June 16, 2014

A Transgender Novel Discussing "Autogynephilia" - Imogen Binnie's Nevada

Imogen Binnie has written a novel about the lives of two male to female crossdreamers. And yes, you should read it!
Photo of Imogen Binnie byJulie Blair 

There have been novels about crossdreaming before (Ernest Hemingway's Garden of Eden comes to mind), but I have never seen one who includes a discussion of the concept of "autogynephilia" (defined as men who get aroused by the idea of being women).

Imogen Binnie's Nevada does. And it does so because it is about two male to female crossdreamers: one lesbian punk trans woman, Maria Griffith, and one MTF crossdreamer living as a  heterosexual man: James.


It is a roller-coaster ride of a book, completely unlike any trans autobiography you might have read.

The language is colorful and explicit, and Binnie does not sugarcoat the lives of transgender people. Both James and Maria are suffering from the kind of traumatic stress disorder that gender confusion can bring. They are struggling with self acceptance, and find it hard to believe and embrace the love of others.

Maria is definitely intellectualizing  in an attempt to avoid feeling the hurt.

Crossdreaming unfiltered

Unlike many trans authors Binnie does not hide the crossdreaming -- i.e. the fact that trans people, being those crossdressers, transsexuals or other gender variant persons, may get aroused by the idea of being their target sex. She faces it head on, bringing it out into the open.

This is of great help, because crossdreamers -- whether they think of themselves as trans or not -- need to see that others have had dreams like theirs, felt like them, suffered like them, without buying into that "I am a poor, lonely, fetishist" kind of crap.

Becoming your own prison guard
From book cover.

Traditionally, both crossdressers and trans women have avoided talking about crossdreaming, fearing that it would make them perverts in the eyes of others.

As Maria points out in Nevada, "we often, as individuals, internalize these things, and then we, as a community, often reinforce them."

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will know that the most aggressive gender police can be trans themselves.

I now have over 100 likes and reblogs of a Nevada quote I put up over at tumblr. Many of the likes come from young trans women who are sick and tired of having to live up to the old fashioned standards of gatekeepers and trans fundamentalists, people who do not understand how sexuality may express a repressed identity.

Autogynephilia discussed

James has a girlfriend, but knows perfectly well he is not your regular guy. He often ends up surfing the net for TG transformation stories and captions. It is James who brings up "autogynephilia":

"This shit isn't really funny, so he's like, I don't know, I'm like, into girls and stuff, but I guess like, mostly what I'm... turned on by... is being a girl?"

Maria does not hesitate, and tells him about her own life before transitioning.

"I was thinking about being a girl while I jacked off, she says, Like, as soon as I started jacking off. For years I thought it was because I was a pervert, that I had this kink I must never, ever tell anyone about, right? Which was sad. There weren't really any misogynist or otherwise fucked up connotations to the specifics of what I was thinking about -- I just wanted to be a woman, which gets framed as a priori quote unquote perverted. Right?"

And then she presents Blanchard and Bailey, the amazing autogynephilia twins of transexual studies, and their two categories of trans women: "homosexual transsexuals" and "autogynephilic transsexuals".

According to this theory Maria is an "autogynephiliac" or -- as she herself so ironically puts it -- one of the men who "just have such a big hot boner for being women that they decide to become women even though they are ugly and unlovable".

Oh yes, Maria has a knack for irony. It's acid!

Autogynephilia as a mental lock-in

Maria points out that since the whole autogynephilia framework is based on sexuality and sexual orientation, you have no choice but to accept that the defining characteristic of trans women is their sexuality. If you put yourself into the restrictive boxes of Blanchard and Bailey, you have no room left for figuring out who you are or what you want.

Maria adds that:

"The alleged 'science' of autogynephilia is about making up categories to understand why J Michael Bailey wants to bone some trans women but not others."


"It is about framing trans women as men in order to understand deviant male sexuality, without ever looking at female sexuality."

Maria sums it all up very clearly:

"So like, autogynephilia theory just is basically designed to reinforce the idea that trans women are men, and that women don't have sexualities, and that straight dudes are good people to talk about queer women's sexualitites."

Indeed! And the book illustrates clearly how the autogynephilia theory is causing the pain it uses to "prove" that crossdreamers are perverts.

The emotional isolation of Maria and James is caused by the sexist bigotry of society. If you are told that your feelings are unnatural and perverted, you stop talking about them. You internalize your norms and condemnation of your oppressors. And it is this isolation people like Blanchard use to "prove" that crossdreamers and trans people are mentally ill. This is a vicious circle!

Here is Binnie talking about her book:

Imogen's blog
Essay by Imogen Binnie on the causes of transgender conditions
The Rejectionist: A Conversation With Imogen Binnie

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!