I have talked before on this blog about what I appreciate and don’t appreciate about Blanchard’s autogynephilia theory about transsexualism. You can read more in my post about this book by Michael Bailey – The Man Who Would Be Queen. For the most part, I agree with the autogynephilia theory, but not 100%, as it seems to not accurately describe every transsexual’s experience. People are more complex than simple typologies want to suggest. But overall, the typology does seem to fit many, if not most, of us. Anne Lawrence, shares Blanchard’s and Bailey’s views.
I have been reading some of Anne’s articles at www.annelawrence.com and finding them very interesting and helpful in order to understand ourselves better. I hope to read Anne’s book someday. I am learning a lot even though Anne and I do not share many of the same conclusions. Anne is actually a self-professed autogynephilic transsexual. In other words, Anne is like many of us, and like me, or perhaps rather like what I would have become were I to have pursued my crossdressing interests to the farthest end. Obviously as you know from reading my other posts, I do not believe that getting medical surgeries to try to live as women is the correct treatment for our gender and crossdressing issues. Just because an intervention seems to take away someone’s unease about their body, does not mean it truly was the best course of action. Much of my reasoning of course comes out of my own Christian worldview. I believe that our bodies matter, that they are a part of our identity, who we really are. Not only did God carefully create us, but our bodies are so tied to who we are, that those of us in Christ will experience a resurrection someday, transforming and perfecting our bodies.
There is so much on Anne’s website. Take a look at some of the articles. I will share and comment on some of the articles later on, but for today, I only want to share two of the articles that really summarize well Anne’s views on autogynephilia. They were refreshing reads for me, as it seems to me that Anne is much more objective and logical than many of the trans community, and willing to be honest about these issues. Thank you Anne for your great insights and hard work.
The abstract of the first article I’ll share with you gives you a basic definition of autogynephilia:
The increasing prevalence of male-to-female (MtF) transsexualism in Western countries is largely due to the growing number of MtF transsexuals who have a history of sexual arousal with cross-dressing or cross-gender fantasy. Ray Blanchard proposed that these transsexuals have a paraphilia he called autogynephilia, which is the propensity to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of oneself as female. Autogynephilia defines a transsexual typology and provides a theory of transsexual motivation, in that Blanchard proposed that MtF transsexuals are either sexually attracted exclusively to men (homosexual) or are sexually attracted primarily to the thought or image of themselves as female (autogynephilic), and that autogynephilic transsexuals seek sex reassignment to actualize their autogynephilic desires. Despite growing professional acceptance, Blanchard’s formulation is rejected by some MtF transsexuals as inconsistent with their experience. This rejection, I argue, results largely from the misconception that autogynephilia is a purely erotic phenomenon. Autogynephilia can more accurately be conceptualized as a type of sexual orientation and as a variety of romantic love, involving both erotic and affectional or attachment-based elements. This broader conception of autogynephilia addresses many of the objections to Blanchard’s theory and is consistent with a variety of clinical observations concerning autogynephilic MtF transsexualism.
Becoming What We Love: autogynephilic transsexualism conceptualized as an expression of romantic love
Thinking about the desire to become a woman, as not only erotic, but romantic, makes a lot of sense to me. I like being with my wife even when I’m not sexually aroused. If a crossdresser has fallen in love with the woman he has created, himself, than it makes sense that he would enjoy being that woman all the time, not only when sexually aroused. This seems to be similar to what I’ve argued before – Crossdressing without sexual component. It’s great to see a scholarly article about the phenomena I was seeing in people’s stories and trying to understand and articulate.
