August 14, 2013

A Frank Discussion of Autogynephilia

Being sexy feels sexy. That is natural.
Photo by Vladimir Nikulin
"Hopeful Kylee", a transseuxal woman videoblogging over at YouTube, has published a fresh and frank post on autogynephilia that should be of interest to all crossdreamers, also those who are not transsexual.

As me, Kylee simply argues that women too get aroused by the idea of being sexy and being attractive, of feeling desire and being desired.

How can a pre op transsexual woman not get aroused by the idea of being desireable, when sexuality is such a central part of the lives of nearly all people?

It seems to me  that too many of us has fallen for the myth that women are somehow less interested in sex than  men, less libidinous, and with sexual fantasies restricting themselves to the engaging in the missionary position with their faithful husband every Saturday night.

The sexual fantasies of women

I am currently working on a series of blog posts on the sexuality of women born women, and their sexual fantasies.

I am going through all the relevant research I can find. I am reading steamy romance novels, and erotica written by women for women.  I am also studying collections of female fantasies made by people like Nancy Friday.

Apart from the transformation part,  all the motifs of MTF crossdreamer fantasies and fiction are found among XX women. All of them, including the more extreme fantasies of humiliation and rape.

The existence of crossdream fantasies can therefore not be used to pathologize transsexual women.

Non-transsexual crossdreamers

As for the rest of us? Well, having erotic male to female transformation fantasies does not prove that you are wired like a woman. I guess you could argue that these fantasies draw on instincts and mental figures common to both sexes.

Still, the existence of women like Kylee, tells me otherwise. As she points out, the desire to transition is for her much more than a desire to be a sexy woman. It is much more fundamental, much more comprehensive and applies to all the aspects of being a woman.

This makes me suspect that also non-transsexual crossdreamers share some, but not necessarily all, of the trans women's fundamental identity.

The pure and the impure 

Kylee indicates that there may be two types of crossdreaming (my word, not hers).

If I understand her correctly, one type would be the sexual fantasies of  trans women like her, where crossdreaming is just one of an expressions of a broader female sex identity.

The other type would be those that limits their fantasies to the sexual side of the equation. These would be the "autogynephiliacs".

That does not make much sense to me, I am afraid.

I do see the difference between non-transsexual crossdreamers who feel at ease with their own male sex identity on the one hand, and the gender dysphoric on the other, but it is hard for me to believe that the origins of their crossdream fantasies are completely different.

People are complex beings. The difference could be caused by variation of intensity, of the number of biological and cultural factor involved in the development of their sex identity and of different degrees of psychological repression.

But it seems to me the content and intensity of these fantasies are too similar for the transsexual and non-transsexual ends of the spectrum to be caused by two completely different phenomena.  Which is exactly why I think all crossdreamers can learn something from trans women like Kylee.

Julia Serano on sexual fantasies

I will take the liberty of quoting the book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano.

She has made some of the most illuminating comments on the sexual fantasies of transgender people in general and trans women in particular.

Serano adds a cultural dimension to this. Note how her discussion is not limited to trans women. Much of what she writes applies to a wider spectrum of gender variant people.

She writes:

"I would argue that MTF spectrum trans sexualities make far more sense once we recognize them as being on the receiving end of cultural messages that sexualize femaleness and femininity, rather than being the perpetrators of such sexualization themselves.

Those who fit the so-called 'true' transsexual archetype (i.e. Blanchard's 'homosexual' group) typically identify as female  from an early age and transition relatively early in life. Because they identify as female for much of their lives, they are likely to absorb much of the same cultural encouragement that non-trans heterosexual girls do, such as becoming focused on being conventionally attractive and attracting boys.

On the other hand, MTF spectrum trans people who become aware of their cross-gender desires after they have already consciously accepted that they are 'boys' (i.e., Blanchard's 'autogynephilics') tend to have greater difficulty reconciling their female or feminine inclinations with societal messages that insist that men and women are 'opposite' sexes, and that girls are inferior to boys.

Rather than feeling entitled to call themselves female or to act outwardly feminine, they often develop intense feelings of shame and self-loathing regarding their cross-gender inclinations.

To cope, they may develop sexual thoughts and fantasies that associate their desire to be female/feminine with subordination, humiliation, and sexual objectification. If anything, these fantasies share more in common with the exhibitionistic, submissive, and rape fantasies experienced by many women rather than the sexually aggressive and objectifying fantasies commonly associated with men.

"Because the relentless sexualization of MTF spectrum trans people has become one of the most common tactics used to delegitimize our gender identities and expressions, many in our community have tried to disavow their sexual predilections. I believe that this approach is inadequate because it fosters a continuing shame regarding our sex and fantasy lives, and because it leaves a void which is too easily filled by the ideas of so-called experts (like Blanchard and Bailey) who are all too eager to put their own cissexist, oppositionally sexist, and traditionally sexist spins on our sexual thoughts and history."

I strongly recommend anyone interested in the relationship between crossdreaming and different types of gender variance to read Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity.

She is, like Kylee, one of the few activists who actively and deliberately breaks the taboo of discussing the crossdreaming of transsexual women. That is of help to all transgender people, including non-transsexual crossdreamers and crossdressers.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!