February 25, 2010

Jack and Jackie: A dialog about sex and gender

Those who have followed this blog, know that I have been obsessed with the theory of autogynephiliacs (men who dream of having a woman's body) having a kind of erotic target location error. In this blog post "my inner woman" tells us where Blanchard went wrong.

Fetish Land

It was Ray Blanchard who came up with the idea of AGP men internalizing their external love object, in an attempt to explain why crossdressers and what I call crossdreamers get aroused by the idea of being women.

The logical progression towards Blanchard and Bailey's conclusion is something like this:

  • There are fetishes where sexual energies are channeled into objects that seem irrelevant to the "normal" sexual act (like getting turned on by nylon stockings).
  • Crossdressing is understood as a fetish due to the role of garments.
  • Some types of "transvestic fetishism" are relabeled as paraphilia because of the inclusion of "crossdreamers" (i.e. men getting turned on by the idea of having a woman's body without dressing up).
  • The fetish/paraphila concept is expanded to defining autogynephilia (AGP) as "an erotic target location error". In the autogynephiliac the natural attraction to a woman has apparently been transferred to the idea of having a female body of your own. All fetishes are in fact considered target location errors, but this is the big one!
So it doesn't matter how strongly an autogynephiliac feels that he has a strong inner woman. If he admits to having erotic fantasies of this kind he is automatically labelled as a fetishist or a paraphiliac, which in this context can only be understood as a pervert.

This means that if the autogynephiliac is to be true to himself (or herself in the case of AGP transwomen), he will have to keep quiet about his fantasies if he wants people to believe him when he says that he has some kind of innate femininity.

The AGP Dialog

It is the man in me, I guess, who believes that if you intellectually understands something, you can handle it. So if I just managed to find an alternative explanation to why we are as we are, I would be able to get people to understand that this is so much more than a fetish.

The good thing about being an autogynephiliac is that we do have a strong inner woman, and she told me to stop fussing.

"You think too much," she said to me. "Take a deep breath. The answer is right in front of you!"

The rest of my admittedly fictitious inner dialog can be reconstructed as something like this:

JACK: Right in front of me? What do you mean, right in front of me?

JACKIE: Well, you have never really believed in that theory, have you? It is convoluted, inelegant, too much an attempt to make the facts fit with a theory where good old fashioned heterosexual love is the only kosher love that makes sense evolution wise. Blanchard cannot make you fit in with the homosexuals, so he have to put you in the paraphilia category.

JACK: Well, yeah. I guess he just took the idea of the fetish to the next step.

JACKIE: Exactly, but you and I know that there is more to autogynephilia than a fetish for clothes or a fetish for a female body, do we not?

JACK: Yes, it is just as much a deep instinctual urge to have sex as a woman. In the case of the crossdressers it is also a deepfelt need to express a strong feminine side.

JACKIE: Don't be shy, you can say it!

JACK: They want to express their inner woman.

JACKIE: That's a good boy! Don't worry, Jack, you are not schizophrenic. In this blogpost I am nothing but a literary device.

JACK: Good to know!

Loving someone else

JACKIE: So why does Blanchard's idea about autogynephiliacs internalizing their external love object sound so convincing to many?

JACK: Because they find it creepy that someone can get turned on by the fantasy image of their own body. It is as if they are not able to have a relationship with a real woman.

JACKIE: But you have a relationship with a real woman, don't you, in spite of me?

JACK: Yes...

JACKIE: And you love her very much! And you know of a lot of other crossdressers and crossdreamers that have real love relationships with women.

JACK: Yeah, but still. There are so many of us who become obsessed with our inner girls.

JACKIE: Fair enough, but there are a lot of self obsessed people around. If you had to keep a secret like that, you would be a little self obsessed as well, wouldn't you?

JACK: Tell me about it!


JACKIE: OK, so what is it that makes autogynephiliacs perverts?

JACK: Their sex life is unnatural!


JACK: They are autoerotic!

JACKIE: There you go again with all your fancy words!

JACK: They get off by fantasizing about sex! You know, all by themselves.

JACKIE: They get turned on by imagining themselves having sex? Alone?

JACK: Yes!

JACKIE: And "normal" people never do?

JACK: Exactly!

JACKIE: Have you ever heard about masturbation, Jack?

JACK: Heh? Oh! .... All right, all right! Most people masturbate.

JACKIE: So being autoerotic is OK?

JACK: I guess...

JACKIE: So what's the difference? Normal people masturbate to the idea of having sex. So do autogynephiliacs.

JACK: You are twisting my words! Normal people dream about having sex with another person. They get turned on by imagining themselves having sex with another person! They do not get turned on by the idea of having a woman's body!

JACKIE: Well, I have read the same transgender erotic stories you have, Jack. I seem to remember that they all include having sex with other people! And since you have a strong inner woman it shouldn't come as a surprise at the idea of having a woman's body is such a turn on for you. You associate that body with the pleasure of sex.

Faceless men

JACK: Yes, but I sometimes imagine myself having sex with faceless men.

JACKIE: Yes, and what is wrong with that? You are not gay, Jack. I know who you are looking at when you walk down Main Street. You are not looking at the men. But your female instincts long for submission and penetration, and men have the necessary tool.

JACK: They are faceless! I have turned them into masturbatory props!

JACKIE: Oooh, what a naughty boy you are! And the teenage boy down on the second floor only dreams about real women, right? Real blonde bimbos with huuuuge tits and complex personalities. And the girl next door, when she takes out her vibrator she only dreams of realistic knights on realistic white horses sweeping her off her realistic feet and making rough love to her up in their realistic company jets. Oh yeah, no one but autogynephiliacs make use of mastorbatory props!

JACK: Now you are making fun of me!

JACKIE: Yah' think?

JACK: Normal straight men do not dream about submitting to masked men!

