If you’ve been anywhere near a media outlet over the last few months you won’t ave been able to avoid noticing that transgender women are getting a lot of attention. If you have seen images of Caitlyn, formerly Bruce, Jenner, and then Paris Lees, Janet Mock, Laverne Cox or Jai Dara Latto, who was crowned Miss Transgender UK 2015, you might be forgiven for being a bit confused. You might be struggling to figure out what the connection is between an ageing sports jock who looks like a man in a dress, and a glamorous woman who looks like — a glamorous woman. If you’re at all liberal or PC, you might have just accepted that these are the same, but, you know, because time and stuff.
But you’d be dead wrong. There are two completely distinct types of transgender woman and there is no connection between them at all. The conflation that is going on is wrong and potentially lethal.
This is important because one type — which comprises the overwhelming majority of trans women in the world today — is the subject of deadly and repeated violence, while the other colludes in it. Now I will show my cards here: my girlfriend is transgender. But she’s not like Jenner. And because she is — being of the other type — a potential victim of violence, I have to stand to the wire. Political Correctness is all very well until people start dying because of it; and that is what is happening. So let me explain.
The two types of MtF transgender are called, using the terminology of the man who first described them, ending nearly a hundred years of unsuccessful attempts, ‘homosexual transsexual, or ‘HSTS’ and ‘autogynephile’ or ‘AGP’. The scientist who established this is called Dr Ray Blanchard. Prior to his work, these types were called, respectively, ‘True transsexual’ or ‘Type One’ and ‘Pseudo transsexual’ or ‘Type Two.’
For examples, Janet Mock, Kevin Balot, Laverne Cox and Blaire White are all HSTS and Caitlyn Jenner is AGP. It is important to understand that HSTS are not homosexual men; as women they are straight, attracted to men. But they were born as male and are sexually and romantically attracted to men, which makes Blanchard’s term intelligible at least.
HSTS feel and act irrepressibly girly as children and are often remarked and bullied for being ‘sissy’ (read Laverne Cox’s comments on this for an illustration.) Most will wear girl’s clothes as children if they can, play with feminine-gendered toys and socialise better with girls than boys. (By no means all boy children who do this are trans; gender exploration is a normal part of growing up and most will switch back after a while. Some, however, will not. These are HSTS.)
In clinical terms they tend to present younger than AGPs although there is a crossover in the late teens and twenties. Janet Mock’s book ‘Redefining Realness’ is a good recent personal history of an HSTS growing up.
HSTS see their femininity in terms of their sexuality, romantic objectives and socialisation. They act like girls, they sound like girls and they look like girls. Put bluntly, they are girls. Sexually and romantically they desire a straight relationship with a straight man. Although they almost always have many gay male friends and indeed, many will have self-identified as gay at some stage, they are not interested in gay relationships at all. They are girls and completely hetero-normative girls at that.
Wherever there is a social space that these individuals can be themselves in, they will exploit it and transition. Life is just easier for an HSTS as a woman. Nobody takes them seriously as men anyway and they are useless at it. They have no hope of succeeding in the patriarchal status rat-race as men, but as women, their beauty is their ally. A good-looking HSTS like transpinay Kevin Balot (a Philippine celebrity) will have no difficulty attracting male partners and for a young woman like her, the dream may indeed come true — to find a straight man who really loves her.
For Kevin, being a woman is just who she is. She doesn’t have to learn it; she just is. When she was little she was a little girl and when she grew up she became a woman. That’s it. Kevin suffered a great deal as a child, like many HSTS, but she could not change herself. She is what she is. It’s not really a matter of feeling, just of being. She was always Kevin and there is only one Kevin Balot; she describes her name as the most precious thing her parents gave to her and she wears it with obvious and great pride. Being a woman is not an act for her, nor is she conflicted in her personality.
HSTS has been described for millennia and has always been more associated with matriarchal or matrifocal cultures. ( I have seen one fascinating reference to an 11th century Islamic scholar describing what might be AGP, but Islam is a patriarchy every bit as repressive as the modern Western one, so hey, no surprise; but I will pursue that.)
AGPs could not be more different. They show no femininity as children, though they may be detached and sensitive boys. They almost always succeed in masculine areas — sport (Caitlyn Jenner) academia (Julia Serrano and Lynn Conway); many join the armed forces. They usually marry and have children. Their awareness of themselves as women always appears later and never in childhood. (Their personal ‘recalled histories’ may assert childhood feelings of transgender but these are never independently verifiable and are in fact a product of their condition.)
Autogynephilia is a far more complicated profile than HSTS, in which the subject becomes consumed with the idea of self as a woman, and consequentially a desire to be a woman, along with the adoption of female characteristics and the removal of male ones. AGP, like all biological conditions, is a scale of variation, so some individuals feel the dysphoria it causes much more intensely than others. For some, dressing as women is enough; for others, surgical removal of the offending parts is the only relief. However, a majority of AGPs retain their assigned birth gender sexual normativity: they remain attracted to women.
