[I seem to have written this hit piece on transphobic sexology in a deranged episode throughout one night about two years ago, back when I actively communicated with transphobic feminists. Having just discovered it on my hard drive, I feel it deserves to see the light of day.]
Autogynephilia is the entire feminist project in a word. Out of Greek translation, “the love of oneself as a woman”: well, what is liberated woman’s alternative? Self-hate?
Under feminist politics, autogynephilia is not dissimilar from lesbianism, another genre of woman-loving dependent on selfhood. Such is at least the case with lesbian radicals of the 1970s. “A lesbian is any woman who has ever loved another woman,” Robin Morgan addressed a feminist convention in ‘72, “By that definition every woman in this room is a lesbian.” “Whenever the label lesbian is used against the [Women’s Liberation] movement collectively or against women individually, it is to be affirmed,” reads the second resolution of radical lesbian group Lavender Menace. And finally, a poetry collection, in totalizing worship of Sappho, world’s first poet: “We are ALL lesbians.”1
What this brave unitarian sapphism seems to forget, for better or worse, is the very real and penetrative joys of lesbian sex. It must never be forgotten that lesbianism is erotic. The erotic is political, true enough, but it is not politics; and that primal layer of lesbian eroticism which can never be subsumed under any feminist rhetoric, or under any intelligible thought at all, will always remain a kind of sweaty, sexy, antisocial antipolitics.
Most lesbian feminists today can proudly (a little too proudly, perhaps) claim to have progressed beyond such aggressive meaninglessness as political gynephilia. One who cannot claim such basic progress is Andrea Long Chu, the court jester of transsexuality, whose writing as a trans theorist is a touch beyond too obsessed with outmoded 1970s lesbian feminist rhetoric. “Everyone is female,” she writes, “Autogynephilia describes... the basic structure of all human sexuality.”2
“Philia,” a kind of Greek love between intimate friends, does not capture the eroticism of what Chu here intends, no more than the word “lesbian” puts a naked girlfriend in your bed. For that reason, just as male “homophiles” reverted to “homosexuals” – because really, it was never innovative social relationships they were after; it was an allowance to stick dicks in butts – “autogynephiles” will occasionally utilize “autogynesexual” – because really, it was never innovative social womanhoods they were after; it was an allowance to stick dicks in the abstract concept of femaleness. Autogynesexuality is the eternal orgasm of self-embodiment. In Chris Morris’s radio program Blue Jam, a skit features male porn actors catching “The Gush,” a physical trauma consisting of one long cum, a perpetual ejaculation of three days, til dead by dehydration, all wet and dried up like a raisin dropped in a dish of cream. Autogynephilia is exactly like that, just exactly like that.
We can be certain of autogynephilia’s erotic nature by examining its shockingly recent construction. In 1989, a forty-four year old sexologist and repressed homosexual named Ray Blanchard gave words to the concept drawing upon historical documents regarding fetishistic crossdressers and years of investigative work with pedophiles, the two primary groups through which his views on transsexuality have always been filtered. He has labored extensively to ensure the word “autogynephile” applies categorically to transgender women.3
I will not discuss Ray’s written work on autogynephilia, because it is boring. I will discuss the fact that Ray is a repressed homosexual, because it is interesting.
Ray Milton Blanchard is a repressed homosexual. This fact is obvious to most trans women attracted to men, who have experienced enough of his strain of gay to out him with professiorial pretension far outstripping his own. Ray is considered an international expert in the measurement of erect penises. Ray performs renditions of classical Renaissance music using ‘80s synthesizers for his SoundCloud.4 Ray has a vested interest in homosexuality being determined in utero but transsexuality being socially constructed.5 Ray has a faggy lisp.