JACKIE: What do you know about what normal men dream about? You are not exactly normal are you, Jack? You share your body with me, and in my mind your body is female. No wonder our instincts drive you to dream about being mounted instead of being the mountee. That's what girls do dream about!

JACK: But I am not a girl now, am I?

JACKIE: No, you are a boring straight boy. But I am a girl, Jack, and I am part of you! And I know what I want.

JACK: You said you would not go all schizo on me!

JACKIE: Oh, my dear Jack. I am not saying that you are normal. I am not saying that you are not in trouble. I am just saying that you are not a fetishist or a paraphiliac. You have the sex drive and the sexual orientation of a straight man. At the same time you have the sexual instincts of a woman. That has to get messy.


JACK: But wait! Classical male to female transsexuals do not get turned on by the idea of having a woman's body, right? They are not fetishists. That proves that I am a creep and they are normal women.

JACKIE: There you go again! Most of the classical transsexuals are attracted to men, Jack. If you ask them if they get aroused by the idea of having a female body, they will have to say no. The correct answer is that they get aroused by the idea of having sex with a man in a female body. They are probably as horny as you are, and in their dreams they have tits and a pussy, just like an autogynephiliac, but since they are women loving men there is nothing controversial about this.

JACK: Well, if you put it that way...

JACKIE: I do put it that way! You should listen more to your female intuition, Jack.


JACK: According to Blanchard and Bailey I do not have a female intuition!

JACKIE: It's me, Jack.

JACK: Oh, give me a break! You are just a figment of my imagination. This doesn't prove anything!

JACKIE: Blanchard and Bailey haven't proved anything, so why should you? They have given good evidence to the fact that there are different types of transsexuals. Good! That is useful. But their erotic target location error theory is nothing but a theory, and you know it. They haven't got an explanation for why a heterosexual man should want to internalize their external love object.

That's me, Jack. I am your target location error. So tell me, where do I come from?

Emasculation theory

JACK: I don't know. Some childhood trauma, maybe. God knows I had enough of them.

JACKIE: We all have childhood trauma, Jack. Why would your trauma lead to me?

JACK: I was very shy and timid as a boy. I guess I felt emasculated. And I worshiped women. Maybe I gave up on the idea of becoming a "real man", so dreaming of becoming what I admired the most was the only option. If I had been a woman, people would have liked me for my looks and not only for my bloody personality!

JACKIE: Yeah, yeah, yeah, and I am the only reason they like your personality at all. Hah!!!

Anyway, this emasculation of your explains why you feel alienated from your own body? Is that what you think? Why you avoid looking at yourself in the mirror. Why you unlike most men feel no pride in your manly bits?

JACK: Exactly! And although I am not a crossdresser myself, this also explains why so many of my fellow autogynephiliacs dress up in women's clothing.

JACKIE: They dress up as sexy women, dreaming of being sexually attractive?

JACK: It is as if you are reading my thoughts!

JACKIE: That's because I am reading your thoughts, Jack.

So!... Let me get this straight. Crossdressers dress up as women because they imagine themselves being attractive. But that is not the same as being in love with yourself, now, is it Jack? All people dream of being liked, and testosterone driven beings like you have a bad tendency of mixing up human attraction with sexual attraction.

Of course crossdressers dream about being sexually attractive! In this respect they are no different from other men or women. We all long to be loved.

By the way, for you to be in love with yourself would have been a huge improvement. As I see it, the main problem is that you do not love yourself. And you definitely do not love me. I make you feel ashamed.

JACK: Eeeh...

Inner woman

JACKIE: But it is a good theory, Jack. This emasculation theory of your. It really is! And parts of it may even be true. The problem is that it doesn't explain why you started out as a timid boy in the first place. There is something in your genetic or biological profile that made you less like the archetypal rough and tumble boys.

JACK: What "something"?

JACKIE: Well, we do not know, now, do we? But I like to think of that "something" as me.

JACK: Of course you do!

JACK: Listen Jack, there are male to female transsexuals out there whose inner woman is so strong that they are women, no questions asked. When they say they feel trapped in their male bodies, they are correct. When they transition they become what they should have been, all along.

But nature is messy. In many cases it isn't that clearcut. All men and women, natural born or trans, have a mix of male and female traits along a large number of axis. In most cases the nobs and sliders are set in positions that make it easy for that individual to identify with one and only one gender.

In some cases, however, these traits cancel each other out, and the individual seems neither masculine or feminine. In other cases you can find one very masculine trait in parallel with strong feminine one. This makes the person appear both masculine and feminine at the same time.

Our language and our natural logic is able to accommodate for a lot of such variation, as long as the individual appears predominantly feminine or masculine on an aggregate level. But some are caught in the twilight zone, Jack, and in the twilight zone it is hard to decide what way the tree might fall.

JACK: Now you are mixing metaphors!

JACKIE: Yes, Jack, we are mixing metaphors, and that's why this is so hard to understand! There is a difference between men and women, but it is not absolute.

JACK: You have lost me now. I thought I was to be the analytical male and you the emotional woman, and here you go making another theoretical exposition. So you are saying being a man or a woman is about being placed somewhere on a scale. So that I am, let's say, 40 percent woman and 60 male?

JACKIE: So I am the weak one, now, am I? So typical male of you! 40 percent? Huh! Keep on dreaming, boy!

No, there is not one slider with female at the top and male at the bottom. That is far too simple.

There are hundreds of sliders relevant to the development of both sex and gender, probably thousands. Some of these sliders are genes, some are the production of hormones, some are the absorption of hormones, some are the digestions of food and toxins and some of them are social and cultural. What happens to one of them, may influence some of the others. And that influence goes both ways. Your life experiences change your brain, and those changes may change the production of hormones, which again change the way you experience the world.

JACK: It is a mess!

JACKIE: It is a complex system that doesn't care a fig about what some people believe is the proper order of nature.

JACK: Is all of this supposed to make me feel better?

JACKIE: I don't know. Does it?

Coming up next: Jackie gets some unexpected support from modern brain science!


