September 28, 2009

Beyond the binary

Note that this article was written at a time where I still thought it was possible to use the word "autogynephilia" to describe erotic crossdreaming ofr what Julia Serano calls "female embodiment fantasies". That was a mistake. The term is so closely connected to the transphobic theory underpinning it that any use of it can be read as support of the explanation given by Ray Blanchard. I did not support that explanation then (as this article reflects) and I do not do so now.

As I have noted in previous blog posts, the autogynephilia concept grew out of a theory developed by Ray Blanchard. He operated with two different and unrelated types of male to female transsexuals.

Group 1: Nonhomosexuals or autogynephiliacs

Blanchard supporter Anne Lawrence writes the following about the autogynephilia category: "For heterosexual men, the preferred erotic target is mature women, an erotic preference called gynephilia. According to the model proposed by Freund and Blanchard (1993), some heterosexual men who experience erotic target location errors for their preferred erotic target are also sexually aroused by wearing women’s clothing or by otherwise temporarily attempting to resemble women..." Lawrence presents a table of "target location errors" (click on it to enlarge): It is a fascinating table. Pedophilia (attraction to children) is as "uncomplicated" as gynephilia (the desires of normal straight men), while autogynephiliacs are grouped with those who desire to amputee one of their limbs (!).
Group 1, the autogynephiliacs, consist of mis-directed heterosexuals, according to this theory. They get aroused by the idea of having a female body, because they internalize what should have been an external "object", a woman in flesh and blood.

Group 2: Homosexual transsexuals

So what about the other group of transsexual?
Personally I find their description of this group hard to understand. It is as if these researchers have taken the stereotype of the feminine queen or fairy and turned it into a scientific category.
The homosexual M2F transsexuals are simply feminine gay men.
At times it looks like Lawrence and Blanchard accept this group as "true" women. After all, they do not try to acquire the body type of their object of desire. Lawrence again: "Homosexual MtF transsexuals are not sexually aroused by the idea of being women, but instead seek sex reassignment because they are, as previously noted, naturally very feminine on many physical and behavioral dimensions (Blanchard et al., 1995; Whitam, 1987, 1997), resulting in the prospect of greater social and romantic satisfaction and success after sex reassignment than before. Natural resemblance to the status they want to attain (i.e., womanhood) thus provides an obvious explanation for homosexual MtF transsexuals’ desire to undergo sex reassignment." In one way you can say that they change into women to get laid.
However, at the same time these are persons who do not experience sexual arousal out of getting female genitalia, and who in many cases are indifferent or even hostile to their new vaginas.
I fail to see how these can be less "dysfunctional" than the autogynephiliacs -- if we accept this way of thinking. It seems to me that Blanchard and Lawrence accept neither homosexual transsexuals or autogynephiliacs as women. They remain men in their view, both before and after the surgery.

The evolutionary narrative

I believe much of the reluctance of Blanchard & Co to accept the narrative of autogynephiliacs being women, and not mis-directed men, is that they are deeply rooted in evolutionary science.
That is in itself not a problem with me. I believe we have a lot to learn from evolutionary science, also from so-called sociobiological research, i.e. research that tries to explain social and cultural phenomena as the result of biological evolution.
There is clearly a biolgical foundation for some of the differences between the genders. After all, the hormonal balance is different, and we know that both testosterone and estrogen influence the way we behave.
It may be, however, that Blanchard and Lawrence have gone into a trap that is not uncommon in this research field. They oversimplify a complex sociobiological phenomenon.
Evolution is about the transfer of traits via genes. Traits that benefits the survival of a genetic lineage will help those genes survive in the battle for survival. Traits that may harm the organism are rooted out. In simple words: They die out because the individuals that carry those genes die and fail to get viable offspring.
The normal way of understanding this arms race is via the mixture of genes between male and female. In normal terms: Men and women have to get together to produce kids, and only those that get children can transfer their genetic heritage to posterity.
In this narrative, the traditional male/female bonding becomes the norm. Everything else is a deviation. This explains why both Blanchard and Lawrence continue to call autogynephilia a paraphilia, a misdirection of sexual desire. The phenomenon does not make sense in evolutionary terms.
(Interestingly enough Blanchard and Lawrence seem to accept homosexuality as a natural behaviour, even if it makes as little sense in evolutionary terms as autogynephilia.)
The error of their way is, I believe, that they fundamentally think of the feminine and the masculine as two mutually excluding complexes of traits or sets of looks and behaviours, because they believe this division is necessary for procreation and the dissemination of genes. 

