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25 April 2013

Rejoinder to Kay Brown 2: the gynephilics

See also A Rejoinder to Kay Brown's What is a Transsexual?

Kay’s description of typical gynephilic transsexuals is:

“The prototypical autogynephilic transsexual was accepted as a boy as a child.  She was often a “loner”, finding her hobbies and reading to be more rewarding, but still willing and ready to participate in rough & tumble play.  She often envied girls and observed them more often than most masculine boys.  As she entered puberty, she began erotic cross-dressing in private, often masturbating while dressed, usually with lingerie.  She found this shameful and hid her cross-dressing as best she could.  She entertained thoughts of living as a woman, often in very idealized situations.  As a young adult, she dated women, often finding it necessary to imagine that she was female to “perform”.  She typically hid this fact from her dates.  She fell in love and found that the previously growing desire to live as a woman abated for a while.  She married and had children.  Her need to cross-dress and use autogynephilic ideation grew, as the first blush of their romance matured into committed love.  She agonized about it obsessively, trying alternatively to push it out of her thoughts and trying to appease it by cross-dressing.  At one point, perhaps in her early 30s, or in her late 50s, a set-back or other significant personal change brought all of these feelings to the fore… and she made the fateful decision that she could no longer ignore her sexuality.  After having tried to ignore the cognitive dissonance between her successful social identity as a man, husband, and father, and her obligatory autogynephilic image of being female, concluded that the female image is her “true” image.  She then made steps to begin counseling with a gender therapist, obtained prescription for feminizing hormones, and then began the painful steps to living full time as a “transsexual”, since she didn’t pass very well and had too many social connections who know of her previous status as a man to be truly stealth.  She had SRS within a short time of nominally living as a woman, as she was impatient, feeling like she had waited long enough in her previous life as a man.  Her wife may or may not have demanded a divorce.”

Just as the previous type had to be ‘homosexual transsexual’ rather than just ‘androphilic’, this type must be ‘autogynephilic’ rather than just ‘gynephilic’.  I find it very difficult to accept that an entire category of people should be defined by the details of how they masturbate.  In addition to the common sense rejection of the notion, as a historian I also know that I rarely have information of how people masturbate.

What I do have though is mention that people marry and have children.  Thus I can identify gynephilic persons who later progress to being women.   There are many of these, more than gay transsexuals.  As more people are heterosexual and not gay, it is not a surprise that more trans women previously had a wife than previously had a husband.  Some examples of transsexuals known to be gynephilic before transition:  Jan Morris, Rennee Richards, Katherine Cummings, Gloria Hemingway, Jane Fae, Nancy Hunt, Rachel Webb, Susan Huxford, Judy Cousins; a surprisingly large number of the better known HBS women: Rose White, Cathryn Platine, Jennifer Usher, Tabatha Basco; and the soi-disant or professional autogynephiles: Anne Lawrence, Willow Arune, Maxine Petersen.

Are these women autogynephilic as opposed to gynephilic, now or pre-surgery? I certainly would not say that, and I really don’t think that Blanchard or Brown would come out and say it either, although their theoretical position implies that they should be willing to say that.  But if they are not willing to say that, what does it mean to say that late transitioners are autogynephilic?

Aspersions have been cast against a few of the women, the term ‘autogynephile’ has become an insult term, especially from the HBS women whom others suspect of trying to divert attention from themselves, but where something has been said about a person it is rarely other than hearsay, and as such not admissible as evidence.

It is common sense that cis men and cis women vary in the degree that they are aroused by being the man or the women that they are.  This is particularly intense in teenagers after puberty.  If we are to have concepts such as autogynephilia and autoandrophilia then the concepts should be applied to cis persons as well.  There has been a small amount of investigation of cis autogynephilia in recent years, but the Blanchardians are still in the situation of applying the term to trans women without any idea of how the phenomenon manifests in cis women.  Brown poo-poos a study done by Charles Moser who used a semi-Blanchardian approach to the question.

Brown and Blanchard reject the idea that there is such a thing as cis autogynephilia, because if there were, trans autogynephilia would also be normal.

