In 1998/99, I became aware of something in me, which I called at first the “vulnerable bit”- I am the effective, sane, normal human being and inside there is this hurting and easily hurt part of me which I do not understand. In February 1999 I understood it was the Real me, me behind my mask: I had lived with my pretense so long I had thought the mask was who I am, and now I found who I really was. I had to let the real me out. Shortly after, I identified that Real me as female.
We make stories about ourselves. This is the story I wrote in my diary at the time. By then I had been cross-dressing for twenty years, had been to the Sibyls and associated with other trans women, and seen a consultant psychotherapist claiming to be transsexual- he said I was not. But then a psychiatrist had said I had transsexual tendencies eight years before. I was aware of the concepts of TS, seen as a person with a medical condition, and TV, what I had thought I was and saw as a disgusting pervert, and might blame myself less if I were TS, but would have life harder as transition is difficult. It took me another 21 months to decide to transition. I had written fantasies about being physically turned into a woman by strong, controlling women following their own desires in my teens, and as that psychotherapist, Graeme McGrath, said, if you fantasise about being dominated, you are still in complete control of your fantasy but have fantasised another character who liberates you from guilt and responsibility.
I was aroused by cross-dressing, I masturbated while cross-dressed and initially took the clothes off immediately afterwards, and I had erotic dreams about cross-dressing. I found that completely shameful.
I don’t feel sexual arousal by itself would make anyone transition. Fiona spent a week cross-dressed and at the end was sick of it. I consider all these stories, all these ideas, put the pieces together in order to understand and underneath it all is what I do and what I desire…
McGrath asked what I wanted. I said I wanted to be a housewife, and my memory is that just by snorting and facial expression he indicated dismissive contempt of this impossible fantasy.
Anne Lawrence suggests that autogynephilia, love of onesself as a woman, is a sexual orientation, and that after a phase of lust it settles into romantic love. Just as people who love other people form a partnership sustained by affection and attachment, so we transition and our state of being our female selves involves, as well as arousal, the other elements, such as admiration, affection, beneficence, and desire for closeness, that are usually associated with the word love, broadly construed, and that are considered to be expressive of a person’s sexual orientation.
I have rejected this idea, and I have stories of the rejection. It does not fit the facts. Or, perhaps, thinking autogynephilia is stigmatising and wanting to avoid stigma and wanting to involve judging myself, I can’t accept that. Those who insist I am autogynephilic would say any denial by a trans person is simply special pleading. Actually, if I say I could not avoid transition without even greater self-suppression and self-hatred than I have suffered, I might avoid the judgment and stigma at least in my own mind, if not that of the most contemptuous TERF. I could not help myself! I would still judge myself, though. I should not be like this!
The moral argument is that we should be accepted, because this is who we are, and it is not a choice, even if it is a “paraphilic sexual orientation”. We could not help ourselves. The stigma, and internalised stigma, is such that you do not do this unless you cannot resist it. Though I still feel that gender dysphoria causing arousal by female embodiment fantasies makes far more sense than autogynephilia existing separately from gender dysphoria, then causing it.
I identified my real self as female, and transitioned. If now I argue that we should identify ourselves as feminine men, I could just be creating more anguish for trans women. They will transition eventually, I will just have fuelled their internal conflict, self-stigmatisation, and suffering. In Blanchard and Lawrence’s imagination, the desire for hormones and an approximation to female genitals is part of the love of onesself as a woman, so we have the operation for that, not because of social pressure. The clothes are not enough.