Autogfilia it is a controversial concept that has arisen for years in the debate on the relationship between sex and gender, and which is often used for political purposes.
In this article we will see what it consists of and how it was defined in the historical context in which it was born; a subject that prompts us to question the extent to which science can observe the phenomena of human behavior from a purely objective perspective.
Paraphilia or expression of gender identity?
Sex and gender are essential phenomena for a human being’s definition of himself. In the first case, it alludes to its biological reality, and in the second to a social construction linked to the way in which masculinity and femininity are apprehended in the spatio-temporal coordinates which correspond to it.
Sexual orientation would be the third variable, differentiated from the previous ones, And from which would be made the decision to maintain sentimental relations with another person because of his sex or independent of this one (homo / heterosexual, bisexual, asexual etc.).
As these are all phenomena which retain some independence from each other, it is likely that disparate and plural combinations will emerge in which predictable directionality does not necessarily have to occur by traditional norms.
Below we will deal with a complex and extremely controversial issue: autogyphilia, which was postulated as a paraphilia the aim would be to explain the epistemological substratum of transsexuality. The controversy on this issue remains to this day.
What is the concept of autogyphilia?
Autogynophilia is a deeply controversial construction. It can be divided into different semantic units according to their Greek origin: “self” (relative or referring to oneself), “gine” (woman) and “filia” (attraction or desire); it can therefore be boiled down to obtaining a sexual gratification that derives from the imagination of oneself by assuming feminine attributes, or simply by wearing the clothes traditionally attributed to this gender.
In this way, it would become a specific paraphilia in which a man would feel drawn to himself whenever he adopted feminine features. Of course, only in theory.
This word, which does not benefit from a unanimous consensus of the scientific community, was invented by psychologist Ray Blanchard following a series of works published at the end of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s. By its formulation, it would seek not only the recognition of a “new” pathology, but the final articulation of a theoretical model through which to confront the traditional vision of the transgender woman (man by birth) who would conceive of her as a “woman trapped in the body of a man” (what is also called the narrative of the feminine essence) .
Blanchard’s studies were conducted by dividing a sample (quite small, in fact) of transgender women into four groups, based on their sexual orientation: androphile (attracted to men), ginephile (to women), bisexual, and asexual. . What the author has described in his works is that the last three groups, which he baptized as non-homosexual, they reported that they were more often enthusiastic about imagining themselves with the appearance or clothing of women, Compared to the group of androphiles or homosexuals (75% against 15%). None of them wanted to undergo reassignment surgery.
This finding, along with the fact that the non-androphile group (ginephiles, bisexuals and asexuals) less frequently noted that they showed signs of femininity during their childhood, encouraged him to conclude that: homosexuals who sought to modify their bodily characteristics in order to attract heterosexual men, and that the rest of the transsexuals would be affected by a paraphilia (autoginephilia) in which their own bodily became the object of desire. This would only affect those who had male sex at birth, not female-to-male transsexuals.
Understood this concept according to Blanchard’s postulates, autogyphilia would describe a large group of transgender people according to how they orient their sexual desire, Avoid the question of identity altogether (or subsume it in a reductionist way). With this way of understanding it, all non-androphilic transsexuals would be considered heterosexual, the focus would be shifted, so that instead of wanting a woman, they would want themselves taking on the role of her. . In other words, the person himself would become the very object of his narcissistic paraphilia.
Autogyphilia would involve a reorientation of the object of desire as described in some cases of apotemnophilia (attraction to people with severe amputations and ending with resection of limbs or other parts of the body itself) . Even if it’s a theory that has gone unnoticed in the scientific community, Was saved at the turn of the present century by J. Michael Bailey and has prompted a substantial volume of pro and con studies. And this is a theory that has been openly viewed as transphobic by the LGBT community, and clearly detrimental to the trans community.
First of all, it is important to note that autogyphilia it is not covered in any of the commonly used diagnostic manuals (DSM-5 or CIE-10) as a clinical phenomenon, in any of the general categories available to them.
