Saturday, 21 December 2013

Helen Boyd Interview

Regular readers of this blog will know of the esteem in which I hold Helen Boyd, author of two forthright and powerful books about life with a crossdressing husband. The first, My Husband Betty (2003), describes Boyd’s relationship with her husband, from his first admission of crossdressing, and her exploration of the consequences of this on their relationship. Just about every aspect of crossdressing comes under Boyd’s insightful and sympathetic, yet ruthless, eye.

This book was followed by She’s Not the Man I Married: My life with a transgender husband (2007). In this book, she describes Betty’s further exploration of her identity, and the consideration of transition.
Excuse me, is this seat taken?

Boyd is a fellow academic. She is a lecturer in Gender and Freshman Studies at Lawrence University, Wisconsin, USA. In my (limited) experience, partners of crossdressers tend to either loathe it openly or tolerate it silently. Boyd is a rare animal: someone who did neither, but was prepared to inquire, to appraise, to judge the good and the bad of crossdressing. Best of all, she is well-placed to tell us her thoughts: crossdressers, our partners, and those around us who want to know more. For people who ask me about crossdressing, I tell them there is no better place to start than My Husband Betty.

After some effort and persistence, Boyd agreed to an email interview with me. I was delighted, but suddenly (and this is unusual for me) lost for questions. I struggled to think of questions which wouldn’t make her roll her eyes (“Like I haven’t been asked this a million times before?”) So I tried to compose questions which were a little probing, a little challenging, just to see what the results would be.

It's been several years since She's Not the Man I Married was published. For those of us who don't know the latest, could you give us a brief update on where things are with Betty's transgender journey?

She transitioned and has been living in the world as a woman for a few years now.

Does this mean hormones and surgery, or something short of that? Legal gender change?

I mean she lives as a woman now. I’m not being coy, but how she transitioned doesn’t make much of a difference for me. My husband is now my wife.

I completely understand your desire to write My Husband Betty, but did you realise or suspect at the time the impact it would have on you? Did you foresee that it would become part of your identity, at least your public one? And is that OK?

I had no idea what was about to happen! None. When you’re an aspiring writer your whole life you have no idea what it will mean – and I’d worked as an assistant to a writer for many years before I wrote it, too, so you think I might have. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and actually like having a public persona, although I’ve had to fine tune how to have a private one, too.

What are your plans for your next book?

I’m writing about masculinity. Something like my other books, but more – this sounds pretentious – literary. It’s an evocative, emotional book right now, brought about by my realization that when my father died, and my husband transitioned, I felt really adrift with no men in my life. It’s hard to explain, but that was the starting point. The first sentence I wrote was “At the age of 43 I’ve found myself bereft of men.” Because I was.

What else do you write about which isn't to do with gender? From my point of view, you seem like someone with a point to make, and I suspect you would have made it in a different area if the cards had fallen a little differently. I just wonder what that area might have been.

A point to make, ha. It’s never occurred to me. I think often the point I’m trying to make more than any other is that people need to let go of shame. Half of the misery in the world is worrying about what other people think even if we think we don’t. I write about music on my blog a lot. The one thing I don’t write about is my family, really, and sometimes I wonder why not.

I admit to feelings of envy when I read your books and realise how open you are to the idea of Betty's transgender status. I suspect that a question you get asked frequently by crossdressers is: "How can I get my wife to be more like you?"

But my question to you is this: has your acceptance of Betty ever led to problems? Have you been the subject of hostility for your views?
Helen and Betty

Of course! Plenty of wives of crossdressers think I’m a pain in the ass. Which, yeah, I am. But I do like to explain that as much as I was an accepting, even enthusiastic, spouse, I had a very hard time with Betty’s transition. Still do. I think the second book hinted at exactly what kinds of issues I would have, but you have to read between the lines to find them.

Why do you consider yourself a pain in the ass?

Because I like crossdressers and would be happy to have one as a husband. They aren’t. For a lot of wives, the crossdressing is a deal-breaker, or keeps them from seeing the masculine husband they know and love. I genuinely enjoyed having a husband who crossdressed. I wish I still had a crossdressing husband, to be honest. Betty knows that, too, but it wasn’t in the cards for us.

What's the most difficult thing for you about having a trans husband?

That she’s my wife now. :-)

What's the best thing for you about having a trans husband?

I think my very favorite thing is having to confront my own issues about gender, although that’s often the most difficult thing, too. (Difficult and amazing do seem to go together a lot.) Because of the work I do, people often assume I’m trans, so I get to experience that thing that trans people do, when others look for the “signs” of whatever gender they think I was declared at birth, which in turns makes me think about what parts of me are masculine, or might be read as masculine if someone thought I was trans. That is, the best thing is being in a space and a community where I get to hear people talk about gender and learn about mine.

What advice would you give to a woman (perhaps a wife) whose partner has just told her about his crossdressing for the first time?

Fasten your seat belt.

A theme of my blog has become my (qualified) acceptance of the Freund-Blanchard autogynephilia model. I wondered what your current view about this hypothesis is (you touch on it in My Husband Betty, but I wondered if your views have evolved).

A couple of things:
(1) I don’t think it’s causal. That is, that there is sometimes a correlation of transness + sexuality, yes. But I don’t think one causes the other.
(2) I’m tired of old men telling everyone else they’re perverts. Honestly.
(3) I have a hard time believing that autogynephilia is a thing at all these days. I think Blanchard has taken autosexuality – which is practically a requirement for men who crossdress – and has turned it into something else. That is, I think there’s a desire to feel pretty, or powerful, or sexy – whichever version of femininity excites you, combined with an acceptance that others aren’t going to be into it so it becomes an autosexual fantasy. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes that person will need to transition and sometimes they won’t. That is, I think they’re turning it into a thing where it’s really just a perfect storm that looks like a thing.

Old men? You mean scientists? Or perhaps priests?

Ha, I mean the whole of the patriarchy, sure.

Most crossdressers insist they are straight men attracted to women. Yet some gay men crossdress. What's your take on that?

