Is AGP real? (Spoiler: yes)

A tendency that has started popping up is to instantly dismiss any talk about autogynephilia with “autogynephilia isn’t real”. Often, it’s followed up with something vague about questioning the underlying methodology of the studies on it or rejecting the researchers involved because of transphobic biases. Sometimes, it even includes resources to somewhat-serious attempts at debunking it (e.g. Moser, Serano, Contrapoints, …), and generally the implication is that the mere mention of the AGP model is thus fundamentally flawed.

But some notion of AGP is clearly real. If nothing else, take a look at the sexual AGP communities (NSFW) hereherehere, or lots of other places. So anyone bluntly saying “AGP isn’t real” without qualfiers is at best ignorant, and at worst deliberately obscuring the truth.

(Sidenote: anyone saying that autogynephilia is real but that no trans women have even traces of AGP is also at best ignorant and at worst deliberately obscuring the truth; see for example here. There’s plenty of evidence that AGP traits are common in trans women, which even Blanchard’s opponents find.)

A trickier argument is that what trans women have and what cis men have is somehow distinct. Usually this distinction is made by pointing out that trans women have gender dysphoria, while AGP men typically do not. This is where it gets trickier, but note that AGP men are more gender dysphoric than cis men, so you can’t easily just make a binary distinction here. I tend to find that essentially all sufficiently-AGP men are likely to feel that they’d like being female, and that they tend to be less satisfied with being male than non-AGP men. Ultimately these men are still not generally floridly dysphoric, but it would make sense that only the most-dysphoric upper tail actually end up identifying as transgender.

When I’ve asked people what definitions they would use to distinguish AGP cis men from pre-identification trans women for the purpose of studying distinctions between AGP men and trans women, they have generally refused or been unable to give a real response. Maybe this basic overview post will help motivate them to say something.

And then there’s one last point. Some raise the issue that the common operationalizations of AGP may be too broad. For example, anyone who has ever pictured themselves as female in detail while aroused will score at least 6 out of 8 on Blanchard’s core autogynephilia scale (if they answer honestly). Combine this with people (MoserVeale and even me) who find that cis women will answer affirmatively to even stronger questions (including literally endorsing arousal to “being a woman”).

(It would probably be dishonest of me not to mention Alice Dreger’s (cis woman!) response here: “[…] I am not convinced that natal women can’t be aroused in autogynephilic ways […]”.)

I take this concern pretty seriously, but I also believe it is seriously misguided. Ultimately it’s an empirical issue, and the main pieces of empirical evidence on it are Blanchard’s study which found that his core AGP scale does distinguish between his two types of trans women, and the various cases where cis women have been asked. For the cis women, quite a few have reported that they are confused by these sorts of scales. This and other factors (e.g. that “AGP” cis women are more likely to be attracted to men, while AGP trans women are more likely to be attracted to women, than their non-AGP counterparts) makes me think that we are assessing something different in cis women and trans women when using these scales. I am, however, working on methods that might assess things more effectively:

agp_development

Pictured: results from a survey that among other things asked about “mimicry-AGP”.

Ultimately, I can’t yet fully thoroughly debunk the idea that autogynephilia measures are too broad yet. I’m told by people I trust that various measures work in specific ways (e.g. that HSTSs don’t picture themselves as female in sexual fantasies before they consciously consider themselves female), and so far the evidence also seems to point to that. So I conclude that with the evidence available to me, AGP really genuinely does look true. But I can’t unambiguously prove it to the point where denial is completely impossible.

However, the fact that objections exist does not mean that the entire concept was totally flawed from the benning. The objections themselves aren’t a debunking of AGP as a concept, they’re objections that may or may not turn out to hold water. As such, AGP isn’t fake, AGP isn’t debunked, and AGP isn’t a hoax. AGP has been disputed, but so has everything in the universe.

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