There is a misconception by some of those who prefer biologistic or even essentialist explanations that they therefore should reject social construction explanations. For over 150 years now various writers have been proposing that homosexuality, transvestity and/or transsexuality are caused by some mixture of genetics and pre-natal experience, and for 150 years of effort very little has been established, especially in identifying which factors might make someone gay rather than trans or vice versa. Every now and then some suggestive aspect of brain anatomy/chemistry such as H-Y Antigens or BTSc neurons is accepted uncritically as an explanation. However these never seem to move on any next stage so that gender variance is as well explained as say autism or schizophrenia, or be developed to be used as a test, and indeed attempts at replication of the original results by other scientists often fail.
Biologistic explanations have two serious weaknesses. They cannot explain the dramatic increase in the percentage of us who are trans. Add up all the known trans people in the entire nineteenth century and you have fewer than the transsexuals who are the newspapers in any one year in the 21st century.
Secondly biologistic factors do not at all explain the cultural changes of how trans persons are perceived and what options are available to trans persons at any time. The biology was presumably similar for Lavinia Edwards in 1833, Carla van Crist in 1930, Norma Jackson in 1931, Christine Jorgensen in 1953, Bibíana Fernández in 1977 and Jin Xing in 1995, but the social constructions in which they lived have changed enormously.
In the mid 19th century, a person whom we would now regard as transsexual was regarded as an invert, a category that also included what we now regard as homosexual. In fact the first usage of the concept of a female trapped in a male body, anima muliebris virili corpore inclusa, was to explain male homosexuality.
In the mid 20th century persons like Jorgenson were generally described as transvestists, before the term ‘transsexual’ came into use.
Let us take a small double wave in the sea of social construction.
The HSTS/Autogynephilia distinction was developed by Kurt Freund at what was then the Clarke Institute of Psychology Gender Identity Clinic, and appears in that institute’s Gender Dysphoria: Development, Research, Management 1985, edited by Betty W. Steiner - although different terms are used. Freund’s protégé and eventual replacement, Ray Blanchard took the idea and renamed it with the terms that we now use. Blanchard published papers in the Archives of Sexual Behavior (edited by Richard Green until 2001, and then by Kenneth Zucker) and similar journals that were not read by most trans persons. However one who did and proclaimed herself to be an autogynephile, was Anne Lawrence who studied for a PhD at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality at San Francisco. Michael Bailey was one of her thesis advisors. Speculations continue as to which influenced the other more. In 2003 Bailey published The Man Who Would Be Queen, and the concept became a public controversy.
Willow Arune, Lisanne Anderson and others set up the Autogynephilia Yahoo group, and a small but significant number of trans women self-identified as autogynephiles. The group was apparently destroyed by Jennifer Usher manipulating the Yahoo complaints policy.
There were fewer trans women self-identifying as HSTS (homosexual transsexuals). The most prominent was Kiira Triea, which was odd in that she had previously identified as a lesbian intersex. She was the prime mover behind transkids.us. Others involved included Jennifer Ross, Hontas Farmer and Heike Bödeker none of whom still speaks up for HSTS.
Very shortly afterwards, in 2005, Charlotte Goiar met Diane Kearny online, and then they split and founded two competing groups both using the term Harry Benjamin Syndrome (HBS). The term had been proposed by Tom Reucher a decade before, but they turned its meaning upside down by applying it to emotions that had been previously expressed by Betty Cowell and Margaret O’Hartigan. The concern here is that most HBS advocates took up the term ‘autogynephile’ (Rose White, the author of the only book on HBS says rather ‘autogyne’ instead implying that she does not properly understand the concept). It was stated in the short-lived HBS-written Wikipedia page on HBS that non-HBS MTF persons who have gender surgery were either autogynephiles or possibly gay men (no self-identified HSTS woman has ever claimed to be or to have previously been a gay man). Kearny claimed that non-HBS transsexuals were autogynephiles and fetishists. The vast majority of trans women who do not fit these categories were defined out of existence, just as in the Freund-Blanchard-Bailey schema the same vast majority also disappears.
By syllogistic logic, HSTS = not autogynephile = HBS. However this never worked psychologically. A small number of HBS persons, could, if you force the HSTS/AGP dichotomy, be considered HSTS. Diane Kearny who transitioned relatively early and later married a man, is the best candidate. However most HBSers were first husbands and fathers, and transitioned only later. Thus if we force the dichotomy they would be AGP. Examples include Joanne Proctor, Tabatha Basco, Jennifer Usher, Cathryn Platine. Rose White’s accounts of her life exclude what she did between the ages of 14 and 57, and it seems reasonable to assume that she fits here also.