There have always been gay men who have crossdressed, and it’s not always drag when they do. I assume it’s for similar reasons crossdressers do – some combination of scratching an itch, connecting to a feminine self, fabulousness, and sexuality.

What famous person would you most like to meet and why?

Adam Ant, c.1982

Honestly? I think my answer is still Adam Ant. He pretty much kept me alive with his music as a teenager and young adult, and I read an awful lot of books he mentioned in songs and interviews, and he’s recently come back after being diagnosed as bipolar, and is as thoughtful and interesting on that topic as he’s always been about art. And he’s still crazy hot at 58. :-)

==

This wouldn’t be much of an interview if all I did was to gush about Helen and how great her books are. Putting my own academic hat on, a little analysis and discussion are in order. All I know of Boyd is what I have read in her books, and a little on her blog, and these answers above. That may not be all that much to go on.

Boyd is about the same age as me, and I find her attractive. This is not merely about looks, but a combination of intelligence, self-confidence, and acceptance of trans people; a heady mixture indeed. She ranks very highly on my list of people I would like to have dinner with.

One of the reasons I feel uncomfortable when I read her books is that I think: why can’t my wife see that crossdressing isn’t all bad? I am sure that Boyd has often been asked questions like this; how do I make my wife understand? I believe she has, perhaps unwittingly, become a poster child for the (hypothetical) Supportive Wives of Crossdressers Movement.

I find it extraordinary that people might consider Boyd herself to be transgendered. However, I suppose this situation allows (as she says) her to experience some interactions exactly as a trans-person would.

I deliberately posed the autogynephilia question because it was raised by a previous commentator to this blog. I am not wholly satisfied with this answer. I see autogynephilia as a theory which fits some of the observable facts quite well. Like all good models, it is testable, and makes predictions which can also be tested. (As I have written elsewhere, the fact that it is a reasonable model does not make it the truth; nor does the fact that it makes some people uncomfortable make it false; nor does it hold a monopoly on ways to conceptualise men who enjoy wearing women's clothing). I don't see it as "old men telling everyone they are perverts", and my first take on this phrase was to assume that Boyd was talking about clergymen, rather than scientists.

From my perspective, with limited information, it looks as if the autogynephilia theory applies quite well to Betty.

For someone who has written so openly, Boyd seems (in my opinion) slightly elusive. She deflected two of my questions above with amusing or pithy retorts, rather than a seemingly honest or analytical response, and disregarded a couple of others completely. In addition, she mentions her family without really being drawn into why she doesn’t write about them.
Wow! Those eyes! What's going on behind them?

I am left with the impression that Boyd is being guarded. She hints at keeping her public persona and private life separate. I understand this completely; she has no reason to take me into her confidence, nor the anonymous readers of this blog. In her books, she has explicitly held up the “Do Not Disturb” sign: there are some places she will not go. And I understand (from Wikipedia) that “Helen Boyd” is itself a pseudonym, albeit one which seems to be quite official.

What would have happened, I ask myself, if Helen Boyd and Betty had never met? Who would Boyd have chosen as a partner? Another trans person? An “ordinary” guy (perhaps a fellow scholar)? And what then? It seems to me that Boyd’s name and (public) identity are inextricable from her association with transgenderism. Would her life have unfolded differently?

I wonder what would she have had to sink her academic teeth into, if not gender issues? And what would that look like to us? Would she be as well known? (“And tonight, my guest is Helen Boyd, author of My Husband the Trainspotter. Helen, a lot of wives will be wanting to know: how do I get him to stop this weird behaviour?”)

And I can’t help wondering, what is the real Helen Boyd like? Perhaps we get a clue from her answer to my “famous person” question. Adam Ant, a singer best-known in the 1980’s for his outrageous and flamboyant style, produced hits like Prince Charming and Stand and Deliver. His videos were colourful, energetic and Bohemian, and regularly featured glorious costumes and cosmetics for both men and women. His music was edgy punk, mixed with energetic rhythms and tribal-influenced vocals.

With lyrics like “Ridicule is nothing to be scared of” and “Although we know it’s wrong, we must do it every day”, Ant was making powerful statements about clothing, identity and behaviour. In the video for Prince Charming, Ant is featured as a Cinderella-like character, with his two ugly brothers going to the ball. Fairy godmother Diana Dors appears to wave her wand. The significance of all this wasn’t lost on me, as a young crossdresser: boys can be Cinderella too. And Ant spends plenty of time pouting and preening for the camera with liberal quantities of mascara and lip gloss on.

Boyd’s affinity for Adam Ant confirms she has an innate liking for boys in costumes and makeup. I didn’t follow Ant’s career past about 1985, and I had no idea he was still touring. But he is, and still, apparently, pressing Boyd’s buttons. Perhaps even without Betty, we can infer that Boyd’s life would have followed a similar groove.

But as a further thought experiment, I wonder what would have happened to me if I had married Helen? Or perhaps Betty, if she had married someone less tolerant? In my case, would I now be transitioning, supported by a loving partner, instead of being a closeted, occasional crossdresser? In Betty's case, would she now still be transitioning, or would she have suppressed her feminine inclinations more? To borrow a very old metaphor, when you look at a tree, how much of its character and appearance is determined by the seed, and how much by the soil?

My thanks to Helen for her time and patience with my questions, and for linking to this blog from hers, which you can find here.

39 comments:

  1. Vivienne, congratulations on getting this interview. I thought you posed some insightful questions. In thinking about her response to your autogynephelia question, I've often wondered how crossdressing would evolve for those who do it, if it were more accepted by society as a whole, and not viewed with such contempt and fear. Perhaps transitioning would not be such a natural part of the outcome. In Betty' s case, yes, Helen was accepting but not society as a whole, so who knows. Betty may have transitioned regardless of who her wife was. As I've mentioned in other blogs, in many sexual compulsion groups I've attended over 20 years, I've only met two other crossdreessers, and those groups are some of the most non- judgmental circles I've come across. One other thing: some of the loudest, most hostile, and intolerant voices I've heard that label crossdressers as perverts have not been those of "old men" but rather women: either radical feminists or androphilic transsexuals. Wouldn't it be more productive if all concerned were more willing to listen and not be in such a hurry to be heard. Thanks again for giving us a chance to catch up with Helen.

