Friday, 14 December 2012

Cloudy, with a chance of insights

Ask yourself this question. The answer will be potentially quite revealing. Take your time; there are no prizes. (The question is only for transgendered males!)
Would you rather be beautiful, but not necessarily passable as a woman; or 100% passable as a woman, even if that meant you were plain?
A week or so ago, I came across a new blog, On the Science of Changing Sex, written by Cloudy. Cloudy is a 55-yr old postoperative transsexual woman who transitioned four decades ago. Cloudy's blog is all about science; so much so that it could be pretty hard going if science isn't really your thing.

My first feeling on encountering Cloudy was Aha! Here is somebody like me with whom I can have a really fruitful dialogue (and indeed I opened one that day and got a response immediately). But as I read more and more of her blog, and the underlying science, I became somewhat dispirited, and it's reasonable for me here to go into some of the reasons why.

My blog here has always been about a dialogue (a dlog, rather than a blog?): about finding out more about myself, and allowing others to post their insights. Over the last year or so, I've been on a tremendous journey of insight and understanding. I've learned a great deal about myself, and about crossdressing. As you will know if you've read much of this blog, there are some themes which run right through it.

First, the theme that I don't consider myself to be all that similar to other male crossdressers out there.

Secondly, there seems to be a bewildering multiplicity of terms for people who show behaviour which is not in alignment with their birth sex. As a subtheme of this, people seem to become upset out of all proportion where discussion of their gender is concerned. For examples, see here and here. Cloudy herself admits that she has disallowed comments on her blog because too many of them were personal attacks on her.

Though I had read many theories and conceptual frameworks about crossdressing, I couldn't find one that made any sort of sense; one that "clicked". They all seemed to be full of psychological mumbo-jumbo. Well, now I think that's changed.

Before I go any further, let me state here that my intention is not to offend anyone, regardless of their perspective; I say as much on my About Me page. Secondly, I am somewhat disturbed by what I've read and what it says about me. Thirdly, I believe absolutely that science is the tool by which we can best make sense of the world around us. What that means is that no amount of wanting something to be true or untrue will make it so.

If you really want the science, head on over to Cloudy's blog and read this page. On the other hand, I intend here to chew it down a bit and present it in simpler terms.

Let's start with transsexuals. That is, people born in one sex who decide to change sex. (All of what follows is true for males who want to become women and females who want to become men, but for simplicity we will stick with male-to-female). (For a bit of a discussion about my take on the difference between sex and gender, read the comments under this blog post). Remember, this is a simplification, but it's a helpful one.

Transsexuals fall into two groups which can be easily discerned statistically. We can call them "early transitioners" and "late transitioners". For early transitioners, they display very transgendered behaviour from a very early age (e.g. a boy will persistently act and behave like a girl, even in the fact of powerful deterrents). They change sex very early, usually by about 20; and more than 90% by 25. They display persistent sexual attraction to what they consider to be the "opposite" sex; that is to say, a male (who considers himself to be internally female) will be attracted to males. They do not experience any sexual arousal from cross-dressing or imagining themselves being or becoming the opposite sex. Of transsexuals, about 10% are in this group.

Late transitioners, on the other hand, typically have gender-typical behaviour in childhood. They may experience gender dysphoria, but keep it hidden. They change sex much later, usually by 35-40, though with a wide range extending into old age. They are usually attracted to the opposite of their birth sex; that is to say a male (who considers himself to be internally female) will be attracted to females. They very commonly experience sexual arousal from cross-dressing, or from imagining themselves to be the opposite sex. They can commonly function well as men pre-transition, and may marry, and have children. They can be successful in masculine (even hyper-masculine) careers. Interestingly, they tend to have a higher IQ than the general population. Many of them remain attracted to women post-transition. Of transsexuals, about 90% are in this group, making such people far commoner.

So much for transsexuals, you might say. What about cross-dressers? The theory says that, for "ordinary" cross-dressers, like me, the difference between us and late-transitioners is not a matter of type, only of degree. In other words, cross-dressers and late-transitioning transsexuals are driven by the same motivations. Some of us go "all the way", and some of us don't.

