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When I Think About Me, I Touch Myself?… Uh, No

AutogynepheliaThe theme of this post reminds me of that old Divinyls song, “I Touch Myself”, except a bit yuckier. For those of you who for some reason don’t have the whole panoply of sexual paraphilia memorized, autogynephilia is the alleged condition of being sexually attracted to oneself as a woman with underlying assumption that one did not begin life that way. A recent commenter, NYK (not ‘Nick’, it’s Nobody You Know, you know), brought this up in one of her recent responses, so I thought now would be as good a time as any to go ahead and address the topic head on. Seriously, what else did you think I would do?

The term was coined by a sexologist named Ray Blanchard who in my opinion, decided to address the “the transsexual question” with the one tool he has in his belt, namely making it about sex. Blanchard and pals came up with a rough hewn theory that postulates that there are two kinds of transsexual: ‘homosexual transsexuals’ who want to transition because they are attracted to men, and autogynephilic transsexuals who want to transition because they get their oysters rubbed by the idea of being a woman. Dear lord, where to even begin with this!

Now, for the record, I have no doubt that true blue autogynephilic individuals exist out there. Let’s be honest, there is such a long list of fetishes (the sweeter, kinkier term for paraphilia) that anything you can think of is probably on there. Even as we speak, someone is opening their pre-moistened copy of ‘Wet Cardboard Quarterly’ while fumbling about for the Vaseline and chili powder and looking forward to a nice afternoon. Even if they do exist mathematically, I think they are few and far between.

Let’s knock his other one out of the park first as a warm up, or just for giggles. “Homosexual transsexual”… ugh. In simple terms, someone who is so super-duper gay that they pursue a course of action that leaves them completely unattractive to gay men, who as I understand it, like men. I know one of you is arching your eyebrow right now, thinking, “But aren’t the straight men the real catch to homosexuals?” So basically they are saying someone who wishes to attain attractiveness as a woman, with the accompanying parts and such, to the point where they are living as and mentally identify as female, with the purpose of meeting a guy. That’s a convoluted tangle of questionable motivation right there. Or we can just the common vernacular and refer to them as straight women. Gay guys like people with penises, and (key point) like to use their own as well in sexual activities. I could go on, but this is the most salient point.

Moving on to the whole autogynephilia notion. First point. Yes, people will go through great lengths to satisfy sexual urges. Generally speaking, however, they don’t go the route that will lead to a complete lack of sexual desire for a period of time mid progress and still continue forward. This simply doesn’t make much sense. “Well, I’m pretty much dead from the waist down, and the little feller is no longer standing proud, but I think I’ll go ahead with a year and a half of super painful beard removal, come out to everyone I know, risk my job, marriage, family, friendships and everything, because maybe, just maybe, the old urges will come back.” I’m going to channel a friend of my spouse and simply state, in her language, “You ain’t buying no porn if you ain’t even horney.” Same thing.

Second, there are far easier ways to support this kind of paraphilia than undergoing full gender transition. It’s pretty well understood that for many cross-dressers there is a sexual element attached. Sometimes it’s the clothes, sometimes it’s someone else in the clothes, sometimes it’s themselves in the clothes taking a little spin on Mr Toad’s Wild Ride while gazing lasciviously at themselves in the mirror. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this, but it’s a big long leap to think they would take it to the steps outlined in the last paragraph. It doesn’t pass the smell test. Release is easily obtained leaving the person free to go about their life, as opposed to setting on a course where release is bloody difficult to achieve, plus they are stuck with the equivalent of walking around every minute with suspiciously sticky Penthouse centerfolds all over them. Ew! Sorry for that, but it makes the point.

I find the whole concept to be yet another example of people desiring an easy answer to a very complex issue. We all want a smoking gun. They are transsexual because their parents really wanted a girl. They are transsexual because they are super gay. They are transsexual because the idea of it gets them so sexually excited that they do it, even though they don’t really get sexually excited as a feature of the process. Easy buttons so we don’t have to think about it too hard, the world makes perfect sense, the ‘Just World Hypothesis’ holds true, and they can make damn sure this doesn’t happen to their kids. The true ‘why’ is yet to be found, but I’m reasonably sure it’s not going to be a convenient ‘tranny gene’ or one’s particular flavor of erotica.

Our detractors like to point to the fact that a clear and overwhelming theory hasn’t been advanced, proven, and peer reviewed, and so fall back on lurid concepts like this one. Where we are right now is analogous to looking for the Higgs boson using a car battery, some speaker wire, magnets and a Playskool microscope. Until a comparable level of effort has been expended, which is likely to be no time soon (because honestly, who is going to allocate a lot of funding to this?), all we really have is that we exist and act accordingly. In any case, the Higgs boson was there all along well before it was proven, and so are we.