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.

February 21, 2010

Samantha Speaks

There is a video blogger over at YouTube that might like to listen to. I have mentioned her before: Samantha Zero, an American Transgirl in Denmark. I admire her a lot.

Here's a woman who consciously calls herself transgendered, not transsexual. She doesn't follow the traditional narrative of the classic transsexual. She once identified as a man, loved a woman, used to crossdress, and has even admitted to having had autoerotic feelings before transitioning.

In other words: She may have a lot in common with some readers of this blog.

Enough said. Here she is.

Links to her videos on:
Transgender terminology
Losing her relationship

February 16, 2010

How many autogynephiliacs are there?

In the post How many male to female transsexuals are there? I pointed to Professor Lynn Conway's calculations on the number of M2F's transsexuals in the US.

Conway made an estimate of at least 40,000 postoperative trans women in the U.S. in 2005. These women had transitioned out of a population of roughly 100,000,000 adult males. She therefore concluded that the inherent condition occurs in at least one in every 500 children born as males.

Gynephiliac vs. autogynephiliac

But if you accept the idea that there are two distinct types of transsexuals, some of them predominantly androphilic (man-loving) and the other predominantly gynephilic (woman-loving), you are left with some interesting questions: How many woman-loving transsexuals are there? And: how many of these are autogynephiliacs (AGP) crossdreamers?


Before we try to answer that question, there are a few points to keep in mind:

1. Blanchard and his followers believe all gynephilic, bisexual and asexual transsexuals are crossdreamers ("autogynephilics" i.e. they get sexually turned on by the thought of being a woman).

Not all non-androphilic transsexuals agree that they are "autogynephilic". They could be in denial, of course. If being autogynephilic stops you from getting the much coveted surgery, it would make sense to shut up about it. Still, this is an uncertainty, for sure.

Personally I see no reason to believe that all gynephilic [woman-loving] male to female transwomen who ask for surgery lie when they say they have not had such fantasies.

2. If you do manage to establish how large percentage of the transsexuals are gynephilic, you do not necessarily find the same proportion in the non-op transsexual population, i.e. in the number of transsexuals who have not applied for surgery.

Given that androphilic transsexuals in general apply for SRS at an earlier age than gynephilic transsexuals, it could be that the proportion of gynephilic transsexuals is larger in the non-op population. But it could also be that a larger percentage of androphilic transsexuals decide not to transition. As Cloudy points out, very few of them chose to do so after the age of 25. They decide to live on as a feminine, gay, men instead.

The fact is that we do not know, because the research only includes respondents who have applied for SRS.

Counting noses

Cloudy has put up some very interesting calculations over at her blog On the Science of Changing Sex. Using recent research, she argues that the percentage of autogynephilic transsexuals is 45 percent at the very least. Personally she believes it could be up to 80%.

In order to get to the higher figure, she does include respondents that  she believes may may lie about their condition. She includes those that report to be bisexual and asexual, and those who say they are androphilic but who have not had sex with men. She also includes people like me, autogynephiliacs who do not crossdress and who's sexuality has not been included in the questionnaires. In short: In the end the only transsexuals that are not considered to be autogynephiliacs are androphilic transsexuals who have had sex with men.

She argues well for why it is sensible to do so,  but I am not convinced that all of her methods are completely kosher. It is fair to correct for the fact that "crossdreamers" like me are not asked about their fantasies. But it is a problematic to assume that all the non-androphilic respondents are mistaken when they say that they have not experienced arousal of this kind. Some of them  may be lying to themselves and the observer. But if you let your theory decide what response is the correct one, you can prove anything.

Cloudy's response to this criticism is based on personal experience:

"You do bring up an important point, how do we know that there are isn’t a special type… a type that is as obviously feminine as the feminine androphilic type (the same kind of femininity) yet still potentially gynephilic? One that doesn’t have any autogynephilia? We can’t 'prove' that from the published data. But I have personally been on the quest to find one… just one… to offer a proof of existence. I’ve failed. Again, in 35 years of meeting literally hundreds (it may be over a thousand now) I have never met one that fills that criteria. Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack… yet, the chances of one existing are statistically vanishingly small. So, clinically, we can ignore such possibility until it is found."

Note that there are probably a significant number of gynephilic M2F transsexuals who would say that they have found a large number of transsexuals that fills that niche, so it all boils down to whom you believe.

How many AGPs are there?

In the end, however, this probably doesn't make much of a difference. As a minimum some two thirds of the woman-loving transsexuals report autogynephilic arousal. That alone means that a significant proportion of the people applying for sex reassignment surgery are autogynephiliacs.

Following the calculations of Conway, that would mean that at least one in a thousand Americans is an "AGP transsexual".

Note that the large majority of autogynephiliacs do not transition. The survey of crossdresser I referred to earlier indicates that only 17 percent would even consider a sex change operation. 9 percent were using or had been using hormones. At the most this would mean that 1 out of 10 crossdressers are doing something actively to change their sex.

Note that these crossdressers were members of crossdresser clubs. Most crossdreamers do not get organized. Many of do not even crossdress. Among the unorganized crossdreamers the propensity to change sex is probably even lower. That would mean that the crossdreamer percentage of the total population is much, much higher that 1/1000 or 1/500. It is probably as high as 1/100. If Cloudy is right about her 80% the number may even be higher than that.

This means that there could be between 1 and 2 million autogynephiliacs in the US alone. On a global scale 1 percent would equal 25 million men (2,5 billion adult men/100), and that is a conservative estimate. If this really is the case, autogynephilia becomes one of the largest cover-ups in human history!


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.

February 13, 2010

Autoandrophilia, on women who fantasise about having a man's body

This is a blog about autogynephilia and about men who get turned on by imagining themselves having a woman's (Greek: gyno) body.

From time to time this questions pops up: Are there women who get turned on by the idea of having a man's body?