Brown and Blanchard take the abnormality of trans autogynephilia even further.  They regard it as a subtype of Erotic Target Location Error (ETLE).  The other two types that they identify are autopedophilia and the desire to be an amputee.  It is of course heterosexist to assume that the correct erotic target for a person born male is an woman of similar age.  It is sexist to insist that there is any correct erotic target.  Nature is full of variations and gynephilic transsexuality is as natural as homosexuality.

Their heterosexism also comes out when Brown criticizes the “obvious lack of naturally feminine behavior” in gynephilic trans women – she writes as if the feminist critique of the social construction of artificial femininity had never happened.

In summary, the concept is not at all useful to anybody writing biographical and history essays.

See also:  A Blanchard-Binary Timeline
          What is Autogynephilia?


  1. Anonymous2/5/13 22:38

    So I feel compelled to kick in The Money Quote:

    Venuses Penuses: Sexology Sexosophy and Exigency Theory

    John Money

    Prometheus Books Buffalo, NY 1986

    p. 394: "Effeminate homosexuality, masculinate or "butch" lesbianism, and episodic transvestism are conditions which should be considered in the differential diagnosis of transexualism. These variable manifestations of gender identity transposition may be regarded as constituting either a statistical typology, or as marking idealized points on a continuous distribution. One of the problems of differential diagnosis is that some dianosticians postulate a typology, whereas the clinical phenomena are not polymodal, but statistically continuous in distribution. Confusion on this issue leads to unnecessary argument and dissent with regard to differential diagnosis."

    Yeah, "statistically continuous", then and still.

    "Confusion on this issue leads to unnecessary argument and dissent with regard to differential diagnosis."

    How can I disagree? It's certainly in evidence in these kinds of ferocious either/or assessments and to-the-death arguments coming from different quarters regarding the correct "classification" of individuals displaying extremely gender-variant behaviors.

  2. Kay Brown is very smart, and fights for transkids in an admirable way.
    her thesis that there are 2 types of transexuals, transkids and late transitioners, is clearly true.
    She does paint a very bleak picture of Type 2 MTFs as hopeless sexual deviants with nothing ahead but despair, and seems to relish how much they often fail to live as women. its a bit catty imo.

    1. So you agree with Kay Brown. However I notice that you do not address even one of the points that I made.

  3. Budding 30-something AMAB androphilic genderqueerhere. I happened upon Kay Brown's writings and Rod Fleming's writings and videos and they really messed with my head while I was trying to figure a lot of things out. There are parts which resonated and parts which didn't and it made me feel inadequate even before deciding on whether any new identity applied to me. Thankfully, through Julia Serano's writings, ContraPoint's video essay and others, I realised how absurd the theory being put forward was. The World is much bigger, richer, beautiful and complex than what any binary classification of people would suggest.

    And of course, now I see through the reasons why people are promoting this theory. Basically it all just comes down to social management of shame. On the website, Kay Brown put pictures up of herself to highlight how passable and feminine she was as a wife and mother, especially when compared to those older "autogynophiles" in denial. I didn't realize those pictures were decades old and that her own ability to fit into her preferred category within the Blanchard typology is questionable:

    So all of that pseudoscientific language and rhetorical effort boils down to yet another trans woman (or admirer of trans women) trying to gain social status by distancing themselves from the "bad trans" people by highlighting that they are "real fish".

    How sad is that? We as queer people need to understand that we are OK the way that we are. We don't have to pass as conventional cishets to be valid or respectable or beautiful or deserving of love. I hope our whole community gets wise to this fact sooner rather than later so that we can all just breathe easier and live.

    Anyway, thank you for this essay; I think these misconceptions need to be refuted as long as possible for them to go away indefinitely. And I wish all trans people peace and wellbeing.

    1. I personally dislike being called "queer", and dislike such term being used as a gender or sexuality variant umbrella. Then again, maybe I'm just catty like they say Kay is.

    2. 'Queer is useful, indeed a good, word.


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