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About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

22 responses »

  1. All very well, but how do you explain people like me who do, in fact, identify with the definition in totality? Before I learned that there was a huge controversy about autogynephilia, I have to say that when I found the definition I thought “Wow! Finally I know what I am”. Now it’s getting kicked out of the DSM because it upset people who felt insulted by it, I no longer have a category/label to go by. Is that fair?

    Reply
    • I think in my post I agreed that you did exist, just not in the numbers that would match up to the transsexual population. Since you are here though and talking, I have to ask. Would you/ are you willing to go through gender transition, even so knowing that the process is likely to whale the tar out of any erotic feelings you might have? Is the need the satisfy a sexual desire enough to risk losing everything, even so knowing that the strength of the desire is going to wane as a natural part of the process? Sorry, I’m not trying to give you a hard time about it; I’m just not fully comprehending. No judgment here – just seeking to understand. Also, was autogynephilia taken out of the DSM? GID was, but I honestly don’t keep track to everything else. My understanding, however, was that most of the paraphilias are not individually listed anyway. Thanks for a very interesting comment!

      Reply
  2. Autogynephilia! Homosexual transexual! “The transexual question? I had to wait to stop laughing so that I could finish thanking you once again for making my day. I’m going to post the picture with those words somewhere so that whenever I need a good laugh, I can just look at it to remind me of this post. By the way, Michelle, have you seriously, or should I say, laughingly, considered taking this show on the road?

    Deanna “Still laughing ’til it hurts” Hallmark

    Reply
  3. Well firstly you know, I was very upset to hear that Chrissy Amphlet (who sang that song) passed away recently after a long battle with cancer. I heard the song played in a supermarket they other day and it made me cry. She will be missed.

    But you know these terms Blanchard coined, seems to me that they do describe a small minority, as in fetishistic transvestite and drag queen, but mostly they seem to show how little he researched things. I have to admit that in (much) earlier days masturbating while dressed in front of a mirror while the rest of the family were out. But the idea that maybe I could be myself instead of what everyone else wanted was pretty intoxicating.

    And frankly after a while on HRT even the urge to masturbate just died. I miss – closeness – but not other stuff. Too messy, too complicated, too fucking much what everyone seems to expect one to want. It fucks my head over rather than my body, so that’s a dead portion in my life.

    Mind you, seen heaps of others who went “off like a rocket” once they started trnsition. Good for them. 🙂

    Reply
    • Actually, from what I’ve read, the “early days” stuff is very common. It makes sense that release would come best as yourself and I think that confuses a lot of people who probably read the same thing. It is intoxicating and empowering to simply realize the possibility, even for a few moments, of having what most other people simply take for granted.

      Very much with you on the effects of HRT and I feel that it did me good to be honest. Remember that Seinfeld when George couldn’t have sex and actually used his entire brain? Kinda feels like that. 🙂

      As for the others, so true. Good for them! Thanks so much for commenting!

      Reply
      • Yesterday I called the local endocrinologists recommended in the Spectrum site, and they said they are only taking referrals with letters required from the primary physician. I don’t have a problem with that; I almost outed to the woman I see now a few weeks ago anyway so I could ask her about it. (I made a very nice comment about her mascara and thought she might have picked up on it, and then she had to hustle out of the visit, so I put it on hold.) I have tried to do my research on the effects, side effects, and risks, but where I can’t know everything is the possible interactions with the other stuff I have to take. But from what I’ve read from other of you girls on ‘mones is that it is more plus than minus in many ways. I like the concept of “leveling out.” I’ll tell you something, maybe this sounds crazy, but I feel I have changed a lot in that respect and some physical ones too in the past year and a half. I’ve been taking fish oil supplements for most of the past decade, but switched to higher potency krill oil last February. I also started eating what’s called a “slo-carb” diet around then. Now, a key element of this regimen is legumes at every meal. I just learned that legumes are very high in natural estrogen content, as are the oil supplements. Well, in the past year or so, I’ve changed somewhat, both emotionally and I believe physically as well. My skin is softer, my body hair is lighter and finer, I’m a little fattier in places a woman should be, particularly my breasts. When I cam in chat rooms or am talking with someone at a bar, I’ll get asked what I’m taking for that, and I gladly say it’s all natural, just me. I won’t even talk about the reduced libido… when the mood strikes, it strikes, case closed. So maybe I got a jump on the hormone wagon until I can get a consult. It sure feels different than before…