The link between autogynephile and HBS was kept alive by the mutual antipathyof Willow Arune and Jennifer Usher across various Usenet fora.
In 2009 the Transkids site was revived by Kay Brown, the author of Transsexual, Transgender, and Intersex History, writing as Cloudy. She also started a blog: On the Science of Changing Sex. "I slept through the controversy surrounding the publication of The Man Who Would Be Queen. ... Prof. Bailey graciously gave me access to an online version of the book and I read it from front to back in nearly one sitting. Although I disagreed with several minor points, I felt I could have written the book myself. I agreed with each and every major point. Who wouldn't, if they knew what I know."
Of course the problem with HSTS is that it means ‘homosexual transsexual’, which is a confusing term for women who are mainly heterosexual (some are non-sexual). It is also a very rude term in that it defines a trans women’s orientation by her birth gender. There have been attempts to make Blanchard’s system less rude by proposing alternate terms, usually that HSTS should be called by the neutral term ‘androphilic’. Alice Novic also proposed the terms Love-to-be-femme and Act-femme for AGP and HSTS respectively. However these terms have not caught on.
The insistence on the term HSTS has kept away those HBSers who might have adopted it and also many others (myself included, even though unlike Triea and Brown, I am a graduate of gay lib). The transkids.us site includes a page strongly insisting that HSTS and not androphilic is the right term. Kay Brown/Cloudy continues the insistence in her FAQ: “Transsexuals with this etiology are most often called, “homosexual transsexuals” (HSTS) or “early onset” in the scientific literature. (This does not imply that they act like, nor identify, as “homosexual”. It only means that they are sexually and affectionally attracted to the same natal sex.)” And goes on to refer to AGPs as non-homosexuals. This is the same Kay Brown who in her Transsexual, Transgender, and Intersex History was critical of Harry Benjamin for using the term ‘male transsexual’ for a trans woman.
Anyway the tents are rolled up, and the circus has almost left town.
- The Kearny web site and forum are derelict sites.
- The Goiar web site stands, but the forum has become inactive.
- The Rose White book caused such embarrassment that most HBS-ers declined to even mention it. There has not been a second HBS book from anybody else.
- TS-Si which was initially proudly HBS, later removed the term and denied being HBS, and has now closed.
- Suzan Cooke, who initially labelled Women Born Transsexual an HBS site, later realized that she did not really identify with the HBSers and removed the label.
- In 2009 various HBSers wrote pages for the English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Simple Wikipedias, but were unable/refused to include critical opinions, give a history of HBS or support their claims.
- Alice Novic has removed almost all content from her web site.
- Cathryn Platine has announced that all “trans themed blog entries“ have been removed from radicalbitch.wordpress.com.
- Joanne Proctor and Tiira Triea are no longer with us.
Charlotte Goiar, who is the youngest person mentioned here, is now 40. I don’t think that I have seen any enthusiasm for either HSTS/AGP or HBS among persons under 40. Their time is over
- Andrea James. “Denise Magner aka Kiira Triea: fabrications and hoaxes”. Transsexual Road Map, 12 November 2012. www.tsroadmap.com/info/transkids/denise-magner.html
- Kay Brown/Cloudy. “FAQ on the Science”. On the Science of Changing Sex. http://sillyolme.wordpress.com/faq-on-the-science/
- Zagria. “A Blanchard-Binary Timeline”. A Gender Variance Who’s Who, 20/10/2010. http://zagria.blogspot.com/2010/10/blanchard-binary-timeline-part-1-to.html http://zagria.blogspot.com/2010/10/blanchard-binary-timeline-part-2-2001.html.
- Zagria. “What is Autogynephilia?” A Gender Variance Who’s Who, 22/02/2009. http://zagria.blogspot.com/2009/03/what-is-autogynephilia.html
- Zagria. “A short history of (Harry) Benjamin Syndrome.”, A Gender Variance Who’s Who, 24 April 2012. http://zagria.blogspot.ca/2012/04/short-history-of-harry-benjamin.html.
- “Harry Benjamin Syndrome“. Wikibin. http://wikibin.org/articles/harry-benjamin-syndrome.html.