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Some thoughts on controversial Transgender theories

With all the talk lately about the people selected to revise the TG section of the DSM-4, I thought I throw my thoughts into the mix also.

Part of the controversial theory proposed by Dr. Ray Blanchard is dividing the trans community by sexual orientation (“homosexual transsexuals” vs. “autogynephilic”). Just the basic concept of dividing the the trans community by sexual orientation seems to be missing the entire point of the trans experience, it’s not about sex, it’s about gender. Gender identity and sexual orientation are two different things entirely.

I believe that there are trans people who could fit into the catagory of “homosexual transsexual”, but that’s only one part of the trans experience and certainly is not an inclusive description of a large part of the community. I also believe that there’s people who fit into the “autogynephilic” catagory, but I don’t think this description fits people who choose to fully transition, or even those who are forced to be, or choose to be “non-op” due to various circumstances. I think autogynephilia would be more appropriate to describe fetish cross-dressers, this is, after all, a sexual description, and not a gender identity model.

It’s my belief that, much like Freud, these “Doctors” can’t seem to separate sex drive from non sexual issues. Being sexually driven males of the species makes it difficult for them to remove sexual background from non sexual logic.

I’ve often wondered if “autogynephilia” is a description that applies to my experience – my gender issues have, in the past, had a strong sexual component to them. My question concerning this is, if my desire to transition is sexually motivated by autogynephilia, then why do I still have so much conviction about continuing my transition when the spiro has removed my sex drive and my ability to get and keep a strong erection. I’m impotent and totally uninterested in sex and sexual relations, and yet, I’m more convinced than ever that I’m doing the right thing for myself. The doubts and fears that I have about transition are about my ability to successfully blend into the general female population. “Passing” is important to me, but not for the purpose of a relationship, I just want to be accepted as a female person. (There’s an entire blog that could be written about the desire to be accepted.)

There’s so much more about being cross-gendered than any sexual issues, but some people, even health professionals, just can’t see past their own sexual biases. There are way too many successful transitions for this to be about sex. However, I have to ask the question, if transition was sexually motivated, is that a problem? If it results in a healthy, happy person who can live a fulfilling life for themself, does it matter what the motivation is? The desired result of any psychological therapy is a well adjusted person who can live a satisfying and fulfilling life, and transition is the only thing that has been proven to solve the issues faced by strongly transgendered people. No other therapy has been shown to be effective.

Personally, for me, no matter what else happens in my life, I don’t intend to ever go back to the testosterone driven life that I suffered with in the past. I’m hoping to make that permanent in the not too distant future, hopefully sometime this year, with a medical procedure known as orchiectomy. Another large stepping stone on the journey.

14 Responses

  1. Yep, yep, yep. My “description” probably boggles the mind of social scientists. I’ve had private gender issues since I was about 7. I married shortly after graduating from college and was married 24 years, until she “discovered” something then hacked my email and found discussions with a transsexual about my feelings. I began hormones and transition in earnest, had my drivers license changed to “Female” and my social security card name changed. Then I fell in love with a woman I met online from Europe who had a “thing” for CDs. I was her first T. But, we were both smitten. For her to stay in the US, we had to marry. So I got my DL changed back to “M” and we were married. I’ve continued my hormones and intend on some FFS within a year or so. We are intimate, but we’re not really “missionaries” (if you know what I mean). So, legally I’m male, hormonally I’m totally female, I wear a 38B, and you can see my pictures on my website. And btw, women can be quite sexual too, and they enjoy primping and pampering, but people don’t call them autogyns, do they? And if anyone has ever seen Sex in the City, amazingly enough, some women actually masturbate. I know, shocking. Does that make them autogyns?

  2. Bren, you’ve put your finger on a point that was subconsciously niggling at me as I read Blanchard’s work. Nothing in it would preclude genetic females from “suffering” from autogynephilia, and yet we never read about that as a problem, do we? 🙂

  3. The first description I ever read of Autogynephilia actually used the example of women primping and preening versus what trans-people sometimes to distinguish it as its own thing. And I do think it probably is a real thing. I just don’t see why anyone cares. But that’s always been the problem…we hang on to a lot of sex shame.

