Introduction 1: What is the Matter?
In which the topics to come are foreshadowed
But can you persuade us, if we refuse to listen to you? he said.
Certainly not, replied Glaucon.
— Plato, The Republic (trans. B. Jowett)
All the matter of these writings will be, and are, fraught. That is not the only connecting thread, or even the main one, but it is an inescapable one. Potential Reader, you may find all of this to be too much (in any number of senses) to read; you will almost certainly find some of it to be something you will have no wish to see. Turn away. All writings can be skimmed, skipped, selected from (a secret they hide from you in school, but this is not school); this one, maybe, must be.
It is a mark of this fraughtness that I will begin with not one, but three introductions: this one, on what is the matter that I will be discussing and the spirit in which I hope to approach it. I will forestall introducing myself properly until the second one, when I will provide such bona fides as this mask I wear allows; and then there will be a third about words, and my choice of words, and in particular the especially fraught term "autogynephile", and why, despite the problems with it, I have chosen to use it. If you want to know what you are signing up for, should you read these essays, those will, I hope, cover the matter.
So what is the matter? It is not one issue, but not a grab-bag either: it is a constellation of issues, whose connection may be but a pattern I trace upon the raw stellar matter, but which stand inarguably in the same section of the sky. It is a set of issues some of which others may specifically wish not to connect, through which they may even wish to build a conceptual barrier to prevent contamination, but which, in my eyes and life, are inextricably bound together. Do not skip the sections you do not wish to see, reader, if you would grasp the whole pattern.
Enough flowery words and evasion, Yorick! Speak plainly.
I am going to here to write about gender and sex. I am going to write about my self and my experience. I am going to write about us— the "we" that my titular word, autogynephilia, encompasses, and also about the broader "we" that is the democratic political subject as it engages with these issues. I am going to write about lust and pornography and desire; and I am going to write about politics and rights and the public sphere. Each of those things will be shocking to some. In the late Eighteenth Century, the Marquis de Sade wrote pornography in which the characters would stop and discuss, at length, atheistic and democratic philosophy; for his audience, the one was as shocking and forbidden as the other. I share neither de Sade's sexual nor political inclinations, but my own desires and democracies are in their own ways both shocking, and while I intend to write neither pornography nor political philosophy, I will touch on topics both sexual and socio-political, and like the Marquis I will alternate, for like the Marquis I think of the deviance and the diplomacy as crucially and intricately connected—as tightly together as the souls in a democratic state, or as lovers in coitus.
You are not doing well at avoiding evasion and fancy words, Yorick.
I am an autogynephile: that, I suppose, is the center of what I am here to discuss, if indeed this set of family resemblances can be said to have a single center at all.1 From this has arisen in me a series of thoughts, many unspeakable in polite society. There are the desires themselves—the intense longing that centers so much of my sexuality, which in turn centers so much of my being. But equally arising from my autogynephilia is an interest in the intense and bitter cultural politics around trans issues, one which has been on a continuous crescendo for a decade or more. I find many positions on both sides of this debate2 deeply unsatisfying; and I find it frustrating how rarely each side seems to truly listen to the other.
Here are some topics upon which I have drafts or outlines of essays that I hope, inshallah, to complete and publish in the coming weeks and months:
• Memoirs of a Paraphilic Awakening Fragments of memoir about how I came, belatedly, to recognize and name what I desired. I have lived, as do we all, a historically, psychologically specific life; the details matter: the beliefs in the culture at the specific moments in my life, the people I knew and the conversations I had with them, the pornography I saw which (often but not always) was the occasion for these desires. I will discuss these details: they shaped my story which is like all others in its uniqueness.
• A Third Way on Trans Issues The trans debate is badly broken, with entrenched battle lines and a no-man's land in the middle blasted clean of life. But there is a third way—not one I have invented, but one that is out there, now, unrecognized, in the debate. I will outline and argue for it, which will achieve a happy union across ideological aliens by making everyone hate me.3  So it goes. But maybe, just maybe, there are alliances to be made and compromises to be reached; and I would suggest that it is worth exploring them, the better to guard everyone's rights and promote everyone's flourishing. To reach this, I will try to set creeds and schools in abeyance, (retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten, and permit to speak at every hazard, nature without check with original energy). Above all, I want to argue for the vital importance of free and unconstrained debate, in which no one is afraid to say what they think.4 
• The Nature of Autogynephilic Desire Autogynephiles most often take their (our) desires as a given, a primary urge without explanation. But there is, I think, more to say: whether these flavors and shades will add up to causes, or will simply flesh out a characterization of a phenomenological experience whose origins will remain a mystery, is still to be seen. But the desires have flavors and contours; I will describe them, and try to capture—through introspection—what is behind and within them.
• On the Nature of Other Things In talking about all three of those topics, there will be other issues I need to discuss, many abstract: the nature of male and female desire, the nature of male and female being, the odd position of believing something one does not think is true or even plausible. Sexual desires are, in one way, as physical and real a thing as there is, all about mess and flesh and fluids; but in another way they can be oddly abstract, or conceptual, or fanciful, be about imagination and categories and play; so too this series of essays will go from the concrete to the abstract, such that an analogy that begins in base sexuality will be intended to point to philosophical distinctions.
