Updated: Aug 27
Please note that guest articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions held by the Gender Dysphoria Alliance leadership board. This article is one person's account of their own experiences. The existence of Autoandrophilia in females is controversial and not (yet?) a scientifically validated hypothesis. We hope future research will clarify gender dysphoria pathways in females.
From my earliest memories, the expected behaviour, social role, and interests I was expected to naturally fall into, as well as the treatment I was expected to wish to receive as a girl, only felt grating. I could not understand why a physical designation I did not comprehend meant that I had been grouped with the sex I felt the least in common with and steered down that path rather than the one I felt I actually fit and belonged in. I behaved so much like a boy that my mother considered the term ‘tomboy’ insufficient, and even with my long hair, I was sometimes mistaken for actually being a boy by both adults and other children. My interests and hobbies were stereotypically masculine; I preferred boys clothes and toys; I only wanted to be male characters in games and school plays; and I would challenge or fight anyone among the boys that I hung around if they told me that I could not do something because I was a girl. In school, when the class was separated for certain activities, boys to one side and girls to the other, I would trot off to join the boys only to have a hand placed on my shoulder by the teacher and be steered in the other direction, constantly having to be reminded that, despite my instinct to the contrary and my protests about being expected to pursue girl activities, I was not a boy.
When puberty began, that is when the body dysphoria hit, and it hit hard. I was horrified at developing female secondary sex characteristics and went from being an energetic, outgoing, and headstrong kid to being profoundly stressed, ashamed, depressed, withdrawn, and hostile. I developed selective mutism for a time due to my voice, which had not broken like the boys' and now sounded obviously like a girl's, and I wore a large coat all the time in an attempt to hide my chest and hips. The sight or feel of my breasts made my skin crawl with a similar sort of visceral feeling of repulsion towards unnatural wrongness that one experiences when seeing a terrible deformity or injury. I was a circus freak to my mind - grotesque; my breasts felt like alien appendages that did not belong on my body. It was as though my brain had failed to map the physical changes, unable to recognize them as being part of me rather than as some kind of diseased growths.
Though it was the 1990s, my religious family and community were insular, and I do not believe I had ever heard the word 'transgender' before, being completely unaware of the existence of anything like sex-reassignment surgery, I tearfully begged my parents for an operation to have the breasts removed, which they dismissed out of hand and told me was just a phase that everyone goes through and that I would outgrow (in fairness, experiencing gender dysphoric feelings during puberty is not as uncommon as one might think, and it usually resolves itself with puberty’s completion; the majority of people do in fact naturally outgrow it). I never did.
I had never experienced sexual abuse, I had both male and female role models that I admired, and I had always been granted a lot of leeway by my parents in how I was permitted to dress and play. My extreme discomfort was primarily with my body itself; I do not believe it was due to societal prejudice or objectification.
As I have come to understand it in retrospect, my gender dysphoria is most likely the result of the effects of androgen exposure during early development, autism spectrum disorder, and autoandrophilia (things I only learned were connected this year despite having already gone through a transition process that included medical and psychological assessment as well as involvement with a transgender advocacy, education, and support group; in all that time, the typology of transsexualism had never even been mentioned). While hormone levels have long been suspected to play a role in gender nonconformity and the autism connection to transgender identity has become evident in more recent statistics and studies, the hypothesis of autoandrophilia is still not widely accepted, though its male counterpart, autogynephilia, is well established and supported in the scientific literature. Classed as a type of erotic target location error, one can think of it as being a very unusual sexual orientation, one in which an individual’s outward attraction is inverted. Whereas the average heterosexual feels an instinctual drive to seek relations with the opposite sex, someone with autoandrophilia or autogynephilia can experience an instinctual drive to be the opposite sex. In some individuals, it may be intense and all-pervasive enough to affect one’s entire conception of themselves and guide their behaviour in all aspects of life, and even they themselves often do not understand what it is they are experiencing or why. Feeling so disassociated from my own body following puberty and prior to medical transition that I had not experienced arousal before and, despite occasional aesthetic attraction to both sexes, had concluded that I must be asexual, I had not the faintest idea that an innate aspect of sexuality could unconsciously be playing a part in my gender dysphoria. Though it has not exactly been the most pleasant of things to come to the realization that my gender dysphoria actually has more to do with a paraphilia than with the more comforting and socially acceptable ‘born in the wrong body’ narrative, nevertheless, upon speaking to self-aware AGPs and AAPs and reading the available literature on the topic, I could recognise many facets of it in myself, my experience suddenly began to make a lot more sense, and I gained insight into aspects of my own behaviour and way of thinking that I had never understood before.