    John

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    1. Hi John. Thanks for posting. As you know, a theme of this blog is trying to find common ground among a variety of different groups, some of whom insist they are very distinct from the others. There is often more that unites us than divides us.

      Vivienne.

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  2. Hello all! So nice to see this, and thanks for choosing good photos of me. A 44 year old woman needs all the help she can get.

    I was away on vacation when this was posted, but wanted to add that I think Betty would have indeed transitioned without me. Our deal was that she would transition as slow as she could so I could keep up, and that I would try to keep up so as not to frustrate her. It worked pretty well, although she is often criticized by other transitioners that she gave me too much control. I think that's exactly what kept us together, though.

    As for me being a bit elusive just now: yes, entirely. I really do feel as if I'm just coming out of our transition, in some ways, & still putting my head back on. As I mentioned, I lost my father recently as well, & for those of you who have lost a parent, it can be a really life-refocusing event. That is, I'm not sure where all the chips have landed just now, & there is nothing writers hate more than that... but I won't know, really, until I've had time to write it all down.

    Either way: thank you for a lovely interview. Will link at my blog, too, of course.

    Ridicule is nothing to be scared of.

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  3. Grok posting. I recall a comment once....that some women feel that they are being mocked by cross dressers.

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    1. I can understand why some women would feel mocked by CD and might have a knee jerk reaction to it based on their own experiences. We could all do a little better trying to understanding each other and why we do what we do. CD can be a comment on one's own masculinity, and I know that is hard to understand. I remember a flamboyant gay man commenting that he felt sorry for straight white guys because they are so limited in what they can express. I relate to that. (TCS)

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    2. Hi to both of you. I can understand why some women feel uncomfortable about crossdressing. Some crossdressers appear to be a caricature of femininity, not a reflection or embodiment of it. On the other hand, a few crossdressers insist they make "better" women than genetic women; as if this were somehow possible! I can see how this could upset people.

      Vivienne.

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  4. Nice interview :) . Interesting that you didn't like Helen's answer re AGP. I was about to flag it as spot on. Personally I think Blanchard noticed two typical aspects of a particular crossdressing experience (feminine and autosexual expression), linked the two with a silly theory (derived from his own obsession with sexuality), and gave that theory a silly name. Obviously the model will stand up for a lot of us because those two aspects are often typical, but that doesn't make the theory any less silly (in my opinion).

    I was going to posit a few other theories which I think hold up much better, but a trans woman on twitter has put it all far more succinctly:

    "Autogynephilia". Or as cis women are allowed to call it, "feeling sexy".

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    1. Hi Jonathan. Thanks for posting. It isn't that I didn't like Helen's answer about my AGP question. I think she is uniquely placed, with her extensive experience of trans people, to decide whether there is anything in the theory or not. Therefore her answer is perfectly valid; it just isn't the answer I expected.

      Blanchard's theory has upset a lot of people, but that doesn't make it wrong (and the fact that it seems to fit doesn't make it right!). To those who criticise it, I say: offer me a better theory, a better model, a better framework, and I will adopt it. That's what the process of science is all about.

      Your succinct Twitter quote is good, but IMO it doesn't hold. It implies that cis women and trans women do the same things for the same reasons, and I am not at all sure that they do.

      Vivienne.

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  5. Here's a test comment.

    See:

    https://productforums.google.com/d/topic/blogger/TqenXMfH-rc/discussion

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  6. With regard to the AGP comments: There currently is no widely accepted scientific or philosophical understanding of what gives rise to perceptual phenomena, ie we don't know what causes our personal experiences. This removes AGP's standing as a scientific theory in my view. No matter how much empirical evidence tends to support the types of claim made by AGP it cannot be called science without a deeper understanding of perception.
    As a study published by Dr Charles Moser makes clear, if you investigate cis women's responses in virtually the same manner in which Dr Blanchard investigates some trans women you get very similar results so empirically the responses alone make certain experiences of some trans women indistinguishable from those of certain cis women. Without further insight into the nature of perception, we cannot say there is any difference in the experience no matter what we believe the underlying cause for the similarities may be.

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    1. Hi anonymous poster. I get a lot of anonymous posts, so it would be helpful for you to choose some sort of name, if only to distinguish yourself from the others.

      You are right that there is no scientific understanding of perceptual phenomena. Let's hope one doesn't come along any time soon. On the other hand, behaviour can be studied. Where behaviour has patterns, those patterns can be described, and this description can form the basis of powerful science. Who knows what honey bees think? Nobody. On the other hand, we can identify their behaviour in some detail, including their elaborate dances to communicate the location of pollen to the others.

      As I mentioned above, trans women and cis women are not indistinguishable. They are apples and oranges. The fact that they share certain similarities (being fruits which are more or less spherical) doesn't make them the same. It sounds to me like Moser is saying: cis women are spherical fruits; so are trans women. Therefore they are the same thing.

      Vivienne.

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    2. Hi Vivienne, I don't think an earlier reply went out so here is a second attempt.

      My point is the results of Moser & Kleinplatz study with cis women is just as valid an empirical study of human behavior as the ones leading to Blanchard's AGP theory.

      In the absence of any way to determine the nature and origins of the common arousal due to a specific stimulus in many cis women and some trans women the jump to a theory of causation applying only to trans women such as AGP is invalid. Perhaps a specific common behavior can mean common cause and perhaps not. Short of understanding perception we can't differentiate.

      Jenn.










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    3. Hi Jenn. Thanks for replying.

      As I see it, there are two flaws in your point. The first is that even if cis women and trans women could be shown to behave similarly, they are different at a genetic level; apples and oranges. The second is that many transwomen have lived large parts of their lives as men; in some cases quite successfully. How is an objective observer, watching their behaviour, to judge whether what they are doing is innate, or merely careful mimicry? And if you interview them, how can you know whether the answers are genuine, or simply what they want you to hear?

      Vivienne.

