February 27, 2013

How radical feminists are using the autogynephilia theory to persecute trangender

The new year started with a storm of radfem controversy. Radical feminists was again on the warpath using any weapon available to stigmatize trans women. And now they were using the autogynephilia theory to tell the world that transsexual women are not real women.

"Contrasted Faces" in Samuel R. Wells, New Physognomy, or Signs of
Character, Manifested through Temperament and External Forms (1871)
The drawings illustrates the superiority of the English race over the Irish.
Similar tactics are now used to stigmatize gynephilic trans women.
"Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words can never hurt you."

There are those who believe in this maxim.

There are also those who believe that any presumably "scientific" theory is objective and neutral and therefore removed from the messy and emotional thing called life.

In this context the "autogynephilia" theory of Ray Blanchard -- which argues that androphilic (men-loving) trans women are effeminate men , and gynephilic(woman-loving)  trans women are "paraphilic" heterosexual men -- cannot hurt you either.

WHAT IS PARAPHILIA? 

As many of the readers of this blog will know, Ray Blanchard believes all male bodies persons who get aroused by the idea of being the opposite sex are "autogynephiles", whether they are transsexual or not. 

This means that all male to female (MTF) crossdreamers are classified as "paraphilic". If the crossdreamer is bothered by this paraphilia, he/she is considered to be suffering from a psychiatric or mental disorder. 

Note that Blanchard defines paraphilia as "any intense and persistent sexual interest other than sexual interest in genital stimulation or preparatory fondling with phenotypically, consenting adult human partners." 

Basically this means that anyone who do not follow his personal understanding of correct homosexual or heterosexual love making is paraphilic.
Scientific bullying

Those who know the realities of school yard bullying know better, however. As do those who have read their history books know that "neutral", "disinterested" and "objective" studies have been used to systematically to confirm stereotypes and suppress marginalized groups, being those women, black people, Romani, Jews or homosexuals.

Members of these groups have been hospitalized, sterilized, lobotomized and gassed in the name of science.

The autogynephilia out of jail card 

I see that some of my fellow crossdreamers believe that this does not apply to them, or -- at least -- that it is possible, somehow, to stand outside this flow of history and establish some kind of safe haven where they can be what they are, without caring about what others think, say or do.

Since they are not transsexual they believe the autogynephilia narrative  may help them stay outside the fray.

Well, the radical feminists have now thoroughly debunked that illusion.

They are now actively using the autogynephilia theory to label all gynephilic male to female crossdreamers and transsexuals (called "heterosexual men" by Blanchard and the radfems) as homophobic and misogynistic perverts.



Dirt from the Dirt

Let me quote from a recent radfem blog post from The Dirt from Dirt:

Dirt, a lesbian radfem, hates crossdreamers and
transsexuals (photo from Zagria's site).
"There is a conspicuous jealously and homophobia by the majority of trans males aka Mtfs [she is referring to male to female gynephilic transsexual women] whenever reminded of trans males who pass (perform for their own internal male gaze) better than they. Especially males requiring less drugs and surgeries with which to do so. Those males make up the few percent of trans males who are homosexual. 

"Males who seek transition, unlike your 90+ percent of hetero male transitioners who transition seeking the ultimate fetishist's high, transition instead because of his pathological homophobia. These gay males, do not have to lie to their 'gender specialist'  about their attractions or their feelings of believing they 'always felt like girls'. Many gaytrans males formed close relationships with females their age when young and were allowed into early female spaces, experiences your classic autogynephile wasn't at all privy to."

Dirt or Dirty White Boi is a butch activist and  member of the New Radical Lesbian Feminist Front.

Dirt here repeats the myth that all gynephilic trans women are uglier and more masculine than androphilic ("homosexual") trans women.

The Man Who Would be Queen

This is the myth propagated through J. Michael Bailey's book The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism - a popularization of the autogynephilia theory strongly defended by Blanchard -- where Bailey says:

"There is no way to say this as sensitively as I would prefer, so I will just go ahead. Most homosexual transsexuals are much better looking than most autogynephilic transsexuals. There is the rare exception, but for the most part, autogynephilic transsexuals aspire (with some success) to be presentable, while homosexual transsexuals aspire (with equivalent success) to be objects of desire." (p. 180)

In one paragraph Bailey manages to label gynephilic trans women as -- at best -- barely passable, while the androphilic tranwomen are sexy feminine men trying to ensnare men like himself. (Seriously! I am not making this up. Read the book!)

