When I was first coming out as trans, I had a lot of internalized transmisogyny. I knew how negative society’s images of trans women were and I was convinced that I was somehow different. I was terrified of being seen as a man in a dress, so I just never wore dresses. In that respect it was rather convenient that I’m butch. I was not going to be – as another trans woman put it to me – “a masturbating freak in panties.” I internalized a list of norms and behaviors that I had to avoid in order to be taken seriously and seen as a real woman. This list of “don’t"s is more or less the autogynophilia diagnostic citeria.
Years later, after I had begun writing on transmisogyny I still had a lot of these messages internalized. I had a wake up moment when I was traveling and visiting a girlfriend. Her roommate came home after a difficult day and mentioned that she had gone clothes shopping to cheer herself up, and quickly showed off her new underwear and dresses, in particular one slinky sequined number. There was much oohing and aahing and her mood significantly improved.
About an hour later she came back out of her room and said that she was having a hard time doing her work for the evening because she was still depressed. My girlfriend sat her down and gave her some sage advice. "Just put you nice new dress on, as well as your fancy new underwear. It will make you feel sexy and you’ll feel better.” "Then what, just work while wearing it?“ “Yeah.”
Warnings had been popping into head the whole time but now alarm bells were going off. I so desperately wanted to warn them “Don’t do that! You’re directly admitting a connection between feminine clothing and sexual arousal and using that almost as if you’re self medicating! No one will take you seriously as a real woman, you’ll just be seen as some fetishist!” But I didn’t say that of course. Not only because it would have been very rude, but because they were cis women. No one is going to take away their womanhood for feeling sexy about lingerie and slinky dresses. This seems to be something cis women, particularly femmes, do all the time.
The bottom line is that the behavior classified as autogynophilia is normal female behavior. Charles Moser did a small study where he tried applying the criteria for it to cis women and found that 93% of cis women qualify as autogynophiles. So why are trans women subjected to this standard and often stigmatized, punished, or denied access to healthcare if they fit this criteria? And why is there no similar criteria for trans men?
It seems to me this is primarily about exerting the control doctors have over trans people to maintain male control over the sexuality of women. It encourages us to be sexually available to men and discourages us from having a sense of sexuality focused in ourselves or in other women. It sets up a pass/fail system so we are beholden to gatekeepers and must prove that we are the good kind of trans woman and not the bad kind. And it pits us against each other as enforcers of this system and keeps us divide so we cannot challenge the psychologists who create the rules of who can and cannot access transition. It’s no accident that one of the main proponents of using autogynophelia as a diagnosis was caught having sex with his patients, not informing them he was using their experiences in his research, and manipulating their testimony by granting/denying medical care based on whether or not they said they fit his model.
People who aren’t trans women: if you can read this all, you’ll have a much better understanding of some terrible shit we all learn about trans women
Trans women: this is really affirming
I do not fully understand the subject matter that is autogynophilia even after reading on it. I wish the OP had given an explanation of it as it would really help since it affects them so much.
The short version is that someone sat down and thought, “Hmmm, why is that some people are trans women?” and he pondered and pondered until he came up an idea that all trans women are just really really gay men who decide to live as women in order to have an easier time finding men to date (?!) or in order to get straight privilege (!?) or something like that.
Then someone said, “wait, but what about the trans women who are lesbian? What about the trans women who are bi? What about the trans women who are asexual.” So he sat and he pondered and he pondered. Finally he came to a conclusion:
“Aha!” he said. ”The first kind of trans women, I will call ‘homosexual transexuals.’” (which was really confusing because he wasn’t talking about lesbian trans women, but was misgendering trans women as being men, so he’s actually talking about people who he saw as gay men and using language that most people would consider bigoted or at least ignorant these days). “And any trans woman who is not exclusively attracted to men must have something really weird going on. If she’s attracted to women (or is asexual) then she must have a misguided attraction to women that is so strong that she fetishizes women to the point of wanting to be one. This attraction to self as woman shall be called auto-gyno-phile and it will describe the bizarre self-fertilization of a kink gone wrong. Such autogynophiles will be desperate to prove that they aren’t autogynophiles, so any trans woman who isn’t exclusively attracted to men but claims not to be an autogynophile must clearly be lying or in denial.”
In all seriousness, though. The idea was first invented by a guy named Blanchard but popularized by J Michael Bailey. And Bailey said such disgusting things such as that “homosexual transexuals” are “particularly well suited to prostitution,” and that “autogynophile transexuals” are freaks that need psychological help, not access to medical transition (okay in fairness, he tells a story about a student of his who said that, then he agrees with the student, but avoids ever claiming those words himself.)
And considering how ridiculous all this is, it might seem easy to dismiss. But in the recent DSM revision when there was a lot of pressure to remove or revise gender identity disorder, they made Blanchard the chair of the committee in charge of the process. And while they did revise gender identity disorder to address the stress and angst of gender dysphoria without making it a disorder to be trans, he managed to sneak “autogynophilia” into the new version of the DSM as a actual official diagnosis when it hadn’t been there before.
Autogynophilia pathologizes normal female behavior
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