Excerpt from the book, “The Man Who Would be Queen” (2003) by Dr. J. Michael Bailey (Professor of Psychology, Northwestern University, Chicago).
“Most gender patients lie,” says Maxine Petersen, the ace gender clinician at the Clarke Psychiatric Institute. . . .
The most common way that autogynephiles mislead others is by denying the erotic component of their gender bending. For example, when “Stephanie” Braverman lectures to my human sexuality class, she does not even mention her history of masturbating while cross-dressed. When I spoke at a meeting of Chicago cross-dressers, the men became clearly uncomfortable when I brought up the erotic component of their activity, preferring instead to attribute it to their inner femininity. When I pointed this out, one cross-dresser said “I wear feminine clothing because I feel feminine, and I can’t help getting aroused because the clothes are sexy. Any man would.”
I don’t think so. But you can judge. Here is one of the passages that aroused the cross-dressers in Blanchard’s study. See if you think it is sexy.
“You have plenty of time to dress this evening. You slip your panties over your ankles and pull them up too your waist. Sitting on the edge of your bed, you put on a pair of sheer nylon stockings. You fasten the stockings with the snaps of your lacy garter belt. You slip your arms through the straps of your brassiere and reach behind you to fasten it. You put on your eye shadow, mascara, and lipstick. Lying on your bed, you look up at your reflection in the large mirror on the ceiling.”
Why do some autogynephiles deny the sexual component of their condition? One reason, again, is the real or imagined treatment implications. Some psychiatrists refuse to recommend for sex reassignment any man who has had even one incident of erotic cross-dressing. But this fear surely cannot explain the resistance of “Stephanie” Braverman and the cross-dressers at the meeting-they are not trying to become women.
Perhaps the major reason is shame and assumed social reaction. The physician Harry Benjamin, who popularized the word “transsexual,” noticed early on that cross-dressers, and especially cross-dressers in organizations trying to influence the public, tend to de-emphasize the erotic element. He suggested that they do this in order to be more accepted by others. Today, public statements by those who call themselves “transgendered” (who are almost all autogynephiles rather than homosexual transsexuals) rarely acknowledge any erotic component of “transgenderism.”
There is also a more personal motivation to deny the erotic component of autogynephilia. Anne Lawrence put it this way:
I imagine most men would be humiliated to admit that dressing in women’s clothing is a sexual kick, and even more humiliated to admit that doing so, or fantasizing doing so, is obligatory for climax some or all of the time. Just dressing in women’s clothing is shameful enough; but having one’s sexual potency contingent upon such an unmanly, “ridiculous” crutch would be almost impossible to admit. Moreover, for anyone who thinks about it, the whole experience of reliance on paraphilic behavior or fantasy for arousal is rather tragic and lonely: it cuts one off from intimate contact during partnered sex, because one is (at least mentally) often making love to oneself rather than to one’s partner. Better not to admit this to anyone–especially to one’s wife. I think that if the wives of heterosexual cross-dressers knew what their husbands were really thinking about at the moment of climax, they would be appalled. (Of course, this might apply to the wives of other straight men as well; but it’s one thing to learn he’s fantasizing about making love to Claudia Schiffer, and another to learn he’s fantasizing about being forced to wear a French maid’s outfit.) On the other hand, to attribute one’s cross-dressing to a desire to express one’s “feminine side” is much more acceptable. Though the behavior may still appear ridiculous, the putative rationale allows the cross-dresser to portray himself as multi-faceted, courageous, and even empathic with his spouse. That’s a far easier script for most men to follow.
In my experience, most lay people are happy to accept the “I’m a woman in a man’s body” narrative, and don’t really want to know about autogynephilia-even though the preferred narrative is misleading and it is impossible to understand nonhomosexual transsexualism without autogynephilia. When I have tried to educate journalists who have called me as an expert on transsexualism, they have reacted uncomfortably. One said: “We just can’t put that into a family newspaper.” Perhaps not, but then, they can’t print the truth.
There is one more reason why many autogynephiles provide misleading information about themselves that is different than outright lying. It has to do with obsession. Something about autogynephilia creates a need not only to enact a feminine self, but also to actually believe in her. It seems important to them to emphasize the permanence of the feminine self as well as her primacy: “I was always feminine, I just managed to hide it. I became a Green Beret as a defensive response to my femininity.” In such accounts, the feminine self is the real self; the masculine self is the creation. (I have been arguing that the opposite is closer to the truth.) Intersexuality refers to congenital conditions in which biological sex is ambiguous, usually due to hormonal or genetic problems. Cheryl Chase, the intersex activist, told me that transsexuals frequently join intersex groups because they are convinced that they are also intersexual. In most cases, they are not. I assume that these are autogynephilic transsexuals who want to believe that there is a real biological woman inside them as well as a real psychological woman.
The self-presentational deceptiveness of some autogynephiles is a main reason why autogynephilia was not understood until recently. Many clinicians-even some who write books-have taken the information that transsexuals tell them at face value. I recently attended a talk by a well-known psychologist at an academic sex conference in which she presented a case that was clearly autogynephilic (he’d been married and was in his late 40s, among other signs). However, she spoke not one word about her patient’s sexual fantasies, dwelling instead on the usual “woman trapped in man’s body” story. Blanchard’s ideas have not yet received the widespread attention they deserve, in large part because sex researchers are not as scholarly as they should be and so don’t know how to read the current scientific journals.