Man: a complex set of variables

We all know that what makes us masculine or feminine is a mixture of traits, and that no man and no woman are completely masculine or exclusively feminine. After all, all men have the genetic code for woman and visa versa. We are not two separate species.
The end result of the merger between the sperm and the egg is a human being based on a large number of genes. However, there is not one gene for each behavioural trait. Most of the traits are caused by a combination of genes. Different combinations may give different behaviour. Here's a relevant quote from the New Scientist: "Everyone knows tall parents tend to have tall children, and recent studies of the genomes of 30,000 people identified about 50 genes associated with being tall or short. Yet together these genes accounted for only about 5 percent of the inheritance of height." If the genetic causes for height are this complex, it is reasonable to believe that the causes for sex and gender are equally complicated.
And that is not all: We also know that the genes make proteins that are used to tell the cells how to behave. There is a proteom as well as a genome. The complexity of this system is mind boggling and the number of possible combinations of genes and proteins seemingly endless. The proteom may even be influenced by your surroundings: what you eat and what you experience (stress).
On top of that our personality and our sexuality may be influenced by the hormonal balance in the fluids in the womb, toxins in our environment as well as social and cultural factors and -- dare I say it? -- free will.
Given all this variation, why should we expect human beings to fall exclusively into one of two mutually exclusive categories: male or female? They clearly do not.
The pure existence of homosexuals prove that the Y chromosome does not necessarily a "normal" man make. And homosexuals exist, even if they are at an evolutionary disadvantage (they are less likely to get kids).
There are clearly combinations of factors that bring forth autogynephiliacs in the same way as there are combinations that produce homosexuals.

Beyond the binary

A possible alternative narrative can therefore be the following:
Yes, autogynephiliacs are in a way women trapped in men's bodies. In the lottery of genetic combinations, they clearly won some very strong feminine traits, as well as some basic feminine instincts.
But you can also say that they are men trapped in a woman's mind. They have man's body, and love women as other heterosexual men do, but the woman stops them from having a more traditional love life.
To this Blanchard and Lawrence may say that yes, this is exactly what they have been arguing all the time. Autogynephiliacs are the outcomes of an unfortunate mix of genes that stops them from becoming "normal men".
All right, but there are two important differences between my story and theirs:
(1) For me there is nothing normative in any of the genetic cocktails called men. Men fantasising about having a woman's body are not necessarily suffering from a mis-directed libido. They are not necessarily less capable of loving others than other men or women. Their condition is no more pathological than homosexuality. They are what they are. Sure, we have problems making our love life work -- maybe bigger problems than many -- but no one finds love easy.
(2) Autogenphiliacs may not be women trapped in men's bodies. That narrative is, after all, as traditional and conservative as the one of Blanchard and Lawrence.
Maybe autogynephiliacs are more than mere women, and more than mere men. Maybe they have something of both. This applies to all human beings, of course, but in the autogynephiliac this is more acute than in most, precisely because of the conflict between sexual desire, the body and the surrounding culture.

A curse and a blessing

If that is the case this condition will be a curse as well as a blessing.
It is a curse, because at the moment there are few that accept the legitimacy of this type of combination of feminine and masculine traits. Blanchard and Lawrence have given us a category, but has also labelled us as freaks. Some other transsexuals insist that this combination is unnatural as well: M2F transsexuals are really women and only women, so get that surgery and find yourself!
It can be a blessing, because we, more than many others truly bridge the genders. It should be easier for us to understand both women and men, than "normal" women or men (or homosexuals for that matter). Blanchard would disagree, and argue that being men we know nothing more about women than other men. Many transsexual activists would in one sense agree with Blanchard on this one: only women know how women feels, and the only real women of the transgender community are the genuine transsexuals: women trapped in men's bodies, not fuzzy borderline people like the autogynephiliacs.
Be that as it may: I think you will find that autogynphiliacs often get along better with women than the majority of men. They have greater empathy, simply because they recognize themselves in the other sex.
Anyway: Thanks to Blanchard and Lawrence as well as the many transsexual activists out there many of us have the opportunity to choose our way of life: mostly male or mostly female. Surgery is a possibility, if your family life and professional life allows it.

