Detecting the A*P type in Cis People

I consistently find a strong connection between A*P (AutoGynePhilia / AutoAndroPhilia, that is, sexual fantasies about being the opposite sex) and interest in being the opposite sex. Looking over my surveys, the association seems to be r~0.5 for women and r~0.6 for men.

plot

(This diagram is based on data from my Thorough Genderbending Survey, Broader Gender Survey, Gender and Psychology Survey, Personality and Miscellaneous Questions Survey, Survey on Gender and Valued Experiences, Men’s Sexuality and Attitudes to Gender Survey, Amazon Mechanical Turk Survey.)

In the plot above, you see each of my surveys marked with two crosses (a blue one for men’s answers, and a red one for women’s). The x-axis represents the correlation I’ve found between A*P and interest in changing sex, whereas the y axis is the standard error of this correlation. Using this kind of plot is perhaps a bit overkill, but it summarizes the results nicely.

Is A*P Associated with Dysphoria?

Here, I’ve usually measured interest in changing sex using hypotheticals like “would you press a magic sex-change button?”. This leaves open the objections that perhaps these people don’t truly experience gender dysphoria, and are therefore fundamentally different from trans people, who generally do. For this reason it may be useful to separate this into different measures which examine the sex-change interest in different ways.

One very basic way to do this is to measure feelings about being the opposite sex separately from feelings about being one’s current sex. The latter seems more “dysphoria”-like than the former, so it may be more relevant. I measure this by asking about how appealing it is to have male sex characteristics and to have female sex characteristics separately.

plot2

(This diagram is based on data from my Broader Gender Survey, Personality and Miscellaneous Questions Survey, Survey on Gender and Valued Experiences.)

On the above diagram, you see the results I’ve gotten. Each of my surveys have been marked with two dots, one for men and one for women. The x-axis shows the association between A*P and desire to be the opposite sex, whereas the y-axis shows the association between A*P and desire to be one’s current sex. A*P seems associated with both, though much more with a desire to be the opposite sex.

We might also try to examine the association in other ways. For example, gender dysphoria may show up as negative body image, depression, depersonalization, unhappiness or anxiety. For women, I don’t find any of this, but I have found some amount for men.

I’ve consistently found an association between autogynephilia and negative body image. In my Broader Gender Survey, I found a correlation of 0.21. I examined it in the Personality and Miscellaneous Questions Surveys, but did not find any statistically significant results. Lastly, in my Gender and Psychology Survey, I found a correlation of 0.16. These are weak correlations, but they’re similar in order of magnitude to the correlation between A*P and desire to stay your current sex.

The association between A*P and happiness is unclear, but my Broader Gender Survey suggests it’s negative (significantly for men, r~0.16, nonsignificantly for women, r~0.11).

There may be an association between autogynephilia and the other things, but the data is slightly ambiguous. In my Gender and Psychology Survey, I found an association between autogynephilia and anxiety (r~0.12) and a nonsignificant possible association with depression (r~0.07) and depersonalizaton (r~0.07). In this survey, autogynephilia also correlated with other mental health issues, such as autism (r~0.19), schizophrenia (r~0.15) and possibly (nonsignificantly) also borderline (r~0.09). This matches the trends that my Personality and Miscellaneous Questions Survey suggested (but could not confirm, due to low power).

Puzzle: The Asymmetry Between AGP and AAP

For some reason, autogynephilia seems to be visible in many variables that indicate problems, whereas autoandrophilia is not. I’m not yet sure why this is. This may perhaps be the reason why some people perceive autoandrophilic trans men to be “””illegitimate””” – the characteristics of dysphoria that we’d generally expect there to be simply fail to exist. On the other hand, some of these things correlate with a desire for women to be the opposite sex, even though it doesn’t correlate with autoandrophilia.

We could imagine a lot of potential explanations for the asymmetry. For example, some science suggests that female sexuality is less visual than male sexuality, which might lead to fewer body image problems for autoandrophiles than for autogynephiles, even if other kinds of dysphoria still exist. Women also seem more bisexual than men, which might prevent A*P from causing body image problems. On the other hand, this bisexuality should probably also prevent AAP from causing a desire to be male, so perhaps this isn’t the explanation.

It may also be that autoandrophiles who experience some amounts of dysphoria-like things are more likely to identify as some variant of genderqueer or nonbinary, and therefore won’t be counted when I merely look at cisgender people.

Complexities of Gender Dysphoria

There is a danger in focusing too much on the respondents’ current levels of gender dysphoria, because it doesn’t seem like a fixed trait. Dysphoria is thought to increase over time, and most of my respondents tend to be relatively young. In addition, dysphoria can become much more apparent once it is actually examined (see this for an example with lots of anecdotes in the comments). I’m also very sympathetic to the transhumanist ideal where gender dysphoria itself isn’t necessarily more valid than “gender euphoria” for transition.

Some readings of A*P theory try to eliminate dysphoria completely, and this is probably a mistake, given how many trans people clearly experience it. However, I think it may be much subtler than it is generally assumed to be, and something more like “gender euphoria”, or “gender aspiration” is probably closer to the “core” of A*P motivations.

I don’t think it’d be unreasonable to say that one of the main purposes of my surveys is understanding the relation between gender dysphoria and other cross-gender feelings, and how these may vary.

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Cisgender People Have a Wide Range of Attachment to Their Sex

Pro-trans people often assume that gender dysphoria is just the natural result of having a brain of one sex in a body of another sex. Anti-trans people often assume that cisgender people are not attached to their sex at all. If we are to believe self-reports, though, there seems to be a wide range of attachment to one’s sex.

A reasonably consistent finding is that about 50% say that they care at least somewhat about staying their sex, whereas maybe 35% don’t care much either way, and 15% would rather be the opposite sex. This seems to be a continuum rather than discrete. The cis people who care enough that they’d try to medically transition back if they somehow magically had turned into the opposite sex are a minority, at least if you go by people’s introspection, but they are easily detectable in surveys.

Attachment to one’s sex is strongly negatively associated with sexually fantasizing about being the opposite sex. This may be an example of autogynephilia/autoandrophilia, but there are certain arguments against this (in particular, this’d imply that A*P is incredibly common).

From what I can tell, there are plenty of anecdotes of people who for whatever reason unrelated to gender dysphoria had to transition. Many of these people seem fine with it. Some were distressed initially, but eventually started liking it.

All of this does not seem like what we’d expect under Magical Innate Gender Identity.

Gender Identity… Gender Aspiration?

Copied from a reddit post I did.


I’ve noticed that a common way for trans people to use the word “gender identity” could better be described as “gender aspiration”. For example, consider the recent thread asking what gender identity means. Here’s some responses:

In my opinion, “identifying as a woman” means that one has a need to transition.

I would guess that “gender identity” is generally less about identifying as/with something, and more a statement of what you want your body to be.

Having a positive relationship — whether as weakly as near-ambivalence, or strongly — with one’s body’s femaleness. I’ll note that this is not just including the physical state, but also the future or potential or ideal state. I.e. a male’s body has no femaleness in a physical sense, but it’s female in the realm of possibilities/ideas.

This seems more like a declaration of intent or desire than a belief, and I’ve started calling it “gender aspiration” instead as a result.

Do you think it makes sense to make a distinction between gender identity as a belief, and gender aspiration as an intent or desire?


In the reddit post, I phrased this as a question, but really it’s the way I’ve conceptualized it for a long time.