November 19, 2013

What explains the difference between the two types of MTF transgender?

Part 4 of the "Gay" vs. "Straight" Crossdreamers Series.

Photo: pixtawan
The the whole idea that woman-loving male to female crossdreamers (whether they are transsexual or not) are perverts, while male bodied trans people who love men are not, rests on the premise that the two groups are fundamentally different.

In the previous posts in this series I have documented that this is not so.

I have argued that the reason the majority of androphilic (i.e. man-loving)  trans women say that they have never experienced crossdreaming -- i.e. fantasies where they get aroused by the idea of being a woman --  is because they refuse to reduce their sexual feelings to one and one factor only.

Like other women the excitement they feel from being an attractive female  is blended in with a wide variety of other factors: their attraction to their lover, the desire their lover feel for them, the affirmation given by other men and women.

They live up to the model for accepted sexual behavior in women, being a woman attracted to men. They therefore -- correctly, in my opinion -- interpret their arousal as an effect of the interaction between her as a woman and he as a man.

The main reason for androphilic transwomen transitioning when young is most likely also found here. It is easier for them to live up to the archetypal gender model of women loving men.

The gynephilic trans woman, on the other hand, will most often find it much harder to do so. It is not that she is autoerotic and sexually attracted to herself as a woman  (at least no more so than other women). The problem is that she will find it so much harder to find a compatible  lover out there. She is normally not interested in straight men, and the lesbians most often prefer women born women.

Yes, MTF woman-loving crossdreamers may have  female partners, but these women are more likely than not heterosexual. This often means that the crossdreamer will try to adapt to the role of the heterosexual man, which in no way helps his "inner woman" (whatever causes "her" to appear).

This obviously also applies to male to female crossdressers and crossdreamers who are not gender dysphoric and who identify with their birth sex. They have an even strong motivation for protecting their "maleness" against feminine tendencies.

Because of this  their arousal from fantasizing about being a woman becomes much more apparent, and the male to female crossdreamer (transsexual or non-transsexual)  therefore truthfully answer "Yes, I have been aroused by imagining myself as a woman".

Context is everything. Blanchard and his autogynephilia followers ignore the context.

This means that even if we accept the premise that sexual orientation towards men, women or both are fixed traits that cannot be changed, it is impossible to use such orientation to define who are crossdreamers and who are not.

But it could be that our sexual orientation is not as fixed as many would like us to believe. Or maybe the same social and psychological processess that leads MTF crossdreamers to suppress the other side, also makes them suppress threatening sexual attractions.

Jaimie Veal's approach

Researcher Jaimie Veal has another interesting explanation for the difference between androphilic (man-loving) and gynephilic (woman-loving) trans people. She calls it the Identity-defense Model of Gender-Variance Development and it applies to transsexual as well as non-transsexual crossdreamers.

According to Veale the difference between the two types of gender variant male bodied persons is explained by the degree of gender variant identity developed and the defense mechanisms used to suppress this identity.

To put it simply: Some people are more likely to suppress or deny gender variant feelings than others. Veale has a long list of such factors. She notes, for instance, that introvert gender variant kids are more likely to try to follow the gender behavior expected by their parents, as introverts are more likely to be people pleasers:

"We believe that an introverted child is likely to have less confidence to express this  gender-variant identity, and it is also possible that children with greater impulse control, agreeableness, or conformity are more likely to cognitively avoid their gender-variance." (Veale, Lomax, Clarke 2010)

In Veale's thinking sexual orientation is not causing the difference between androphilic and gynephilic trans people. It is the other way around: Timid trans boys develop an attraction for women in an attempt to conform and please the people around them:

"Sexuality is strongly correlated with these outcomes. Those participants not  employing defence mechanisms (classical transsexuals and drag artists) are more likely to  develop a sexual attraction towards males... Those participants employing  defence mechanisms (non-classical transsexuals and cross-dressers) are more likely to  develop a sexual attraction to females and cross-gender eroticism."

So when some gynephilic male to female crossdreamers report fantasies where they are taken by faceless men, this is not proof of them being perverts unable to connect to real people. It is rather a sign of an underlying ambiguity as regards their sexual orientation.

This might also explain why some gynephilic trans women find that they are really bisexual post-op. Having become women in flesh as well as in spirit, they may now allow themselves to explore those feelings.

(See Julia Serano's latest book Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive for a good discussion about what this means for a transsexual woman.)

I am not sure what comes first: The sexual orientation or the degree of conformity. We could even be talking about some kind of complex feedback loops here.

What is certain, however, is that the simplistic ideas that people are either homosexual or heterosexual is pure nonsense. This means that the autogynephilia theory, which requires a strict division between hetero and gay,  is bad science, indeed!

Jaimie F. Veale, Tess Lomax & Dave Clarke: "Defense Model of Gender-Variant Development" International Journal of Transgenderism, Volume 12, Issue 3, 2010You can read it here.

This blog post is part of the following series:

  1. When men loving men crossdream
  2. On crossdreaming lesbians and sexy trans women
  3. Autogynephilia: Bad Science Revisited
  4. What explains the difference between the two types of MTF transgender?

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!