To sum up

Is autogynephilia a well defined sub-category of humanity? I think not. Not in a scientific sense, no.
I find no absolute boundaries between the sexes or the genders or whatever it is that define us. Statistically speaking the variations tend to conglomerate around some larger groups ("traditional heterosexual men and women") but the borders seem fuzzy or porous.
As a term used in a discussion of gender identity it is very useful though, which is why I am not joining those that accuse Blanchard and Lawrence for crimes against humanity.
They believe in what they do and they truly believe that they are doing us a favour. They have definitely helped me understand myself a little better, even if I cannot agree with all they have to say.

September 19, 2009

Trapped in a too narrow view of human sexuality

Blanchard, who coined the term "autogynephilia", wrote about two types of transsexuals: homosexual and non-homosexual transsexuals. (See previous posts!)

Although I see that there may be more than one type of transgendered, I find these terms very confusing, as his terms are based on the male identity of the male to female transgendered.

You can only call a male to female (M2F) transsexual that is attracted to men for "gay" if you believe that she (he?) really is a man. After all, if she truly is a woman she is a heterosexual.

Blanchard and Freund do offer an alternative terminology, that avoids this confusion:

For homosexual men, the preferred erotic target is mature men, an erotic preference called androphilia (a opposed to gynephilia, an attraction to women).

[Andro=male, gyne=female, filia=love of]

I like this terminology, as it can be used for both women and men, transwomen and transmen, and still make sense.

Feminine androphile male to female transsexuals then are, according to Blanchard & Co, not victims of a "target location error". They are basically "healthy" homosexuals.

But they are not women, whatever they might feel.

They may ask for sex reassignment surgery, but they remain homosexual men also after the surgery.

This one of the major problems with Blanchard's theory. To him male to female transsexuals are either heterosexual or homosexual men, as their biological sex cannot change. They remain men regardless of how they feel or how much estrogen is running through their veins.

This is the kind of terminology that makes me really frustrated, not because it is hard to understand -- it is pretty simple really -- but because it so clearly masks the complexity of both sex (the biological part) and gender (the identity part) sides of being a man or a woman.

If this binary system of gay and straight is the starting point for your thinking, you will -- as a researcher -- be incapable to even see any of the many phenomena that might enrich or challenge your understanding of transgendered people. It is impossible, because the theory won't allow it.

This says a lot about science, really, because the traditional view of all science as being objective and evidence based clearly has no factual basis.

In many ways Blanchard & Co try to be objective and look at their findings in a disinterested way. I mean, you have to be pretty brave to forward politically incorrect opinions of this kind, and in one way I admire that kind of bravery. They are definitely not letting the feelings of transsexuals get in the way of their line of enquiry. I can actually accept that.

The problem is that their interpretation of their research based "facts" is restricted by a very narrow view of what it means to be human. So narrow in fact, that I am afraid they do much more harm than good.

I believe the physicist Thomas Kuhn once said that great scientific revolutions were only possible when the previous generation of scientists went to their grave. The reason for this, he argued, was that very few scientist were unable to think outside their own box, belief system or "paradigm" as Kuhn called it.

For that to happen, there had to be a challenge so great that the scientists were unable to find satisfactory solutions to their research questions inside the ruling way of thinking.

One should think that the growing visibility of transsexual men and women should offer science an exciting new challenge that made the researcher look at traditional concepts in a new way. Just think about it: Here you have men who first love women and who after they have gone through a sex change become attracted to men!

How amazing is that?! I mean, it should be totally clear that you need a revision of concepts like straight and gay, right? Well, not according to this school.

Think of what we could learn about what it means to be a man or a woman by studying their lives and their experience. Instead the researchers end up pigeonholing them into old categories that no longer make any sense. What a waste!


Since this blog post was written I have stopped using the terms "autogynephilia" and "autoandrophilia" to describe people. The reason for this is that the terms implicitly communicates an explanation for why some people get aroused by imagining themselves as the opposite sex . This explanation, that this is some kind of autoerotic paraphilia,  is both wrong and stigmatizing. Instead I use the neutral term "crossdreamers".

