What Evidence is Informal Internet Surveys?

One of my primary ways of learning about this gender stuff is by posting self-made surveys to various places, usually /r/SampleSize. Inevitably, this leads to people complaining that my surveys aren’t “real science” and should therefore be disregarded. But is that fair?

The main problem with this is that the way to learn about things isn’t to require that all information must meet some arbitrary standard of quality before you update your beliefs. All data must be taken into consideration for maximal accuracy, not just the best data. Since we often don’t have data in high quality, this is a very important thing to note, since otherwise you will get stuck with…

With what? What do people do if they don’t use my surveys? Usually, they seem to go with vague anecdotes, personal experiences, and their own political priors. This approach is hardly more accurate than informal internet surveys. It’s much more convenient, of course, because it lets you make up whatever you need for your politics. This is a great way to win, but it’s not going to put you any closer to the truth.

Of course, if there’s quality scientific evidence on some question, then I’m fully willing to use this in addition to my surveys. However, it’s worth noting that most cases I’ve seen people cite science that supposedly contradicted my findings, it turned out to mostly agree. For example, I was once debating with someone who argued that women hate their sex organs, so I mentioned that this contradicted what I’d found in my surveys. She then cited several papers which found… that women are ambivalent-or-happy about them. Which is exactly the same as I found.

There’s also the problem where scientific evidence isn’t necessarily as good as people assume. Take for example Littman’s study of ROGD. I’m sure it follows all the best standards of science and has been made by experienced people. However, Littman never gets data directly from the actual subjects she’s trying to study, and instead collects it from parents that have been recruited on websites that are biased against the claims of the subjects. She doesn’t examine highly relevant factors like AAP, and she doesn’t seem to even consider that the places she’s recruited people might caused bias.

There are all sorts of things that could go wrong with my surveys. There are also all sorts of things that could go wrong with actual science, though perhaps a bit fewer. On the other hand, if you get rid of my surveys, you’re not going to get science, you’re going to get baseless speculation, which is much worse. So I say, let’s do some surveys!

You’re not going to be satisfied with that, right? The followup that always comes after this is that maybe my surveys do provide more accurate information than wild speculation, but the fact that this information is numbers means that we need to hold them to higher standards, because people will respect numbers much more than wild speculation.

It’s possible that this is the case, but then we need to change how people treat numbers, not whether we use my surveys. Numbers are not this magical unquestionable substance, they’re just a useful way to summarize information, and it’s insane to avoid them.


Autoandrophilia Survey Results

In order to get more info on what autoandrophilia usually looks like, I went through all my surveys to find autoandrophilic women who had said that they would be interested in doing a follow-up survey. This gave me a list of 44 women to send the surveys to. Of these, 14 have responded to my survey thus far, giving me the data on this page. Here is a summary of what I’ve found:

The autoandrophilia experienced by the participants seems to take many forms. This include imagining being a submissive man, imagining being a gay man, imagining having a penis and using this in various dominant ways, and imagining being a man in an orgy. I’m sure there are many other ways it could present, considering how few responses I’ve gotten. It also seems unclear whether all of these constitute the same paraphilia, as the women seem to find different aspects of them appealing. This may be an interesting research direction for the future.

The participants were generally pretty happy about being women. To explain this difference from AAP trans men, I think we merely have to look at the amount of AAP. Here’s the results from the women in the survey:


Contrast this with what I have previously found for AAP trans men in another survey:


The fact that they are happy with being women means that they probably don’t have any strong bias towards presenting themselves as being very masculine, being “trutrans”, or similar things that we might worry about when examining groups like AAP trans men.

The autoandrophilia often started early on, with 8 of the 13 respondents being autoandrophilic from the beginning of their sexuality. For example, one respondent wrote “I remember from a very young age (under 10) imagining i had a penis and being turned on by that. I don’t feel like i want to be a man, but in my fantasies, I usually am.”; another wrote “After touching my first hard penis, I wanted to know what it felt like to have one. So I’d read fanfiction to try to imagine it myself.”. This early onset seems similar to the patterns we see in autogynephilic men, which is evidence that autoandrophilia constitutes a genuine paraphilia.