A search for autoandrophilia (Greek aner, man) on the Net brings up very little, however, and in many cases the term is used for gay men who tries to impersonate the men they are attracted to.

Given that Blanchard and his followers only studied M2F transsexuals when discussion eroticism of this sort, there hasn't been much discussion online regarding this phenomenon either. It apparently isn't controversial enough to merit much activism.

Then there is the problem of identifying female to male crossdressers. Nowadays it is very easy for women to crossdress without being "outed". Jeans and a T-shirt? Works fine. She can even wear a suit like attire and look very business-like, yet feminine. (The tie would be a dead giveaway, though).

All of this has led some to doubt the very existence of autoandrophilia. Apparently, we still are culturally inclined to believe that "fetishes" and "perversions" are limited to the XY part of the human race. Women are pure, men are pigs. A parallel phenomenon is found in the male idea that gay male sex is disturbing, while lesbian sex is OK.

O'Keefes tales of autoandrophilic women

Anyway, I have found a few reports on autoandrophilia among heterosexual women, and I take the liberty of giving a few quotes below.

The first ones are fetched from Dr Tracie O'Keefe's Autogynephilia and Autoandrophilia in Non-Sex and Gender Dysphoric Persons.

Note the "Non" prefix in the title of this paper. Dr. O'Keefe belongs to the minority that believes that erotic fantasies of this kind are pretty normal and can be integrated into a healthy sex life.


Clair was married to a man with autogynephile fantasies. Sometimes he wanted to play out the role of being a man in bed.

"She enjoyed having sex as a woman with men but also particularly enjoyed living out her sexual fantasy of being male with a penis. She was a self-declared bisexual who, apart from having sex with Robert [her husband] and other couples, would also go off to visit female sex workers herself. She particularly enjoyed the fantasy of raping someone else. This was generally played out with female sex workers who would be accommodating and compliant with the fantasy to her satisfaction. The only male she carried out this sex fantasy with was her husband Robert and at the time of penetrating him she said she clearly envisioned herself as a man with a penis, dominant, powerful and aggressive. Clair was quite clear that although she might run these fantasies in her mind they were just sexual fantasies. "

She had no wish to become a man in real life.


O'Keefe presents Suzie as "a wholly feminine petite woman" and "a typical heterosexual twenty-five-year old professional accountant."

She had found her fantasies during sex, particularly visualisations and kinesthetic imagination, about her having a penis very distressing.

O'Keefe says:

"During psychotherapy Suzie decided to split up with her boyfriend and leave her parents' home to try and explore who she was and what might be available to her from life in a wider world. The penis fantasies that only happened during sex did not diminish but she was quite sure that it had nothing whatsoever to do with her experiencing sex or gender dysphoria or wanting to be a man."


Shelia described herself as "a twenty-three-year-old confused bisexual with a big question mark".

She had a boyfriend with whom she had a traditional "passive" love life, but where also having secret affairs with women without her boyfriend's knowledge.

O'Keefe says:

"She found her elicit affairs with women, however, very raunchy and she always played the dominant role, often role-playing herself as having a penis and behaving almost like a man. She commented, however, that, although she imagined having a penis, wearing a strap-on and having sex with women with it, there was still part of her that wanted the sex to be lesbian sex because that was part of what got her excited.

"She said, 'I am unsure I'm cut out to be a lesbian because I don't really know what it entails. At least this way I'm not really committed because I'm not a woman having sex with a woman but a woman half pretending to be a man having sex with a woman.' "

By the way, having sex with a woman did not count as cheating in her book!


There are also lesbian autoandrophiliacs.

O'Keefe again:

"This highly educated and enormously well read forty-eight-year-old woman 'queer identified dyke' (participant's words) lived alone but was in a very rewarding successful two-year relationship with a woman of her own age. She also reported that she had slept with men and very much enjoyed the experience."

O'Keefe reports that when Julia was younger she had felt disappointed that she had not been a boy, often passing as a boy and being pleased by that. She had imagined having a penis and said if she had access to male hormones she might have considered taking them.

She had sex games with her female partner where they both fantasised about being males, wearing strap-on dildos.

"It is not that we want to be men," she said. "We are enjoying as part of our rich and varied sex lives fantasy games that involved exploring male energy through homoeroticism and I can do that because I am now powerful as a female."

Other research

I have found only two other studies of F2Ms that look at the difference between classic transsexuals (in these studies called homosexual -- i.e woman-loving -- transsexuals) and autoandrophilic transsexuals (called nonhomosexual, meaning man-loving and bisexual, transsexuals).

The problem with this research -- as with so many of such studies -- is that they focus on people who have applied for sex reassignment surgery only. They do not cover the lives of all those transgendered people who do not ask for such treatment. This means that you do not capture those that actually manage to include their crossexuality in their love life.

J. Michael Bailey has collaborated with Meredith L. Chivers on a paper on "Sexual Orientation of Female-to-Male Transsexuals: A Comparison of Homosexual and Nonhomosexual Types". Yes, this is the same Bailey that wrote controversial "Queen" book on autogynephila.

The gynephilic, woman-loving, F2Ms were found to be more masculine-oriented than the androphilic and bisexual F2Ms. According to this research gynephilic F2M transmen had been more cross-gendered in childhood and preferred more feminine partners. They experienced greater sexual rather than emotional jealousy, were more sexually assertive, had more sexual partners, and had more interest in visual sexual stimuli than the androphilic, man-loving, F2Ms. With respect to treatment, they had a stronger desire for phalloplasty [getting a penis].

In short: the gynephilic F2Ms seem to adhere more closely to the stereotypical behavior of men.

Transsexual subtypes

In the article "Transsexual subtypes: Clinical and theoretical significance", Yolanda L.S. Smith, Stephanie H.M. van Goozen, A.J. Kuiperc and Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis look at both F2M and M2F transsexuals.

This is what they say of transsexuals in general (i.e both M2F and F2M).

