Deconstructing the Feminine Essence Narrative
Ongoing investigation by OII
by Curtis E. hinkle
Posted April 21, 2008
Anne Lawrence was already posting to Sexnet, an internet based sexuality forum, about her vast knowledge on autogynephilia as far back as mid-2000. In one of those e-mails which she forwarded to OII's informant, she wrote:
"I believe that androphilic MtF transsexuals are really a SUBSET of gay men - very FEMININE GAY MEN, who are sufficiently "SOMATICALLY COMPLIANT" that they simply do better in the world as women. They typically feel ENTITLED TO AVIDLY SEEK OUT MALE PARTNERS, and do not necessarily display a great deal of urgency about changing their bodies(especially obtaining SRS), except as NECESSARY TO ATTRACT MALE PARTNERS."
(Capitols are added here for emphasis only and for comparing these Lawrence statements with Bailey's statements in the "Queen" book, such as Bailey's statement that "homosexual transsexuals" are "especially well suited" for prostitution).
Now, consider how Lawrence on SEXNET, around mid-2000 or so, further attempted to deconstruct the "feminine essence narrative", by suggesting that all of the 6 patients in Swaab's BSTc studies were autogynephillic, and that the BSTc is a marker for autogynephilia.
"I interpret the Kruijver et al paper a bit differently than Bradley Cooke. My guess is that all six MtF TS subjects in the Kruijver et al paper, T1-T6, were *autogynephillic* transsexuals....
If the findings of Zhou et al and Kruijver et al are replicated...., then my tentative hypothesis is: small BSTc size/cell count is not a marker for feminine behavior in some global sense, or for feminine *gender* identity (WHATEVER THAT WIDELY-USED BUT POORLY DEFINED TERM MIGHT MEAN)."
(Again capitols are added for emphasis, to compare with Bailey's statement in the "Queen" book his comment: "gender identity… what the hell does that mean?" p 50.)
On SEXNET, Lawrence continued her assault on the feminine essence narrative/brain sex, to write:
"Rather, small BSTc size/cell count is a marker for either:
a. female *sex* identity -- one's sense that one's appropriate or ideal sexed body is female; OR
b. lack of a sense of "allophillic sexual entitlement" -- lack of genuine comfort with sexual behavior involving the aggressive seeking-out of partners with the body features to which one is sexually attracted (leading in some gynephillic males to displacement of "erotic target location" to one's feminized self...).... I believe that gynephilic (autogynephilic) MtF transsexuals are not-especially-feminine men who nonetheless can't quite see themselves as male, even though they often *act* like men in most ways. Perhaps they can't accept the bodies they were born with (more likely); or perhaps they can't quite accept the idea of aggressively pursuing females, and therefore tend to eroticize in themselves the femininity that most gynephilic men eroticize in female others (less likely)".
Over a year later after Anne Lawrence's post to Sexnet, OII's contact, wrote directly to Anne Lawrence and asked three short questions.
E-mail sent November 06, 2001
...I have 3 quick questions I hope you can answer.
1) Does autogynephilia occur in non-gender dysphorics?
2) Can autogynephilia cause sexual dysfunctions, e.g. inability to perform unless the fantasy is "right"?
3) How does it manifest differently after SRS?
Here was the response dated November 7, 2001 from Anne Lawrence:
I'm sorry I don't have time to reply to your questions at present. You'll just have to wait for my book.
To this day there has never been a book written by Anne Lawrence on this topic. However, the language used by Anne Lawrence as far back as around mid-2000 and her writing style, are especially similar to the style used in J. Michael Bailey's book, The Man Who Would be Queen. (1) Bailey had not really done much in the field of transsexualism before this book. He had focused on homosexuality, not transsexual issues. However, it was around this time, which Bailey had ties with Lawrence, since he was one of her PhD supervisors at The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. We wonder, who was "educating" whom, in regards to autogynephilia. Was there a ghost-writer for this book, who did the parts dealing with autogynephilia? All of OII's informant's questions are dealt with in the book in question, although not answered scientifically.