Some of the respondents reported a later onset of AAP, but they did not seem to remember anything notable about this onset. The AAP did not seem to be caused by social contagion or obsession with sex change, since the onset was very early. Only one participant related to social contagion as an explanation, and the main thing she wrote as an argument for that was “I do have a lot of trans and or non binary friends”.

Despite the fact that the autoandrophilia seemed like a genuine paraphilia, it was common for the participants to know transgender and/or nonbinary people, with them on average knowing 4.1 such people. Compare this with Littman’s findings that trans men tend to have about 3.5 friends come out at as trans at a similar time as them. Littman attributes this to social contagion, but the fact that this sample of AAP women knows 4.1 trans/NB people despite not being affected by social contagion shows that it is likely instead caused by AAPs clustering together in similar social groups. (Perhaps because of shared interests?)

The participants reported a variety of sexual orientations, with the most common being bisexual. However, even those who reported monosexual orientations generally reported some degree of flexibility.

Some of the women tried to repress their AAP, but it didn’t seem to work. However, this doesn’t mean much due to survivorship bias; we wouldn’t have heard about it if it did work. I found one of the responses about AAP repression interesting, though: “I watched pornography without any men or realistic phallus. If these things appeared in my fantasies I would replace them. I began to feel that men were disgusting and I idolised women.”. This woman was also the only person in the sample who identified as a lesbian, and her response makes me wonder if the lesbian identity for some AAPs is caused by attempts to repress the AAP? This seems like an interesting research direction for the future. Her feelings that men were disgusting also sound like a mirror image of misogyny that stereotypically appears among some men who try to repress their AGP (though it is worth noting that I found no statistical evidence of such misogyny in other surveys, so it may be a myth).

There didn’t seem to be any consistent patterns in the causes that the participants proposed for their autoandrophilia.

Most didn’t have strong opinions on the idea of it being an erotic target identity inversion. The ones who disagreed with it as an explanation mainly seemed to do so because of their lesbian orientation.

It was common but not universal to feel that a desire for control was a contributing reason for the AAP; however, some participants had a more submissive variant that they didn’t feel could be explained this way. I think it would be interesting to examine the differences and similarities between dominant and submissive AAP further. They did not seem to have especially negative feelings about being around men, but I don’t have a baseline to compare with, so I don’t know for sure. Those who did have bad experiences with men generally didn’t feel that these were the cause of the AAP, despite feeling that the AAP was related to a desire for control; one participant even wrote the opposite: “I would not link my experience to my autoandrophilia. If anything, that experience made me more feminine (non-androphelic)”.

It wasn’t uncommon for the participants to have instances of childhood autoandrophilia or gender nonconformity. For example, one participant wrote “I used to ask my older brother and dad why I didn’t have a penis. One time my brother got so annoyed he told me my penis was ugly so the doctors chopped it off at birth. I was a young kid but still cried extra heavily about it” (she seems to feel better now); another wrote “I would dress as a boy and pretend that I was someone else. Some nameless boy part of the male groups. I dreamed of participating in their male exclusive activities (roughhousing, sleepovers, talking about girls)”. This seems similar to the anecdotes of autogynephiles who have AGP childhood experiences.

The participants reported varying degrees of gender nonconformity. It’s unclear how it compares to the baseline, though in my surveys I haven’t found much of an effect of AAP on GNC, so there might not be much here either.

Most participants hadn’t ever acted on their AAP in a sexual situation. Some participants had a lot of other paraphilias than AAP; others didn’t. There didn’t seem to be any clear themes in what people liked.

There’s a lot of interesting things in the survey that I haven’t covered yet, but going into more detail will have to wait for another time.

Lesbian Autoandrophilia?

For natal females, attraction to women is associated with transness due to the HSTS etiology. This makes it tempting to assume that all gender feelings among women who report preferring women is HSTS-spectrum. However, this is dangerous, as it seems possible that some women identify as lesbian due to autoandrophilia.


(This diagram is based on data from my Survey on Gender and Valued Experiences, Personality and Miscellaneous Questions Survey, Micro Gender Survey+, Survey On Traits You’re Attracted to or Would Like To Have, Broader Gender Survey, Gender and Psychology Survey, Thorough Genderbending Survey, and Amazon Mechanical Turk Survey.)

