Can Blanchard’s Typology of Transsex be Saved?

Ray Blanchard’s typology of transsexuals has come in for a lot of stick. I think it’s fair to say that ever since the publication of Professor J. Michael Bailey’s popular book, The Man Who Would Be Queen, this probably increased radically and has only slackened a little, if at all.

 Blanchard divided transsexual women, that is born male transitioning to female or mtf, into ‘homosexual transsexuals’ and ‘autogynephilic transsexuals.’ The former tend to be aware of and very open about their transgender status while still children. Many quote incidents as early as age five, by which time they already felt they were actually girls. More importantly, this is backed up by those who knew them at the time.

 Although many find the term ‘homosexual transsexuals’ or ‘HSTS’ offensive, because it implies that they are men, the term nevertheless accurately describes them in that these women are always attracted to men. That is to say their sexual orientation is normative for women, which they are. So they are not homosexual men, but heterosexual women.

 The term is confusing, but it makes more sense when we look at the very young HSTS. Researchers have shown that young homosexual boys follow a practically identical path to HSTS, up till the onset of puberty. At this point, they either become gay boys or transsexual girls.

 Some ‘professionals’—I hesitate to use the term ‘scientists’ because they aren’t, such as Ken Zucker, have used ‘reparative psychotherapy’ –brainwashing—to influence boys at this crucial age away from being transsexual and towards being gay males, which he regards as ‘a better outcome’. We are not quite sure for whom; most likely for conservative and concerned parents, and of course, Zucker’s accountants. No advantage can accrue to the individual transsexuals, who, by the activities of these quacks, are forced into living as something they are not.

 In any case, the very close relationship between young feminine gay boys and transsexual girls is very well established, as even a cursory examination of the two sets in Asia, for example, will show. In the West, gay men are encouraged to be masculine for socio-political reasons that do not apply elsewhere.

 The point is that as I have written elsewhere, HSTS sense of gender and their sexual orientation are both consistent and normative. They are ordinary girls who like boys.

 Until Blanchard’s work, the other type of transsexual, the autogynephile, was largely disregarded, or seen as fetishistic crossdressing men who had a mental disorder. As you may recall, typically, these do not present until much later in life, frequently have very macho jobs or careers, often in the military, were almost never ‘girly’ children, but later in life felt an overwhelming pressure to ‘be a woman’. It is sometimes, rather harshly said that HSTS are women, and AGTS want to be women.

 Very often, AGTS are the very opposite of feminine, and if they become so it is after a great deal of effort, self discipline and training. The highly feminine characteristics of the HSTS, in other words, they have to learn. Furthermore, AGTS are not attracted to men. Bear this in mind.

 Since Bailey’s book, this typology has been ferociously challenged, with the loudest voices coming from the AGTS community. These individuals have typically been highly competitive, even combative, men, who are used to getting their own way. HSTS, on the other hand, can be almost excessively demure and deferential, at least in many cases. So we should not be surprised that when we hear debate like this, the AGTS voice will be the one that gets heard, often to the detriment of the HSTS.

 However, we should recognise that Blanchard’s description of the two types is accurate. It is extremely unusual to meet a TS who is not very quickly identifiable either as HSTS or AGTS. However, there are a number of areas where Blanchard comes unstuck. While the HSTS description is relatively satisfactory, there are big problems with the AGTS one.

 For example, according to Banchard et alia, AGTS transition late and HSTS early. Furthermore, AGTS are not attracted to men but to women. However, there are many examples of TS who have transitioned late, which, for HSTS would be anything over very early 20s, who are attracted to men. Indeed, regularly the press reports of TS who did not live as gay men, yet who, once transitioned, became attracted to men, and even married them.

 This is pretty much a coach and horses driven right through Blanchard’s theory, but lo and behold, his apologists came up with an answer: pseudohomosexuality. Ouch. What that is saying, essentially, is that AGTS who become attracted to men are not really attracted to men, they just want to be women so much that they take on board this sexual role and orientation.

 Wouldn’t a simpler explanation be that they were familiar HSTS who had been suppressing their sexual orientation along with their gender identity for reasons such as social or peer pressure, work, religion, and so on? Well, obviously, but if we allow that, then major parts of Blanchard’s typology are scuppered. The same happens if we consider that some early-transitioning transwomen are attracted to women. Are these early-transitioning AGTS or pseudo-lesbian HSTS? Or are they just lesbian women?

 With the passing of time and the greater exposure of transwomen that the internet has afforded, we see complication upon complication being added, so that what was once cut and dried is now very messy indeed.

 Personally, I think that had Blanchard been aware of the existence of transwomen who transitioned late but were attracted to men and thus did not fit his AGTS profile, he would have worked harder to solve this. But he was not aware of it, so he didn’t, and unfortunately his theory has become an article of faith amongst behavioural psychologists, who, to be fair, have seen much of the  ground cut from under their feet by advances in other areas of biology. They run from leak to leak, plugging each in turn.

 However, we have the old reliable tool, Occam’s razor (or Ockham’s) which says that if we have a simple solution that explains everything, we should not go looking for a complex one. The real problem is not with Blanchard et alia’s observations about HSTS and AGTS forms, nor their terminology, but the attempt to establish causation. For Blanchard, basically, homosexuality and autogynephilia, which he did not distinguish from any other kind of fetishistic crossdressing, were the causes of transsexualism. Those two and only those two. But if the typologies are flawed, then this cannot be reliable, and as we have seen, they are.

 If however, we consider HSTS and AGTS as two different groups of symptoms, of a single underlying condition, then it becomes much simpler. We can explain the seeming inconsistencies as natural variation. We would be saying that some people with transsexualism exhibit predominantly one set of symptoms, and some people the other, but these were not mutually exclusive, which is exactly what we would expect.

 If we do this, and regard transsexualism as the underlying condition, perhaps best described as intersexed, which has a range of symptomatic manifestations which tend to devolve to two discrete groups but need not always, then we can integrate and make use of Blanchard et alia’s observed typology, and resolve the contradictions of it.

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Copyright 2013 Rod Fleming’s World

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