"In this study the two subtypes were indeed found to differ on many characteristics. Replicating some of the previously observed differences, we found that compared with nonhomosexual transsexuals, homosexual transsexuals reported more cross-gendered behavior, appearance and preference in childhood, and they reported less sexual arousal while cross-dressing in adolescence, applied for SR at a younger age, and fewer were (or had been) married.

Unlike Blanchard et al. (1995), we found no differences in height, weight or BMI [body mass index]. Contrary to our expectations, we found the homosexual group not to be different from the nonhomosexual group in the extent of gender dysphoria and body dissatisfaction at application. Despite a less extreme cross-gendered childhood, the nonhomosexuals seemed to suffer no less from their situation than the homosexuals, while having an equally strong aversion to their sex characteristics when they applied for SR [sex reassignment surgery].

As expected, the homosexual transsexuals' appearance already better matched the new, desired gender, and they functioned better psychologically than the nonhomosexual group.Thus, our data largely support the idea that homosexual and nonhomosexual transsexuals are different subtypes with distinct characteristics. "

Note that this applies to both F2Ms and M2Fs.

This is what they have to say about the F2Ms in particular:

"Unlike their male counterparts, nonhomosexual FMs [man-loving female to male transsexuals, i.e. those that could be considered autoandrophiliacs] appear to suffer so strongly from their gender dysphoria that they apply for SR in young adulthood, despite their less extreme childhood cross-genderedness compared with homosexual FMs. As sexual arousal while wearing men's clothes is almost absent in adolescence, other factors must contribute to the development of their SR [sex reassignment] wish.

Our data show higher levels of gender dysphoria in both FM groups than in the two MF [male to female] groups, but they do not provide indications of what those other factors might be.

It is of interest, though, that a few FMs reported to have been sexually aroused in adolescence when dressing in male cloths, as this has never been reported before. Furthermore, the more favorably appraised appearance in both FM groups probably facilitates living in the opposite sex role, increasing the chances of and possibly explaining a similar age at application for SR."

What does it mean?

There seems to exist a mirror image of the autogynephiliacs, in the sense of F2M autoandrophiliacs. The Blanchard et al and Goozen et al studies do not tell us much about their erotic fantasies, though.

Smith & Co argue that there is little cross dressing going on, but in the few cases they found crossdressing is followed by erotic arousal. They do not say anything about crossdreamers and crossenacters, i.e. women that get aroused by the idea of having a man's body or by acting like man. The reason for this is that they only asked about sexual arousal in connection with cross-dressing (bummer!). O'Keefe has documented that such fantasies exist.

I would guess that crossdressing does not have the same symbolic value for F2Ms as it has for M2Fs, simply because women can dress up like men anytime and get away with it. Therefore it makes sense that the erotic feelings arise as crossdreaming or crossenacting instead.

Autogynephiliacs and autoandrophiliacs unite!

Could the very existence of autoandrophiliacs be of help for autogynephiliacs? I think so. There is so much guilt and shame involved with having AGP fantasies, especially when it comes to initiating relationships with women.

Of all men I suspect autogynephiliacs are most likely to worship women in such a way that they forget that women are human too. There are differences in the psychology of men and women, but women also have most of the strengths and weaknesses men have. It helps to know that there are also women with secrets of this kind. That makes it all less dangerous.

O'Keefe's message is useful also in another way. Her's is the message that a lot of women and men have these fantasies. It is normal. Still, since nearly all of us keep quite about them, we tend to believe that we are the only "freaks" around.

According to O'Keefe we are not freaks, but natural expressions of the variety of life. I kind of like that.

May 2019 UPDATE: New post on women who have sexual fantasies about being men.

See also:


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.

February 8, 2010

The evolutionary advantages of feminine men and masculine women

In an earlier post I noted that crossdreamers ("autogynephiliacs", men who dream about being women) may actually be at an evolutionary advantage. I criticized Joan Roughgarden for not doing the obvious: exploring the possible social and evolutionary role of the crossdreamer within her theory of social selection.

(If the sentence above makes absolutely no sense to you, do read the post about Roughgarden and autogynephilia.)

Bailey and the feminine man

It turns out I am not the only one who has looked into this possibility. I have found a paper written by J. Michael Bailey and his friends, where they try to explain how homosexuality can survive as a genetic trait. Homosexuals are, after all, less likely to get offspring.

Their hypothesis is that there are other family members that get some -- but not all -- of the same genes. These are feminine, but heterosexual men, who for some reason have more sexual partners than the average Joe, and who are therefore able to spread their seed more liberally.

Notice the irony in all of this. Roughgarden has really nothing good to say about Bailey -- the man who popularized the autogynephilia (AGP) concept in his "Queen" book. But here he is, presenting a theory that fits well with Roughgarden's new approach.

Here is the summary:

"We show that psychologically masculine females and feminine men are (a) more likely to be nonheterosexual but (b), when heterosexual, have more opposite-sex sexual partners. With statistical modelling of the twin data, we show that both these relationships are partly due to pleiotropic [more than one effect] genetic influences common to each trait.

"We also find a trend for heterosexuals with a nonheterosexual twin to have more opposite-sex partners than do heterosexual twin pairs. Taken together, these results suggest that genes predisposing to homosexuality may confer a mating advantage in heterosexuals, which could help explain the evolution and maintenance of homosexuality in the population."

The amazing thing about this article is that in order to explain this phenomenon Bailey and Co have to turn the traditional narrative of the strong and manly man conquering the coy and passive woman upside down. By doing so they actually make room for the alternative male roles Roughgarden are looking for.

They ask:

"The traits most reliably associated with homosexuality relate to masculinity–femininity; homosexual men tend to be more feminine than heterosexual men, and homosexual women tend to more masculine than heterosexual women. Could this sex atypicality be advantageous when expressed in heterosexuals? "

The sexual success of the feminine man

And the answer is:

"Although perhaps counterintuitive, there is evidence that females are more attracted to males with certain feminine behavioral traits such as tenderness, considerateness, and kindness. They also prefer men with feminized faces , although the preferred degree of feminization differs across the menstrual cycle and between short-term and long-term mating goals.

