“I am ready to admit to my own autogynephelia,” I blurted as I swung my legs into the car.
“What was that?” Patrick asked as his right hand turned the ignition.
“Oh nothing,” I replied. “Just musing aloud.”
It was late winter, 2003. I had recently finished reading the definitive book on transsexualism, “The Man Who Would Be Queen”, by leading sex scientist J. Michael Bailey. Thanks to Bailey’s methodical and meticulous research on the science of gender bending, I had gained several new insights into my identity. Patrick had some spare time to kill after our appointment, and kindly agreed to give me a lift across town to my first autogynephilia support group meeting.
For years I had wondered where in the trans spectrum I fit in. TMWWBQ opened the doors of understanding for me by illuminating the true nature of transsexuals. Bailey laid out all the evidence. It’s very clear in his book if you take the time to read it.
There are two types you see, the “homosexual transsexual” and the “autogynephile.” To qualify as a homosexual transsexual, you have to only be sexually attracted to guys, ever. You need to be “boy crazy” from an early age. I had kissed a girl once in junior high and had a couple brief relationships with girls in high school. No matter that I had almost exclusively dated and had sexual relationships with men since my twentieth birthday, my autogynephilia was revealed by the fact that my first sexual relationship was with a girl my own age.
Another qualifier for homosexual transsexualism is age of transition. To be classified as a homosexual transsexual, you have to be living full-time as a woman by age twenty-five. I had heard of sex changes at the age of twenty. Back then I was so poor and lived so far away from GLBT culture that transition seemed like a fantasy. I had no idea that I could have been expressing my femininity as a show girl, or that I could get black market estrogen to feminize myself with.
My situation was such that I lost a handful of precious years that could have been spent transitioning young. A few years later, I made do choosing of my own volition to live as a woman on the weekends, without the benefits of hormones. A year or so after that, I turned twenty-five, and finally I had enough money to start a low-budget transition. It was at least another year after that before I went full-time. Due to a combination of lack of knowledge and agency, I missed the transition cut-off point for homosexual transsexualism by one year.
I tried to predict which careers the other group attendees might have. Bailey realized that autogynephiles typically worked as policemen, lawyers, computer programmers, scientists and physicians. Oftentimes AGP’s have military backgrounds. I had never been or done any of those things.
Homosexual transsexuals on the other hand, are all lingerie models, hair stylists and female impersonators. I didn’t do those things either! I wondered how all the middle-aged STEM career transitioners at the group meeting would react when I disclosed that I was an unlicensed Companion.
Would I still be accepted? Would I be asked to explain the difference between a Companion and a she-male? In the sex industry, transsexual is pretty much synonymous with she-male. To be a big-money making she-male sex worker, you have to be able to sustain an erection (the bigger the better), and you must be able to top guys with it. If a year and a half of taking 200mg Spironolactone daily had not already eliminated my ability to be “fully functional”, the very thought of penetrating a man with an organ I deeply wanted off my body would have rendered me impotent.
Would I be asked about my childhood? Would I have been described as a masculine or unusually feminine boy? I guess it all would depend on what age you were asking about and who you asked. My mother being a good Catholic wife, did not encourage my femininity displays as a child and when I got caught cross-dressing once too many times, my parents took me aside one afternoon, and prayed over me for what seemed like hours.
Experiences like that, combined with the taunts of “fag” and “you walk like a girl” caused me to compartmentalize all the behaviors that might be considered feminine, and I learned to project a certain amount of stoic machismo to compensate. What can I say? Having college-educated liberal parents who are willing to take you to a gender therapist after witnessing signs of gender nonconformity is a privilege. We can’t all have super-moms like Just Evelyn.
That being said, once I became a latch-key kid, I had little parental supervision of any kind and I grew out my hair. Sporting long hair as a teenager and young adult male did occasionally cause me to be misgendered in public; an experience which I cherished back then. I guess it’s only transphobic if you get misgendered while deliberately trying to pass as the opposite sex.
We were about halfway to our destination at this point, and as we were stopped at a traffic signal light, waiting for it to turn green, I began to have misgivings about showing up to the meeting. AGP transsexuals typically have established careers, and they are often married and have had children. I didn’t want to inflict myself and my gender issues on a heterosexual woman. I had already done that once soon after high school and we didn’t last. During the time we were dating I was always envious of her femaleness and female socialization. After we broke up, I decided from there on out that I wanted to be the woman in the relationship, and that meant dating men.
Then too, I wondered how the other transwomen would react to my appearance. I had another client scheduled that day, about an hour after the support group, so I was wearing my ordinary work clothes. My job at the time required me to express a certain degree of hyper-femininity and I sort of looked like I might be trying to get a role on the show Sex and The City with my matching skirt and high heels, french manicure and big hoop earrings.
From what I had read in The Man Who Would Be Queen, autogynephiles had a history of dressing in private the way I dressed when I was working. The difference is that I used my outfits to project sensuality, availability and vulnerability because I wanted to make money. Many (most?) AGPs it seems, dressed like I did in order to reach climax while masturbating.
I didn’t need J. Michael Bailey’s book to learn that. I routinely dealt with requests for cross-dressing play and forced feminization from potential clients. That was not a service I provided and as a courtesy to my sisters of the night, I would refer clients with such requests to professionals whom I knew would be better able to serve them.
If things played out at the meeting the way I was imagining in my head, I could easily see having the authenticity of my autogynephelia questioned, and rightfully so. Granted, by Bailey’s definition, I was a late transitioner and by his definition, not a homosexual transsexual. Except I didn’t have the requisite corporate job, wife and kids to be AGP. I was prepared to be understanding if they were skeptical. But they wouldn’t be the only ones checking for bonafides.
In my bag I was bringing with me a binder filled with vagina photos. In between its covers lay hundreds of large, glossy full-color images of vaginas, each with the clitoris, urethra, and vaginal introitus clearly marked. If the other members of the group gravitated to and spent most of the meeting time eagerly flipping through the pages of my little project, I would know for sure that I was in the company of autogynephiles.
J. Michael Bailey, I reject your two-types of transsexuals taxonomy. I reject the DSM, and your book. I was not mentally ill for wanting to spend my life as a woman. I was not paraphelic for having wanted to have a vagina. I did not have a birth defect or an intersex condition. I did not have a physical disease or a mental disorder.
I just wanted to live my life as a woman, and the technology was close enough for me to pursue being physically altered to be as female-bodied as is possible in this day and age. There was nothing wrong with me pretransition and there was nothing wrong with me post transition. Is that so hard to understand?
I was not a gay boy or a panty-whacker, and I am very sorry that my lived experience and my identity narrative totally screws up your impeccable research. Of course, from what I read in your book, you seem to just assume we all lie about our gender identities anyway (so we don’t unintentionally screw up receiving our surgery letters or out of shame of admitting that panty-whacking is needed to reach climax), so I am not sure what benefit there could be in a dialogue if you are unwilling to take me at my word.
Needless to say, I do not agree with J Micheal Bailey’s “science” of transsexualism. Neither Mr. Bailey, nor the people in the case studies in his book speak for me and my experiences. Most of the experiences I related here did happen. The AGP support meeting was a literary device that never occurred. The binder of vaginas refers to a certain well-known AGP advocate.
I didn’t actually read your book until several years after it came out, but once I read it, I felt invisiblized by your taxonomy, and I wanted to speak up against it. It just took me awhile to find the right words to express myself.