On the other hand, there is Gender Identity Dysphoria (DIG for its acronym), understood as the clear rejection of having a body with primary characters of either sex, and with which no identification is felt. In any case, the case of gender dysphoria is not specifically referred to as a psychological disorder, although its close relationship to moments of discomfort is indicated, which is not unrelated to how the pressure social conditions what is due. the roles.
According to the proponents of the existence of this concept of autogyphilia, this particular form of paraphilia is expressed as an excitement: by imagining wearing female clothes (especially underwear), by adopting body postures generally attributable to women during sexual activity, being recognized as a woman by other men, or imagining her having sex with a male partner (vaginally)
One of the most controversial aspects of the paraphilia issue is its supposed comorbidity with very diverse images of the same nosological family. In Blanchard’s work was postulated the agreement with froteurismo (arousal which is obtained by the deliberate and not consented friction with other bodies) and voyeurism (sexual pleasure by inadvertently observing other people practicing sex); or even much more serious for their great impact on third parties, such as pedophilia or bestiality.
However, what has been most strongly linked to autogyphilia (although still theoretically) has undoubtedly been masochism; which consists in obtaining sexual pleasure through passive (or receptive) participation in practices that generate pain, suffering or humiliation. however, there is no empirical evidence to link such paraphilias to being transgender; considering that this loop is illusory, artificial, degrading, devoid of any scientific and malicious substrate.
In any case, proponents of the autogyphilia model postulate that it is a real disorder, and that underlying many of the practices practiced with the aim of altering the physical expression of sex rather than gender. ): from cross-dressing to hormonation, and finally by reassignment surgery. In any case, the label would only apply to transgender women (MtF for the English acronym “Male to Female”) who did not refer to a homosexual orientation, so that paraphilia would be erected as their motivation. for the change. (And not a question of identity).
On the term autogyphilia and its impact on the social level
The very concept of autogyphilia, which was discussed in more detail in the article, has mutated in recent years into a throwing weapon with a politician light tint. Through its use, attempts have been made to systematically question the mere existence of transsexuality as a legitimate option through which to live out one’s own identity and sexual orientation, raising a scientific construct to build value judgments about it. ‘either.
All of this has been particularly damaging for the female transgender community. that he doesn’t feel like a homosexual and that he hasn’t felt like a homosexual since he was very young either. This is why it may be necessary to reflect on how science can be used occasionally for purposes very different from those for which it is designed, which are none other than to know reality objectively and to contribute to the knowledge that adds value to everyone’s life. people. Likewise, the very model of autogynophilia excludes the trans community of men (birth women), for whom their precepts do not seem to match.
In recent years, hypotheses have emerged which point out that the fantasies conceived in this model generally occur mainly in transgender men before reassignment surgery, and that they could be part of the construction of a scenario in which they experience their sexuality. desires. In the same vein, it is observed that such a practice is generally diluted after surgery, because the female self-image would have already been integrated.
In any case, the scientific community is no stranger to the question and its repercussions, so it continues to invest its efforts to enlighten it and strip it of any ideological nuance. Only in this way will we obtain a more precise and constructive knowledge which will translate into a real benefit.
- Bailey, JM and Triea, K. (2015). What a lot of transgender activists don’t want you to know: and why you should know it anyway. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 50 (4), 521-534.
- Blanchard, R. (1989). Classification and labeling of non-homosexual gender dysphoria. In: Archives of Sexual Behavior 18 (4), Ray, pp. 315 – 334.
- Klára Bártová, RA, Lucie Krejčová, PW and Klapilová, K. (2020) The prevalence of paraphilic interests in the Czech population: preference, arousal, pornography use, fantasy and behavior, The Journal of Sex Research, doi: 10.1080 / 00224499.2019 .1707468
- Serano, JM (2010). The case against autogyphilia. International Transgender Journal, 12, 176-187.