The terminology from the literature is a bit disappointing, but if you want to read just about anything on Cloudy's blog, you will need to know the basics. Early-transitioning transsexuals are commonly referred to as homosexual transsexuals, HSTS. That's not to say they are like gay men, but instead that someone born a male is attracted to other males. Late-transitioning transsexuals (and transvestites) are known as autogynephilic, AGP, from the Greek meaning "someone who loves himself as a woman", a term which I slightly disparaged in my earlier blog post here. The reason Cloudy echoes these clumsy and unappetising terms in her blog is that these are the terms which are most commonly used in the current scientific literature.

Applying Cloudy's criteria (and you can follow her suggested test here) to everyone I've written about on this blog yields some interesting results. Jan Hamilton, Emma Ballantyne, Richard O'Brien, Grayson Perry, Charlie Jane Anders, "My Husband" Betty Crow (the partner of Helen Boyd), Lord Cornbury, John Pepper, Vernon Coleman; all of them fit into the AGP side. Jaye Davidson alone escapes: he isn't naturally a crossdresser, just an androgynous man who got a job once as an actress. It's much harder to categorise Billy Tipton, since Cloudy's questionnaire was designed for male-to-female transgendered people.

And there is one more person on this blog who fits into the AGP side: me. This brings me back to the question at the opening of this blog post, which was posed by sexologist Dr. Anne Lawrence, and quoted in Cloudy's blog post here. So what's your answer? Mine, if I am honest, is that it's more important (for me) to be beautiful than to be passable. I've been asking myself why this is my answer for about two weeks now, and the best answer I can come up with is that I fit the AGP side of the model. As an alternative (but less subtle) question, ask yourself: have I ever felt sexually aroused by cross-dressing? If the answer is "yes" (and for me, it is; it so is), then that strongly suggests an AGP makeup.

So much of this model fits. It fits with why I think high heels are sexy. It explains Charlie Jane Anders' quote "What's the difference between a transvestite and a transsexual? About two years." It neatly sidesteps all the different bloody terminology (which seems intended to confuse and obfuscate) for people born male who wear women's clothing ("There is more that unites us than divides us" is a frequent refrain of mine anyway). It fits Helen Boyd's painful and forthright observations about some crossdressers: eternally selfish, frequently overspending, sexually interested only in themselves (not their wives). It fits with what most customers want who go to that makeover shop. It explains why Betty Crow and Charlie Jane Anders are progressing to full-time crossdressing. It even fits my phenotype (white, successful, high IQ).

Photo: Suzi White
Why it makes me feel so uncomfortable is that I had been cheerfully going along reassuring myself that I wasn't like those "other" trannies out there; that there was something different about me; that crossdressing wasn't a sexual thing. According to this model, I am just like everyone else (perhaps a little less "affected" or "afflicted" or whatever term you prefer). This disturbs me, because the natural history (according to the theory and supported by lots of other things I've read, not least Helen Boyd) is that crossdressing becomes more predominant as one gets older (and in some cases, leads to full transition). I could previously ignore that consequence because I thought there was something different about me. I had thought that, if I was able to find just the right frequency of dressing, I would be happy in my "ordinary" life. This model suggests that point won't be reached; there will never be enough.

And if I had just a little more, of whatever it is that I have, my dressing might get out of control: to the point where it gets in the way of my ability to be a useful and productive husband and father. That's not something I relish in any way, and may explain why some of the people I've found on the Web that I have most in common with are people trying to quit crossdressing: these are people who are trying to keep a foothold so that crossdressing doesn't overwhelm them (but the science suggests we are incurable in every reasonable sense). It seems now that the reasons I find myself drawn to them is because of my sense of fear that maybe crossdressing will one day get the upper hand.

Reading Cloudy's blog has made me go and take a long, uncomfortable look at myself, and I can't say I am delighted with what I find.

The emergence of this model (proposed by Kurt Freund and Ray Blanchard) caused an enormous stink. It seems that late-transitioning transpeople (which we would now call AGP) were amazingly upset at the implied notion that they were different from (and perhaps inferior to?), early-transitioning transpeople. It provoked a storm in the literature, which continues still. I get that. I get why someone who felt worse than me about the implications of the model as applied to them could get so upset that they would reject the model completely (rather than rejecting their carefully-constructed self-image).

