On August 10 earlier this year, I concluded that the weakly supported theory of autogynephilia (AGP) remains popular among a certain subset of sexologists because of its utility for dismissing trans women. A careful look at the methodology that produced the theory quickly demonstrates its fatal flaws, and yet the theory is, to this day, occasionally cited as a reason to dismiss a trans woman’s opinion as unreliable. In brief review, the theory posits that there are two (and only two) etiologies by which gender dysphoria is produced in trans women: The first, the bizarre and easily falsified notion that it is easier to be a trans woman than an effeminate gay man; the second, sexual arousal at the thought of oneself as possessing culturally female attributes. The former are confusingly named “homosexual,” (as in women attracted to men), the latter “heterosexual” (as in women attracted to women). Science!
Ray Blanchard was only able to propose this conclusion by ignoring vast portions of his data and framing his subjects as liars, thus rendering his theory unfalsifiable when tested with his own methodology. The theory, naturally, doesn’t pan out when investigated by Blanchard’s peers.
The first is that Ray Blanchard never actually compared his results with a control group, which to anyone acquainted with the scientific method is a pretty egregious oversight. When Dr. Charles Moser did just that and posed Blanchard’s survey to cisgender women, he found that 93% of cisgender women classified as “autogynephilic.” If we were to accept AGP as a valid scientific theory, we would have to claim that 93% of cisgender women are suffering from a pandemic of “erotic location errors.” In other words, all Blanchard “discovered” was that most women pictured themselves with breasts and vulvae in their sexual fantasies, and are frequently aroused by the interactions they imagine with said characteristics. There is nothing specific to this that justifies singling out trans women the way Blanchard’s taxonomy does, unless you think women aren’t supposed to be sexual creatures and that the presence of sexual desire in trans women therefore deems us “men.” (One wonders where this puts all the allosexual and even some ace-spectrum women, who I’m sure will be surprised to learn they’ve been doing their sexual desire wrong all this time.)
Trans men, of course, don’t exist, and were only included in the theory after this omission was pointed out in order to, and I quote, “avoid accusations of being sexist.” Theories are supposed to be models that approximate and make sense of reality–if your theory is ignoring observations, it’s supposed to undergo rigorous revision. “Avoiding accusations of being sexist” is not rigorous revision, it’s a flippant and incompetent remark indicative of a greater investment in preserving one’s pet project than in subjecting observations to testing. The evidence that’s actually available describes a process of sexual fantasizing that is in no way unique to trans folk: You probably picture yourself, albeit an idealized version, in your sexual fantasies. Earth shattering.
That’s a polite way of saying he’s a shitty scientist with a shitty theory. I argue this in greater length here; for now, the relevant takeaway is that the theory is leakier than Trump’s White House.
This brings me to Rod Fleming. Although easily verified as an author, his only claim to journalism I can find is his blog, where he delights in “
not treating people with respect not being politically correct.” We will also see by the end of this post that he’s another example of libertarians doing libertarianism wrong, because I clearly don’t have enough reasons to roll my eyes at the tripe that has graced my feed.
Fleming has decided for reasons unbeknownst to me that his “position” on “transsexualism” merits an entire, distinct announcement. Fleming makes the mistake of championing his post as an actual position paper despite the fact that the first 1,500 words or so is little more than self-indulgent wankery. It opens thusly:
Many people don’t quite understand my position on transsexualism, which is fair enough because I have never stated what that position might be.
And he immediately contradicts himself in the next sentence:
Like I said, the first ~1,500 words of this alleged position paper are actually just anecdotes. You can read it for yourself, but I’ll pick out a few samples here and there to give you an idea of why I’m just going to skip it entirely for the purposes of responding:
I had a scientific education but was always propelled towards practicality, so I studied things that could make money, like photography and journalism (duuh.)
I have always been interested in human sexuality, since the time I was at Art School. This was because there, I was exposed to a myriad of different ones. People today forget how open the culture, at least in Scotland, was in the 1980s. New Romance was the big thing, everybody wore mascara and it was rightly called the ‘gayest era ever.’
I graduated, went to work, got married, pursued a career, made a lot of money, became a dad four times and did the usual things one does as the head of a family.
It was a struggle to get [trans women] to talk at all and they were clearly very apprehensive
(I wonder why)
although they were in no way hostile.
This eventually crystallised into The Warm Pink Jelly Express Train, a fictional but fact based book.
(what does that sentence even mean)
Then I discovered Mike Bailey’s book, The Man Who Would Be Queen.
Hopefully that’s an adequate demonstration of all the time-wasting at the start of his essay. Some editorial advice, Fleming: Just delete the first like 15 paragraphs of your piece the next time you want to claim you’re justifying your position. Your personal anecdotes shouldn’t be relevant, if you have any actual facts to substantiate your claims.
