Autogynophilia pathologizes normal female behavior
When I was first coming out as trans, I had a lot of internalized transmisogyny. I knew how negative society’s images of trans women were and I was convinced that I was somehow different. I was terrified of being seen as a man in a dress, so I just never wore dresses. In that respect it was rather convenient that I’m butch. I was not going to be - as another trans woman put it to me - “a masturbating freak in panties.” I internalized a list of norms and behaviors that I had to avoid in order to be taken seriously and seen as a real woman. This list of “don’t"s is more or less the autogynophilia diagnostic citeria.
Years later, after I had begun writing on transmisogyny I still had a lot of these messages internalized. I had a wake up moment when I was traveling and visiting a girlfriend. Her roommate came home after a difficult day and mentioned that she had gone clothes shopping to cheer herself up, and quickly showed off her new underwear and dresses, in particular one slinky sequined number. There was much oohing and aahing and her mood significantly improved.
About an hour later she came back out of her room and said that she was having a hard time doing her work for the evening because she was still depressed. My girlfriend sat her down and gave her some sage advice. "Just put you nice new dress on, as well as your fancy new underwear. It will make you feel sexy and you’ll feel better.” "Then what, just work while wearing it?“ "Yeah.”
Warnings had been popping into head the whole time but now alarm bells were going off. I so desperately wanted to warn them “Don’t do that! You’re directly admitting a connection between feminine clothing and sexual arousal and using that almost as if you’re self medicating! No one will take you seriously as a real woman, you’ll just be seen as some fetishist!” But I didn’t say that of course. Not only because it would have been very rude, but because they were cis women. No one is going to take away their womanhood for feeling sexy about lingerie and slinky dresses. This seems to be something cis women, particularly femmes, do all the time.
The bottom line is that the behavior classified as autogynophilia is normal female behavior. Charles Moser did a small study where he tried applying the criteria for it to cis women and found that 93% of cis women qualify as autogynophiles. So why are trans women subjected to this standard and often stigmatized, punished, or denied access to healthcare if they fit this criteria? And why is there no similar criteria for trans men?
It seems to me this is primarily about exerting the control doctors have over trans people to maintain male control over the sexuality of women. It encourages us to be sexually available to men and discourages us from having a sense of sexuality focused in ourselves or in other women. It sets up a pass/fail system so we are beholden to gatekeepers and must prove that we are the good kind of trans woman and not the bad kind. And it pits us against each other as enforcers of this system and keeps us divide so we cannot challenge the psychologists who create the rules of who can and cannot access transition. It’s no accident that one of the main proponents of using autogynophelia as a diagnosis was caught having sex with his patients, not informing them he was using their experiences in his research, and manipulating their testimony by granting/denying medical care based on whether or not they said they fit his model.
Recently I've have gone through some hard times and as result I've put on weight. Which has brought forth some not so nice comments from people, even friends. Because of these comments I am no longer as confident in my body as I once was. Which is why I find it hard to believe or I think it is a joke when a guy asks me to go home with him. I'm just wondering if you have any advice on the matter?
Shannon and I are both fat babes. Proud fat babes. We’ve talked about being fat and sexy here, here and here.
I think it’s safe to say Shannon and I have both experienced what you’re talking about. I still wonder why my super hot husband has any interest in me physically because despite being mostly body positive I still look at my belly pooch, the cellulite on my thighs and the teeny little fat rolls on the backs of my elbows and think “bleh.”
We’re trained to think thin is the only way to be beautiful.
It takes constant, aggressive, nearly psychotic devotion to body positive thinking to rid ourselves of those society taught untruths. For me it means celebrating the parts of myself I do like: I have pretty eyes, my ass is jamming and you can cut glass with my sharp intellect. Those things are all sexy.
Speaking to the “when guys ask me home I feel like it’s a joke.” It’s not. Men are sometimes quick to jump to a woman’s weight when they get rejected, (how many times have we seen/heard “fuck you, I was just being nice. You should feel lucky I even talked to you. You’re fat anyway.” when we don’t immediately fall on the first dick pic presented to us?) but chances are if they’re flirting with you in the first place they’re not doing it just as a joke. And if they are, they’re fucking sociopaths.
There is nothing wrong with being fat. All bodies are good bodies. Your body is the only one you’ve got. If you want to lose weight, lose weight. If you want to gain weight, gain weight. If you'e unable to lose/gain weight, that’s okay too. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
If friends, family or strangers make comments on your weight tell them to fuck off. Seriously. In no uncertain terms. NO ONE has the right to comment on your body. Practice saying “my body is not your concern. I will not tolerate being criticized in this way. I deserve to be respected and this is disrespectful."
I’ve had to have this conversation with my own beloved grandfather who once grabbed my belly in front of friends and my boyfriend of the time at a Christmas dinner and commented about how I didn’t need any pie this year. I was horrified. I know my grandfather loves me but his comments where hugely hurtful. Later I took him aside and told him that was out of line and that I wouldn’t tolerate being spoken to or touched like that again. We haven’t had a problem since then.
Try to remember the things that made you feel confident before. If they no longer apply, that’s fine. But find new ways to be confident. If it’s not a flat tummy or toned thighs anymore, maybe it’s sexy curves or feeling strong. The things that make you sexy are not all about your body either. Take time to recognize that you are more than your mere mortal vessel. You are thoughts and experiences and feelings and dreams. Those are sexy too.