Until now, my "bible" of crossdressing has been My Husband Betty. Helen Boyd offers this about autogynephilia (from 2003):
The term has been described as the "Unified Field Theory" of transgenderism, but Blanchard's application of it to transsexuals is the epicentre of the debate. From what I understand, MTF transsexuals often gain pleasure from imagining their female bodies, but that pleasure is more about the fantasy of finally having a body that will match their internal gender identification. Transvestites and crossdressers also often admit to autogynephilic feelings, but because of the newness of the term and the general lack of research on crossdressers, there are no statistics. As one crossdresser put it: "Some guys are only ever in love with the woman they see in the mirror".
There is so much more to write; so many ramifications to follow to the ends. That will need to wait for future blog posts (like maybe this one).

I was able to talk to my wife about why learning about this model disturbed me. She was reassuring: she pointed out that just because there is a model out there, and that I happen to fit it, it doesn't change who I am; it doesn't change what I do; it doesn't change what will happen in the future. She was right, of course, and I am extremely grateful for this insight, which frees me from what had seemed like a gloomy inevitability.

30 comments:

  1. Vivienne,

    While many do transition, many do not so don't think you are destined for that. I also worry about it which is one of the factors that keeps me from indulging in dressing but the possibility exists that if I went all in I might find it isn't for me anyway.

    I frequently encounter a transitioning MTF at my retail store (she told me she is transitioning)and she looks like she must be a late transitioner-nothing feminine about her. She and other late transitioners make me wonder about the whole sexual side of transitioning. Many of these do not look feminine or beautiful and they certainly don't dress sexily, even for older women-at best they fit the plain looking women in the question you quoted. Do they think they are sexier and prettier than they are or do they present another dimension to the 2 transition types? Interesting food for thought I think.

    By the way, I'm sure you are familiar with it but the Crossdreamers blog site is very scientific and is full of information on crossdressing and transgender issues.

    John

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    1. Hi John,

      Many thanks for posting. I am not worrying about transitioning; I don't think it's very likely to happen. However, I am worried about finding in the future that crossdressing gets to the point where I can no longer easily keep it in control and it starts to get out of hand.

      I had previously wondered if my constant desire to dress was a manifestation of being unable to indulge in it. If I were able to do it more freely, my desire would be less. The model suggests this isn't so: the more you dress, the more you want to dress.

      About your late-onset transitioner, I think there are several layers. I think some of them recognise they are not especially attractive, but still feel "sexier and prettier" than they did as men. I find when I dress that I feel relief and gratification which I can't get any other way. Some people want that feeling more and more, and some want it constantly. I believe that they get it from transitioning.

      I only swung by the Crossdreamers blog site once. I don't recall being particularly taken with it, at least partly because they had to invent another word for what they do! However, your recommendation to try BroadBlogs was spot on, so perhaps I will give it another go!

      Kind regards,

      Vivienne.

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    2. Jumping in here about what you and John were talking about. Many of the transsexuals I've read about or met in real life, fit what John described. They didn't dress sexily nor look feminine at all. If you read my recent blog post about the sexual progression in crossdressing, I think what John said fits.

      As they get more used to their alternate crossdressing identity it becomes more about familiarity and closeness with that feminine persona, rather than about sexual passion. When I am with my wife, I don't want her to look sexy all the time, in sexy clothes. Perhaps when we are intimate, but not all the time. As a crossdresser "matures" I think the clothing changes from extreme sexual things like mostly wearing lingerie, etc. to more normal clothing. Finally it gets to the point where the crossdresser just wants to look like a normal woman, average, not sexy. It's about familiarity and comfort and trying to be a real woman at that point, and less about looking sexy. That's my thought anyway.

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    3. Fair point Thorin. I think you are pretty much on the money.

      Even sex isn't just about sex. It's about a lot of other things: intimacy, bonding, comfort, reassurance, excitement, passion, etc. It wouldn't be a surprise at all if crossdressing could provide more pleasures than just sexual excitement.

      Vivienne.

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  2. Hi Vivienne,

    FYI, the most current post in Crossdreamers.com "Is there a cure for autogynephelia?" is dealing with this very subject on some level. How to cope with the desire while acknowledging there is no cure. In my opinion, no (known) cure (yet). You might find the article interesting.

    John

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  3. "Jack Molay", the author of the crossdreamers website is a very intelligent and educated man. I've enjoyed a lively correspondence with him in the past. I've always considered that the term "crossdreamer" to be a perfect analog to "autogynephilia", english in construction and thus more accessible, friendly even (greek "medicalese" can be off-putting to many.