For those careful observers of human psychology, which Ray, being a sexologist, is specifically not,6 the aestheticization of sexuality7 is common to sexual minorities. It’s Proust, it’s Auden, it’s Whitman, it’s Wilde. Renowned and inventive sexologists, particularly those most interested in the transgender condition – Blanchard, Ellis, Hirschfeld – are typically sexual deviants, whose humanity towards transsexuals varies in inverse proportion to the violence of their projections.8 None were transvestites. None were transgender. Havelock Ellis liked it when women peed on him.9
Ray specifically cites Havelock and Hirschfeld as witnesses to autogynephilia before he invented the word. All three sexual deviants are bound in their beliefs by the Freudian heritage of sexology, whose primary contribution is to make plausible the assertion that all identity formation is erotic. All personal identity is ego layered over id, determined by sex drive. It follows that sexology has providence over all of gender and psychology. This Freudian presumption has been transphobic from the very beginning, when Sigmund Freud decided Judge Daniel Schreber’s schizoid imaginings of herself as a woman impregnated by God were the result of repressed male homosexuality, specifically a desire to be anally penetrated by her male psychiatrist (who was like unto God).10 Sigmund Freud has made transphobic sexology possible and providential.
The Freudian presumption that all identity is implicitly erotic creates misogyny. When Freud stated that all his life, he could never understand what women wanted, he failed to understand because he could not assign women distinctive sexual desire. Women to him were defunct men, owners of the inferior organ, “the atrophied penis, the girl’s clitoris.”11 Penis envy was typical of female psychosexual development; castration anxiety typical of male: castration envy or penis anxiety were incoherent, and hence must be eliminated. One way Freud eliminated castration envy was converting it to misdirected homosexuality or heterosexuality; this mistake Ray Blanchard repeats. Ray’s own primary research in cis female sexuality is practically nonexistent and encourages the male presumption of women’s universal sexual fluidity.12 The targeted effect is to put women and queers down, make us empty vessels. Sexologists wink at us all how sex drive constructs gender. They do not recognize how gender constructs sex drive; how this might explain their own repression, or at least, demonstrate why they hate transgender women. Rather, Blanchard calls such constructions “pseudo”: “pseudobisexual,” “pseudohomosexual,”13 as if getting fucked by men is not the reality of a trans woman’s situation.
Men are allowed coherence because they have the desiring organ. Women are denied coherence because they have not. Transgender women desire to remove the desiring organ, and this makes us heretic to sex. The hasty dissolution of Blanchard, as with womb envy theorist Karen Horney,14 is to assign transgender women a symbolic penis. This makes transgender women into theoretical men, lacking all of the material benefit of maleness. “A man without a penis has certain disadvantages in this world,” Ray contested – disadvantages of the type, queer theorist Leo Bersani has noted, are most evident in gay male bathhouses – “but this is in reality what you’re creating.”15
The symbolic penis of transgender womanhood is, trans women are told, gargantuan. It is far larger and more palpable than the actually male penis which violates us. “If there’s one thing I’ve come to understand about MtF transgender people,” writes “transwidow,” a term in transphobic communities for straight cis women aggrieved over their transgender revelation that marriage is a sham, “...it’s how very masculine the idea of transitioning from male to female is.” “If trans-identified men [sic] care about femininity so much then they can do the ultimate feminine thing and be self-effacing which is incompatible with their current demands,” writes one Reddit user, apparently unfamiliar with our right to be closeted. If trans women really were women, we would of course understand we are men; hence by being women we are more male than men. Nietzsche’s Übermensch wears a little black dress.
The symbolic penis of transgender womanhood represents our desire, our ability to act, to struggle, to subsist by and care for one another. It reads exaggerated copy for the symbolic penis of lesbianism, of the butch pinning me down having to insist to even herself that, no, use of dildo is part of woman’s sexuality, because a woman uses it;16 of the femme insisting she has chosen, and chosen against men, beyond men (“über menschen”): women do desire!17
The nonchalance with which autogynephilic thought oscillates from psychic to sexual is literally incredible. Very Online Autogynephile Willow Arune attests her condition is “the spark that is lost in the fire.” “While sex starts the process off, it is quickly overtaken by social matters... the gender identity matters, if you will.” It is as though society itself were a mere dilution of intercourse. Stare deep enough into the abyss and you will uncover the autogynephile liberationists, who can no longer even recognize why a form of identification which historically, sociologically, and psychologically revolves around the production of semen might not be a helpful location for transgender women. Transsexual autogynephile and medical malpractitioner Anne Lawrence describes those like herself (if any there be) as “becoming what we love,” but can only comprehend love as eros. One wonders how her relatives experience this oedipal reduction of the human condition.
