January 1, 2021

Kourtney Kardashian on "Autogynephilia" in Non-transgender Women

Kourtney Kardashian implicitly debunks the transphobic "autogynephilia" theory in a new article on her Poosh site. She explains why  women may get aroused by their own bodies and sensuality, a kind of sexuality that is used to invalidate the identity of transgender women.
Kourtney Kardashian on Instagram

As you might remember the "autogynephilia" theory of Ray Blanchard argues that gynephilic (woman loving) transgender women suffer from an "erotic target location error" whereby they are sexually attracted to the image of themselves as women. 

"Auto-gyne-phile" means "Self-Woman-Love". 

Their crime is that they may get aroused by the idea of being a sexy, attractive woman.

These trans women are therefore suffering from a "paraphilia", Blanchard argues – basically a sexual perversion driven by a straight, masculine, sexuality.

But what about autosexuality in cis women?

As many have pointed out, this theory presupposes that cis women do not get aroused by their own bodies or by "feeling sexy". Because if they did, that would make this a female sexual trait, and even a human one.

Indeed, if it is found among cis women, you might  argue that finding such arousal in trans women is a clear indication of their female gender identity.

The autogynephilia supporters have dismissed this argument by pointing out that cis women do not have such feelings. They have, for instance,  done everything they can to undermine Dr. Charles Moser's study of "autogynephilia in cis women". In accordance to Patriarchal orthodoxy cis women only get aroused by male bodies "out there", or – if they are slightly more liberal – by female bodies as well. Cis women do not suffer from such "autoerotic" tendencies, as they are, I suppose, innocent and pure.

I would guess that a lot of women have played along with these beliefs, well aware of the fragility of the male ego. If women can get aroused by their own sensuality, who needs a man? 

I guess this is also partly why autosexual feelings often are classified as a kind of pathological "narcisssism", instead of a natural and enriching part of normal sexuality. It ruins the simplistic and banal narrative of the other sex being a kind of "magnet" that is attracting a person due to his or her sexual "magnetism" alone. 

Research documents a lot of autoerotic fantasies in cis women

Studies of women's sexual fantasies documents that cis women may perfectly well get aroused by the idea of being a sexy, attractive, woman. I doubt very much that the multibillion dollar fashion industry is driven by the need to attract men alone. In fact, many cis men show no appreciation of female fashion at all. I suspect may women dress up because looking good feels good.

You may perfectly well argue against this "submission to a sexist fashion industry" on a political level, but the fact that some women enjoy dressing up does not make them mentally ill.

And it is at this juncture that Kourtney Kardashian presents an important argument. Over at her site Posh she has published an article called "Are You Low Key Autosexual?".

December 30, 2020

Depression in Transgender People May be a Tool for Survival

New research on depression may throw some light upon the way transgender and nonbinary people experience depression.  In "We’ve Got Depression All Wrong. It’s Trying to Save Us," Alison Escalante argues that depression may be  part of a biological survival strategy.

Normally depression is seen as a negative side effect of emotional trauma, abuse or some random physiological or medical factor. Depression is not seen as something functional or meaningful per se. 

However, I have seen research that tries to explain depression as an attempt to achieve the social isolation needed for healing and recalibration. 

This article takes this argument one step further:  Depression leads to a kind of withdrawal that reduces the risk of violence and abuse from people around us. So in a dysfunctional family with an abusive parent or spouse, the body triggers a kind of inertia that may protect a person agains physical or emotional violence.

When the inner need for growth collides with people's desire to conform

Think of it this way: We are all born with a need for self expression and self realization, which may lead to conflict with others. Good parents and good friends give people room to explore and express themselves (within reason). 

Sociopaths,  control freaks and people driven by fear of social exclusion  may see such independence as a threat to their own hegemony and/or status in society. They will therefor use violence to curtail this freedom.  They may even think of this as a way of "helping" the child.

November 15, 2020

The Ultimate Proof of Transgender Identities Being Real

The very existence of transgender people proves that transgender identities are real.

If you belong to those who love fixed gender roles and who get scared when someone question the binary, you have probably made one of the following arguments when addressing transgender people and "strange" gender identities:

  • The gender identities of transgender people are not real!
  • It is all in their mind!
  • Gender identity is the same as biological sex – which  means gonads, genitalia or chromosomes!
  • Show me the science!
Truth to be told, most scientists swith expertise in the area of gender variance agree that gender is different from biological sex and that transgender identities are real. Most of them also argue that there is a biological component to such identities, although they also point to the extreme complexity of sex and gender development.

Be that as it may, we do not actually need science to prove that transgender identities are real. The very existence of trans people is proof enough.

Huh? How can the existence of trans people prove that trans people are real?
  • If there was a simple and persistent one to one relationship between gonads and gender identity there would be no transgender people. 
  • If the XY chromosome was the basis for a male gender identity there would be no transgender women. 
  • If ovaries ensured the development of a female gender identity there would be no trans men.
Yet here they are, people who persistently, continuously and intensely experience that they are of another gender than the one they were assigned at birth.

But it is all in their minds!

But that is the point, is it not? Our experience of being a man or a woman or some shade of nonbinary has to be in our minds. Where else could it be? 

A man's sense of being a man is not located in his genitalia, is it? I admit that in some cases this might seem to be the case, given the way some men behave, but in general I think we all can agree that that their sense of self is a matter of the mind.