"There has been less research on what masculine traits in females may be attractive to men, but it should be noted that masculine traits such as competitiveness and unrestricted sociosexuality (willingness to engage in uncommitted sexual relations) could contribute to a mating advantage. Indeed, psychologically more masculine women have a greater number of opposite-sex sexual partners in their lifetime." (References removed for readability)

If you do not know evolutionary biology this may not sound so revolutionary to you, but I can tell you that this is more than "counter-intuitive". What Bailey and Co do here is to break with the stereotypical gender roles this research field is dominated by. I don't know whether they are right or not, but I salute their bravery!

But this case also displays the weakness of modern evolutionary biology. It seems to me anything can be explained by anything, even if you undermine the very foundation sexual selection theory is built on.

If women are attracted to feminine men as much as they are attracted to masculine men, it is -- in fact -- impossible to say that one male configuration is more optimal than another. That also means that the idea that women use the looks and manners of men to determine who's most genetically fit, is hard to uphold. After all, these men have so little in common. They cannot all be equally fit.

However, the results are clear if we are to believe the researchers: Feminine men and masculine women are more likely to get laid!

Gay genes give you feminine heterosexual men

The genetic influences on the different traits are more correlated with each other than the environmental influences.

Bailey and Co again:

"Our evidence is consistent with a mechanism whereby some genetic variation underlying homosexuality could have been maintained over evolutionary time. The genes influencing homosexuality have two effects.

"First, and most obviously, these genes increase the risk for homosexuality, which ostensibly has decreased Darwinian fitness.

"Countervailing this, however, these same genes appear to increase sex-atypical gender identity, which our results suggest may increase mating success in heterosexuals.

"This mechanism, called antagonistic pleiotropy, might maintain genes that increase the risk for homosexuality because they increase the number of sex partners in the relatives of homosexuals."

Bailey & Co are not the first to suggest something like this. Jim McKnight proposed that there exists a marginal group of females who drop the optimal males for "homosexually-enabled heterosexuals" with charm, intelligence and empathy. The difference between McKnight and Bailey & Co seems to be -- interestingly enough -- that Bailey is open for the idea that a large proportion of women may go for the sensitive men.


The problem with this counter-theory is, of course, that it doesn't explain why there are not more feminine men around. If women find feminine men so attractive, these should be able to out-compete the muscular football brutes.

Traditional evolutionary biology believes in an optimal situation where the differences between individuals disappears as the strongest traits survive.The real answer to this question is probably found in Roughgarden's work: Nature loves variation, because the flexibility leaves more alternative routes of survival.

Bailey and Co, however, try to explain this by saying that what we are seeing is a snapshot in an evolutionary process towards "fixation at the genotype". In time homosexuals and feminine men will disappear from the gene pool, Darwinian losers as they are.

"(...) antagonistic pleiotropy may considerably slow the progression towards genetic fixation, thereby maintaining genetic variation for a much longer time than would be predicted solely from the genes' fitness-lowering phenotype (homosexuality in this case). Given that we are observing only a snapshot of evolution, antagonistic pleiotropy may help to explain extant observations of genetic variation. It should be noted that linkage disequilibrium between separate genes influencing the different traits here cannot be distinguished from genuine pleiotropy in the current design."


The weak spot of much of this research is that it is based on clichés. Although Bailey is actually leaving the dominant heterosexual male model in this paper, elsewhere Bailey loves the stereotypes, and especially the one of the feminine gay man.

McKnight even mentions "charm" as a gay trait. I find such oversimplifications questionable. For each feminine, charming, gay man I know, I find five others who are more bland, to put it that way. This seems to be the case for heterosexual men as well.

And how do you measure femininity? Bailey & Co focus on outward appearance and mannerisms in his "Queen" book. In this paper he and his colleagues widen the scope to include inner traits like tenderness and kindness, but I still have the feeling that this has to be coupled with feminine looks in order to pass the muster.

The feminine man

I must be one weird person who finds this extremely entertaining.

Bailey & Co present a theory that fits well with our discussion on metrosexuals and Natalie's theory of a common innate femininity of gay males and "autogynephiliacs".

Natalie claims that gay men and "autogynephiliacs" share a "camp gene" or a complex of genes that give them an inborn femininity, but since male to female (MTF) crossdreamers are women-lovers, their femininity get another expression that the one of gay men.

Still, we may be talking about the same complex of genes. If we are to believe Bailey & Co, and given that the feminine men and masculine women get more offspring than the average, they make sure that the "camp genes" and the"gay genes" are carried over to the next generation. Not all genetic combinations will lead to gay and lesbian kids. There will be more heterosexual boys and girls with "sex-atypical gender identities" as well.

The Dawn of Aquarius

I am taking the liberty of adding some pure blue sky speculation here.

We are now in the midst of a cultural shift, where women are becoming financially independent. They have higher levels of education than men in many industrialized countries. They seem to be moving from the submissive over to the dominant position in society.

This trend may increase the genetic survival rate of "masculine" heterosexual women. This is no longer a male dominated society where the coy and timid women are more likely to find mates. We will have new generations of assertive women who have the power to chose who they want, and who -- because of their financial independence -- can make stronger demands on the men they chose to live with.

I am pretty sure that this is going to happen, because I live in a Nordic country where this already has happened. Not that Nordic women in any way look masculine, but they have their own kind of independence and assertiveness.

Assertive women may go for the gentle type, as such partnerships are more likely to survive. Indeed, the divorce rates in the US are now going down at the same rate as the traditional house wives are disappearing.

The next bit is anecdotal, but I have observed that liberated Scandinavian women find it harder to establish long lasting relationships with men raised in societies with more traditional gender roles, like Germany and Austria. Assertive German and Austrian women, on the other hand, just love the feminine flexibility of Scandinavian men. They don't even have to ask them to do the dishes.