In the above diagram, I’ve plotted the amount of autoandrophilia (normalized to standard deviations from female average) that I’ve found in lesbians, with each point representing one group recruited for surveying, using two separate definitions of lesbian. “Strictbians” are women who report SOME attraction to women and NO attraction to men. In the surveys where I’ve asked about attraction to androgynous men, I have also required NO attraction to androgynous men. Meanwhile, “broadbians” are women who report more attraction to women than to men.

Strictbians are much rarer than broadbians; on average in the surveys above, I’ve only had 3.4 per survey, whereas I’ve had 18.3 broadbians. This makes them very difficult to study, but aggregating the data this way suggests that they are genuinely different, and that I can’t just assume they will be similar. Strictbians seem less AAP than the average woman (my weighted average suggests d~-0.21), whereas broadbians are more AAP (d~0.37). This leads to a total difference between the groups of d~0.59 (which is really an underestimate, because strictbians are a subset of broadbians, and thus drag down their average).

How does this tie into practical things? Unfortunately, I don’t usually ask people about their sexual identity (i.e. whether they consider themselves to be lesbian or not). This is a problem, because it means it is difficult to apply either of these two categories to the cases you most often encounter, where you merely know their identity label rather than knowing the specifics of their attraction patterns.

I have sometimes asked people about their sexual identity labels, so I do actually have something to work with for that. One source of data suggests that the broadbian concept is the closest match:


(From my Personality and Sexuality Survey.)

There are only four exceptions in this case; three asexuals who’d be considered strictbians, and a gay woman who’d be considered a flexbian. This data suggests a pretty good fit, but… it assumes people will only have one sexual identity label! Since people were asked to pick only one label from a list of identities, it cannot take into account women who identify as both bisexual and lesbian depending on the context. Here are the results from a survey where I had a more-flexible system:


(From Thorough Genderbending Survey.)

The responses here suggest that strictbian is too strict but broadbian is too broad. Of course, this threshold leads to an entirely different result than the other two, namely that the lesbians are as AAP as the women in general.

Let’s try to better approximate people’s identity better by making the following changes:

  • We exclude the asexuals by requiring more attraction to women than just a little. In practice, this cashes out to requiring them to report “sometimes” or “frequently” being attracted to women.
  • We do not allow more than “rare” attraction to men.
  • Those who do have “rare” attraction to men must be “frequently”, rather than merely “sometimes” attracted to women.

How does the lesbian AAP situation look then?


Still elevated rates! The average is d~0.3, though I suspect this may be an overestimate. For example, perhaps AAP women are less likely to identify as lesbian given the same reported degree of attraction to men and women. Still, this has practical implications, in that AAP is likely also important for understanding women who report being attracted to women.

AGP in Cis Women is a Distraction

Some people claim that some cis women experience the same sort of autogynephilic things that trans women do. This claim has some serious problems, but so does its negation. However, let’s suppose cis women do experience such things. Does that mean the typology is bunk?

No. To some degree, autogynephilia in cis women threatens certain aspects of the model, such as erotic target identity inversion as the explanation of AGP, since this means we would not expect it to be possible to straight women to experience autogynephilia. (That said, women seem more bisexual in some sense, so it’s not a disproof of ETII…) However, ETII is only one aspect of the typology, and many useful things can still be derived without it.

However, what about everything else? Does it suddenly prove that AGPs and HSTSs are somehow the same? Or that AGPs are feminine? Not really. We could imagine any number of reasons for why cis women might experience autogynephilia. For example, consider Michael Bailey’s model of female sexuality. He argues that women don’t truly have a sexual orientation, so that they can be attracted to women if coincidences permit it, and he argues that this lack of orientation extends to the auto/allo dimension of sexuality. I doubt he would buy the argument that cis women are autogynephilic, but if cis women are potentially-gynephilic and potentially-auto(andro)philic, then it seems like there’s nothing that would prevent potential autogynephilia.

We could imagine lots of other models. Perhaps the causes of AGP in natal males and natal females isn’t even the same. However, there is one model that seems dubious, and it is the model which asserts that femininity is the cause of AGP in both natal males and natal females. Why is this problematic? Well, HSTSs and gay men don’t seem especially autogynephilic, despite being unusually feminine.

