March 1, 2010

What brain science says about M2F transsexuals


Is there a biological basis for the gender identity of transsexuals and autogynephiliacs? It turns out there might be.

Even if there has been no proper research done on the causes of autogynephilia, there are many scientific papers on the etiology (cause) of transsexualism.

Given that a significant proportion of M2F transwomen are gynephilic, it is reasonable to believe that some of them have or have had erotic fantasies about becoming women as well. The research on transwomen could therefore give us some insight intothe etiology of autogynephilia.

General conclusions regarding the cause of gender identity

Jaimie F. Veale, David E. Clarke and Terri Lomax have made a review of recent research in the paper "Biological and psychosocial correlates of adult gender-variant identities: A review" (Personality and Individual Differences Volume 48, Issue 4, March 2010, Pages 357-366).

These are their conclusions:

"There is evidence that biological factors, especially prenatal androgen exposure, play a significant role in the etiology of gender-variant identities. While there is also evidence for other biological correlates, this does not necessarily imply more than one biological factor plays a role – it is likely that they are related and share a common precursor. For instance, it is entirely plausible that there is a causal pathway from genes causing atypical prenatal hormone levels causing neuroanatomical differences and an adult gender-variant identity.

"We know from studies of individuals with intersex and related conditions that it is not uncommon for an individual to have a male-typical prenatal environment (including androgen levels), to be assigned a female sex at birth, and develop a female gender identity. Therefore, psychosocial factors also have a role to play in the etiology of gender-variant identities.

"There is evidence that a poor or absent parental relationship, childhood abuse, and parental encouragement of gender-variance are more common amongst gender-variant populations. It is unclear whether these are a cause or effect of gender-variance. It is likely that any psychosocial variables that play a causative role in the development of gender-variant identities are complex and work in interaction with biological variables."

In short: psychological and social factors may influence the development of gender identity, but there is most likely a biological basis.

(Sidenote: Note that these researchers are not using the word gender in the sociological meaning -- i.e as a social construct. In this context the word gender is used for the physical basis for behavioral differences between men and women.)

Brain research

There are several research teams who have found differences between the brains of M2F transwomen and the ones of men. This research shows that in some brain areas the brains of M2F transsexual women are more similar to the ones of women. According to the relevant researchers this is not caused by possible hormone treatments.

It should be noted, though, that you cannot rule out some kind of biofeedback, in the sense that the very act of wanting to become a woman may change the brain itself. The plasticity of the brain is significant, and it will change according to how we use it. Still, I must say that idea of us feminizing our brains through sheer willpower is a long stretch.

I should also add that there is a lot the scientists do not know about the brain, and the very fact that there is a correlation between the size of a certain brain area in women and M2F transwomen does not prove that that very area determines gender identification. But it is likely that they do.

A recent study made by Alicia Garcia-Falgueras and Dick F. Swaab, "A sex difference in the hypothalamic uncinate nucleus: relationship to gender identity", (Brain, a Journal of Neurology, published online on November 2, 2008 Brain, doi:10.1093/brain/awn276) concludes that there is such a correlation.

BSTc

The researchers had previously found that "the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTc)" is female in size and neuron number in male-to-female transsexual people. The BSTc has the size of a rice grain.

The BSTc is found in the thalamus of the brain, and is often referred to by transsexual activists who argue that their female gender identity is inborn. For these activists the sexual orientation of the transsexual women is irrelevant.

This BSTc research was heavily criticised by among others Anne Lawrence, the famous autogynephilic transwoman and Blanchard supporter.

Lawrence points out that individuals who oppose Blanchard's formulation tend to favor the brain-sex theory, which postulates that there is a neuroanatomical basis for female gender identity in MtF transsexuals that is independent of sexual orientation. The brain-sex theory is a "unitary" theory of transsexualism. It therefore appears to contradict what she calls the"widely accepted theory" of Blanchard.