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  7. Just ran accross your blog and was delighted to see the Helen Boyd interview. I've followed her through her books and blog too as I tried to understand myself and how to maintain a stable marriage relationship. I respect Helen but she isn' t a mainstream housewife. If you want to be challenged a bit, then read this article on Sister House http://www.sisterhouse.net/familyroom/2013/11/10/how-your-crossdressing-changes-your-wifes-opinion-of-you/#post-615 that talks to another real obstacle to be overcome. It's perception and biology......Tasi

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    1. Hi Tasi. Thanks for posting. I will check it out. Vivienne.

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  8. Hello Vivienne,
    So glad I stumbled across this blog (it was linked from @TransNewsGirl). Interesting interview with Helen Boyd. I had heard of 'My Husband Betty' and even have friends that have had lunch with Helen but I have not read any of her work but will immediately add it to my reading list. As the cross-dressing husband myself I look forward to reading more of your thoughts and insights about issues facing the entire trans spectrum. Happy Holidays.
    -aka Teela

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    1. Hi Teela. Thanks for dropping by. I hope you find something interesting in my archive. Vivienne.

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  9. I was fascinated by Ms Boyd talking about losing the men in her life as I recalled watching the men in my life disappear one by one. It was a stressful foreboding, knowing that my own masculine facade would face increasing scrutiny. As a transsexual I always knew my myself to be female or at least definitely not a male. Still I had a male body and that certainly impacted how I perceived the world, It was not until I transitioned that I realized the perceptual differences between a female body and a male body. It distresses me to hear male sexuality being discussed under a microscope of female sexuality and I have yet to hear a reasonable discussion on the topic. I'm still waiting for "My Wife William" as well. It's quite remarkable how little we know about men. Even when MtFs talk about being male its usually from the sense of what it's like for a female trying to be a man.

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    1. Hi Paula,

      Thanks for posting your heartfelt comments on Christmas Day. I wonder if you would just clarify this remark: "It distresses me to hear male sexuality being discussed under a microscope of female sexuality". I am not quite sure what you mean, but I would be interested to talk more.

      "My Wife William". I suspect such a book is a long way off, and for the following reasons. First, male-to-female behaviour seems far commoner than female-to-male behaviour. I think that's because it's considered much more acceptable for a woman to adopt male clothing and mannerisms (a tomboy) than vice versa (a sissy). Therefore women can "access" aspects of masculinity without societal disapproval (and maybe with encouragement). Therefore those women who need more masculinity than society is comfortable with are few.

      Second, such a woman would need to marry a man; and indeed a man who would not run away, feeling his masculinity threatened, but instead stay to find out, as Helen Boyd has done, what it's all about.

      I don't think we know remarkably little about men. I think we know a lot; we just tend not to believe it, or like to believe it. (By "we" I mean wider society). We tend to conceive of men as the alpha: the silverback, the leader, the breadwinner, the warrior, the driver, the smart one. In fact, men are capable of tenderness, nurture, sensitivity, empathy, vulnerability and reflectiveness, but I think most men learn to hide those sides of themselves. I often think that crossdressing isn't just about the clothes, but the emotions (this is certainly true of me). And I wonder: if everyone could wear what they liked, and express whatever emotional nuances they chose, would transgender behaviour vanish? Or is there still something more to it?

      Please let me know your thoughts.

      Vivienne.

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    2. Viv,
      "We tend to conceive..." - what follows is deservedly so qualified.
      You offer such an outdated concept of masculinity one almost wonders what world you think you're living in. Yes, the masculine qualities you list are certainly still very much in evidence, but men absolutely have permission these days to be tender, nurturing, sensitive, etc. Or do you really not think so? If you don't see much evidence of it, you're not hanging out with the right guys. I've never had much difficulty in avoiding the "silverbacks" and alpha males and finding reflective and empathetic men to befriend.
      Having said that, I'm trying to understand how dressing up as a woman might be some sort of a solution to feelings of social alienation. Are you saying that when you transform your appearance so as to resemble as closely as you can some idea you hold of an attractive woman, then you somehow give yourself permission to feel emotions you were taught were "unmanly" and so inappropriate for you and which your current society still would prefer you didn't express? Is that really what's going on?
      And then you ask, "Or is there still something more to it?", on a blog where you repeatedly express your belief that Blanchard's AGP theory offers some kind of explanation. Isn't that something more?
      Puzzled yet again.
      Duncan

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    3. Hi Duncan,

      This is a challenging comment!

      It's definitely true that what I describe is a polarised view of masculinity. I think it is becoming more acceptable for men to express tenderness, vulnerability and sensitivity, but it certainly isn't the norm, at least if the locker room banter at work is anything to go by. Nonetheless, my male friends all tend to be non-alpha males.

      The emotional side of crossdressing is only one dimension for me; another is the sensual side. I think I have been imprinted by my upbringing to expect men and women to behave in certain patterns, which explains both the attraction to crossdressing and the self-loathing I sometimes feel for giving in to it. I wonder, if I had been allowed to freely express emotions and clothing preferences growing up, whether crossdressing as an activity would have any hold on me at all. Of course, it's impossible to answer, but I still think the question is worthy of consideration.

      Vivienne.

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    4. When you have a more tolerant society you see greater freedom of expression which would include public crossdressing and other transgender behaviours. I think this is precisely what we're witnessing - it's not 1950 anymore. When there is sufficient freedom the question of whether crossdressing has a "hold" on you or not doesn't arise; it's just something you, like others, choose to do and the associated difficulties diminish. However, I would suggest this doesn't necessarily come without any social cost; everyone would need to be a lot cooler about people like Howard doing his thing. And just how many separate toilet facilities do we have to build?!
      Duncan

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  10. "From my perspective, with limited information, it looks as if the autogynephilia theory applies quite well to Betty."

    Wooah! Hold your horses there! You cannot even begin to imagine how offensive that sentence is to a transsexual woman. So even if you believe the theory applies to yourself, you should be very careful when applying it to others.

    The autogynephilia theory has been thoroughly debunked by both scientists, therapists and transgender people.