If the new assertive women go for the feminine easy maintenance guys, we may actually see that these genetic traits (feminine men and masculine women) become even more successful in the evolutionary race for survival.

Men with strong inner women will continue to be harassed by men following the traditional male role, but if the "fem-males" survive up till high school they should have good chances at outperforming their competitors.

The crossdreamers

But Bailey & Co do not mention MTF crossdreamers ("autogynephiliacs") in this paper. Given all that he and we know about "autogynephiliacs", it says a lot that he doesn't. After all, aren't the "autogynephiliacs" the most feminine of heterosexual men? These men dream about being women! What more can you ask for?

The reason Bailey does not make this connection, is that he is locked into the "autogynephilia as a fetish" theory. Even if this paper argues that women look for "tenderness, considerateness, and kindness", in his "Queen" book he is focusing on femininity as outward appearance. According to him the autogynephiliacs look and act masculine. That's why their "femininity" cannot be real. And compared to androphile transsexuals they also find it harder to pass as women if they chose to transition. The AGP transsexuals look and act like men, according to Bailey.

Bailey is using the autogynephilia theory to explain the differences between man-loving and woman-loving transsexuals, and when you have chosen that trajectory it isn't easy to contemplate the similarities between the two groups.

If Natalie is right, however, the reason the MTF crossdreamers act in a masculine manner is that they have learned that displaying feminine gestures will scare women away. The women may still be attracted to the feminine parts of their personality, though.

As for the argument that MTF crossdreamers in general (including the majority that even does not contemplate transitioning) look more masculine than gay men, it is simply a theory that cannot be proved or disproved. I am not even sure if it is relevant, as femininity is so much more than looks.

It is likely that gynephilic (woman loving) transsexuals on average look more mannish than classic transsexuals. They do, after all, transition much later in life, and older women normally look less feminine than the younger ones. Moreover, if you have spent 40 years training to behave like a man, feminine mannerism and a good dress sense may not come easy. That does not stop her from being a woman.

AGP as a sub group of feminine men

It is certainly true that we cannot say that all of these successful feminine straight men are MTF crossdreamers. These crossdreamers are probably at one end of the feminine heterosexual male spectrum, and many of them are indeed love shy virgins with "reduced Darwinian fitness" (Don't you just love that term?). There are quite a few socially awkward crossdreaming techno-nerds who need to work hard on the feminine charm bit if they are to get lucky.

Still, as I noted in my previous post, a large number of MTF crossdreamers have girl friends and wives, and they do get kids. Even the crossdreaming nerds find mates. I did!

Moreover, given the new woman dominated society, the shy and inhibited crossdreamermay suddenly find himself hunted down by aggressive women looking for helpful and loyal life partners. Who knows, maybe this kind of evolution will give us more female to male crossdreamers, giving the male to female one their perfect lovers?

If this is the case we will also find that these amazing couples get an increasing number of homosexual kids. I do hope the Pope is not reading this blog! This post will confirm his worst fears.

OK, I am joking -- at least partly. As always, when I present research of this kind it is not necessarily because it "proves" anything, but because alternative theories help us get beyond the traditional view of the autogynephiliac as a fetish freak. And I believe this paper does, in spite of what Bailey may be thinking.


The article, "Genetic factors predisposing to homosexuality may increase mating success in heterosexuals", is written by Brendan P. Zietsch, Katherine I. Morley, Sri N. Shekar, Karin J.H. Verweij, Matthew C. Keller, Stuart Macgregor, Margaret J. Wright, J. Michael Bailey and Nicholas G. Martin and can be found in Evolution and Human Behavior Volume 29, Issue 6, November 2008, Pages 424-433.

The study was based on a questionnaire sent to a community-based sample consisting of 4904 (1824 male and 3080 female) Australian twins reared together, ranging in age from 19 to 52 years. We can only hope that they answered truthfully when asked about their sexual orientation, gender identity and number of opposite-sex partners.

For a broad discussion on straight and gay feminine men, see Edward M. Miller: "Homosexuality, Birth Order, and Evolution: Towards a Equilibrium Reproductive Economics of Homosexuality"


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.

Minor edits of March 2014: "autogynephiliac" has been replaced with "MTF crossdreamer".

February 5, 2010

A survey of crossdressers

Image: Jude Law as crossdresser in Rage.

The term autogynephilia was introduced by the psychologist Ray Blanchard. He defined it as "a man's paraphilic tendency to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a female".

[Update: I no longer use the stigmatizing term "autogynephila" to describe transgender people. See note below!.]

There is an overlap between this group and the crossdressers. Not all autogynephiliacs crossdreamers are crossdressers. But a lot of crossdressers get erotically turned by dressing up as a woman.

Knowing more about the crossdressers will help us get a better insight into autogynephilia crossdreaming.

My online friend Colin has set up some tables based on an interesting survey of cross-dressers in 1992 compared to a similar sample from 1972. Some of the questions relate to gender identity. Colin suspects a lot of crossdressers fantasize about having a woman's body.


Demographic, Childhood, and Family Variables: 1992 and 1972 data

Note the large number of married crossdressers, and the fact that most of them believe their fathers provided a good masculine image. They were not raised as crossdressers, if anyone suspects that.

TABLE I(%)(%)
Education past BA19921972
Marital Status19921972
Married now6064
Separated, Divorced, widowed2314
Never married1722
Ever been married8378
Fathered children6974
Raised by both parents7682
Father provided good masculine image7672
Raised just as a boy8683

Sexual and Cross-dressing variables: 1992 and 1972 Data

The fact that most identify as heterosexual, should not come as a surprise. That as many as 29 percent some kind of homosexual experiences probably points to a desire to have sex as a woman.

72 percent report that crossdressing brings sexual excitement and orgasm occasionally to nearly always. It is fair to say that these probably are autogynephiliacs.