[Image: The thalamus. Photo from Wikipedia]

She writes:

"According to Blanchard's typology, homosexual MtF transsexuals, who are exclusively sexually attracted to men, seek sex reassignment primarily because their appearance and behavior are markedly gender-atypical. Nonhomosexual MtF transsexuals, who may be sexually attracted to women, to women and men, or to persons of neither sex, are not markedly gender-atypical in their appearance or behavior; they are believed to seek sex reassignment primarily because they are sexually attracted to the idea of becoming women, a paraphilic sexual interest that Blanchard (1989a) called autogynephilia. "


When trying to explain why the BSTc findings do not undermine Blanchard's theory, Lawrence presents three possible explanations:
  • "First, but probably least likely: The Zhou/Kruijver findings might reflect the chance selection of a sample of MtF transsexual brains with unrepresentative BSTc volumes and neuron numbers.
  • Second, and somewhat more likely: Because all six MtF transsexuals in the Zhou/Kruijver studies were probably nonhomosexual, their atypical BSTc volumes and neuron numbers might be markers for nonhomosexual MtF transsexualism specifically, but not for MtF transsexualism generally.
  • Third, and most likely: The Zhou/Kruijver findings might reflect the effects of feminizing or masculinizing hormone therapy, which all six MtF transsexuals and the one FtM transsexual received."
The report she is referring to is Kruijver, F. P., Zhou, J. N., Pool, C. W., Hofman, M. A., Gooren, L. J., & Swaab, D. F. (2000). "Male-to-female transsexuals have female neuron numbers in a limbic nucleus." Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 85, 2034-2041. This is the research Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab are referring to as well.

In other words: Lawrence believes that all of the M2F transwomen included are autogynephiliacs. That leaves her with a big problem. The research seems to indicate that as regards this brain area, these AGP transwomen are more like natural born women. That seems to imply that they have some kind of inborn femininity.

But autogynephiliacs do not have an innate femininity according to Blanchard, so this is a finding Lawrence cannot accept. Lawrence therefore concludes that the fact that their brains look feminine must be an effect of hormone therapy:

"The simplest and most plausible explanation of the Zhou/Kruijver findings is that they are attributable, completely or predominantly, to the effects of cross-sex hormone therapy administered during adulthood. There is no longer any reason to postulate anything more complicated."

Note that the original researchers argued that they had taken the possible effects of hormone treatments into consideration.

Round Two

But this was not the end of the story. The Swaab & Co team had heard the complaints. And now they had decided be even more careful when checking for variables like gender orientation, hormone treatments, non-transsexual control groups etc.

INAH 3 and 4

In the new study the Swaab & Co team investigated the so-called "hypothalamic uncinate nucleus", which is composed of two subnuclei, namely interstitial nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus (INAH) 3 and 4.

Don't worry too much about all these medical terms. The point is that they have found another area of the brain, close to the BSTc, that also varies in size between men and women.

The researchers used post-mortem brain material from 42 subjects: 14 control males, 11 control females, 11 male-to-female transsexual people, 1 female-to-male transsexual subject and 5 non-transsexual subjects who were castrated because of prostate cancer.

They say that the most pronounced differences were found in the INAH3 subnucleus.

"Its volume in thionin sections was 1.9 times larger in control males than in females and contained 2.3 times as many cells . We showed for the first time that INAH3 volume and number of neurons of male-to-female transsexual people is similar to that of control females. The female-to-male transsexual subject had an INAH3 volume and number of neurons within the male control range, even though the treatment with testosterone had been stopped three years before death. "


In other words: The data seem to indicate that the INAH3 volume and neuron number in transsexual male-to-female people is in the female range, while the values of the female-to-male subject is in the male range.

They researchers propose that the sex reversal of the INAH3 in transsexual people is at least partly a marker of an early "atypical sexual differentiation of the brain" and that the changes in INAH3 and the BSTc may belong to a complex network that may structurally and functionally be related to gender identity.

The fact that they refer to both volume and the number of neurons is important, as the neurones are more densely packed in female brains. This is the only reason female brains are smaller than male brains. The overall number of nerve cells are similar, which means that it the number of neurons in a region become equally important if you are to track down differences between men and women.

The researchers argue that differences in adult testosterone levels can only partly explain the observed differences in the INAH3 subdivision of transsexual people while estrogen levels do not seem to have an influence.

And yes, they have looked at gender orientation. That is: they are aware of the fact that some believe that M2F gynephilic transsexuals may be fetishists or paraphiliacs and for that reason cannot have an innate femininity. Still, they have found no difference between man-loving and woman-loving M2F transwomen:

"In male-to-female subjects the number of neurons in the INAH3 does not seem to be related to sexual orientation, nor to the onset time of transsexuality, but rather to atypical early female-biased gender."

