Prof's book challenges opinions of human sexuality
In his first book, "The Man Who Would Be Queen," Bailey tackles sensitive issues about gay men and transsexuals. He said he realizes the book might be offensive to some, but that doesn't mean he should back down.
"I think the book is intentionally controversial," Bailey said. "I write about things that matter and that people are uncomfortable with. The cover (as well as the book) is meant to be provocative."
Bailey said he became interested in studying homosexuality during a psychology sexuality class in graduate school and began his Northwestern career by studying the genetics of homosexuality.
"The Man Who Would Be Queen" encapsulates much of Bailey's research. He began writing the 256-page book in 1998 but completed the majority of it last summer. The book, published in March, focuses almost entirely on male sexuality. Bailey, who teaches human sexuality at NU, admits he's "increasingly aware" that he doesn't comprehend female sexuality.
The chapters in Bailey's book, such as "The Boy Who Would Be Princess" and "The Man He Might Become," discuss complicated issues such as gay femininity in an straight way.
Weinberg sophomore Liz Hook said she thought Bailey's discussion of complicated issues made the topics brought up in human sexuality class seem more real.
"(Bailey) made topics that are usually kind of taboo in regular American culture seem sort of like a natural part of life," said Hook, who took Bailey's class during Winter Quarter. "He was so open about everything and so were the guest lecturers. That it made it easier for other people."
Bailey asserts in his book that there are two types of male-to-female transsexuals -- highly feminine gay men and men who are neither gay nor feminine. Members of this second group, known as autogynepheliacs, change sexes because they are aroused by the idea of themselves as women, Bailey said.
The rationale behind the second type of transsexual, as well as Bailey's desire to place all transsexuals into one of the two categories, has led to heated debate. Lynn Conway, a male-to-female transsexual and former engineering professor at the University of Michigan, said Bailey's conclusions are both false and offensive.
"In the process of investigating Bailey's work on transsexualism, we do not learn anything about transsexualism," Conway said. "Instead we begin to see more clearly all that is wrongheaded with the current scientific and social stereotyping of transsexual people."
But Bailey said he thinks people in the second group of transsexuals are upset with his findings because they do not like being classified as autogynepheliacs.
"A lot of people think there is something weird about (being an autogynepheliac) and it is a narcissistic blow," Bailey said. "I am very sympathetic to transsexuals. I like these people, except for the people who hate me -- they scare me."
Bailey maintains he has scientific data to support the existence of autogynepheliacs. Bailey has conducted numerous tests in which arousal to different stimuli is measured and analyzed. Even though members of that transsexual group might not acknowledge it, their arousal patterns in the lab serve as evidence, Bailey said.
"I am not rejecting the claims (of transsexuals) for no reason," he said. "There is good scientific research that says you should believe me and not them."
Bailey's topic of gay femininity also has attracted criticism. When he talked to the Emory University gay and lesbian alliance last week, many listeners had a problem with the idea that something could be reliably called either male or female, a concept Bailey accepts in his book and uses to categorize gay men.
Bailey said he does not conform to the politically correct tendency to pretend there is no difference between men and women.
"Different doesn't mean that men are better than women or that women are better than men," Bailey said. "To say that gay men are feminine is not meant in any way to be offensive."
Although the book has offended some members of the gay and transsexual communities, others have been more receptive. At Outwrite Books, an Atlanta-based bookstore and caf catering to gays and lesbians, Bailey said he was well received by an audience of mostly gay men.
"They were a more entertained and sympathetic audience," Bailey said. "Although they felt a little upset about (the notion of being feminine), they were willing to accept the idea of femininity in gay men."
Weinberg sophomore Gwen Casebeer, who took Bailey's human sexuality class and read part of the book, said she understands how male and female stereotypes help Bailey illustrate his findings.
"I think if you are being very technical or (politically correct) you could say it is stereotyping men and women," she said. "I don't know how else he could make his point without using these stereotypes."
Although "The Man Who Would Be Queen" has been the subject of controversy, Bailey said he also thinks it has the potential to change minds and help readers comprehend the reason behind his categorizations of men and women.
"A lot of stereotypes are begging for an answer," Bailey said. "Unless we acknowledge them, we can't answer them."