Please help me.
I’m trans and I want to transition. No, I don’t want to – I need to – because if I have to carry on living a lie I don’t want to live.
My family is Muslim and I know my parents will suffer when they find out, but I am prepared to inflict this because it is not my fault that God made part of me that is woman. But that’s the problem, I can’t stop thinking that this is not about being a woman but some fetish. I’ve read all your stuff on why autogynephilia is wrong and why it’s natural to fantasise like that if you’re trapped in the wrong body, but I’m not convinced. I want to be but I’m not, and if I’m not convinced then I cannot honestly tell my parents I am a woman, and I will not transition. This is sending me into a clinical depression.
The moment I get things clear that I am a woman I see this recurring image. It is a picture I have of a celebrity in a black satin blouse, leather skirt and boots. Why does this image haunt me? Because it is the image that proves I have a fetish, because it makes me so incredibly horny to think of myself dressed like that. There’s no one in the fantasy – I don’t need anyone – just being dressed like that makes me hard. I’m sure it’s sexy for a girl too, but she wouldn’t masturbate about it like I do. Why don’t I need another human being in the fantasy? That is what kills me. It means, just like Blanchard said – I am getting horny simply at the idea of being female. This is a fetish, and now I finally admit this, I’m devastated. I know the whole trans thing is a lie, but I don’t want it to be.
Felix, please please explain to me how I can ever claim to be a woman if there lies such fetishistic desire in my heart? Early onset transgender people don’t have this desire and that is surely because they are authentic and we are not. Tell me – because I really can’t go on, knowing that this is nothing more than ‘an outgrowth’ of my fetish to be a woman. But I beg you – don’t just repeat the trans dogma that it’s not all a fetish and this is just a normal fantasy, when it’s clearly not. Please please help me.
After two sleepless nights I reply.
August 30th 2015
This may come as a big surprise to both you and my readers but despite launching a very public campaign against the theory of autogynephilia, I secretly have doubts. None of these theories can be empirically verified so we can only say which theory has a higher probability of being true, but sometimes (usually when I’m depressed) I find autogynephilia more convincing than other explanations for late onset transsexualism. I do so, for the same reason as you: the clear evidence that at the centre of most male to female fantasies is simply being a woman – not being a woman having sex with other human beings.
Straight off, I should tell you that I do not see differing public and private views on autogynephilia as a challenge to my integrity. ‘Intellectual integrity’ is overrated in my opinion. Sexologists like Blanchard think it means ‘knowledge first – consequences second…it doesn’t matter if we discover something that’s not to the liking of a particular community, it’s our job as researchers to discover the truth.’ I do not agree with that.
Imagine the following scenario: a researcher discovers that one ethnic group has a lower IQ than another and that the cause is genetic – not educational. In my opinion that research is as dangerous as a toxic virus and I’d wipe any hard drive that contained such research. That is intellectual integrity in my opinion. Therefore, despite the fact I occasionally lean towards autogynephilia, I find it framed in such stigmatising language, and the public so unenlightened in its attitude to sex that, as a trans advocate, I don’t see any integrity at all in telling everyone that late onset transsexualism might grow out of a paraphilic desire to be a woman. The metaphor of trapped in the wrong body is a much more useful narrative clinically, existentially and culturally, and therefore, makes sense for transgender people to promote.
So why am I telling you all this, if I’m committed to keeping it a secret?
Because unfortunately, there is a high personal cost in investing my energy in ‘trans dogma’. The cost being – two years into my own gender crisis and I still don’t understand why I am the way I am, and that makes me feel not only lost and confused but stupid – because I’m going around proclaiming myself as someone who knows stuff but I don’t know shit. While I may have achieved something for other people with my writings, all I’ve achieved for myself is a slow, slide into chronic alcoholism.
What happened is that when my gender issues started I made contact with the transgender community, and it was clear to me that the people who were promoting autogynephilia and other fetish based arguments were not doing so out of any genuine search for the truth – or more importantly to help transgender people – but to hurt them and trivialise their feelings. I believe in fighting for your community, and I wasn’t going to sit by and let a bunch of trans-haters slur that community. So I got sucked into the fight.
But this has led to a farcical position where I spend my time thinking about extremely complex issues related to biology, psychology, trans-politics and philosophy, while another part of my brain is still at square 1 trying to work out the question all of us with cross gender arousal want to know…
…is this a fetish or am I really transgender?
You may be shouting, “but Felix, this is impossible…you’ve answered the question loads of times.” And all I can say is… “No I haven’t.”
I know I haven’t because, as a philosopher, I recognise the inherent flaw in my work: the trans-advocate always begins their analysis with an a priori belief that autogynephilia and all other fetish explanations are wrong, and that they must do everything they can to prove they’re wrong. Even if they’re right. That is a political methodology, and that’s good…because I’m a political animal. But I’m also a human animal…and I need to know the real answer. Being agnostic has to end. I can’t continue ‘suspecting’ it’s autogynephilia from time to time, and then bouncing back to feminine essence theories. I need to fucking know if this is a fetish or not! Not for the community, not for science, but for me.
I have written at length about how – even if it was discovered that late onset transsexualism grew out of a fetish – it wouldn’t matter. And I stick to that. The force of gender dysphoria is so destructive that it doesn’t matter whether it’s a fetish or an alien conspiracy – if you have to transition to save yourself, you have to do it. In terms of transgender health care, therefore, it’s irrelevant if it has origins in a fetish. For me personally, though, it is relevant. That’s why no matter how hard I try to put autogynephilia to bed, it has a nasty habit of waking up again. I find myself returning to the debate when I’m supposed to be thinking of other trans issues. I find myself, like you Anna, contemplating certain fantasies and noting points of fetishism.
The truth is that If I discover that I’m 100% male and the only thing female about me is that at 3 or 4 I developed a fetish for behaving like a woman, it would seriously damage my female side – a part of me that I value intensely. Why would it bother me so much? Is it because I have hang-ups about sex, is it some form of snobbery against fetish people, is it a fundamentalist belief in feminine essence theory? I don’t know. All I do know is that if my female side is an outgrowth of a paraphilia, then personally, the whole transgender thing for me would be Game Over.
Would I still support the transgender community? Of course. Would I still support transition as a treatment for gender identity problems? Of course. But would I go round saying there was a part of me that was intrinsically female? Definitely not!
Naturally, I wouldn’t suddenly announce my departure to join the foreign legion and renounce my interest in all things female. I would still have my female side, whatever that is, but it would just be a communal garden female side given extra force by paraphilic desire. And I guess that’s why I’d be so disappointed: there’s nothing wrong with having a fetish, but there’s nothing right about it either. It’s just an anti-climax.
Either way, I want to know. I want to bloody know.
So, Anna, I’m going to go right back to the beginning. I am going to return to that moment when the sperm fertilises the egg and examine all the available human knowledge that exists on sexual development from conception to adolescence. And quite frankly, I don’t know how long it’s going to take…but I do know that in the end you will have your answer. There will be no sugar-coating fantasies, no sitting on the fence, no trying to please trans people or anyone else: there will just be a sincere answer to the question that lies at the heart of autogynephilia:
…Is cross gender arousal the source from which transgender identity emerges, or is cross gender arousal a by-product of being transgender?
See you on the other side.
Felix Conrad’s new e-book is the world’s first objective study of cross gender arousal. You can buy it below by clicking on the cover, or you can get it from Amazon Kindle.