Ray Blanchard proposes a scientifically-testable theory of transsexuality. Unfortunately there is little debate in psychopathology so the necessary theoretical work for building this theory has not happened. I hope to foster debate and encourage theory development. As theories develop, I hope they will incorporate many other aspects of transgenderism that I feel are equally, if not more important, than sexuality.

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Autogynephilia & Ray Blanchard: Introducing a Theory about Transsexuality

As a scientific psychologist, I am surprised at how little attention has been given to conducting empirical work to understand transsexuality. Transsexuals provide us with an opportunity to expand our theories in overarching areas of psychology, such as gender role socialization. But gender identity incongruence in not typically thought of as part of the rich spectrum of human experiences. Instead it is considered categorically different - a disorder - and, as such, something to be understood within the confines of a psychopathological model. Thinking of gender identity incongruence most narrowly, we know transsexuals are a small population. For that reason it might not be surprising that so little empirical work addresses transsexual's experiences. Even less common than empirical results are overarching theories to help us organize and understand what those results mean. In this barren field open for psychological exploration, Ray Blanchard offers one of the few genuine scientifically-testable theories. His theory has broad implications; it covers, under a single umbrella of ideas, both transsexuality and other forms of transgenderism.

Perhaps because genuine theoreticians like Ray Blanchard so rarely study gender identity incongruence, his theory sits still - often accepted with less sophisticated thought as fact without debate. No one currently advocates another theory. Without a debate, this theory has received wide recognition. Even though the DSM (official catalog of mental illnesses) is intended to be atheoretical, Blanchard's theoretical term "autogynephilia" was included in DSM IV TR. In most other areas of psychology, including my own, there are long standing debates between psychological scientists. We advocate very different views about how children develop. Consequently we conduct studies designed from very different perspectives, yielding an often perplexing set of difficult-to-reconcile results. It is through the debate between these many perspectives that Developmental Psychology has advanced over the years. Yet without debate to push research into transsexuality, Blanchard's theory sits stagnant. Worse still, in the absence of progress, I have noticed some researchers' tendency to turn Blanchard's theory into an unfalsifiable unscientific dogma. For example, even though Blanchard's results are based on self-report from transsexuals, there are actually researchers who dismiss as lies any accounts given by transsexuals that are inconsistent with Blanchard's model.

As a scientist, I do not like seeing this happen to my field. But as a transsexual, I feel uncomfortable turning my personal experiences into a significant part of my career. Transsexuality is only a small part of who I am; it is not my life. I have other research questions that I am far more passionate about. Instead of building my own research program, I would like to offer the following critique of Blanchard's model in hopes that pushing the scientific debate will foster progress in our theoretical understanding of gender incongruence. Perhaps this essay can help inspire current students of psychology who would find pursuing these research questions as fascinating as I find the questions I study.

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