        Reply
  4. Alright, someone caught me kissing myself and all that in the mirrors. Or the lipstick prints were dead giveaways. Being alone will do that to you if you look hot enough and the wine is decent. Point is, I’ve been told by cis girls that narcissism goes with the territory and to not feel odd about it. Loving one’s self is not a crime, or at least shouldn’t be (I haven’t the time to check the ordinances of our sister states down south). (Oh criminy, another derogatory comment.) Since my early teen dressing experiences, I have come to comfortably accept the duality of my person and that it is possible to exist in two different places (mentally, anyway) at the same moment.

    When I first outed to my second ex-wife in the dumb expectation she would embrace me as a sister, it was a mistake I would regret for some time to come. I sought “help” regarding my dilemma from the local transgendered social support group. After an afternoon interview, I was advised that I do not want to BE a woman, I simply want to POSE as a woman. Dress, do makeup, be girly. But not go so far as to take steps of reassignment. This made sense to me at the time, and appeased my feelings about the angst through which I was going. In time, though, after ex #2 abandoned me, the identity I had always been required to push under the covers finally burst forth. It was subverted again during a three year stint with a girl who eventually told me I was suffering from a mental disturbance. And here I am again.

    Having been happily describing myself as transgendered for quite some time, after reading this blog, I now wonder what is actually going on with me. Should I doubt the sincerety of my emotions, my mental state, my gender identity, my hormone levels, all of what I comfortably am, because I am not serious enough to have my willy “repurposed?” Is that really what being a woman is all about? Vaginal envy?

    Reply
    • No, it’s definitely not about vaginal envy. In my understanding, and
      feel free to disagree, your gender expression should match your gender
      identity to the level of greatest comfort as a means to be able to
      achieve happiness. If you are more comfortable keeping some of the
      original equipment, then taking it further makes no sense to me.
      Everyone is different in this and there aren’t any hard and fast right
      and wrong answers, except basic decent behavior, but that is another
      topic all together. So, don’t doubt the sincerity of your feelings so
      long as you are being honest with yourself. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
      • Your body is your own to enjoy or struggle with as you choose. Hopefully the days are fading when there is a mandatory level of misery that someone must sink to before being able to access the abundance their life can accomodate.

        “Loving one’s self is not a crime, or at least shouldn’t be. . . .” Thank goodness! 🙂 I personally think that the question of the claiming of one’s own sexiness – sometimes after decades of being forbidden, punished, or shamed for doing so – is one that divides trans people in harmful ways. (Perhaps less so for FTMs because of hormone effects, and also how overt male sexuality is framed by culture. But the divisions around plumbing issues are deep.) Between trans folk, especially MTFs, it often is expressed as a hierarchy, a purity of purpose, or “realness” that parallels the polarity of “madonna vs whore” that other women have suffered from. Trans people

        Your body is your own to enjoy or struggle with as you choose. Hopefully the days are fading when there is a mandatory level of misery that someone must sink to before being able to access the abundance their life can accomodate.

        “Loving one’s self is not a crime, or at least shouldn’t be. . . .” Thank goodness! 🙂 I personally think that the question of the claiming of one’s own sexiness – sometimes after decades of being forbidden to do so – is one that divides trans people in harmful ways. (Perhaps less so for FTMs because of hormone effects, and also how overt male sexuality is framed by culture.)
        Between trans folk, it often is expressed as a hierarchy, a purity of purpose, or “realness” that parallels the polarity of “madonna vs whore” that other women have suffered from. Trans people, especially MTFs, internalize that and may feel shame about actually liking their bodies or parts. It can get to the level if horizontal hostility (not meaning this thread). That ends up colluding with the pathologization of some trans women and MTF-spectrum people, labeled as transvestic fetishists..and then we all are scrutinized and are suspect.

        I really appreciate the spaces where these gentle and honest sharings can happen. I would hope that the truth of my body wouldn’t silence you (general you) from speaking/singing/shouting the truth of your body. When I get anxious about “how trans” other people are or aren’t, I really try to look at where I might be feeling pressured, unsafe, or insecure. Trans people may internalize that and may feel shame about actually liking their bodies or parts. It can get to the level if horizontal hostility (not meaning this thread). That ends up colluding with the pathologization of some trans women and MTF-spectrum people, labeled as transvestic fetishists…and then we all are scrutinized and are suspect.

