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Book Review: Men Trapped in Men's Bodies (Part 3)

This is part 3 of a 3 part review. Part 1 Part 2


Autogynephilia and sexuality

The relationship between autogynephilia and other parts of the autogynephile's sexuality are varied. Lawrence spends a lot of time on this, but I don't find it particularly interesting or enlightening in most respects, so I'll just leave you with a few key points.

Since autogynephilia appears to be a misfiring version of heterosexuality, it unsurprisingly coexists with it; however, it also competes with it in various ways. In different people, the following are all possible:

  1. Normal heterosexuality is present most of the time, except during an autogynephilic "episode"; autogynephilic feelings are ended by orgasm.

  2. Normal heterosexuality and autogynephilia coexist, with soft rather than sharp boundaries, or some blending. Autogynephilic feelings may go away temporarily while falling in love with a woman.

  3. As (1), but autogynephilia is dominant and only temporarily goes away after orgasm.

  4. Normal heterosexual attraction to women exists, but orgasm is only possible while having an autogynephilic fantasy.

  5. Romantic attraction to women exists, but only autogynephilic fantasies/behaviors are sexually arousing.

  6. Complete absence of romantic or sexual attraction to anyone except a female version of oneself.

I wasn't able to get a good sense of how common each of these was except that the last was relatively rarer, and the first wouldn't be common among MtF transsexuals since they would be less likely to transistion.

Autogynephilic transsexuals' interpretations of autogynephilia

While a frankly shocking number of respondents (selection bias?) expressed that their autogynephilic sexual feelings were the dominant factor in their transition or desire for transition, most respondents, while acknowledging their autogynephilia, gave it an alternative interpretation or attributed to it a lower degree of significance.

Some of these alternative interpretations are present in the discourse, and seem to represent an attempt to rationalize the reality of autogynephilia in the context of the prevailing dogma of the transgender movement. Lawrence catalogues and argues against these briefly; since they are probably of interest I'll summarize them here.

  1. Autogynephilia is a symptom, not a cause, of transsexualism. This is the idea that gender dysphoria precedes autogynephilia, and that autogynephilia is a somehow a response to the female gender identity or to gender dysphoria, such as an escapist fantasy. This position is contradicted by the evidence that autogynephilia generally precedes the female gender identity, and doesn't explain why the fantasy of becoming female is so erotic.

  2. Autogynephilia can't be part of the reason for desire to be female because nonsexual desires preceded puberty. Lawrence appeals to the fact that sexual feelings can and often do start before puberty, including in many of the transsexuals cited in the book, as a counterargument, as well as to the unreliability of memory and testimony in such cases. I don't think this is a knock-down argument against the second part of the statement, but at any rate the first part just doesn't follow.

  3. Autogynephila is just the sexualization of childhood cross-gender wishes (for coincidental or idiosyncratic reasons). Lawrence's response here seems to be bewilderment, and I'm inclined to agree; these reasons seem like so many just-so stories, many of which are bizzare in their leaps of logic.

  4. Autogynephilia can't be the reason for transition, because it feels incidental / something else seems more important. But while the direct motivations might not be autogynephilia, this ignores the role that autogynephilia likely played in the development of the more immediate reasons.

  5. Autogynephilia is just part of normal female sexuality. This one shows up a lot, due to a couple of studies which seemed to find autogynephilia in natal women. I recall that Scott drew a similar conclusion from a question on one of his SSC reader surveys. The problem with those studies (and Scott's has a similar issue), according to Lawrence (p 176), is that they do not

adequately differentiate between being aroused by wearing sexually provocative clothing or by imagining that potential romantic partners might find one attractive (which some natal women apparently do experience) and being sexually aroused simply by the idea that one is a woman or has a woman’s body (which natal women arguably rarely or never experience).

  1. Transsexualism is due to a feminized brain in a male body. This is of course one of the "standard" theories, but makes no sense in the context of autogynephilic transsexuals who are within the normal-male distribution in everything except for wanting to be feminine.

