Friday, October 30, 2009

A Few Course Corrections

This week has been very productive for William and I. Getting all of the anger and pain out in the open last week was actually a good thing. A few other things happened this week that has led to us making a few changes - "course corrections" according to our therapist - in our approach to incorporating William's world into our relationship.

The first correction is in how we are communicating. Up until this week, any discussion involving this subject usually dissolved into one or both of us getting upset and/or defensive. We learned this week that verbally identifying the intent behind a question or request is very helpful in diffusing that toxicity. We were able to have a very intense discussion on Tuesday this week without either one of us getting upset...and it was one of the most productive conversations to date.

William also had an epiphany this week. He learned that he knows nothing about what I like in the bedroom. It's not that I never told him or tried to share it with him; it was "selective memory" on his part. This realization took him a bit aback; it was a very solid piece of evidence showing him that his choices had really affected us. And even worse, I had forgotten what I liked in the bedroom. The truth is that we've had seven years of "quickies", not meaningful sex. William followed up his epiphany with sincere efforts to identify MY needs in the bedroom. And, boy, did he do it right! For the first time, he was able to demonstrate that he was capable of fulfilling my needs. Wow. And just as important to me, he was able to meet my needs and still enjoy himself. His response to this discovery showed me that he truly "got" it. And even more importantly, he gets that the changes that he is making need to be lifelong ones. This has helped immensely to lessen my anxiety. I feel like if he "gets" it, he'll be less likely to fall back into his old habits.

William's efforts made me happy, then, to work to identify what was not working for him in our efforts to satisfy his needs. Our stated goal was to try to fulfill his needs to the maximum degree possible while making sure that I was okay with what was happening. We were able to set aside a few hours this week to experiment a bit. William was very good about making sure that my feelings were taken into consideration during our session. He reported afterward that the changes we made were good ones and he was very satisfied with what we did together. And absolutely just as importantly, I enjoyed myself also.

Our most important realization this week is that the focus of our efforts needs to be on both of us. We both need to work to make sure that both of us are satisfied in whatever we do. We understand that there will have to be some changes and compromises, this can't be about just one of us, but at the same time, the truth is that if either of us has to give up an important part of themselves, this won't work.

And so our journey continues...together.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. [I have to break this into two comments so I can post it. The first is here and the continuation is below.]

    Hi, Susanne.

    I'm an autogynephilic male myself and have read your blog with great interest. I really hope you find some answers and learn to work with all this inside of your marriage.

    I guess everyone has a different perspective on and experience with autogynephilia and I can only offer my own story.

    That said, one thing I'd suggest to keep in mind is the knowledge that AGP (autogynephilia), for many of us, is not an innocuous sexual orientation. It can be (and is for me) an extremely compulsive and addictive behavior that can get out of control over time.

    Again, I will only speak for myself here but I think my AGP is more like a a shame-virus that has hijacked my sexuality and is now (ab)using it as a way to express itself much like a parasite (ab)uses its host. After years of dealing with this, I find it's closer to a sexual ADDICTION than a sexual ORIENTATION.

    Again, this may not be true for all AGPhiles but, in my experience, it is true for many. And I'm mentioning it because, if it is the case with your husband, chances are he will eventually need more and more stimulation to achieve the desired effect. I know of a few AGPhiles who eventually asked their wives for permission to go out and start giving BJ's to random men they met on the internet or seeking out other extreme, high-risk behavior (STD's, yeah?). The wives start to feel confused because they originally thought they were accommodating a stable sexual proclivity but they were actually accommodating a rampant sexual addiction even though their intentions were good. It's not unlike mistaking someone who is an alcoholic for someone who just likes to drink a lot and letting them have a few beers aech night. It's fine at first but then it gets worse and worse and worse...

    Please don't think I am saying this is the case with your husband. Hopefully it is not but, please, watch for signs of addictive tendencies and behaviors that seem to get worse over time.

  3. [continued from above]

    As far as AGP itself, I believe it has its roots in what has sometimes been called 'emasculation trauma'. I'll find the article on this and post the link for you, but in short it just means that AGP is a kind of sexual response to a severely battered self imagine with regards to masculinity. There seems to be a lot of evidence for this in the AGP-fetish community with all the emphasis placed on "real men", "alpha males" and the like. Much of what goes in these fantasies centers around the theory that there's a genetic caste system in which some males are the top of the pecking order with unrivaled sexual access to women while the lower males are there to serve and obey them - their "rightful place" as members locked into a genetic prison of inadequacy from which they can never escape.

