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16 November 2020

The erasure of Autogynephilia

I have previously written about Autogynephilia, and developed a chronology of its major events and persons up to 2010. 

The Autogynephilia syndrome and meme was a major brouhaha in the early 2000s, especially after Bailey’s The Man Who Would Be Queen was published in 2003. While many dismissed the concept as pseudo-science, it came to dominate discussions of typology of trans women to the extent that alternate discussions of such typologies were drowned out. While there is an intuitive difference between early transitioners and those who first became husbands and fathers before transitioning, the model as laid out by Freund, then Blanchard and then Bailey aligns each type with a sexual orientation (a mistake earlier made by Harry Benjamin), erases late transition androphiles and early transition gynephiles, insists on referring to heterosexual trans women as ‘homosexual’ and defines the gynephilic late transitioners as ‘fetishistic’ (again a mistake made by Harry Benjamin). The Clarke Institute (later CAMH) in Toronto is especially identified with the syndrome as Freund and Blanchard had top positions there. And, like it or not, the history of trans in North America in this century cannot be told without reference to the debate over Autogynephilia.

However there are writers, both trans and cis, who leave out what we would expect here, even though many of them quietly put Bailey’s book in their bibliography or further reading while saying nothing about it in the text.

This article discusses writings that nevertheless:

  1. distinguish two types of trans women, such that the reader would expect a discussion of how this is similar to or different from the concept of Autogynephilia – but this is not discussed;
  2. discuss the Clarke Instritute/CAMH, particularly the GIC, but say not a single word about Blanchard or Autogynephilia;
  3. retell the histories of US/Canadian trans persons and politics in the 21st century but say not a single word about Blanchard or Autogynephilia.

The writings in question are indented to the Right.

The basic events of the Autogynephilia debate are here (not indented) to give a context.


Betty W. Steiner (ed) Gender Dysphoria: Development, Research, Management. The first book from the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto. The full model HSTS-Autogynephilia is explained by Kurt Freund, although at this stage without the word ‘autogynephilia’.


Ray Blanchard. “The concept of autogynephilia and the typology of male gender dysphoria”. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 177, 616-623. 


Ray Blanchard & Betty W. Steiner (eds.). Clinical management of gender identity disorders in children and adults. A followup to the 1985 book.


Betty Steiner and her husband die from fumes from car running in their garage. 

Ray Blanchard on the gender dysphoria sub-working group for the DSM-IV, 1994.


Kurt Freund retires, and Ray Blanchard becomes Head of Clinical Sexology Services at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry. 

Viviane Namaste wrote a report “Access Denied” funded by Health Canada to do needs assessment for trans persons in Toronto. Of her sample of 33, 19 were enrolled at the Clarke GIC. The trans academic also visited the Clarke and spoke to some of the staff. There is no mention of Blanchard, Autogynephila or the 1985 book.


Kurt Freund, suffering from lung cancer, takes his own life.


Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is formed from a merger of the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, the Addiction Research Foundation and the Queen Street Mental Health Centre.


Ray Blanchard. “Autogynephilia and the Taxonomy of Gender Identity Disorders in Biological Males”. International Academy of Sex Research. Paris 2000. 

Viviane K. Namaste. Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People. Again, neither Blanchard nor autogynephilia mentioned in discussion of CAMH GIC.


The CAMH GIC awarded a Presidential Citation from Div 44 of the American Psychological Association. Ray Blanchard accepted the award on behalf of CAMH.


Michael BaileyThe Man Who Would Be Queen: the science of gender-bending and transsexualism. The popularization of Blanchard’s ideas.

Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA), the professional organization for service providers criticizes the Bailey book.

Ray Blanchard resigns from HBIGDA, calling its criticism ‘appalling’.

Andrea James and Lynn Conway set up web pages to alert trans women about Bailey’s book.

Anjelica Kieltyka complains about how she was misrepresented in Bailey’s book.

Willow Arune and others start Autogynephilia Yahoo group.

Deirdre McCloskey. "Queer Science: A data-bending psychologist confirms what he already knew about gays and transsexuals". Reasononline. November.


Joan Roughgarden writes open letter to the National Academy. "I wonder if many psychologists fully grasp the image some of their colleagues are projecting---psychology as a discipline without standards, nourishing a clique of dumbly insensitive bigots. These psychologists don’t seek to help people, but to dominate them by controlling the definition of normalcy. Their bogus categories and made-up diseases are intended to subordinate, not to describe."

Lambda Literary Foundation nominated Bailey’s book as a finalist in the transgender category.

Christine Burns initiates an online petition which gathers thousands of signatures in just a few days, and the nomination is withdrawn

Jim Marks, Executive Director of Lambda Literary Foundation resigns.

J Michael Bailey steps down as Chair of Psychology at Northwestern.

Kiira Triea sets up with Jennifer Ross for Homosexual-Transsexual women (Blanchard's term for heterosexual trans women). Bailey immediately links to the site.

Ray Blanchard. “Origins of the Concept of Autogynephilia”. Feb. Archive.

Ray Blanchard quoted: “A man without a penis has certain disadvantages in this world, and this is in reality what you're creating”. Jane Armstrong. “The Body within, the body without”. The Globe and Mail, 12 June 2004, p. F1. 