Non-transsexual autogynephiles

Lawrence devotes a chapter to the testimonies of the of non-transsexual autogynephiles who responded to the survey. With a few exceptions (such as the people who just wanted to have breasts, but nothing else) they were very similar to those of the transsexuals, only somewhat less so. The primary distinguishing factor is that they had not made the decision to transition, for various reasons. This is further evidence for Lawrence's conclusion (which really ought to be the default one) that autogynephilic transsexualism, autogynephilia in heterosexual men, and fetishistic transvestism are all regions in the same general cluster ("part of a spectrum" as they say), differing by degree and specifics more than kind.

Lawrence talks about clinical implications

At the end of the book we come to Lawrence's suggestions for what can and should be done in clinical care. Given that Lawrence is an advocate of Blanchard's theories and thus not in good graces with the trans activists, perhaps you can guess what they are...

I'll spare you the tedious scrolling. Yeah, it's a trick question. Here are a few things Lawrence proposes:

  • Transition (including SRS) is a good way to manage the gender dysphoria associated with autogynephilic transsexualism.

  • Cross-sex hormones are a good way of both giving men with less severe autogynephilia some of what they want (feminization) while also reducing their libido and thus (sometimes) the intensity of their autogynephilia.

  • Autogynephilia should be destigmatized, and presented according to Lawrence's theory that it is a sexual orientation and not just a paraphilia.

  • Puberty blockers in adolescence should be used more for autogynephilic boys, so that if they decide to transition they can have more feminine bodies and do so at an early enough age that they don't have baggage.

  • Autogynephilic adolescents should be given an environment supportive of things like cross-dressing, so that they can develop cross-gender identities more quickly and so be comfortable with (and eligible for) transition at an earlier age.

I'm afraid I disagree on all counts. (Well, I'm not exactly happy with the stigmatization part, but given the other items I suspect I don't envision the same sort of destigmatization that Lawrence does.) I guess the difference is that Lawrence is transsexual and thinks that it's a good thing, whereas I'm not and don't.

Also from this section, I can't resist quoting the following related, and rather incisive, bit about the attitudes of the trans activists and the associated medical industry (p 209):

Thirty or 40 years ago, mental health professionals who specialized in treating gender identity problems used to argue that paraphilic men—autogynephiles—who sought sex reassignment were not acceptable candidates because they were not genuinely transsexual. Nowadays, their successors seemingly want to argue that paraphilic men—autogynephiles—who seek sex reassignment have become acceptable candidates because they are not genuinely paraphilic!

My own final thoughts on autogynephilia

As I indicated early on, I think that autogynephilia is both real (personal experience is hard to deny on this one) and likely to be a key driver for a good fraction -- probably half in the eighties and a substantially higher proportion now -- of MtF transitions. Lawrence persuasively argues that autogynephilia is deeply tied up with the feelings (cross-gender wishes and identity, gender dysphoria, and so on) that lead to transition even when it is not the consciously-experienced primary motivation. But I disagree somewhat with the overall picture Lawrence paints.

Lawrence's model seems to be the following:

(Male heterosexual + ETLE) -> (autogynephilia) -> (cross-gender wishes and behaviors) -> (cross-gender identity and gender dysphoria)

where autogynephilia is understood in the "sexual orientation" sense that includes both overt lust but also some kind of romantic attraction to the feminized image of oneself and some sort of pair-bonding to that feminized self.

I'm skeptical about both "erotic target location error" and "autogynephilia as sexual orientation". The first honestly sounds quite a bit like "dormitive potency" (it's an unenlightening description, not an explanation) and the second seems like it doesn't quite cover the right territory. It seems to me that the model is stuck in a worldview where the explicitly sexual elements of things are the most basic and real, and everything else is just accretions around that.

