Public Discourse: Against the “Feminine Essence”

Transgender activists frequently argue that men who wish to present themselves as women (male-to-female or MtF transgenders) have a female gender identity, probably innate, that conflicts with their biological sex. Such men, they argue, are “women trapped in men’s bodies” and therefore are suitable candidates for so-called “gender affirmation treatment”: drugs, hormones, and surgery that won’t change their sex but will help them imitate women in appearance. This argument has been deemed the “feminine essence narrative.”

Transgender activists offer this theory as scientific fact. But the feminine-essence narrative conflicts with another theory that enjoys much more evidentiary support, that explains a great deal of MtF gender dysphoria, and that offers hope for psychological treatment.

In the early 1990s, Dr. Ray Blanchard coined the term “autogynephilia” for the condition of a man who demonstrates a “propensity to be erotically aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman.” Dr. Blanchard is the retired head of Clinical Sexology Services at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada. An internationally prominent clinician helping patients with various disorders related to gender identity and sexual orientation, and a contributor to the relevant sections of the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-5), Blanchard has decades of experience in this area.

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