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the search for legitimacy

Fetish versus identity. This is the key issue at the core of it all. Yes I know I have dealt with this many times before but this a kind of synposis.

Late transitioning woman-loving transsexuals tagged by Ray Blanchard as autogynephilic are, according to his theory, driven by a love of self as woman. They are men suffering from target location error. But let's look a little deeper at this hypothesis.

Most gender dysphorics understand there is something different about them between age 4 and 7. They begin to fully or partially identify with female things (clothing, activities, etc) and are also typically dissuaded from doing so by their families. This is well before the age of sexualisation and often comes without encouragement of any kind from outside forces.This is our first hitch because advocates of AGP theory need to be certain that sexual fetishes can develop in children as young as age three.

We also know that as dysphorics age their association with a self perceived feminine core intensifies even as the effects of testosterone and corresponding sex drive diminish. Logic would dictate that the fetish should wane in proportion with these key factors. However the dysphoria seems to intensify and in some cases prompts a transition. The argument that the fetish itself morphs into dysphoria makes little sense since a sexual fetish needs an erotic furnace to feed it.

What I had read about has been happening to me and my earnest attempt to make Joanna my version of a real woman in the world far exceeds where I thought she would be. I have no plans to ever transition but this need for validation of my female identity is there and it needs to be acknowledged.

This is why Harry Benjamin had so much trouble identifying the difference between transvestism and transsexualism in some his patients. He wondered out loud whether the basic transsexualism was causing the cross dressing or whether the transvestism was progressive in nature. He never had an answer for this but people like Virginia Prince and Katherine Cummings represent the kind of patients that typifiy this question.

Prince started off as a self labelled heterosexual crossdresser and yet lived as a woman in her advancing years and until her death with the only missing element being bottom surgery to complete the transformation. Was she a transsexual in denial or did her dysphoria grow and progress over time?

Both Prince and Cummings would be for Blanchard archetypes of autogynephilic transsexuals and yet so many questions remain that put this simplistic diagnosis into question.

If there is a biological predisposition for gender dysphoria we have not yet found it but my strong suspicion is that it exists. And if it does then why can't fetishism exist in parallel with gender dysphoria? I could even them being confused for each other during the turbulent search for identity in a teenage boy.

Another wrinkle is that therapists who treat gender dysphoria have no first hand knowledge of what they are dealing with and that is unfortunate. It is such a rare disorder that most people working in the field are really there to provide steady reassurance that all will be well. At best they serve as confidants and moral support but at worst they can become cheerleaders for transitions that should never happen. I now realize that the gender treatment I received years ago only helped with self acceptance but did not work to offer practical help on how to deal with the feelings.

I am still thankful nonetheless for the work that my young therapist did to help me and will always be indebted to her for that.

Casa Susanna

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