FAQ about the Autogynephilia Controversy

Do you accept the autogynephilia theory?

Some aspects make sense. Some do not. The theory leaves stuff out.

It undisputed that many MtF trans people have what Julia Serano calls “Feminine Embodiment Fantasies” that eroticize their predicament. Any “unified theory” needs to explain those.

Where is the autogynephilia theory wrong?

Most trans-people think there is more going on inside them then just sexual desire.

The experience of gender dysphoria that FtM trans people have is quite similar to that of MtF trans people, even those who have FEFs. Autogynephilia theory does not account for this.

The symmetry of experience between MtF and FtM is strong evidence that something more than eroticism is involved.

Back in 2004 you published a list of “flawed criticisms of the autogynephilia theory”. Doesn’t that make you a supporter of it?

It means that that I thought the critics were making flawed arguments. I made a similar list of flawed arguments for the autogynephilia theory.

One of the life-lessons I learned is that logic and nuance get you nowhere in politics.

In 2005, you announced you were the Poster Girl of the Bailey International Autogynephilia Society. Doesn’t that make you a supporter?

BIAS announced their Poster Girl selection on the first of April. A surprising number of people fell for it. The pro-Bailey faction was not as amused.

What model for transgender etiology do you think is right?

Eventually we will develop a theory of genetic/memetic interplay that explains it all. Its a way off, and the journey will be perilous as there are many sacred cows standing in the road.

As for why trans people have FEFs, as Joan Roughgarden put it: “the male to female body must survive testosterone”.

What should happen with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the APA?

I would drop the concept of paraphilia entirely. Ray Blanchard’s definition of paraphilia is in contrast to “heteronormative” sex. I feel its absurd because everybody has unusual sexual interests they would rather not explain.

What to do about pedophilia, necrophilia, sexual homicide, etc., then?

Create a category for problematic sex. Don’t include stuff that is only problematic because you don’t enjoy it.

It is revealing to look at books about sexuality that are 100 years old. Everything beyond the missionary position for procreation had a creepy latin name.

What do you think of Alice Dreger?

Alice Dreger is spot-on. Nobody has disputed the facticity of any of her writings. The criticisms are all about her point-of-view. Essentially: “Since you won’t join our lynch mob, you are one of THEM!”.

What do you think of Lynn Conway, Deirdre McCloskey , Joan Roughgarden, and Andrea James?

I get along with Lynn, Deirdre, and Joan just fine. It took some of them a few years to get over my dissent over their methods. We don’t agree on every thing.

Andrea James, whom I consider to be the main author of the “bat shit crazy” aspects of this affair, is a self serving bully.

What about Kenneth Zucker?

Dr. Zucker is the leading authority on caring for transgender children in the world. It is a shame to run him off.

That said, I agree that his methods are out of date. So are everyone else’s. We need to create an “extended liminality” for gender-variant children that gives them time and space to make their own choices. The “well worn path” of what I call the “transitional narrative” is not the only way.

Much of Dr. Zucker’s recent troubles are a consequence of his having published Alice Dreger’s take-down of Conway and James in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, which he edits.

What recommendations do you have for more information?

Julia Serano is a thoughtful critic you can find at: http://www.juliaserano.com/TSetiology.html

Madeline Wyndzen, whom I met on the autogynephilia Yahoo group, has a great web site at http://www.genderpsychology.org/.

Alice Dreger has http://alicedreger.com/. She tweets often as @AliceDreger too.

Lynn Conway and Andrea James each have an extensive web presence.

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What is “autogynephilia” and why is there a snarky Internet web page with Jamie Faye Fenton’s name on it?

If you do a Google search of my name, a web page about autogynephilia comes up.  It claims to represent my views. I don’t agree. The reason that page exists is an interesting story.

Autogynephilia is a word coined by Ray Blanchard, a professor of psychiatry in Toronto. The word unpacks to mean “auto” (with one’s self) “gyne”  (woman) and “philia” (attracted to). An autogynephile is thus someone whose sexual orientation is being attracted to (the image of) themselves as a woman. In Blanchard’s world, there are also androphiles (who are attracted to men). Heterosexual men become autogynephilic women, Gay men become androphillic women.

