“Autogynephilia”

Autogynephilia is far less important than some people think it is.

If the concept of gender dysphoria has any value at all, then it would be impossible for a man to bear living as a woman for years, especially if he were not aroused by it: and many so called autogynephiliacs no longer are.

The theory also completely ignores our efforts to make men of ourselves, running away from our female selves. So many of us join the army or police or stereotypically “manly” professions. It is not the arousal that causes our femininity, but the other way about.

Unfortunately, you will read otherwise in many places on the internet. The theory is that autogynephilia is a paraphilia, or perversion: the helpless man gets so turned on by imagining himself as a woman that he wants to spend all his time dressed as one. He does not look particularly feminine, and is generally seen as a transsexual rather than as a woman. Eventually he reverts to presenting male because it is all too painful.

In reality, trans women who are attracted to other women, rather than to men, find the thought of themselves as women sexually arousing: but this is a symptom, rather than a cause, of gender dysphoria. Whether a person is attracted to men or to women is independent of whether they are male or female- as any gay person will tell you. We masturbate, and this is a fantasy we have when masturbating; and then we transition, because however hostile and prejudiced society is, it is better than presenting male. That is, we are gender dysphoric. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/Francisco_de_Goya_y_Lucientes_-_Saturn_Devouring_One_of_his_Children_-_WGA10109.jpgUnfortunately, Ray Blanchard, who coined the term “autogynephilia”, believes that it is an “erotic target location error”, a developmental disorder leading to being aroused by onesself rather than another person.

I have held a lot of shame around autogynephilia. I have even suppressed my sexuality because I have found it too traumatic. Now I have dealt with that shame, and I want no-one to suffer it.

Here are pages showing my progress in addressing the shame, and discussing the phenomenon:  Autogynephilia, Autogynephilia Revisited, Autogynephilia III, James Cantor, and Reverting.

Jack Molay has two sites which have links to resources and a great deal of exposition about these phenomena. I do not agree with everything Jack writes, but have high respect for him.

There are suggestions of the existence of Autoandrophilia: people born with ovaries, attracted to men, and being aroused by the thought of themselves as men. The article linked is for subscribers only, but here is the abstract:

Two cases of gender-dysphoric genetic females who describe a sexual attraction to phenotypic males are reported. After outlining their individual histories, the authors note common clinical features of this subtype of transsexualism. Similar characteristics have also been found in the few cases of heterosexual transsexualism in genetic females reported by others. Familiarity with the distinguishing features of this subgroup could assist clinicians in diagnosing and treating such patients.

Another article compares trans men’s sexual orientation, remembering that the word “homosexual” is used of a trans man who is attracted to women:

Homosexual and nonhomosexual (relative to genetic sex) female-to-male transsexuals (FTMs) were compared on a number of theoretically or empirically derived variables. Compared to nonhomosexual FTMs, homosexual FTMs reported greater childhood gender nonconformity, preferred more feminine partners, experienced greater sexual rather than emotional jealousy, were more sexually assertive, had more sexual partners, had a greater desire for phalloplasty, and had more interest in visual sexual stimuli. Homosexual and nonhomosexual FTMs did not differ in their overall desire for masculinizing body modifications, adult gender identity, or importance of partner social status, attractiveness, or youth. These findings indicate that FTMs are not a homogeneous group and vary in ways that may be useful in understanding the relation between sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The relation between sexual orientation and gender identity”- I would say that the study shows that sexual orientation is not linked to gender identity, and that a trans man may be attracted to either sex and still a “genuine” trans man.

Anne Lawrence in 2009 wrote of a man, attracted to men, who found the thought of making his body more masculine erotic.

Dr Talia Mae Bettcher says her theory of Erotic Structuralism “puts an end to Blanchard’s transphobic theories once and for all. See what you think.

Wxhluyp comments here and on my post Fetishes that autogynephiliac fantasies are primarily of emasculation: feminization is merely a symbol of emasculation.

This page is a work in progress: any suggestions gratefully received in the comments.

