Some people equate Blanchard's term "autogynephilia" to the purely descriptive phrase "cross-gender fantasy". Yet it is only through claims about causality that Blanchard's model has the power to categorize and explain.
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Several researchers and therapists have been surprised when I mention that Blanchard makes a causal argument: a mis-directed sex-drive (e.g., autogynephilia) causes gender dysphoria. His causal claims are what allows him to form categories of transsexuals based on sexual orientation. This is also the basis of his ability to explain cross-dressing and transsexuality within the same theory even in cases where transsexuals have no history of cross-dressing. That is a very impressive feat. Blanchard's theory would not be able to account for this if, for example, he meant autogynephilia as a type of fantasy many non-homosexual transsexuals have to compensate for not being able to be their target sex (i.e. a reverse of the causal direction). The following quotations illustrate Blanchard's causal claims as well as showing how this causal claim is an organizing principle for his entire theory.
What kind of defect in a male's capacity for sexual learning could produce anatomic autogynephilia, transvestitism, and fetishism, singly and in various combinations? Common to all these phenomena is a kind of error in locating heterosexual targets in the environment. ... The above analysis suggests the failure of some developmental process that, in normal males, keeps heterosexual learning "on track" ... Blanchard, R. (1991). Clinical Observations and systematic studies of autogynephilia. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. v.17(4): pp 235-251 (quote taken from pg 246-247)
Autogynephlia, according to the hypothesis, may be manifested in a variety of ways, fetishistic cross-dressing being the most striking. Transvestites, on this view, would be understood as autogynephlies whose only - or most prominent - symptom is sexual arousal in association with cross-dressing and who have not (or not yet) become gender dysphoric. [new paragraph] The hypothesis asserts that the various discriminable syndromes of nonhomosexual gender dysphoria are the results of autogynephlia interacting with additional, consitutional, or experiential factors. ... The above mentioned findings all tend to support the hypothesis that the main types of nonhomosexual gender dysphoria are all variant forms of one underlying disturbance. Blanchard, R. (1989). The Concept of Autogynephilia and the Typology of Male Gender Dysphoria. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. v177):pp 616-623 (quote taken from pg 616-617)
Part of the reason for this confusion may be a lack of conscious awareness on Blanchard's part when he makes these causal claims. For example, Blanchard described his work on autogynephilia as "primarily descriptive" (Ekins, R. & King, D. Transgendering, Migrating, and Love of Oneself as a Woman: A Contribution to a Sociology of Autogynephilia. The International Jounral of Transgenderism, 5(3), footnote 10.). Yet the term "autogynephilia" embeds its theoretical meaning into the structure of the word. Had he wished to use a purely descriptive term, he may have chosen to say "cross-gender fantasy" instead. Regardlesss of this confusion, it is important to keep in mind that only through its causal claims does Blanchard's model have the power to categorize and explain.
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