In other words: all the M2F transsexuals seem to suffer from a misalignment between their brain sex and their body sex.

The researchers believe that these are the brain structures are responsible for gender identity formation:

"The differences observed between the INAH3 structure, its innervation in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity and its putative connection to the BSTc suggest that these two nuclei, together with the SDN-POA (= intermediate nucleus, = INAH1 and 2) and the SCN (Swaab et al.,1985) are part of a complex network involved in various aspects of sexual behaviour."

No proof, but clear indication

Again: This is not the final proof for the brain sex theory. This kind of brain research is in its infancy, and new research may go in another direction. Still, it seems to me that current neurological research is accepting that gender identity formation is based in the brain and that it has a genetic or pre-natal (before birth) hormonal explanation.

Moreover, the researchers seem to believe that this gender identity is not linked to sexual orientation. In other words: whether the M2F transwomen love women or men makes no difference.

We do not know whether any of the transwomen included in this research were or had been autogynephiliacs. But if Lawrence and Blanchard are correct when they say that all non-androgynephilic transsexuals are autogynephiliacs, they must have been. I must admit that I am not so sure of that, but given the large number of autogynephiliacs that do transition it is likely that at least some of them were.

The variants of autogynephilia
On terminology 

Note of 2013: Since this blog post was written I have stopped using the word "autogynephiliac" to refer to people who get turned on by picturing themselves as the other sex. 

The word entails an explanation for the condition that is not only wrong, but also highly stigmatizing. I am now using the word crossdreamer, which has no such connotations.

If the brain sex researchers are correct, and gender identity formation is anchored in these brain areas, the next question would be: To what extent are other, non-transsexual, autogynephiliacs similar to women brain wise?

Could it be that the autogynephiliacs and crossdressers who do not feel the urge to transition have INAH3 and BSTc structures that are in between men and women in size? Or is the great variation we find among autogynephiliacs caused by psychosocial factors?

Another possibility may be that different brain areas determine different aspects of the gender identity and sexual orientation. Joan Roughgarden has argued that this kind of research does not confirm the gender binary (Evolution's Rainbow, p. 240).

She points to the fact that the three "sexually dimorphic neural clusters" (i.e. BSTc, SDN-POA and VIP-SCN) vary independently of one another. A person can have a "female" BSTc and a "male" SDN-POA etc. This leads to a large number of possible combinations. The large number of permutations may explain the confusing array of gender identities we find around us.

Swaab & Co add another dimension to this. They speculate that the INAH3 volume may have a relationship with sexual orientation while the number or neurons is related to gender identity. One of the gynephilic M2F transwomen examined had not had a hormone treatment. This person's INAH3 was in the male range volume wise (an indication of gynephilia), but she had a female number of neurons (an indication of a female gender identity).

The researches should probably include some non-op crossdressers in their next study.

In any case: this research can be interpreted as a neurological underpinning of Natalie's innate femininity theory. In other words: gynephilic -- and through them also autogynephilic -- transwomen seem to have a biological basis for their gender dysphoria.

For a second opinion, see Cloudy's post over at On the Science of Changing Sex: The Incredible Shrinking Brain.

26 comments:

Larry said...

Jack,I think you are very much right in saying that AGP and CDs who dont transition have the brain structure somewhere between a male and female rather than at the extremes. Which means their gender is not black and white.

riki said...

The brain science research is interesting, but not at all conclusive. Laqwrence tries hard to undermine it, becuase she is so committed to a complete dichotomy of aetiology - but the Hulshoff-Pol study that she relies on is pretty awful when you read it.
you should read:

A Further Assessment of Blanchard’s Typology of Homosexual Versus Non-Homosexual or Autogynephilic Gender Dysphoria
Journal Archives of Sexual Behavior