Click here for a discussion of the dark side of the autogynephilia theory.

September 18, 2009

Search engine for autogynephilia

I have added a special search engine for autogynephilia information.

In the right hand column you will find a search form marked "Search this blog". Enter the keywords of your choice and click on Search.

The search engine will open a frame where you can select hits from this blog or the sites I have linked to. In this way you will get access to what is probably the largest public database on men who dream about having a woman's body.


Since this blog post was written I have stopped using the terms "autogynephilia" and "autoandrophilia" to describe people. The reason for this is that the terms implicitly communicates an explanation for why some people get aroused by imagining themselves as the opposite sex . This explanation, that this is some kind of autoerotic paraphilia,  is both wrong and stigmatizing. Instead I use the neutral term "crossdreamers".

Click here for a discussion of the dark side of the autogynephilia theory.

Wife of an autogynephiliac asks for help

Dear readers,

I need your help.

I got a comment today from the wife of an autogynephiliac. She has discovered her husband's "secret identity" and wonders how the two of them are going to cope.

Have any of you been through this? And if so: What did you and your wife or partner do to reestablish trust?

Here is the comment from Susanne:

"oh, thank you for this blog!

I am a heterosexual female who has been married to my husband for 7 years. We have 2 young children. Yesterday, I found photos of him...that were world-altering for me. After some research, I believe him to be an autogynephiliac. Looking back, so much is now explained...

While I am the stereotypical heterosexual female, I like to think of myself as fairly open-minded. I think I could incorporate this into my life, but I'm not sure if HE will allow me to incorporate this. In a weird way, I think this bothers him more than it does me.

And I'm totally upset about the secret life that he has been leading - much more so than by what I saw in the photos. I feel like I have just discovered that he has had an affair for 7 years with someone that he knew before we were married - it just happens that that someone is himself.

My first thought is that we need counseling - both marriage and individual - even he admits that he needs to learn to love himself for who he is, but I still need help regaining marital trust. So much easier said than done in rural Iowa...

Anyway, where do we go from here? I desperately want advice."

This is my response:

"I have seen old maps where the cartographer had decorated the white undiscovered areas with magical beasts and dragons. That's probably where the two of you are now.

There are probably not that many advisers, priests, psychologists or psychiatrists that know much about this. Still, if you know someone wise and friendly with an open mind, I would definitely go and ask for some help -- just to have someone to talk to. If you do not know anyone, it would probably make sense to find a psychologist or psychiatrist that specializes in sexology. There must be someone -- even in Iowa! You might have to travel a bit, though.

I must say I admire your way of handling this. Your open mind and your acceptance is probably the very factor that can turn all this into something good.

I totally understand that you feel betrayed, and that regaining trust will take time. He has not been cheating on you, though. "The other woman" is, as you point out, part of himself. And the reason he kept it all secret is not that he doesn't love you. It is probably quite the opposite: He was afraid that he would lose you and his family if you found out.

Your understanding will probably go a long way towards helping him accept himself as who he is. If I am not mistaken, though, the other shame -- the one that comes from him having kept you in the dark -- may stay a little longer.

I am not sure if I can add much more to this. I will take the liberty of quoting your comment in a new blog post and ask the readers for input."

Photo by Bright lights from giantwheel


Since this blog post was written I have stopped using the terms "autogynephilia" and "autoandrophilia" to describe people. The reason for this is that the terms implicitly communicates an explanation for why some people get aroused by imagining themselves as the opposite sex . This explanation, that this is some kind of autoerotic paraphilia,  is both wrong and stigmatizing. Instead I use the neutral term "crossdreamers".

Click here for a discussion of the dark side of the autogynephilia theory.

September 17, 2009

Read the comments!

When I started this blog, I had no idea it would generate so many comments. I am really glad it has, because that means that many of you find the discussions useful.

I have learned a lot from what you are writing, and are already working on new posts based on what some of you have written.

I any case: If you are new to this blog, click on the headlines of the blog posts and scroll down to read the reader's comments. You can also click on the small links below the home page blog posts -- the one that says "6 comments" or something similar.

