In the first podcast of our new series, Transgender Philosophy, Felix explores a fight between two very different members of the LGBT community: James Cantor and Julia Serrano. The subject is autogynephilia denial. Felix gets angry at shoddy science from both sides.
You can either listen to the podcast by pressing ‘play’ above, or you can download it below by left clicking and choosing ‘save link as.’
Felix the Cat gets his claws out…
“First of all, I find it very strange that a gay man is trying to promote a theory which ascribes late onset transsexualism to a fetish. It kind of reminds me of Samuel L jackson in Django… the black slave who cooperates with the whites in oppresing the slaves. Who’s fucking side are you on, dude?”
James Cantor replies… (this reply was lifted from ‘comments’ so should not be seen as an accurate reflection of the author’s writing style. It is a blog comment.)
“I am very glad to see careful attention being paid to this issue. Congratulations on taking on such a volatile and controversial topic.
You were entirely correct to read and critically evaluate Moser’s and others’ claims that autogynephilia is common across all women, but a fair comparison requires the same reading and evaluation of studies on all sides. I was surprised to hear you say in your podcast instead that there weren’t any such studies. For example, this is some of the neurological evidence you say didn’t exist:
Rametti, G., Carrillo, B., Gomez-Gil, E., Junque, C., Segovia, S., Gomez, A, & Guillamon, A. (2011). White matter microstructure in female-to-male transsexuals before cross-sex hormone treatment. A diffusion tensor imaging study. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 45, 199–204.
Savic, I., & Arver, S. (2011). Sex dimorphism of the brain in male-to female transsexuals. Cerebral Cortex, 21, 2525–2533.
A very complete and very readable summary of other non-self-report based research (such as biological responses) is available in “Men trapped in men’s bodies” by Dr. Anne Lawrence (herself an openly autogynephilic transsexual).
Anyone is free to express whatever opinion they like, but there is little that can be made from an opinion based on the belief that none of the existing evidence exists.
Regarding causality, you are quite correct that (ethical) science can never prove the cause(s) of transsexuality—it isn’t as if we can randomly assign groups. Nonetheless, we can still rule out theories that fail to explain the data that we do have: Autogynephilia is (essentially) limited to male-to-female transsexuals attracted to females. It does not occur (or is extremely rare) in male-to-female transsexuals attracted to males or in female-to-male transsexuals (regardless of attractions). The hypothesis that ‘transsexuality causes autogynephilia’ has no explanation for that pattern. The hypothesis that ‘autogynephilia is one of two things that motivates the desire to change sex’ does. (Although your podcast treats the existence of autogynephilia as the central scientific issue, the actual issue is one step larger than that.)
I am glad that during your podcast you realized how often you were referring to me as a gay sexologist rather than simply a sexologist. You did not, however, take your insight to its logical conclusion: In faulting me for being convinced by the evidence supporting autogynephilia—which you feel I should oppose as an out gay man—you are saying that one’s scientific conclusions should follow from one’s demographics and personal politics. This cannot be farther from the truth. I hold my scientific conclusions despite whatever political views I have on whatever issue. An alternative conclusion you might have come to was that: If this openly gay guy, who is known for publicly supporting people with sexual diversities even as vilified as pedophilia, is still convinced by the evidence for autogynephilia, then that evidence must be quite strong. (As an aside, telling a woman how she should be shopping because she is a woman, followed by telling a gay man what he should thinking because he is gay is rather surprising in a podcast aiming for transcendence. And being willing to hold an opinion different from the group surrounding one is a bad thing?)
Finally, autogynephilia is not a fetish. (Fetishes are sexual interests in inanimate objects.) Autogynephilia is a paraphilia, essentially equivalent to a sexual orientation, and I believe people should embrace, celebrate, and enjoy it rather than deny it. Indeed, the one group not represented in the podcast are any of the very many people who actually do just that, happily integrating their autogynephilia into their lives and selves. For examples and role models, I again recommend Anne Lawrence’s “Men trapped in men’s bodies.”