“The straight ones,” someone said to me a while ago, “are making things difficult for the ones who actually have dysphoria.”
She was referring, of course, to the two types of male-to-female transsexuals proposed by sexologist Ray Blanchard in the ’80s. He had observed among his patients a sharp distinction between what he called “homosexual transsexuals,” who were typically feminine, came out early in life, and were attracted to men; and “autogynephiles,” who were typically masculine, came out late in life, and were primarily attracted to women. The former are more likely to be lonely and poor and marginalized. The latter are more likely to have a history of career success and a loving family. The former, Blanchard suggested, were just trying to deal with the hand they were dealt and to attract the men they wanted to date. The latter had a sort of paraphilia–a sexual interest in cross-dressing and in fantasizing about themselves with female anatomy.
His topology was widely accepted and used to determine treatment for trans individuals for decades, and is still extensively utilized in medical literature despite modern activists’ insistence that it has been discredited.
It’s also very observably true. My ex-husband is a textbook autogynephile. He was masculine. He worked in IT and had an interest in geeky stuff, which for whatever reason, is part of the archetype. He came out late in life. He had a sexual interest in cross-dressing and in imagining himself female. This interest was strong enough to outcompete his sexual interest in his real-life partner.
A sweep through the forums that “trans women” create for themselves provides an endless fount of stories of males aroused by themselves in women’s clothes and by the thought of themselves with breasts and vaginas. Here, Anne Lawrence, a self-professed autogynephile and psychologist, compiles 249 such first-person accounts.
But I believe it’s important to separate fact from fiction, even if it suports a narrative we don’t expect.
Somehow, people have come to believe that homosexual transsexuals have dysphoria–basically a hatred of their sex organs–while autogynephiles do not. Since hearing that comment way back when, I’ve heard a similar sentiment many more times. But it does not reflect my experience. And for what it’s worth, I haven’t noticed Blanchard et al making this distinction, either.
In fact, one of Blanchard’s motivations for articulating this distinction was to clinically recognize autogynephiles as poor candidates for sex reassignment surgery. As masculine-looking, late-transitioning men they were unlikely to be satisfied with its physical results and as straight-leaning men their dating prospects are impacted by it. This is exactly the “gatekeeping” the modern transgender lobby so often disparages. And if it was necessary to dissuade autogynephiles from surgery that’s because they were seeking surgery.
Just recently someone said to me, “All the autogynephiles are faking it.”
Just recently someone else said to me, “The straight ones never get surgery. They love their dicks.”
I get the motivation for comments like these. It’s all too convenient when a straight man is just “trans” enough to walk into a dressing room among the sex that gives him a boner but not quite “trans” enough to get the allegedly offending body part removed.
But I think it’s important not to invent motivations for others’ behavior.
It’s my experience that “the straight ones” hate their bodies and positively romanticize surgery. My ex. All my ex’s trans friends. All the people on the aforementioned forums, many quite young. Many who began to identify as trans only months prior.
Don’t get me wrong. I think he acquired this dysphoria. But he had it nonetheless.
In fact, the acquisition of dysphoria where it did not previously exist–among the “straight ones,” the female-to-males, the young ones, the old ones, and all the rest–is one of the things that makes this trend so alarming.
This isn’t simply a group of adults experimenting with clothing and hairstyles. This is an ever-expanding swath of the population, extending to the pre-pubescent, developing a rapid and consuming interest in extreme and irreversible body mods with no prior ideation of the kind. People daydreaming about, if not seeking, once-rare experimental surgeries that are rife with complications and that have been demonstrated time and time again to ravage individuals’ romantic options, orgasms, fertility, mental health, and physical health.
I’m currently taking a class with a young woman who months ago did not identify as trans, then for a time bragged that she was “genderqueer,” and today writes wistful poetry about her breasts being scooped from her body with a scalpel like “bruises on an apple.”
So it’s important we get the facts right about who has dysphoria and how and when they got it.
I told the woman who said “the straight ones love their dicks” that that wasn’t quite right. She got very adamant. A greater number of the homosexual transsexuals get surgery, she explained. And since the percentage of homosexuals is smaller than the percentage of straight people, that represents an even greater discrepancy than it appears to. But I’ve yet to meet a trans person who didn’t eventually dream of surgery. So what’s going on?
I think several factors are at play in why both parties might hate their bodies, but homosexual males are more likely to follow through with surgery:
- It’s a question of definition. In the gay community, surgery almost defines who is and isn’t “trans.” There’s simply no such thing, to speak of, as a non-op trans homosexual male. That person just calls himself a gay man (and maybe a drag queen). Gay men become “trans” by way of surgery. Gender non-conformity in the gay community, unlike in the straight community, is too unremarkable to be taken as a sign of being “trans.”
- Related to the above, the umbrella for who is and isn’t trans is wider in the straight community than in the gay community. I’d argue that “trans” in the homosexual community is limited to people who consider the matter with a certain intensity, while “trans” in the straight community encompasses so-called non-binaries, genderqueers, agenders, neutrois, and whatever other word an Everyday Feminism author decides to coin today. Just as it’s hard to imagine calling out gender-nonconformity in the gay community, it’s now hard to imagine not calling it out in the straight community. Everyone who’s ever worn nail polish or gotten an interesting haircut has been implicated. So it’s not surprising if the number of trans people in the straight community is inflated with those who were never serious enough to contemplate surgery.
- It’s been suggested that the homosexual males who opt for surgery are more likely to be black. It’s been suggested that they’re more likely to be poor. With poverty comes lower education levels and a greater likelihood of past abuse. With homosexuality comes a greater likelihood of childhood bullying. All this adds up to a type of individual who might be more willing to do violence to himself than a college-educated middle class white guy working in IT like my husband. One wonders if “trans” represents desperation in the homosexual community but privileged boredom in the straight community.
- Surgery is expensive. The trans community often points out that some male-to-females pay for their surgeries with prostitution. But the customers of prostitution are men. Homosexual men are probably more likely to cross the line into prostitution, as anonymous gay sex is often already in their wheelhouse, sans only the exchange of cash. On the other hand, anonymous gay sex is a little harder for someone like my ex to swallow. It would be interesting to see how surgery rates would change if you threw a million dollars toward the straight guys. Caitlyn Jenner provides an instructive example.
As someone who has seen all this up-close and personal, I just want to say that “the straight ones” have dysphoria.
I get the feeling that those who promote this misconception feel that dysphoria should make a difference in how we view or treat trans people. But I disagree. I wish no discrimination in housing or employment, for example, on trans people, with or without dysphoria. Nor, on the other side, does dysphoria make men actually women or suddenly exempt them from statistics that show they’re more likely to commit violent or sexual crimes than women are.
Dysphoria is just dysphoria. It’s one of the things males must sort out on their own. It does not compel females to relinquish our safe spaces, our sports teams, our employment posts or our resources to them.