September 4, 2009

Autogynephilia on a Napkin Part 2

The visual exploration of autogynephilia continues. Read part 1, the previous post, first!

Masculine heterosexual transsexuals

Blanchard and his followers realize, however, that there are male assigned people asking for sex reassignment surgery that are not particularly feminine. Nor are they sexually attracted to men. This category consisted mainly of male assigned people that are attracted to women, plus a few bisexuals and those that are attracted to neither sex.

For Blanchard, who sticks so closely to the male/female and heterosexual/homosexual dichotomies, this second group was originally a puzzle. He finally came to the conclusion (without any real scientific proof, really) that they constituted a new type of paraphilia (sexual disorder or perversion).

Unlike normal heterosexuals or homosexual transsexuals, who are attracted to other human beings, these men are attracted to the idea of themselves being a woman.

They are still men, and in some sense (given that they love women) they are heterosexual, but basically they belong to a new category. They do not love flesh and blood women out there. They love an internalized woman. They feel lust for themselves as a woman.

At this point I can no longer give you a simple and elegant figure to illustrate their theory. It is complex and convoluted, so much so, actually, that that in and for itself speaks against it. (At least if you believe in Occam's Razor.) Why stick to this kind of explanation, when there are simpler theories that can explain the same findings?

Anyway, here we go:

  1. The "man" is basically heterosexual. "He" is genetically predisposed to love women.
  2. Unlike other men, however, "he" moves the desired female characteristics over to his own body. "He" gets turned on by imagining himself as a woman, even if "he" is not a woman. Something has clearly gone wrong in his psyche. "He" should be desiring a woman out there. Instead "he" has the hots for himself with tits. Why this is so, is never explained.
  3. When such a person gets sex reassignment surgery (which both Blanchard, Lawrence and Bailey often recommend), they are not "real women" anymore than the homosexual transsexuals. They are even less so, actually. The homosexuals are, after all, feminine in both behavior and appearance. The autogynephiliacs are not. They have become masculine men in a woman's body.
It is a sad story indeed, and why Blanchard, Lawrence and Bailey believe this can help autogynephiliacs is hard to understand.

 They are clearly trying to find out the truth about autogynephiliacs, but is this really the truth?

Masculine and feminine, mutually exclusive?

What are we talking about when we talk about masculine and feminine traits? Are there are two clear cut mutually exclusive categories in this respect? I mean, is their division of transsexuals into two distinct categories absolute?

I cannot see that Blanchard & Co have proved that this is not an issue of a gradual transition from one category to the other. There is no clear cut borderline, so you do not need two separate theories to explain the two categories.

Madeline Wyndszen, a transgendered professor in psychology has an interesting article where she discusses the statistics used by Blanchard, and reproduces a figure from one of his articles.

The figure shows his categorization of some of the respondents in his study, distributed according to the extent they are attracted to men (androphilia) or women (gynephilia). Annalloerotic means there is attraction to neither men nor women.

Wyndszen says:

"Just looking at Blanchard's data, I do not see these two clusters of dots. If anything, I see a cluster of those with attractions to men (i.e., "homosexual" and bisexual as one group and a second group of "hetrosexual" and "non-sexual" transsexuals)."

Indeed, Blanchard's own research shows that there are all kinds of variations in his group of transgender, but these variations are gradual, with no mutually excluding categories.

Blanchard admits as much. He writes:

"It must be emphasized that the cluster analysis was not performed to discover or to confirm the existence of clusters among the transsexual subjects. It was chosen as a convenient and relatively non-arbitrary way of assigning subjects to a set of predetermined groups".

Now, you would never expect a clear cut division into categories in a study like this one. For that both human respondents and the tools of the statistics are to "messy". But it should definitely be more clear cut than this.

All this leads me to suspect that although the categories are useful for discussions and self-discovery, they are not "real" in the sense my sex (male) is real, the chair I sit on is real or the virus that causes the swine flu is real.

It is true that I look pretty masculine. But this "autogynephiliac" has also clear "feminine" traits: I am called a good listener, non-aggressive, creative, I have a background from the humanities, etc., traits I have in common with many "homosexual transsexuals". If we look at sexual orientation (homosexual vs. heterosexual) as something distinct from the masculine/feminine scale, the borders do become blurred, indeed.

