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understanding what we are

Ray Blanchard’s Autogynephelia theory is offered as the explanation for men suffering from transvestic fetishism resorting to surgery to become facsimiles of women. But why would a fetishist wish to take hormones and have surgery and why are they still content years after their procedure?

It appears that Autogynephelia does nothing more than point to a reality that everyone as far back as Magnus Hirschfield observed and acknowledged. It is not really an explanation for the origins of gender dysphoria which is why it is best relegated to the category of pseudo-science. It hangs its very premise on the notion that prepubescent children can fall victim to fetishes. Harry Benjamin noted it but did not focus on it in his 1966 publication because he believed it to be a result of gender confusion and not a driving force. He preferred to focus on his disorientation scale.

People who go to fetish clubs dressed in body hugging latex and high heels are perfectly happy in their skin as males. They suffer no dysphoria and have no interest in going to the mall and having coffee with the girls or going out and being perceived as real women in the world. These people do not seek out hormones or surgery because there is no gender dissonance in their brain.

Similarly, a person like Thorin who was kind enough to comment in my blog that he used to suffer from a sexual addiction was able to curb his dressing because he also does not suffer from gender dysphoria.

Gender dysphorics understand that their feelings predate any sexual association that puberty may have brought with it. I have addressed that correlation in a previous post but the basic idea is that a heterosexual dysphoric male melds in his mind his love for women with his desire to be one. The problem with Blanchard's proposition is that it can only work if his fetish concept begins far before puberty which runs counter to the personal experiences of most transgendered people.

Anne Lawrence in her essay "Becoming What We Love" goes out on a limb to support her mentor Blanchard. In it she states: "There are two case reports of boys younger than age three who expressed a desire to wear cross-sex clothing and who experienced penile erections when they did so (Stoller 1985; Zucker and Blanchard 1997).These boys plausibly displayed an early form of autogynephilic arousal". Needless to say, Lawrence accepts herself as an autogynephilic transsexual. Personally I never had an erotic feeling about being a girl and not so much as an erection until I was well into puberty and I doubt most of you have either.

Those of us with this condition can trace its origins to our early childhood. We knew something was amiss but were either afraid to acknowledge it or were castigated for exhibiting any signs of it. We bought into the idea that we could become normal for others. Many of us in our early lives want to think of ourselves as fetish dressers because that would give us a possible out with our dysphoria. If we don’t suffer a condition beyond our control then we can just cure ourselves and lead normal lives. It took me many years to admit that I had dysphoria after refusing even to entertain the notion. As I progressed further into reading and looking into my inner self I realized and finally accepted that I had a lifelong condition to manage.

Thankfully science is progressing and the individualized treatment methods used to treat dysphoria today are working very well. Helene Cote’s group has a variety of people in it who are in varying degrees of transition. Some will never do so while some are well on their way towards gender role transition. She and all serious therapists and theoreticians working in this field acknowledge the existence of dysphoria and this blog regularly relies on their publications.

But all that aside, the hardest part of this process involves understanding yourself and how much of your condition is within your control. If your dysphoria is of a manageable magnitude you may be able to find a solution that does not overly disrupt your current existence.

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