After having visited Anne Lawrence’s web site on Autogynephilia in 1999, and after having listened to her presentation and watching the reaction of her audience at Southern Comfort ‘99, I am compelled to write a response.
I have been an activist, mentor and counselor within the transgender community for over 30 years. In that time, I have had personal contact with many thousands of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming (GNC) people. Throughout this experience, I have come to understand that there is no one model of a transgendered person; there are many reasons as there are people involved. But some clear patterns have evolved.
And the clearest of those patterns, is that for most M2F TGs – especially those who are still in the closet – there is a significant sexual aspect to being transgendered. And that aspect is significantly slanted toward male ideas and ideals of female sexuality.
The problem with debating autogynephilia is that to deny it exists is to deny basic human sexuality. However, by refusing to separate male sexuality from M2F transgenderism/transsexuality, there is no chance of crossing the chasm to become woman. And autogynephilia justifies building a stonger link between male sexuality and M2F transgenderism, by giving that connection the power of a label, a name.
Autogynephilia may be a precursor to gender–role transtion, experiencing it may someday lead to sex reassignment surgery. But as long as the TG activities are tied to sex or sexuality, it remains a fetish.
In my counseling of Transgender people, it is clear that the majority (but not all) will go through a phase where masturbation is ultimately crucial to their transgender experience. And a clear pattern exists that when the masturbation event is concluded, the transgender event ends as well; the individual cannot seem to get the clothing, makeup and other props off of their body quickly enough.
I have often challenged transgendered people to leave the clothing and other props on after masturbation, to immediately put themselves back together, as it were, in the female mode. This is the only way I have ever found to help transgendered people begin to separate clothing from sexuality, so that they can begin to separate the concept of woman from sexuality. It is a traditional male trait to link women and sexuality, and this trait has caused several millennia of problems for women, who are thereby not seen as human beings.
Advertising has for years tended to portray women as body parts and as sexual things, rather than as humans. The experiences of a huge majority of the transgender population extends this portrayal; when individuals who profess to be a “woman trapped in a man’s body” can only be women in a sexual sense, it is no wonder that wives, girlfriends and women co-workers protest and work to push the TG away. And it is no wonder that male co-workers who might be homophobic anyway, would also work to keep the TG away from them.
The entire paradigm of autogynephilia qualifies it as a sexual fetish. There are many people who are clearly tied into their own unique fetishes, and who believe that they will wither and become depressed or even die if they are not allowed to routinely practice their sexual fetish. But the workplace is not a place to practice any sexual fetish. Autogynephilia may be a precursor to gender–role transtion, it may someday lead to sex reassignment surgery. But as long as the TG activities are primarily tied to sex or sexuality, it remains a sexual fetish.
It is not reasonable to expect or mandate that an employer allow a person to bring any other sexual fetish into the workplace; no diapers, no chains, no leather–drag, no pornography. If a workplace specificaly wants to allow and/or encourage these fetishes, that is fine; but to mandate a workplace to allow it based on city, state or Federal law is ludicrous.
As an advisor to many corporations and government entities where a TG is transitioning, I have watched in wonder at the number of M2F TGs who feel compelled to come to work dressed like a little girl or teenage slut, and then demand the same professional rights women co-workers have. With this display of sexuality, its is not surprising that women object to TGs using women’s spaces.
The problem then is this:
If this is primarily a sexually driven phenomenon, then we make a grave mistake in working for civil rights laws to protect it. Over the past decade, many cities have made law that protects people regardless of gender expression. It is clearly time to re-think this, so as to cut our losses in the future. Gender Expression that is clearly a male image of women’s sexuality; gender expression that clearly says “this is my male idea of the perfect sexual woman should be”, has no place being protected behavior in the workplace. I still feel strongly that no one should be fired simply for being transgender; but there has to be a limit to what behaviors and appearances we can ask/mandate employers to protect. And that limit is on the conservative side of the sexual.
It is fascinating to me that individuals within the transgender community, even at the point of undertaking permanent physical changes, only see the importance of the sexual body parts being changed. For example, there is huge importance attached to the development of breasts, hips, softer skin, nails, makeup, hair care, voice…. All of the things men look for in finding sexual attractiveness in a woman; but there is virtually no importance given to things like facial hair – the male beard. Why is it that M2F transgenders cannot realize that virtually no one but themselves will ever see their maked breasts or genitalia? That virtually no one will ever know whether their breasts, for example, are implant, prothesis, or “home grown”? But that their face, which virtually everyone they ever walk past will see– whether they acknowledge the other person or not? It can only be that male sexuality does not “see” women’s faces except under a layer of makeup, which M2F TGs think they can duplicate.
I have wondered in amazment for decades at the girls in recovery at SRS hospitals, who still are shaving a male beard, sometimes multiple times a day. But having the sexual parts of their body changed was so important to them, that they are willing to vehemently deny the necessity of beard removal. It is a dream world, full of sex and sexuality which consumes them; and it is male images and fantasies of that sexuality that are prized.
It also fascinates me that people who work so hard to achieve the perfect combination of feminine beauty and sexuality, scream in objection that it is stereotyping when any discussion of female attitudes or relationships is mentioned.
No one should ever be fired for what they do on their time away from work, which does not harm others. I firmly believe that no one should lose thier job or housing, nor access to public accomodations, just because they are or are percieved to be gender different. But it is time to stop the nonsense of creating laws requiring employers to coddle the autogynephiliac fetishist and their inane portrayal of woman.
When an employer says that a transgender employee is disrupting their workplace, other employees and customers, clearly that individual is not being a woman; virtually any born-woman will go out of her way to not disrupt the other people around her. That individual is most likely being only a caricature of woman, a caricature created to please their own personal fetish.
I have seen it in the workplace far too many times – the M2F TG wearing skirts too short, breasts too large and too high on the chest, (especially for a woman of their age), makeup and hair too big and bold for their age or size. Sexuality stuff.
If an individual cannot control their sexuality and/or sexual expression in the workplace, they do not have the right to be in the workplace. This is what employers are trying to say when they bring to the table, issues of sexual harrasment and hostile workplace environment when discussing transgenders. Do born-women dress to express their sexuality in the workplace? Not if they are in management, nor manufacturing, nor accounting, nor engineering, nor in most corporate positions other than clerical. And not if they are past the age of ideal sexuality, or out-sized, as most transgenders are… n the workplace, when a M2F transgender dresses and acts separate from sexuality, there are seldom any problems around on-the-job transition.