    I think Amber makes an interesting point when she says: “My question concerning this is, if my desire to transition is sexually motivated by autogynephilia, then why do I still have so much conviction about continuing my transition when the spiro has removed my sex drive and my ability to get and keep a strong erection.” Maybe autogynephilia is a completely testosterone induced behavior? Your normal male thinks about sex what, like fifty bajillion times a minute or something like that? Testosterone can make anything about sex.

    Also, we shouldn’t take any of our own ramblings too seriously. We’re obviously biased.

  4. Why does anyone care? One of the major challenges we face in changing the public perception and, thus, the way we are treated and our chances for legal protections, is the classification of GID as a mental disorder in the DSM. We have been able to make some inroads in the last few roads in changing that perception to see being trans as merely a natural variation in human diversity. But, if the DSM is changed along the lines of Zucker’s and Blanchard’s theory that being trans is, at least in some cases, a paraphilia, which is truly a mental disorder, our chances of continuing that progress will disappear. And we risk the loss of what progress we have been able to make. So, the revision of the DSM will affect us all in many areas of our lives for years to come.

    Also, that fact that we are directly affected by these events doesn’t mean that our opinions should be ignored or discounted. Would you prefer that those who have no idea what being trans is really like should define our future for us? I know I wouldn’t. Ignoring our opinions on how the DSM should be revised because of our “obvious bias” would be like saying that what Martin Luther King, Jr. and numerous other African-Americans had to say about racial discrimination was irrelevant.

  5. What if it is a paraphilia, though, at least in some cases?

    I think we rail so long and so hard against the label of autogynephilia, it becomes easy to forget that the symptoms it describes really do exist in some people. And at that point we have to step back, put our personal feelings aside, and give it some serious consideration. The DSM isn’t a tool for our public relations battle; it’s skewed and badly constructed in many ways, but its purpose is as a therapeutic tool and I respect that, at least in principle.

    I’m no fan of Blanchard’s, but I have less problem with the definition of autogynephilia than I do his methods for treating it. When I say “Why does any care”, what I’m really saying is, “So what, some people like to get off by dressing like a woman…big deal.” (Which is a reiteration of something Amber said). Obviously Blanchard thinks it’s big deal and that’s what’s makes him and his ilk so dangerous, but the rest of us going around screaming at the top of our lungs “I’m not an autogynephiliac” only serves to distance and alienate a certain segment of our population.

    Your MLK analogy isn’t accurate, btw. If I was to say that a transsexual’s opinions regarding discrimination in the mainstream weren’t relevant, it would be the same. I’m saying most of us in trans-community don’t have a strong enough foundation in medicine and psychiatry to offer a well-informed opinion about its psychiatric classification. Do I think a bunch of eggheads should go out and write the DSM entries for GID in a complete trans-vacuum? No way. Do I think they should hand it over to us and let us write it? No way. I understand how the psychiatric community views and treats transsexuality impacts public perception, but an honest and proper diagnostic regimen necessarily has to exclude this consideration.

    That said, I’m just as skeptical as everyone else is of Blanchard and Zucker getting it right. I won’t go so far as to say what “right” is, because I don’t, but chances are they don’t either.

  6. This is a good and obviously necessary conversation topic. As for my two cents, I already blogged about it a few days ago. DSM IV or DSM V, it will have no bearing on how I choose to transition, even if it is used by my therapist to legitimize the reason.

    However, I do worry about all those other people who will be affected by such a limited line of reasoning. Emphasizing the sexual nature of transsexuals, whether autogynephilic or “homosexual transsexual,” continues to seem to miss the mark concerning the treatment of those who seek to alter their gender. I worry mostly for the children who will continue to be forced into repressing their true identities as a result of the other Zuckerites.

    This will undoubtedly NOT help those teenagers who already have a high suicidal ideation and find no other recourse but to end their lives.