Ah, but there is the crux. He doesn’t. That’s the only reason he thinks his history is relevant. Statistics? Scientific method? Alas, nothing but the tools of “histrionic agitators” (because hysteria is suddenly fashionable to repurpose when you have the chance to bludgeon trans women with it). See, Fleming mistakes the trans women he paid attention to (small and feminine) with the entire sample of trans women. In reality, there were more than that, but Fleming was thinking with his dick too much to notice them. He admits us much later in his post (emphasis added):
One was like the first I’d met, and the other — wait for it — was small, pretty and feminine. At first I didn’t even see them. But as my eye became attuned, I did.
And I’ve never seen a toupee that I couldn’t tell was fake. Colour me surprised that someone struggling to acknowledge the weaknesses of induction doesn’t know enough about the scientific method to fairly evaluate Blanchard’s claims.
“Attuned.” This slimy weasel is writing about us as if we were precious gems to be plucked out from the mud. Nothing like objectification to get me in a charitable mood! Back to where we were, then:
The problem was that if Blanchard were right, then the transwomen I had been in touch with should represent both types of transsexualism. I noted how Roberta Close, a famous Brazilian transwoman, refused to have anything to do with the ‘travestis’.
Yes, we know those types around here, and we know that tap-dancing for The Cis™, at best, temporarily delays the point at which you are subject to transphobia. Standing your ground and defining your boundaries clearly, however, isn’t as “cool,” and the antis tend to view that as a challenge rather than an ultimatum.
And then Sam Winter in Hong Kong published data suggesting that transwomen in Thailand were only of one type. So on one hand I had Blanchard, reasoned and articulate,
(Just a reminder, this is the clinician who freely admits his treatment of trans women caused those trans women to need further therapy)
and Bailey, and on the other, I had a number of histrionic agitators but with, by my reading, also scientists on their side.
Woo! Fleming scores his first point by being the only dickhead to admit that academic critiques of Blanchard’s methodology have existed alongside the “activist” critiques the entire time! Good job! Whossagoodboy? You’re one step ahead of Jesse Singal!
I came to the tentative conclusion that if Blanchard were right this was a Western phenomenon, and the greater likelihood seemed that he was somehow wrong.
“Somehow.” Maybe because he doesn’t know how to do science? Just an educated guess. He earned his PhD in the sexology golden era when gay boys were a “problem” to be “fixed,” we ought to know better than to fall for the trap of excessive credentialism.
Next is more fluff:
I completed the The Warm Pink Jelly Express Train and began researching others
Blah blah blah, we’ll skip to his next actual position statement, in which queer trans women are described as though we are demonically possessed (emphasis added):
AGPs are attracted, through a variety of mechanisms, to the idea of themselves as women. This is a form of auto-eroticism dependent on what Blanchard called an ‘Erotic Target Location Error’. They invent a pseudo-feminine second character who becomes the object of their erotic desire. This, in the right circumstances, can take over the host, causing him to believe that he is ‘actually female’ — since the second personality was invented as a pseudo-woman.
(Reminder: 93% of cis women are supposedly suffering from this “erotic target location error.” Better get out the exorcists!)
[skipping more fluff]
Now I promised you my position and I have made you wait quite long enough.
Pro-tip: This is where you should have started.
Alright, so everything up to this point has been an attempt by me to demonstrate that Fleming: 1) Lacks the facilities to fairly evaluate Blanchard’s pseudoscientific theory; and 2) Clearly has anecdotal reasons to support it, but is dancing around his motivation with excessive fluff. Now recall that I said the same people who remain proponents of autogynephilia as a trans-specific phenomenon that describes an etiology of gender identity nonetheless persist in citing the theory despite being utterly bereft of merit. The conclusion of my previous analysis was that the AGP “diagnosis” remains in use in certain circles because it’s an academic-sounding way to dismiss “bad transsexuals” (which any trans woman can rapidly become due to the inconsistent definition of the theory) without actually considering our words.
Well, here we go, the end of the dancing:
In the West today, non-homosexual, AGP, late onset, call them what you will, transsexuals are out of control.
Let me state something unambiguously: No women are for anybody to “control,” including Filipino trans women.
I’d like to thank Fleming for demonstrating so clearly my previous conclusion. Fleming has never once addressed the inadequacies of Blanchard’s research, inserting his own predatory sexual tourism of the Philippines as a substitute for data. In the course of his argument, he has:
- Evaluated trans women as if we were objects with a value to be appraised;
- Invoked misogynist tropes of hysteria to avoid addressing deficiencies in Blanchard’s theory when posed by trans women critics;
- Indulged in the toupee fallacy without any awareness as to the weaknesses of inductive reasoning;
- Suggested that trans women are things that can and should be controlled.
- Written exclusively as though women exist for the benefit of his consumption.
We have a hand motion for people like this, where I come from:
But then again, I guess I’m one of the “bad trans,” so what do I know.