It is a tragedy that unbiased scientific research about the causes of gender dysphoria is shunned, vilified, and been brought to a standstill by the ideological political agenda that has hijacked the trans rights movement and falsely claims that this kind of research, research that could actually help transgender people and others with gender dysphoria, is transphobic.
Following the onset of puberty, I spent the next decade of my life with a death wish, suffering from often crippling depression and anxiety, anger, despair, self-disgust, self-hatred, and often resorted to self-harm, excessive drinking, and other self-destructive behaviours in an attempt to cope with the ever-present physical and mental discomfort gender dysphoria caused. Having an unbiased, scientifically grounded understanding of what I was going through and what causes it could have helped me a great deal, whereas the gender ideology that is being taught in schools nowadays would only have confused me further.
After I turned eighteen and was free from my likely unfounded fear of being sent off to some kind of conversion therapy by my parents should I take things too far, I began using a male pseudonym and binding my chest with duct tape. Having a total lack of sexual desire for either sex, I sometimes told people that I was a lesbian in order to avert romantic attention I received from men, though I was not actually interested or involved in lesbian subculture either; I was just disgusted by my body and hated the thought of anyone, male or female, seeing or touching my anatomically female parts (though I did briefly date a few individuals, a couple men and a woman, on that condition). Additionally, the knowledge that my body was capable of pregnancy so sickened and disturbed me that I regarded it like some kind of grotesquely unnatural and horrific parasite scenario straight out of a horror film (twenty-three years later, and despite numerous self-confident assertions by various individuals that my feelings on this would change over time as I got older, they never have).
Despite all this, I did not yet see my experience as being related to transgender issues; my exposure to the term ‘trans’ up until that point had led me to believe that it was just representative of things like drag queens, fetishistic exhibitionists, loud, colourful, obnoxious attention-seeking teenagers, and other things I found vulgar and clownish and had nothing to do with me. Had anyone suggested that I might actually be trans, I would have been incredulous and offended.
It was in my mid-twenties that I happened to meet an actual transman, and having this normal, intelligent, well-mannered, and reservedly dressed individual casually explain gender dysphoria and transsexuality to me was a revelation. He was describing exactly how I had felt for my entire life, and there were apparently biological reasons for it, I was not just crazy; I finally had some kind of explanation for it all and a word to call it by.
I sought out a psychologist, received a diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder, and within a few months had a letter of recommendation allowing me to access medical transition, the prerequisite year of required life experience being waived due to the fact that, other than pronouns and which bathroom I had been using, I had essentially already been living socially as male. The only hiccup in the process was my long hair. Having grown up with my mother’s bedtime stories of warriors with badass long hair and, in my teens, having become immersed in a heavy metal subculture in which near-waist-length hair was not only standard for men but something of a symbol of cultural pride, I had never considered long hair to be feminine, resented being told to cut it, and resolved to grow it out again once I no longer needed to fit a stereotype to gain the approval of clinicians.
I read what I could find online about hormone replacement therapy and sex-reassignment surgery, and though I was concerned about the risks that taking testosterone entailed and actually had several listed medical contraindications, I believed that my concerns would be safely evaluated in my appointment with the endocrinologist. Boy, was I wrong. My appointment lasted minutes; he did not even review my medical history and was going to start me on testosterone right away. Having had profoundly bad experiences with medical incompetence in the past, this greatly alarmed me, and I cannot even remember what excuse I came up with on the spot to delay it. I was supposed to go back again, but I never did, too worried about being pushed into it with little regard for my actual physical health and not willing to risk the serious potential side effects and life-long medicalization.
The high rate of serious complications and horrific scarring that result from metoidioplasty and phalloplasty (the surgical construction of a penis which first requires the clitoral growth that occurs during testosterone treatment) had already convinced me that those procedures were something that I could live without.