52 thoughts on ““Autogynephilia”

  1. only our dichotomous western world would come up with only two potential choices in all the variety of gender-dom, then try to label anything not one or the other as an “illness”. ACK! we want choicechoicechoice when we walk down the grocery store aisle–a hundred different kinds of soap and toothpaste, but only two ways to be a human being…? i say it again: ACK!
    i like the idea of 5 (or really infinite) gender “roles”, that this blog post introduces…i hope this suggestion is a helpful addition to your dialog.
    http://avantourists.com/2012/06/26/granny-has-a-secret/#comment-2850

    • Thank you for that. I had not heard of “Calabai” before. We do tolerate different ways of being human, jocks and geeks for example, but there is a hierarchy of value of these, according to ideas of Manliness. Dichotomous, yes, in or out, for or against, true or false, rather than complex, shifting, subtle reality. We do get better.

      • ah, hierarchy of value within the variety of dichotomies? complex…it just is so exhausting sometimes, all the intolerance and expectations, the hate (as you say in your other entry) attached to the values. your patience and wisdom is engaging and hopeful; a calm center.

    • What Tsena said. The polarisation into binary of what simply has to be a range of variaton and thus expressive of infinit gradations, is a bizarre and very unhelpful element of contemporary Western thinking. We really need to get rid of this approach.

    • The purpose of gender and sexual attraction is reproduction. It’s pure logic and purpose. Sex is not meant to simply entertain you — nothing is — and if you don’t understand that then you are a delusional fool, and you are lost.

      Sometimes the brain doesn’t work right. Nature makes mistakes.

      The only real woman is a woman who is capable of creating life inside her womb. The illusion of a woman is not a real woman (which should be obvious).

      • Silly, blind Matthew.

        You are applying what you call “logic” to human relations. Sex is for reproduction, but also to bond people together- the two become one flesh. Indeed, that may be, in humans, its primary purpose: consider what a tiny proportion of copulations result in a live birth.

        The preponderance of opinion, particularly scientific and legislative opinion, would disagree with you. The word “woman” is elastic enough to be applied to me, because the world is far more complex than your neat little categories would suppose.

      • Matthew I would suggest that nature doesn’t make “mistakes” because that is applying a human concept of perfect and imperfect to a biological and therefore variable machine. That you comment that Clare is a “delusional fool” and “is lost” would indicate that you are applying manmade, patriarchal rules to a biological system. Nature proves time and again that the concept of male and female is not the biblical orthodoxy that certain humans like to apply, we are not somehow distinct from all the other animals classed as mammals, we can by observing behaviour within the animal kingdom see that sex IS for both pleasure and procreation. If you want to feel distinct and special that’s fine but remember it has been shown that within the promate kingdom sex is not the function you are describing but has a large element of “for the sake of pleasure”. To borrow from the Bishop of Oxford “you may not be a monkey” but your biology is largely from the monkeys so you’re not as distinct as you would like to think. Nature doesn’t make mistakes, there are times when through the variability of it we find traits which seem to us different and unappealing, but “mistake” is a human concept not a biological one. To follow your logic the person who is blind, or deaf, or has any form of impediment (another word which is a value statement) would be classified as a mistake. Let’s not head back down the eugenics path that says what is different is wrong ok and actually accept that there is more wonder in diversity and more value to a species too..

        • Is that the River Thames in Ontario? I had not heard of it before.

          In a narrow sense, my kind are less likely to reproduce than others, but our unique perspective has value. Not everyone in society need reproduce.

          • No it’s old father Thames in England. Was born in a town called Abingdon thats on it. I found Matthew’s comments personally hurt not because I share the same experience in life as you but because he was branding everything outside a narrow parameter as a mistake, My spirit tends to revolt when people place a faith based value system over biological fact and scientific proof especially when it demeans and distorts other members of the commenters species. As you say not everyone needs to reproduce and nature in her wisdom puts in safeguards to stop overpopulation. Its religion which has encouraged population explosion and over extending natural resources over the centuries and usually the logic can be broken down to having the most people “in their gang”. Keep being and doing what you are and do. It’s as natural as breathing and just as valuable.

  2. Have you heard of the Berdache or lhamana? I will have to dig through my old anthropology notes to feel completely confident in this comment, but I am going to enter this anyway and hope I do not offend. As far as my memory goes, Berdache was a French name given to people in Native American tribes (pre-industrial) who were born male but lived as female in their tribe.They were valued for their spiritual knowledge and mediation abilities; they were people who “walked the edge” not unlike a shaman, I believe, and could therefore offer a deeply wise perspective to their people. Of course, now I will have to look up my anthro notes…but I think that Western psychology simply reveals its own odd prejudice about making everything anal, oral, and sexual when we are so much more complex than our orifices. And…I may be simplifying this, but shouldn’t we all love ourselves enough to get turned on by our own damn beauty regardless?