    As to hoping that there might be a "cure" for AGP/crossdreaming... all evidence so far is pointing to a developmental deficit in a particular neural function in the brain. It is probable (very nearly 100%) that if the developmental window is missed, its too late. That window is probably during prenatal. However, it may be possible to slow down or decrease the need... but the cure may be worse than the disease in that case. Specifically, if one takes certain androgen blockers, the need for the sexual aspects may be reduced. This has already been noted in the literature. I've wondered if blocking oxytocin and vasopressin during crossdressing episodes might reduce the long term progression (e.g. Epelsiban and Relcovaptan)? This is in keeping with the hypothesis that the progressive nature of AGP is caused by "pair-bonding" like aspects of the AGP experience. It is known that sexual pair bonding in many male mammals is facilitated by oxytocin and vasopressin.

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    1. Hi Cloudy,

      Two against one. I'll look again at Jack Molay. Agree that "Crossdreaming" sounds more pleasant than the medical "autogynephilia", but I also bristle at the term: calling it something different doesn't change any aspect of it whatever.

      I find it inescapably ironic that the only treatments which have ever shown any promise in reducing crossdressing behaviour are ANTI-androgens. Androgens, one would naively believe, cause feelings which are the opposite of crossdressing.

      I agree with you about the "cure" being worse than the disease. Oxytocin and vasopressin have powerful and far-reaching effects, outwith their effects on pair-bonding: regulation of uterine tone, maintenance of blood pressure and regulation of salt and water in the kidney being three obvious ones. By tinkering with those hormones (indeed any hormones), one is taking an extremely finely-balanced symphony of chemicals and pouring a large bucket of cement into it; unforeseen, potentially permanent consequences might result. Imagine if ordinary, healthy, pair-bonding were to be harmed as a result?

      Using those antagonists in those terms (chemically removing the reinforcement of crossdressing) is precious little better than trying to forcibly associate the pleasure of crossdressing with the pain of electric shocks. As a thought-experiment, it's interesting, but ultimately pretty disturbing for me.

      Best,

      Vivienne.

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    2. Vivienne and Cloudy,

      In the blog site Stop Crossdressing (http://stopcrossdressing.com/positive-mindset/pressing-the-delete-button/#comment-1286), there is a MTF crossdresser who has stated that he has had much success with the taking af antagonists, in his particular case Spironolactone, to curb his crossdressing.

      I've had a hard time finding the specific posts again on the site but for the most part he said that he was now able to engage in fulfilling sex with his wife for the first time in years and he was finding her attractive again and not feeling CD urges. He also stated that thus far he has had few significant side effects. Just thought I'd put it out there FYI.

      John

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    3. Thanks for posting John.

      I think that androgen antagonists may be of some help to some crossdressers who are attempting to quit, but I don't believe they should be used without very careful discussion with a doctor. I also believe that, as with (for example) disulfiram, the medication itself is no use without the will to give up, and a solid support structure to call upon.

      Vivienne.

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  4. Yes, I did say that the cure is worse!

    The only other treatment is to take note that autogynephilia and conventional heterosexuality are competitive. It has been oft noted that the need to cross-dress AND associated gender dysphoria, are diminished when conventional pair-bonds compete with it, namely, that falling in love with a woman greatly reduces the desire and urgency (progression) of AGP... so much so that many AGP TS folks have dropped out of programs, detransitioned, etc., when they fall in love.

    So... working on "keeping the spark alive" with one's wife may be one way dealing with it?

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    1. Sillyolme, I can attest to that. In my teen years I had no idea if I was gay, if I wanted to become a woman, if I was *meant* to be a woman, etc. and I often flirted with the idea of transformation.

      Then I had my first sexual encounter with a girlfriend. WOW, did that cure me of any thoughts I should be a woman! A couple of years later I got married (different lady) and had an active sex life.

      The desire to crossdress never went away, but now I am happy and comfortable being a man in a dress; my sexual appetite is fulfilled through "conventional heterosexuality" as you say. Sometimes I wonder if I only dress up now because after 40 years it's just what I'm used to.

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  5. Thanks. I'm learning a lot from your blog. One of the most confusing things being if a biologically male transexual were attracted to me is she gay or straight?

