Becoming What We Love: autogynephilic transsexualism conceptualized as an expression of romantic love

The increasing prevalence of male-to-female (MtF) transsexualism in Western countries is largely due to the growing number of MtF transsexuals who have a history of sexual arousal with cross-dressing or cross-gender fantasy. Ray Blanchard proposed that these transsexuals have a paraphilia he called autogynephilia, which is the propensity to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of oneself as female. Autogynephilia defines a transsexual typology and provides a theory of transsexual motivation, in that Blanchard proposed that MtF transsexuals are either sexually attracted exclusively to men (homosexual) or are sexually attracted primarily to the thought or image of themselves as female (autogynephilic), and that autogynephilic transsexuals seek sex reassignment to actualize their autogynephilic desires. Despite growing professional acceptance, Blanchard's formulation is rejected by some MtF transsexuals as inconsistent with their experience. This rejection, I argue, results largely from the misconception that autogynephilia is a purely erotic phenomenon. Autogynephilia can more accurately be conceptualized as a type of sexual orientation and as a variety of romantic love, involving both erotic and affectional or attachment-based elements. This broader conception of autogynephilia addresses many of the objections to Blanchard's theory and is consistent with a variety of clinical observations concerning autogynephilic MtF transsexualism.