Abstract In a series of important but now highly controversial articles, Blanchard examined associations of sexual orientation and transvestic fetishism among male-to-female (MTF) transgender persons in Toronto, Canada. Transvestic fetishism was rare among the homosexuals but prevalent among the non-homosexuals. Subtypes of non-homosexual MTFs (heterosexual, bisexual, and asexual) were consistently high with regard to transvestic fetishism. Non-linear associations of a continuous measurement of sexual attraction to women (gynephilia) and transvestic fetishism were interpreted in terms of an etiological hypothesis in which transvestic fetishism interferes with the early development of heterosexuality. Blanchard concluded that homosexual versus non-homosexual sexual orientation is a dominant and etiologically significant axis for evaluating and understanding this population. We further assessed these findings among 571 MTFs from the New York City metropolitan area. Using the Life Chart Interview, multiple measurements of transvestic fetishism were obtained and classified as lifetime, lifecourse persistent, adolescent limited, and adult onset. Large (but not deterministic) differences in lifetime, lifecourse persistent, and adolescent limited transvestic fetishism were found between the homosexuals and non-homosexuals. Contrary to Blanchard, differences in transvestic fetishism were observed across subtypes of the non-homosexuals, and linear (not curvilinear) associations were found along a continuous measurement of gynephilia and transvestic fetishism. Age and ethnicity, in addition to sexual orientation, were found to be statistically significant predictors of transvestic fetishism. The clinical, etiological, and sociopolitical implications of these findings are discussed.

sillyolme said...

Riki,

I don't believe that Lawrence is "committed" to undermining anything... she simply, and correctly pointed out several shortcomings to the study, to wit: that no truly exclusively androphilic subjects were included... and that Swaab's own research shows that the BSTc is not sexually dimorphic until adulthood. Both bring into question the usefulness of the study in two different ways.

What exactly is your objection to the Hulshof-Pol study? If you don't like that data, look at Swaab's latest study, which clearly shows that castrating men allows their brains to shrink, confirming the Hulshof-Pol results!

Third, the study you quoted at the end of your post clearly replicated Blanchard's data, that HSTS don't have autogynephilia and "non-homosexual" transsexuals do, with additional detail, giving us greater insight into how autogynephilia operates to motivate AGP transsexuals to transition, confirming that AGP transsexuals have more variation in their clinical presentation... but it is still AGP.

Trans said...

Jack,

Another great piece! Now we some empirical science to lend credence to the qualitative work performed by Natalie and yourself.

I had to reacquaint myself with the companion post on the innate femininity of autogynephiliacs and am sure glad I did. I totally identify with the adolescent experiences like getting called a "faggot" by other boys even though I was interested in girls, not being into sports, the onset of cross-dressing and attraction to other feminized males.

If true, this theory has profound implications for me. AGP is not the result of some mis-wiring in our brain as I suggested before; that our brains were somehow "tricked" into thinking we were intimate contact with a woman when we feminize and releasing the appropriate hormones and neurotransmitters.

If our (AGP) brain is partially female then our inner woman is real to some degree and perhaps that flood of neurotransmitters and hormones is a *reward* for trying to bring some *correctness* to our existence?

Just Chris said...

BTW, that was me posting under the handle Trans Revolution.

Trans Revolution is a monthly dance party in my city which I DJ for.

Sorry for the confusion.

Jack Molay said...

Dear Riki,

Thanks for the reference to an interesting article. I have found it and read it.

I believe you are referring to several findings.

The first is that although there is, as Cloudy points out, a significant difference in the occurrence of "fetishistic behavior" between gynephilic and androphilic transsexuals, there is nevertheless a large percentage of the androphilic that do report such behavior:

"Twenty three percent of
the homosexuals reported lifetime transvestic fetishism compared
to 81.7%, 67.7%, and 66.7% among the heterosexual,
bisexuals, and asexuals, respectively."

23 percent of the androphilic transsexuals report "lifetime trasvestic fetishism". (12 percent if you reduce the number to "lifecourse persistent transvestic fetishism"). Given that as many as 68.5 percent of the 571 M2F respondent were classified as "homosexual" the number of respondents should be large enough to trust.

A linchpin in Blanchard's theory is that androphilic transwomen do not experience arousal from crossdressing. Only autogynephiliacs do.

Another important finding:

"Higher levels of attraction to women (gynephilia) were
associated with monotonically increasing levels of transvestic
fetishism in this sample."

Blanchard has argued (1992) that transvestic fetishism is
highest at an intermediate level of gynephilia. That is: the more autogynephilic you are, the less likely you are to have normal heterosexual relationship with a real life woman. He believes this supports his target location error theory. This new study does not support this conclusion.

The researchers also point to ethnic differences:

"Transvestic fetishism is not only a generational phenomenon
but a phenomenon disproportionately experienced
among Whites as compared to non-Whites (in North America)."