Sure, our feelings are anchored in our bodies, as expressions of hormones, muscles, blood, nerves and personal histories, but the conscious experience of them is in our minds. It has to be, for all of us.

October 27, 2020

What is the connection between transphobic TERFs and behaviorism?


Over at tumblr guiltyidealist asked me the following question:

Hey! I saw a post of yours that grouped TERFs [trans-exclusionary radical feminists] with "behaviorists". Would you mind explaining what behaviorists are in this context? I'm a psych major, so "behaviorism" for me refers to Skinner boxes and shit. 😅

Here's my reply:

Actually, this was a meme originally posted by trans activist and engineer Kelley Winters over at facebook.

The whole text goes like this:

“If gender identities of cisgender children were as eggshell-fragile as behaviorists/TERFs say, the whole world would be trans, and we would be debating whether cisgenderism is a psychopathogy. Hard enough to get kids to bring their dirty plates into the kitchen, let alone control their gender.”

Pavlov’s dogs

The behaviorism of Skinner & Co was based on a view of human beings as stimulus/response machines. The most well known example used to explain behaviorism is, as you probably know,  Pavlov’s dog experiment. 

Pavlov saw that dogs would salivate in response to the food placed in front of them, but he also saw that his dogs would begin to salivate whenever they heard the footsteps of his assistant who was bringing them the food. Pavlov managed to get the dogs to associate the sound of a metronome with food. The metronome would from then on make the dogs salivate, even if they were not presented with food. This is what is referred to as conditioning.

People as programmable machines

Behaviorists ended up believing that nearly all human behaviors were the results of such conditioning. Since these “experts” refused to discuss the inner life of humans  – as feelings and thoughts were thought not to be  scientifically observable and therefor not “real” –  their “therapies”  basically consisted of “reprogramming” patients with new types of associations. 

This led to a lot of unsavory practices, including different types of “conversion therapies” where gay, lesbian and trans people where taught to associate same-sex attraction or gender variance with negative feelings, for instance by giving gay men electric shocks while showing them gay porn.

Given their completely inhumane understanding of what it means to be human, many of these “therapists” ended up as tools of a sexist, homophobic and transphobic society. They became the torturers of cis/het “normalcy”.

October 26, 2020

Are all transgender people gender dysphoric?

No, the headline is not another variant of the “you cannot be trans if you are not gender dysphoric” meme, often used by transmedicalists and transgender separatists who think they more trans than other trans people.

The headline rather refers to our understanding of the term “gender dysphoric”.

Could it be that the “you have to be dysphoric to be trans” statement is based on a misunderstanding of the term “gender dysphoric”?

Over at CDL Carah Maisie (who is herself a transgender woman) makes this argument on the basis of an analysis of the DSM-5 “gender dysphoria” diagnosis. Her argument is inspired by an article written by Jocelyn Badgley.

The DSM-5 manual and its criteria for being gender dysphoric

The DSM-5 is the current edition of the American psychiatric manual. “Gender dypsphoria” is not seen as a mental illness in the manual, but it is included all the same to ensure that trans people get access to health services and proper insurance.

Carah and Jocelyn list the various criteria that indicate gender dysphoria in the DSM-5, and some of them do indeed refer to a mind/body misalignment:
  • A strong desire to be rid of one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics
  • A strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of another gender
But these are not the only criteria. Others refer to social and societal dysphoria:
  • A strong desire to be of another gender
  • A strong desire to be treated as another gender

September 24, 2020

Feminist philosopher Judith Butler is crystal clear in her condemnation of transphobic feminists

Judith Butler presents a strong defense of transgender and nonbinary people in a new interview with The New Statesman. 

I have developed a deep respect for Judith Butler, feminist philosopher and gender theory developer. 

I do not agree with her in everything. I do believe, for instance, that her strong focus on "gender as a peformance" makes it harder to discuss the biological side of  the complex interplay between genes, epigenetics, hormones, mind, culture and society that shapes a gender identity.  

But here observations about how language, narratives and power leads to the oppression of women (and people in general) are very helpful. She is a hard read, though, which is why the interviews we have are so useful.

I am not sure Alona Ferber of the New Statesman really knew what she was letting herself into when she approached Butler for an interview. The recent British debate on feminism, gender and transgender lives has been colored by the vicious attacks of "trans-exclusionary radical feminists" (TERFs), and the way Ferber asks her questions it may look like she thinks J.K. Rowling and the TERFs represent mainstream feminism.

Butler, however, will hear nothing of it. She clearly and systematically describes a feminism that is inclusive of transgender women and where the TERFs are seen as allies of Trump and the transphobic extreme right.

This means a lot, because Butler is one of the most respected and influential gender philosophers in our time. When she says that the "gender critical" TERFs have misunderstood the basis of feminism, it is much harder to dismiss the arguments made against them.

Not that there is anything new in what she says. Trans activists have made the same arguments for years. But she presents them in a "I need to bookmark this" manner.

I have published a summary of the interview over at Trans Express that gives you the most important highlights of Judith Butler's understanding of feminism and the role of transgender women. 

Click here to read it

By the way: The quote in the image above is for an interview Judith Butler made with the Trans Advocate back in 2014. Her dislike of TERFs have been known for a while. I guess Ferber did not read it.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!