Autogynephilia III

I need not to feel crippling shame when I think of autogynephilia. This is my position now:

While some radical feminists say that the word “female” only has meaning in the context of reproductive organs (which makes me male) and that concepts of feminine and masculine are defined by patriarchy, and are unnatural and oppressive, I think most people see that the words feminine and masculine have meaning, and while there is a wide range of behaviours and overlapping bell curves, women tend to be more feminine than men. This applies even if what may be thought of as feminine or masculine is a matter of culture, rather than innate.

In that sense, I am feminine. People say that I am feminine. Around transition, they noticed that I had to put on an act to present male. I had a sense of burying the Real Me very deeply, and when I had a sense of letting myself out, my sense was that the Real Me was female. Or feminine, whatever.

If the theory of autogynephilia is correct, then I am a man sexually aroused by the thought of myself as a woman. But that would make me masculine. So the theory cannot be correct.

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The theory of autogynephilia makes the theory of primary transsexualism, “homosexual” or androphile M-F transsexuality, inconceivable. For the diagnostic criterion of primary transsexualism is gender dysphoria. Imagine that I am a man, falling down the slippery slope of perversion to living female full time. That would give me crushing gender dysphoria, the sense that my physical body did not match my gender identity. But I do not, now, have gender dysphoria. I can see that the sexual drive may mask or overcome other feelings, but “homosexual transsexuals” claim that gender dysphoria is overwhelming, and given that I am not sexually aroused all the time, I would have thought that it would be strong enough to overcome my autogynephilia by now.

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When I was considering transition, terrified by the idea of autogynephilia and certain that if I were autogynephiliac transition would be wrong, I had a naive understanding of paraphilia, a “blank slate” view. This was that the paraphiliac is by default a normal heterosexual male, in whom the sexual drive accidentally gets attached to something other than people of the opposite sex- shoes, asphyxia, whatever- and that in the case of the autogynephiliac it is attached to the thought of himself as a woman. With a little self-control, he could have overcome these desires and been a normal heterosexual husband and father.

But that does not fit the passionate, determined drive I and other lesbian trans women I know had to make men of ourselves. Often we join hyper-masculine professions. One was in the police tactical firearms unit. Some were in the armed forces. One was in the secret service, and one in a criminal gang. Of course the sex drive is strong, but that drive seemed strong to me. We sought to make men of ourselves to fit in, because we were inculcated with patriarchal ideas of manhood, that being a sissy was the ultimate shame.

Again, our transition to expressing ourselves female seems more of an identity issue than a perversion issue.

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I internalised a great deal of shame at being TS, and especially at the thought of being TS because of a perversion. I need to manage that shame.

If the blank slate theory is correct, and I could have been a normal male if I had not masturbated to perverted fantasies- other men manage it, why not me?- a close analogy as far as concerns guilt and shame is the person sick because of smoking. He has only himself to blame, you might say. But wait. There are still strong social pressures on many groups to smoke, and once one starts there are strong addictive pressures. I would not necessarily blame the person who has lung cancer because of his smoking, and certainly the consequence is completely unfitting if thought of as a “punishment” for the unwise actions.

Yes. The shame is the important thing for me. Considering all the above, I realise that I can say,

I have nothing to be ashamed of.

And, even, I have nothing to be ashamed of, even if my condition is a paraphilia acting on a blank slate heterosexual normality.

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I have transitioned. I can see that other ways of looking at this may work for other people. For example, if the thought of transition completely terrifies you, by all means take refuge in the theory of Crossdreaming. I can see that it would be reassuring to believe that your condition is merely a sexual fantasy. And if you are androphile TS, it may help you to despise and distance yourself from lesbian trans women.

Gosh, that is all heavy stuff. Here are some landscape paintings by Vincent:

8 thoughts on “Autogynephilia III

  1. No shame, my dear, no shame. You are lovely in your becoming.
    This above all: to thine own self be true

    You just tickle me! I’m reading along, my brow furrowed in following the intense essay and then, at the end, “Gosh, that is all heavy stuff. Here are some landscape paintings by Vincent:” HA! I nearly spewed my coffee laughing so abruptly!

    Peace be with you.

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  2. You have absolutely no reason to be ashamed, your posts seem to always have a meditative dignity about them. I respect transwomen deeply. You have to fight and claw your way to true self, I do not understand lesbians who seek to ostracise you from the rest of the community. Sometimes feminism misses the mark just a little in my humble opinion. blessings on your journey. 🙂

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  3. Don’t let anyone else define you. There is so much b.s. in the academic communities where gender and sexuality theories develop and then evolve again according to the political interests of whatever group. I’ve seen some really awful things said from some radical feminists and some intersex people about transfolk and it’s really disheartening. I should emphasize that is it some, not all members, of those groups. But the real hatred expressed by the handful really damages the potential relationship with all.