Ray Blanchard. “Early History of the Concept of Autogynephilia. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34.

Alice/Richard Novic. “The Two Types of Transwomen”. "In my eye, we MTFs come in two varieties: started-out-straight and started-out-gay.”


Melanie Anne Philips apologized to customers of her voice instruction in that she now realizes that for many it cannot work: “out of all those who have sex reassignment surgery, only a very few have female minds. All the rest, no matter how feminine they have become, have male minds – they don't just think like men, then think as men”.

Philips has two children, and is gynephilic. She definitely avoids any mention of Autogynephilia.


Susan Stryker. Transgender History. The trans academic makes no mention at all of the Blanchard binary and the upsets that it has caused among transsexuals. However Bailey’s book on the topic is quietly found in the book’s further reading section.


Anne Vitale. Gendered Self: Further Commentary on the Transsexual Phenomenon. Trans therapist Anne Vital proposes a typology of three types with Gender Deprivation Anxiety Disorder (GEDAD) of whom the third approximates Blanchard’s Autogynephiles. She treats this deprivation, not a person’s gender identity. Many readers regard her typology as a humane improvement on Blanchard’s. The citation notes to her book include both Blanchard and Zucker, and the reading list on her website includes the Clarke Institute’s 1990 book, Clinical Management of Gender Identity Disorder in Children and Adults. However there is no mention of Blanchard in the text, and thus neither acceptance nor rejection of the inevitable notion that her 3 categories are a rewrite of Blanchard’s.


Darryl Hill. Trans Toronto: An Oral History. Hill does have a short summary of autogynephilia, but refers to Blanchard only once in passing and then by his surname only; only his late 2005 paper is listed and Bailey is not mentioned at all.


Dana/Thomas E. BevanThe Psychobiology of Transsexualism and Transgenderism: A New View Based on Scientific Evidence. Bevan, late transition, two wives, two daughters, writes: “it is clear that the concept of Autogynephilia is not well defined and cannot be easily operationalized. For this reason alone, it does not constitute a scientific theory”. However she writes as if Autogynephilia is being considered as a, or even the, cause of transsexuality rather than as a second type of transsexuality with a different etiology. She does not mention Michael Bailey’s 2003 book, The Man Who Would Be Queen. She does mention – actually she cites – Bailey with reference to twins, sexual orientation, and sibling order. But she totally ignores his book on Autogynephilia.

Will Rowe “Auditioning for Care” in Dan Irving & Rupert Raj (eds). Trans Activism in Canada: A Reader. This is the major discussion in the book of Toronto’s CAMH, the ground zero of autogynephilia. He writes of the "incredibly transphobic history of CAMH's GIC". He interviewed four trans men about their current experiences with the CAMH GIC. For an earlier period, the 1990s, he relies on Namaste's writings only. Namaste, as per her usual approach, never told us whether she was actually a patient at CAMH, although, as she lived in Ottawa and then Toronto while she transitioned, she quite likely was. No other trans women or other earlier patients are cited or discussed. It is particularly odd in Rowe's account that there is no mention of autogynephilia, and no mention of Blanchard.


Barry Reay. Trans America: A Counter-History. Reay cites the title of Steiner’s 1985 book as an early usage of the term “Gender Dysphoria”, but says nothing at all about its contents. There is no mention at all of Autogynephilia, nor its proponents, nor of those who rallied against it. While this recent book continues until almost now, it also erases HBS and Cross-Dreaming.

Note also that the EN.Wikipedia article on CAMH says nothing at all about Steiner, Freund, Blanchard or Autogynephilia.


joanna Santos said...

The problem with AGP is that many people (some transwomen included) conflated the arousal they experienced with proof that their motivation was rooted in fetishism instead of possibly being part and parcel of their dysphoria (after all, all people are sexual beings). Blanchard, a baby boomer gay man obsessed with only finding sexual motivations for his patients' transitions chose to in the process ignore transmen as they did not seem to fit into his proposed pathologies.

The latest studies show that there is indeed overlap in arousal patterns in his two proposed types which only serves to greater destroy the monolithic 2 type of transsexual theory and put the last nail in the coffin of a very simplistic and limited model which failed to conclusively prove motivation because one cannot do that as if one were studying a more exact science. What makes matters worse for Blanchard is that his proposed AGP type is transitioning much earlier these days.

Today only the right wing fringe and TERFS still hold to these beliefs because it suits their purpose to denigrate trans people where even Blanchard's HSTS patients end up being sex starved perverts seeking the sexual attention of straight men.

Zagria said...

But it does not at all follow from that that historians such as Reay should therefore remove the Autogynephilia story from trans history. They should summarize it and then summarise the refutations.

Of course as Ekins and King did in The Transgender Phenomenon giving an amazingly uncritical account of the Blanchardian ideas, and then dismissing the opposition in merely a few words: "a concerted campaign has been fought in an attempt to discredit this book alongside the work of Blanchard and Lawrence (see Conway, 2004; James, 2004)" is much worse than erasing the topic completely.

joanna Santos said...

agreed Zagria :)