My model is somewhat more complicated, but the gist is that the core thing is a whole complex of self-reinforcing desires all around the theme of "desire to be female/feminine", of which autogynephilia proper (the sexual arousal) is a very important part, but not necessarily more fundamental than the rest. Hence we see some people for whom the autogynephilia-proper seems to exist almost as an afterthought, or is even felt to be fundamentally undesirable (maybe because it spoils the "purity" of the rest of the fantasy), and others for whom it is almost the whole thing, as well as different times and places of emergence of various aspects of the desire, with sometimes the sexual preceding and sometimes succeeding cross-gender wishes. That is, the cross-gender wishes are at the same fundamental level as the sexual desire, and are mutually reinforcing with it, rather than being a simple consequence of it. I also disfavor ETLE as an description of what's gone wrong. I think that normal heterosexual desires-for femininity, including, of course, the purely sexual/lust part, "bleeding into" an abnormal desire-to-be female/feminine, is a more helpful way to think of it. But that may be mostly a difference in philosophical disposition.


Responding to Questions

I'm willing to answer questions in the comments. This includes questions about my own experience, if you think they'd be enlightening (I kept my experience out of the review itself since (a) I'm not transsexual, and (b) it seemed a bit too much like navel-gazing).

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What exactly is the distinction between a paraphilia and a sexual orientation? The most thoughtful answer I can find with a quick search suggests that the latter is biological and the former psychological? But that already strikes me as a fairly fuzzy and non-absolute distinction. Most of the rest of what I found can be boiled down to "paraphilia = gross/sexual orientation = perfectly legitimate, no judgement dammit" without ever actually explaining why that would be.

I do think that thinking of these things as a cluster of associated impulses is probably the best way to describe it. I don't really think you can separate sex from emotion from social roles from (insert X addenda here). One thing Lawrence and Blanchard don't touch on but may be worth bringing up. From my personal observations, frequently the fantasy of being a woman is associated with a fantasy of the loss of agency, and by extension, responsibility. You mentioned a military academy cadet and star athlete who apparently didn't measure up to his own standards for masculinity. I suspect there may be a lot of folks in this space with similar profiles. There's an element of stress relief to the fantasy. The wall street dude who spends all day amongst ultra-competitive alpha males making split-second decisions on which millions of dollars ride. The soldier who has to make split-second decisions on which the lives of his team-members ride. Anyone who lashes themselves into the breach of war or politics or business or science, through some combination of ambition and responsibility. To someone like that, the fantasy of being a stereotypical princess - of being passive, helpless even, loved for what you are rather than anything you do, of being at the whim of people and forces more powerful than yourself - that can be a powerful intoxicant. Nothing to base this on other than my own personal experiences and too much time spent in the seedy parts of the internet, but I think its worth considering.

I agree that the line is blurry. I think that Lawrence thinks of a sexual orientation as having emotional/romantic aspects, whereas a paraphilia would just have the facially-sexual ones; so sexual orientation is about love+lust, but paraphilia is just lust. In practice I think this is more a matter of respectability.

This is an interesting point about loss of agency. One thing I didn't touch on in this review but that came up in the book is that apparently a decent chunk of the sexual feminization fantasies of autogynephiles are forced feminization fantasies. That wasn't the case for me, and I just figured that it was an intersection with the (common) BDSM paraphilia, but you may be onto something about the attractiveness of passivity for someone who is always (expected to be) responsible. Or maybe it's more of a thing where lack of agency is seen as feminine, and therefore desired? (I don't think the common theory -- usually offered to explain rape fantasies -- that lack of agency gives the fantasizer an excuse to not be morally or socially culpable for their actions is at all plausible here.)

(I don't think the common theory -- usually offered to explain rape fantasies -- that lack of agency gives the fantasizer an excuse to not be morally or socially culpable for their actions is at all plausible here.)

Were you shamed for feminine behaviors growing up? If so, by who and how? I'm pretty confident that my "forced feminization" fantasies are almost entirely due to fear of being creep-shamed by the women I wanted to be accepted by for it based on prior experiences, which the transfer of culpability to said women avoids. I wonder how, if at all, such fantasies would be different had I experienced (or maybe, had I noticed and cared about) the more widely recognized shaming based on "femininity being inferior".