The reason I mentioned Kevin Balot earlier is that names are a useful guide in distinguishing the types. For an HSTS, she is who she’s always been and most will just feminise their given names. Chris will become Crissy, Alan becomes Alana, Peter Petra and so on. Some, like Kevin, refuse to change at all, seeing no need. They are who they are and always have been. There is only one personality inside an HSTS’ head and that is feminine, from early childhood. (There is an exception, where HSTS working in the sex business adopt fancy names appropriate to that; but they do not usually use those names in private life, and in any case, cis men and women do this too.)
However, within the AGP profile, a second, pseudo-feminine personality develops around the fixation with self as a woman. This appears at puberty or soon after. It is quite distinct from the masculine personality that originally conceives it. As this second personality develops, it acquires a name. This is usually very different from the given name of the masculine personality — ‘Bruce’ becomes ‘Caitlyn’ for example.( For inexplicable reasons, there appears to be a tendency towards using exotic or foreign names — often misspelled.)
This second personality may become so dominant and aggressive that it overwhelms the masculine host personality and at this point — usually after years of cross-dressing, first in private, then with forays in public, to ‘cross-dressing clubs’ etc — the subject is fully consumed by the feminine personality. Then all the masculine physical characteristics of the subject’s body have to be re-aligned in concordance with it.
At the same time, the new personality has to have a history, which will be an adaptation of the truth in which feelings of ‘femininity’ were suppressed in childhood and so on. AGPs are not lying when they relate these, but they are still invented: they are a part of the second ‘feminine’ personality, which is destroying all remnant of the original masculine one. The subject is unable to know which memories are true (part of their masculine personality) and which are not.
It is at this point that a masculine (paradoxically) aggression response kicks in to counter any suggestion that the AGP’s ‘recalled history’ or feminine identity might not be real. This is frequently expressed as a narcissistic rage attack, such as has been directed at scientists and academics like J Michael Bailey, Anne Lawrence, Ray Blanchard himself, Alice Dreger (famed for her fairness and academic integrity) and anyone else who dares to challenge the assertions of AGPs.
These attacks should be seen as a defence response by the ‘feminine’ personality that has overtaken the host. In addition to personal insult and character assassination, these attacks also include the routine falsification and distortion of statistics and other evidence, and the insistence that AGPs are the only ‘true women’. This leads directly to the blatant attempt to erase HSTS trans women, who, just by existing, prove the illusory nature of the AGP personality.
AGPs, through this attempt to erase or devalue HSTS identities, in order to colonise them, are one component of the social problem that sees HSTS abused, harmed and killed. They deliberately present HSTS as a minority (which they are not) and as incapable of speaking for themselves, which is about as offensive as it gets. For an AGP, only his own personality matters; everything about him is only about him and he is focussed exclusively on the parasitic ‘feminine’ personality that is consuming him. It is narcissism gone made, with the subject totally obsessed with himself to the exclusion of everyone and everything else.
Gender dysphoria — universally accepted as the specific provocation of transgender — for an AGP is, therefore about detestation of actual physical body parts, since these symbolise the remnants of the masculine personality that has been destroyed. (Although sometimes not entirely, and this is why re-transition occurs.) Its social aspect is the relentless aggression of AGPs against anyone who questions their ‘narratives’, demands to be allowed to use women’s safe spaces and access to their bodies as well as, of course, the incessant attempt to harm HSTS.
(Incredibly, I recently saw, on an AGP’s site, the exhortation that women should just ‘stay out of spaces that [AGP MtFs] frequent.’ It is rare that I am rendered speechless, but I was that day.)
On the other hand, dysphoria for an HSTS — who does not have this internal conflict and is really a girl — is simply about social roles: a horror of having to socialise as a man and being more comfortable socialising as a woman since, in fact, that is what she is. Genital surgery for AGP is like the removal of a malignant tumour, the second personality’s final moment of triumph; for HSTS it’s more like having a boob job — it makes a more convincing woman, who can then socialise more easily as one. This is why so many AGPs do not use their neo-vaginas for sex, whereas HSTS always do: I mean what would be the point otherwise?
AGPs have no notion of what being a woman is, of course; theirs is a fantasy, possibly provoked by the repression they experienced as children. Unlike HSTS, who are in no doubt whatsoever about their feminine identity from their early lives and indeed are quite unable to prevent themselves from being girls, AGPs have to learn and, frequently, fail.
The AGP awareness of self as feminine is rather like a ‘negative shape’: once you remove all the masculine parts, what is left is taken to be feminine. That this assumption could not be further from the truth is just ignored by AGPs, though it is the source of much of the conflict between them and natal women feminists.
Also published on Medium.