An alternative model for autogynephilia

I do believe that many transgender phenomena have a biological basis. The variation we see can probably be explained by different variations in the biological make-up, whether this is based in the genome, the proteom, in pre-natal hormone balance or whatever. The way this syndrome plays out is also influenced by personal experience and the social and cultural surroundings.

Here's my alternative napkin drawing for the relationship between gender and sex. And again: This is a theory, not something I can prove scientifically.

In most "normal men" the masculine traits are dominating. It is not that they do not have a feminine side. We know of a world famous soccer player that likes to wear dresses and long hair. But his feminine side does not threaten his overall gender identity as being male.

Note also that the "traits" represented by my Venus and Mars symbols are not necessarily exclusively female or male. When you read some of this literature you might be led into believing that acting out and aggressiveness are for men only. Read your Shakespeare, folks!

Moreover, some of the traits are clearly culturally determined. The feeling of long hair as being something feminine cannot have a biological basis. Men had long hair in 17th century Europe, as did men in most of the tribes of the Native Americans.

The figure below shows a a male with both feminine and masculine traits, but where the feminine side is dominating. He might not be a "pure blooded woman" in a wolf's clothing, but he is definitely much more of a woman than a man, mentally speaking. His/her degree of femininity has reached a critical mass, so to speak.

There are probably a large number of non-transgender women out there that are more masculine than he is. If the male to female transgender undergoes sex reassignment surgery she has the same right to be considered a woman as   as they do.

The perversion

The fact that the sexuality of the "autogynephilic" seems "disturbed", can be explained by the fact that feeling like a woman in a man's body is traumatic. In some cases the feminine and masculine traits are so mixed up that it is hard to decide whether you are a man and a woman at heart. As identity formation go, that is even more disturbing than being a "traditional transsexual". No wonder many "autogynephiliacs" find it hard to establish a harmonious sex life. That doesn't make them perverts.

Besides, transgenderism is still stigmatized in most communities, and it isn't easy to communicate to friends, family and colleagues that you are a woman or (which is probably even more complicated) something in between. No wonder their deepest longing try to find an outlet in "unorthodox" activities, being that cross-dressing or the consummation of TG erotica.

The clusters of gender identity

One final napkin drawing:

I do believe gender identity has some kind of biological basis. The idea of gender as a pure social construct makes no sense to me, especially because of the existence of transgender people.

I didn't ask for this, my parents didn't and my culture didn't even have a word for what I am. My autogynephilia is not caused by language or culture, although I admit that psychological trauma may have strengthened it.

But what we call feminine or masculine is not determined by the existence or absence of an Y chromosome. It is much more complex than that.

In this figure I give my hypothetical vision of humanity and their gender: There are two large clusters around the traditional male and female roles, but there are also a large number that fall outside those groups. That's where I believe I belong.


Since this blog post was written I have stopped using the terms "autogynephilia" and "autoandrophilia" to describe people. The reason for this is that the terms implicitly communicates an explanation for why some people get aroused by imagining themselves as the opposite sex . This explanation, that this is some kind of autoerotic paraphilia,  is both wrong and stigmatizing. Instead I use the neutral term "crossdreamers".

Minor edits February 2014.

Click here for a discussion of the dark side of the autogynephilia theory.

September 3, 2009

Autogynephilia on a Napkin Part 1

Those of you have read my previous articles on autogynephilia and the autogynephilia controversy may have become more confused than ever regarding what this is about.

And those of you that feel that this term fits you may be living under the impression that you are (1) women trapped in men's bodies, (2) confused heterosexual men, (3) perverts or (4) all of the above.

Now, in this blog post it will all be made clear through some drawings I made on a paper napkin in a local restaurant. 

All right, here we go:

In these figures the Venus and Mars signs denotes gender (i.e. the gender identity of a person, whether he or she considers him or herself male or female, or -- in the cases where the theorists do not accept the gender concept -- their "true" sexual identity). The square denotes a male body with male sex organs, the circle a female body.

[Note of September 2010: I am no longer using the term "autogynephiliac" to describe male assigned people who harbor feminization dreams. Instead I call them male to female crossdreamers.]

