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.

lesbian-aap

(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:

female-sexual-identity

(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:

lesbian-id

(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?

lesbian-aap2

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.

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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?

AAP-detailed

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:

attachment-to-gender-scale

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 Information Hypothesis of Dysphoria

One idea I’ve been playing with is the notion that the amount of dysphoria a person has depends on their understanding of gender and sex. I’m mostly considering this in the case of A*P trans people, and I don’t know how well it applies to HSTSs. According to this idea, once an A*P person learns something about sexual dimorphism, they will start feeling dysphoric about it.

It applies remarkably well to my own experiences. I’ve frequently experienced huge jumps in my knowledge about these kinds of things, which has also lead to similar jumps in my dysphoria on exactly what I’ve learned more about.

It also helps to explain lots of other observations. For example, dysphoria seems to irreversibly increase over time. This makes sense if people understand sex and gender better as their life goes on, and the irreversibility of the process makes sense since it is hard to unlearn information. Many also seem to report an increase in dysphoria as when they encounter trans issues; either through a trans partner, or through trans friends, or in some other way. Again, this makes a lot of sense under the information hypothesis.

An interesting prediction of this is that A*P cis people who have had heterosexual relationships will have a better understanding of sex and gender, and should therefore experience more dysphoria. This contradicts the predictions of the competition theory, which states that people with more intense A*P (and who’re therefore more dysphoric) will be less interested in relationships. My initial measurements seem to confirm my prediction over the competition hypothesis, but there’s more work to be done here.

It would be interesting to map out some more predictions and find ways of measuring it. An obvious next step would be to measure A*P people’s understanding of sexual dimorphism and see if it correlates with dysphoria. (Obviously, correlation is not causation, but if the correlation isn’t there, it’s unlikely that we also have the causal relationship.) I have some trouble figuring out how to make a good test of this, especially one that can fit in a survey.

What Do I Mean By Dysphoria?

In my surveys, one thing I’m interested in is whether people experience gender dysphoria. This is something that comes up in lots of things that I’m wondering about, such as what differentiates people with dysphoria from people who merely want to be the opposite sex, or how common it is to have or eventually develop dysphoria.

Dysphoria is also something that a lot of people find more important than a mere intense desire to be the opposite sex. People tend to use it as justification for transitioning, and tend to be more sympathetic to this justification. Dysphoria seems to have a big influence on many of the negative things about being trans. The fact that most trans people seem to be or have been dysphoric also suggests that dysphoria is near-necessary for actually ending up transitioning (many more people seem to want to be the opposite sex than seem dysphoric about it, yet most trans people have experienced dysphoria). The changes in dysphoria over time is also important to think about, as it is a big danger for younger people. People who want to have non-transition treatment will probably care more about dealing with their dysphoria than non-dysphoric gender aspirations. All of this makes dysphoria relevant to think about.

What do I mean by dysphoria? Probably the biggest revealing factor is how I measure it: I look at traits which indicate psychological trouble, such as depression, anxiety, body image issues and just plain unhappiness. In addition, I also try to measure it more directly, by asking about satisfaction/dissatisfaction with being one’s assigned sex. If these seem to appear in conjunction with trans-related things (e.g. A*P), then that suggests that dysphoria is in play.

One pattern that I tend to notice is that there’s a lot more variance in desire to be the opposite sex than in dysphoria. That is, there’s a big gap between wanting to be the opposite sex, and feeling distressed about it. This leads to one of my big questions: what is the cause of this gap? And that’s a subject I’m likely going to write more about soon…

Is Autogynephilia and Autoandrophilia More Common than Previously Thought?

The normal estimates say that a small fraction of men (perhaps around 3%? 4.5%?) are autogynephilic. The numbers are generally even lower for women with autoandrophilia. I’m somewhat skeptical about this.

First, the autoandrophilia: in my gender surveys, I generally don’t find much lower rates of autoandrophilia among women than autogynephilia among men. There’s a difference in intensity, yes, but this seems to reflect the difference in intensity in sex drives, rather than a difference in frequency. In the past, most transmasculine people seem to have matched the HSTS type, but today there are many queer trans men who very possibly could be autoandrophiles. This makes me think that autoandrophilia is about as common as autogynephilia.

Secondly, I get the impression that the total estimates are too low. They’re often based on transvestic A*P, but this does not seem to be the most common kind of autogynephilia. For example, in my surveys, I generally find twice as many people who get turned on by fantasies about being the opposite sex than by crossdressing. In some social circles, it also seems like there are more people who are out about (likely A*P-caused) trans feelings, and this seems to be more a question of awareness and tolerance of trans issues than of trans people deliberately seeking each other out. (E.g. I have a small circle of friends where several people are out as trans or trans-adj, and this happened long after we met. This seems to be a common experience, and it’s hard to believe that this is the case if A*P is very rare.)

So, what do I think are the real numbers? My surveys generally find rates of around 50%, but that’s too high for me to believe it. As a lower bound, we should probably double the 4.5% number to take more general forms of A*P into account. A plausible upper bound may be a bit higher than 15%; this is the rate that the autopedophilia paper reports when combining two previous samples of straight men.

The idea that the true rate is about 9% to 15% is still a conjecture, and it may turn out that there are flaws with it.

 

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.