This observation can be used to support the idea that this is nothing but a culture-specific fetish. But it can also be used to explain why a biological condition find different expressions in different cultures. This paper does not give a definite answer to that question.

Jack Molay said...

To Chris:

For me the essential part of the Swaab study is not that it proves that AGP is biological. It could well be that someone, one day, finds that the INAH3 does not govern gender identity.

But it is interesting to note how the researchers develop a more and more nuanced and sophisticated model of how sexual orientation, gender identity and related phenomena. They have left the simple model of Y-chromosome equals male equals gynephilic.

They have now a large number of "sliders" that can be put in different positions giving different mixes of traits, and that makes the Natalie theory much more realistic.

sillyolme said...

Jack,

In references that a some androphilic transsexuals show lifetime erotic cross-dressing in this latest study, there are two factors. First, if we look at the Smith study, it too showed the same effect... but, when Lawrence specifically excluded those who had a *history* of gynephilia, as shown by either self-report or marriage to women, the percentage of "androphilic" TS who reported such AGP arousal, dropped significantly. Second, we saw the same thing happen accidently in the Leavitt and Berger study. The less sexual experience with women a *group* of TS report, the fewer report having arousal to cross-dressing. Note that in the B&L study the correspondence was so nearly perfectly one-to-one as to allow us to formulate the rule that gynephilia = autogynephilia in transsexuals. Flat out, this study has essentually the same results as earlier studies, including Blanchard's own, so to my mind it corraborates the basic two type taxonomy, while bringing greater detail and nuance to the question of "AGP subtypes".

sillyolme said...

"Transvestic fetishism is not only a generational phenomenon
but a phenomenon disproportionately experienced
among Whites as compared to non-Whites (in North America)."

This observation can be used to support the idea that this is nothing but a culture-specific fetish. But it can also be used to explain why a biological condition find different expressions in different cultures. This paper does not give a definite answer to that question.

Jack, the above observation has been made for years! Among the HSTS population, we even joke about it. Simply put, for an AGP to transition, she loses a great deal of social position, social capital. Thus, it takes a great deal of stored up social and financial capital to facilitate transition. A poor black male with strong autogynephilia is going to think twice about transition, but a rich white male will only think once! Further, look at the Smith data on IQ differences between the "homosexual" (self reported - prior to Lawrence's adjustment) and the "non-homosexuals". The "homosexual" population had an average IQ of 107. The "non-homosexual" population had an average IQ of 122 !!! I'm betting that if we made the adjustment for prior sexual experience with women, the "homosexual" population would drop further to ~100. Since IQ and socio-economic status (social capital) are highly correlated, this supports the hypothesis that for an AGP to consider transition, she has to be able to "afford" it.

Contrast that with the HSTS population. Their personal social capital as feminine males is already low... and if they can pass, it may actuall go *up* if they transition. After-all, feminine women are valued in our society more than feminine men.

Thus, in North America, being a "straight white male" has higher social capital than an obviously gender queer minority.

I think this totally explains the differences in racial make-up between the HSTS and AGP TS populations.

Jack Molay said...

The Nuttbrock paper Rita is refering to can be found here: http://bit.ly/aSE5PI

To Cloudy:

I am not surprised when you argue in the same way for this study as for the previous ones: the "homosexual M2F transsexuals" who report autogynephilia are not androphilic at all, they are in fact self deceiving (auto-)gynephilics.

But in this case, it won't do, and I'll explain why:

As long as you are talking about a small number of reported androphilic M2F transwomen loving transsexuals, you can interpret them as "noise" in the data. Since they have had fantasized about having sex with men, a few of them may decieve themselves into believing they are androphilic.

But we are not talking about a couple of percentage points here, we are talking about close to one quarter of the respondents categorized as "homosexual".

Given the way they have been asked, I doubt very much that they have misunderstood the question. If they truly are autogynephiliacs, it would make much more sense for them to reply "bisexual" to the question. That means that most of them will be included in the non-homosexual category. And indeed, as many as 16.8 percent of the 571 respondents ticked off bisexual. That makes it very unlikely that as many as 90 autogynephiliacs would call themselves pure "homosexuals".

So what may pass as a realistic interpretation when the percentage is lower, becomes incredible and unsustainable when these numbers are as high as these.

