On transsexuals and transvestites and Ray Blanchard's urge to classify everything as a perversion

Jack Molay's picture

The DSM manual is up for revision, and the psychiatric urge to label so-called "paraphilias" is very strong. Transvestites and transsexuals are still to be included.

Ray Blanchard, the father of the autogynephilia concept, seems to have a strong need to classify all types of out of the norm sexual desire in order to label them as a disorder or paraphilia.

I think we need some kind of Latin term for this clearly unnatural urge to sort out the freaks of nature, maybe something in the line of anal paraphiliphiliac or ordinophiliac (after Latin Ordino, to set in order).

Introducing hebephilia

The New Scientist reports that Blanchard now wants the diagnosis hebephilia included in the new edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM.

"... this obscure diagnosis has huge significance in the courts. If it becomes accepted it could lead to hundreds of sex offenders who have served their jail time being locked up indefinitely - on grounds that some say are spurious. Hebephilia refers to when adults are sexually fixated on teenagers around the time of puberty. This sets it apart from paedophilia, which refers to a focus on pre-pubescent children. The DSM-V work group on sexual disorders is likely to call for paedophilia to be renamed paedohebephilia, and include a hebephilic subtype."

All the perversions you can take, and then some...

 If you have never heard about this condition, it will probably please you to know that there are more coined by Blanchard and like minded researchers :
Hebephilia (erotically attracted to 11 to 14 years old)
Ephebophilia (erotically attracted to 15 - 16 years old)
Gerontophilia (erotically attracted to the aged)
Gynandromorphophilia (erotically attracted to transwomen)
Andromimetophilia (erotically attracted to transmen)
Abasiophilia (erotically attracted to people who are physically disabled)
Acrotomophilia (erotically attracted to amputees)
Fat Fetishism (erotically attracted to fat people)
I would like to add:
Ageladagynephilia (erotically attracted to cowgirls, see illustration)

Blanchard has made a device that records the blood flow in the penis to measure the arousal of men while they are listening to sexual material. If you get a hard-on at the wrong time, you are in big trouble! (Archives of Sexual Behavior, vol 38, p 335)
He is meeting some resistance. There are those that argue that such preferences may be shaped through human evolution and that the attraction itself is not pathological. Whether it is illegal or unethical is another matter.
Ignoring the sociocultural context
Gregory DeClue points out that Blanchard and his friends completely overlook the question of how we decide which sexual interest patterns should be considered a mental disorder. Pedophilia is a mental disorder. Homosexuality and masturbation used to be, but is no longer. What about ephebolofilia? What about an attraction to MILFs, red heads, Asians or women with a lisp?
This is relevant to Blanchard's classification of autogynephilia as a paraphilia (perversion). He clearly wants to classify all sexual desires outside the norm of middle-class WASP America as a disorder. The main exception to this seems to be homosexuals, as there are just too many of them, but then again he has spent a lot of time trying to make sense out of homosexuality from an evolutionary perspective.

Imprisoned for life

According to the New Scientist, Karen Franklin, a forensic psychologist in El Cerrito, California, says that if hebephilia and paraphilic coercive disorder make it into DSM-V, they will be seized upon to consign men to a lifetime of incarceration.

 Blanchard's reply is typical: "The clinical facts are what they are." But they are not. All clinical data is interpreted within the framework of a specific belief system or a paradigm, and it seems to me that Blanchard is unable to question the the cultural basis for his own research. What is normal? What is a paraphilia? This is why he always gest results that confirm his own prejudices.
DSM and transgenderism

There is also a lot of controversy regarding the DSM's categorization of transgender issues. Many transsexual activists mean that gender identity issues are not to be categorized as mental illnesses, and that they therefore do not belong in this manual. After having gone through the arguments underpinning the categorization in this manual, I must say I agree. This isn't science, this is the matter of stereotypes masquerading as science.
The DSM gender identity disorder work group
Blanchard is member of the DSM gender identity disorder work group, which is headed by Dr.Kenneth Zucker, one of Blanchard's colleagues in Toronto.
Zucker has never given up his effort to cure transgender children. Another member of the work group is recommending psychopharmacological treatment for crossdressing. Blanchard believes all M2F transsexuals are either gay men or fetishists. No wonder the transgender community is seriously pissed off.
Zucker and Co are willing to change the name of the condition, though. The term "gender identity disorder" is out, to be replaced by the less controversial term "gender dysphoria". I do not think that the new name will change the underlying idea; i.e. that the various forms of transsexual pheonomena are to be considered mental illnesses.
Gays are now OK, transsexuals are not

Dr. Madeline H. Wyndzen puts it this way:

"If a man sought therapy due to unhappiness over his attraction to other men, a therapist would likely diagnose him with depression. If a transsexual sought therapy due to unhappiness over his or her biological sex, a therapist would almost certainly diagnose him or her with Gender Identity Disorder (GID). Whereas gay men are diagnosed for how they suffer, transsexuals are diagnosed for who they are. I find the mental illness labels imposed on transgenderism just as disquieting as the label that used to be imposed on homosexuality. "
Blanchard spills his beans
Blanchard presented a paper at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Sex Therapy and Research (SSTAR) on April 3,2009 in Arlington, Virginia. In this presentation he described the working group's thoughts on the new DSM-V. This should be of great interest to autogynephiliacs because it so clearly reveals the way Blanchard and his compatriots are thinking about paraphilias (perversions).
Paraphilia redefined
Traditionally paraphilia has been defined, according to Blanchard, as recurrent intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors generally involving
1. non-human objects [female clothing in the case of the crossdresser]
2. the suffering or humiliation of one self or one's partner [e.g. BDSM]
3. children or other nonconsenting persons [e.g. pedophilia and rape]
4. an atypical focus involving human subjects (self or others) that occur over a period of at least 6 months [this must be some kind of miscellaneous "anything else I don't like" caregory]
This is the current DSM definition. Blanchard now proposes a new one:
"The term paraphilia denotes any intense and persistent sexual interest other than sexual interest in genital stimulation or preparatory fondling with phenotypically, consenting adult human partners. "
Woooow!!! You have to admire the persistence of this man. If we are to interpret this paragraph in a strict manner, it actually means that the only normal sexual acts are foreplay and gential sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.

