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Drag chasing: A beginner’s guide to gynemimetophilia

If you were a regular viewer of the American drama Dirty Sexy Money you may remember that one of the stories played out across the series was the on-off relationship between Patrick Darling IV (played by William Baldwin) and his transgender mistress girlfriend Carmelita Rainer (played by Candis Cayne who in real life became the first transgender actress to play a recurring transgender character on prime time television). Although Patrick Darling’s relationship with Carmelita was fictional, there is a minority of men who have a sexual preference for women who were born men.

In a review of paraphilias not otherwise specified (P-NOS), Dr Joel Milner and colleagues briefly overviewed this condition that was termed gynemimetophilia by the sexologist Professor John Money (from the Greek, gyne [woman], mimos [mime], and philia [love]). Dr. Milner and his colleagues define gynemimetophilia as a sexual paraphilia where an individual (usually male) derives sexual arousal and pleasure from sexual partners who are gynemimetic (typically a sex-reassigned, male-to-female transsexual). Such people are colloquially known as ‘transfans’ (although other names include ‘tranny chasers’ and ‘tranny hawk’). Milner and colleagues also note a related condition termed gynemimesis that normally refers to a homosexual male who engages in female impersonation without sex reassignment (such as a drag queen). Among females, the paraphilic equivalent (also coined by Professor Money) is andromimetophilia (from the Greek, andros [man], mimos [mime] and philia [love]). The T-Vox website provides advice, information and support website on the internet for transgendered individuals. It claims that:

“Gynemimetophilia may be a word assigned to both chasers and admirers. People who are attracted to female identified transgender people may be of any gender or sexual orientation. They may or may not think of their attraction as a fetish. Some people may have a more sex positive view of fetish and not be bothered by the idea of objectification while other people may view fetish and objectification as oppressive and dangerous”.

Attraction to transgendered individuals doesn’t necessarily have to be paraphilic although the (sexual and/or romantic) attraction is said to be enduring. Some academics distinguish between those who are attracted to those individuals who have undergone gender reassignment surgery, and those who are attracted to those who simply dress as the opposite sex. To be classed as a paraphilia, the attraction would normally have to be an exclusive or primary sexual preference for trans men and/or trans women. Some clinically oriented academics characterize transgender attraction as a medical diagnosis to be managed, but it would appear that most individuals who are attracted to transgendered individuals do not seek treatment (therefore it may not be clinical condition in most cases). According to a the Wikipedia entry on transgender attraction:

“Many members of the transgender community (particularly in the MTF [male-to-female] population use ‘tranny chaser’ in a pejorative sense, because they consider it a fetish-like attraction to the penis of a pre-operative or non-operative trans woman MTF or to the vagina of a pre- or non-operative trans man. In [the 1996 book] ‘True Selves’ [Mildred] Brown and [Chloe] Rounsley suggested that tranny chasing men may be homosexual men in denial. The term tranny (or trannie) is itself considered a slur in some circles”.In [the book] ‘Diary of a Drag Queen’, Danny Harris describes four types of men interested in him while he was cross-dressed: heterosexual men who wanted the presumed superior oral services of another male, homosexuals who were only interested in his genitals, other cross dressers, and men who were intrigued by the mixture of masculinity and femininity he represented”.

The reasons for attraction differ from one person to another but a recent 2011 paper by Dr. Jeffrey Escoffier in the journal Studies in Gender and Sexuality highlightsthat the exoticism of the transgendered individual can be a primary attraction and that such people are “often both hyperfeminine in appearance and sexual aggressive”. He claimed that the phenomenon is fairly new and claims that the first known cases occurred in 1953 following the first case of male-to-female sex change (i.e., Christine Jorgensen). Others may be attracted to what transgendered individuals represent and the way they challenge male/female sexual orthodoxy.

However, a 2008 qualitative study in the journal AIDS and Behavior led by Dr. Don Operario examined men who have sex with transgender women (or MSTGWs as they termed them). Operario and his colleagues conducted in-depth semi-structured individual interviews with 46 MSTGWs living in San Francisco. Approximately three-quarters of those they interviewed described themselves as heterosexual or bisexual. They reported great diversity in the ways MSTGWs explained their sexual orientation, and reported there was “no consistent patterns between how men described their sexual orientation identity versus their sexual behavior and attraction to transgender women”. As one of their interviewees said: I like women with dicks. I like tits and I like dicks…Something erotic about getting fucked by someone who is a woman”.

A 2010 sociological study by Dr. Martin Weinberg and Dr. Colin Williams examined men who were sexually interested in trans women (MSTW) in the Journal of Sex Research. In their study, trans women were defined as genetic males who used estrogen to feminize their body but retained their penis. They examined the nature of MSTW’s sexual attraction towards trans women, and then examined how this related to their sexual orientation identity. Their main finding was that those MSTWs who identified as heterosexual tended to gloss over the fact that the trans woman had a penis, while the bisexually identified MSTWs were more likely to incorporate the trans woman’s penis into the sexual experience. Finally, it is worth noting that the T-Vox website is not in favour of using the word ‘gynemimetophilia’ because:

“The word gynemimetophilia has a negative connotation and is a somewhat loaded or controversial term in the transgender community, particularly since associated with paraphilia or fetish. In order to promote positive gender identity, many transgender people would rather not use terms which refer to fetish because of the connotation of sexual objectification in relationship to transgender people… Gynemimetophilia is a primarily psychological term and psychological practitioners should take care in using this label as it can be psychologically damaging”.


Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Blanchard, R., & Collins, P.I. (1993). Men with sexual interest in transvestites, transsexuals, and she-males. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 181, 570–575.

Brown, M.L. & Rounsley, C.A. (1996). True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism: For Families, Friends, Co-workers, and Helping Professionals. Jossey-Bass.

Escoffier, J. (2011). Imagining the she/male: Pornography and the transsexualization of the heterosexual male. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 12, 268–281.

Milner, J.S. Dopke, C.A. & Crouch, J.L. (2008). Paraphilia not otherwise specified: Psychopathology and Theory In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment (pp. 384-418). New York: Guildford Press.

Money, J. (1984). Paraphilias: Phenomenology and classification. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 38, 164-78.

Money, J. (1986). Lovemaps: Clinical Concepts of Sexual/Erotic Health and Pathology, Paraphilia, and Gender Transposition of Childhood, Adolescence, and Maturity. New York: Irvington Publishers.

Operario, D., Burton, J., Underhill, K., & Sevelius, J. (2008). Men who have sex with transgender women: Challenges to category-based HIV prevention. AIDS and Behavior, 12, 18-26.

T-Vox (2012). Gynemimetophilia. Located at: http://www.t-vox.org/index.php?title=Gynemimetophilia

Weinberg, M.S. & Williams, C.J. (2010). Men sexually interested in transwomen (MSTW): Gendered embodiment and the construction of sexual desire. Journal of Sex Research, 47, 374-383.

Wikipedia (2012). Attraction to transgender people. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attraction_to_transgender_people

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