Moreover, in this study there is no reason for these 90 respondent to lie to themselves or to the researchers. Their chances of getting hormone treatment or SRS are not at stake.

If the argument is that all biological men who harbors autogynephilic fantasies must be gynephilic, you are -- of course --right. But that is a self-confirming tautology. It makes the theory unfalsible and useless for our purposes.

You could make a Sherlock Holmes argument, saying that when all other possible explanations have been tested, the remaining one must be true, regardless of how unbeliveable it might be. Sherlock Holmes was wrong about that by the way (there may be an unknown explanation) but in this case we actually have alternative theories that make sense.

One of them is simply that the questions asked by Blanchard are not useful for the identification of fetishes or paraphilias. His "Core Autogynephilia Scale" (http://bit.ly/9Si0Ri ) as well as his "Cross-Gender Fetishism Scale" (used in the Nuttbroch paper, see http://bit.ly/c2GTKD )are ambigous, in the sense that responses to them need not be interpreted as proof of autogynephilia.

Here's one such question: "Have you ever felt sexually aroused when putting on women’s perfume or make-up, or when shaving your legs?"

If the answer is yes, does that mean that you are an autogynephilic?

continues...

Jack Molay said...

...continues

Of course not! It could just mean that you associate the act of getting ready for a night on the town with sex, which is perfectly natural for both genuine girls, androphilic feminine men and androphilic M2F transwomen.

This is the reason why Moser got the following result when mapping autogynephilia among genuine girls:

"If we adopt Blanchard’s criteria of someone who has 'ever' had erotic arousal, female autogynephilia was present in 93% of the respondents. Even if a more stringent standard is applied, more than a quarter of the respondents indicated they were 'frequently' aroused to multiple items." (http://bit.ly/buxamL )

As you have pointed out earlier, the responses are context sensitive. Natural born women may (or may not!) intepret them differently from gynephilic transwomen.

The most important thing is that these questions do not manage to capture the interpersonal dynamics of sexual fantasie, i.e. whether they get turned on by the idea of being a woman or the idea of being a woman with another lover.

All right, you could say that this proves your point: The real women and the androphilic gay men focus on the interpersonal aspect of the fantasy, while the AGPs do not.

But this is letting the theory determine the results - again. The same ambiguity that must be taken into consideration for the natural born women and the androphilic transwomen, must also be considered for the gynephilic transwomen. You cannot have it both ways.

This means that when gynephilic transwomen reply "Yes, I do get turned on by putting on make-up", it could simply be that their inner woman is getting hot by the idea of having sex with someone else, being that a woman or a man.

Blanchard (but not the Nuttbrock study) has tried to take this into consideration by developing additional Autogynephilic Interpersonal Fantasy and Alloeroticism Scales, which include questions like the following (http://bit.ly/9Si0Ri ):

"Have you ever been sexually aroused while picturing yourself as a woman in the nude being admired by another person?"

This is not a good question for determining a person's desire for real interpersonal contact. Actually, none of the questions asked by Blanchard go into love, life long relationships, friendship etc, and that says a lot about his way of thinking.

The interesting thing, though, is that when he does include questions like these, there is no proof of autogynephilia, in the sense of a self-obsessed eroticism. Blanchard says so himself:

"The closing remarks of this paper concern the relationships between autogynephilia and sexual interest in others. The results of this study's factor analysis and the low correlations of the Alloeroticism Scale with the Core Autogynephila and Interpersonal Fantasy Scales indicate that autogynephilia is not strongly associated with a lack of erotic interest in other persons."

The Nutbrock paper confirms this when it finds that the more "autogynephilic" a person is, the more likely he is to be attracted to real women (as opposed to the idea of himself as a woman).

This leads to one of two possible conclusions:

1. The scales are useless for the purpose of determining autoeroticism, which means that Blanchard's research on this topic has to be set aside.

2. The research based on these scales only measure to what extent a person gets turned on by putting on women's clothes or imagening himself/herself having a woman's body. It does not measure degrees of fetishims or autoeroticism.

In other words: Blanchard's idea of AGP as a paraphilia is in his head, not in his own data.

Jack Molay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sillyolme said...

Jack,

One cannot rely on self-reported sexual orientation post-transition. As seen time and again in the data, when one uses sexual history, the signal of AGP vs. non-AGP goes up. That is for those that self-report as androphilic post-transition about 25% to 35% will report erotic cross-dressing. But, add the additional data regarding sexual history of active sex with women to select only those who both self-report androphilia and have no sexual history with women, the signal strenth increases, and the percentage drops to about 12% who report erotic cross-dressing.