So, why do some people care so much about arguing that cis women experience autogynephilia too? I think they feel that the autogynephilia argument goes “Some MtFs experience AGP, therefore they aren’t women!”, and I’m sure some people use an argument like that, so it’s not an entirely unjustified reaction. However, the goal for me isn’t to decide whether trans women are women or not (my takes on that can be summed up as “transition is legitimacy”); instead, I’m trying to understand and predict people’s gender feelings, and by far the best model for this is autogynephilia.

The alternative model that some propose is that “trans women are women, and this explains both the autogynephilia and the desire to transition”. That’s not a real answer, though! What aspects of womanhood causes this? How do we know? Autogynephilia is a much more effective and justified explanation here.

What is Unfalsifiability?

The typology is often accused of being unfalsifiable. This is of course quite a significant claim, and it’s worth considering. But first, we need to consider what unfalsifiability is and why it matters.

The main way to move forward epistemologically is to test various hypotheses. For this to work, we need experiments to distinguish the true hypotheses from the false ones. This requires us to be able to test the hypotheses and possibly end up with the result that they are false – that is, the theories must be falsifiable.

What does an unfalsifiable hypothesis look like, then? The obvious guess is that it’s a theory that permits everything. However, that’s not quite true. For example, suppose we were trying to understand some sequence of bits. In that case, a theory that permits everything might assign equal probability to each possible sequence. An opposing theory might say that the sequence is alternating between 0 and 1. How do we test which one is true?

Well, we observe the sequence. If it goes “0101010101…”, the opposing theory consistently makes correct predictions, whereas the theory that permits everything… well, it doesn’t get it wrong, but it assigns much lower probability to the correct options than the opposing theory, so it rapidly loses credibility.

Of course, it might have been right. Perhaps the sequence is highly unpredictable. In that case, the opposing theory would quickly get disproven, whereas the one that permits everything would survive.

In practice, we can never predict anything perfectly, so the opposing theory would probably assign some moderate probability to non-perfect flips, so that “010110101…” or “0101011101…” are also quite likely. However, this would still not make it unfalsifiable, as it would still have to compete with the other theories.

But if this is not what an unfalsifiable hypothesis looks like, then what is? I’m inclined to say that unfalsifiability is not a property of specific hypotheses, but instead of families of hypotheses. Generally, you don’t work with a specific hypothesis, because there are parameters that you are still uncertain about; instead you work with a parameterized hypothesis which depends on some variable. For example, you might have a family which says that 1’s occur stochastically at a rate of X. This depends on X and so is not a specific hypothesis yet.

Usually, this is no problem. The family I mentioned above can often be falsified by finding a better predictor than this, but of course it is more general than the original one. The problem arises when you allow the parameter to fit the hypothesis to arbitrary data.

As a toy example, you might say that the sequence begins with some specific sequence of bits, followed by stochastic values. This family can fit to any data that you see, making it impossible to test. Of course, real-world examples are hardly as transparent as this, but the basic pattern is the same: they fundamentally change their predictions to exactly match the data, regardless of how justified this is. For this to work, they often stay vague about their mechanism, so it becomes difficult to truly call them out on it.

So, there’s assertions which work based on noise, which are fully falsifiable, and assertions which work based on overfitting, which are not. How can we recognize the difference? I have some thoughts:

First of all, I think the ones which invoke noise still tend to have consistent macroscopic patterns. Noise is local, it only affects the individual that it’s relevant for, so a focus on general patterns instead of specific instances is important. Of course, the noise may be a result of specific repeating phenomena that it’s useful to study, but a failure to mention specific big patterns that clearly arise from the model is a red flag.

Secondly, as a followup to the above, the anecdotes must be thought about in the context of the greater patterns, so a big focus on specific contradictory anecdotes is dangerous. This is especially true if the anecdotes focus a lot on self-reports, as these can be unreliable. Data is more important than cherry-picked exceptions.

Third, it’s much easier to be unfalsifiable if you’re vague about your mechanism, because it makes things much harder to call out.

Fourth, those who have unfalsifiable theories will be hostile to empirical research, since it ends up requiring a lot of work and propaganda to refit things.

I would argue that the trans typology does quite well at avoiding these pitfalls; the explanation for exceptions to the typology are usually more like noise than unfalsifiability.