Who really wrote this book? Anne Lawrence was intent on deconstructing the feminine essence narrative as far back as mid- 2000 and yet, the book which put those ideas forward in a popular setting, was the "Queen" book, attributed to J. Michael Bailey. Furthermore, Dreger stated in her 60p. + monograph 2007 internet publication (2) defending Bailey, that Randi Ettner's 1999 book Gender Loving Care, (3) was his impetus for writing the "Queen" book. We wonder, and encourage readers to as well, if it was Lawrence who orchestrated the parts on the "Queen" book on autogynephilia, and desconstructed the feminine essence narrative. Perhaps, she could not identify with what was written by Ettner. In any case, transgender people were cautioned against seeking her as a gender therapist in an issue of Transgender Tapestry.
And many intersexed folks started asking: “Do we need a ‘hackademic’ who compares SRS with an amputee fetish to be speaking for intersex?" With Zucker and others, she has indeed co-authored an APA bulletin on intersex. This should be an outrage and a call to action. In the next installment, we shall examine how the deconstruction of the feminine essence narrative, and surgical fetishism may seek to damage intersexed persons lives, while at the same time, seek to offer virtually unlimited immunity to intersex surgeons.
(1) Bailey, J. Michael. The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism. 2003, Joesph Henry Press.
(2) Dreger, A. The Controversy Surrounding The Man Who Would Be Queen. 2007. Published on the internet at
(3) Ettner, R. Gender Loving Care: A Guide to Counseling Gender-Variant Clients. 1999, W W Norton & Co., Inc.
Response and comments on the first two parts of this investigation received from Sophia Siedlberg:
Posted April 22, 2008
After I wrote the first two parts of this investigation, I received the following commentary from Sophie Siedlberg and Prof. M. Italiano. After reading them, I decided that it would be better to post them before continuing with the subsequent installments. - Curtis E. Hinkle
Why do they hate the "Feminine Essence Narrative"
When in 1995 Zhou and Swaab published their studies on the Bed Nucleii of the Stria Terminalis (BSTc) which gave some clue as to the possibility of how hormones can affect brain sex, one of the most severe critics of this theory was Anne Lawrence. What I found curious was, that while no one would deny her right to disagree, she seemed to have thought that she and others (Kiira Treia, J Michael Bailey, the usual suspects) have a right to silence Swaab in particular, and over the years it has been the case that Swaab has faced some opposition to his work from, let's face it, especially from the Clarke Northwestern clique. The main criticism they had was based on a valid question. Basically they were interested to know whether the observed size of the BSTc in transsexual women (Being consistent with that of other women) was a result of the hormone therapy that transsexual women had been using.
The one problem with this criticism is that Swaab was describing Steroid Regulated Apoptosis which is often a developmental process that occurs before birth and probably continues soon after for a short period of time. I can say this with some confidence because it was paradoxically Eric Vilain who, when discussing the "Genetics of Brain sex", added a gene (p53) to his list of genes involved and hinted at the mechanism Swaab was describing. P53 is a gene that is involved in regulating apoptosis (Cell death) and is the "Suicide gene" most oncologists would tell you often stops working when someone has cancer. What the precise involvement of this gene is in Vilain's model remains to be seen but it is evident that Vilain did focus on apoptosis in his model. Cell death involves a pathway of events that can be regulated by the non presence of androgens (Not the introduction of 3 hydroxy steroids). Basically the process of cell death involving a peptide called NAIP (Neural Apoptosis Inhibitory Peptide) which seems to be active when androgens are present. So if NAIP is present along with a 3-oxy steroid, then the growth of the BSTc would continue, with the absence of certain 3-oxy steroids and the non activity of NAIP the BSTc shrinks. That process is more typical of pre natal cell differentiation.
The difficult part is working out why NAIP appears to be active when certain 3-oxy steroids are present. My interest in all this is that when you get steroid dependant tumors, you could look at how steroids are involved with these small apoptosis regulating peptides. In the case of NAIP it stops the caspase pathway at a given point. Could this mean that the precise form of certain steroids has an effect of the production or activity of these small peptides? That would be worthy of some research surely.
This is the essential difference between Swaab and the Clarke Northwestern Clique. Swaab has for years studied things that are generally understood to have wider implications. His interest in neuro degenerative disorders would illustrate this quite adequately. The Clarke Northwestern are interested in wobbly bits and sex. Even if their research did offer insights into brain sex and transsexualism, it would have little value outside that area; Swaab's work on the other hand does have a wider audience, among oncologists for example.
