S5 Ep 9: What is Autogynephilia with Dr. Ray Blanchard

Guest: Dr. Ray Blanchard

Dr. Blanchard is widely known for his typology of transexuals and as the originator of the term Autogynephilia, a controversial paraphilia which describes a heterosexual male’s propensity to be sexually aroused by the idea of themselves as women. Dr. Blanchard was the psychologist in the Adult Gender Identity Clinic at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry—now part of the CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health)—from 1980–1995. Much of his research in those 15 years concerned transsexualism and milder forms of gender identity disorders. In 1995, he was appointed Head of the newly created Clinical Sexology Services at the CAMH. This unit comprised the Adult Gender Identity Clinic. Since his retirement, he has continued to be active in research on human sexuality.

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12 responses to “S5 Ep 9: What is Autogynephilia with Dr. Ray Blanchard”

  1. Laura Kamienski says:

    Thank you for this wonderful, thoughtful and important discussion.

  2. cc says:

    This was distressing to listen to, especially after your lovely interview with the spouse of the non-binary partner. Please, please, please invite someone to respond to Dr. Blanchard. Preferably someone like Julia Serano. Leaving Blanchard as the last voice on this podcast invalidates so much of the good work of this podcast and organization. I appreciate where you are coming from in forwarding voices that support straight spouses, but Blanchard is the equivalent of a Flat Earther in this discourse. I feel I can no longer share this podcast with him here,

  3. Susan Relic says:

    One of the best podcasts Ourpath has made. Thank you!

  4. Una-Jane Winfield says:

    Dr Blanchard tackles the symptoms which the patient, sitting politely in his dress on the couch, describes articulately to him. But what about the close relatives, especially the wives? They find themselves in the wilderness of rage directed at them for no reason at all? Do these women not deserve protection from this raging insane behaviour? These men never admit what they have done after the event – they block it out, they deny anything ever happened. This is DARVO and gas-lighting! It is really shaming to the woman. It is extremely destructive to her self-esteem.

    Why is anyone – including professional psychiatrists – taking these fetishes seriously? All these fantasies become pathological when the men act on them. That is mad, just mad. And women should never have to put up with this rubbish. Why are medics going along with this – creating iatrogenic diseases and surgical wounds? Where is the Hypocratic Oath? Surely medics should work hard – really hard – to bring the GD sufferer back into harmony with his body? I think that AGPs should go to jail if they cause harm to women: coercive control.

    Transsexuals need some therapy which pushes them back into their bodies, into responsibility as husbands, fathers, sons. There is NO future in their isolated delusion. They will always be objects of derision.

    Transsexuals are interlopers, imposters in women’s spaces. They have NO claim at all to female spaces. KEEP OUT!

  5. Una-Jane Winfield says:

    When is anyone going to speak up for families? You are leaving this question open to (1) anti-abortion activists (2) extreme right wing policians (3) GENDER-CRITICAL FEMINISTS – we will be the only sane, middle-of-the-road people defending “heteronormativity” also known as normal people, men and women.

  6. Una-Jane Winfield says:

    These AGPs are immature. I would say infantile. No one can seriously deny who they are – male or female – after the age of 7. So what is giving these men this confused belief? How can we make them grow up??

  7. Teresa - SPA UK says:

    Kristin – this was an interesting podcast around a very difficult subject matter and I felt you handled extremely well – as usual. It has increased my understanding of the subject. Thank you for bravely tackling it.

  8. AutoG says:

    This is at the same time enlightening and frightening to listen to. I am a young adult straight male who experiences autogynephilia, but I do not regard myself as transgender.
    I have been very puzzled about my feelings, but always somehow recognized them as a paraphilia.

    It is an experience hard to describe. Most of the time I am a typical man, I like beer, soccer and history & war stuff, and have never been particularly feminine. I don’t have very feminine hobbies or manners, although I can be “soft”, artistic and emotionally open if I wish so. I have not been super masculine either, and never strong or tall physically. The image of becoming my own ideal male has been sometimes quite distant to me.

    However, the ideal female is to me something clearer, a thing I feel admiration, love and arousal towards, and I often end up imagining myself as a lesbian instead of a straight man in erotic fantasies. Sometimes I have crossdressed in private. In times when I feel I have failed in some sense as a man, the image of being sensual, a bit fragile, sweet and loving girl in a relationship with a slightly dominant lesbian partner feels like liberating escapism. To be feminine is beautiful, and to be desirable is tantalizing. It is a role I wish I could play occasionally.

    But to be credible, and to genuinely feel good and attractive in that role, would require so much work and changes in life (from shaving legs and losing weight and muscle mass to more drastic things) that I could never truly live so- I am a man. I feel sorry for men who experience similar feelings so strongly and regularly that they end up with dysphoria and will to transition.

    I wish to marry a woman and live a happy heterosexual family life. It is scary to think my paraphilia could be of a progressing type. It would devastate me to have it intervene with my life goals.

    I really hope that I personally, and the general population with the guidance of people like Dr. Blanchard, come to understand these phenomena better so that men, their partners and everyone around them would benefit.

    • Kristin Kalbli says:

      Thank you for your very thoughtful and honest comment. This cannot be an easy thing to grapple with. We hope you will find the relationship you desire. From our perspective, all we can advise is total honesty with your prospective partner, so that they know (as much as possible), what may or may not happen. As Dr. Blanchard indicated, it is progressive, but not inevitable. He did say there are autogynephiles who have no desire to transition. We wish you the best of luck and thank you for your courage in owning your experience!