Quite a few trans women have been either converted or, much more often, intimately perturbed by the autogynephile propaganda of Anne and Willow et aliae. The antipathetic reason for this is that trans women dislike being fetishized and told we must fetishize ourselves. The pathetic reason is that most trans women are sexual; we are sexual beings in roughly equal proportion to the rest of humanity. The erotic crackles through everything in the cloud of memory – yes, even selfhood, and yes, even woman’s memory – but it is nothing, and composes nothing, outside itself. If a powerful clinical establishment commanded that all loving lesbian, interracial, or interfaith persons or couples subsist through a fetish object (as they once did), we would uncover (and have uncovered) a similar disease.18 That trans women remain such a clinical target only reveals the intensity of our sexual abjection at the hands of those with greater institutional power.
Power, in the end, is what the issue of our sexual abjection reduces to. The statistical minority of transgender women means that we cannot do to autogynephilia or sexology what cisgender women did to Freudianism and psychology: that is, kill it, or more kindly rebirth it, by submerging it in our own body. That we are so rare is an attractive feature to the bullies. It allows them to take us for all we are worth; even our boyfriends become “gynandromorphophiles,”19 because none of you are without sin, least of all those who know us intimately. Feminine men, our most likely allies within the male pantheon, suffer from their condition as “partial autogynephiles.”20 The furry community, which has always treated us with great kindness, is nothing if not “anthropomorphozoophiles.”21 All this is abstracted to the “Erotic Target Location Error,” an arrogant value-laden theoretical construct whose only proper function is to insist we are all natively similar to child molesters and amputee fetishists.22
HOW TO SEXOLOGIZE:
1) FIND A MARGINALIZED IDENTITY.
2) IMPLY THAT IDENTITY IS AN EROTIC DESIRE.
3) RENAME THAT IDENTITY TO SOMETHING LESS HUMAN.
Shoddy sexology graduate students grow into shoddy sexology graduate advisors, begetting one another like big bipedal bunny rabbits who reproduce through speculations about fucking rather than the act itself. And they all have names: James Cantor, Paul Vasey, Kevin Hsu, Allen Rosenthal, David Miller.23 More than one are gay men – sorry, that’s “homophiles” – but, times are a-changin’: they are no longer quite so repressed. It’s like, you guys, being a gay dude just isn’t that big of a deal anymore, y’know? James, a purportedly normal homosexual, keeps a throw pillow in his office which spells “PENIS” in braille. He is most famous for vocally supporting pedophile liberation.
Instead of producing knowledge, transgender women serve as the surfaces on which knowledge-production takes place. These men carry their authorities and make their livings off our backs, and on them. If I am hesitant to talk about their work, it is largely because I worry it dates me. I am not particularly old, but trans women up in arms over autogynephilia are, because they remember when Blanchard’s paternalist lording over the DSM and Clarke Gender Identity Clinic held greater control over a gatekeeping apparatus which encourages many of their trans sisters to suicide. Meanwhile, even the straightest girls of the zoomer generation seem to have learned the secret knowledge that all women, everywhere on earth, including themselves, are exceedingly hot. Autogynephilia simply does not matter to them. Perhaps then I am just old enough to have observed it with the casual mockery it deserves, as vaguely transphobic Angela Carter24 once observed crossdressing metaphysician D.H Lawrence: “...adding her little bit to the demystification... before it is too late, before he is forgotten, and it is less easy for me to do so than you might think because at university they taught me he was God.”
Alice Echols, Daring to be Bad: Radical Feminism in America 1967-1975, pgs. 215, 255; We Are All Lesbians: A Poetry Anthology, Violet Press, 1973. “We are all lesbians” was a relatively common feminist motto and poster of the time period.
Andrea Long Chu, Females, pg. 74. As a hustler of gender theory Chu receives my highest regards.