    Blanchard operates with two different types of mtf transgender, a variation of the early onset vs. late onset typology presented by others. According to these approaches the late onset are masculine looking and gynephilic (love women), while the early onset are feminine looking and androphilic. According to Blanchard they are all straight or gay perverts. (Yes, Blanchard considers even homosexual men perverts or "paraphiliacs.")

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    1. Dear Jack,

      Your comments appeared in reverse order, so I have replied in what seems to be reverse order.

      As with all of my "interviewees", I sent Helen Boyd an early draft and a completed draft of this post for approval, before I uploaded it, and repeatedly stated my willingness to change or delete anything she objected to. She has responded very positively, and I am sure she would have protested at anything she didn't like.

      "You cannot even begin to imagine..." is a very strong statement, considering how little you know about me. What troubles me (and indeed, is a central theme of this blog) is how upset some people become when discussing their gender. It's as if insisting that something is true (or not true) can somehow bring about the reality.

      My observation about Betty is merely that: an observation. It is not an accusation. It is not a criticism. It is not an attack. It is not an insult. I am wholly prepared to accept it may not be true, which is why I carefully qualified my statement.

      With respect, I reserve the right to make my own observations on my blog, in the interests of reasoned debate. Further, I welcome the views of people who may disagree or offer alternative points of view, provided they can do it civilly.

      Vivienne.

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  11. Here are the facts:

    1. The division between early and late onset is caused by culture. The gynephilic MTF trans women love women and try for as long as they can to live up to the expectations of straight women. Androphilic trans women do not. In the new generation of trans women (take a look over at youtube), the gynephilic ones transtion as early as the androphilic ones, because the Interent gives them access to information the earlier generations lacked. They look as feminine as the androphilic ones, for the simple reason that their bodies have yet not been ravaged by testosterone.

    2. According to Blanchard autogynephilia is an expression of a masculine sexuality. Women cannot be paraphiliacs, according to him, and there are no female "autoandrophiliacs". I personally know a lot of female to male crossdreamers (I never use the AGP term to describe people who experience cross-gender erotic fantasies). There is a whole creative comics culture made by and for ftm crossdreamers called yaoi. These women often call themselves girlfags. The most influential ftm trans activist of all time, Lou Sullivan, was a crossdreamer like you are. You will find more info over at my blog. http://www.crossdreamers.com/2013/05/ray-blanchard-and-missing-girlfag-dsm-5.html

    3. According to Blanchard gay men cannot experience autogynephilia. Wrong again. I have documented that many do. Indeed, Blanchard's own research documents the same, even after he (and Lawrence and Cloudy) have tried desperately to reclassify most of them as autogynephilic liars. http://www.crossdreamers.com/2013/11/autogynephilia-bad-science-revisited.html

    4. Blanchard never mentions lesbians in his research, as they are both homosexual and women. Turns out there are many, many butch crossdreamers out there. http://www.crossdreamers.com/2013/11/on-crossdreaming-lesbians-and-sexy.html

    5. What about XX women? Do they get aroused by the idea of being an attractive woman? Of course they do! It is only in the universe of people like Blanchard that they only correct sexual response is to the visual impression of the body of a person of the opposite sex. Women get aroused by the idea of being sexy, of being lusted after, in the same way as you. Dr. Charles Moser has presented a study that documents "autogynephilia" in women. http://www.crossdreamers.com/2010/07/on-mosers-critique-of-blanchards.html

    Do not let yourself be duped by Blanchard and his gang. Boyd is spot on in her analysis of him. He is an old pervert obsessed with perversions. You are not an autogynephiliac. Your inner feminine self is real. Don't let this man invalidate your identity!

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    1. Dear Jack,

      Many thanks for taking the time and trouble to comment on my blog. I hope you will have a browse around and comment on some of my other topics.

      With respect, I disagree with your very first line: "Here are the facts". My area of expertise doesn't actually include gender or sexuality. However, I know good science when I see it, and my problem is that I don't see it. I don't see facts. I see a morass of opinion, wishful thinking, flag-waving, and ad hominem attacks. Actual science is very thin on the ground. What I need are agreed definitions, standardisation of terms and approach, clarity of discussion and careful, circumspect analysis. So, in this area, there are no "facts", and therefore what you present are your beliefs.

      Could Blanchard's theory be hogwash? Absolutely! As described above (and elsewhere on this blog), his is a theory which seems to fit the facts as I can observe them; and in addition it has the virtues of simplicity and clarity. Does that make it "right"? No. Does it mean there isn't a better way? No. Does it say anything about him as a person? No. On the other hand, does the fact that it makes some people angry or upset make it wrong? No.

      I tend to cling to Blanchard, not because I think he is right (in fact, I can think of several flaws in his arguments, not least the relationship between homosexuality and crossdressing), but because I haven't found anyone who presents a better theory.

      To take your more specific points, (1) I think you are right that there is a new generation of transwomen who would previously have been late transitioners, who have become early transitioners because of increased awareness, and increased accessibility of treatments and acceptance of transitioning. That is indeed a cultural change, but it doesn't negate the AGP theory in the slightest.

      (2) I agree that it is quite possible for women to be crossdressers, and I have discussed it here in this blog. With respect, the term "crossdreaming" obfuscates, rather than clarifying. One of the themes of this blog is the needless but deliberate multiplication of terminology which muddies the waters around this topic.

      (3 and 4) Agreed. I am still deliberating over this issue, which will be the subject of a future blog post.

      (5) I think it is tempting for some people to think that what makes a woman feel sexy about herself is the same as what makes a crossdresser feel sexy about him/herself. I am far from certain that this is so, though I accept there may be some overlap.

      I am not "duped" by Blanchard, his "gang", or anyone else. In fact, one of the core reasons for this blog is for me to try to make sense out of all this and not allow myself to be duped by anyone. The blog remains a work in progress, and my views will continue to evolve, spurred, no doubt, by reasoned discussion with people like you and other commentators.

      Kind regards,

      Vivienne.