    I think the disparity most AGP's perceive between their masculinity and the masculinity of other men is so vast that they cross a psychological threshold whereby normal insecurity gives way to an almost hopeless situation and AGP, in some ways, provides relief from that. Through fantasies, they escape their actual selves and the intimidating real life sexual reality that is likely to cause them shame and embarrassment. In exchange, they invert the situation and become vessels of sexual power, bestowing untold pleasures and delight upon the kinds of men they think they ought to be. Not men with any specific identity, but the faceless representations of the masculine potency they feel so ashamed at not finding in themselves.

    At least this is the case with me and quite a few AGPhile's I know. The image of ourselves as sexually powerful, virile men is so utterly absent from our self image that potential sexual encounters with women are anxiety ridden messes that threaten to expose how limp and inadequate we really are. We are attracted to women but utterly terrified of them - so much so we'd just as soon avoid situations with them.

    But there's an excitement in BECOMING her. You see, as the regular "us" in our everyday lives, we walk into a room and feel ugly and unnoticed by women - and scorned by the men. Our standing in the sexual pecking order brings nothing but insecurity and shame. But when we BECOME HER, all that is changed.

    When I put on a mini skirt and high heels, I can literally feel my body transform from a model of masculine anxiety and inadequacy into a body that radiates an oozing sexual allure and power. Every calculated movement of my body from how I walk to how I flip my hair to how I hold my hips and hands sends out waves of sexual power that drench the men perceiving me in titillating enticement. I am so starved for even one fraction of this power in my real life that to soak myself in it by way of fantasy is unbelievably intoxicating and arousing. It's as if I am a conductor leading a sexual orchestra through various phases and crescendos that whip my audience into an aroused frenzy. Only the orchestra is my body and clothes and the conductor is the female identity inside my head.

    To have that kind of sexual command and feel desired is like getting a glass of cold ice water after walking out of the desert. It is so absent in my real life (or so I believe) that I've become addicted to finding it through fantasy.

    You'll notice that very few (if any) AGP's perceive themselves as ordinary women with weight problems walking around in sweat pants on their period. No, we are always some kind of sexual bombshell that drives people wild.

    Anyway, there are other things I wanted to write about but I have to go. Let me know your thoughts.

  4.'s the next day and I wanted to provide you a few links.

    Transexual Anonymous:

    I found this blog back in 2007 and found it extremely helpful.

    Emasculation Trauma and Autogynephilia:

    Trauma and sexuality:

  5. Ag_in_doubt: your description of how dressing makes you It correlates EXACTLY with how I see William feeling when he is "in character."

    How ironic that you compare this to a sexual addiction. I've actually spent the last two days researching sex addiction. In many ways, William has behaved like a sex addict - and my reactions are definitely in line with those of a spouse of a sex addict. There are some resources out there for partners of sex addicts that I have found very helpful. I'll add them to my list of favorites.

    Thanks for the websites - I'll make sure to check them out. - and thanks so much for commenting! I have so many questions about WHAT this is - and William usually doesn't have any answers for me. He finds words so difficult - and this is still something that he would prefer to not even think about, much less talk about!

  6. Hey, Susanne.

    I am sure his lack of talking makes things difficult for you.

    Again, I don't know whether or not he is a sex addict (I think most AGPhiles are, personally) but, if so, it's important to understand that the root of most (maybe all) sex addiction is SHAME. Shame over...what? Well, that's up to each individual to decide. But shame can feel like you're being covered in scalding water when people start to probe around the insecurities and roots of what causes it. Give it time and he may open up.

    Also, I'll be following your blog, so I'm more than happy to answer any questions you might have.

    Just so you know, I do have AGP but have been in sex addiction treatment for the past 13 months. I don't think what I do is 'wrong' or 'evil', I just think it's unhealthy and terribly damaging to my life. My journey towards healing will probably take the rest of my life, but I've come a long way so far despite relapses. I'm mentioning this to you so you know there is another resource available to you. Namely, that of someone who has chosen to heal (or at least be responsible for) this rather than indulge it. And that involves going far down the introspective rabbit hole and being as honest with myself and others as I can.

    So if you have questions, feel free to ask.

  7. To Ag_in_doubt - it's been long enough that I'm not sure you'll read this, but one quick question for you. How do you define sobriety?

    William and I are doing fairly well - still lots of learning/exploration - it's certainly not an easy road. We continue to remain committed and I feel like we have made some real progress in the last few week. Will post an update soon - family life has gotten hectic recently and there aren't enough hours in the day for me to blog!

  8. Susanne - I am curious as to the path that you and your husband are on... is he "indulging" his desires or trying to keep them at bay? Or a combination of both? This may be answered somewhere on this blog, but I am still making my way through. I am a wife of a crossdresser, whom I believe to be an autogynepheliac (he thinks so too). We are struggling with this... We too have ups and downs - and he is definitely worth fighting for - I was also in the dark for 15 years of our relationship, and now have a small child and one on the way...