    I also wonder if desiring to be beautiful over passable is due to

    1) A culture that values beauty over female gender
    Or
    2) is connected to the sexually arousing aspect of cross-dressing

    Just wondering.

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    1. Hi Georgia,

      Thanks for dropping by to post your comments.

      For question 1, who knows? It all depends on your point of view. If you consider a post-op MtF transsexual to be a woman, then she would be a lesbian if she were attracted to you. On the other hand, if you consider that person to be a man, then he would be straight. But I suspect there are many different answers to your question.

      It's the same basic question as this old chestnut: if the tree falls in the forest, and nobody hears it, does it make a noise? If your definition of "noise" is a disturbance in the air, then the answer is "yes". If your definition of "noise" is what is perceived by the human cortex in response to a disturbance in the air, then the answer is "no".

      For me, the desire to be beautiful is a manifestation of my desire to make my inner woman as attractive as possible. The question posed by Anne Lawrence is wonderfully subtle: she is asking what is important to the transgender individual. For an early-onset transsexual, they just want to be taken as a woman by everyone who meets them. Beauty is all very well, but it's not as important as being seen as a woman. For a late-onset transsexual, or a transvestite, that person's goal is to make their inner woman as attractive and desirable as possible. This is certainly true of me.

      I think there is a culturally-mediated value associated with female beauty, although to a considerable extent it is manufactured: we are conditioned to consider as "beautiful" women who don't look very much like real women: too tall, too thin, whatever.

      Vivienne.

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  6. Rebecca,

    You appear to be asking about an essentialist definition or a socially constructed definition of "woman" and "man" and which should be applied to an MTF transsexual? Take your pick. Gender is first and foremost a social fact. What do we attribute to a given individual? Do we, upon meeting and socializing with them, feel that person to be "male"/"man" or "female"/"woman"? That is what gender that person is... YOUR PERCEPTION. Sadly, many transsexuals want the answer to have been their OWN "identity".

    If you mean to ask about a biological / neurological issue? Simply stated, an MTF TS individual who is sexually attracted to women is likely to also be autogynephilic. Neurologically, that means that they are in all respects "male"... but they have a specific neurological anomaly in which the mechanism which keeps one from looking for the sexual target, femininity / femaleness, on oneself has partially or completely failed. Thus, they find feminizing their own body to be sexually arousing and emotionally comforting. So... that could be described as a "straight man in a dress"... though real life is far more complex and it is cruel and unnecessary to insist on such essentialist definitions.

    BTW, from reading your "about" page on your blog, we are essentially neighbors. I grew up in bicycle riding distance from Foothill College, took classes there, etc. I lived for years in San Jose. Send a PM?

    --Cloudy
    http://sillyolme.wordpress.com/about/

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  7. Regarding transsexuals who cross-dress because it is sexually arousing, is it always males who dress like women? Or do women ever dress like men?

    By the way, you have to go through hoops to comment on your blog. It's kind of difficult. Can you make it easier?

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    1. Hi Georgia,

      To take your second point first, if making it easier means that you will comment more, then the answer is yes, of course I will! I thought Blogger made it mandatory to prove you're not a bot when posting a comment, but I see now this setting can be changed, and I've done that. Please let me know if it works!

      Just to pick up on your terminology a little. I would use the word "transsexual" to describe someone who permanently changes sex using surgery, etc. Even the late-transitioners would usually insist vociferously that there is nothing sexual about their transition, and indeed by the time they come to take this step, there probably isn't; even when the original motivation to change gender was for sexual arousal.

      Since I and most of my visitors are male-to-female, I wrote everything up from this perspective. However, there are early-transitioning female-to-male transsexuals (HSTS in the above model); female-to-male crossdressers who do it for gratification including sexual gratification (the term is autoandrophilia; and late-transitioning female-to-male transsexuals too. There are also "drag kings", women who perform as men. In other words, for every male-to-female activity, there seems to be a female-to-male counterpart, though I think that just about everyone agrees that female-to-males are much less common across the board.

      I wrote a blog post about it, Women Who Crossdress, here: http://bluestockingblue.blogspot.co.nz/2012/10/women-who-crossdress.html

      I would love to hear what you think about it.

      Vivienne.

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  8. It seems to me that people cross-dress to experience attributes of the other gender, calling up a persona that’s created thru clothing that makes those traits feel more real. So women seem to cross-dress to more fully experience their masculine selves – the power and confidence that goes with that gender. Men seem to cross-dress to experience a more feminine side which for some, as with you, involves a sexual sense of self.