As testosterone treatment was a legal prerequisite for accessing top surgery through the medical system (top surgery being colloquial for bilateral mastectomy, aka breast removal), and unlike testosterone and genital surgery, I wanted top surgery so desperately that I would have gone through with it even if it had a 50% mortality rate (it is actually relatively safe), I found a reputable private clinic that offered it on the basis of the GID diagnosis alone, and with the help of my family, paid for it out of pocket.
That surgery remains the most positive thing I have ever done for my mental health and quality of life. My friends and family said that the difference it made was like night and day, as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. My gender dysphoria and physical discomfort were significantly eased; I calmed down and became more relaxed and easy-going; my temper disappeared; the major depression finally lifted; I quit drinking; and not once since have I intentionally harmed myself.
The surgeon gave me a letter to prove that I had received gender-reassignment surgery, in order to legally change the gender marker on my identification documents (passport, birth certificate, etc.); the wording of the law regarding gender-reassignment surgery in that state offering something of a loophole to claim thus even in the absence of genital surgery or hormone treatment. This surprised me, and I felt very conflicted about it, as, not only do I recognise that I am and always will be biologically female and no amount of cosmetic changes I can make will ever change that, I was also still in possession of a fully functional reproductive system, so it seemed to me to be not only misleading but potentially dangerous –what would happen, for instance, should I be arrested for some reason and, based on my ID, thrown into an unsupervised shared male cell. I went back and forth, mulling it over, and in the end, despite my misgivings, I legally changed my gender at the same time that I legally changed my name.
That decision came down to a combination of not wanting to be outed every time I had to present ID for gender-unrelated purposes and legally being able to use the bathroom in which I would cause the least amount of problems, having through the years unintentionally frightened women by my presence in women’s bathrooms since I am male height with androgynous facial features and dress exclusively in men’s clothing. I may not exactly look like I belong in the men’s bathroom either, but I am at least never perceived as a threat or make people feel unsafe there. Though if I am instructed to use the female bathroom by a premises, I do not have a problem with that; a bathroom is just somewhere to relieve oneself, it really should not be the ideological battleground that people have turned it into or the place to take a political stand at the expense of everyone around you that you make uncomfortable and afraid by doing so. Acceptance is a two-way street; modern trans activists really should try climbing down off their high horse and consider other people’s feelings, not just their own, for a change.
I am still working towards various goals to help me pass better as male (voice training, weight lifting, diet and body masculinizing lipo, etc.), as seeing a photo, reflection, or security-monitor image of myself in which I am recognizably female, or hearing my voice recorded or echoed back, remains shocking enough in its incongruity with my self-image that the gender dysphoria can still kick in to such a degree that I may not wish to leave my apartment or speak to anyone again for days. I may never be able to inhabit my own skin in complete comfort, my desire to be perceived as male likely being a lifelong pursuit in obtainment of a goal I will never fully reach because I chose to prioritize my health rather than go down the route of taking synthetic hormones. But there are far worse and far more disabling conditions that I could have been afflicted with than gender dysphoria, and I am fortunate to live in as tolerant a society as the West is, enjoying complete equality, the freedom to defy gender norms, and the ability to access elective surgery as an informed, consenting adult.
The current actions of the trans rights movement have certainly made things worse for me than they used to be. What is happening to society in the name of a radical political ideology dressed up as an equal rights movement and pushed down people's throats by its adherents with all the zealous fervor and intolerance of an extreme fundamentalist religious movement, its doubters dehumanized by the simple application of the slur ‘transphobe’, heretics and disbelievers pilloried, their work pulled from public view with the mob enthusiasm of book burnings of the past, is deeply disturbing, and the willingness of the government, education, and medical system to go along with it is downright terrifying.
It is a strange state of affairs that we find ourselves in nowadays when I and my gay friends can be denounced as “transphobic” and “homophobic” by straight “allies” because we dare to disagree with them, standing up for free speech and evidence-based science rather than toeing the line.