  7. Another thought that occures to me is this; if we’re talking about a 6 year old boy who thinks he should be a girl, how does this fit into either autogynephilia or homosexual transsexual catagories? Six year old boys don’t think about sex, in most cases, they don’t even know about sex. Puberty is still 3-5 years away at this point. Apparently, these so called scientists just can’t see past their own sexual nature to a world where sex drive is not a factor.
    I do agree that both of those catagories do fit a certain number of trans people, but there’s certainly more than just those two catagories to describe transsexuals. Also, as I said before, what difference, medically, does it make what catagory a transsexual fits into if transition results in a happy, fulfilled life? That’s the only known cure for serious gender identity disorder.

  8. I think the argument you make Amber is one of the biggest stumbling blocks the autogyne proponents come across. They often try to distinguish it by calling these pre-adolescent sufferers of GID “Primary Transsexuals”, but I think it feels more like a quick fix than a viable distinction.

    And while tend to agree with you about not caring what the root cause of something is so long as the treatment works, but there are some who would say that no good treatment ignores the cause. And they probably have a point.

    I did a little research on this subject this evening and wrote a short blog about it. I’m still waiting for it to go live on the site here, though.

  9. […] Are We Maladaptive? Okay, so I got myself into a bit of a tiff with Abby down below. Here’s the link. […]

  10. I have to admit, if we’re going to claim to know about this pseudo-science of autogynephila, we need to at least do our homework. Blanchard and Lawrence discuss the idea of autogynephila in prepubescent children extensively.
    Davinia Hilton cited Lawrence’s writing on this in my last blog. You can find it here: http://www.annelawrence.com/twr/becoming_what_we_love.pdf
    I’d suggest go back and reading it if you want to understand how Lawrence sees autogynephilia as much more complex than a 6 year old who has “sexual arousal and desires.”

    I certainly think all this chatter is a step in the right direction. Science is something I really don’t see the Zuckerites holding onto, then again, I’m sure I’m one standard deviation away from my own mess 😉

  11. Well, I went to the link and read the article, it’s actually quite interesting how they try to include everything into this “all inclusive” description called autogynephilia. I think that it is probably a good, but incomplete description of the transgender phenomenon. It’s kinda like the unified field theory in physics, there’s just some things that can’t be adequately explained by it. To be honest, the way Anne Lawrence explains her version of the theory probably fits me as well as any other description of transsexuality, even though I feel that it’s an incomplete description. I have exibited most of the manafestations that she describes in her description of autogynephilia.
    Now, the hard part for me is, if this is indeed the proper description for my GID issues, how do I come to terms with that within myself, and what do I do about it? Is transition still the right thing for me if I accept autogynephilia as the cause of my issues? Geez, I didn’t already have enough to think about!
    My point here is, all scientific descriptions and classifications aside, how does this affect me personally? How does this affect the transgender community at large? So many questions and so few answers.

  12. Amber,

    I think the question of how these theories effect us is the most important one to be asking right now. Frankly, I am quite comfortable with who I am and care little about why I am the way I am (although that wasn’t always true). As I alluded to before, however, my fear is that acceptance of the autogynephilia theory in the DSM V will lead to greater stigmatization of trans people and, therefore, to increasing resistance to treating issues of medical care, hate crimes and discrimination as civil rights, rather than mental health or disability, issues. Frankly, I don’t think that transsexuality or transgenderism or whatever other word you want to use should be included in the DSM. The tricky part, however, is making sure that removing it doesn’t result in the loss of recognition of transsexuality as a medical issue that entitles use to appropriate hormones, surgery and other medical treatment. If, however, the only way to ensure continued access to appropriate medical care is to keep it in the DSM, then it needs to be modified to make clear that the dysphoria we experience is not the result of knowing that our gender differs from our biological sex, but from the challenges of coming to acceptance of that reality and coping with the disapproval of family, friends and others that we face when we choose to live as our true selves, which, fortunately, is decreasing every day.


  13. I agree with what Abby said here in every way possible.

    Amber, don’t sweat the autogynephilia thing too much. What matters is that you’re pursuing a solution that makes you happy .

  14. Ummm…ditto. Awesome.

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