    This leaves me wondering if the draw of cross-dressing is due more to culture than biology. If cross-dressers like you have brains that don’t distinguish between self and other as sexually desirable, why does it always seem to be men with this brain issue? Is there actually biological evidence or is it theoretical?

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    1. Hi Georgia,

      Culture vs biology. Who knows? I myself have wondered: if I had been raised in some sort of hypothetical society where the roles of women and men were identical, and our clothing was indistinguishable, what would happen to me? Would it be nothing because I could express myself whatever way I liked? Would some other proclivity (or aberrant behaviour) assert itself? This remains an insoluble question for me, but my best guess is that I was born with a set of innate tendencies which were shaped by my upbringing and societal norms, and I now express those tendencies by crossdressing.

      I can't answer the question about why it is usually men who crossdress. Cloudy could perhaps illuminate the science a little better, but my own view is that crossdressing behaviour is driven by the masculine sex drive, and I think the difference can be explained by the way men and women think about sex differently. Men want to do, or to see. Women want to feel. Male porn: explicit acts, right in your face. Female "porn": romantic literature. These are, of course, stereotypes, and there are exceptions on both sides. But an identical desire in a man and a woman could be acted out as quite different behaviour, simply reflecting differences which already exist between the sexes.

      I do seem to have some feminine traits: warmth and nurturing are pretty innate to me, and I have never (as discussed on your blog) pursued sex as a goal, instead pursuing intimacy and mutuality. And while crossdressing allows me to experience an emotional and sensual set of pleasures which are usually closed to men, I believe it isn't my inner femininity which compels me to do it, but my inner masculinity.

      Vivienne.

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  9. But even the tendency for men to be visually oriented is taught to them. If you look at tribal societies men don't get visually aroused by women's breasts and butts or there clothing, for instance.

    When I got into sociology, and the social construction of reality, I was amazed at how much that seems biologically-based is actually culturally based.

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    1. You could well be right. But I think there are some innate differences between men and women's behaviour, and a reasonable discussion could be had about exactly where the line between biologically-driven and culturally-driven behaviour should be drawn.

      I know next to nothing about the presence of cross-dressing behaviour in non-Western countries. I am reasonably certain that autogynephilia exists throughout humanity; though I can't be sure the prevalence is equal across the board. It is certainly true that some cultures (e.g. Samoa, Thailand, and India) transgender behaviour is accepted, even welcomed; while in other cultures it is detested and suppressed. So how a man behaves in one of these cultures is determined very significantly by a balance between his innate feelings and his cultural surroundings.

      Vivienne.

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    2. Vivienne,

      While I agree that autogynephilia per se is likely to be universal and evenly distributed across all cultures, the public expression of it is not, especially for full-time expression, i.e. "transition" to living full time in a nominally female role. In the countries you mentioned, while "homosexual" transgender expression is tolerated, autogynephilic transgender expression is not. You may be interested in reviewing my blog entry on the two papers on the subject by Anne Lawrence:

      http://sillyolme.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/better-the-second-time-around/

      --Cloudy

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  10. In the post I'm writing for my blog I'm planning to say the following, because that's how I read it:

    V. says that autogynephilia clicks in this way:
    It fits with why I think high heels are sexy... It fits Helen Boyd's painful and forthright observations about some crossdressers: eternally selfish, frequently overspending, sexually interested only in themselves (not their wives). It fits with what most customers want who go to that makeover shop... It even fits my phenotype (white, successful, high IQ).

    Do you mean that all of those things fit you? That they fit cross-dressers that you know? Or that you are worried that you might come to feel some of these ways, such as being sexually interested only in yourself and not your wife?

    I don't want to misquote your experience in the post I'm writing.

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  11. Hi. I reread it and I noticed that you said "some men who cross-dress" not necessarily you. So I'm going with that unless you have something to add.

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    1. Hi Georgia,

      I think that the theory states that men with autogynephilia express it differently, depending on how "affected" they are. Some of us can keep it under control, dressing only occasionally (even if we wish we could do it more). Some of us are helpless in its grip, and get into debt, ruin our marriages and our careers, in its pursuit. Some of us are so affected that we want hormones and surgery to transition permanently to be women.

