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I am perplexed

Felix Conrad's latest blog post about Anne Lawrence got me thinking and it would an understatement to say she is a polarizing figure within the trans community. To take the approach that your own transition is based on a fetish but then expect to be treated and accepted as a woman in society seems counterintuitive. It’s as if to say “No I’m still a woman despite my motivation for transition being highly suspect”.

Ray Blanchard would call her a deluded man (as he would all transsexuals) even as she has taken all the right societal steps to be accepted and addressed by others as a woman. So in essence she both agrees and disagrees with him. This one of the reasons I have decided to disregard her work because the motivation seems very strange to me and I suspect that, like the rest of us, she can trace her feelings to early childhood.

Nevertheless she speaks of the Blanchard model as if it were proven fact instead of being actually impossible to prove and, if she were being less disingenuous, she would present it for what it is: a theory. Nevertheless, she is dead certain that her transition stems from a fetish and tries hard to sell the idea that these begin early in prepubescence.

I first read her essays with keen interest but over time could not get past the cracks in the argumentation and the lack of solid proof for motivation based solely on interview data. Again, we know cross gender arousal exists but we just don't yet fully understand the mechanisms at play (see my numerous postings on this).

I contrast Lawrence with Anne Vitale, herself a transsexual, who has spent her career helping us and holds a completely different stance on the subject; one taken right from the handbook of the much respected Harry Benjamin.


  1. I think the basic notion is that the fetish MAKES the person enduring it a woman. Take the biology of the person minus the fetish, and they're male in both sex and gender. Add in the fetish, and it is so strong that it leads to the creation of a gender identity that in turn becomes that person's authentic self. Those who advance a sort of kinder, gentler version of Blanchard's paradigm (Alice Dreger has written that she does not believe that there is a "wrong way to become a woman"), argue that they do not invalidate a person's gender identity; they merely explain its etiology and origins.

    But that's just it. Speaking just as clinically as they claim to, and without regard for how this hypothesis makes me feel about myself, they don't really have evidence of CAUSE. They may have identified patterns and distinctions among some trans women, but have hardly demonstrated cause and effect. I could hypothesize that those who are better at suppressing their identity when trying to fit into society find that it seeps through in the form of cross-sex erotica, thereby causing the distinctions Blanchard has identified between early and late transitioners. But I can't prove that either.

    When I first read Lawrence's early publications, they were quite useful to me. What many now refer to as cross dreaming is A PART of being trans, not a necessary sign that one is something other than trans. No one else seemed to be saying that at that time. But what causes what and why we are trans, we don't really know. No one should be claiming to have the definitive answer. And in the absence of the definitive answer, we just need to be compassionate and respectful of other people's self expressions.
    -Caryn Bare

    1. I do like this response Caryn but just be mindful that many people use the Blanchard/Lawrence school to stigmatize trans people. I don't believe that a trans identity is developed via variant sexuality but instead the sexuality develops uniquely as part of the pre-existing condition. I don't see this as splitting hairs because no matter what Dreger and Lawrence write their mentor just sees trans people as deluded deviants. We should be careful...

    2. "I could hypothesize that those who are better at suppressing their identity when trying to fit into society find that it seeps through in the form of cross-sex erotica, thereby causing the distinctions Blanchard has identified between early and late transitioners" - I believe you are very much correct in this. In the attempt to suppress the identity it nevertheless seeps through in whatever manner possible and many confuse themselves into thinking they are fetishists when they aren't. The identity cannot be suppressed forever and it is what happened to me in thinking I was just a hesitant crossdresser.

    3. Caryn I really value your input to my blog as a transitioned woman. Thank you!

  2. Hi Joanna. Oh, I'm well aware of how people use Blanchard's paradigm to stigmatize trans people. Pretty sure I'm on record here denouncing it as well. Blanchard's research is shoddy, and he operates from the unshakable presumptions that gender identity is all bunk anyway, and that every instance of departure from heterosexual missionary-position sex is freakish disorder. AGP as a construct is garbage. I was just attempting to clarify the part about which you were puzzled. . . It's kinda what I do as a teacher and lawyer . . . I try to suppress that, but it, ahem, will seep through. ;)

    Thing was, back when Lawrence first published, it was difficult to speak of cross-sex erotica at all. It was this mark of shame, a sign that one was not actually trans. And the gatekeepers (the bad ones, at least) would invalidate your transition if you spoke of it. So everyone learned to keep it a secret. Mention it in a support group, and the discussion immediately stopped, leaving the poor facilitator to find some way to chill the awkwardness. It was another form of suppression that did our community no favors. Much in the way that one's trans-ness can seep through in the form of erotica, talking about it seeped through in the form of Anne Lawrence's embrace of AGP.

    We're only just beginning to speak honestly about our experiences, as it has (sort of) become safer to do so. Though the orthodoxies and dogmas persist in various forms, and quell honest discussion. One of the reasons I love your blog is your honest approach, and willingness to look at all facets of this complicated subject as you live it. You seem to have progressed in the way I would hope when someone does exactly what you're doing. I happily recommend other your writing to other trans women. Looking forward to that book too!
    -Caryn Bare

    1. thanks Caryn I put the book on hold during this really tough project I was on but now I am going to go on schedule again.

    2. Glad to hear it, Joanna. And I do HEAR that. Life has an uncanny talent for getting in its own way. I have no doubt that when time permits it, your finished work will be one whose words I carry with me.


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