Water to Make the ‘Autogynephilia’ Witches Melt: Julia Serano and The Case Against Autogynephilia

From TS Roadmap:

Biologist Julia Serano has published a peer-reviewed analysis of ”autogynephilia,” a sex-fueled mental illness created in 1989 by psychologist Ray Blanchard. This theory emerged from a convenience sample that presented at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, a group which is unlikely to be a representative sample of the nonclinical trans population. Most trans people avoid the “gender clinic” system of the 1970s, seeking out supportive individual practitioners or using long-established extralegal networks. Since most “gender clinics” are long closed, many people who seek these out are either indigent, low-functioning, enjoy the humiliation of CAMH’s regressive forced feminization, and/or find validation in the clinic’s diagnoses that they do not find elsewhere (CAMH treats some people considered “pseudotranssexuals” under other theoretical constructs).

Her abstract notes:

Autogynephilia is a paraphilic model that states that all male-to-female (MtF) transsexuals who are not exclusively attracted toward men are instead sexually oriented toward the thought or image of themselves as a woman. The assertion that transsexual women are sexually motivated in their transitions challenges the standard model of transsexualism—that is, that transsexuals have a gender identity that is distinct from their sexual orientation and incongruent with their physical sex. This article provides a review of the evidence against autogynephilia and makes the case that the taxonomy and terminology associated with this theory are both misleading and unnecessarily stigmatizing.

Dr. Serano notes the straw man “feminine essence” argument used by Alice Dreger, J. Michael Bailey, Kiira Triea, and Blanchard:

However, pitting autogynephilia against an overly simplistic “feminine essence narrative” ignores a more nuanced view that I will refer to here as the gender variance model, which holds that gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and physical sex are largely separable traits that may tend to correlate in the general population but do not all necessarily align in the same direction within any given individual.

In other words, Blanchard and his supporters assert that transwomen are “really” men, and anyone who takes issue with them must be arguing that transwomen are “really” women, thus ignoring the more sophisticated views held by their critics. Dr. Serano also tackles the claims that anyone whose self-report does not fit Blanchard’s ideology must be lying, and anyone whose self-report does must be telling the truth. This kind of cherry-picking of data is unfalsifiable:

If proponents of autogynephilia insist that every exception to the model is due to misreporting, then autogynephilia theory must be rejected on the grounds that it is unfalsifiable and therefore unscientific. If, on the other hand, we accept that these exceptions are legitimate, then it is clear that autogynephilia theory’s two-subtype taxonomy does not hold true.

Dr. Serano also tackles Anne Lawrence‘s bizarre “becoming what we love” assertions that love is a form of paraphilic expression in trans women:

The notion that individuals who do not experience erotic arousal to some stimulus might nevertheless be described as having a paraphilic relationship with that same stimulus has extraordinary ramifications. By the same reasoning, men who love their own children, but who are not sexually aroused by them, could nevertheless be said to experience pedophilia. Given the lack of empirical evidence to support this autogynephilia-as-romantic-love hypothesis, Lawrence’s argument is not very persuasive.

She concludes with several examples of how Blanchard and his allies needlessly exacerbate the nonconsensual sexualization that this population already faces in society:

Autogynephilia theory reduces MtF spectrum people to sexual motivation—in other words, it seems to both draw from, and to reinforce, these disparaging media stereotypes. Studies have shown that individuals who are sexualized are seen as less than human, are not treated with empathy, are not taken as seriously, and are seen as less competent and intelligent than individuals who are not sexualized (reviewed in American Psychological Association Task Force, 2007). Given this, it is no surprise that those who wish to demean, sensationalize, or discriminate against MtF transsexuals often cite autogynephilia theory in their attempts to invalidate transsexual women’s identities (e.g., Jeffreys, 2005; O’Leary, 2009; Wilkinson, 2006).

Serano, Julia M. (2010) ‘The Case Against Autogynephilia.’ International Journal of Transgenderism, 12: 3, 176 — 187. DOI: 10.1080/15532739.2010.514223

See also:
“Autogynephilia”: a disputed diagnosis

I haven’t found a free link to the text of the article; when I do, I’ll pass it along.

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