June 1, 2011

On Lou Sullivan and what female to male crossdreamers mean for our understanding of transgender

Another look at women who dream about having sex as men.

Among the many interesting discussions going on over at Crossdream Life, I would like to draw your attention to the one initiated by a female to male crossdresser and crossdreamer (or "autoandrophiliac").

Ariadna tells us that although she is sexually attracted to men with a strong feminine side, she have always wanted to take on the male role in bed:

"I dream of being a man since I can remember. I always felt aroused by the thought of me having a male body. I always wanted to have a penis. I always considered men are lucky for having that powerful and strong body, that ability to penetrate (with the amazing pleasure it implies) and be dominant. 


"I always had envy of males, of their powerful roles in society. So, it's not only I want to have a male body or to feel sexually as a man, I always wanted all the prerogatives and benefits that being a man implies. I also envy masculine clothes: They are confortable, so cool."

The existence of "autoandrophiliacs" requires a new explanation for "autogynephiliacs"

I do not think neither researchers nor most crossdreamers have understood how important the very existence of persons like Ariadna are for our understanding of human sexuality and gender roles.

Normally male to female  crossdreaming and crossdressing has been understood as a misdirection of a typical male sexuality, i.e. either as a fetish or as a man's way of fully conquering a woman's body.

In the latter case the idea is that a crossdreamer's dream of having a woman's body, has the same cause as a regular man's desire to have sex with a woman. That is: There is nothing feminine about his desire at all.

But in the case of female to male crossdreamers this makes no sense. Ariadne's "biggest dream and desire is to penetrate somebody", preferably a man. That can hardly be interpreted as a misdirection of a typical "reactive" female sexuality!

That means that her desire to be the penetrator most likely has an instinctual "masculine" basis. She is wired for having sex as a man.


What this means for the autogynephilia theory

But if this is the case for female to male crossdreamers, it makes little sense to uphold the idea that male to female crossdreamers suffer from some kind of "erotic target location error", to use the term invented by Ray Blanchard, the father of the "autogynephilia" theory. "Autogynephilia" refers to a man's love of himself in a female body.

Note that Ray Blanchard so far has denied the existence of female to male"autoandrophiliacs" (even though the term has been included in the draft of the DSM-5), and I suspect that this is because their very existence undermines his argument that woman-loving transwomen are basically perverted heterosexual men.

Ignoring the most influential female to male crossdreamer ever

Zagria makes an interesting observation about this over at her blog:

"As Blanchard does not acknowledge female paraphilia, and as he thinks that trans men are ‘women’, he assumes that they are all ‘homosexual’. In our terms, then, they will be heterosexual men after transition. Although Lou Sullivan wrote to Ray Blanchard in the 1980s explaining that gay trans men existed, and FTM groups report that up to a third of their members intend to be gay men, Blanchard is still denying their existence. In the CAMH’s Gender Dysphoria, 1985, Kurt Freund wrote: “To my knowledge, only one case of cross-gender identity in a heterosexual woman has been reported (J.B. Randell, 1959). Such a seeming exception could well be the result of the patient’s misrepresentation of facts.” Although Blanchard and Freund would categorize Sullivan as a ‘heterosexual woman’ if they noticed him, they were determined not to notice him."


Lou Sullivan, FTM activist

Lou Sullivan was  the major female to male transgender activist in the US in the 1980's, and he founded the FTM movement.  He had originally identified as a "female transvestite" who was sexually attracted to gay and bisexual men.

Here is a quote from his journal from 1973 that clearly documents that he was a crossdreamer:

"I know know that I can get exactly what I want -- to fantasize is no longer enough. Before it was beyond my dreams. It was the worst perversion that I wished I had a penis, to fuck a boy, to be on top and inside. But now it is only a matter of time."

He was 22 years old at the time.

He wrote a guidebook called Information for the Female-to-Male Cross-dresser and Transsexual. The use of these terms clearly proves that he considered his own fate a parallell to male to female crossdressers. Moreover, there was no clear dividing line between crossdressers and transseuxals in his mind.

Needless to say, I find Lou Sullivan a kindred spirit.

Source: Susan Stryker: Transgender History. 
See also the Lou Sullivan Society.