    • You certainly do not offend. Where I see no intent or recklessness to offend, I am slow to take offence. Nor do you upset me. I had not heard of Lhammana, so thank you.

      It is not just psychology. I think Christianity has lost a lot of its appeal in the West because it is infected with that desire to classify, wrong/right, either/or, etc, rather than being a Path. As for Beauty-

      • Thank you, Clare, I am glad.
        Yes, I (and my opinions) am a spoil of the spoils of Christianity (what has been lost), so I understand what you are referring to, I believe. ;) It lost its appeal to me long ago, yes. It is a testament that you remain engaged, though, which piques my curiosity about YOUR unique Path; your open heart within a faith that looks so closed to me is intriguing. There is wisdom you have which I know very little about; I am now curious because of you…
        I enjoy dialoguing with you, it is validating, refreshing, and intellectually open. I will go read your post on Beauty soon…

    • You can take this much further back. We know that devotees of the Phrygian goddess Cybele would self-castrate; Cybele was brought to Rome at the time of the Punic Wars (those with Carthage) and this continued there. However Cybele is descended from Inanna, and I have read sources that claim that self-castration was a part of her worship too. Since Inanna was a Sumerian goddess, she is one of the oldest deities we know of. The practice continues amongst the hijra of India. Whatever the causes of transsex and transgender, they are not of the modern world, but very, very ancient.

  3. Fascinating, and well written. I’ve been an out gay man for 17 years, and though I’ve always been open-minded, I admit to being in the dark when it comes to gender identity issues. I feel I lucked out in that I was born male, enjoy being male, and enjoy being attracted to males. I can’t even imagine how difficult gender dysmorphia would be to deal with. So I am making a point to educate myself. More people should do the same.

    • Thank you.

      Your luck in having Southern Baptist ministers for your father and sister is- well, wonderful that they accept you, and that must have been a journey. I had to look up “gender dysmorphia” and could find no other uses of that phrase: and dysmorphia itself is seen as an emotional disorder, and we need a word, probably coined by ourselves, which states unequivocally that it is the physical development of sex characteristics which is the illness or problem, and not the dysphoria. Thank you for taking an interest. That matters, I need people to know about our condition.

        • Our Evangelicals are more liberal than those in the US. Methodists and Baptists often accept gay people, the Church of Scotland, the established Presbyterian church, is to discuss ordaining out gay men, and the Church of England’s opposition to equal marriage is more from its desire to placate Anglicans in Africa than to reflect the views of its members.

          I wanted to check that Bob Jones University was actually preaching that “God intended segregation of the races and that the Scriptures forbid interracial marriage” as late as 1982. I am saddened to see it was. It has since apologised.

    • Welcome, MacShreach, and thank you for commenting. I thought, “macshreach”- Scottish? “MacShreach”- probably Scottish; then I read “utter pish” and was sure. Wha’s like us?

  4. The shame is not in simply doing something that is wrong and realizing it is wrong, because at least admitting something is wrong always leaves open the possibility of one day doing it right.

    The shame is in pretending that something wrong is right. Then there is no chance for forgiveness because you are truly lost.

    • Shame is a feeling, inside the person who has, or imagines she has, been or done something wrongful. Sometimes others try to create that feeling in a person, to control her/him.

      The shame of transsexuality is toxic shame: in being told that your harmless and even creative characteristics are shameful, and taking that into yourself. Transsexuality is not wrong.

      What an arrogant man you are, to assert what is wrong or right. Humanity learns when humans can pursue our individual life-paths to happiness.

  5. That which “autogynephilia” tries to represent is an extremely common and harmless fetish, whereby any sort of pre-existing femininity or transgender psychology is etiologically adjunct. Ultimately the autogynephilia phenomenon boils down to a much larger discourse, that of when a fetish becomes more than a fetish. This isn’t to say that a dysphoric psychology on part of a fetishist is illegitimated by the fetishism, but rather that it must be understood that the fetish can provide the psychological conditions for even the most severe of dysphoric psychologies.

    Central to this discourse first requires an analysis of what it is that is sexually arousing these people. It has never been sexual by “the idea of oneself as a female”, but rather “one’s association to symbols of femininity”. But that is not quite there either, as analysis of the fantasies of these people shows that an all but universal masochistic theme of “forced feminization” discloses sexual arousal “by the anxiety of one’s association to symbols of emasculation”, which itself discloses a sexualization of emasculation anxiety/trauma/PTSD.