Not that I can recall. I got a little of the usual crap from peers about being a nerd instead of a masculine/athletic type, but that's not at all the same thing, and they didn't know about any of my more feminine interests (I only had a few -- overall I was within normal "nerd" range). My family didn't care, but then I never did anything like cross-dressing, it was all stuff like "interested in cooking and sewing and likes pretty colors" which hardly counts when there's also "interested in math and computers and likes video games" going on even more prominently.

I just don't get forced feminization fantasies, so maybe the reason I don't find plausible is actually correct but I just don't understand other people's psychology. My fantasy was always either undergoing a magical transformation willingly, or having been female all along (i.e. including imagining a different childhood/puberty). I didn't think the thing I wanted was shameful (although wanting it was, hence why I didn't share it), just impossible. And why would I imagine something unpleasant if there was a pleasant version?

My fantasy was always either undergoing a magical transformation willingly, or having been female all along (i.e. including imagining a different childhood/puberty).

I should be clear that I also have these fantasies, and they are much more common. The forced feminization fantasies are usually triggered in some sense by negative experiences, or reminders thereof, and the anxiety that comes with them.

I didn't think the thing I wanted was shameful (although wanting it was, hence why I didn't share it), just impossible.

I don't understand this. In my mind, the entire point of the forced feminization fantasy is avoiding the shame in wanting it rather than it being itself shameful, while you seem to be claiming the opposite?

And why would I imagine something unpleasant if there was a pleasant version?

It is the pleasant version. When I have such fantasies, the act of being forced is therapeutic, helping me work through my fear and anxieties. EDIT: Fear and anxiety about acceptance by the people I'm close to, sexually or platonically, not with the feminization itself. Them forcing me to do it proves they accept it, allaying the anxiety over whether or not they would.

I don't understand this. In my mind, the entire point of the forced feminization fantasy is avoiding the shame in wanting it rather than it being itself shameful, while you seem to be claiming the opposite?

I am either slightly confused or expressed myself confusingly (or both). I'll get back to you if I think of a better way of explaining what I meant.

I think that Lawrence thinks of a sexual orientation as having emotional/romantic aspects, whereas a paraphilia would just have the facially-sexual ones; so sexual orientation is about love+lust, but paraphilia is just lust. In practice I think this is more a matter of respectability.

Lawrence's book has a "terminology and definitions" section, which spells out specifically her definition of sexual orientation as "Sexual orientation refers to the category of persons to whom an individual is sexually attracted (or with whom he or she tends to fall in love)", while using paraphilia by the more DSM-conventional "psychosexual disorders characterized by recurrent, intense sexual urges, fantasies, or behaviors that involve unusual objects, activities, or situations and cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning", and specifically calls out that these aren't exclusive distinctions.

She uses zoophilia as an extreme example of something that is at least sometimes a matter of sexual attraction targeting, and also a disorder characterized by significant distress or impairment, but you could as easily talk about people strongly attracted to trans people (aka 'chasers') or harder BDSM submissives or people who like redheads too much. And it's pretty easy to come up with matters that fall in one category or the other.

Lawrence pretty clearly believes that autogynes fit into both categories: that "Explaining autogynephilic transsexualism as a paraphilic phenomenon is factually correct" but also that "Autogynephilia, we should explain, is another variety of sexual orientation: It is an unusual variant form of heterosexuality. Like other sexual orientations, it is something we autogynephilic transsexuals did not choose and something we cannot change. It certainly determines what we lust after, but it also determines what we love and want to unite with."

Respectability is definitely a large part of why she's trying to emphasize the orientation aspects (literally "associations with illegal paraphilias will probably be unavoidable"), but Lawrence thinks that this has some useful predictive and therapeutic power. Her model holds that transsexualism-as-paraphilia is considers things in a purely medicalizing way, which patients sometimes like because it removes the responsibility of choice from them ("The clinician will, in effect, make the decision for them."), but doesn't really present the full spectrum of that choice nor does it seem dependent on people having a good acceptance (and sometimes even admission) of their own desires and preferences, which.

