Much has made about the differences between autogynephilic transvestites (AGP) and homosexual transsexuals (HSTS). However, most of this work remains largely clinical and as such, it fails to connect to the sympathies of the public. An exception to this of course being J. Michael Bailey’s The Man who would be Queen, an almost pop-science interpretation of the data on transsexualism. Even this, despite being a nice read, is written from the perspective of a researcher. What I am getting at, if not already obvious, is that not much is written from the perspective of HSTS women.
I am an HSTS woman, and was invited by Rod to write a piece or two based on my experiences. I don’t usually get to share these with other people, and I thought this a good opportunity. I won’t get into much about my childhood — after you’ve heard a couple of HSTS’ childhood remembrances, you’ve pretty much heard them all — but I will give some basics.
I am a Cuban-American transsexual living in South Florida. I came out at fourteen, started hormones about a year and a half later and have been living full-time as a woman since then. I am currently twenty and in the six or so years since coming out, I’ve learned quite a bit about the different ways transsexualism manifests itself in South Florida.
In particular, I’ve come to notice how body type and behavior tend to cluster for both AGPs and HSTS based on ethnicity. South Florida is fairly ethnically diverse for the United States and so it is easier here than in most places to see the differences between groups. (I should note, what I am recounting here is based off of my own experiences and should — of course — be taken with a grain of salt.)
Ethnic Clustering of Body Types and Behavior
A downside to being an HSTS transsexual is that quite often, the only frame of reference you have for what to means to be an HSTS is yourself. We don’t often get the chance to interact with people like us and so there is the tendency to assume that we are the gold standards of being transsexual; this is obviously untrue. Despite the fact that we often share similar histories, we are far from clones of each other. This is why it perturbs me when I see Transwomen chatting online about how so-and-so is really an AGP because she doesn’t look and behave exactly as they do.
A woman to whom this happens quite frequently is Laverne Cox; she
is quite frequently — I assume because of her height and build or because she plays an AGP on TV — assumed to be autogynephilic. Whenever I see this, I become quite confused; in my experience, Laverne Cox is very typical of what you see of many African American transsexuals — that is, a woman who is tall and shapely. No transsexual is free from this; If you can believe it, I’ve even seen some HSTS women saying Blaire White is an AGP — somehow. Of course — as I sated earlier — many transsexuals don’t have much frame of reference, so you can’t really blame them.
Being from South Florida has granted me some knowledge that most transsexuals don’t have; in this sense I am fortunate. Because of the ethnic make-up of South Florida, I have been able to observe facets of transsexualism that may have otherwise remained foreign to me. Miami — and the county in which it resides — differ wildly in ethnic make-up than the rest of the United States. White people are actually a minority in Miami at just over eleven percent of the population. Due to this, trends among homosexual transsexuals that may be apparent elsewhere in the U.S. are actually quite difficult to ascertain. Likewise, trends that exist in white transsexuals don’t always apply universally.
In particular, I’ve noticed that body type can differ dramatically for HSTS of differing ethnicities. I have noticed that the stereotype of an HSTS woman — dainty and petite — isn’t accurate in regards to Cuban and black transsexuals, but that trends do exist within ethnic groups pertaining to height and build. Invariably, these trends make an HSTS look significantly less masculine than men in her ethnic group. Moreover, there are also similarities in the body types in AGPs of different ethnic backgrounds that often make them unsuitable for transition.
African American HSTS, as I mentioned with Laverne Cox, don’t fit the mold when it comes to the stereotype of small and petite transsexuals. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Of course, that isn’t to say that they look particularly masculine, just that they aren’t exactly dainty. When I’ve encountered black HSTS women, they tend to be quite tall, usually hovering between 5’10” and 6’2″, despite this, they don’t have the hyper masculine build you would expect to accompany their height. They can actually be quite shapely and curvaceous, assuming genetics are in their favor. They are also some of the sweetest people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting.
