January 20, 2012

The Amazing Transgender Story of John O. (Anno 1905)

Male to female and female to male crossdresser,
early 20th century. (From Femulate)
I am going to share with you another remarkable crossdreamer life story. I found it in Magnus Hirschfeld's amazing book from 1910: Die Transvestiten (Transvestites, the Erotic Drive to Cross Dress, translated by Michael A. Lombardi-Nash.)

As Vern L. Bullough writes in the introduction to the English language edition of the book:

"In Hirschfeld's view, transvestism was a sexual variation in itself. He sharply criticized psychoanalysts who thought that it was simply an aspect of homosexuality... He recognized that both men and women could be transvestites and that they could be homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual and asexual (automonosexual in his terms)."

In fact, Hirschfeld's understanding of crossdressers, crossdreamers and transsexuals (which to him is one group) is very similar to my own. Thanks go to U. for making me aware of this! I will come back with a broader presentation of his theories later on.

Case No. 13

In the book Hirschfeld presents 17 case studies in addition to referring to a large number of life stories found in the literature available at the time. Of the 17 core case studies 16 are on male bodied persons and one on a female bodied "transvestite". The other cases referred to, however, contains discussions of a large number of what I would call female to male crossdreamers.

His case No. 13 is of particular interest to me, partly because John O. is a crossdreamer who actively tries to explain what he is to others, and partly because he is one of many examples found in the book who refuses to live up to contemporary prejudices regarding the differences between crossdressers and transwomen or between gynephilic (woman-loving) and androphilic (man-loving) transsexuals.

A letter to a woman's magazine

Hirschfeld writes that in 1905 the woman publisher of the magazine Antenatal Care (Mutterschutz) received a text from a certain John O. from San Francisco with the request that she publish it:

"When the expected publication did not take place and, after waiting for a long time, O. turned to me, he was very disappointed that he had received no word. With his letter, which I clearly understood, he included a copy of the odd piece of writing, and now I understand why the woman publisher thought it would be too much for her readers, because they hardly would have been able to understand it."

Hirschfeld then goes on to present parts of the text. I will take the liberty of quoting the text quite liberally, as I think it is extremely useful as a counterpoint to contemporary crossdressing and crossdreaming in the Western world.

January 11, 2012

On evolution, autogynephilia and Anne Lawrence 2

I my previous post I presented Anne Lawrence's argument for why male to female trans women who are attracted to women  (referred to as "autogynephiliacs") must be classified as mentally ill.

Or, to be more precise, she asked if the desire for sex reassignment in some men is  to be understood as a mental disorder in terms of a particular classification system of psychiatric conditions.

Her answer is yes; mine is no.

Lawrence's comment,  "Do Some Men Who Desire Sex Reassignment Have a Mental Disorder?", was originally a response to a paper by Dr. Heino F. L. Meyer-Bahlburg of Columbia University.

Dr. Meyer-Bahlburg was kind enough to give me a copy of his own response to Anne Lawrence's text, and I am going to give you a summary of his main arguments here.

A summary of Lawrence

Meyer-Bahlburg gives the following summary of Lawrence's paper (the  text in  brackets [...]  are my comments):

"1. In line with the original sex assignment on the basis of genital appearance at birth, the young child forms a core gender identity (as ‘‘biologically male’’)."

[Actually: Basically both Blanchard, Bailey and Lawrence say that a man is a man if he has a penis. Period.]

"2. Later development includes the activation of erotic heterosexual interest, which involves a mental mechanism responsible for locating erotic targets (females) in the environment external to the self (Freund & Blanchard, 1993). This mechanism is 'natural,' i.e., was developed by way of evolutionary selection. However, in the particular men under discussion, this mechanism fails its natural function; these men become autogynephilic instead of gynephilic, or both, and, thereby, experience a powerful erotic interest in turning their own bodies into facsimiles of their preferred erotic targets (females), thus generating the desire for sex reassignment. This desire to transform the body is an epiphenomenon to the primary mental dysfunction, namely the malfunctioning erotic-target location mechanism."

[In other words: Autogynephilia is the result of a masculine sexuality, not a feminine sex identity.]

January 3, 2012

On evolution, autogynephilia and Anne Lawrence 1

Dr. Anne Lawrence tells us that "autogynephiliacs" must be considered mentally for evolutionary reasons. I argue that this make no sense.

Some how you have wondered why I keep writing on "gay" and "transgender" animals, arguing that these phenomena are of little relevance to a discussion of crossdreaming or "autogynephilia" (sexual arousal from the idea of having the body of the opposite physical sex).

I have argued that the presentation of "autogynephilia" (AGP) as a mental illness in the autogynephilia theory of Ray Blanchard, J. Michaels Bailey and Anne Lawrence is at least partially based on evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology. 

This means that the categorization of crossdreaming as a paraphilia (perversion) is ultimately based on the idea that it represents a trait that hinders procreation. 

Note that the use of the term "autogynephilia" in this article must not be understood as an endorsement of Ray Blanchard's two-type model of male to female transgender people. Moreover, when I refer to erotic cross-gender fantasies, I normally use the much wider term "crossdreaming", a term that is not dependent on Blanchard's theory.

The sanctity of sexual selection

According to this type of thinking sexual selection provides organisms with adaptations related to mating. For male mammals, this theory holds, sexual selection leads to adaptations that help them compete for females. A behavioral adaptation that does not lead to them breeding with females is therefore harmful, and an illness.

They argue that "heterosexual transsexual men" (which is an impolite  reference to people I would call lesbian or gynephilic -- woman loving -- trans women), are mentally ill.  The underlying argument is that "autogynephilia" represent a maladaptation. The natural heterosexual longing for a woman out there has been internalized  as a "erotic target location error".

I believe this explanation for crossdreaming is the end result of reductionistic evolutionary thinking. Their basic model cannot encompass the idea of gynephilic male bodied person wanting to be women, for the simple reason that in this theory sexual orientation equals sex identity. It cannot be otherwise in a theory that argues that sexual selection, and sexual selection  only, explains the survival of the genes of the individual and -- ultimately -- of a species. 

Nature disagrees

I have presented alternative research on the sexuality and gendered behavior of animals to show you that this basic understanding is wrong. A lot of the sexual behavior found among animals (and humans) does not have procreation as a goal. It is, for instance, used as a tool for socialization or for comfort.

None of these alternative theories dismisses the concept of evolution – far from it – but they argue that the survival of a genetic line relies on much more than mere sexual selection.

This research also shows that the social and sexual dynamics of  animals does not  necessarily adhere to the simplistic strong, aggressive, male conquers coy and passive female paradigm. And if the basis for the paradigm is wrong, the conclusions based on this basis are also most likely to be wrong.

Anne Lawrence presents the evolutionary argument

The reason some of you have questioned my interpretation of the basis of the "autogynephilia" theory is that Blanchard, Bailey and Lawrence rarely make such evolutionary arguments. The most important exception has been Blanchard's sibling theory on homosexuality, and that one is not about "autogynephilia" at all, but adaptive advantages to homosexuality.

Well,  Anne Lawrence has let the cat out of the bag. She has written a paper, "Do Some Men Who Desire Sex Reassignment Have a Mental Disorder? Comment on Meyer-Bahlburg (2010)," where the argument is solely based on an evolutionary argument. "Autogynephiliacs" are mentally ill, because their condition does not lead to procreation:

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!