Autogynephilia was defined by Dr Ray Blanchard. His studies focussed on patients born male who desired Genital Reconstruction Surgery (GRS) to change their male genitalia into cosmetic facsimiles of female ones.
Blanchard’s work is the definitive basis of the science on the subject of male-to-female transsexualism.
He defined, in the first place, a group he called ‘Homosexual Transsexual’ (HSTS). The most important factors that link the individuals together is that they are uniquely sexually attracted to men, in exactly the same way as women are, and that they are remarkably feminine in manners, comportment and appearance. Their parents and siblings would have noticed from an early age that they were ‘like girls’.
Perhaps more importantly, however, Blanchard identified another group that was presenting in significant numbers. This group he found puzzling. The people in it were older. They were not in any way feminine or effeminate and they had extreme difficulty ‘passing’ as women. They were overwhelmingly white, with middle-class, professional backgrounds who had been successful in their careers. In addition, they were nearly always married and usually had children. Frequently these last were at the point of becoming independent. Most importantly, however, these individuals were never attracted to men, at least prior to transition.
This dichotomy had been observed before, since the time of Magnus Hirschfeld, but nobody had been able to explain what was going on. Blanchard HSTS were easy to understand: they are socially, sexually, romantically and behaviourally women. It really is that simple. They may not be women in a biological sense but in every other way, that is what they are.
The second group was not like that and their profile was much more difficult to describe. These individuals were sexually, socially, romantically and behaviourally men as well as being biological males. Thy could not have been more different from the HSTS profile. Blanchard argued that the root cause of their condition must reside in their male sexuality, since they clearly could not have a female one.
This observation, backed up by statistical surveys and questionnaires, led Blanchard to the discovery that the most important such factor in this second group was their attraction to themselves, as women. This allowed him to formulate a testable hypothesis:
‘Autogynephilia is a man’s propensity to be attracted to himself, as a woman.’
Fundamentally, this remains unchallenged science. However, other researchers have highlighted differences in the profiles of the AGPs they studied, from the Blanchard model. This probably means that there is significant cultural overlay on the basic condition, which is already complex.
Looking at the situation in Asia, where most AGPs present with markedly different profiles from the West, tends to confirm this. So while the attraction of the subject to the idea of being a woman remains the underlying motivation, the precise manner in which this may be satisfied is remarkably varied.
Most people, including HSTS, are attracted to personalities outside the self: other people. AGPs are different: their primary objects of sexual attraction are themselves, but as women. Blanchard called this misdirection of sexual attraction an ‘Erotic Target Location Error’.
In the West, many men with this condition remain secret fetishistic cross dressers all their lives. Their visibility is directly related to social factors: the less acceptable it is for a man to wear women’s clothing, the more likely that they will keep their behaviour a secret. A great many go to their graves without their wives or children ever knowing the truth.
Autogynephilia in Childhood.
Psychologically, the development of the condition follows a defined path. Usually, either at or at some time after puberty, the subject becomes sexually aroused by the thought of himself in women’s clothing or, more rarely, just by conceiving of himself, in fantasy, as a woman.
Increasingly, however, evidence is appearing that some people experience autogynephilia in childhood, before puberty. What may be happening is that the subject is having early crushes on the idea of being a woman.
This appears to be consistent with the way that people with other orientations show early crushes on the target that will become their adult sexual desire. This suggests that autogynephilia is a distinct orientation which may sit alongside a more conventional one.
Although many AGPs masturbate while dressed as women, not all do. However, Blanchard was able to show that there were other activities which, while not specifically sexual, could still provide sexual reward. Put that another way: could still make the person feel sexy.
Ask yourself this, if you are a heterosexual man: would putting on lingerie and stockings make you feel sexy? Would wearing lip-gloss and eye-liner get you hot and bothered? What about a pair of hot pants or a push-up bra? A nice new hair-do and a manicure?
If you are a heterosexual woman, ask yourself: would wearing a three-piece suit make you feel sexy? What about some nice brogues? Or what about growing a beard — would that make you feel sexy? (There is no female equivalent to autogynephilia, this is just an exercise.)
These feelings are sexual rewards, even though they are not actually sexual acts. And this is the basis of autogynephilia. It is an orientation in which appearing as a woman provides a range of sexual reward.