    It seems like all of us are being discounted and suffer prejudice and disservice by the larger society (whether that be in terms of employment, housing, medical care, etc.). It saddens me that, even though our needs are different, that we can’t get together to support each other in pursuit of civil rights for all.

    The hippie will now step down from the soapbox.

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    • All of us are being discounted, even by each other. That is the concept of Kyriarchy. We have to consciously work to stop oppressing. Actually, I have some sympathy with the radfem who mocks trans women as an outlet for her own feelings of oppression: at least enough to realise that retaliation will make things worse, and objecting will be heard as whining. Given your identity, they might listen more to you than to me.

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  4. Thank you for a very helpful and interesting post! Your point of gender dysphoria disappearing after the transition is a very important one. It does indeed undermine the basis of the autogynephilia theory.

    Not that Blanchard or Bailey will care. They are not interested in how you feel, but how they can classify you, and for them being a man is having an Y chromosome. Period.

    I would like to make one clarification, given that I must take responsibility for the term crossdreaming.

    For me crossdreaming (i.e. getting aroused by the idea of having the body of the opposite biological sex) is not “just a sexual fantasy”.

    I am pretty much convinced that there is an underlying biological condition that causes these fantasies. I am very much in line with Julia Serano who believes such fantasies are a way for the organism to express repressed, partly subconscious, identity. That there is a sexual aspect to sex identity should come as no surprise.

    The fact that transwomen experience crossdreaming fantasies is to be expected. Women are sexual beings as well, and if you are to fantasize about sex, it makes sense to dream about having sex as a woman. That the very idea of having sex is arousing does not mean that they are “autogynephiliacs”. It simply means that they are sexual beings. Getting aroused by the idea of having a woman’s body is equally meaningful. You need a female body to have sex as a woman.

    You seem to imply that all male to female crossdreamers are fundamentally transwomen. I am not so sure about that. Personally I experience severe body dysphoria, and might be one. But I get too many reports from various crossdreamers — male to female and female to male — indicating that they do not identify as female exclusively, and that they are able to integrate their transgender condition in their lives as men.

    This especially applies to female to male crossdreamers, who seem to find it easier to integrate their cross-gender traits and desires with presenting as a woman. That should come as no surprise, at it is less stigmatizing for a woman to want to be a man, than for a man to want to be a woman. Even now, in 2012, the underlying paradigm is that women are weaker and inferior.

    Many of us are actively suppressing our feminine side, there is no doubt about that, and you could argue that all crossdreamers are transsexuals living in denial. But it could also be that there is no clear cut line between male and female, and that the drive powering the fantasies can vary in strength.

    In your case the underpinning identity has always been female, and now you have been able to realign your body with that identity. For others this may not be equally clear cut.

    We should also keep in mind that there may be other reasons for not transitioning. I would hate to add more guilt to the lives of trangender people who are already struggling hard to cope. We must not turn non-transitioning transgender into a kind of second rate human beings.

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    • Welcome, Jack. If you also write in Norwegian on innovation, I congratulate you on your versatility. Thank you for your courteous comment, perhaps more courteous than my throwaway remark. Do also have a look at my next post on this: the article from the Oxford textbook is by Cantor, Blanchard and Howard Barbaree, and says that autogynephilia coexists with gynephile m-f transsexuality:
      “It has
      been hypothesized that autogynephilia represents a
      misdirected form of male heterosexuality (Blanchard,
      1991; Ellis, 1928; Hirschfeld, 1918); that is, instead
      of an attraction to women in the environment, men
      with autogynephilia experience an attraction to women
      internal to themselves.”
      That could be read as stating that transsexuality causes autogynephilia, and not the other way around. The thought that the sexual arousal causes the transgender identification, expressed in Lawrence’s article “Men trapped in men’s bodies” led me to so much shame and hurt. Actually, I can see good reasons for not transitioning- loyalty to a female partner, difficulty with the work situation, a particularly large, masculine body- and should not judge non-transitioning or non-op people. Perhaps, also, gender dysphoria can be kept within bounds, though that is treading close to the shame line for me- if others can control it, why not me?

      Thinking as I write, the shame arises from my lack of self-control compared to others, and from the thought that it is, er, inconvenient to be transitioned when I get read routinely. Not from the idea that it is shameful to be a lesbian trans woman, for that is who I am.

      Also, gender dysphoria may be of varying strength, or interact with character in different ways: one might have testicles, have a strong or weak female gender identity, and really be a fairly masculine woman, who is comfortable enough in male role… perhaps I should leave it to the scientists to categorise, and simply Be.

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