UPDATE ON TERMINOLOGY

Since this blog post was written I have stopped using the terms "autogynephilia" and "autoandrophilia" to describe people. The reason for this is that the terms implicitly communicates an explanation for why some people get aroused by imagining themselves as the opposite sex . This explanation, that this is some kind of autoerotic paraphilia,  is both wrong and stigmatizing. Instead I use the neutral term "crossdreamers".

Click here for a discussion of the dark side of the autogynephilia theory.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

In the latter case the idea is that a crossdreamer's dream of having a woman's body, has the same cause as a regular man's desire to have sex with a woman. That is: There is nothing feminine about his desire at all.

But in the case of female to male crossdreamers this makes no sense. Ariadne's "biggest dream and desire is to penetrate somebody", preferably a man. That can hardly be interpreted as a misdirection of a typical "reactive" female sexuality!

I don't see how this does contradict the theory of misdirected desir. This the same for men or women = The woman desires the man but wants to be him instead of focusing on the man.

Jack Molay said...

Blanchard and his friends are anchored in a kind of evolutionary psychology that presupposes that there is a genetically programmed difference between men and women as regards seuxality. This difference goes beyond attraction to the male or female form.

They believe that male sexuality is more agressive, more proactive and more intense than the female one.

Women are -- to follow Darwin -- empowered to choose their partner, but they are more reactive and more passive than men ("coy").

Men seduce, women are seduced. Men conquer, women are conquered.

The fact that Blanchard (and Bailey) equal sexual orientation with feminine and masculine looks and mannerisms (gay men are "feminine") tells us that they have reduced the diversity of human sexuality along these simplistic lines.

Blanchard's theory is based on the premise that "autogynephiliacs" are heterosexual masculine men whose male sexuality has gone overboard: They definitely want to conquer woman, to the extent that they internalize her, and becomes her. The erotic target location error theory requires that they have a male sexuality.

The reason Blanchard has never believed in the female to male autoandrophiliac is -- I belive -- that female sexuality, according to this way of thinking, cannot become aggressive, dominant and pro-active, unless the woman is a lesbian, that is: she has a masculine sexual orientation.

Remember: In this model gynephilia=masculinity and androphilia=femininity.

The female to male androphilic crossdreamer is impossible because a "heterosexual" female bodied person must be passive and reactive by definition.

She cannot have an aggressive male sexuality, because that means that the "masculine" vs "feminine" axis is independent of the sexual orientation dimension. Blanchard's theory does not allow for that.

A female to male androphilic ("heterosexual") crossdreamer should feel no need to "conquer" the male sex (and become one), as this need to "conquer" is a masculine trait, not a feminine one.

You may, of course, disagree with Blanchard and say that sexual orientation and the dominant/sumbissive dimension are independent of each other. You can then say that the male to female and female to male crossdreamers have both "misdirected" their desire.

But for this to be true you must believe that woman cannot be aggressive and men cannot be receptive.

Given that Blanchard believes all gay men are "feminine" and receptive and all lesbians are "masculine" and aggressive, this would turn all homosexuals into "paraphiliacs" as well. And he does not want that.

He has actually spent a lot of time trying to prove that homosexuality makes evolutionary sense. He does not want homosexuality included as a perversion in the DSM.

The very existence of the female to male crossdreamers mean that the evolutionary Darwinian argument for labelling crossdreamers as perverts falls.

I am sure it would be possible to come up with other theories for why crossdreamers should not dream of being the other sex, but these would have to apply in the same way to "homosexual" and "non-homosexual" FTMs as well as MTFs.

Anonymous said...

Also crossdreaming must take into account male autoandrophilia and female autogynephilia. Or more importantly gender as performative in self-identification.

Jack Molay said...

Yepp, the body building of both heterosexual and homosexual men comes to mind; clearly tactics of affirming a male sexuality or sensuality. Then there are women spending hours shopping, dressing and grooming together before a party, reaffirming each others femininity.

James said...