Baileys book is considered sexist and hateful by most
transsexuals. The cover illustration is clearly
meant to ridicule "autogynephilic" crossdressers
and trans women.
Bailey does actually admit that the reason the  gynephilic trans women he has observed look less feminine is probably because they have transitioned later and  therefore have been more severely ravaged by testosterone. They have also had less time to adapt feminine mannerisms.

Unfortunately, since Bailey elsewhere seems to argue that effeminate mannerisms and interests are an inborn part of being a gay male, this nuance is lost on most readers, including the radfems.

Dirt now uses the "scientific facts" of Bailey and Blanchard in an attempt to destroy the credibility of gynephilic trans women, in the same way claims of promiscuity and autoeroticism were once terms used to undermine homosexual activists.

And yes, Dirt does know the autogynephilia theory.

The homophobic trans woman

Dirt adds new  prejudices to the autogynephilia mix, though, arguing that all male to female gynephilic trans women are homophobic as well.

This is an element not found in the autogynephilia theory, but fits well with the radfem understanding that all heterosexual men are homophobic bastards and then some.

She writes:

"2 b) Not unlike your typical straight male homophobe, hetero trans males [i.e. transsexual women]  are equally homophobic and then some! But theirs is a homophobia coupled with extreme jealousy. That's not to say they wont use gay trans males for their own political agendas whenever one is beaten or murdered. But outside of that, these men HATE gay men, period! 

"Sadly the gay trans male is usually a minority, he doesn't have the white privilege and power commanded by the white straight Trans politic. He usually has to put himself into danger if he feels compelled to transition. Dangers from prostituting himself to raise monies for transition, including frequenting life threatening Pump Parties."

The fact that many of the gynephilic  trans women identify as homosexual lesbians is ignored.The fact that most crossdreamers are not homophobic is ignored. The fact that there are female to male crossdreamers is ignored. These facts would, after all, undermine the theory.

Androphilic trans women, on the other hand, are reduced to helpless male victims of white male heterosexual suppression. They prostitute themselves to get money for surgery, Dirt writes, echoing Bailey (who believes "homosexual transsexuals" are well suited to prostitution due to their male sex drive). The fact that they often are severely gender dysphoric -- i.e. that they have a clear female sex identity -- is ignored.

The oppressed becomes the oppressor

If you find the idea of a gender challenging lesbian butch  persecuting lesbian transsexual women surprising, just wait til I tell you about GallusMag.

In a blog post over at GenderTrender she praises the arguments made by Dirt and goes on to use the autogynephilia theory directly to attack male to female crossdreamers as well as androphilic trans women.

GallusMag writes:

"Homosexual male transgenders  [i.e. androphilic trans women] objectively exhibit 'feminine' characteristics from an early age and adopt female personas because they are easy for them to adopt, and increase social functionality and success in a homophobic culture, in stark contrast to the heterosexual male transgender, who exhibits no objective gender-noncompliance in childhood but begins sexualized fetishistic crossdressing at puberty and for whom transgenderism or 'autogynephillia' is a sexual orientation. See transvestic fetishism. 

"This is the distinct difference between homosexual and autogynephillic male transgenders and Dirt outlines the ways privileged white heterosexual fetishists colonize and exploit the oppression of impoverished non-white homosexual transgenders to advance a heterosexual white male political agenda."

The model differing between "homosexual transsexuals" and "adrophilic transsexuals" is copied directly  from Blanchard and Bailey.

"Transvestic fetishism" is a reference to the current American manual of mental illnesses. Being included in that manual comes with a high price, indeed, which is why the homosexuals fought so hard to get out of.

The fact that many, if not most, gynephilic crossdreamers report childhood transgender dreams, is ignored. After all, that would not fit the claim that MTF crossdreamers are nothing bur testosterone driven fetishists or autogynephilacs.

Misusing a crossdreamer study

In one blog post, she just reproduces a survey published by Krista444 (Kristin) over at Crossdream Life 

For Kristin (who is a male to female transsexual) the results of the survey clearly shows that most MTF crossdreamers do not identify with the autogynephilia theory.  In the context of GallusMag's blog, however, it is clear that the results are published in order to document that gynephilic trans women are indeed perverts.

Again we see the autogynephilia theory used to negate the womanhood  of trans women.

Using photos to ridicule

In some blog posts GallusMag republishes photos of crossdressers and trans women, in the same way the Nazis once published pictures of Jews with presumably big noses and greedy eyes or "feebleminded negros" to support their theory of the inferior races.(I am not linking to these posts, as I am not going to take part in this kind of harassment).

I have included a parallel historical illustration above, though, to prove my point. It is taken from the book   The History of White People, written by the African American professor Nell Irvin Painter. It is a side by side comparison of a perfect specimen of British womanhood (Florence Nightingale) and a degenerated Irish woman.