Phenotypically means "the manifest characteristics of an organism collectively, including anatomical and psychological traits, that result from both its heredity and its environment." Given Blanchard's background as a traditional evolutionary biologist this should mean vaginal penetration by a penis.

A strange list of examples

 However, Blanchard knows that such an interpretation is impossible in today's America. In his presentation he therefore gives some examples on what kind of behavior that is paraphilic and what is not. The criteria for what is considered parahilic seems completely random:
Not paraphilic:
  • cunnilungus
  • fellatio
  • anal penetration with the finger, penis or dildo
  • anilingus
  • intracrural intercourse [Masturbating the penis between the (lubrictaed) upper thighs of a partner]
  • cross-masturbation
  • kissing
  • fondling
Note that in -- let's say -- the 1950's many of these acts would be considered perversions.
  • enemas
  • feces or urine
  • generalized sexual interest in amputees, paralyzed persons, physical deformities
  • bondage
  • whipping
  • cutting
  • hypoxia
  • sneezing or smoking persons [!!!]
  • obscene telephone calls
Note that some of these acts, like bondage, would be considered normal by many. It seems to me that the lists are based purely on Blanchard's personal idea of what is normal and what is not. This has nothing to do with science.
Transvestic disorder and autogynephilia
In the old (an apparently the new) manual a transvestic fetich/transvestic disorder is present if
  1. over a period of at least six months, in a heterosexual male, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving cross-dressing. [This is called a paraphilia]
  2. The fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors causes significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning. [This is called a paraphilic disorder].
Blanchard proposes two new so-called specifier options:
  • With Fetishism (Sexually Aroused by Fabrics, Materials or Garments)
  • With Autogynephilia (Sexually Aroused by Thought or Image of Self as a Female)
Freaks again
I am one of the few online bloggers who identify with Blanchard's term autogynephilia.  I do find the term useful, because I do believe there is a separate subcategory of transpeople that consists of men who
  • Are predominantly gynephile (attracted to women)
  • Get sexually aroused by imagining themselves as women
  • Often (but not always) crossdress
  • Often have an ambiguous gender identity, that is they have -- to a varying degree -- a strong feminine side. Some of them identify as men, some as women.
The term helps me and others like me, because -- truth to be told -- important parts of the transgender community are reluctant to recognize us. We therefore have to develop a language that helps us understand ourselves.
But I have not concluded that this is a disorder, a fetish or a paraphilia. Nor do I believe that science has proved that is a disease. It may be, but we do not know that, and because of that it does not belong in such a manual.
Marked for life
Blanchard now wants to include autogynephilia in the DMS and make everyone understand that autogynephiliacs are either mild fetishists or suffering from a paraphilic disorder. This means that it will be impossible for M2F transsexuals who have had erotic fantasies about having a woman's body or who have crossdressed to be considered a genuine woman. She will forever be labelled as a paraphilic man.
And the thing is that this categorization is not based on Blanchard's research per se. Blanchard's data says nothing about what is a fetish or what is not, what is a paraphilia or what is not. His data just tell us what a specific selection of transsexuals have responded to a specific questionnaire. The design of that questionnaire and the interpretation of the date is solely based on the prejudices of him and his colleagues.
What about homosexuals and women?
Note that this disorder is only relevant for  heterosexual men. A homosexual man who crossdress is not considered a paraphiliac, probably because Blanchard expects homosexual men to be feminine and are therefore outside the realm of normal male behavior anyway.
Women are also allowed to crossdress. Why? Well, given today's fashions a woman can dress up as a male (boots, jeans and a t-shirt) and nobody will notice the difference. Besides, for some reason Blanchard seems to give women more freedom than men. Why, I wonder? I doubt there is a scientific reason for this.
What causes distress?
Note also how the paraphilic disorder is defined by distress. It is understood that it is the transvestic condition that causes the disorder, not the reaction of the surrounding society. Blanchard does not understand that the very labeling of crossdressers as paraphiliacs could be the cause of such distress.
Finally, history shows us that what is considered a perversion in one culture or historic period, is considered a virtue in another. This means that we should be very careful when defining what is natural and what is not.

Relevant links
A petition against the work group gained more than 9000 signatures online. 

DSM-V WorkGroup for Sexual & Gender Identity Disorders (All mixed up)



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outstanding post!

arvan's picture

Thank you so much for your attention to detail and for sharing your talent here. 

I myself, am not a fan of treating sex / gender / body identity as a disorder.  I am happy to see the DSM up for reconsideration in these areas.  While counseling is probably a good idea for anyone in life, the treatment of identity as a disease is not. 

I tend toward a belief that the road to acceptance and respect of all positions on the gender rainbow lies not in the dictations of a white male.  I think the solution that incorporates the definitions of individuals in the terms they choose for themselves is the more likely to succeed.

But...that's just me.


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