They have different characteristics, most notable being their primary sexual orientation: HSTS are uniquely attracted to men, whereas AGPs have a complex array of sexualities. These are all based on their autogynephilia, which Blanchard defined as ‘a man’s propensity to be aroused at the thought of himself as a woman’.
We should be aware that ‘arousal’ doesn’t just mean in the sense of becoming sexually excited, though that is a prominent characteristic of AGPs in the West. In fact there appear to be romantic and existential components to autogynephilia, which is a subtle and complex orientation. This has led some writers, for example Dr Alice Dreger, to suggest a definition of ‘amour de soi en femme’ — being in love with oneself as a woman. I would put that slightly differently: being in love with the idea of oneself as a woman.
How can you tell which is which?
Professor J Michael Bailey, in his book The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism, created a shortened version of Blanchard’s test for autogynephilia, which I have copied below. My thanks to Prof. Bailey for this.
I reviewed his book some time ago and recommend it. It is valuable not only for trans people seeking to find out about themselves, but also for others who just want to know more about transsexualism. Particularly so if you have someone close who has come out as trans/
Before you do the test, remember that it was primarily designed for white, culturally Western respondents. If you are from another, non-Anglo-Saxon culture, then it may be misleading. If you are Asian, this is especially likely to be the case. By all means do the test for fun, but treat it in that manner. If you are from an Anglo-Saxon or north European culture, however, this short test seems very successful.
Which Type of Transsexual are you?
Bailey’s short test.
‘I have devised a set of rules that should work even for the novice (though admittedly, I have not tested them). Start at zero. Ask each question, and if the answer is “Yes,” add the number (+1 or -1) next to the question. If the sum gets to +3, stop; the transwoman you’re talking to is autogynephilic. If the sum gets to -3, she is homosexual.
Score Plus One
+1 Have you been married to a woman?
+1 As a child, did people think you were about as masculine as
+1 Are you nearly as attracted to women as to men? Or more
attracted to women? Or equally uninterested in both? (Add 1 if “Yes”
to any of these.)
+1 Were you over the age of 40 when you began to live full time
as a woman?
+1 Have you worn women’s clothing in private and, during at
least three of those times, become so sexually aroused that you masturbated?
+1 Have you ever been in the military or worked as a policeman
or truck driver, or been a computer programmer, businessman, lawyer,
scientist, engineer, or physician?
Score Minus One.
-1 Is your ideal partner a straight man?
-1 As a child, did people think you were an unusually feminine
-1 Does this describe you? “I find the idea of having sex with
men very sexually exciting, but the idea of having sex with women is
not at all appealing.”
-1 Were you under the age of 25 when you began to live full
time as a woman?
-1 Do you like to look at pictures of really muscular men with
their shirts off?
-1 Have you worked as a hairstylist, beautician, female impersonator, lingerie model, or prostitute?
Finally, if the person has been on hormones for at least six months,
ask yourself this question:
If you didn’t already know that this person was a trans, would
you still have suspected that she was not a natural-born woman?
+1 if your answer is “Yes” (if you would have suspected)
-1 if your answer is “No”
Keep in mind that people don’t always tell the truth. This interview could be invalid if the subject is actually autogynephilic but is either (a) worried that you will think badly of her or deny her a sex change if you know the truth, or (b) obsessed with being a “real” woman.’
A few caveats from me. When Prof. Bailey says ‘if you didn’t already know this person was a transsexual’, he is assuming a non-expert knowledge level. If you have a lot of TS friends or are yourself TS, then you shouldn’t score for that question. (And if you’re testing yourself, be honest!)
If you are Asian, then this test will probably be unreliable. Both types do exist in these cultures, but we don’t know what the relative numbers are. In addition, the AGP type in particular is markedly different in Asia. There are some who fit the Western model but most do not and this test won’t accurately identify them. The reasons for this are unknown, because little real research has been done. (I just ran the test with answers from a couple of Asian TS friends and the results were inconclusive, neither reaching +3 or -3.)
Please note that the understanding of whether a person is HSTS or AGP does not impact on their value as people. Nor is one type of transsexualism somehow more valid or higher in status than the other. It might, however, help individuals to understand themselves and plan their lives, if they do know which type they are.
Finally, transsexualism is a broad church and it is not restricted to those who have had or seek to have Genital Reconstruction Surgery (GRS). The requirement for this is a function of a phenomenon called gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria is, broadly defined, an intense sense of discomfort with those physical features of your body which do not align with your own sense of gender. While there is evidence that HSTS and AGPs feel gender dysphoria in different ways, we do not know if these differences are fundamental or superficial.
In any case, it is the intensity that is important. If you have severe dysphoria, to the point that it is beginning to compromise your life, then you need to take action to alleviate it, no matter whether you are HSTS or AGP.
GRS may be appropriate but it is not always and less drastic interventions are preferable if they succeed. GRS is both purely cosmetic and, in clinical terms, palliative. The subject is not ‘cured’, she is just made to feel better. However, this is not a reason to refuse it, as Blanchard argues in Part Two of this pamphlet.
IMPORTANT: If you have, or know of, a child whom you think may be transsexual, please DO NOT try to use this test to assess them.
The care of gender non-conforming children is extremely delicate and uniformed or careless therapy can do far more harm than good.
Many children exhibit what appear to be gender non-conforming behaviours but grow out of them. Role play, including gender play, is a normal part of children finding out about themselves and their place in the world.
While children experimenting with cross-gender roles should definitely not be punished or discouraged, neither should they be encouraged. Just leave them alone to find their path, and let them know that whatever they are, they will still be loved.
*These are sometimes called ‘Early Onset Androphilic Transsexual’ or EOT and ‘Late Onset Gynephilic Transsexual’, or LOT, but I will use the Blanchard terms. This is because today, we see AGPs (LOTs) appearing in their early teens as well as being, or becoming, attracted to men (androphilic). These are just components of the remarkable complexity of AGP, but they do make the later terms confusing. Blanchard at least calls a 3/8 spanner a 3/8 spanner…
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Also published on Medium.