To prove that the Irish people were inferior to the "Nordic Anglo-Saxons"  scientists used intelligence tests and health reports to make their case. The Brits used such arguments to legitimize their occupation of Ireland, while racist Americans used it to keep the Irish out of positions of influence.

All these professors and "experts" ignored the fact that the reason poor Irish women did not display the same health and vigor as British upper class ladies, was most likely the fact that they were poor, and not race.

There is a similar lack of contextualization in the autogynephilia narrative used by GallusMag, this time to keep trans women out of women's circles.

Science, the oppressor

The medical establishment and religious authorities for a long time argued that any woman who did not adhere to their ideas of proper womanhood was mentally ill or a pervert. They were diagnosed as hysterics  or nymphomiacs and sterilized and lobotomized.

Black men and women were labelled as feeble-minded, promiscuous, brutes. And yes, homosexuals were diagnosed as autoerotic perverts in order to stop them from living the lives they deserved. And now radfems are doing the same to gynephilic transsexual women.

The following quote from Nancy Ordover's book on the science of eugenics illustrates this:

"In 1904, G. Frank Lydston, a professor at the Chicago College of Physicians and Surgeons who lectured on the dangers of 'sexual perversion' also wrote, 'Physical and moral degeneracy...with a distinct reversion to type, is evident in the Southern negro...especially in the direction of sexual proclivities.'"

Ordover continues:

"African-American lesbians and gays were declared predatory; their anatomy, gender deviation, and sexual propensities sensationalized and exaggerated by researchers seeking to substantiate their own biases." (Nancy Ordover: American Eugenics: Race, Queer Anatomy, and the Science of Nationalism , 2003, p xxii).

And in the same way the Irish finally ended up persecuting African Americans on American soil, GallusMag is now persecuting trans women.

The comments are even worse

I tried to post a comment on GallusMag's blog, pointing her to papers criticizing the Blanchard theory. It was not published.

Other comments has made it through, however, and they ooze with transphobia and contempt for crossdressers, crossdreamers and gynephilic transsexual women.

Here is one:

"Straight male 'trans' = a legion of scary, creepy, stalker-dudes with an anti-female socio-political agenda fueled by intense jealousy (rage that women as a class are 'prettier' than they will ever be), infantile rage at women’s autonomy (rage at their inability to control women) and fetid sexual fetishes (seeing sex as something one does to objects, rather than in relationships with fully autonomous human beings who have to be courted, nurtured and delighted into willing participation in an on-going sexual relationship.)"

And here is another one:

"[I] think there is a strong masochistic streak in some (many) heterosexual male 'trans women' — and possibly in some gay male 'trans women' of the autogynephillic type (those who have a sexual fetish for themselves performing 'woman'.)

"Why else would a man with a safe and secure job and income don 'woman face' and sexually revealing clothes and walk out at night in some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the world, offering himself up to other (dangerous) men as prostitutes? Or advertise on-line as 'escorts' or sexual partners to God knows what stranger?"


The latter is clearly mixing up the categories of  Blanchard and Bailey, but I guess that does not make much of a difference in hate speech like this.

Note that one of the most typical ways of belittling liberated women in the late 19th century was to label them nymphomaniacs and promiscuous. By doing so, they were removed from proper womanhood and marginalized. The fact that trans women may actually have sexual desires is now used to silence them and force them out of the feminist movement.

How can feminism become so destructive?

I have worked for equal rights for men and women my whole adult life, and plan to continue to do so. My girlfriend is a long time feminist, as are many of my female friends and colleagues.

None of them have ever expressed views like the ones of Dirt and GallusMag, though. That might be because there is an unwritten rule in most Norwegian feminist circles: You do not set one oppressed group up against another.

I am also a strong supporter of gay rights and have many friends who are homosexual. I therefore find it hard to wrap my mind around the claim that I have to be a homophobic misogynists, just because I am a male to female crossdreamer.

But this is, of course, how bigotry works. You turn prejudices into stereotypes, and stereotypes into eternal truths that apply to all  members of the oppressed group:  "All Jews are greedy cannibals who eat children and have crooked noses". "All crossdreamers are homophobic perverts with a bad dress sense who colonize women's spaces!"

A long tradition of radfem transphobia

This hatred for trans women is actually older than the autogynephilia theory. As early as in 1979 the radical feminist Janice Raymond published the book The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male , where she wrote that:

"Transsexually constructed lesbian-feminists show yet another face of patriarchy. As the male-to-constructed-female transsexual exhibits the attempt to possess women in a bodily sense while acting out the images into which men have molded women, the male-to-constructed-female who claims to be a lesbian-feminist attempts to possess women at a deeper level, this time under the guise of challenging rather than conforming to the role and behavior of stereotyped femininity”.