Because sexual reward is so powerful a confirming agent for behaviour, this practise leads to an intensification of the condition. Sexual reward, after all, is the basis of human bonding. However the bond being formed here is not between two separate individuals, but within the mind of a single, male individual.
This means that a second personality must be created by the subject, to fall in love with. Typically this appears soon after the onset of the condition.
This second personality grows within the mind of the subject. It was created as an object of desire and has been nourished through rewarding behaviour, often for decades. It may become so powerful that it overwhelms the male personality that invented it. At this point the subject becomes intensely uncomfortable with being a man and feels a need to transition.
In the West this typically happens in in middle age; it was overwhelmingly the case when Blanchard was researching autogynephilia. The results can be catastrophic. The wife of such an individual may be told she must ‘become a lesbian’ by the man she married. However he is not really the man she married but a secret personality he has been developing for decades. The man she married is effectively dead, his personality swamped.
The classic, late-transitioning Western AGP remains a man in every sense except that of appearance. His attraction to women remains exactly the same as a hetero-normative male’s.
Two other forms.
This ‘classic’ profile accounts for some 60% or more of AGPs. However, Blanchard identified two other sexual desires.
The first he termed ‘analloerotic’. Sometimes these indivuiduals are misrepresented as ‘asexual;’ but this is simplistic. Analloerotics are unable to derive sexual pleasure from their genitalia. Instead they get it from such things as using women’s toilets, from ‘dressing parties’, which are frequently advertised in the media targeting AGPs; and from knitting and other stereotypically ‘women’s’ roles. Here the reward that feeds the autogynephilia is social acceptance as women.
The other group of AGPs identified by Blanchard he called ‘bisexual’. Like the others, prior to transition, these men have no sexual interest in other men. However, once they begin hormone therapy and begin to feminise, these individuals explore being women in a more challenging environment. For them, going out in public dressed in women’s clothes is not enough. They need to be sexually desired by men.
This is an extension of their autogynephilia, in which the person they have created must be taken, not just socially but also sexually, as a woman. Blanchard called this phenomenon ‘pseudo-bisexuality’. The individuals in this group often elect to have GRS, but not always. There is a significant number of sex workers in the West who conform to this type. Many of their male clients are also AGP .
Another path that AGPs may follow to assuage their autogynephilia is through competition against natal women. Mianne Bagger, for example was the first transwoman golfer. More concerning is Fallon Fox, who became an MMA fighter after transitioning. Success in these fields satisfies the autogynephilia through the fantasy of being ‘accepted’ as women — though quite how using a man’s physique to beat the pulp out of natal women can be tolerated is unimaginable; well, if you’re not persuaded by the Post-Modernist bunk of ‘Identity Politics’.
A more civilised form of competition — or at least one less likely to cause physical harm — is in beauty pageants and modelling. This is hugely popular across Asia and elsewhere and HSTS and AGP transsexuals compete with each other on all fours– and the AGPs often win.
Competing in the sex market.
Even more interestingly, perhaps, is a phenomenon seen in Italy and Spain. Both are well known destinations of South American travesti, or transsexual prostitutes. Many of these advertise through websites like Arcaton or Distintas, which categorise escorts as ‘travesti’ or ‘women’. Only a minority have GRS but if they do, they will immediately remove all trace of their former selves and re-appear, as women prostitutes. They then compete directly with women for male clientèle.
Such avenues are closed to the majority of Western AGPs because they transition so late. By the time they do, they are thoroughly masculinised physically; they can never hope to pass as women, far less compete with them in physical beauty. Furthermore, their youthful socialisation has given them no training in how to act like a woman, so not only do they look like men, they act like them.
However, in the decades since Blanchard defined autogynephilia, much has changed. Even in the West, autogynephiles are presenting much younger and can be extremely attractive (if tall.) Dutch model Kelly van der Veer and Canadian Jenna Talakova come to mind. Or what about Bianca (below)? Is she HSTS or AGP?
The fact is that autogynephilia is an enormously complicated and disparate phenomenon which science still has much to learn about. What is not in doubt is that it is real and it is the stimulus for an unknown percentage, possibly a majority, of male-to-female transitions.
Also published on Medium.