Over at tumblr raavenb2619 sent me a comment on my recent post on erotic crossdreaming and the autogynephilia theory, where they ask about the place asexual trans women and men have in my thinking.
In that post I pointed out that the autogynephilia theory is bigoted pseudo-science, but that many people do get aroused by the idea of becoming their true gender.
The following quote [edited after my talk with raaven] gives you the main gist of my argument:
“Trans people, like cis people, are sexual beings with a vivid imagination, and what could make more sense for a trans woman than to imagine herself having sex as a woman?”
raaven asks if I am implying that a) all trans people are allosexual [experiencing sexual attraction] and that b) trans women imagining themselves having sex as women is so natural that trans women that don’t, whether because they’re asexual or for any other reason, are unnatural.
Asexual trans women are valid
They make a good argument for why my post can be read that way, but this was definitely not what I wanted to say. Asexual trans women are both valid and natural.
What has happened here is that I, by responding to a transphobic theory that is deeply embedded in the old paradigm of sexuality and gender, has focused on the experiences of allosexual (i.e. non-asexual) people, because they are the ones addressed by the autogynephilia theory.
I presented sensible alternative explanations for why trans people may behave the way they do — explanations that do not affirm the transphobic autogynephilia theory.
The 19th century view of the world
As I pointed out in my post the autogynephilia theory is anchored in a 19th century understanding of sexuality and gender, which again was based on the following premises.
1. The only natural sexual attraction is between men and women.
Any same-sex attraction is a perversion based on “inversion”. So all gay men are effeminate, and all trans women who love men are gay men. All lesbian women are masculine, and all trans men love women.
2. Sexuality aims at one objective only: procreation.
This is a position 19th and 20th century science took over from the Judeo-Christian tradition, where humankind was expected to populate and rule the world. 19th century sex researchers argued the same based on a misreading of Darwin.
3. Men are active and libidinous and woman are passive, with a weaker libido.
I referred to this as women being considered somewhat “asexual” by these male researchers. That phrase could definitely be misunderstood, I see that now, so I have edited it. The point is that according to this world view women have a weak sex drive compared to men, and to the extent they have one it is aimed at their husband and anchored in the desire to become a mother.
Lesbian trans women falsify the old world view
The binary inversion theory tries to explain why gay men love men (they have some kind of female sexuality) and why lesbian women love women (they are “mannish”, according to this false narrative).
Ray Blanchard, the man behind the autogynephilia theory, had to come up with a theory that explains why some trans women are attracted to women, and that was the autogynephilia theory: These trans women (”men” according to him) are suffering from some kind of “erotic target location error” where they become attracted to their idea of themselves as a women rather than women “out there”.
He still refuses to accept gay trans men, since women (as he sees them) cannot be sexual perverts. He had a Catholic upbringing, you see.
(By the way, Blanchard continues to argue that homosexuality is a mental illness and he would like the diagnosis reintroduced into the American psychiatric manual. He is that kind of man.)
Asexuality as an offense to the old world view
All of this is wrong, and all serious researchers agree that all of this is nonsense, but this narrative fits the prejudices of many homophobic and transphobic people, so the model lives on in the dark corners of the web.
There is no room for asexual people in this world view. As far as Blanchard is concerned, all these “paraphilias” (sexual perversions) are fueled by sexual desire for someone or something. He is also a child of Sigmund Freud, and for Freud everything could be reduced to sexual desire. If procreation is the ultimate goal of both sexuality and gender, asexual people make no sense.
This is why a lack of desire for having sex with other people is classified as a mental disease by people like Blanchard. All people are fundamentally allosexual, according to them, but something has gone wrong, so that the sexual desire has been subdued or misdirected.
In this tradition asexual men are incomprehensible, while asexual women are labelled as frigid, and frigidity can be cured.
When Blanchard sees that some non-transitioned trans women are more aroused by the idea of having sex as a woman than having sex as a man with their own girlfriends or wives, that is seen as proof of the “target location error”.
He does not consider one obvious explanation: They are women, and having sex as a man is a big turn-off. Nor does he consider another meaningful explanation, namely that some of them are asexual.
Continuums make more sense
As soon as you start to look at sexuality and gender as continuums, you start seeing all of these phenomena with new eyes:
If gender identity is a continuum, there is room for binary cis people, binary trans people and nonbinary people.
If gender expression is a continuum, there is room for masculine women, feminine men and nonbinary people of all shades and colors.
If the sex drive is a continuum, you will find people with a strong libido on the one side and some with a very weak one on the other. It does not matter what causes this variation. It is there!
If the desire to have sex with others is on a spectrum, you will find those who are continuously trying to score on the one side and people who do not want to have intercourse at all on the other.
Some asexual people have a low libido, others do not, but what they do have in common is that they normally do not want to have sex with other people. As soon as we accept the fact that nature is diverse, it makes absolute perfect sense that such people exist, in the same way it makes sense that gay, lesbian, trans and nonbinary people exist. And yes, asexual trans people also become a natural phenomenon.
Nature is a D.J.
The traditionalists will argue that evolution does not allow for this kind of diversity. Sexual selection will not let the relevant genes move on to the next generation. Blanchard has spent years trying to find an explanation for why gay men exist. The thing is, however, that real life diversity, both as regards genes, epigenetics, hormones, personal experiences and cultural rules and ideas, is so complex that such variation will reappear over and over again by itself.
Nature and culture are not machines aimed at a producing the perfect man and perfect woman some time in the future. Nature is a D.J. continuously remixing the songs of the past. Nor is culture stable. As soon as you think it is, a new idea appears that turns everything upside down.
And this is what causes transphobia, homophobia and acephobia. As soon as we see these phenomena as a natural expressions of natural diversity, the whole mental map of the old world order is debunked and replaced by a new way of looking at the world. Right wing extremists, religious fundamentalists and trans-exclusionary radical feminists have their whole lives invested in the old model. That is why they struggle so hard to uphold it, and that is why they want to “cure” or exclude gay, trans, nonbinary and asexual people.