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why I feel the fetish argument doesn't work

Emasculation fetish as origin for the transgender condition cannot really work as an explanation. For one thing this idea depends heavily on fetishes having their origins in prepubescence (something which is as of yet unproven) but also on the improbability of the existence of a feminine essence in a male child.

What continues to plague the argument of the construction of a false post-arousal female identity is that young prepubescent dysphoric children don't think and behave in overt sexual ways. They take the female role during play and behave in perfectly innocent ways until scolded and told to stop. Only upon arriving at puberty are they horrified to find that for gynephilics there is an erotic component that has adhered itself which competes and interferes with normal sexual functioning.

But if the eroticism that gynephilics experience is just a symptom of their dysphoria then we might be able to remain within a universal model in which dysphoria is experienced through different filters. One such filter I addressed in a recent post on the tandem of testosterone and orientation and how it impacts the gynephilic dysphoric male.

The emasculation fetish argument also doesn’t help explain female to male transsexualism or for that matter androphilic male to female transsexuals. These two groups insist they are identity driven and tend to downplay the sexual in their gender non-conformity which the data we have confirms. This is why I continue to return to the idea of a universal model of gender dysphoria which may not yet be understood but which would explain much more of what we see in the world than a bunch of unrelated and disjointed theories.

We know that the concept of a male and female identity is real and not socially constructed. John Money who went against this basic tenet proved he was wrong by experimenting with the life of David Reimer who, in spite of being socialized as a girl from birth after being sexually reassigned, rejected his imposed female identity completely and insisted he was a male. Once told of his botched circumcision he transitioned back to his birth sex but ultimately committed suicide.

For some people their gender identities seem to run counter to expectation and many of us know flamboyantly feminine men and very masculine women who are not necessarily discontent living within the confines of the bodies they were born with. Their comportment is natural and unaffected by social pressure and if anything they are scolded for it. So if masculine and feminine natures are real and biologically affected then a mixture of both or a complete reversal is clearly very possible.

I am still uncertain of how gender non-conformity and dysphoria overlap if at all and why some people are content within the confines of their birth sex to be gender rebels in both behaviour and dress while others insist on a gender role transition. This we have yet to be able to answer.

But in the end, completely ungluing sexuality from gender identity becomes impossible because part of being a certain gender in adulthood implies sexual awareness. To shame this aspect and presenting it as proof for negation of a transgender identity makes little sense.

It makes me sad to think that dysphorics seeking reassignment surgery felt compelled to downplay this aspect to their gatekeepers when the real litmus test really should have been whether they would be happier or less so after they transitioned.


  1. As always, excellent post Joanna. Indeed my gender nonconformity emerged long before I even conceived what was below girl's waists. I just knew I didn't feel very comfortable with boys and their behaviors, and wanted to join the girls in their play and what they were learning and doing.

    Somehow I learned this was wrong. In kindergarten the girls didn't really like me joining them and I somehow knew or sensed that if I pushed for what I wanted too much that that was going to cause a lot of social discord for me. So I struggled to find a middle ground. Grade school was better in some ways. After all, during class, we were all the same. And at recess we had more options. But I focused my attentions on girls and women in TV and movies, dreamed of being a mermaid or a dancer, but it was all my solitary and shameful secret.

    The onset of testosterone made it all so hard to sort out. I liked girls sexually and as life partners. And whatever I could find on gender dysphoria was all about its being a sexual fetish as you say, and a shameful one at that. I internalized the message that I was wrong and bad and worse, at fault, for whatever I was feeling.

    I'm 60 now and I think a benefit is that testosterone is less of a driver than it was which enables me to separate and understand my feelings much more. But it still has ups and downs that's for sure.

    I do think that the young people these days are blessed with so much more tolerance about so much as well as so much excellent information. So blaming transgenderism on fetishes I think is rapidly declining. But that's just my instinct and maybe hope.

    Thanks again, Joanna.


  2. Emma you are very correct to say that the depletion of testosterone helps to clarify the feelings and as we age we almost return to where we began which was a more innocent understanding of gender identity which was not complicated by do's and don'ts. As soon as we were interfered with is when the problems started.


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