Back when I first came out as trans, most people were either neutral or supportive about it, even if they did not really understand it and committed some faux pas, generally just full of curiosity and questions, which was all fine. Of course, there were always a few people who would be dicks, but everyone, not just transgender people, have to deal with some assholes in their lives. Nowadays, however, I generally do not disclose that I am trans or correct pronoun usage, preferring to just bear with it unless it really becomes necessary to do so in order to avoid an awkward situation or undue confusion. Because where once I would have simply been met with curiosity, I am now often met with fear - fear of saying the wrong thing and causing offence, offence which they believe might so upset me that I may have some kind of breakdown or outburst and call them a bigot, easily leading to the loss of their reputation, social circle, and potentially even their job. Fear of propaganda and laws that dictate what one can and cannot say, what opinions you are now supposed to hold, and potentially even fear of physical attack or arrest for daring to publicly make a mistake or express an opinion contrary to what the social justice warrior mafia and gender-ideology cult hold sacred. No, I would rather deal with the discomfort of things like being ‘misgendered’ in silence than the far worse discomfort, embarrassment, and shame of being associated with the tyranny being perpetrated by the ‘T’ of LGBT.
I want to interact with others as an individual on an equal footing, not have people walking on eggshells around me in deference or be perceived as a willing cog in the Orwellian-like propaganda machine that is tearing down vital tenants of our society like free speech, open discourse, and evidence-based science, things I myself hold dear, and enabling the indoctrination, sexualization, and medical experimentation of children.
I also now increasingly encounter people who just view my existence as a transman as a complete joke, and considering that my condition is being represented alongside and under the same umbrella as such things as neo-pronouns and the ridiculous idea that biological sex is a social construct but that all these new made-up genders are real and not to be questioned, I cannot even say that I blame them.
I see society, under the direction of queer theory, not promoting equality but rather doubling down on sexist gender stereotypes in the guise of trans rights; any remotely non-gender-stereotypical trait observed in a child now has the potential to be exploited as evidence in the drive to convince them and everyone around them that they belong to a different gender; any slight departure from unrealistic and frankly homophobic gender expectations can potentially become a one-way ticket to unnecessary drugs and dangerous, irreversible surgeries that have life-long health consequences and leave one sterile.
A generation of children are being indoctrinated and sacrificed on the altar of a political agenda and the profit margins of big pharma, all based on the excuse that it will save the tiny minority that I belong to from the unnecessary suffering of having to wait a few years.
Even I myself, as a transman, am thankful that I grew up before all this. Had I been living as a child in this decade, puberty blockers would have been on the table, and having no understanding of the potentially serious side-effects and life-long consequences of these drugs, I know that I would have regrettably jumped at the chance to take them, my parents powerless to protect me from this bad decision made by my underdeveloped child brain, societal and governmental pressure, and poorly thought-out legislation.
In contemporary Western culture, where whiteness and heteronormativity are increasingly demonized as an oppressive privileged class and minority status and the perception of belonging to an oppressed class, regardless of the reality of the situation, is used as a form of social currency, marginalized, lonely youth without a voice are incentivized to opt into groups and subcultures that will grant them this special status, a sense of community, belonging, and support, and a sense of pride in themselves that could otherwise be met with disapproval. Sometimes it is even the parents who are pushing this, enjoying the benefits by proxy and being lauded as the supportive mother of a trophy child. The appropriation of the LGBT community in this way is not only doing it harm, but the cost of membership for club trans often entails risky and irreversible medical body modification.
A huge range of adolescent mental health problems are being inappropriately attributed to gender incongruence without proper, or sometimes any, real evaluation or investigation, and hormones are being prescribed to whoever wants them despite soaring rates of regret, detransition, and worsening physical and mental-health outcomes. The victims of gender ideology and poor medical practices are then left to pick up the pieces themselves after having had their lives ruined by the
irresponsible use of a medical intervention that they believed would help them. Insult is added to injury when the queer community
shuns them for abandoning the faith; their suffering has no place in an affirming culture that portrays transition as nothing but a happy and positive experience.
How many more are going to be hurt before society
comes to its senses? I believe that it is only a matter of time before this blows up in people’s faces, and trans individuals who played no part in it, as well as those who could actually benefit from medical transition, are going to be caught in that blast.