((I'm somewhat skeptical that's true for all trans women and very skeptical that it's true for all autogynephiles, but it's probably not wrong for some, and especially for those most likely to end up seeking help with autogynephilia.))

(I don't think the common theory -- usually offered to explain rape fantasies -- that lack of agency gives the fantasizer an excuse to not be morally or socially culpable for their actions is at all plausible here.)

May I ask why not? 'Doing something feminine is at least worthy of severe social sanction, if not outright humiliation' is a pretty common message for guys, especially American Red Tribe-adjacent guys raised before the late-00s or so. I didn't internalize it much, but I can provide no shortage of (cis) gay examples where 'oh no not that briar patch' is far more overt than the sub/dom aspect.

Lawrence's book has a "terminology and definitions" section

You are absolutely right and I should have referred to that first. My bad.

May I ask why not?

Because many of these people are doing things (cross-dressing, usually) which are already seen as shameful, with no pretense of being forced to; plus, doing feminine things is only socially shameful for men, but the desire in question is to be/become a woman. But I've gotten some firsthand pushback on this so probably I was typical-minding here.

What exactly is the distinction between a paraphilia and a sexual orientation? The most thoughtful answer I can find with a quick search suggests that the latter is biological and the former psychological?

The very notion of "paraphilia" is grounded in natural law thinking (a la Aristotle and Aquinas). The "para-" prefix means "alongside of, beside, near, resembling, beyond, apart from." The "purpose" of sexual activity is procreation; healthy, functioning sex organs operate in ways that are clearly oriented toward reproduction, just as a healthy functioning heart operates in ways that circulate blood through your body. So sexual activity that could not possibly be procreative is "beside" (para) the point of sex (philia, at least in this context).

On this basic framework, homosexuality qualifies as paraphilia because it can't be procreative. Obviously this also implicates things like children and animals, but arguably implicates things like foot fetishes or pornography and masturbation, too. It even implicates things like oral sex; it may implicate sex while using birth control, or sex with an infertile person. In religious communities that often think in natural law terms without always realizing it, this gives rise to patches like "sex is also pleasurable to strengthen the bond between husband and wife, and part of our natural purpose is to raise children together, so maybe lots of kinds of non-procreative heterosexual sex are okay." But the natural law view also tends to suggest that "adulthood" means "capable of reproduction" rather than some other, more age- or maturity-oriented definition, opening a further can of worms.

In other words--contemporary American sexual mores have become just totally untethered from anything approaching a "natural law" view. Without that mooring, the idea of a "paraphilia" falls quickly to pieces, but the word lumbers on as a terminological zombie. The emphasis on "consent" in contemporary discourse is, I suspect, partly driven by the death of every other standard we've ever had for permissible sexual activity. Natural law style thinking thus lives on, not only in religious communities but also among people who want a pejorative word for any behavior they find creepy. Many "creepy" sexual behaviors do qualify as paraphilias under the natural law "proper function" standard! But so do many sexual behaviors now regarded as "normal" or otherwise acceptable.

So, in short, we're using a natural law term that literally means "sex acts that aren't plausibly procreative" to refer to things that we now regard as either nonconsensual, or creepy. Some of these things are also not plausibly procreative, but some surely are, leading to the fuzziness you observe.

Thank you, that was a very helpful explanation.

I'd like to hear your response to this simpler counter-theory for the entire trans phenomenon (at least post-2014): Both MTFs and FTMs believe (at least subconsciously) that the opposite sex has better lives. MTFs believe that women get more love, attention and affection, while FTMs believe that men get more respect and earn more money.

