It has taken me awhile to think through the problem presented by the theory of "Autogynophilia". Instinctively, it felt wrong, but that is not part of consideration from an academic standpoint. A theory, has to have evidence to support it's existence and it must also be useful. After a long time reading about it, I do not think it exists for reasons I will discuss, but first we must understand what the actual theory says in detail.
From Wikipedia- "Ray Blanchard's transsexualism typology (also Blanchard autogynephilia theory (BAT) and Blanchard's taxonomy) is a psychological typology of male-to-female transsexualism created by Ray Blanchard through the 1980s and 1990s, building on the work of his colleague, Kurt Freund. Blanchard divides male-to-female (MtF or M2F) transsexuals into two different groups: "homosexual transsexuals", who are attracted to men, and "non-homosexual transsexuals", who are "autogynephilic" (sexually aroused by the thought or image of themselves as a woman). The typology does not purport to identify the cause of transsexualism in natal males, but it has some implications for the cause—specifically, but it implies that the cause of transsexualism may not be the same for both groups."
It is true that the statistically significant majority of transsexuals do see themselves having sex as a woman and becoming aroused by it, and Blanchard got as far as identifying the phenomenon at least partially, given the limits of who he sees as experiencing the phenomonen. My opinion was that this was the only thing he did accomplish. He failed to observe the phenomenon completely.
There is a lot to digest there. This is a very controversial concept and I have felt that it was flawed for quite a long time, I just wasn't clear what the flaw in the concept was. To sum it up, Blanchard sees those who homosexual pre transition are thought to have a different etiology than heterosexual transsexuals who are pre transtion. His theory is that the homosexual group is better adjusted because of their homosexuality, while those oriented towards women are sexual deviants.
To understand the implication, we need to know what is the definition of a paraphilia. Merriam- Webster online dictionary defines Paraphilia "as a pattern of recurring sexually arousing mental imagery or behavior that involves unusual and especially socially unacceptable sexual practices (as sadism or pedophilia) have a paraphilia, and therefore have a mental illness and one that if true would be every bit as difficult to resolve as any other paraphilia. What Blanchard calls a paraphilia is the idea that a transsexual who is oriented towards women, is aroused by the thought of themself engaging in sexual activity as a woman. In order for this to be a paraphilia, it must rise to the standard of being considered a deviant thought or behavior. It is something that rises to the need for treatment and it is commonly not easily treated.
Here is where his theory breaks down. How could it be that a transsexual not find the prospect of being sexual in the right body arousing, whether that transsexual is oriented towards men, women, or both? Is not a genetic woman aroused by thinking of being sexual in her own correct body?
The answer is the same for each of these individuals. They are aroused by thinking of their bodies engaging in sexual activity. Therefore, this concept being defined as a paraphilia is a non starter. Some paraphilias are as relatively benign such as some fetishes, and can range to the very serious such as Sadism or Pedophilia.
The definition of a paraphilia does not include people who like to play with power in their intimate relationships unless one partner is significantly injured physically or psychologically as an ongoing aspect of this relationship.
I would also have you note that Blanchard's theory fails to address the phenomenon of the female to male transsexual. Because these people are not accounted for under Blanchard's theory, the theory is further weakened. His model only addresses the male to female transsexual.
Another problem with Blanchard is in asking how does his theory help or is useful in some way to the individual transsexual? It does not seem to help in any form and actually relegates a significant subpopulation of transsexuals to a pathological label that is not useful in any manner. It misinforms the public who will view transsexuals as sexually deviant as a result of this concept. There is no statistical evidence to suggest that within the population of transsexuals there are higher rates of having a paraphilia than the general public is prone to experience. Therefore it fails the test in describing something that is useful.
Perhaps the biggest confounding fact in Blanchard's theory is something that is quite well known and studied. It seems that transsexuals in all of Blanchard's typology find it is not uncommon to switch sexual orientation sometime three to five years into HRT. There are a number of transsexuals who lived and were heterosexual males who find they become heterosexual women. This applies for both types of male to females and less commonly so in female to male transsexuals. This is theorized to occur due to the brain that was primed prenatally by a crossgender hormonal wash of the developing brain, which in turn maximizes the potential of activating these neural pathways with the induction of estrogen therapy. It allows this prewired biological potential to maximize feminization of the brain. It works in the same manner for female to male transsexuals as well. The presence of testosterone after having had a prenatal wash of androgen will experience maximizing the masculinization of the brain too. This sexual orientation shift is most frequently observed after three or more years on HRT when and if it does occur.
What are your thoughts on autogynophobia? Anne Lawrence has a different take on the concept of autogynophilia, while endorsing the concept. I'll look into bringing some information on her view and you can decide for yourself what your opinion is on autogynophobia.