I personally know a lot of homosexual men who would definitely be autoandrophilic because they are spending so much time body-building at the gym.
However, there is a bisexual male my neighbor, who always grooms himself and wears costly jewelleries and kinda is very girly. He is autogynehpilic as he really gets excited by femininity most of the time. He has told me that he does not feel any inclination to have large muscles and these typical guy things never appeal to him though he may like some men for sex!!
I believe that autogynephilia does not exist merely among the gynephilic transsexuals.A significant number of gay and bisexual effeminate males might also be having the same autogynephilia, yet they would not be called so by people like Blanchard, simply because their sexuality would be called as feminine.

James said...

In other words, a feminine person (whether female or male bodied) would always have different degrees of what Blanchard calls "autogynephilia" while a masculine person (whether male or female bodied) would always be having what is called as "autoandrophilia".

wxhluyp said...

We mustn't confuse androphilia with autoandrophilia, gynephilia with autogynephilia. The difference between arousal in the masculine of feminine particularity, or the arousal in imagining ourself through the masculine or feminine particularity

Jack Molay said...

@wxhluyp dis distinguished between "the difference between arousal in the masculine of feminine particularity, or the arousal in imagining ourself through the masculine or feminine particularity"

This is where the underpinning world view becomes so important.

If you believe that the gender dysphoria has some kind of biological core (shaped by culture), the difference is not that clear.

A male to female transgender person will have to imagine herself to be a woman in the flesh in order to fantasize about having sex as a woman.

The arousal that follows from being that woman may nevertheless be of the same nature as the "autogynephilia" of women: "I am beautiful. I am sexy. I am desirable"

Many ciswomen constantly search for that feeling, through shopping and grooming.

This is a complicated matter, though:

I took part in a discussion on this over at The Science of Changing Sex (Cloudy has taken down the comments, unfortunately).

Anyway, the discussion was about the difference between gynephilic and androphilic M2F transsexuals, Cloudy's point being that androphilic transwomen do not experience autogynephilia.

(I believe pre-op transwomen may get aroused when fantasizing of being a woman, but they rightfully consider it a normal sexual desire for having sex with a man.)

One androphilic transwoman taking part in that discussion described autoANDROphilic fantasies before transitioning and autoGYNEphilic afterwards. For her it was the desire to be desired that was arousing.

Hence autowhateverphilia could simply be fantasies about be desired and having sex with others. To have sex as a woman, a male bodied person, has to be a woman (or play the role of the woman).

And if being a woman can bring you the kind of sex you desire, the very idea of being a woman becomes unavoidably arousing.

James said...

Jack,
"
And if being a woman can bring you the kind of sex you desire, the very idea of being a woman becomes unavoidably arousing."

But then, you have to also consider why a masculine man would not have autogynephilia if he also wants to take the stereotypical role of woman, ie., being penetrated.
Why only crossdreamers and feminine males would feel a need to be woman (in varying degrees), but the same sex role could be enjoyed by a masculine gay man without really feelings this way.
Could it be that hardness-softness is a spectrum and since the feminine male and crossdreamer is already soft,the desire to have passive sex makes him feel more soft and consequently feel as if he needs to be woman?

wxhluyp said...

"A male to female transgender person will have to imagine herself to be a woman in the flesh in order to fantasize about having sex as a woman."

-But it may not be the case that imagining oneself feminine is arousing in itself, rather than it being an invested connotation.

"(I believe pre-op transwomen may get aroused when fantasizing of being a woman, but they rightfully consider it a normal sexual desire for having sex with a man.)"

-This looks like they can only appear androhpilic to the extent that it satisfies they're autogynephilia

Jack Molay said...

@James

"But then, you have to also consider why a masculine man would not have autogynephilia if he also wants to take the stereotypical role of woman, ie., being penetrated."

Well, my point was to make clear that the idea of being a woman can be arousing because it is associated with sex, as opposed to it being a fetish or a erotic target location error.

The fact that there are receptive males who are at ease with their male body is another matter entirely. Sexual orientation, the active/passive dimension and the transgender issues seems to be independent variables.

Jack Molay said...

@wxhluyp


I said: "A male to female transgender person will have to imagine herself to be a woman in the flesh in order to fantasize about having sex as a woman."

You said: "But it may not be the case that imagining oneself feminine is arousing in itself, rather than it being an invested connotation."