    It is time to move beyond “autogynephilia” (erotic target location error), and appreciate that it is fundamentally a fetish, for which very few develop a dysphoric psychology, and very few can realistically speculate that their fetishism is symptomatic of a real pre-existing transgenderism. A serious analysis of the fetish will appreciate the seemingly inherent masochism as disclosing a “masochistic emasculation fetish”.

    • Welcome, wxhluyp. (Er, how do you pronounce that, again?)

      I went to your blog, and had a look at your pictures.

      I am not sure expressing your thought more simply takes anything away from it. You say that the fantasy is of emasculation not feminisation, of ceasing to be a man, and the strongest symbol of being emasculated is appearing like a woman. Um. You have a lot of pictures of females sucking cocks, and captions about being taken by a man- “Every thrust was a devastating blow for Joe’s fragile sexuality”- even though we tend to be gynephile in orientation.

      Um. Possibly that is a cause of the arousal, and possibly arousal so caused ends up in transition- would you use the expression “M-T”?- but that does not fit even Blanchard’s theories. I would want some research underpinning your theories before I could take them seriously.

      I do not consider such a possible trans person, or non-transitioning fantasist, in any way morally inferior to me- but many considering transition, if they really thought that was they- and we really do judge ourselves very harshly when considering transition- would try again, really hard, to make a go of life presenting male; and in that case you do them a disservice.

      Thank you for commenting.

      Oh, and- I don’t like your phrase a real, pre-existing transgenderism. If a trans woman wants to transition, she is transgender. Distinguishing “real” from- “fake”? “secondary”? transsexuality or transgenderism creates shame and fear to no useful purpose.

      • Hello again,

        Yeah, in this context, feminine symbolism will tend to be the supreme object of emasculation anxiety.

        It is a phenomenon parallel to many other fetishes and the psychological escalation of these fetishes. Unfortunately the only scientific studies in regards to this specific fetish have been done in the terms of autogynephilia, otherwise small pockets of the psychiatric community.

        http://www.oocities.org/transsexual_analysis/transsexual5.html

        My use of the phrase “real pre-existing transgenderism”, refers to the potential etiological condition of emasculation anxiety, where one actually is positively feminine, androphilic, let alone trans in any way. My experience in this fetishistic community has shown me a lot of variation in the fantasy niches, as well as a lot of variation in the psychological context of the individuals.The overwhelming majority are merely guys with an unusual fetish, then there are the communities brought together by virtue of their dysphoria/trans issues (“crossdreamers”). A few of these individuals will recognise their feelings as historically rooted in the fetishism, yet still have transitioned with justifiable reason.

        I reject both “autogynephilia” (“erotic target location error” & the interpretation of arousal by the “image of oneself as a woman”) and “crossdreaming” (crude ideological reduction to transsexual expression or archetypal female sexuality).

        • Interesting video. “Be a man, grow some balls, man up”- impossible demands on boys. Do you think that increases femdom or emasculation fantasies? On what grounds? Are you aware of any research? Was life easier in, say, 1980?

          Then you say where one actually is positively feminine, androphilic, let alone trans in any way.

          Can you imagine that anyone could be a trans woman, or cis female and feminine, and gynephilic?

          And- I would like to know your interest. If your birth certificate says you are male and you are considering or have considered expressing yourself in culturally feminine ways- dress, voice, whatever- but do not, because you consider that desire is an emasculation fantasy, then I have sympathy. If you are observing us from outside, never having considered transition, I have less sympathy. If you have never had an emasculation or feminisation or fem-dom fantasy where you were the submissive, but seek to categorise us, then fuck off. Produce research, or stop (at best) wasting everyone’s time.

          You might be interested in my post on your “masochistic emasculation fetish“.

  6. Yes, it does seem to. Whilst the fetish (masochistic emasculation fetishism) itself discloses chilshood emasculation anxiety/trauma, it is a parallel situation to countless other fetishes, especially documented in the sexualization of abuse.

    “Can you imagine that anyone could be a trans woman, or cis female and feminine, and gynephilic?”