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  12. " However, I know good science when I see it, and my problem is that I don't see it. I don't see facts. I see a morass of opinion, wishful thinking, flag-waving, and ad hominem attacks. "

    Hm. I am a little surprised by this comment. I suppose you are refering to my comment here at your blog. I hope you realize I am not presenting the whole argument in such a short piece of text. I have spent several years over at crossdreamers.com painstakingly documenting the weaknesses of Blanchard's theory, as well as presenting a lare number of much more credible alternative explanations.

    It is certainly true that we have not found the final explanation for what causes the various transgender conditions, but it absolutely clear that the autogynephilia theory has been falsified.

    As for simplicity and clarity: What is simplistic about a theory that tries to uphold gender stereotypes by developing a convulted theory of "erotic target error", going on to dismiss all evidence to the contrary by accusing all crossdreamers of lying? But this is not all: The same theory requires all gay men to be effeminate and all androphilic transwomen to be nothing but a subset thereof. Anyone who knows anything about homosexuality knows that this is nonsense. And I repeat: There is nothing in the data provided by Blanchard and his followers to prove any of this. Nothing. Zip. Nada.

    By calling Betty an autogynephiliac you are invalidating her female identity and calling her a mentally ill pervert - without any proof whatsoever.

    As for nedless multiplication of terminology. "Autogynephilia" is a useless term, as the word itself implies the explanation given by Blanchard: "Love of oneself as a woman." Anyone who find this term offensive, but still wants to describe crossdreaming, needs another term. By all means, you do not need to use the word "crossdreamer". Veale describes it as "cross-gender arousal", I believe. But using the word "autogynephilia" for transgender persons, is like using the N-word for people of color.

    I strongly urge you to read the recent Motherboard interview with Blanchard, where he was enticed into presenting his views in plain language. A person who insists on using words like "sissy" to describe you, and who believes homosexuality should be kept in the manual for mental illnesses, does not deserve your support. http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/heres-how-the-guy-who-wrote-the-manual-on-sex-talks-about-sex

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    1. Hi Jack. Thanks for your reply.

      My comments about the science of transgenderism were not in the least aimed at you. I freely admit I haven't read all of the scientific literature about transgenderism; not even a large fraction of it. However, what I have read seems to consist of two "factions", whose activities seem to be these: first, slinging mud at the other faction. Second, the repetition of certainty. Good science admits to certainty very sparingly, which is why I tend to use circumspect phrases when I make my assertions. Thirdly, the constant bending of the findings to fit the idea they think is true (or wish were true), rather than the other way around. Good science doesn't have an outcome in mind at the start. Fourth: they cannot disentangle the theories from their proponents.

      It seems that quite a lot of people expend their energies attempting to discredit or undermine their critics, instead of trying to find the truth. A search for the truth admits the possibility that one is wrong, which I do frequently.

      What put me off spending more time on your site was your neologism. "Crossdreaming" seems like an effort to put the cart before the horse, to cook up a pleasant-sounding word to validate something you believe to be true. It may be true! You may be right, of course. I will need to spend more time on your website.

      Of course, to give some credit to the scientists, making good science out of this lot is extremely difficult. So much of it is subjective: "How long have you felt like a woman?" "Always." Tick. Scientific value? Nil. The reason I use the word "crossdresser" to describe myself is that it is a description of behaviour, which is objective. I am a man who enjoys dressing in women's clothing and cosmetics. The reasons why, the motivations, the dreams, are subjective, and therefore any measurement of these has a powerful reporting bias.

      The AGP theory explains why most crossdressers insist they are not gay, and how much they love women, yet are very willing to meet other crossdressers for sex. (When I first started this blog, those sorts of websites were all I could find). It explains why people can have successful lives as men for decades: marrying women, fathering children, being a soldier, before deciding to transition. In other words, it fits the facts as I observe them. Is it watertight? Not in the least.

      As for crossdressers lying, they are remarkably good at it, and here I include myself. The successful ones balance a secret life of glamour and fulfilment against a façade in an outer life which explicitly disapproves of the activity. Are they all lying, all the time? Of course not. Are they innately immoral people? Of course not! But are they skilful and practised liars? Definitely.

      By applying the AGP template to Betty, I am not invalidating her female identity in the least. Let me be absolutely clear: I am certainly not calling her (or anyone else!) a mentally ill pervert. I am merely observing that she started out as a man, and married a woman, and then began to transition. As for proof, I have nothing- except two powerful and revealing books about her written by her spouse.

      I will take a look at the Motherboard interview.

      Vivienne.

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    2. OK. I read the Motherboard interview. My impression the interviewer was somewhat hostile, but otherwise reasonably fair, in that Blanchard's responses were printed without (so far as I can tell) censorship.

      I was prepared for Blanchard coming across as a wide-eyed maniac, frothing at the mouth. But instead he comes across as someone who is sure of his ground, reasonably prepared to defend his position, and making reasonable attempts to do what he thinks is right. He does not come across as uninformed, misguided, malicious or offensive.

      I found myself agreeing with quite a lot of what he had to say! He didn't imply I am a sissy or use it in the way you suggest he did. He certainly didn't put me off or make me think I am a fool to listen to him.

      I didn't agree with everything he said, of course. (Where's the fun in that?) I think DSM5 is a turkey. I recommend you read these two short but incisive articles about it:
      http://blog.oup.com/2013/07/dsm-5-reception-medical-community/
      http://blog.oup.com/2013/07/post-dsm-5-tristesse-reception-plus-minus/

      Anyway, those are my thoughts. I would like to hear yours.

      Vivienne.

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  13. Wow, what a boom in holiday traffic! A fascinating article, and fascinatinger (yes, it's a word because I say so) discussion.

    My only take on autogynephilia is that there is no one-size-fits-all diagnosis. Some men dress because they believe they are innately women; some men dress because doing so occasionally is enough to help them relax; some men dress because it sexually excites them. Only that last group could even be considered for AGP, and I am perfectly OK throwing a name or a causal theory around a basic fetish.