The human psyche is an ambiguous place, and the associations between stimuli and arousal may come in all shapes and sizes (BDSM comes to mind). Maybe the desire can become completely disassociated from the idea of intercourse and become truly autoerotic. But I doubt that is the case for most crossdreamers. It seems to me they want to be loved, desired and made love to, like the rest of humanity.

I said: "(I believe pre-op transwomen may get aroused when fantasizing of being a woman, but they rightfully consider it a normal sexual desire for having sex with a man.)"

You said: "This looks like they can only appear androhpilic to the extent that it satisfies they're autogynephilia."

I stand corrected. I should have said "desire for having sex with a human being."

wxhluyp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wxhluyp said...

You said: "(I believe pre-op transwomen may get aroused when fantasizing of being a woman, but they rightfully consider it a normal sexual desire for having sex with a human being.)"

Sorry, but this is still problematic! It seems here that a pre-op transwomen find it normal to have to represent themselves (let alone as a gender) to have sex?

Jack Molay said...

"Sorry, but this is still problematic! It seems here that a pre-op transwomen find it normal to have to represent themselves (let alone as a gender) to have sex?"

I am not sure I know what you mean here. My point is simply that even pre-op androphilic transwomen will get aroused by the idea of being a woman, but they will -- correctly in my opinion -- not interpret this as autogynephilia, but as arousal caused by the idea of having sex with someone else as a woman.

Pre-op androphilic transwomen are more likely to have had sex in the receptive position, and with another human being. Sex is therefore not interpreted as autoerotic.

Gynephilic transwomen, on the other hand, have most likely not have sex with another human being in the receptive mode. This is hard to arrange, given that they are not that interested in men, and that a majority (?) of women find stap-ons and the like quite unusual. The gynephilic transwoman's "feminine" sex-life pre-op is therefore most likely solitary. This sex life is therefor considered autoerotic.

My point is simply that androphilic and gynephilic transwomen enter completely different life trajectories due to cultural and social conditions. We have to take this into consideration when interpreting what we see.

wxhluyp said...

If an arousing idea necessitates the presence of self-representation, it is auto-erotic. Auto-eroticism could be present when having sex with a partner.

Looking forward to the next post!

Jack Molay said...

"If an arousing idea necessitates the presence of self-representation, it is auto-erotic."

I see. It is clear now that we use words like "fetish" and "auto-erotic" in different ways. That poses no problem for me, but I can see that we both have a communication challenge.

What we write is easily misinterpreted by others, which -- in some cases -- can undermine what we are trying to achieve, namely: understanding and respect.

In my writing I react to the way the medical community -- and not you -- use the words.

In the DSM a fetish becomes a "paraphilia", an abnormal mental disease - at least if it stops a person from having "normal" sex.

"Auto-erotic" is understood as a disorder, as in being incapable of loving another person.

To my knowledge everybody have sexual fantasies, unless they are completely asexual or has forcefully suppressed them.

A woman fantasizing about being courted by a bearded pirate in the Caribbean while having sex with her husband (these things happen quite often, I am told :) is not auto-erotic in the way I use the word; she is just using her mind to spice up her love relationship with her husband.

The crossdreamers are using fantasies in exactly the same way, but since the M2F crossdreamer, for obvious reasons, is more likely to be alone (it is harder to find a compatible partner) these fantasies are now understood as proof of a kind of narcissistic disorder.

Merriam-Webster defines a fetish as "an object or bodily part whose real or fantasied presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification and that is an object of fixation to the extent that it may interfere with complete sexual expression"

You focus on the first part of this definition, and delete the second. Using the definition this way would mean that we are all fetishists. I think you are right.

A man getting aroused by tits and asses has a fetish, in the same way as a man getting turned on by an ankle or sexy lingerie or rubber has one.

What's kosher and not kosher is a question of culture, not nature. What matters is what gives pleasure and brings people together.

But the people I am arguing against are focusing on the second part of the definition:

They present a stereotypical and normative way of having sex (normally WASP vanilla heterosexual intercourse)and argue that any other expression may "interfere with complete sexual expression".