        I really appreciate the spaces where these gentle and honest sharings can happen. I hope to live so that living the truth of my body wouldn’t silence you (general you) from speaking/singing/shouting the truth of your body. When I get anxious about “how trans” other people are or aren’t, I really try to look at where I might be feeling pressured, unsafe, or insecure, to see if I’m projecting or displacing that energy instead of being kinder to myself.

        Reply
        • Deanna and T.T and Michelle, AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME!!!!!! Michelle knows this riff from me… I ran face first full speed into this set of issues a long and bizarre 15 years ago when I encountered the “Trannier Than Thou” portions of our community. The “Hey Buster, you haven’t suffered enough and proven enough pain so you aren’t Trans enough to transition. You’re just some poser Guy in a Dress!” I had destroyed my life and moved to Seattle to transition and got push back and saw bitterness, anguish and deep anxiety in most of my trans sisters.

          It scared me off.

          I finally left thinking that I had obviously been proven to be wrong about my trans nature. Well, a decade and a half later it remained more painfully obvious that I was one of the people who needed to transition and I just didn’t have enough fight left in me to deny it! I could have saved myself a lot of grey and frustrating years if I had been more ready and wiser and stronger way back then. But oh well. Now there are so very many wise, compassionate and intelligent people who have gone before in grace and dignity. The price of admission is still just as high, but the path is clearer and the goals are not as brutal.

          This thread is wonderful and thank you all for sharing your thoughts.

  5. I was thinking the same thing T.T.! You FTMs just don’t get the lovely and inflammatory opportunity to be seen as kinky, strange and twisted! That right there just shows how patriarchal our culture really is. Even the Rad Fems apply the cultural filters that sneak in with the clinical studies. The attempts to figure things out based on the kinks they can imagine. And their imaginations are shaped by male on female exploitative sexuality, so obviously that would apply to anyone who ever had a TallyWhacker of any sort because they are the ones who built the constructs in the first place!

    All I know, as a transitioning MTF, is that I am happier, saner, more balanced and sleep better than ever before in my entire life. I have no desire what so ever to figure out where this came from. I have no desire to find a pill to make it go away. I have no interest in people who try to tear us down for their own gain. I just want to go down my path and help others go down their path and engage in Life.

    Reply
    • OK, label me blonde (what a derogatory and inflammatory remark, huh?), but I am soooo confused now. I was under the distinct impression from everything presented here that Michelle is a MTF, not an FTM, and certainly two years of transition would hopefully and happily result in the lovely woman in the photographs herein and on FB. What gives? Am I really that clueless?

      Reply
      • Um… what? Definitely, definitely, definitely MTF here. 🙂

        Reply
        • Maybe I muddied the waters? FTM here, grateful to be allowed to play in.

          (Speaking of muddying the thread, apologies for the copy glitch above, which I cannot edit. I love my phone except when this happens.)

        • If you want a real blond moment, here was my thought when I read this,
          “Wait… I don’t have another blog called ‘Transgender Talk’…” Have
          a great weekend!

        • Honestly, very glad to have you here TT! This is a safe space for all,
          and I really love getting the FTM perspective on things. We may be
          ships passing in the night, but I think we shuttle the same cargo. 🙂

      • Sorry Deanna, I was replying to T.T. and his comments. I didn’t push the right button on my tablet to make it snag onto his original comment. I’m also guessing that Michelle is MTF, but I could steal a page from Stephen Colbert and say that I don’t see gender. (insert appropriate winky smile wry grin face icon here)

        Reply
        • This is like some whacky roller coaster ride. Without a safety bar! I think what screwed me up even more is that, for some reason, I thought “T.T.” was an alias for Michelle writing as “Transgender Talk,” sort of like Dear Abby being an alias for the real person writing the column. Oh my god, I guess I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue, as Lloyd Bridges would say. Please forgive me, some days it just doesn’t pay to try to think… giggle… Everyone have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend!!!

    • Interesting take! I don’t doubt for a second that FTMs have a number
      of significant challenges to overcome that we MTFs barely have any
      inkling of, but at the same time it would be a very patriarchal
      attitude to understand why someone would want to identify as male (not
      saying it’s a choice, but those who think this way probably do).

      I hear you sister, at the end of the day, being the real and honest
      you is all that really matters, isn’t it? Thanks so much for commenting!

      Reply
  6. Re autogynephilia: As an FTM, it’s hard to know whether I should feel slighted that we don’t have a bogus parallel blanchardism of our very own…or relieved that he doesn’t have the slightest idea about how FTMs would know that we’re turned on by the dapper dandy winking at us from the mirror.

    Reply

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