Since MtF and FtM are largely different phenomena:

MtF: 1. this seems to pick out the wrong set of people. There are lots of men who seem to believe that women have better lives, and even some who are unhappy enough that they go to very dark places (e.g. incels) but they don't seem to be the ones lining up to be trans. 2. Autogynephilia is a thing, and it would be deeply weird if a condition that is uncommon in the general population but very common among trans people didn't have anything to do with transitioning. 3. A lot of MtF trans people have been willing to go through some really hard stuff (extensive medical treatments) and have blown up their objectively good lives as men in order to try to become women; I suppose you could consider them to be extra deluded, but that doesn't seem to be a parsimonious explanation.

FtM: Here that explanation is somewhat plausible for some of the short-hair-and-guy's-clothes-enby types or for the people who want to get pregnant but still have people pretend they are men, but in general it doesn't seem to work. We have a long history of women pretending to be men in order to enter men's spaces, get more respect, or engage in male-only activities: everything from women taking male pen names, to Mulan (yes, a folktale/myth, but still) or the women who pretended to be men so they could become doctors, up to at least one female Christian saint who pretended to be a man in order to enter a particular monastery. But they appear to be in a totally different category than the girls who want to cut off their breasts, who seem more like the extreme end of "girl is uncomfortable with her body because puberty" intersecting with the pro-trans social environment, and not particularly concerned with e.g. earning more money.

You obviously haven't heard of the incel-to-trans pipeline. For both groups you seem to argue that the people who are/would be the most grass-is-greener aren't the ones who end up trans, but I just plain disagree. In particular for FtMs:

short-hair-and-guy's-clothes-enby types

is there another type?

There's no one reason why people transition, so the "entire phenomenon" can't be explained by one single theory. Sure, there are some people who simply believe that the grass is greener on the other side; but then you also have people who suffer from acute physical dysphoria, or people who simply get swept up in the social contagion (particularly common with young FTMs).

The sexual fetishistic aspect plays a strong role for some trans people, a moderate role in others, and no role at all in yet others. Everyone has their own story.

I notice that in Western (or just American?) culture, you can dismiss a man's entire identity just by proving that his a sex drive. My belief is that AGP is just a example of this: trans women have a sexuality, and are seen as men, therefore their needs and desires are invalid. Is that not the implication of the rhetoric around AGP?

I also notice that I can never tell where someone is coming from on this site. So for the record, I'm broadly pro-trans and I see most anti-trans rhetoric as just being repackaged sex-negativity, which I hate. However, I certainly agree that with regards to child transitioners and some other controversies, we have gone to far. No one should be forced to use specific language (pronouns), for example.

Most of the trans culture wars have nothing to do with sex. The question of whether a person featuring a penis should be allowed to school girls locking room is not about sex (at least I hope it isn't for the majority of the audience?). The question whether a person having male body structure should be allowed to beat women to a pulp or leave them far back in the dust on the sports arena has nothing to do with sex. The question whether a person convicted for raping a woman using his penis should be jailed together with other women because he suddenly felt he's a women once convicted - is not about sex (at least not about consensual sex, anyway). The question whether female esthetician should be forced to handle somebody's cock and balls because they feel female this morning is not about sex. The question whether a person should have a power to control the speech of everybody on this planet if they think they must use certain words when speaking about that person is not about sex. The question whether we can be allowed to talk about women having babies and men having erections or it is a crime which has to be prosecuted with full force of governmental repression is not about sex. The question whether a grotesque parody of a woman should be presented to kindergarten aged kids as the best possible role model for their future socialization is not about sex. The question whether a kid having doubts about their sexual development should have their genitals cut off as soon as possible without any input from the parents is not about sex. The question whether a person should be deprived of their rights and means to earn sustenance and forced to spend the rest of the days as an outcast to the society because they dared to have an opinion on any of the previous questions that diverged from the one prescribed by the Official Dogma is not about sex.

It's not that their desires are invalid - it's that they're nobody else's concern or worry. Trans dysphoria is presented as some crippling pain - to the point of motivating suicide. But if all it is is a paraphilia, then the urgency of 'helping' them diminishes. It's no skin off my nose if someone else can't get their rocks off, and I feel no need at all to play a role in their sexual roleplay. After all, there are many unusual paraphilias. There are furries out there, sadists and masochists, and any variety of fetishists. But furries don't get to come to work dressed as their fursona (unless they work in IT).

