Saturday, March 10, 2018

Autogynephilia: a theory that ignores lived experiences and basic mathematics

I have probably written more about Ray Blanchard’s autogynephilia theory than all but a small handful of people. I have done so for multiple reasons: 1) as a scientist, I am appalled by the theory’s lack of scientific rigor, 2) it denies many trans people’s lived experiences, 3) it makes far too many unnecessary (and incorrect) assumptions (i.e., it ignores Occam’s razor), 4) it is not scientifically falsifiable, as exceptions to the theory are routinely dismissed as being due to “lying” or “misreporting” by trans subjects, 5) it needlessly sexualizes and stigmatizes people on the trans female/feminine spectrum, and 6) it does not even attempt to account for people on the trans male/masculine spectrum.

In this brief post, I will highlight several of my more thorough analyses of autogynephilia theory. Other writings related to this topic may be found on my Trans Psychology webpage.


Autogynephilia: A scientific review, feminist analysis, and alternative ‘embodiment fantasies’ model [PDF link]
In this 2020 peer-reviewed article, I provide an updated overview of the scientific case against autogynephilia. Following that, I forward an alternative "embodiment fantasies" model that explains all the available evidence better than autogynephilia theory, and is far more consistent with contemporary thinking regarding gender and sexual diversity. Finally, given the theory's recent popularity among trans-exclusionary feminists, I demonstrate how autogynephilia relies on essentialist, heteronormative, and male-centric presumptions about women and LGBTQ+ people, and as such, it is inconsistent with basic tenets of feminism. 

The Case Against Autogynephilia [PDF link]
An earlier peer-reviewed article (from 2010) that appeared in the International Journal of Transgenderism. In it, I provide my most detailed analysis of why autogynephilia theory's taxonomy (its two "subtypes") and etiology (the assertion that FEFs cause gender dysphoria and desire to transition in lesbian, bisexual, and asexual trans women) do not hold true. In addition to refuting the theory's main tenets, I forward simpler non-pathological alternative explanations that better account for Blanchard’s and other researchers' findings.

This is my and Jaimie Veale's response to Bailey and Hsu's article How Autogynephilic Are Natal Females? (both published in Archives of Sexual Behavior). Their article attempts to refute the existence of “autogynephilia in women.” We point out numerous methodological and interpretive flaws with their study—including how their results are incompatible with Blanchard's original taxonomy—and make the case that “autogynephilia” is a flawed framework for considering both trans and cis women's sexual fantasies and desires.


Making Sense of Autogynephilia Debates
My 2019 essay in which I briefly summarize the evidence against autogynephilia theory, then explain the main reasons why many trans women so strongly object to it (besides the fact that it is incorrect), and the numerous rationales and ideologies that lead some people to continue to support and promote the theory despite its lack of scientific validity.

Autogynephilia, Ad Hoc Hypotheses, and Handwaving
In this 2020 essay, I delve into several esoteric arguments that autogynephilia's proponents continue to forward in their attempts to resuscitate the theory. Most of the article addresses the questions: Do cisgender people truly experience “autogynephilia”/FEFs, and are FEFs capable of causing gender dysphoria in anyone? I end with a critique of the "Dregerian narrative" (the assertion that transgender activists are "attacking science").

This 2021 post chronicles anti-trans activists' increasing promotion of "autogynephilia" in their efforts to smear trans women en masse as "sexual predators." I also document their recent attempts to wield "autogynephilia" (often in tandem with the fake diagnosis "ROGD") to undermine trans-related healthcare more generally.


Reconceptualizing “Autogynephilia” as Female/Feminine Embodiment Fantasies (FEFs)
A blogpost I wrote in 2015, and which was later updated for my latest book Outspoken (you can freely download that chapter here). This extends upon what I wrote in my 2007 book Whipping Girl, offering non-pathologizing explanations for why “autogyephilic fantasies” (what I call FEFs) exist, and why they are more prevalent in some trans subpopulations than others.

The real “autogynephilia deniers”
A blogpost I wrote in 2015 in response to James Cantor (one of the few proponents of autogynephilia theory who is still actively practicing sexology) wherein I list all of the major research and review articles that together demonstrate that the theory is incorrect. I also highlight numerous instances where anti-transgender individuals and organizations have cited autogynephilia theory in their attempts to invalidate, stigmatize, and slut-shame trans women.

Psychology, Sexualization and Trans-Invalidations [PDF link]
A speech that I gave in 2009; an updated version of the essay now appears in both my latest book Outspoken and on  An accessible analysis of why there is so much focus on trans female/feminine people’s (real or presumed) sexualities in the lay public, media, and in the fields of psychology/sexology, while their trans male/masculine counterparts remain under-theorized in these regards. I discuss Blanchard’s autogynephilia theory in the context of these more foundational stereotypes and biases.

A recurring complaint made by autogynephilia's proponents is that trans women who oppose the theory must be "anti-science" and/or attempting to "ruin" scientists' careers. This narrative was popularized by Alice Dreger in her 2008 article "The Controversy Surrounding The Man Who Would Be Queen: A Case History of the Politics of Science, Identity, and Sex in the Internet Age." This is my Archives of Sexual Behavior peer commentary in response to that article, in which I point out the numerous oversights and biases inherent in Dreger's narrative (which has since been repurposed numerous times).

Like I said, many other writings related to, or addressing, autogynephilia theory can be found on my Trans Psychology webpage and in my books Whipping Girl and Outspoken...

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