Again, this is statistical... and there is still the issue of validity in any instrument (as you point out) and we come to the conclusion that exclusive androphilia and autogynephilia are anti-correlated.

Please read:

http://sillyolme.wordpress.com/2010/01/30/brideshead-revisted/

Finally, as a personal note, I've meet literally dozens of post-transition MTF TS folk who self-identify as "straight"... who deny any sexual attraction to women, yet have ex-wifes and children. In other words, have a long history of sexual attraction to women (sex to orgasm) and simultaneously a history of erotic cross-dressing or of AGP dreaming.

In one case, I know of a very intelligent post-op who is currently married to a man. She tells folks that she is exclusively androphilic... but I know her past. She was married for years to a women. And they had regular and satisfying sexual intercourse. How do I know this? Because her ex-wife was my deeply embittered roommate after they divorsed! She told me intimate details about their marriage and sex life. This TS was using autogynephilic ideation, no cross-dressing, throughout their marriage, just like my other friend MJ.

Thus, although the plural of anecdote is not data, I can't ignore what my own experience of those around me tell me about the behavior and likely self-reports would be to a survey instrument. So, when I see the statistical signal strength go up as they do when we use sexual history instead of self-reported current sexual orientation, combined with personal interaction with literally hundreds of sister transsexuals, I can't help but cast a wary eye to such self-reported sexual orientation.

From personal experience, if one performed a structured interview of one's past associates, one might have quite a different picture of a given transwoman's real sexual orientation.

Just Chris said...

I know a number of MTF's TS Folk in various stages of transition and know with certainty that only of those is androphilic

I say with certainty because the rest are either attracted to other MTF Trans Folk or Natal Women which by default makes them AGP...correct?

Just Chris said...

that should have been "only *one* of those is androphilic"

Just Chris said...

Two of the AGP Trans Women are *DIY Transitioners* -- doing it without a counselor and getting their hormones from Mexico.

The other two are integrated into the medical model with a cadre of specialists...

The latter either lied to their therapists about being sexually attracted to men or they were *let through*. Both spoke of a *go to* counselor -- an FTM -- who would *get you your hormones* without a hassle so I don't know.

Jack Molay said...

"I say with certainty because the rest are either attracted to other MTF Trans Folk or Natal Women which by default makes them AGP...correct?"

According to Blanchard & Co, this is correct, but since they believe that all non-homosexual transsexuals are autogynephiliacs, it is hard to prove otherwise. They simply say that all gynephilic transsexuals who deny having such fantasies are not telling the truth.

Just Chris said...

Jack,

On her blog, sillyolme writes that she and her androphilic sisters could *read* an AGP Trans Woman with very little effort.

One of the dead giveaways was their (AGP) attraction to other Trans Women in addition to the interests, how they held themselves, etc.

Jack Molay said...

To Chris,

I have had a long discussion with sillyolme AKA Cloudy about this. I am sure she is able to read many gynephilic women, and I also agree that there might be a difference between the two (for instance in the way there is a difference between gay and straight men).

I am not convinced that she is right when she say that it is only the androphilic transwomen who appear -- or are --feminine, though. You know, she accepts Blanchard's idea that gynephilic transwomen are men, and androphilic transwomen feminine men at the base. This leaves the androphilic transwomen as the only feminine one.

I believe some gynephilic transwomen are easier to track because they often transition very late. When they transition earlier -- like for instance Samantha Zero over at YouTube -- they may appear as feminine as any woman.

As for the attraction to other transwomen, I believe she is right. Only gynephilic transwomen would be attracted to other transwomen; they do, after all, love women!

Some of this blog's readers, including Cloudy, has also suggested that there may be "trannie chasers" among the crossdreamers (AGP), i.e that they are looking for pre-op transwomen.

I am going to touch that highly controversial subject in a later post, but i think there may be something to it.

Think about it: If you love women and have at least some of the copulatory instincts of a woman, the pre-op transwoman may seem like the perfect partner. She can take the active part and you the passive.

The problem for male "transfans" is that the pre-op transwomen they meet are either androphilic and looking for an active man or gynephlic, looking for a woman. The chances of real love are therefore fairly low.