The traditional view

In this first figure we see the classical image of gender relationships: There are manly men and feminine women who get attracted to each other, make love, have kids and a family, a Volvo, a divorce etc. etc.

During the previous century it became increasingly clear that this image did not fit everyone. The medical authorities, at least in some countries, came to accept that there are in fact, in some cases, same-sex attraction.

Because of this the tale above was extended to include homosexuals:

Basically this is the story about manly men being attracted to manly men.

Finally, during the last century, there was also a growing realization that there was a third category, namely people who believe they have the wrong body. There are natural XY men who argue that they felt like XX women inside. Their gender identity seems to be female, while their biological sex is male. This is the "woman trapped in a man's body" theory.

This gave way for sex reassignment treatment and surgery, which helps harmonize the gender with the sex, like this:

What all these theories have in common is that they agree that there ought to be a match between gender and sex, between the mind and the body.

The problem of homosexuality

The most radical of these expansions of the traditional view of gender and sex is actually not the transsexual narrative, but the homosexual one.

Gay men may look manly, but they do not behave like men ought to according to the stereotype. This especially applies to the ones that take a submissive position, "the catchers", "the bottoms", the ones that agree to anal penetration. The reason for this is that it looks like they take the traditional role of the female.

Now, I know that this is a cliche, but we are talking about how people think about gays here, not necessarily what gay men really do.

(It is interesting to note that the old Greeks, in Athens in the fifth century B.C., did not consider themselves homosexual, even if most of the free men had sex with young boys. As long as they took the active part, they were men enough, they reckoned. It was only prepubescent boys, women and slaves that could take the submissive role. If you go to Greece, Turkey and the Balkans today you will still find men arguing that a man penetrating a man is not gay.)

Anyway, some scientists doing research on sex find this narrative disturbing. This applies to some of the so-called essentialist, researchers who believe that gender should have a biological foundation only. The evolutionary concepts must focus on the traditional male/female narrative, they argue, because that is the only model that naturally produces kids, and off-spring is necessary of the transmission of genes.

It is not that these researchers necessarily are homophobic. Most of them are not. It is just that from their evolutionary point of view homosexuality must be an deviation, an exception to the general rule.

If you read Michael Bailey's controversial book, The Man Who Would be Queen, it is clear that he suspects that homosexuals are not "manly men".

They are men that for some reason has acquired feminine traits, including the submissive role. He admits that he has no proof for this, which is fair, but he finds that many gay men tell tales about feminine behavior in childhood, even if they are not particularly feminine as adults. In Bailey's case feminine behavior is defined by traditional Western customs: no rough and tumble play, less aggressiveness than in the case of men etc.

In his book he has an amazing list over feminine traits. Here are some examples:
  • Pronounced hip movements when walking
  • Limp writs action
  • Upper arms held fairly closely to the body
  • Buttocks close to chair back when sitting
  • Graceful hand motions.
  • etc... (you get the picture)

Feminine homosexual transsexuals

Blanchard, Bailey & Co. now use this belief as a starting point for their alternative theory of transsexualism.

Given that they think of at least some homosexual men as feminine, it is natural for them to also classify transsexuals as homosexuals. Feminine homosexual men are not attracted to other feminine homosexual men, according to this theory. They are attracted to masculine heterosexual men.

Heterosexual men are not attracted to feminine men, so these homosexuals transform themselves into women to get access to the real thing.

In the traditional narrative, male to female transsexuals are actually female; in this theory they are not. They are feminine homosexual men. After surgery they become homosexual men in a woman's body!

(This is all very confusing to me. Why on earth Blanchard cannot accept that these "men" have a gender identity disorder -- meaning that they have a real female persona -- is hard to grasp. After all, being a feminine man is to have strong feminine traits, so many of them in fact that they manage to pass as women. But there you go...)

Continues in part 2.


Since this blog post was written I have stopped using the terms "autogynephilia" and "autoandrophilia" to describe people. The reason for this is that the terms implicitly communicates an explanation for why some people get aroused by imagining themselves as the opposite sex . This explanation, that this is some kind of autoerotic paraphilia,  is both wrong and stigmatizing. Instead I use the neutral term "crossdreamers".

Click here for a discussion of the dark side of the autogynephilia theory.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!