Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My adventures in sexology (plus a Call for Submissions!)

My life has taken a number of interesting turns over the last ten years. And I am not talking about my transition here - if you would have told me 20 years ago that I would eventually transition to female, I would not have been especially surprised. However, if you would have told me back then that I would someday spend a great deal of my free time writing about feminism, and that some of those writings would be taught in gender studies classes, I never would have believed you in a million years.

The same holds true with regards to me being taken seriously in (some) sexology circles. I first became interested in the field as I was beginning to work on Whipping Girl (WG). Specifically, I saw a connection between how trans women and others on the trans female/feminine spectrum were sexualized in the media and how we were similarly sexualized in certain sexology & psychology theories. So, I did a lot of research on those theories and critiqued them in WG (specifically in Chapters 7, 14 & 17). At that point, I felt like I said what needed to be said, and I was ready to move on.

But after WG came out, I had a Michael Corleone-like moment: “Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in.”

Specifically, two things happened that lead to me re-immersing myself in sexological theories about trans folks. The first was Alice Dreger’s high profile exoneration of J. Michael Bailey (who wrote the super-highly-problematic book The Man Who Would Be Queen). After writing briefly about this matter on Feministing, I decided to write a comment on Dreger’s article (called A Matter of Perspective: A Transsexual Woman-Centric Critique of Alice Dreger’s “Scholarly History” of the Bailey Controversy), which was eventually published in Archives of Sexual Behavior. For those especially interested in the minutia of this debate, I also recorded a podcast of sorts called Even More Dreger Critiquing.

Then there was the 2008 announcement that Ken Zucker & Ray Blanchard (among others) were to play lead roles in creating the trans-specific diagnoses that would appear in the next DSM. Now lots of trans & LGBT activists are familiar with Zucker’s “reparative therapy” for gender-non-conforming children. But most people outside of trans women’s circles are unfamiliar with Blanchard, who is responsible for creating what I feel is the most sexualizing and stigmatizing of all sexology theories regarding trans people: autogynephilia.

I won’t go into the details regarding autogynephilia here (too much to say in too little space), but for those interested, I explain why the theory is so problematic (as well as why certain sexological & psychological theories & diagnoses of trans people are so harmful) in my 2009 Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference keynote talk “Psychology, Sexualization and Trans-Invalidations” and on my web page Debunking Psychological Depictions of Transsexuality and Transgenderism. Anyway, when Blanchard was selected to chair the Paraphilia section of the DSM, my biggest fear as a trans woman was that he would try to make autogynephilia an official diagnosis. I felt that the only thing that might potentially help thwart that effort was if the theory was critiqued in a peer-reviewed sexological journal (as academic/peer-reviewed publications are the only ones that carry any weight in that field).

After much work, my review article entitled “The Case Against Autogynephilia” was finally published in the International Journal of Transgenderism last fall. Right around the same time, Charles Moser published his review article "Blanchard's Autogynephilia Theory: A Critique" in the Journal of Homosexuality. His article is excellent and makes similar points as mine, although unlike Moser, I believe that the term “autogynephilia” should be rejected for reasons explained in my article. [For those interested, a PDF of my article is currently up on the website. If that link does not work, I am allowed to share this article with a limited number of interested colleagues. So if any of you in the fields of trans health, psychology, advocacy and/or activism are interested in obtaining a copy of this article, please email me and I'd be happy to send you a copy.]

So anyway, that leads me to my very latest unexpected sexological endeavor: I was recently invited to be a guest reviewer for a special issue of the Journal of Homosexuality focusing on “Trans Sexualities.” While I do not know *all* of the guest reviewers, the ones that I am familiar with carry out research that positively benefits trans folks, and there are other trans voices on the review board in addition to myself (e.g., Susan Stryker and Aaron Devor). I am pasting the call for submissions below. So if you know any academic/research/sexology/gender & queer studies folks out there who may be interested, please feel free to forward this call for submissions onto them...


p.s., a point of clarification: The journal is called "The Journal of Homosexuality" for historical reasons. Despite the apparent narrowness of the name, it is a sexuality-focused journal that discusses sexuality-related issues for a variety of sexual & gender minorities.



