Sex and gender are essential phenomena for the definition of a human being. In the first case, it alludes to its biological reality, and in the second case to a social construction linked to the way in which masculinity and femininity are understood in the spatial/temporal coordinates that it has been given to live.
Sexual orientation would be the third variable, differentiated from the previous ones , and from which the decision to maintain sentimental relations with another person on the basis of their sex or independently of it (homo/heterosexual, bisexual, asexual etc.) would be forged.
Since they are all phenomena that have a certain independence from each other, it is likely that disparate and plural combinations will arise in which there need not necessarily be predictable directionality by traditional standards.
We will now deal with a complex and highly controversial issue: self-genderedness, which was postulated as a paraphilia whose object would be to explain the epistemological substratum of transsexuality. The controversy over this issue continues today.
What is the concept of self-help?
Self-gynophilia is a deeply controversial construct . It can be divided into different semantic units according to its Greek origin: “auto (relative or referring to oneself), “gine” (woman) and “filia” (attraction or desire); so it can be summarized as the obtaining of sexual gratification that arises from imagining oneself assuming feminine attributes, or simply making use of the clothes that have traditionally been assigned to this gender.
In this way, it would become a specific paraphilia in which a male would be attracted to himself as long as he adopted female traits. But only theoretically.
This word, which does not enjoy unanimous consensus in the research community, was coined by psychologist Ray Blanchard as a result of a series of papers published in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Through its formulation, not only was the recognition of a “new” pathology sought, but also the definitive articulation of a theoretical model through which to confront the traditional view of the transsexual woman (male by birth) that would conceive of her as a “woman trapped in a man’s body” (also known as the narrative of the female essence).
Blanchard’s studies were conducted by dividing a (rather small, in fact) sample of female transsexuals into four groups, based on their sexual orientation: androphiliacs (attracted to men), gynecologists (attracted to women), bisexuals and asexuals. What the author described in his work was that the last three groups, which he baptized as non-homosexuals , reported experiencing more frequent arousal when imagining themselves in women’s appearance or clothing , compared to the group of androphiliacs or homosexuals (75% versus 15%). None of them wanted to undergo reassignment surgery.
This finding, coupled with the fact that the group of non-Androphiliacs (gynecological, bisexual and asexual) reported less frequently showing any hint of femininity during their childhood, encouraged him to conclude that female androphiliac transsexuals were homosexuals who sought to modify their body characteristics in order to attract heterosexual men, and that the rest of the transsexuals would be affected by a paraphilia (self-gynophilia) in which their own corporality would become an object of desire. This would affect only those who were consigned to male sex at birth, and not male-female transsexuals.
Understood according to Blanchard’s postulates, self-genderedness would describe a broad group of transsexuals according to the way they orient their sexual desire , completely ignoring the question of identity (or subsuming it in a reductionist way). With this understanding, all non-Androphiliac transsexuals would be considered heterosexuals whose focus would be shifted from desiring a woman to desiring themselves in the role of a woman. That is, the person himself would become the very object of his narcissistic paraphilia.
Self-gynophilia would involve a redirection of the object of desire as has been described in some cases of apotemophilia (attraction to people with severe amputations and ending with the resection of limbs or other parts of one’s body). Although is a theory that went unnoticed in the scientific community , it was rescued at the beginning of this century by J. Michael Bailey and has motivated a substantial volume of studies for and against it. It is a theory that has been considered openly transphobic by the LGBT community, and clearly harmful to the trans community.
Firstly, it is important to note that self-gynephilia is not covered in any of the commonly used diagnostic manuals (DSM-5 or ICD-10) as a clinical phenomenon, in any of the general categories available to them. On the other hand, Gender Identity Dysphoria (GID) does appear, understood as the clear rejection of having a body with primary characteristics of either sex, and with which one does not feel any identification.
According to proponents of the existence of this concept, self-gynophilia, this particular form of paraphilia would be expressed as arousal: by imagining oneself wearing women’s clothes (especially underwear), by adopting body postures generally attributable to the feminine during sexual activity, by being recognized as a woman by other men, or by imagining oneself having intercourse with a male partner (vaginally).
One of the aspects that have generated most controversy regarding the issue of paraphilia is its supposed comorbidity with very different pictures of the same nosological family . In Blanchard’s work, he postulated the concurrence with froteurism (excitement obtained through the deliberate and non-consensual rubbing of other bodies) and voyeurism (sexual pleasure through the inadvertent observation of other people practising a coitus); or even others much more serious due to their great impact on third parties, such as paedophilia or zoophilia.
However, the one that has been most solidly linked to self-gynophilia (although always theoretically) has been without any doubt masochism; which consists of obtaining sexual pleasure through passive (or receptive) participation in practices that generate pain, suffering or humiliation. Nevertheless, there is no empirical evidence that connects such paraphilias with the fact of being transsexual ; considering that this bond is illusory, artificial, degrading, lacking any scientific substrate and malicious.
In any case, supporters of the self-gendered model postulate that this is a real disorder, and that it underlies many of the practices carried out with the aim of altering the physical expression of sex (not gender): from transvestism to hormonation, and ultimately to reassignment surgery. In any case, the label would only apply to female transsexuals (MtF) who did not refer to a homosexual orientation, so that paraphilia would stand as their motivation for change (and not a question of identity).
On the term self-genderedness and its impact at the social level
The very concept of self-genderedness, which has been elaborated on in the article, has mutated in recent years into a politically charged weapon . Through its use, an attempt has been made to systematically question the mere existence of transsexuality as a legitimate option through which to live one’s sexual identity and orientation, using a construct clothed in science to construct value judgments on one or the other.
All of this has been particularly harmful for the female transsexual community that does not live as a homosexual, nor does it refer to feeling as such from its earliest childhood. That is why perhaps a reflection should be made on how science can occasionally be used for purposes very different from those for which it is conceived, which are none other than to know reality objectively and contribute to knowledge that brings value to the lives of all people. Likewise, the very model of self-gendering rules out the trans community of men (born women), for whom its precepts do not seem to fit.
In recent years, hypotheses are emerging that the fantasies conceived in this model tend to arise predominantly in transgender males prior to reassignment surgery, and that they might be part of the construction of a scenario in which they experience their sexuality in a way that is consistent with their intimate desires. Along the same lines, it is observed that such practice tends to be diluted after surgery, since the female self-image would have already been integrated.
In any case, the scientific community is not oblivious to the issue and its repercussions, so it continues to invest its efforts in shedding light on the issue and removing any ideological overtones. Only in this way will a more precise, constructive and genuinely beneficial knowledge be achieved.
- Bailey, J.M. and Triea, K. (2015). What Many Transgender Activists Don’t Want You to Know: and why you should know it anyway. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 50(4), 521-534.
- Serano, J.M. (2010). The Case against Autogynephilia. International Journal of Transgenderism, 12, 176-187.