  9. Brian Robinson (Dr) says:

    This is a wonderful discussion, well thought-out and insightful questions with clear, illuminating answers from Dr Blanchard. He has done an enormous service to understanding a condition that was poorly understood before his clinical descriptions of AGP. I’m glad Kristin mentioned Anne Lawrence because throughout I was thinking that I would certainly now add this discussion to the recommendations I make to people eager to try to make sense of “the trans thing”, one being Lawrence’s book, the other (of course) being Mike Bailey’s The Man Who Would be Queen (not to dwell here on all the persecution that marvellously humane text brought him). It must be hugely difficult for a woman suddenly to find that the man she thought she had spent her life with up to that point, was in fact something so different in such an intimately significant part of the relationship. I imagine virtually everything has to reconsidered, re-evaluated, reframed, every memory, conversation as well as, fundamentally, the sexual activity. And then (I’m still trying to imagine it) a woman might begin to question herself as to what it might have been about her that led her to relate to such a man. Thank you for this great discussion.

  10. Brian Robinson (Dr) says:

    I agree totally with Kristin’s evaluation of Autog’s insightful disclosure, and bravo to him for the self-honesty and the clear description of his subjective experience, and also the awareness of how the disorder (I believe we are really talking about a psychological disorder), of how it might affect a future marriage or lasting partnership. Kristin is right in that ‘total honesty’ is absolutely essential from the first moment it becomes clear that a relationship is getting close to “serious” and long before there’s thought of setting up home together, let alone talk of marriage. Even so, I think it can be hard for a woman, unless she’s psychologically quite sophisticated, to fully appreciate what the man is telling her, its implications, the sheer power the deviant eroticism can have over him, and so on. She will hear the words and form her own ideas as to what she is hearing, but to most women (perhaps it’s different these days for millennials and ‘Z’ generation? I’m sure I’m already out of date), for most women the idea must seem initially at least bizarre. Does a woman in that moment really make the effort of imagination to form an image of what he looks like to *her* (as distinct from to himself)? And can she really imagine how pale a thing heterosexual intercourse can seem to her man when compared to what he experiences in the crossdressed situation?

    Another thought I’ve had in relation to what Autog describes. I think it’s true that when any category (not just in psychology / psychiatry) is described and becomes well known when popularised, the area of its application, not necessarily by specialists in the field but by many people, grows wider and wider. I’m thinking now of Borderline Personality Disorder when it first appeared in the literature. It was controversial, many specialists dismissed it as a ragbag category that was applied to cover a multitude of symptoms when nobody could think of anything else to call them; but then, relatively soon after, everything was ‘BPD’, which was considerably at odds with the earliest descriptions of the syndrome, which were quite precise initially mostly in accounts by paychoanalysts of the object relations schools.

    The same *might*(?) be true of what’s happening with AGP, although I’m not sure. It’s possible that as with so many psychiatric diagnoses, there are mild and extremely severe forms of the same condition. I see no reason why that might not be the case with AGP. But it might also be true that the old diagnosis of transvestism might cover the phenomenology in particular instances without broadening the extremely useful — and accurate — diagnostic category of autogynephilia. In other words, cases of intermittent erotic crossdressing don’t seem to me to be the same as what Dr Blanchard is describing in cases of AGP. Perhaps the word ‘transvestism’ carries very negative connotations because of how in the past it’s been treated in media coverage. It might be (I’m speculating wildly) something of a ‘relief’ to have a more auspicious diagnostic label such as autogynephilia. Not that the word hasn’t already been contaminated by abuse, misunderstanding, and a degree of sneering, not excepting, I’m sorry to say, a number of feminists who have indiscriminately dismissed AGP men as dangerous.

    I think it might still be useful to have a broad distinction between occasional erotic crossdressing and a more stable or continuing identity of autogynephilia. Transvestism doesn’t seem to have the same force of an *identity*, it’s something a man does rather than what he is, literally a role he puts on, so to speak, and can discard when he’s done with it. But AGP seems to entail not just doing something sexually, but a whole way of being in the world. Which might rather suggest a comparison with, or rather a paraphrase from Byron: Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart / Tis a woman’s whole existence. (With the necessary substitutions that will suggest themselves.) Or even perhaps Woody Allen: Don’t knock masturbation — it’s sex with someone I love. I like that if only because it recognises the narcissism often involved, a narcissism that can, in the most problematic instances, be expressed as a sense of entitlement to occupy women’s spaces. As if to say, ‘I am a woman, but I retain male privilege to dominate, possess and dispossess’. Being AGP is, believe me, I know, intensely difficult. Many things about being human are. You have to find ways of living with them that don’t harm others — or yourself. You have to be creative. I remember the late psychotherapist Antony Storr once writing that he thought crossdressing could be viewed as a creative act. Autogynephilia seems to have something of the same kind of self-creation as a continuing process. Oh, just one more quotation, variously attributed to Socrates, Sophocles and others, this one with the suggestion that AGP can get better if one waits: of them was reportedly asked if in old age they “could still enjoy a woman”, replied that it was marvellous to be free because earlier in their life, their male libido was like being chained to a madman.

  11. ACB says:

    Thank you for having the courage to interview Dr. Blanchard. You did a great job of guiding the interview, and you posed very thoughtful questions. I came away from it with a much better understanding of AGP and why it’s so controversial.

    I found myself coming close to accepting the idea of AGP as a disorder, and then he would make a totally unsubstatiated observation that pulled me back to being skeptical. For example, his claim that there are significant gender differences found in levels of suggestibility, and his assertions that followed – across studies gender is not a consistent predictor of suggestibility. His evidence was purely anecdotal.

    One questiin I wish you had asked – why or how did he become interested in the study of transgender and gender disphoric individuals? What sparked his interest in this very niche area? Inquiring minds of cis gender spouses want to know.

    Thank you, again!

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