      The theory also states that the erotic target in question is the self but in the role of the female. Some of us are content to see her in the mirror once in a while and admire how pretty she looks. Some of us want to see her having adventurous forms of sex, which is highly arousing. Some of us want to see her curves every time we look down.

      What I am seeking is a theory which explains the many manifestations of cross-dressing behaviour which I see. Autogynephilia is the best so far; it explains most of it, but not everything. It explains just about everyone I have blogged about with the exception of Jaye Davidson and Simon Carlyle, even though I have blogged about many different individuals and practices.

      It does trouble me that the natural progress of crossdressing is for it to become more prevalent with age. It does trouble me that it might reach the point where I can't contain it.

      Hope this helps. Email might be a better medium of exchange if you want to ask more searching questions.

      Vivienne.

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  12. I know this is old.. but I wanted to speak up anyways. LOL

    If there's one criticism I have with the AGP model above all others, it's the lack of accounting for severe emotional repression due to a hostile home environment or other similar environmental factors. We know this happens in many areas unrelated to being TS/CD, so it should be taken into account for the AGP model as well. If you are not free to express yourself, and you are aware of it, that can add up to years of conditioning, which then takes years to undo.

    For example, Let's take a 35yo TS late transitioner who has stealthily crossdressed since they were first able to get away from mom and dad to buy something on their own at age 11. Let's assume that the person was shot down for these things since age 5 (age out of a hat) when they first expressed a desire to be the opposite sex. The household is rigidly gendered with very religious overtones, punctuated by all sorts of family issues: mild Domestic Violence, Divorce, etc. So, this child has been shoved down and learned not to speak up about their issues from the age of 5. Around puberty they are shoved in and out of mental hospitals because they are having emotional outburst issues. The hospitals and shrinks declare them to be bipolar, but they know they are angry for another reason; they can't be themselves. They are deathly afraid to tell anyone for fear of their parents, so they continue to clam up. At 18 they finally get out of the house. In college, they still must repress most of the time because they went to a private religious college for a year. Then they escape to a state college. However, they're still dependent on their mother to fill out the FAFSA to pay for school because they're poor. They graduate after 5 years, now 23 years old. They move back with mom while they try to find a job, reliant on her for housing with no other options immediately. They finally move out, meet their future wife, and reveal their CD secret at age 24. This hypothetical person has 19+ years of repressive conditioning under their belt. They are completely out of touch with their emotional needs. They will not seek help from a mental health professional because of their experiences as a child, and fear being written off. This will take YEARS of deprogramming to overcome on their own because of all of the layers that will have to be dealt with. They will typically be in their 30's by this point, simply because of the time factor.

    This is a story in various forms I have heard from many late transitioners. I'm not against the idea that there are mostly likely SOME AGP individuals out there. The AGP model completely ignores the repressive programming aspect though, and labels them AGP. That is what I find most wrong with the model as it stands.

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    1. I consider that the commentary on all my posts is never closed, so thanks for posting. (Would you mind signing with some sort of name to distinguish yourself from other anonymous posters?)

      I think the point you make is well made. I am sure that some people could indeed fit that mould. I know for myself I still experience shame and guilt about crossdressing, which was strongly conditioned into me as a young man. It undoubtedly influences my gender expression today.

      All I would say is that AGP is not the truth but merely a theory which fits the facts quite well. Like all models, it is predictive in some circumstances, but fails in others. I don't pretend it explains every last manifestation of cross-gender behaviour. However, I do think it explains quite a lot of what I observe, including in myself.

      I haven't really found a better model, though there do seem to be people who insist that it's a waste of time to attempt to make any models at all. We should just accept that people are who they are. Though I can see the attraction of this, it doesn't sit well with me as a scientist, who enjoys categorising everything.

      Vivienne.

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    2. Mmmm. You impassioned post is interesting. You may wish to read some of Jaimie Veale's papers in which a notion of 'defence mechanisms' is explored as a partial explanation for AGP. However, any sense of sexual arousal at the act of wearing culturally-identified gender-specific women's clothing, or the idea of 'being a woman' (for a man) are pretty much sure diagnoses for autogynephilia.

      Blanchard does not set out to answer what causes autogynephilia; he simply identifies it as an underlying condition with the symptoms observed. What triggers it, he no more speculates on than the actual cause of homosexual attraction, and by inference, HSTS. So whether the trigger for AGP is pre-natal or post-natal is somewhat academic: the condition remains the same.