The Journal of Homosexuality invites the submission of extended abstracts for a special issue expected to publish in Fall 2012.

In this volume, we seek to not only conceptually disentangle gender and sexual identities, but to reveal the myriad ways in which their intersections can be both illuminating and perplexing. To date, in academic scholarship on LGBTQ sexualities, “transgender” too often remains present in acronym only, with very real consequences for inclusion and exclusion both in terms of transgender and transsexual personhood as well as to moving studies of gender and sexual identities, and sexual practices (including sexual labor) forward. In this special issue, we seek proposals for papers that focus critically on sexual identities and practices among transgender and transsexual individuals and their partners to begin to fill the existing lacuna in scholarship and theorizing around transgender and transsexual sexualities. To this end, we seek papers that address (but are not limited to) the following issues and topics:

• Trans identities complicating binary notions of “gay,” “lesbian,” and “bisexual” sexualities (e.g., the experiences of gay trans men and lesbian trans women, making meaning of the term and concept of “hetero/homo/bi/sexuality” in the context of trans identity, how trans sexualities contribute to the “queering” of sexualities in general)
• “Doing” masculinity, femininity, and androgyny as a trans person in the context of sexual identity and how sexual identities of trans people and their partners are often (mis)“read” and (mis)understood
• Fluidity (or not) of sexual identities and/or practices in the lives of those who are trans and/or their sexual partners
• The role of language in shaping sexual identities and/or practices among trans people and/or their sexual partners• Trans persons’ engagement with sex work and sexualized labor
• International representations, understandings, and depictions of trans sexualities
• Fetishization and commodification of trans sexualities—including the phenomenon, impacts, and effects of trans (in/hyper)visibility in the media (e.g., trans sexual voyeurism)
• Intersections between trans bodies and trans sexualities
• Trans sex, sexualities, and partnerships (and the challenges of conducting ethical scholarship around these issues considering the history of exploitive representations of transgender and transsexual lives)
• Inclusion and exclusion of trans people within sexual rights movements and potentials for coalition building across social movements focusing on sexualities
• Sexual safety and wellbeing of trans persons (and consideration of safer sex practices, sexual marginalization, sexual harassment, sexual assault, access to healthcare)
• “Counting” trans people (to ensure that trans people count)—demographic studies of trans sexualities
• Reviews of institutions, services, and programs that provide services and programs that include (or don’t) focus on trans sexualities
• Methods for studying trans sexual identities, sexual practices, and sexual partnerships (and, further, identity and standpoint of the “researcher” and “researched”—how identity matters, considerations of cissexual and cisgender privilege)

We currently seek 1,200-1,500 word extended abstracts for proposed papers that provide a title, brief summary of your central arguments and evidence used to support these arguments, methods to investigate the topic under study (if applicable), and how your proposed paper contributes to, challenges, and/or extends existing scholarship on trans sexualities. Please be clear about the current status of the proposed paper in terms of whether it is at an incipient or advanced stage and provide a brief statement on how you intend to complete the final paper by March 2012. We seek proposals for both theoretical and empirical papers. International work and work by trans scholars is particularly encouraged. All abstracts and papers will undergo blinded peer review by a Special Editorial Board of interdisciplinary trans and non-trans scholars conversant with ethical scholarship on trans issues. To facilitate blind review, please prepare a cover page with your name, contact information, and proposal title, but do not include your name or other identifying information on subsequent pages—do include your proposal title at the top of each page. Send inquiries and extended abstracts to the Guest Editor of this Special Issue, Carla A. Pfeffer, at by November 1, 2011. Final manuscripts should be approximately 7,500 words (about 25 pages) and will be due in March 2012.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for putting this up!

    One of my social work classes, when discussing trans* people brought up autogynephilia as if it were just plain fact. When I brought up that it is not necessarily even the majority opinion, the professor opted for it staying to 'teach the controversy'. UGH.



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