66 percent began cross-dressing before the age of 10. If most of these crossdressers truly are autogynephiliacs crossdreamers, this means that autogynephilia crossdreaming appears before puberty and is not the result of increased testosterone production in puberty.

A large majority of them believe that they express a different part of themselves when crossdressing, i.e. they believe they have an innate feminine side.

71 percent have crossdressed in public, although they do not necessarily do this often. Note that most of the respondents are members of crossdresser clubs. This may influence their tendency towards going out dressed as women.

Their wives are normally aware of their habit. Only a minority was told about it before marriage though, even if the number of crossdressers revealing their condition at an early stage is increasing. Their wives have mixed views about their men's crossdressing.

The authors draw attention to the "purges" of crossdressers:

"There appears to be pervasive guilt associated with transvestism, for we found three quarters of our subjects reported a purge of their feminine attire at some time in their history (75 vs. 69%). This is invariably described as a product of intense feelings of wrongdoing and shame."

TABLE II(%)(%)
Sexual Orientation19921972
Some homosexual experiences2928
Sexual Interest in women19921972
Above average1724
Below average2614
Age began cross-dressing19921972
Before age 106654
Between 10 and 202937
After age 2058
View of self when cross-dressed19921972
Express different part of myself8078
Just myself with different clothes2022
Cross-dressing brings sexual excitement and orgasm19921972
Nearly always21
Enjoy feminine clothes when orgasm is not feasible19921972
Prefer complete cross-dressing9385
Frequency of public cross-dressing19921972
Have appeared cross-dressed in public71
Activities while cross-dressed19921972
Ride on bus, train, etc.10
Eat in restaurants28
Plays, lectures church18
Tried on feminine clothes in stores22
Used ladies' room26
Seen by acquaintances who knew me17
Experienced a "purge" of cross-dressing7569
Wife is aware of cross-dressing8380
Wife's acceptance or antagonism19921972
Completely accepting2823
Mixed view4757
Completely antagonistic1920
Wife knew of your cross-dressing before marriage3227

Cross-gender Identity, Hormones, and Sexual Reassignment

Colin points to the fact that 60% of current cross-dressers prefer their masculine and feminine selves equally. This means that their gender identity is male and female.

The authors add:

"A marked change from 1972 data was seen when our subjects were asked whether they preferred their masculine selves, feminine selves, or both selves equally. Sixty percent of our sample preferred 'both selves equally,' compared to only 12% in 1972. This unusually great change may be a reflection of a theme strongly advocated in transvestite magazines and newsletters--that it is healthy and desirable to have an integration of the masculine and feminine components of one's personality. Personality integration, of course, is also a major objective in many forms of counseling and psychotherapy."

Only a minority consider themselves "women trapped in a man's body", although this percentage increased from 1972 to 1992. It is interesting to note that as many as 43 percent would like to use female hormones, although only 9 percent had done so.

Colin adds: "Also interesting is that 17% want a sex-change if money and partner were not a factor."

As many as 45 percent of the 1992 sample had sought counselling.

I feel myself to be a19921972
Woman trapped in a man's body1712
Man with feminine side7469
Fetishist, favor women's clothing912
Preferred gender identity19921972
Masculine self1129
Feminine self2856
Female Hormones19921972
Not interested in using4841
Would like to use4350
Using hormones now45
Used hormones in the past54
If I were single and financially able at the present time, I would have a sex change operation even now1714
Consulted psychologist or psychiatrist4524
Helped by counseling6747

An important research objective of the project was to identify variables discriminating between so-called "Nuclear" (stable, periodic cross-dressers) and "Marginal transvestites" (more transgendered or transsexually inclined).

The authors say:

"We divided the present sample into two groups using the following question: "I feel myself to be: (a) awoman trapped in a man's body (b) a man who has a feminine side that seeks expression occasionally (c) a man with a sexual fetish for feminine clothing."

"Group 1 was defined as the 747 cross-dressers who selected item (b); Group 2 was defined as the 172 cross-dressers who selected item (a). (...)

"No difference between Groups 1 and 2 were seen for the following variables: married now, ever married, fathered children, parents divorced, separated, or deceased, parents overprotective, parents discouraged rough-and-tumble play, hugged and stroked as child, sexually aroused by specific items of women's clothing, enjoy cross-dressing even when sexual release is not feasible, age of first cross-dressing, prefer complete cross-dressing, experienced a "purge" of cross-dressing, consulted psychologist concerning cross-dressing, and belong to cross-dressing, organization."

10 strongly discriminating parameters were found. The most important were, according to the authors: cross-gender identity, commitment to live entirely as a woman, taking steps toward body feminization, low sexual arousal to cross-dressing.

"Neither age nor experience as a cross-dresser were found to be correlates of cross-gender identity. Although the present generation of transvestites describe themselves much as did similar subjects 20 years ago, the percentage migrating toward full-time living as a woman is greater."

If you do crossdess, please feel free to add a comment on where you stand on this map, and the challenges you are facing!

Richard F. Docter , Virginia Prince: "Transvestism: a survey of 1032 cross-dressers."

The authors says this about the sample:

"Our subjects were 1032 self-defined periodic cross-dressers, all of whom were biological males, ranging in age from 20 to 80. This volunteer nonrandom sample was acquired from throughout the United States by announcements at transvestite club meetings, conventions of cross-dressers, and in magazines and newsletters for cross-dressers. Nearly all subjects received the self-responsive survey form at one of these events; a small percentage were mailed to individuals who volunteered to participate. An unknown number of survey forms were reproduced by support groups and distributed to interested members. Our best estimate of the overall response rate is that roughly 30 to 35% were completed and returned. The data were collected over a 2-year span ending in 1992. All participation was anonymous. ... Eighty percent said they were affiliated with either a cross-dressers' club or national organization."


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.

See also our own Crossdreamer Gender Variance Survey of 2014!

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!

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