An African American AGP, could not be more different. I should say, however, there aren’t actually that many black AGPs — but they do exist. I won’t sugarcoat it, they are built like football players. They may claim to be curvy, don’t buy it, they are simply overweight; they often dress in loose clothing so you can never quite tell the difference.
As for Cuban/Puerto Rican HSTS I — obviously — have more first-hand experience. We tend to be quite tall as well but we vary quite a bit more in this regard, anywhere from 5’7″ and 6’1″ is common — I am 6′ myself. We also tend to be very lean with thin waists and slender faces. As boys — before transitioning we were always noted for being exceptionally thin and light. People, thinking that there was no way a boy my height could be as thin as I was, assumed I was either sick or starving myself. We also have very wide hips relative to our height; personally, I am still surprised at how wide my hips have gotten on hormones — no complaints of course.
The difference between a Cuban/Puerto Rican HSTS and AGP is
truly night and day. You will never see a Cuban/Puerto Rican AGP who fits the profile I have just described. They are actually — physically and emotionally — quite unattractive people, even for men. They are tall, but never thin; rather they have deep, heavily built torsos. To complement this, their faces are robust and heavy. Instead of the thin waists and wide hips you often see on Cuban HSTS, you see that they have no waistline to speak of and their hips are thinner than their rib-cages. Cuban/Puerto Rican AGPs can also pass for white, they have light skin and brown or blonde hair; HSTS are more likely to have tan skin and thick dark hair.
White HSTS women follow the stereotypical pattern, that is they
differ considerably from both black and Cuban transsexuals. White HSTS are much shorter than the aforementioned groups, usually between 5’3″ and 5’9″; as you would expect, they are usually slight and petite. Because of that, however, they don’t really develop hips like black and Cuban transsexuals often do.
White AGPs, as with the other groups, are a far cry from HSTS transsexuals. They aren’t as unappealing as the Cuban/Puerto Rican AGPs — or as cantankerous — but beyond that they share similar traits. They too have deep chests and robust arms and legs ill-suited
for the female clothing they so desire to wear. The most significant difference between white AGPs and other AGP groups is that they are less unpleasant to be around. I suppose this has more to do with how these groups were raised than anything, but I believe it is intriguing enough to warrant inclusion. Cuban/Puerto Rican AGPs are genuinely nasty people, willing to start drama at the tip of a hat with no care for who is harmed- emotionally or physically — in the process. White AGPs aren’t as belligerent and are content to live out their fantasies peacefully as long as you don’t confront them with the truth of their situations.
The Difference between HSTS and AGPs
Quite a lot can be said about the contrasting nature of autogynephilia and homosexual transsexualism. However, the intricacies surrounding transsexualism and autogynephilia can sometimes confound even those with a wealth of knowledge and experience. I myself am frequently identifying ways — both subtle and extreme — in which autogynephiles can be differentiated from homosexual transsexuals. There are so many variables, it can be hard to keep track of what applies to who and why. This complexity — unfortunately — can make it quite difficult for people to understand what the differences mean.
I believe for simplicity’s sake, it can be simplified as such: HSTS have nothing to lose by transitioning and AGPs have nothing to gain.
HSTS are miserable as youths. We know we are different, and the lack of any way to correct the incongruity is maddening. When we transition, it is not out of desire but out of desperation and necessity.
AGPs feel no such thing. I can’t imagine they are feeling too much discomfort if they can manage to live decades without having taken action. AGPs are living normal lives, they have prospects, careers, maybe even families. An AGP’s transition is birthed, not from dejection, but from appetite. They long to embody their fantasy girl and in attempting to do so, they are more than willing to cast aside their families and their careers.
In other words, autogynephilic transvestites want to be women; homosexual transsexuals want to be happy.
Thank you to Noomi Herran, for this, her first guest post. I’m looking forward to more; this one certainly introduced information that’s new to me. I think the clustering that you describe is really the clincher that proves Blanchard’s Typology is essentially correct. How else could we explain the clear separation we actually can see? This is observable in any population of transwomen, anywhere in the world. It is not a scale of variation, it is two totally different types. –Rod Fleming