    Moving on to our guest artist... Nearly ever discussion I have ever seen about getting wives to be more accepting has included a recommandation for her book. I'm not so sure that's always a good idea, although I suppose I'll have to read it cover-to-cover before I'm really qualified to have an opinion. But just based on the excerpts I've read and the specific reasons people recommend it, I think that it would not be much help to women whose husbands are in the "hobbyist" level of crossdressing. That is, those who consider themselves straight men but only dabble in the world of womanhood for brief times. Betty and Helen's experience is more about the discovery of transition, not just crossdressing. It's exactly what wives of crossdressers fear most, that their husband is turning into a woman, and this book validates that fear. Helen's own reluctance to discuss the details of Betty's transition suggest that she, too, hasn't fully come to grips with it yet.

    Vivienne and others who have read the whole thing -- would you say the book would serve equally well to wives of non-transitioning, part-time crossdressers?

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    1. Hi Ralph. Nice to have your inputational responsification.

      I haven't read very many books aimed at the wives of crossdressers, but I am prepared to bet that almost all of them try to stress how wonderful it is to have a husband who wears a frock, and who you can then relate to as some sort of girly best friend. I think this is missing the point about the agony many women feel when they find out their husband is a crossdresser. It turns many marriages (including mine) inside out.

      "My Husband Betty", on the other hand, unflinchingly and openly addresses both the good and the bad of crossdressing. Crossdressing is not all bad (I believe). On the other hand, a book which fails to acknowledge how it makes a woman feel to see her husband in a skirt and heels, is fit only for the dustbin. How she feels about her self, her own sexuality and identity as a woman; her husband, his identity as a man, his identity as a woman; and their future as a couple.

      Because it's been written by a woman, who admits to going through those doubts, those arguments, those fights, I think it is likely to be helpful overall. On the other hand, some women may be looking for a book which will help them find out how to stop their husband from doing it, and those women will be disappointed. And I think it has a positive message: a marriage can survive this.

      MHB is all about crossdressing. I believe that when it was written, Betty did not have plans to transition. It seems that "She's Not the Man I Married", only a few years later, is much more about the transition. I admit that I was a little disappointed to find that Betty had transitioned. I had hoped there was a "sweet spot" where crossdressing desires could be fulfilled just long enough to be sated, without needing to go any further.

      I recommend MHB to everyone curious about crossdressing, because I think it contains the truth. The truth is not always nice, nor welcome, but I personally would prefer the truth to any alternatives.

      Vivienne.

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  14. Vivienne,
    As someone who briefly embraced the idea of Autogynephilia as the cause of my gender adventures in this lifetime, I applaud you for sticking somewhat to your guns on this one.

    However, part of my adventure has also turned me into some form of feminist, thanks in large part to Helen's influence. I think she's spot on about the old men telling everyone else they're perverts. The Blanchard/Lawrence/Money/Bailey crew are hopelessly, inextricably rooted in Freud, Psychiatry and the DSM.

    I'm on team Jung, so let me declare that upfront. I'm also on team Serano(as In Julia) in terms of the systematic shaming of the feminine in a Patriarchal culture.

    I used to a run a shop for trans women/Crossdressers/fetishists in Los Angeles, and just based on my experience, I think AG is bollocks.

    I've watched older gay men come into my shop and transition to female. I've catered to countless gay crossdressers as well as drag queens, and IMHO, that line is not a fine one. I've also watched heterosexual family men of all ages suddenly desire to have sex with men, and even partner with them.

    I won't fault Blanchard or Lawrence's science, though I've heard others do so, but I will definitely fault Money and Bailey's methods which I find crude and sometimes cruel, in Money's case.

    I am humble before my own adventure in this, and the wide world of human sexuality, which is yet another reason I love Helen's New York skepticism about every bubbly new "revelation" some of us spout on occasion.

    Thanks for a great interview with her. I like your blog!

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    1. Hi Darya,

      Many thanks for your very articulate post. I am wholly willing to admit that your experience (like Helen's), utterly trumps my own. I do not doubt you know what you are talking about.

      I do consider myself a feminist, although I am aware that some genetic women might be offended by this: how could I possibly be? I have learned a lot about the relationship of the genders to each other in Western culture, and there is still a lot of "systematic shaming" going on. When a man and a woman have a one-night stand, he has "scored" but she takes "the walk of shame". Why should this be?

      I must say (as you can read above), I fault everyone's science in this field. There is a noticeable lack of anything resembling science anywhere! Some people think that eminence is a reasonable substitute for evidence, and it isn't.

      I particularly enjoyed your phrase "I am humble before my own adventure in this". I wish I had written that! I am still learning about myself, especially from people like yourself who have interesting perspectives to share.

      Do please take a browse through the archive and comment on anything else you find interesting.

      Vivienne.

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  15. Sorry about this late response. The holiday season takes its toll.

    "'Crossdreaming' seems like an effort to put the cart before the horse, to cook up a pleasant-sounding word to validate something you believe to be true."

    There is no way I can respond to this in a polite and meaningful manner, beyond repeating what I have already said: The word "autogynephilia" includes the Blanchard theory's stigmatizing explanation, so I had to come up with another one. By using the A word you amplify the negative effect it has on transgender people, precisely because it is not a neutral, descriptive, terms.

    I am slightly suprised that you do not see how the Motherboard interview demasks Blanchard and his theory http://bit.ly/1aab1oR. It is as if the two of us have read two completely different texts.

    I suspect this is because you argue on the basis of the idea that science can be objective and disinterested in a way regular folks cannot, and that Blanchard -- as a scientist -- follows the rules of science. In other words: You read the scientific arguments made in the interview and ignore the cultural context.

    Let me give you a few examples.

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    1. Hi Jack,

      Thanks for your very thorough and detailed replies, and I hope that the toll that the festive season took involved fun and laughter.

      I can understand you choosing the word "crossdreaming" as an alternative to the stigma associated with "autogynephilia".

      I think the fact that we each see different things in Blanchard's interview reflects our different perspectives.

      At its best, science can indeed be objective and disinterested. However, science is carried out by humans, who have their own agendas and beliefs, and tales of scientists "massaging" their data to fit their theories (rather than the other way around) are plentiful.