"Complete sexual expression" is then understood -- by definition -- what they at any time consider normal.

The irony is that many M2F crossdreamers long after having "normal" vanilla sex as a woman, which is why even the most gynephilic of them conjure up male "pirates" in their fantasies. Which again is taken as proof of them being "perverts". Damned if you do, damned if you don't!

It seems to me that words like "fetish" and "auto-erotic" have become contaminated by bigotry to the point of becoming useless for our purposes.

You are using the terms as tools of liberation, tolerance and healing, but most psychiatrists use them as tools of exclusion and imprisonment.

Jasmine said...

@Jack
This article is based on stereotypes it seems. What has topping or bottoming in bed got to do with gender identity?
Are you kidding? I am a MTF feminine lesbian in male body and I am versatile.I have topped my partners before.
But I am not a man,never felt as one. I am definitely a woman in the wrong body regardless of my sexual preferences.Just because I take the "male" role sometimes does not give you excuse of labelling me as a male sexual fetishist. I am a woman.

Jack Molay said...

@Jasmine

"I am definitely a woman in the wrong body regardless of my sexual preferences.Just because I take the 'male' role sometimes does not give you excuse of labelling me as a male sexual fetishist. I am a woman."

Of course you are, and I have never said that you or any transwoman or transman should be reduced to being a fetishist.

Actually, this post was partly written to refute the theory of Ray Blanchard. He argues that all gynephilic transwomen are perverted men sexually attracted to the idea of themselves as a woman. I find that extremely offensive.

As for the dynamics of being dominant or submissive in bed, this is a variable that is only loosely associated with sex identity. Many men and women, trans and non-trans, thrive in both roles, others prefer one or the other.

See my post about the "virile women" of the Kama Sutra for examples of women who enjoy the proactive role in bed. They may still have a female gender identity.

Still, what I have found, discussing this with transgender people from all over the world, is that for some of them their atypical sexual instinct leads them to a better understanding of their own transgender condition.

For Lou Sullivan the fantasy of having sex as a man with another man, was an integrated part of his male sex identity, in the same way some male to female transsexuals long to express stereotypical feminine gender behavior.

This does not mean that their sex identity can be reduced to being the top in bed or dressing up as a woman.

It seems to me that in them these longings and behaviors are different ways for the underlying sex identity to find a voice. In other transgender and transsexual persons this identity plays out differently.

In this respect transwomen and transmen are no different than non-trans people.

Lou Sullivan was a man. But there are other transgender female bodied persons who do not identify as men. They identify as women, but they still want to take the stereotypical proactive male role in bed, and they get turned on by the idea of being "the man" in bed. (See the discussion under the Kama Sutra post for examples).

In other words: Crossdreaming (getting turned on by imagining yourself as the opposite sex) is a condition that may affect both transsexual men and women and transgender people who are not transsexual.

What this ultimately will mean for our understanding of the various transgender conditions, I do not know.

For me one thing is clear, though: It is not sexual instincts, sexual orientations or sexual kinks that define someone as a man or a woman. Our understanding of them as men or women must be based on their own experience of belonging to a specific sex or gender.

Jasmine said...

@Jack,
Thanks a ton for replying!
Firstly, let me tell you that I am a transsexual female from western Europe and I must tell you that I don't at all believe in any of the North American scientific concepts of transgenders. More so because I am a lesbian and according to BBL theory,I cannot be a real woman.
Yes,from my own experiences, I am confident that gynephilic transwomen are not "perverted men". Far from that. If possible,dring pre-op stages, maybe some are a bit like "perverted women" or "nymphomaniacs" because of excess testosterone.
Secondly, I do get your idea that there are "transgenders" who aren't exactly transsexual but still probably experience some gender-discordant traits.
Examples would be the gynephilic feminine men and effeminate gay/bisexual men or the stud butch lesbians.
I am not totally sure however if they are really transgendered.
The reason is that many of them themselves object to being called as transgendered.I assure you that many effeminate gay males might take offence literally if you ever called them transgendered.
We are perhaps mixing up personalities with gender identities here.
It is possible for a man to have a feminine personality but still feel 100% male, much as it is possible for a woman to have a masculine personality but identify 100% female.

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