The American professor of women's studies, Susan Stryker, notes the following in her book Transgender History (2008):

"Transgender community members have asked since the 1970s how anyone could fail to see that Raymond's rhetoric and policy recommendations replicate arguments made by ex-gay ministries, antiabortion activists, bigots, and fearmongers of many stripes. In spite of these protestations, antitransgender discourses continued to proliferate in the 1980s, when it became common to denounce transsexuality as a 'mutilating' practice and, if anything, the level of vitriol against transgender people actually increased."

Autogynephilia is a perfect fit for bigotry

What the contemporary radfems have found is that Raymond's  theories can be supported by using the Blanchard/Bailey model, as both theories deny trans women the right to be considered real women. Moreover, both Raymond and Blanchard/Bailey sexualise tran women, reducing them to slaves of their own desires.This fits well with the radfem agenda.

The problem that both Blanchard and Bailey are privileged white men -- and therefore, presumably, part of the machinery of suppression -- is solved by not referring to them by name.

Note that all of these people -- Blanchard, Bailey, Raymond, Dirt and GallsMag -- deliberately use male pronouns for transsexual women. This is not a coincidence, but reflects an underlying lack of respect and understanding.

Dirt now is now actually campaigning to get feminists to stop calling trans women women. At her blog, all comments that do not use  pronouns that reflect the  biological birth sex of people are removed. Those who control language, control reality, she argues. Indeed!

The same prejudices, different belief systems

Please note that GallusMag and Dirt do not share the same fundamental view of reality as Blanchard and Bailey. Like most children of post-structuralist feminism, the two radfems believe gender is a social construct.

As far as I can see, they do not share Blanchard and Bailey's simplistic view of femininity and masculinity following from an inborn sexual orientation, either.

Both Bailey and Blanchard reproduce the sexual stereotypes of the day. Dirt and GallusMag try to liberate themselves from those stereotypes. It may therefore seem like a paradox that they make use of a theory that actually seem to strengthen such prejudices.

Unfortunately, the debate about sex and gender is rarely a rational one, and bigotry pops up in the most unexpected places. In this case I guess there are many reasons for the two women behaving the way they do:
  • In spite of their presumably radical point of view, they have inherited transphobic prejudices from friends,  family and a patriarchal society.
  • Their basic social constructivist view point has led them into an intellectual dead end where it is impossible for them to understand gender dysphoria. Since they cannot accept any kind of inborn sex identity, sex is reduced to whatever you have between your legs.Everything else is a result of conditioning and indoctrination.
  • They might also  have absorbed the traditional  masculine value system unconsciously. The fact that a male bodied person may experience herself as a woman, is therefore considered a sign of weakness. Alternatively, it is considered an impossibility: No man would ever give up the advantages of being a man, so all trans women must be lying.
For crossdreamers, whether they identify with their birth sex or target sex, this does not make much of a difference. The end result is the same: Their lives and their sense of self are ridiculed and suppressed.

The radfems represent a fringe movement with little traction among most sane feminists and humanists. Unfortunately, this does not mean that they cannot do harm. 

I fear for the day other equally narrow minded groups start using the autogynephilia theory to persecute crossdreamers and  trans people. The radfems have showed us how easily this can be done.

What can we do?

Transsexual crossdreamers can do what they already do: Fight the transphobic radfems at any opportunity, online and off-line.

Non-transsexual crossdreamers can at least stop referring to themselves as "autogynephiles" or "AGP".

The radfems have proved that the "autogynephilia" term cannot be used as a neutral term to describe people who dream about being the other sex. It carries with it a whole narrative that unavoidably lead to crossdreamers being labelled perverts.

I urge crossdreamers to refer to themselves as anything  but "autogynephiles". There are many terms that may fit:  "crossdreamers", "crossdressers", "gender variants", "gender queer ", "transgender", "trans". Nearly anything but "autogynephile" will do.

Further reading:

The radfems should be classified as a hate group (reddit discussion)
The survey that is used by GallusMag to stigmatize crossdreamers.
Transphobic British Feminist Troika Crying White Women's Tears

Observer removes controversial Julie Burchill article on transsexuals from website and issues apology after Twitter storm (On the controversy surrounding British radfems Julie Burchill and Suzanne Moore)

Update 2015: Since this post were written, the transphobic radical feminists have been given a separate label: "trans-exclusionary radical feminists" or TERFs. This is a useful term as it makes it clear that these radfems are not representative of radical feminists in general.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!