". That has not been proved in any way, but is a possibility. I, for one, is exploring that avenue, although I think that if there is such a continuum, we are talking about two clearly identifiable, but overlapping clusters of people.
Among scientist who have argued for a continuum between various forms of gender variations we find James Weinrich and Harry Benjamin.
Pure and unclean transsexuals
But there are some TS activists who cannot stand that idea. They are not even willing to discuss it. It seems to threatens the purity of their own femininity. They do not want any ambiguity as to what being a woman means, and most of all: they do not want to be associated with autogynephiliacs, mostly because they consider us perverts.
And Mr. Autogynephiliac used a type of language in his presentation that made it easy to shoot down. In general his use of terminology reflected the confusion he so courageously had presented in his other video blogs. But it is one thing to talk about your personal experience and beliefs, another thing to present something that looks like a scientific theory. The rules of the games change.
In one bullet point he said that "Gender dysphoria=Transgender=Transvestism", in spite of the fact that he elsewhere in the same presentation he makes it perfectly clear that he means that transgender issues encompasses much more than transvestism (i.e. crossdressing).
Next he used the words "male" and "homosexual transsexuals" when describing what he calls "primary transsexuals". Having discussed this with him, I know that he meant nothing more than that these persons were biologically male before transitioning, which is true, but when he uses these terms while referring to Blanchard most readers who have read Blanchard will believe that Mr. Autogynephiliacs share all of Blanchard's ideas.
Blanchard does not, as my regular readers will know, accept that classical transsexuals are women in any sense of the word. They are feminine homosexual men and nothing more. The gist of Mr. Autogynephiliac's presentation, however, leads to the conclusion that they are, in fact, women in a man's body, but his terminology seems to indicate that they are men.
In this respect the flame war that followed is understandable. Mr. Autogynephilia had presented his theory too early and had not worked hard enough on his typology. He even used the word "fetish" to describe autogynephilia, not understanding that this word makes it impossible to argue that autogynephilia is another type of gender dysphoria. No transsexual, classic or otherwise, would like to hear that they have transitioned because of a fetish only.
Samantha Zero removes her video
Samantha Zero was furious and took down her video, which is a terrible shame, because it could have made a huge difference, especially for young autogynephiliacs, but I am afraid there is no way she will put it up again.
In her response to Mr. Autogynephiliac she strongly recommended that he made "more statements that start with 'I think', "I feel', 'I believe, instead of 'you should', 'you are', or 'if you'" She made it totally clear that she is not a man, no matter what sort of label anyone would like to impose upon her. She was right on all points.
Promoting dialog as opposed to ideological warfare
Still, I cannot help thinking that it must be possible to treat an 18 year old man with the respect he deserves, and give him constructive advice instead of calling him and idiot that should shut up. (These are my words, but they do in fact sum up many of the comments from some of the activists pretty well, Samantha not included).
The reason I am worried is not that the activists criticize the video of Mr. A., but the way they are doing it. There is a pattern here, and here are some of the techniques they are using online,at his vlog and elsewhere:
Master suppression techniques
First, they label anyone who does not have a thorough knowledge of their own favorite literature as ignorants who do not have the right to offer an opinion on this topic. They argue that arguments must be based on science. Strangely enough, the only science who makes it into their libraries is the type that supports their own point of view.
Second, they argue that only transsexuals themselves have the right to make arguments about what it is like to be a transsexual. This would mean, that I, as a man, should have no opinion about women, or that a liberal should offer no view on what makes a conservative tick. Of course I can never fully understand how it is to be a M2F transsexual, but to the extent their lives are relevant to mine, I must at least try to empathize.
Third, they either deny that autogynephiliacs exist (i.e. that Mr. A. and me are misled or lying) or that we are nothing but fetishists. That is, they are not even willing to discuss the possibility of there being another type of transpeople than their own. Note the irony in all this: M2F transsexual women who deny others the right to define their lives, feel no qualms about defining the lives of autogynephiliacs.
Fourth, they seem to believe that any statement on transgender issues is to be interpreted as an article of faith, and not as an intervention in an ongoing debate. The truth is that we know remarkable little about sex and gender in general, not to speak about transgender issues, which means that we all should show a little humility when discussing such issues. This applies to Mr. A as well as his opponents.
In some cases they also threaten with what I will call "online violence". In my case it was destroying my blog.
In the debates I have seen all of Berit Ås' Master Suppression Techniques (Norwegian hersketeknikker, directly translated as "rule" or "domineer techniques") used against autogynephiliacs and also by transsexual women against other transwomen. This has to stop!
What can we do about it?
For those of us who do communicate online about autogynephilia the question is what we can do about this. I am not going to look over my shoulder every time I publish a post, being afraid of another hateful attack. I spent nine years in school being bullied for being a weirdo, and I am sick of it.
On the other hand I really believe that these people have life experiences and ideas I and other autogynephiliacs can learn from, which is why I think a complete breakdown in communications will not benefit anyone, not even them.
So what can we do?
First, I think we have to draw a line somewhere, and that line goes against what I have called online violence. We are not going to accept threats of reporting our sites to ISPs or the owners of our publishing platforms (Blogger, Wordpress, YouTube etc.) We will not be censored! If anyone of you are threatened this way, let me know. There are proper procedures for handling such complaints.
Second, I believe we should be pretty liberal about what we accept as comments at our own sites. Unless we are talking about pure hate-posts and abuse, I believe we should let anyone speak their mind. Anyway, their posts say as much about them as they say about autogynephiliacs.
Third, we should not accept as a rule that we cannot link to their sites. If they make a great point about a theme that is of relevance to us, we should be able to link to it in a blog post. I, for one, want to hear what they have to say. This is what web communication is about. If they asks us to be removed from resource pages, link collections and blogrolls, however, I believe we should respect that request.
Continues in Part 3.