On the other hand, the competitor, which I’ve started calling Magical Innate Gender Identity (coined by my friend Trent), doesn’t do very well. There is hardly any focus on the macroscopic patterns, and the patches that get applied to MIGI are to a large degree about fixing its prediction failures there, rather than being relevant to specific individuals. The use of questionable anecdotes with unknown statistical support is heavy, and there’s very little consideration for the accuracy of them. The mechanism is incredibly vague, and it has little empirical basis. That is just not a workable starting point!

Of course, there is a very important counterargument here. It goes like this: If we don’t know the true mechanism of transness, then of course it looks like we’re working from an unfalsifiable starting point, but really we’re just looking for enough data to justify the conclusions. I take that argument seriously, and I’ve made it myself before I became convinced of the typology, but I think the effectiveness of the theory makes it dubious. If this was true, then the typology would not be as powerful as it is.

The Typology is Invaluable

I would claim that you can’t think about transness without the typology. Not really, at least; you can do vague analogies and generalizations, but you will quickly get stuck in any real question.

Consider some basic questions that people may ask. The first one is “Am I trans or is it just a fetish?”, which the typology has an easy answer to, whereas there is absolutely no consensus on how to answer it without. Do non-trans AGPs exist? Do some of them want to be women? If so, how can you tell the difference? Does it matter? There are no answers to this without the typology. Some people will claim to have the answer, but they generally don’t have any underlying theory to back up their answer.

In fact, for most trans people, the typology provides huge shortcuts for questioning. Are you considering whether you are trans for some odd, non-trans-related reason, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, or internalized sexism? No, it’s obviously the A*P. Without the typology, it’s hard to see how you can provide a proper, theory-based answer to this. How about this one: are you fake trans because you showed no signs as a kid? No, it’s the HSTSs who usually show such signs.

I do surveys, and in those surveys a lot of people report that they want to be the opposite sex. How do I interpret these answers? How can I know whether they are “trans-spectrum”, in the sense of having related traits to actually transitioning people, or just being weird outliers? Heck, how can we know this with other groups, such as nonbinary, genderqueer or genderfluid people, who seem to be similar in some but not all aspects to trans people? The typology provides the answer: look into whether they are gay or A*P, and if they are, they’re on the trans spectrum.

How’s the progress on making trans people transition earlier? Well, we’ve got a bunch of youngsters on puberty blockers. Will this eventually be the situation for the majority of trans people? How do we make it the situation? Turns out, there’s two kinds, and we’re only really catching one; this is a clear spot that needs innovation, and the typology helps identifying the relevant patients.

What about people who know they’re trans-spectrum, but need to know whether to transition. How does the typology help them? Well, it gives them clear definitions of the intensities of their situations, and tells them which trans people to compare themselves to. It also helps research into the outcomes of non-transitioners, as it tells you who exactly these are. This is useful for evaluating the alternative options to transition.

There are a lot of questions that the typology still leaves open, but it also provides a basic framework for researching them. Under what circumstances should you transition? What’s up with the transkid “desisters”? How about the new big wave of AFAB transitioners?

I used to believe in magical innate gender identity and brainsex and bodymaps and all of these ad-hoc ideas, but they are just not comparable in terms of raw usefulness to the basics of the typology.

Autoandrophilia vs Autohomoeroticism

It is controversial whether women can experience autoandrophilia. Women have lower rates of paraphilias than men, and for a long time it doesn’t seem like many autoandrophiles have transitioned (though I’d argue that this has changed now). However, the problem with the idea that women can’t experience autoandrophilia is that there seem to be some anecdotes of autoandrophilia-like things. For example, many fujoshi seem autoandrophilic.

To solve this, autoandrophilia-skeptics have proposed autohomoeroticism as an alternate explanation. Autohomoeroticism is attraction to being a gay man. I’m skeptical about this idea. The most direct counterargument is that the “women can’t be paraphilic” statement should apply just as well to autohomoeroticism as to autoandrophilia. It also seems to me that AHE looks sufficiently like autogynephilia that we should be skeptical about attempts to claim that it is not the androphilic version of autogynephilia (i.e. autoandrophilia). Sure, it has some weird focus on feminine gay guys, but autogynephilia has a weird focus on masochistic emasculation and we don’t treat that as the core of the paraphilia. The focus on feminine gay guys isn’t all that weird, even – it can be compared to partial autogynephilia, and to GAMP, and it seems to fit the general theme of gendery things.

