One of the most remarkable things about Autogynephilia is its extreme range. Theryn Meyer and Rachel Levine seem very different, but they are not. However, once the condition is understood, one reason for this becomes clear.
Prior to 1980, the concept of the Sexual Invert, the petite, highly feminine male who was exclusively attracted to men and wished to play the recipient role in sex, was well documented. They were never interested in members of the same sex and identified strongly with feminine models, often presenting as girls or at least, in as unmasculine a manner as they could get away with. This last type, in adulthood, was called ‘homosexual transsexual’ or HSTS, by Kurt Freund in 1973.
Freund did not himself originate the concept behind the term, since it was discussed in detail by Magnus Hirschfeld, Havelock Ellis and Harry Benjamin, amongst many others. So this is a well-documented phenomenon that has been thoroughly studied for over a hundred years.
The problem was that this concept, of innate Sexual Inversion leading to transition desire and homosexual transsexualism, did not cover every person coming forward to seek assistance in appearing to be a woman. There were also men, often middle aged, who were usually married and had children and most interestingly were not attracted to men, but to women. They were non-homosexual. How could these be explained?
Dr Ray Blanchard was, during the 1980s, working at the Clark Institute in Toronto, now the CAMH, and his role was to assess those who were suitable candidates for transition therapy and surgery. He had to be able to give a scientifically sound reason for approval, so he began to study his candidates. He investigated the link with sexual orientation, since it was so markedly a component in HSTS. There, transition and being feminine was clearly a mating strategy, designed to attract masculine men; this was no different from what natal heterosexual women did.
That led Blanchard to propose that HSTS and feminine ‘gay men’ were related, on a scale of variation. HSTS were at the extreme end of this. But that association led him to wonder whether another common factor united the disparate group who were not homosexual. He devised a questionnaire and examined the results statistically. This showed that there was indeed a common factor and that this was related to the man’s idealisation of himself as his own erotic target — who was, of course, a woman. This in turn led him to desire to bring his physical self into line with the target.
Blanchard called this ‘Autogynephilia’, which he said was ‘a man’s arousal at the thought or image of himself as a woman.’ This, he said, was the cause of ‘all non-homosexual gender dysphorias in males.’ Suddenly, what had been a baffling array of myriad forms became comprehensible as simply the outward expressions of the same condition, Autogynephilia or AGP.
Blanchard now had the scientific reason he needed to proceed with approving these individuals for therapy, and one might have thought that there would be an end to it. Not at all, as it turned out, but that is another story.
To illustrate the variation in the expression of AGP, at least in one dimension, let’s look at two well-known AGPs, Dr Rachel Levine and Theryn Meyer.
Levine is a professor of Pediatrics and Psychology at the Penn State College of Medicine and has recently been appointed as Assistant Secretary of Health for the US Federal Administration. Rachel Levine was, until 2013, married to a woman, Martha Peasley, and has two children by her. She transitioned in 2011, at the age of fifty-four.
This individual is not by any means unique but rather characteristic of the type most people envision — if they know about any of this — when they hear the word ‘Autogynephilia’. Married, middle-aged, with children, competitive, career-minded and so on. There is literally nothing in the publicly known background of this person that might indicate homosexuality, transsexualism or even transgenderism, a dubious categorisation anyway. Levine is a political liberal.
Most people around a person like this are profoundly shocked when they hear about their decision to transition. Caitlyn Jenner’s wife, Kris Kardashian, was absolutely stunned and their divorce was completed in 2014. A key issue about this group is their pronounced masculinity, which we will discuss in detail a little later.
Individuals like these are what the lay public often imagine ‘transgenders’ to be and even amongst those who should know better, they are held up as exemplary. But the fact is that middle-aged or elderly transitioners like them are not the only form of AGP seen in public life; they are far from definitive. As well as which, the entire class of HSTS is quietly being ignored.
There is evidence that this form, as exemplarised by Levine and Jenner, is unique to the West, or nearly so; it was believed, for example, that Autogynephilia was rare in Asia, because there are so few of this type there. But in fact there are plenty of AGPs there, they just conform to a different type. This difference is certainly due to cultural differences. The West is an outlier in world terms, and some might say an aberration.
This other type transitions when the Autogynephilic feelings begin, or as soon after as possible. They may have supportable evidence of non-conforming behaviour, eg cross dressing, before the age of nine but are never primarily homosexual. Individuals of this type will begin hormone treatment as early as they can. We might conceptualise them as ‘adolescent/early adult’ but beware that some will appear very early, at an age which many consider still to be in childhood. Politically, these individuals tend to be strongly conservative, supporting the binaries of sex and gender and family values.