This is Ray’s primary – really only – philosophical transgression against transgender humanity. It is a large one. Autogynephilia exists insofar as any mental object sexuality exists. The notion that trans women are trans women because they are third sexuality is exactly as ignorant as the inverted notion gay women are gay women because they are third sex. In this sense, an autogynephile is the opposite of an urningin.
https://soundcloud.com/ray-m-blanchard/ is the most surreal dimension of the Blanchard persona. You can’t invent this shit!
The so-called “fraternal birth order” effect: “The finding that older brothers increase the odds of homosexuality in later-born males... points towards the mother’s immune system.” Meanwhile autogynephilia is “a kind of error in locating heterosexual targets in the environment... the failure of some developmental process that, in normal males, keeps heterosexual learning ‘on track’.” By developmental process Ray does not mean an internal biological process, but social and psychic processes like narcissism or having an ugly face. On Twitter he posits anime. (His rare alternate suggestion, made with child abuser Kenneth Zucker, is actually more horrifying: an example of a three-year-old found in a dress with an erection implies people with penises are born fetishists.) Also relevant is Ray’s “homosexual transsexual” category, that is, his belief that heterosexual trans women are qualitatively alien to our trans sisters. What precisely separates transphobic sexology’s nonautogynephilic “homosexual transsexuals” from its autogynephilic “pseudohomosexuals” is unclear.
Ray has a PhD in psychology (as many sexologists do) from Illinois University (Urbana). His expertise in nonsexual psychology (for instance, gender psychology) is nonexistent, and features in none of his work. He has always deferred to the perversion of sexuality.
By “aestheticize” I do not mean obsess over beauty necessarily, but obsess over sense-perception. Ray’s aesthetic is coldness, a kind of performative objectivity in absence of functional objectivity which is impossible in sex. This aesthetic does not prevent him exalting sex as a concept above sex itself. It is part of that exaltation.
Ray’s twitter: “I’m going to say this because no other senior sex researcher can or will: I suspect a *few* sex researchers are motivated partly by a desire to understand or justify their personal erotic preferences. Some can remain cold and objective; the rest annoy me.” All sex researchers are motivated by this; none are objective; all annoy me.
Havelock Ellis, My Life, pg. 68: “Later my vision of this function became in some degree attached to my feeling of tenderness towards women – I was surprised how often women responded to it sympathetically – and to my conception of beauty, for it was never to me a vulgar interest, but, rather, an ideal interest, a part of the yet unrecognised loveliness of the world, which we already recognize in fountains, though fountains, it is now asserted, have here had their origin.” An absurd footnote projecting urolagnia into Rembrandt’s Woman Bathing in a Stream follows. Havelock asserts he inherited his piss fetish from his mother; he was a eugenicist.
Daniel Paul Schreber, Memoirs of My Nervous Illness, pg. 164: “But now I could see beyond doubt that the Order of the World imperiously demanded my unmanning, whether I personally liked it or not, and that therefore it was common sense that nothing was left to me but reconcile myself to the thought of being transformed into a woman. Nothing of course could be envisaged as a further consequence of unmanning but fertilization by divine rays for the purpose of creating new human beings... Since then I have wholeheartedly inscribed the cultivation of femininity on my banner, and I will continue to do so as far as consideration of my environment allows.” Sigmund Freud, The Complete Psychological Works, pg. 2416: “The exciting cause of his [Daniel’s] illness, then, was an outburst of homosexual libido; the object of this libido was probably from the very first his doctor, Flechsig; and his struggles against the libidinal impulse produced the conflict which gave rise to the symptoms.”
Sigmund Freud, The Complete Psychological Works, pg. 4675. Freud calls the clitoris inferior here as well.
Ray has never seriously investigated women’s sexual desire because, similar to Freud, he does not believe it exists. He has expressed an extremely marginal interest in female-to-male transsexuals, particularly gay ones, whom he considers women: “I proposed [autoandrophilia] simply in order not to be accused of sexism... I don’t think the phenomenon even exists.” He dismissed received letters of gay trans man Lou Sullivan, who specifically wrote about the eroticism of male clothing. In comic irony, a few cis “girlfags” petition him for authentication of their desire as paraphilia, which he mostly ignores.