But the arguments above are very passive or defensive. Do I have some evidence on it? Well, in my Broader Gender Survey, I asked about A*P with some details that I don’t usually use. In particular, I asked about fantasies about being the opposite sex in a straight and in a gay relationship. In theory, we wouldn’t expect autohomoerotics to fantasize about being straight men. What happens in practice?


As you can see, there were fantasies about both gay and straight relationships. Does this mean that the case is closed and AAP is real? Well, there’s a bit extra complexity here, actually: fantasies with a gay relationship are much more strongly associated with willingness to be male (measured by magic buttons) than fantasies with a straight relationship, at a whopping r~0.44 versus the r~0.24 of the straight relationships. The same holds for measuring gender dysphoria through the six defining characteristics from the DSM-V.

DSM-V gender dysphoria and desire for magic sex change are two ways of measuring genderbendy feelings, but this survey was kinda ridiculous and actually had five ways of measuring such feelings (not counting A*P). One of these ways was the scale I called “attachment to gender”, and a weird fact about this is that it correlated pretty much equally strongly with the two items. It looks like this:


Maybe I just have enough scales to prove anything I want by spurious correlations, but this one had mostly the same correlation for fantasies with straight relationships and fantasies with gay ones. The one exception was the first item, which had a much stronger correlation with gay ones.

If I were to speculate about the difference, I’d say that things like magic sex change buttons or gender dysphoria have a clear anchor; if you answer anything but no, you’re weirdly genderbendy. On the other hand, “I dislike many aspects of being my gender/sex” is not something where the answer is obviously no; in fact, a small majority answered yes.

If I were to try and come up with an explanation for this, I’d hypothesize that those who have the gay fantasies probably have more contact with the LGBT community, and that this makes them more likely to apply concepts like gender dysphoria to themselves. This should be pretty easily testable in the future if I return to this topic. However, I might be getting a bit too far into speculations and a bit too far away from the actual data.

This data makes me conclude that autoandrophilia probably is real, but I think there’s more research to be done before we can be sure.

The “Patches” Are Justified

Meta-attraction (also known as pseudo-androphilia) is an aspect of autogynephilia where one desires to have sex with men as a woman. It has been criticized for being a hack that actually shows that the AGP/HSTS typology is flawed, as there is more overlap between the groups than it actually claims. I don’t think that criticism is fair.

We’ve got two proposed types. Autogynephilic trans women are attracted to women and in particular to being women, and transition for this reason. HSTS trans women are attracted to men, which is associated with femininity, and they are at the most extreme end of femininity here, giving them plenty of reason to transition.

This basic description matches a lot of people, but there’s also a lot of people who seem to be exceptions. A main kind of exception relevant to meta-attraction is later-transitioning, non-feminine trans women whose primary sexual fantasies have been about having sex with men as women.

When we encounter this sort of exception, there are multiple options. We can throw our framework away. We can try to expand the framework with a new type. Or, we can try to fit the exception under consideration into the current framework. There’s also a fourth option, of calling the exception and outlier and refusing to take them into consideration. This is very useful in practice, but if your primary goal is to understand things better then it’s important to examine exceptions to your current model closer.

The problem with throwing the framework away is that I have yet to see any alternate model which explains transness as well as the AGP/HSTS typology does.

Expanding the typology might instead sound like the right choice. However, a big part of the strength of your model is what you predict won’t happen. A model that allows everything is worthless. Trying to fit it into your model can also lead to similar problems, so it should also be done with care. However, in this case, I think it’s the right choice.

The proposed explanation of meta-attraction is that the attraction to men doesn’t come from androphilia, but instead from an autogynephilic desire to be seen as an attractive woman who has sex with men in the way women usually have sex. Is it unreasonable to have this as an element of autogynephilia?

I don’t think so. In my experience, a lot of AGP porn includes these sorts of elements. I’ve talked to straight AGP trans women whose porn turned out to focus more on being-a-girl-who-has-heterosexual-sex than on the actual having-sex-with-men part (e.g. by using porn targeted at straight men, which focuses more on the woman and mostly leaves out the man from the image). I’ve also personally experienced weak degrees of meta-attraction.

Meta-attraction seems to both explain how the proposed group of exceptions match the AGP description, and also seems to be applicable to other contexts. For example, some might be bisexual instead of exclusively androphilic, which makes sense if meta-attraction and allogynephilia exist together.