    It is common that people mistakenly take that as being implied, rather it is the case that the fetishism is simply one way in which one can develop a dysphoric psychology. A dysphoria on part of masochistic emasculation fetishist will routinely be derived from their fetishism. It will provide the psychological conditions for internalized affiliations. There still should be the potential that existing gender issues factored in the emasculation anxieties, which in turn is itself sexualized.

    Your hostility is unfortunate. I have presented my interest on your masochistic emasculation fetish post.

  7. When I was little … perhaps four or five, I used to pray every night that I would wake up and be a girl. In my mind, heart and spirit I was … and I dreamt of girl things, and when it can time to masturbate, well my fantasies were always of men and male penetration, and yet … I’ve done nothing. As my friend Reeva said, “My God, it’s like every day of your life is drag act.”

    • For me, I had to transition. A man asked, “Why would you do that, if you are attracted to women?” I said I did it because I am attracted to women: I had to be myself with a partner, pretending to be male just built barriers to girlfriends. We make our own way. Everything has risks, benefits, downsides.

      • Yes … I agree … I’m just going through a ‘have I missed my window,” and … well, nothing I saw would seem strange to you. The pale lilac looks exactly the same … are we into Lenten colors?

        • Well, do you ever dress female?

          Transsexuality in gynephile and androphile trans women may be different phenomena, associated with different unusual brain structures. I can’t necessarily help. However, try it, but I would say try it with androphile trans women or drag queens or such culture.

          I really don’t like the pale blue, I think it clashes with the header and washes out the rest. What do you think?

          • It’s still pink on mine … pale yellow would be nice.

            I do have good psychiatric help, I just feel … paralyzed? I have no desire to be a man in women’s clothing … it disgusts me. I want to be a woman in woman’s clothing. Drag queens and I are not good together, truth be told. I need to find a nice, sympathetic woman here in New York who’s been through it all and can hold my hand. Let me know if and when you put up the yellow, you rascal.

          • You know, I missed the first line, Clare. When I was younger I did, with terrific results … I was viewed as a beautiful girl. However, since my late teens now … not even in private. It’s not about clothes, it’s about being, existing … breathing femaleness. Yeah, well, every woman has to learn to wear a bra … panties, no sweat … skirts, pants, blouses, dresswear (what do you think, with a mother like mine as role model??)

            • I know what you mean about being a man in women’s clothes, yet I think that is something to do with confidence: sometimes I felt I just looked like a man, sometimes I felt I looked female. So, dress up with female friends, who will be kind to you.

            • Okay … I know the friends already. I’ll have to go shopping first, shave my legs … I mean, really ! Lord knows what I stuff my bra with. I daren’t ask the saleswoman at Bloomingdales!

            • At university, in the journal “Medicine, Science and the Law” I first read about auto-erotic asphyxia. A man had been found at the bottom of a river in bra stuffed with net curtain and pants, tied to a large log, having intended to but been unable to cut the rope. And I thought,
              Oh! Net curtain!

              I had so much disgust for my cross-dressing: odi et amo. I could neither give up, or just accept it; and then I accepted it, finally, breaking through a great deal of conditioning.

            • Okay, true confessions … my friends and all I all agree that I make a stunning woman, and we went out three times and I was hit on every time. I must have a woman’s face? Good.

              Clare, after this let’s transition to email for this subject, but where and how do I find the best … well surgeon/doctor?

            • Thanks about the story … haven’t yet deciphered the Dr. whatever thing. Apparently, it’s best to change your name before you begin, get your new passport, new social security card, etc. That way, when you’re ready to move somewhere new and start a new life … then you’re good to go. Also, where you are now it’s helpful … pulling out a driver’s license when your new name on it has (I read) stopped more than a few bashings. Interesting.

            • If you are thinking about this, spend time “as a woman”, whatever that might mean: using a female name, dressed female, speaking and moving as feels good to you. Some would say don’t take hormones before going full time, as hormones make permanent changes. Others say taking hormones when you have decided to go full time but have not yet taken the plunge can ease transition. It is a balance of risks.

              Added: and remember, you can cross-dress to your heart’s content without necessarily Transitioning.

            • Cross-dressing is definitely not what it’s about for me … I tend toward the second view above. But I’m seeing my shrink on Monday, so let’s see what she thinks. She knows I’m ready, committed and as she termed it “a textbook case.” I was just born troublesome so I want to do it my way … I think we’re very similar, Clare. Our personalities strike me as having many similarities.

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