Natalie Egan, a blogger who recently has started blogging at Trans.Cafe published this piece on on 27 June 2016:
I thought I’d point out some of the things in this piece and show how and why this piece of writing would be supportive of Blanchard’s autogynephilia typology. I’m not ‘diagnosing’ or ‘having a go’ at the writer, I’m making some observations which show how this very candid piece supports the theory that autogynephilia is the motivation behind those males who transition who are predominantly heterosexual.
First, the poster is male, has fathered children and appears to have and possibly still be in long lasting romantic relationships with a woman. As a predominantly heterosexual transgender male, Blanchard’s typology would suggest their transition was rooted in autogynephilia, that they are an ‘autogynephilic transsexual’.
For clarity, I do not consider non-autogynephillic transsexuals to be ‘more real’ or ‘better’ than autogynephilic transsexuals.
Autogynephilia is something that is extremely poorly understood within the transgender community, it is viewed as being synonymous with fetishistic cross-dressing that purely has a single erotic end but the reality is far more nuanced; there are four types of autogynephilia, none of which are mutually exclusive and often can co-exist in groups of two or three or, as we are about to see, some subjects can provide examples of all four types of autogynephilic behaviour
The way in which autogynephilia may lead to transition has been beautifully described by Ann Lawrence in her essay ‘Becoming What We Love‘. I would recommend all of her work as it is insightful, compassionate and firmly grounded in reality, as well as Lawrence’s book ‘Men Trapped in Men’s Bodies’.
Anyway, on with the brief analysis:
2. I THOUGHT PLAYBOY WAS A GENUINELY INTERESTING MAGAZINE (EVEN AS A VERY LITTLE KID).
Anyone who knew me growing up knew that I was fascinated with women. I was the first of my friends to think that Playboy was a must-have magazine; I even remember begging my mom to buy me a copy for my 10th birthday! I also secretly wanted to read magazines like Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and any woman’s shopping catalogs that came along. As a kid, I was relatively shameless about these kinds of things, but my obsession with looking at women made me feel ashamed as I got older.
Why? Because my interest wasn’t just erotic. What I was never able to explain until recently was the confusion in my head between being attracted to a beautiful woman, and wanting to actually be one. As a result, I spent so many years wondering if I was the only guy that felt this way, or if all guys did and no one was willing to talk about it. But it turns out, that like sexual preference, gender identity is also a spectrum.
Here we have an erotic connection made with having a female body. This is suggestive of ‘anatomical autogynephilia’, arousal at the thought of having a normative female body.
3. I’VE ALWAYS LOVED WOMEN’S BATHING SUITS.
Throughout my childhood, I had this problem that whenever I encountered a female bathing suit of my approximate size, I wanted to put it on. And if the circumstance allowed (such as at a family friend’s house), I often did—despite the fear and panic someone would walk in on me. Whenever I did this, I would quickly look at myself in the mirror and then basically rip the suit off before I could get caught.
Doing this truly felt like a compulsion, a need. And yet I never probed why, so the habit remained something I was embarrassed about, and didn’t understand at all.
I also loved looking at other women in bathing suits; I was in awe of their confidence and beauty. But this was more socially acceptable, even though deep down I knew something else was up. I recently admitted all of this to a friend who had already started her transition. She looked me dead in the eye, and said “I know exactly what you are talking about, hon.” It was such a relief.
This is an example of ‘transvestic fetishist’ autogynephilia. Note the frankness with which the author speaks about their compulsion.
10. BEING PREGNANT WAS APPEALING TO ME.
When I was younger, I would stuff a pillow in my shirt and pretend that I was pregnant. Looking in a standing mirror, I would try to position myself from a profile perspective so that you couldn’t tell I was just a boy who would never give birth.
Each time my wife got pregnant, I was jealous of her and how her body changed throughout the entire process. There was so much life force bursting from her in the final weeks of each pregnancy! It was a miracle that I wanted to experience firsthand. After our first son was born, she had trouble breastfeeding so I quickly stepped up to the challenge to become her lactation consultant. She was always surprised by how much I wanted to help feed our babies—and so was I—but doing so felt very natural for me.
This is an example of ‘physiological autogynephilia’ – performing bodily functions that are associated with being female. The pregnancy/lactation things does seem to be a common theme.