Ray does not use the phrase “pseudohomosexual,” but the concept is a necessary consequence of his “pseudobisexuality” and was previously used by Ray’s confidante Kurt Freund in “Gender Identity Disorder and Courtship Disorder” (1993) in reference to Ray’s own comments. Both terms mean the same thing.
Karen Horney, Feminine Psychology (1973), pg. 60: “From the biological point of view woman has in motherhood, or in the capacity for motherhood, a quite indisputable and by no means negligible physiological superiority. This is most clearly reflected in the unconscious of the male psyche in the boy's intense envy of motherhood.” It is alternately this envy or the phallus which composes Karen’s articulation of manhood; both are the same to her.
Admitting the immensity of my own transfemme stupefaction at phallocentrism, I genuinely wonder what disadvantages a man without a penis could endure outside woman’s own masculinist unmanning. Leo Bersani, Is The Rectum a Grave? And Other Essays (2009) gives the clearest example: “Anyone who has ever spent one night in a gay bathhouse knows that it is (or was) one of the most ruthlessly ranked, hierarchized, and competitive environments imaginable. Your looks, muscles, hair distribution, size of cock, and shape of ass determined exactly how happy you were going to be during those few hours, and rejection, generally accompanied by two or three words at most, could be swift and brutal.”
Elizabeth Smith, Butches, Femmes, and Feminists: The Politics of Lesbian Sexuality (1989): “Another woman stated: ‘the idea of wimmin making love with other wimmin and using dildos upsets me very much. It's too much like fucking a man. It's like you want a cock.’... Another lesbian asserted that her ‘use of dildo is part of women's sexuality, since I use it’ and implored ‘let's stop oppressing each other's sexuality.’”
Mykel Johnson, Butchy Femme: “My femme eroticism was not passivity but receptivity.” The concept of femme receptivity opposing female passivity as a sexual role is, like butchness, a result of female self-definition beyond femaleness. Much language common to trans women – “woman-identified,” “validity,” “femme” – was developed alongside and led by cis lesbians.
In our system of sex inequality all heterosexuality risks woman and woman’s minority as fetish object and all homosexuality risks imitating heterosexuality. Of self-image, the reality of homeovestism and homeogender surgery is beyond doubt. Accusation of radical narcissism is a dominant trope of lesbophobia; accusation of female hysteria is a dominant trope of misogyny. Parallels between female hysteria and autogynephilia are queer and profound.
Blanchard & Collins, Men with Sexual Interest in Tranvestites, Transsexuals, and She-Males (1993) is hostile less because it names men who fetishize trans women – this is no one’s surprise – then because it is a calculated effort to pathologize every dimension of trans women’s social lives, thereby rendering us unlovable. Indeed love as a primal force in sexual life is not part of Blanchard’s lexicon at all.
Blanchard, The She-Male Phenomenon and the Concept of Partial Autogynephilia (1993) pornifies what trans communities had many years ago recognized as “transgenderists.” (Trans people have always performed better sexology among ourselves than sexologists on us.) Ray’s comments necessarily pathologize all feminine men (engaging in “stereotypically feminine behavior, such as knitting, performing housemaids’ duties, or going to the hairdresser”) as sexual deviants, because he cannot otherwise justify behavior he deems reproductively invalid.
Hsu & Bailey, The “Furry” Phenomenon: Characterizing Sexual Orientation, Sexual Motivation, and Erotic Target Identity Inversions in Male Furries (2019). Surely this one is a joke.
Freund & Blanchard, Erotic Target Location Errors in Male Gender Dysphorics, Paedophiles, and Fetishists (1993) is a simple curated list of case studies with light commentary. Yet curation is always a political choice; this work is Ray’s most sadistic.
I expect all these men, who objectify trans women for personal gain, would claim they are doing a service to the transfemale population, the way sexual abusers often claim they are acting out of kindness.
Angela Carter, Shaking a Leg: Collected Writings, ‘D. H. Lawrence, Scholarship Boy’ (1982). Carter’s transphobia is opaque; she found costumes offensive, sought to offend, and only sometimes knew what costumes were.