      It's reasonable for me to elaborate on what I thought of Blanchard. I did not see him as a saint, or as a great visionary, or as a paragon of scientific brilliance. I saw someone who had looked, long and hard, at an issue, drawn some conclusions, and had some evidence to back them up. I did not see malice, or ignorance, or stupidity. I did not see judgment of AGP people as less valid than anyone else.

      I did not ignore the cultural context, but, where it comes into conflict with science (as it does), then my loyalty lies with the science.

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  16. 1. In the interview Blanchard for the first time explicitly argues that paraphilias of the sexual kind should be classified not on the basis of the suffering felt by the individual, but on the basis of Darwinian fitness ("reproduction"). This means that any sexual orientation, identity or practice that does not generate offspring must be considered the end result of a mental illness. Indeed, because of this, Blanchard admits that he wants homosexuality back in the DSM as a parahilia/perversion.

    And the bizarre thing is that male to female crossdreamers are probably not less likely to get kids than other men. Many of them are considered exemplary fathers. They are evolutionary fit!

    2. Blanchard does -- finally -- accept that for a paraphilia to be considered a mental illness it should cause some kind of distress: " There are two ways by which a paraphilia could be converted into a paraphilic disorder: the individual is distressed by their desires, or they are acting in a way that is noxious to people."

    He uses paedophilia as an example, but by this account, even homosexuality is a mental disorder, as it is noxious to many people, as are libidinous women to others. By reintroducing public acceptance as a criteria for defining a mental illness is opening the door wide open for bigots everywhere.

    Most other experts in the field agree that the suffering felt by homosexuals were caused by social persecution and oppression, not their homosexuality. This was also why they fought so hard against the division between benign and not benign paraphilias. They knew that the very inclusion of homosexuality in the manual would be enough to stigmatize them. They were right. The current acceptance of same-sex marriage would have been impossible if homosexuality was considered a mental illness by the "experts".

    Remember also that Blanchard's definition of a paraphilia is "‘any powerful and persistent sexual interest other than sexual interest in copulatory or precopulatory behavior with phenotypically normal, consenting adult human partners" (http://bit.ly/1bKLOx).

    This definition, combined with the pseudo-Darwinian argument, leaves out all types of desire except vanilla sex between men and women. Indeed, according to this definition an attraction to disabled people, trans people, old people as well as teenagers are paraphilias. And with the possible exception of the disabled, he has tried to get all of these introduced into the DSM. The reason hebephilia did not make it into the DSM, in spite of Blanchard's strong attempts, was probably because the other panel members realized that this would mean that they themselves would be considered perverts.

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    1. 1. Blanchard's adherence to the idea, that people who choose not to reproduce are Darwinian aberrations, is outmoded and unhelpful. On the other hand, there is not one shred of evidence that transgender people make better fathers than anyone else.

      2. I think homosexuality is a variant of normal human sexual expression. I agree that homosexuals suffered (and some still do) because of societal persecution. I tend to think that societal acceptance of trans people would go a long way to making us all feel a bit better about being transgendered.

      On the other hand, there are two sets of views in conflict again. I don't think it is OK for someone to just declare themselves a woman, and then expect all the rights and privileges associated with that sex. It's a bit like saying: I'm a kleptomaniac. I cannot prevent myself breaking windows and stealing stuff. I therefore demand acceptance from society, and I resent its disapproval and sanction when I am simply living my life according to my own moral framework.

      I think each individual has a moral responsibility to conduct themselves in a way which is not offensive to other members of society. We hear a lot about the rights of transgender people. We don't hear anything about their responsibilities, and yet, rights and responsibilities are opposite sides of the same coin! Nobody organises parades demanding transgender responsibilities!

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  17. 3. The interview reveals that Blanchard still does not accept the existence of female to male crossdreamers. That alone is enough to discredit him as a serious expert in the field in my opion.

    What is even more damaging, though, is the fact that he -- in spite of this -- tried to get "autoandrophilia" into the DSM, the reason being the need to placate feminists! He was actually willing to stigmatize a whole group of women as mentally ill in an attempt to keep his beloved autogynephilia term in the manual. And you still consider this man a serious scientist?

    4. The argument for not believing in autoandrophilic women is that no women can be sexual paraphiliacs. Again Blanchard reveals how little he knows about the field he is studying. Female rape of minors is well documented in the litterature, but he is just ignoring it, as it does not fit his traditional views of sex and gender. And what about female BDSM enthusiasts?

    5. You dismiss the use of the word "sissy" because you think it does not apply to you. Well, I learned to know the word intimately as a kid, and I can assure you that Blanchard's interpretation did nothing to alleviate the damaging effects of that abuse.

    Blanchard defends his use of the word sissy by saying:" Nobody says you throw a ball like a cross-gender identified boy." What kind of sick joke is this? That sentence alone proves that what drives Blanchard is not scientific disinterest, but pure sexist prejudice.

    Someone have taken your schoolyard bully and made him professor. In other words: They have given him the power to define who is in and who is out. That is truly sickening to me.

    So what remains of Blanchard's argument? The fact that crossdreamers exist. On that we can agree.

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    1. 3. I agree. Although it's been interesting in my recent discussion with some radical feminists that they would seem to agree with Blanchard: there are no female-to-male transpeople. Why would someone as perfect as a woman want to become something as vile and despicable as a man?

      4. I think women can be sexual paraphiliacs, as well as sexual criminals. I think the latter is a very uncomfortable fact which society likes to quietly turn away from. On the other hand, that doesn't make it commonplace, and I do not believe it is.

      5. I dismiss the word "sissy" as I dismiss a dozen other terms which were used with contempt when I was a boy, and which I have now outgrown. They were used with cruelty by children who had themselves been subjects (I now see) of cruelty in their turn.

      I do not see Blanchard as a schoolyard bully, and his use of the word "sissy" or any remotely similar term is not offensive to me. But to take your metaphor a little further, the bully is only powerful within certain very specific circumstances. Outwith those circumstances, their power vanishes. Blanchard has some influence in his sphere, but his influence is not absolute, and his sphere is pretty small.

      So what remains of Blanchard's argument? I still see merit in parts of it, just as I see merit in parts of yours. I think the civilised way forward is that we should agree to differ on our various points.

      Vivienne.

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