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Autogynephilia revisited

I have not written about Autogynephilia for a while because it no longer represents a topic of great concern for me but I wanted to add some clarifying notes about some of the problems I see with the theory in light of my current state of mind.

The work of Ray Blanchard studied the sexual excitation experienced by some transvestites and transsexuals and coined a term meant to describe the love of one’s own image as a woman but that is just an observed symptom and not an explanation of what is actually going on. In other words, experiencing an orgasm does not explain the desire to dress up in the first place.

He ended up classifying transsexuals into two main groups; namely autogynephilic and androphilic. The first group being woman loving and the latter being man loving.

For Blanchard it was all about sex and not necessarily about innate gender identity. You were either in love with your own image as a woman and turned on by that or conversely turned on by men and compelled to transition in order to increase your chances of finding a male partner.

Firstly, gender identity and sexual orientation are not necessarily linked. Anyone who has ever known a very masculine gay man or a very feminine lesbian can understand this. However these people are not interested in transitioning or being the other sex so there must be something else going on here.

Why are some people interested in emulating or being the sex they were not born as?

We have no answer.

But my main objection with AGP theory is that it is rooted in the observation of a desire to transition and then simply classifying according to type. That is not an explanation of why the desire exists and how it originates.

Harry Benjamin wisely did not focus on sexual drivers because he wanted to understand the origins of the transvestism and transsexuality. For him it seemed to be a symptom of the condition. Men had penises and had erections so it seemed logical to have an orgasm if you were drawn to the idea of being or imitating the opposite sex. Besides, some androphilic transsexuals were also experiencing eroticism prior to their own transitions so this was not the right line to be following.

Benjamin never succeeded in explaining the origins of transsexuality or true transvestism but he instead developed a classification system for his patients depending on their level of disconnect with their birth gender; ostensibly a gender disorientation scale.

He never understood whether the basic transsexuality created the true transvestite or whether the true transvestism developed into a desire for transition and I quoted him here recently on this very thing.

One thing is for sure in that some autogynephilic transsexuals do very well after transition and others do not. We do not know why. Anne Lawrence (Blanchard’s main disciple) is an example of an autogynephilic who has gone on to successfully transition without reservation or regret.

But many decades later, Blanchard’s work has shed no more light on the origins of gender dysphoria than Benjamin did. The main difference has been that he has focused exclusively on what he felt were sexual drivers for transitions; you were either an autogynephile attracted to your own image as a woman or a gay male desiring to attract same sex partners by becoming a woman.

Nothing mentioned about a core gender identity.

But what about the people I mentioned before whose orientation and even gender demeanour do not line up with their birth sex? Why are many of them not dysphoric? Why is a flamboyantly gay male not interested in being a woman?

There is more than meets the eye here.

Blanchard’s drafting everything in terms of sex is very simplistic and it does not resonate with my own personal experience as well as with the experiences of many others I have read about and discussed with personally over the years.

Eventually all of his work will be debunked and the work of people such as Jamie Veale, Julia Serano and others seems to be resonating with many people.

I believe it’s only a matter of time.

Comments

  1. Hi Joanna,

    It's good to see you posting again!

    I think that some people who crossdream are truly AGP per Blanchard's definition, but there are some who aren't. I have no idea what the percentages are. I was originally drawn to AGP because I thought it applied to me but it didn't take long to realize that it didn't apply to me at all. I soon realized that I was just having normal fantasies for someone of my gender.

    I don't think I'm even a cross dreamer. It's seems to be redundant (actually a double negative?) for someone who's transsexual, and probably a lot of other transgendered, to think of themselves in this way. They are just having healthy fantasies for their gender.

    Lindsay

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  2. I have a lot of problems with the theory all around Lindsay. Sexual fantasies are different for everyone and we all masturbate over different things. Human sexuality is so utterly complex that is far too simplistic to draw up an all encompassing theory to explain late transitioning heterosexual people. Blanchard's work is junk science.

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