The real difference lies in the fact that up until the Clarke Northwestern had the likes of Hamer and Vilain come on board (Whose research often seems to confirm the findings of people like Swaab, albeit backhandedly), their only frames of reference were the less scientific rationalizations of psychology. Or the science of fiddling with the wobbly bits.
This is the point. Swaab got his hands dirty with the actual science. Yes, there are other criticisms such as the sample size Swaab used in his original study, but the Clarke Northwestern can hardly cry foul when at the same time another researcher looking into "Brain sex" (Imperatio Mc Ginley, in the Dominican Republic studies of 5 alpha also in 1995) not only had an equally small sample size but openly excluded people from her study that did not fit what she wanted to say. It seems odd how the Clarke Northwestern would have the implication of her "Masculine essence narrative" as being ultra valid and Swaab's similarly but better formulated "Feminine Essence Narrative" as wrong.
And yet Swaab's research methods were actually much more precise. Perhaps it is fair to say that science according to the Clarke Northwestern has to work in a given way (Promote the masculine perhaps?) in order for them to consider it valid. Which brings me back to Anne Lawrence. Given that her objections to Swaab's work are not quite as valid as she would have you believe, we have to look elsewhere to explain her objections and those of others in the Clarke Northwestern clique. The answer is perfectly simple, they are control freaks interested in wobbly bits. Hamer and Vilan are often to be found trying to spin other people's work to fit the Clarke Northwestern edict of "Only masculine counts" (Which means that surgeons with a habit of masculinizing intersex children get let of the hook of litigation and it also gives the Clarke Northwestern license to give transsexual folks a hard time etc).
Anne Lawrence herself has a fetishistic interest in genital surgery and she is trying to impose that on transsexual folks in general using this "Autogynephilia" model. You only have to stand back and think for a moment one thing that the Clarke Northwestern are noted for is complaining that any theory that competed with their "Homosexual Transsexual/Autogynephilia" model of transsexualism (And anything else they wish to apply it to, like intersex people when it is convenient for getting unethical surgeons off the hook after ripping a few children's uteruses out) is a politically correct plot to silence their sacred "Truth", a sacred "truth" which is literally a load of bollocks (I may as well say it: the HSTS/AGP theory is a load of pseudoscientific bollocks designed to serve andro-centric fetish quackery).
The problem for the Clarke Northwestern clique is simple. Swaab's work is simply more credible and more scientifically researched. Peter-meters and leading questions in surveys with pre-conceived assumptions do not come close scientifically to someone actually getting down to the nuts and bolts of the biology involved. The Clarke Northwestern may as well face the fact that what they preach is pseudoscientific claptrap and what Swaab has found is a scientific truth that does not correspond with said pseudo-science. No amount of whining about political correctness is going to change that. The truth is that it is the other way round. It has been noted that the Clarke Northwestern have actively sought to silence Swaab. From the time when Vilain made his demeaning remarks about "Hormone theories" to Anne Lawrence crying that transsexuals are "Men trapped in men's bodies and science had better agree with that or else". The whole Clarke Northwestern edifice has been responsible for stifling academic freedom, and what makes their behavior most reprehensible if the fact that Swaab's model of brain sex can offer insights into other areas of medicine such as cancer research. What does the Clarke Northwestern offer the world? Bailey in high heels doing a bit of tranny bashing. Enough said really.
Response and comments on the first two parts of this investigation received from Prof. M. Italiano:
Posted April 22, 2008
Dear Mr. Hinkle,
I am writing from the U.S., am a researcher, and will become officially registered (licensed) with the Medical Board of India, in June, as well as receive a Ph.D. in physiology. I have read, with interest, your ongoing discussion on the erosion of brain sex and its relevance, for gender essence narratives by certain individuals. I have tried to post on a forum, findings of relevance on another paper of Lawrence, on autogynephilia and romantic love. However, my post did not get on this forum. However, I have significantly expanded it, to include topics which you have been recently discussing on OII. I present it to you here. I applaud you, for bringing attention to the dangers and inaccuracies of brain sex criticism. My article shall provide further relevant discourse on the matter.