Blanchard claims that autogynephilia is the prime motivation for gender transition for heterosexual men. This is the controversial part. Most male to female trans people think there is more than just that going on. I am one of those. Autogynephilia is also considered a type of paraphilia, which places it within the purview of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association.

When these ideas were first introduced back in the 1980s, they were liberating. Before then, admitting to any erotic aspect of your transgender journey disqualified you from getting hormones and surgery. Trans people learned to lie about that. With Blanchard’s theory we could acknowledge our sexuality at long last.

This changed as the transgender rights movement advanced. Our mention in the DSM was being used by our opponents to label us as sex perverts. A movement to remove transgender expression from the DSM arose and it progressed. Part of our strategy involved de-emphasizing the erotic in favor of a narrative evoking innate gender identity.

In 2003, things were coming together, then hell broke loose. A Northwestern University psychology professor named J. Michael Bailey wrote a book called The Man Who Would Be Queen” which presented Blanchard’s autogynephilia theory as scientific fact. It didn’t help that he chose an offensive cover image and made “tone dumb” politically incorrect statements about transgender people. This pissed a lot of people off.

The angry included Lynn Conway, a celebrated computer engineer, economist Deirdre McCloskey, and ecologist Joan Roughgarden. There was also Andrea James. I knew the first three and have tremendous respect for their scientific acumen. I was also becoming dismayed as I saw them attacking the author’s scientific claims in non-scientific ways that became more bizarre every day. It went from insults to attacks on Bailey’s colleagues and family to filing multiple bogus claims of misconduct with the University and State.

Against my better judgement, I entered the fray. I thought the best way to defeat a scientific theory would be to develop a better one. I also believe in engaging with everyone involved to find strengths and weaknesses. This lead me to a Yahoo Group called “Autogynephilia Support” which, despite its name, was a discussion venue that encouraged vigorous debate.  I had useful conversations with Bailey, Anne Lawrence, Madeline Wyndzen, and others.

One member of the group, hiding behind an assumed name, was Andrea James. She did everything in her power to shut it down, and eventually succeeded. Andrea also created “denunciation pages” about each of the active group members, including me. Andrea was also corresponding with me directly and I responded. My goal with her was to open her mind, which turned out to be a fools errand. Curiosity was answered with insult and I eventually gave up.

Her version of the interaction lives on at her web site. (My actual positions differ). It comes up near the top when you Google my name. I have asked her to put it behind a robots.txt file (which directs Google to only index the file internally). She agreed to, but never actually did. Its not as bad as Rick Santorum’s “Google Problem”, but I am sure she intends the same effect.

Andrea James and her cohorts met their match in Alice Dreger, an academic historian of science. Dreger wrote an extensive article about the Bailey Affair which was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. They went after her too. A year ago Dreger published “Galileo’s Middle Finger”, which describes what happened to Bailey & her, as well as what happened to other scientists who offended political sensibilities. GMF casts Andrea James and Lynn Conway in a poor light, who are now campaigning to brand the book and author as transphobic. (It isn’t).

I have resisted writing about all this for many years. Andrea James is a troll – someone who causes trouble to draw attention to themselves. Even negative attention will do. She has been doing this for years and has made a host of enemies.

Usually it is best to ignore trolls. I encourage you to do so.

Jamie Faye Returns

Like many others, I had a blog going for a year or two in the early 2000s.

I stopped for awhile and went to Facebook.

Facebook is not a good place for publishing complex writings. Everything gets automatically pushed out of attention over time, so you are encouraged to write short paragraphs.

So now I try WordPress. We use it at Transgender Forum, however I need my own place for my own ideas.

There is a lot of stuff over on jamiefaye.com from my past that I won’t be moving over now. If you want to look back 12 to 22 years, visit http://www.jamiefaye.com.