• Single Essays Which Will Nevertheless Be Central to The Larger Scheme There are other topics which, at the moment, look like they will be one-offs, but which will, nevertheless, be important to the overall argument. These will include essays on:
the friend who cancelled me over trans things
a joint review of two nuanced books, whose authors have probably not read each other
why "know thyself" is a group project
I will try to label posts with content notices so that those who wish to read the politics and philosophy without being sullied by the masturbatory navel-gazings, or read the titillating revelations without being sullied by the universally-alienating politics, will be able to do so. I only wanted to be hated, Generous Reader, for those parts of my writings that you really wish to read.
The biggest frustration I have had in trying to think through this cluster of issues is that each part relies upon all the others; it makes writing about it, which I have been engaged in (heretofore privately) for a year or more, yet another fraught aspect of a topic already over-frosted with fraughtness like an absurd wedding cake. It is hard to articulate any one part of it first, since each part should be said only after all the others; if I say this before that readers will misunderstand, but if I say that before this readers will run off before I can convey what I mean. This is a problem which Marguerite Yourcenar (1903-1987) captured at the beginning of her brilliant novel Alexis (1929):
Writing is a perpetual choice between a thousand expressions, none of which satisfies me, none of which, above all, satisfies me without the others. Yet I ought to know that only music permits a succession of chords. A letter, even the longest, is obliged to simplify what should not have been simplified: one is always so much less clear the minute one tries to be complete.... For if it is difficult to live, it is even more difficult to explain one's life. (Translated by Walter Kaiser)
Yourcenar's novel is in the form of a single long letter, written from a husband to his wife explaining that he is leaving because he is gay. It is hard for those of us born after Stonewall to understand precisely how shocking that was—for the fictional characters, and for the real readers—in the antediluvian year of 1929. Matters of such weight make the dissatisfaction of the leaden linearity of words all the more intense, which I suppose is why the novel begins there: so that Alexis can plead with Monique, and Yourcenar with her readers, to have patience in leaping to conclusions, to try to understand before condemning, to try to see whole before drawing judgments.5 What I have to say will not, perhaps, be quite as shocking as the story of Alexis was back before the flood; but it will be shocking enough.
I do not ask you, Busy Reader, to skip no lines, as does the letter writer in Yourcenar in the part that I omitted in quotation.6 I have already given you permission to skip. What I ask, however, is that you bear in mind what you have skipped, if you have. Recall precisely what it was you did not read, and reflect on how that would shape what you have read. And consider not passing judgment, at least unless you are willing to read it all. "The time to make up your mind about people is never."
What is the matter? It will start—conceptually; in form it will go back and forth, cross and recross, to try and say with revision what I cannot, alas, say all at once in a succession of chords—with a narrative of my own experiences, including, nay especially, my experiences of paraphilic desires; it will expand (still conceptually, not temporally) out to use those experiences to discuss the nature of desire, of gender, of sex, of sexuality as a whole; and it will arrive (ibid) in a space of politics, in which some of the most fiercely contested, fraught issues of our day will be put in what is, hopefully, a new light—and a real light, among issues which tend to generate so much heat. I will set fire to my dignity, and hope that it provides a landing-light for the combat planes of the culture wars; if this, as likely, fails, then at the very least an auto auto-da-fe is surely an entertaining spectacle.
A few practical matters.
For now, this newsletter will post once a week, on Wednesdays, and will be free. I reserve the right to change my mind about both of these. If I feel a need to post more frequently, or to take a break, then I will do so; and there may come a time when I feel I have had my say, and will bow out. Similarly, although I am writing because I have things I feel a need to express shout into the void though I may, should the opportunity arise I would not object to being paid; "the worker deserves his wages" (Luke 10:7). But the possibility of the latter, at any rate, is remote.
If anyone wishes to contact me, I am reachable by email under the handle YorickPenn at gmail, and am on twitter as PennYorick (I don't know why twitter wished that backwards).
At the moment I am known to no-one, having been just (re)born as poor Yorick: so there is no one to promote this newsletter to. (For perhaps obvious reasons, I will not send a link out to my friends and family.) Therefore, if you know anyone who might find it of interest, I would be grateful if you would send it there way.
Don't say: 'There must be something common, or they would not be called 'games' '—but look and see whether there is anything common to all.
—Philosophical Investigations, §66
Although to call it a "debate", to say it has "two" sides, to say it has "sides", all constitute a misleading framing, as future essays will address.
Why, silly fool Yorick, to be universally hated you must be read; and now you mutter to yourself, a fool on his soapbox.
This has come to be understood, by some people, as a right-wing dogwhistle. This is a severe problem. I will have more to say on this anon.
Am I the only one who thinks of The Phantom Tollbooth every time I hear or use that phrase?