    Any insight on how you are choosing to move forward with this would be very appreciated. We have been to extensive counseling, but at this point I feel we need to work on this ourselves.

  9. Susanne,

    For me, sobriety means I am not escaping painful feelings associated with my real life identity by submerging myself in AGP fantasy, cross dressing or any other behavior that props up an artificial female sexual identity.

    I don't think experimenting with gender roles in the bedroom is bad in and of itself. It's the abuse of that to escape painful feelings that, IMO, is bad and ultimately sets the stage for addiction. Just like with alcohol - drinking a beer isn't bad, it's drinking beer to escape that is problematic.

    You see, sex as my current male self is filled with anxiety and uncertainty. There exists the possibility of rejection, impotence, failure to meet her expectations, not being man enough, etc. Rather than face these fears, I couch my sexuality in AGP fantasies and a female sexual identity which gives me a feeling of being desired and and confident. Raw sexual energy is at my masterful feminine command unlike in my normal male life where I feel as though I have very little virility and have to eek out a modicum of sexual competency and hope for the best.

    Additionally, there is an element of "owning" my perceived inferior status to other men. AGP fantasy allows me to avoid the pain of sexual competition with other males (and inevitable defeat) by openly resigning myself to inferiority. It releases the ongoing psychic pressure of avoiding failure by EMBRACING failure. There can be no shame in people discovering I'm an impotent, limp weak man if I declare myself to be one in the first place. There can be no pressure of expectations if I become someone for whom expectations are low - if there at all. Does all that make sense?

    This is a HUGE theme in AGP websites all over the net. For example, you will see many men declaring themselves to be "fagggots" or "sissies" and the existence of "real men" and/or "alpha males". I truly believe that most of what occurs in AGPhilic men is an elaborate escape from the constant shame and ugliness they feel about their sexuality as men.

    Anyway, I'm digressing here. The point in explaining all that is to show you how deeply this form of escape can run. Again, I declare myself to be sober when I am with a woman I love and meet her in real life AND in the bedroom as my true, genuine self no matter how scary that is. That is TRUE intimacy. Hiding from that in false identities and fantasies is a childish strategy, IMO.

  10. To Ag_in_doubt: I think you and my William are very much alike. You have been so helpful. Thanks!

    To Anonymous: oh, it's wonderful to know that I am not alone! I think Ag_in_doubt's comment after yours might be helpful to you also. As you know, we are still very early in our exploration of this. I just posted a blog with a little more of what I have learned about AGP as a sex addiction. William and I are still asking ourselves "what is it okay to do and not to do." Our therapist is awesome and he says that as long as we are BOTH okay with what we are doing, then it's good. It's up to us to decide what our boundaries are. I think the answer is that in order for us to maintain a healthy relationship, we both need to be able to verbalize our needs and if they are different, come to a compromise as to how we will fulfill them. Communication is the key to true intimacy.

    As far as what we are doing in the bedroom, I'm actually ok with all the cross-dressing, wigs, make-up, jewelry, etc - I don't see the girl that he does when he looks at himself, I still see him - and I'm fine with all of that. We've tried pegging - still working that one out, but I'm completely okay with it (try a Feel-doe if you are interested - I figured we both need to enjoy it!) We have incorporated several toys and some straight porn as well. What I am not okay with: him shopping by himself for clothes or high heels - or really anything that involves just him - too close to the sexual addiction/anorexia piece of this. That also means no masturbation for either of us right now - we are in this together only. I am not okay with him looking at pictures of himself in drag. or shemales. or men in lingerie. I'm still a little freaked out about the "gay" component of this. If he has sex with me wearing a dildo, it's still ME. He cannot have sex with another man, period. I'm not sure where we will go from here, but this are some of the boundaries that we have laid out.

  11. I wanted to clarify something that I wrote on my last comment. I said it was "not okay for William to have sex with another man" - I should have written - "it's not okay for him to have sex with another PERSON - male, female, or himself." A marriage (or exclusive relationship) is between TWO people who have chosen each other and ONLY two people, be they male, female or whatever. Just because he wants to be the female during sex does NOT mean that's it's okay for him to have sex with a man while in "character." That would be an affair just like it would be if he was a straight heterosexual male and had sex with another woman. And while some fantasy is okay, taking action on that fantasy (ie. masturbating or having sex with himself as a woman) is NOT okay. That's still looking outside of our marital relationship for sexual satisfaction.

    If he wants out of our relationship, then that's a different choice altogether. And thankfully, he doesn't, so now it's a matter of William learning to put US first. It's not easy for him - he's very self-internalized. It's a constant effort for him - which is so hard for me to understand and actually hurts a little. My instinct is to think that if he loved me, he should easily think of us first. I have to consciously try to understand that he is not "wired that way" and give him credit for his efforts as a demonstration of his love for me.