Theryn Meyer is exemplary of this type of autogynephilia, in the West. She was a YouTube personality with a huge following, but who closed her channel — with 200,000 subscribers — and largely withdrew from public life. She was born in South Africa but moved with her family to Canada. Some might know Theryn from interviews with Dr Jordan Peterson, in which she supported his stance and made clear her view that there are only two genders. Needless to say, this caused quite the stir.
Meyer claims that she began crossdressing while she was still young and indeed, though she is coy about details, she says that her mother taught her how to be a woman. She has not stated when she transitioned. Theryn has a history of political activism generally although she is unconventional, being ant-feminist but supportive of gender and sexual variation. She might be classified as a libertarian and is anything but ‘liberal’.
Theryn Meyer and Rachel Levine, then, represent two extremes of the Autogynephilic phenomenon, as seen in the West. The question remains, are they the same? Are they really both influenced by Autogynephilia, the love of the self as a woman? The answer is in their histories: both are gynephilic, therefore non-homosexual, so because AGP is the cause of all non-homosexual gender dysphorias in males, both must be Autogynephilic.
Theryn Meyer is, by any measure, a beautiful, feminine young woman who routinely passes. Since 2019 she has been in a relationship with a natal woman but as of November 2020 was still presenting as a woman herself. Her history reveals her to be just as Autogynephilic as Levine, above; yet few people would think that the former was male by birth, where I suggest anyone with good vision would immediately know that the latter was.
The ‘feminine essence’ theory is bunk
Many AGP activists, over several decades, have claimed that the only difference between the middle-aged, masculine form of ‘transgender’ most common in the West and HSTS was the age at which HRT began. They claim that there is a certain ‘inner knowledge’ that we all have, which tells us whether we are men or women. This is called the ‘feminine essence’ theory. Any differences between ‘transgenders’ is incidental, because what matters is our ‘inner knowledge of self’.
This is an absurd claim, of course, firstly because it is impossible to know what another person might feel like. In addition, those Sexual Inverts who do not progress to transition invariably become ‘gay men’. They do not, ever, settle down, get married and begin families; there are two types and that they are separated by sexual orientation is incontestable.
The so-called ‘feminine essence’ theory, so beloved of AGP activists, could only work if HSTS did not exist as a separate phenomenon. Hence their relentless attempts to erase HSTS and colonise their identities by insisting that ‘there is no difference, it’s just the age HRT begins.’ Anyone familiar with both types would immediately know this for the lie it is. However, it is such a central part of AGP self-affirmation that they persist in it and do everything they can to silence those who disagree with them.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that those AGPs who transition young and begin HRT early are indeed, far more likely to be feminine than those who transition at later ages. They might never pass quite as well as HSTS of similar history, but Meyer and others like her show that the trick can certainly be pulled off. Southeast Asia, for example, where AGPs transition in their late teens or early twenties, is jammed full of absolutely stunning AGP trans women; they might be a little on the large side but they are still convincing.
This suggests that it might actually be better for AGPs to begin hormonal transition early, as long as irreversible surgery is avoided. This is principally, of course, Genital Reconstruction Surgery (GRS) and the inevitable emasculation that it entrains. As long as this is not done, desistance for a boy is relatively simple, as his natural testosterone will soon complete the masculinisation process. He simply stops taking feminising HRT. (The opposite is absolutely not true for females.)
We are left to question, again, the Western medical preoccupation with surgery as a necessary part of transition. This is touted as the ‘end’ while in most of the world, it simply is not. Perhaps a better solution than the ‘surgery express train’ would be to make social and hormonal transition much easier, but surgery more difficult.
Theryn Meyer shows the benefit of early transition
Rachel Levine and Theryn Meyer represent extremes of a scale found within those with Autogynephilia. However, I suggest that it would be far easier for Meyer to live her life as a woman than for Levine. This in turn suggests that early, supported transition might be the best approach to dealing with all males with gender dysphoria, whether they be HSTS or AGP and that the old ‘wait and see’ approach might be positively harmful.
This certainly would be supported by the situation in southeast Asia, where there are no medical ‘gatekeepers’ and nearly all transitioners self-medicate. HSTS mostly begin HRT around twelve, and AGPs sixteen and upwards. This causes absolutely no problems there, and I question why it should in the West.