Autogynephilia: A Paraphilic Model of Gender Identity Disorder
I did not know about this, or I did not fully think about it, in the following quote:
“Blanchard (1991) formally distinguished four different types of autogynephilia in gender dysphoric males, although most of his patients demonstrated more than one type. The first type was transvestic autogynephilia, which denotes arousal to the act or fantasy of wearing women’s clothing. Persons in whom this type of autogynephilia predominates are referred to as crossdressers, transvestites, or “persons with transvestic fetishism” (in DSM-IV-TR). The second type was behavioral autogynephilia, which denotes arousal to the actor fantasy of engaging in some behavior regarded as typically feminine. This behavior could range from knitting in the company of other women to having sexual intercourse with a male. The latter behavior, according to Blanchard’s formulation, did not represent genuine androphilia, because the arousal was not to the male partner per se, but rather to engaging in a behavior regarded as typical of females. The third type was physiologic autogynephilia, which denotes arousal to fantasies such as being pregnant, menstruating, or breast-feeding. The fourth type was anatomic autogynephilia, which denotes arousal to the fantasy of having a woman’s body, or aspects of one, such as breasts or a vulva. The relative prevalence of the different types of autogynephilia is not known, but transvestic autogynephilia appears to be the most common type. Blanchard (1991) found that 90% of transsexuals who experienced anatomic autogynephilia had also experienced transvestic autogynephilia.”
Of course I realize that many crossdressers are sexually turned on by the act of crossdressing. And I knew that many with crossgender feelings longed to be able to be themselves by doing feminine activities like knitting, or longed to have female bodies so that they could experience the joys of pregnancy and breastfeeding. But I honestly did not consider that some of us might be sexually turned on by an activity like knitting, because it is viewed as feminine. I’m a big advocate that men should pursue being themselves, instead of pursuing crossdressing, which might mean knitting as a man if that is an activity you enjoy, instead of feeling like you need to crossdress in order to practice that hobby you enjoy. I guess I’d still argue for that. But it adds a whole new layer of complexity for those who get sexually turned on by it. I guess the treatment for men such as that would look a little different. Perhaps once they understood why they were being turned on by thinking of those activities, they would realize that it is not truly a hobby they would naturally enjoy, but rather just a sexual turn on and something that they could avoid without giving up a part of themselves.
Do I have any readers that are sexually turned on by doing activities people normally think of as feminine?
On a different point in the same article, I appreciate how Lawrence does not discount that there could be gender dysphoria in a person because of discomfort with the gender roles in the given society. This could be present in addition to the autogynephilia sexual model. One might cause the other or they could just be present at the same time, both contributing to a person’s desire to become the opposite sex.
This next quote makes a powerful point. If you are not convinced by Lawrence, simply go to a transgender fiction site. You’ll see that people like us are not satisfied by simply TG fiction, but all kinds of other deviant sexuality (sadism, infantilism, incest, etc.) comes out in the stories as well. There but for the grace of God go I as well. Unfortunately at times I have been turned on by some of the stories with these disturbing elements. I can admit that though now with ease because I know I am forgiven and loved by God and he is making me new.
“Third, Blanchard’s autogynephilia theory helps explain why transvestism and transsexualism are often associated with other unusual erotic interests. Sexual scientists have observed for decades that unusual sexual interests — sadomasochism, bondage, autoerotic asphyxia, interest in leather and rubber, exhibitionism, voyeurism, infantilism, pedophilia — frequently do not occur in isolation, but instead tend to co-occur. Males who have one unusual sexual interest are far more likely to have one or more other unusual sexual interests than would be expected simply by chance (Abel & Osborn, 1992; Wilson & Gosselin, 1980). And other unusual erotic interests are very common among transvestites and some MtF transsexuals. Wilson and Gosselin (1980) found that 63% of their sample of transvestites and transsexuals also described fetishistic or sadomasochistic interests. Blanchard and Hucker (1991) reported that transvestism accompanied many cases of autoerotic asphyxia. Abel and Osborn (1992) documented the co-occurrence of transvestism and transsexualism with other paraphilias. If transsexualism and transvestism are purely gender-identity-based phenomena, then these associations makes no sense. But if transsexualism and transvestism sometimes represent unusual sexual interests — as Blanchard’s autogynephilia theory proposes — then their association with other uncommon sexual interests does make sense.”