Jack Molay said...

To Chris again:

Let me clarify one thing regarding my reference to Cloudy. To the extent Cloudy use the word homosexual transsexuals for transwomen, it is because the word points to the etiology (the cause) of the femininity.

In other words: She recognizes that feminine gay men and androphilic transwomen have something in common. That does not mean that she does not recognize transwomen as women. She is definitely a woman herself! (She also recognizes AGP transwomen as women, although she does not see them as feminine.)

This points to one difficulty we face when discussing concepts like femininity and masculinity and transgender issues.

It is perfectly possible to imagine that different persons have different degrees of some traits (their genetic, hormonal and psychological "sliders" are set in different positions) while at the same time recognizing a substantial difference between men and women.

While there may be a continuum, there may also be a tipping point, where a complex set of traits reaches critical mass, so to speak. At that point there is no doubt that this person is a woman.

If this is the case, there will be many of sign that tells you when this tipping point has been reached, including a clear identification as a woman, alienation towards her own male sex organs etc.

This would fit with Natalie's description of the two types of Thai Kathoeys: Those that identify with women and gay feminine men who transition because it helps them find love in a Thai culture.

Whether this is the correct model or not, I don't know, but it does make sense.

It is problematic, though, as it raises the question of whether the "gay feminine" kathoeys that have transitioned are "real women" or not.

This very problem tells me that there is something wrong with the way we are thinking.

If a gay man selects to become a woman, she is a woman to me, regardless of the original motive. This also applies to those crossdreamers (AGPs) who transition primarily because of femininization fantasies.

Christy Macey said...

Hi Jack

I don't agree with Cloudy's assessment either; there are plenty of AGP's (myself included) who pass just as well as any *classic transsexual*.

She is also wrong when she says the young transitioners are exclusively androphilic. I know three young transitioners -- ages 24,24,25 -- who sleep with each other and claim they like girls more than boys.

They are AGP and transitioning young and they are not alone.

Christy Macey said...

"trannie chasers" among the crossdreamers (AGP), i.e that they are looking for pre-op transwomen

That is gynemimetophilia Jack and I know there is something to it at least for me. I discovered my attraction to pre-op trans women at the same time I discovered cross-dressing.

Jonathan said...

Rather than rushing to look for physiological evidence in the brain for transsexual and/or transgendered identities, I think it's important to look first at the supposed differences (apart from size) between sexed (i.e. men and women's) brains, which this evidence is attempting to reflect.

Single studies quite often purport to show an inherent difference between men and women based on neuroscience and so forth, but meta-analysis (all such studies taken together) finds no such (statistically significant) difference. (For a popular summary of recent science, try Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender.) Instead, the analysis shows that difference – where it exists at all – is endemic in the human population as a whole without regard to sex, and that the underlying basis of men and women is one of near similarity.

Given that, the existence of, for instance, very small areas of the brain (so small that they can only be seen in post mortem dissection, and only then if you look very closely) for which transpeople are congruent with a particular sex seems virtually meaningless. So while it might be nice to have tangible "proof", it's probably better to accept that trans is a pan-historic, pan-cultural phenomenon of unknown aetiology, and just take people at their word.

Jack Molay said...

Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender is a wonderful book.

And yes, I fear you are right, so far no one have found final proof of there being a specific brain region making us men and women, mentally speaking. The sense of male or female self is probably the end result of a complex interplay between various factors. That does not mean that it does not have some kind of biological core, of course.

Still, I think it is important to follow this discussion, as research of this kind is used and misused by so many players in this field.

Jonathan said...

"The sense of male or female self is probably the end result of a complex interplay between various factors."

Indeed. Nature or nurture? Both, of course. And also choice — we're not just what we're born or made.

"Still, I think it is important to follow this discussion, as research of this kind is used and misused by so many players in this field."

You're probably right ;)

Nice site btw. I've added it to my Blog List :)

vnappa said...

This post is overwhelming and overly complicated transsexual mumbo jumbo. I've seen studies stating MTFs do not have female brains. hetero males and mtf have very similar brains except for small variations in the area that controls body self image. This is from the Stockholm Brain institute study on sex dimorphism of the mtf transgender. also the female hormone wash in utero has not been proven.
And also for whatever reason transgenders see the grass is always greener on the other side.