14. I LOVED SHOPPING, ADORED FASHION, AND CROSSDRESSING WAS BECOMING A REGULAR THING (EVEN IF I COULDN’T ADMIT IT TO MYSELF).
For years and years, I couldn’t accept that I was a crossdresser, even though I was doing it more and more often and my woman’s shoe collection was growing huge.
To me, shopping and dressing was a therapeutic activity, justified to counterbalance the stress of my life as the CEO of startup and the father of 3 little kids. Even if it was just temporary, I was able to escape for little while.
Eventually, I became so familiar with this internal rationalization that I decided it would be how I would explain it to others if I ever got caught: I do it to destress. In hindsight, it’s clear that I was just begging myself to express who I really am.
15. I HAVE A TRAMP STAMP.
Well, it really isn’t a traditional “tramp stamp”, but it is close enough (in the center of my lower back). My friends used to make fun of me for it. But the image always meant the world to me and now represents a big piece of my trans journey, which of course makes me super proud.
These are two examples of ‘behavioural autogynephilia’ – exhibiting feminine behavioural stereotypes. The whole piece is, in fact, littered with many examples of ‘behavioural autogynephilia’. Note also the use of the (sexist) term ‘tramp stamp’.
The piece is, of course, littered with covetous remarks about women’s bodies (“I was so jealous of girls and women who got to sit in front of mirrors with the job of making themselves prettier!” and “every once in awhile, I experienced major conflicts with women in authoritative positions of professional power. In retrospect, I now understand that I was just resentful of their ability to be both feminine and “alpha” even though I internalized my jealousy as pure aversion”) and is itself evidential of the misogyny that transgender culture breeds. Feminity is depicted as a privilege, something of which the writer is envious, when in reality it is part of the system of gender that patriarchy uses to oppress women.
The crux of the problem is thus; this incredibly candid and, in itself, insightful piece is seen as somebody’s journey to ‘becoming the person they really are’ just as so many similar pieces and stories are lauded; the reality is far different. Here we see the seeds of autogynephilia sown at an early age through the learned fetishisation of and entitlement to women’s bodies, catalysed by pornography, and as we can see this behaviour has subsisted throughout their life. Autogynephilia does not simply ‘go away’, it is, as Lawrence has reasoned, a sexual orientation.
Sadly, our political climate means that even those professionals who treat transgender or transsexual males cannot themselves even admit to the possibility that autogynephilia is a real thing. To see the lengths that the transgender political lobby will go to ruin careers and even attack the families of these professionals charged with care for transgender males, I’d heartily recommend this long but excellent essay by Alice Dreger. For insight into the shame and narcissistic rage that powers these actions, which may immediately be related to the actions of many of today’s transactivists, Lawrence again has the answers.
We are in a strange world indeed where the existence of a fundamental vector that directs people’s behaviour is ignored or flatly denied in favour of coddling it in the cotton-wool balls of ‘this is who you really are, you are just becoming yourself’. How can we have honest health care policies or be said to be addressing the reality of what makes autogynephilic transsexuals who they are if we are going to pretend this just does not exist? How is this even helping transgender males, when those charged with their care are unable to name the problem and instead are reduced to being gatekeepers of invasive medical treatments? Without recognising autogynephilia is unique to males, what does this say about the way treatment is being addressed for transgender females? Outside of the effect on the individual, we also have to consider the bigger picture. Attaching some of the most damaging and sexist stereotypes about what women can and cannot be to what it means to be a woman, ensures at the highest institutional levels the structural inequalities that keep women oppressed.
Being someone whose political view was formed in the early 1980s, where an acute awareness of the sexism, racism and homophobia that were structurally ingrained in society, even supported by a government (who enacted Section 28 and accused Nelson Mandela of being ‘a terrorist’) and where much of this -ism suffixed oppression was challenged and even ridiculed throughout popular (counter) culture, it seems ironic that the most virulent structural -ism, that of sexism, seems to pass unnoticed. Equivocating feminine behavioural stereotypes to ‘what it means to be a woman’ is deeply sexist and biologically essentialist right to the core; personality does not determine sex, sex does not determine personality.
The year is 2016 and the liberal politics of gender are foundational upon a faith which demands the unquestioning personal and institutional submission to a wilful ignorance of reality, under pain of attack, threats to careers and public denouncement. Now, where have we heard all this before?