      As Vivienne and others have pointed out, while it is clear that many AGPs don't like the fact of AGP or that it applies to them, especially those who have fully transitioned, it does. A quick reality check can be performed by asking this question: if those people whom science identifies as AGP are actually women, in accordance with the so-called 'brain sex' theory, why are almost none of them exclusively attracted to men? (This works for HSTS too: their orientation profile exactly matches feminine gay men's and not women's -- they only like manly men.)

      The 'brain sex' theory has no substantiation whatsoever, and before anyone says anything, Zhou was debunked a long time ago. Look instead at the separate studies carried out by Rametti et al and Savic and Arver in 2011, the former exclusively on HSTS and the latter on AGPs, the one finding that HSTS had brains shifted towards the female on every tested parameter, and the other that AGPs had brains 'indistinguishable' from men's. So even if 'brain sex' were applicant to MtF, it is only to HSTS and it simply doesn't apply to AGPs. These studies confirmed Blanchard's predictions and finally shot the 'brain sex' theory, appropriately enough, in the head, at least as far as AGP goes.

      Regarding the possible pre-natal causes of AGP, there is a major problem with this in that AGP, essentially, is a phenomenon restricted to white Western men. In Asia, where there are huge numbers of MtF who correspond to the HSTS type -- ie they are sexually attracted to men and share an aetiology with gay men -- there are almost no AGPs. Zero percent in one survey, and many commentators have noted and remarked on this. Now, since we are all human, this means that either there is an environmental cause unique to the geographic regions where Western white men grow up, or these pre-natal factors are universal but have some other effect in non-Western communities. Personally I don't find either of these lines convincing, which leaves us with the inevitable conclusion that AGP is actually a cultural by-product of Western culture itself. (Contrast this with HSTS, which occurs everywhere at a roughly similar rate, and always has.)

      I am personally inclined to the view that childhood conditioning, particularly in the presence of either a weak male role model or conversely an abusively controlling one (this is part of Veale's thinking), together with an aggressively misogynistic culture in which only 'manly men' are validated, is the specific trigger; there may possibly be pre-natal factors in play but in the absence of certain elements of Western culture, they have some other effect.

      Some researchers, eg Moser, have noted a link between AGP and androphobia, particularly phobia of dominant males (which paradoxically, many AGPs actually are)and this may also be a part of the explanation.

      In general the evidence does not point towards an innate cause that specifically triggers AGP, but either to a purely cultural cause or a cultural modification of an innate stimulus.

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    3. Hi Rod. Thanks for dropping by to post your comments.

      Vivienne.

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    4. Hi, Probably I shouldn't post here, but why not? Kierkegaard said, everyone makes things easier, so I want to make them harder. I am a 65 yr old TS. I started living as a woman at 20 in 1970 (in a commune!) and had surgery in my 20's. I am an intellectual, high-achiever but also have always hung out with gay drama crowds. I have some AGP traits, but I like men. Some CDs like the idea of being forced to CD by a dominant woman. I like being in bed with a dominant man who will make me feel like a woman (which to me seems like a closely related scenario). My novel, about how things played out for me when I was young. ('Almost', Lettie Zeste; Amazon) might not appeal to the taste of people here, who may prefer to objectify their own experience; I wanted to show myself a little pity. I guess I still am confused. I feel like a little of each type. Certainly my feeling haven't changed over the years. It seems like everyone constructs a specific internal notion of CD, Trans, gay, straight etc. that seems obvious to themselves but maybe not to others. Is it possible that being a 'type' doesn't remove the obligation to be yourself as well?

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    5. Hi Lettie. Thanks for posting your comment.

      One of the themes of this blog is that trans people seems to organise themselves into factions and strata. They may be unwelcoming to those they perceive as outwith the same group they feel they belong to. Nonetheless, I believe there is more that unites us than divides us.

      Though I do cling to the autogynephilia model, it's interesting that I don't think it explains everything, and the more I think about this, the more I find people who just don't belong to the mould. It's very interesting to hear your say that you are an early transitioner, who admits to some AGP traits. I guess my current conclusion is that attempts to categorise trans people are very likely bound to fail, as there are always people who don't belong in any category!

      Vivienne.

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