Have you read Andrea Long Chu's essay "On Liking Women" in N+1?

She argues that the grammar of LGBT activism is wrong, people can't experience identity, they experience desire and deduce identity from that. She depicts being a trans woman less as "looking inside herself and knowing she is a woman" and more as "wanting to be a woman". She says something that might be considered ETLE, along the lines of 'I've never been able to separate liking women from wanting to be like them" but her examples are more about intense social bonds and wanting to fit in with female friend groups than AGP fantasies. The experience of "I admire and feel like I belong with this set of people and want to change myself to be like them" is a pretty common story of identity formation that seems more generalizable than the standard trans narrative, but less demanding of political sympathy.

I do think that autogynephillia as a distinct thing from typical female sexuality exists, but I'm not convinced it's as easily disentangled as the quoted rebuttal suggests. You need to have some sort of model of what 'normal' female sexuality is like to refute the idea that trans people aren't doing what we would predict someone with normal female sexuality to do in a male body. If we came up with some sort of brain transplant machine and put a straight cis-woman in a man's body we might expect her to fantasize about being back in her female body.

Male heterosexuality is very much about object lust for the female body, the reverse is a component of female heterosexual desire but given the popularity of non visual and more narrative pornography with women it seems less central than the experience of being desired (by someone who is worth being desired by). Wanting to "be desired" seems continuous with wanting to "be desirable" and women will talk about abstractly liking "feeling sexy" independent from having sex.

As your quote indicates some cis-women become aroused by wearing lingerie, presumably because they are imagining being found attractive by a partner. You could pathologize this and say that they have invented a male persona who they have fallen in love with and are aroused by imagining being desired by this persona. But humans are status seeking monkeys and being high status (desirable) feeling good in some way doesn't seem pathological to me.

So now is the typical trans woman experiencing something like this, where having female genitalia is arousing because they imagine it will make them more desirable to others, or are they experiencing a version of male lust for the female body as an object? I don't know how you'd answer that on a survey. I'd look at the behavior of post-op transgender people, are they compulsive masturbators and sex addicts constantly aroused by living out their greatest fantasy, or do they seek out relationships with others in which their body is (in part) an object of desire.

[Andrea Long Chu] says something that might be considered ETLE, along the lines of 'I've never been able to separate liking women from wanting to be like them" but her examples are more about intense social bonds and wanting to fit in with female friend groups than AGP fantasies

I find that extremely difficult to reconcile with Chu's most famous quote from their book “Females”:

“To be a sissy is always to lose your mind. The technical term for this is bimboification. Captions often instruct viewers to submit themselves to hypnosis, brainwashing, brain-melting, dumbing down, and other techniques for scooping out intelligence.

The gestures most often looped in GIF format almost always register the evacuation of will: wilting faces, trembling legs, eyes rolled back into heads. Even the GIF format itself communicates this, a kind of centrifuge for distilling the femaleness to its barest essentials — an open mouth, an expectant asshole, blank, blank eyes. Sissy porn did make me trans.”

This has nothing to do with social bonding: it's 100% sexual objectification of the female body. It reads exactly like the sort of thing a pornsick male would write while furiously masturbating. I'm not saying that's morally wrong, but it shows that these males have a porn fantasy first, and a desire to fit in with the girls comes secondary, at best.

Anecdotally, people with a fetish for bimboification seem to be almost exclusively male. As you also mentioned, women are typically very selective about who they sexually desire, while men fantasize about indiscriminate and frequent sex is. The biological/evolutionary reasons behind this difference between the sexes are obvious. So transwomen with a bimboification fetish, like Chu, strike me as extremely male-brained.

Between this and the “We Say Gay” thread, I’m curious about the overall incidence rate of sexual deviancy in this community, and any relation it might have to the high rate of political deviancy.