GENDER IDENTITY, THE BRAIN, GENDER ESSENCE NARRATIVES AND ATTEMPTED ERASURE - A CRITIQUE OF THE ANNE LAWRENCE AUTOGYNEPHILIC/ROMANTIC LOVE-"LINE" ARTICLE
The purpose of this critique, is to point out some inconsistencies, omissions, and errors, in the ongoing relegation of the theory, that transsexualism is a result of basal brain sex reversal, to that which denies this female essence, as was recently published in an article by Lawrence (1). It is ongoing relegation since an article related to this, by Ray Blanchard, is due to appear in the June 2008 issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior.
Although some individuals might attribute transsexual-like feelings, behaviors, or beliefs, to autogynephilia, romantic love, pathological narcissism and even to homosexuality, and although this may apply in persons seeking and obtaining transsexual treatment, it does NOT at all justify, the relegation of m to f transsexuality, in general, to that which would exclude those "m" to f transsexuals, who have a female gender identity, a basal brain sex reversal, and/or a gender identity specific reason for seeking sex reassignment.
The Lawrence article (1) is severely flawed. There are four studies on the brain in those classified as m to f transsexuals, which indicate a reversal of some basal brain structure or function. There are two * from Swaab's group on the central subdivision of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTc) (2, 3), one from Berglund's group (with Savic) on the hypothalamus using PET (4), and one in German from Gizewski's group, on the hypothalamus, amygdala and insular cortex, using fMRT(5).
However, when we look at the research of Helen Fisher (with Art Aron) on romantic love/attraction (6), they found that people madly in love, when shown pictures of the person they had fallen madly in love with, "didn't show activity in either" (7) the hypothalamus or amygdala. Instead, the ventral tegmental area and caudate nucleus were activated (6). Furthermore, activity in the insular cortex was shown only after having been rejected (described as the "flip side" of romantic love) (6). We can thus be quite certain that what is described as neural correlates of transsexuality, is not what may be reduced to romantic love/attraction.
There is also a 3rd "mating system", which is found to be distinct from romantic love, and is known as attachment, also with separate brain areas from those involved in romantic love (6). Significantly, attachment (or pair-bonding) is facilitated largely through oxytocin (6), which gets us back to the hypothalamus again, and suggests that transsexuality is related to basal brain sex reversal.
The recent paper by Veale et al. (8), and the thesis by Veale (9), are both impressive, for their study of autogynephilia and romantic love in relation to transsexualism. In particular, their finding that none of the individuals with autogynephilia even reported asexuality (8), is highly significant, and provides empirical evidence, that just two classifications of transsexuality, as proposed by Blanchard (10) and Bailey (11), is not correct. Of course, this has been noted from clinical findings, such as those by Benjamin (12)#, who described his transsexual patients, who were almost universally androphillic, as often undersexed, and sometimes hyposexual. On this score, neither Blanchard's view (10) that asexual transsexuality is a type of so-called non-homosexual transsexuality, Bailey's finding of androphillic transsexuals being especially well suited for prostitution (11), Blanchard's or Lawrence's claim (1) that even decreased sexual activity is symptomatic of autogynephilia as being a representation of romantic love, deserves merit. In fact, Blanchard (10) had very little evidence to claim that asexual transsexuality, was a form of so-called non-homosexual transsexuality. In fact, he had little more than a "forcing of the data" of Bentler (13) and Person & Ovesey (14), to try to fit his theory. For instance, in the study by Bentler (13), 100% of transsexuals identified as heterosexual type, were found to be married as a male to a female, whereas 0 % of transsexuals identified as the homosexual type, were married as a male to a female, AND 0% of transsexuals identified as asexual type, were married as a male to a female (13) (Table 1, pg. 570). Another example, from Bentler (13), the number of women with whom the transsexuals had intercourse as a male, was M= 0.3 and M= 0.2, respectively, for those typed as homosexual and asexual, whereas, for those typed as heterosexual, the M= 3.3. Thus, on these two indices, the asexual transsexuals were significantly more like the homosexual type than the heterosexual type, and thus these variables do not warrant the asexual group for being categorized as so-called non-homosexual. +
Several lines of evidence, including the roughly 40% of hypogonadism found by Benjamin, of his patients (sample total= 152) (12)#, its replication (41%) by Walser (sample total= 17) (15), and comparable findings by Walinder (16), strongly suggest, that asexual transsexualism, represents a distinct type of transsexuality (seperate from androphillic, autogynephillic, erotic or romantic motives), and perhaps, represents a type of atypical sex variation or VSD (17), which is hypogonadism. It also suggests that their reasons for seeking gender reassignment are those of a reversed gender identity (and related to a feminine essence narrative), neuroendocrinological, and directly related to basal brain sex reversal (2-5).
