What I Said to /r/GenderCritical (December 2016)

Dear /r/gendercritical:

So, I'm a man in the interesting position of simultaneously possessing what I now understand to be the same underlying psychological variation that motivates some males to become the kind of MtTs that justifiably draw the ire of gender-critical feminists, and hitting peak trans.

The psychologist Ray Blanchard proposed that male-to-female (... -to-"female") transsexuals come in two distinct types. So in one taxon, you have extremely feminine gay males who find they fit into society better women rather than anomalously feminine men. And in the other taxon, you have otherwise-mostly-ordinary men with an unusual sexual interest that Blanchard called autogynephilia ("love of oneself as a woman") wherein they are erotically interested in the idea of having a female body, and over a period of years, gradually build up self-identity feelings around that image. The thing to appreciate here is that it's not just a fetish! It's also a beautiful pure sacred self-identity feeling ... that, yes, happens to almost certainly be causally related to the fetish. "Men who love women and want to become what they love."

... men like me.

When I encountered the word autogynephilia ten years ago at age 18, I immediately thought, There's a word for it! I was actually surprised that it had been coined in the context of a theory of transsexualism; I wasn't unhappy with my assigned gender, because (like many of you) I was something of a gender-abolitionist at the time and didn't think gender roles should exist. It was just ... my happy fantasy. I didn't have any reason to come up with any ludicrous rationalizations that I was somehow literally a girl in some unspecified metaphysical sense.

But the Blanchard taxonomy did not seem to be the standard view, and (I soon learned) people get mad at you when you use the word autogynephilia in a comment section, so I assumed that the theory that autogynephilia could be a root cause of transsexualism was false, while continuing to be grateful that there was a word for the beautiful feeling at the center of my life.

And I spent the next ten years continuing to have the sorts of experiences that I guess pass for "gender dysphoria" (not wanting to identify with maleness or masculinity, prefering to identitfy with women if not femininity, growing a ponytail for symbolic reasons, trying to go by a gender-neutral nickname for a few years, feeling happy when someone assumed I was gay or "ma'am"ed me over the phone, &c.), all the while thinking that I wasn't one of those people who are like, actually trans, because they claim to have gender identities, and I didn't know what a gender identity was supposed to feel like. I was just, you know, one of those guys who are pointedly insistent about not being proud of the fact that they're guys, and who like to fantasize about things being different, all of this being (at a guess) probably related somehow to my erotic fantasies about having magical shapeshifting powers.

... and then, I moved to Berkeley.

I met some very interesting people whom I am very jealous of. I talked to some of them. I did some reading. And ... it's starting to look like Blanchard was right. Most actual trans women (MtTs in your terminology) are, in fact, guys like me who were less self-aware about it, who had all the same happy romantic fantasies about being a woman and then—somehow—took them literally (!?!).

This revelation has left me with many conflicting feelings.

So, cards on the table: in itself, I don't think autogynephilia is a bad thing. I think it's a good thing. I think it's made me a better person. (I may not exactly be a good person by radical feminist standards, but I'm probably better than I would have been if I had just been a normal nerdy straight white guy without this obsessive need to identify with women.) I think people should have the freedom to body-mod and choose their pronouns and have that be respected.

But to exercise that freedom responsibly, I think it's important to be realistic about what the underlying psychological mechanisms are, to be realistic about what the existing technology can and cannot do, and to respect the interests of, you know, actual women, who might have legimate reasons to want their own sports teams or music festivals without people like me around!

The currently-existing trans rights Zeitgeist, insofar as it doesn't even want to admit that autogynephilia is a thing, does not seem realistic to me. I'm kind of upset about this! I've started a blog, The Scintillating But Ultimately Untrue Thought, where I intend to write about this and other gender issues. If it's alright with you-all, I may want to share some of my future posts on this sub? (I am sympathetic to many of the goals of gender-critical feminism, but am writing from my own idiosyncratic perspective; I am eager to contribute insofar as our interests overlap, but don't want to intrude in spaces where I am not wanted.) I remain,

Critically yours,
M. Taylor Saotome-Westlake