*It has been sometimes stated that the BSTc is in or part of the hypothalamus. This is correct, to the degree that "hypo", means underneath or below, and the BSTc is certainlty part of the area which is BELOW the THALAMUS. However, the BSTc, is technically the extended amygdala, in that it is a connection which is between, and goes to and from the amygdala and hypothalamus in reciprocal fashion.
(See also the following for further reading)-
+ Non-homosexual transsexuality (10) is typically used as synonymous with Autotogynephilia (see references 10 and 11).
# In Harry Benjamin’s first transsexual patient, known as Barry, noted by Schaefer and Wheeler (Arch. Sexual Behav., Vol. 24, No. 1, 1995, page 79). It was found, that this person, denied “ever having an erection (nocturnal or otherwise) and of ever masturbating.” This is significant, as this case was seen 60 years ago, before it could be reasonably stated that patients would lie to better their chances of seeking sex reassignment surgery.
See also the following for further reading-
(1) Lawrence, A.A. (2007) Becoming what we love: autogynephillic transsexualism conceptualized as an expression of romantic love. Perspectives in Biology & Medicine, 50(4):506-520.
(2) Zhou, J.N., et al. (1995) A sex difference in the human brain and its relation to transsexuality. Nature, 378:68-70.
(3) Kruijver, F.P., et al. (2000) Male-to-Female transsexuals have female neuron numbers in a limbic nucleus. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 85(5):2034-2041.
(4) Berglund, H., et al. (2007) Male-to-female Transsexuals Show Sex-Atypical Hypothalamus Activation When Smelling Odorous Steroids. Cerebral Cortex. (published online December 3, 2007).
(5) Gizewski, E (2006) fMRT zur Diagnose bei Transsexualitat gepruft. (An Examination of the use of fMRT for diagnosing Transsexuality. English title transl. from German). ArzteZeitung, May 30, 2006.
(6) Fisher, H.E. et al. (2006) Romantic love: a mammalian brain system for mate choice. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. Biol. Sci. 29361(1476):2173-2176.
(7) Fisher, H.E. (2005) Posted Interview of Helen Fisher by Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Medical Correspondent, CNN.com, May 2005.
(8) Veale, J.F., et al. (2008) An investigation in to the sexuality of Transsexuals. Archives of Sexual Behavior. (In press) (available on epub Feb. 26, 2008)
(9) Veale, J.F. (2005) Love of oneself as a woman: An investigation into the sexuality of transsexual and other women. Unpublished Master's thesis, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand. (available at jaimieveale.com)
(10) Blanchard, R. (1989) The Classification and Labelling of Nonhomosexual Gender Dysphorias. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 18(4);315-334.
(11) Bailey, J.M. (2003) The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism. Joseph Henry Press.
(12) Benjamin, H. (1966) The Transsexual Phenomenon. Julian Press, New York.
(13) Bentler, P. (1976) A Typology of Transsexualism: Gender Identity Theory and Data. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 5(6):567-584.
(14) Person, E. & Ovesey L. (1974) The Transsexual Syndrome in Males 1. Primary Transsexualism. American Journal of Psychotherapy. 28(1):4-20.
(15) Walser, P. (1968) Verlauf und Endzustandebe: Transvestiten und Transsexuellen. Schweiz. Arch. Neurol. Neurochir. Psychiatr. 101:417-433.
(16) Walinder, J (1967) Transsexualism: A Study of Forty Three Cases. (Doctoral Dissertation), Akademiforlaget-Gumperts, Goteborg.
(17) Diamond, M. & Beh, H.G. (2006) Variations of sex development instead of disorders of sex development. (eletter to the editor of BMJ at http://adc.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/91/7/554#2460)