"My grandpa wore red suspenders. My grandpa was a Communist.
That reasoning would earn a failing grade in logic 101, but it makes as much sense as the highly biased and inaccurate opinions of J. Michael Bailey. The book could not be more demeaning to persons who have suffered through the transition experience to achieve peace and success as the women they know they are.
Bailey reasons that a male to female transsexual [he doesn't even acknowledge the existence of female to males] must be transitioning for purely sexual reasons, because, as he has admitted on more than one occasion, he can't understand any other reason. He then biases his interviews to support his position: a couple of young drag performers in gay bars; a crossdresser who admits she's not transsexual; a person who rarely crossdresses but frequently fantasizes himself as having a vagina; and someone who designed a robotic penis to have sex with a fake plastic vagina she strapped on her bottom. From that group he draws his conclusions.
The most offensive quote in the book is this: "...many of us have had the experience of wondering if a particular woman we have seen is actually a man, and most of us who have been to even a few gay bars have seen one. There are also transsexuals who work as waitresses, hairdressers, receptionists, strippers, and prostitutes, as well as in many other occupations..."
I'm wondering where I fit in. I happen to be an interventional cardiologist. Other transsexual women I know are in many other medical specialties; attorneys; clergy; pilots; CEOs; computer programmers; and university professors who are embarrassed by this lunacy. But none of us made Bailey's list. I suppose he ran out of room after "prostitutes."
It is not about having sex, Mr. Bailey. Can you grasp that idea? Many of us do not give a damn about having sex. It is about life. It is about what works versus what wasn't working. It is about going on living versus ending it all.
This book is subjective, tabloid, "junk science"
at its worst. Shame on the National Academy for giving it legitimate
From: "Joan Roughgarden" <email@example.com>
Thanks for the note. I am indeed aware of the book, and recently sent a message such as yours to the TransHistory elist warning of the book, where others have made similar postings as well. As it happens, I was asked to write a review of Bailey for Nature Genetics, with a due date in June sometime. The book arrived last week.
Locally, the problem is exacerbated by several developments. Simon LeVay turns out to be about as dense as Bailey is. Simon was invited by the Human Biology Program, an interdisciplinary undergraduate program here to give a course in human sexuality. His position is a visiting lecturer. Anyway he gave a course last winter and gave substantial coverage to Bailey's theories in class. Furthermore, he invited me to lecture in his class, but tried to pair me in a 1.5 hr slot with a representative from NAMBLA, where we were both to be introduced as specimens of ``minority sexualities'' as he put it.
I was outraged by this from many standpoints, and protested
to the provost's office. The word was communicated to the dean,
and the NAMBLA invitation was rescinded. (NAMBLA could, of course,
speak in the evening or out of class.) LeVay claims that his
academic freedom was impinged upon.
Meanwhile, LeVay is quoted on the front cover of Bailey's book as calling it ``absolutely splendid.'' and LeVay has recently coauthored a textbook published by Sinauer on human sexuality. It has a large section, according to the table of contents, all about autogynophelia and the pejorative medical account of transgender that you refer to. Furthermore, LeVay has attacked me in public for denying him the opportunity to invite NAMBLA to his class, and is hiding behind academic freedom.
And, if this weren't enough, the Psychology Dept has actually invited Bailey to give a full-fledged regular lecture here next week, on Wednesday at 3:45 in Room 41, Jordan Hall, on the Stanford main quad. LeVay told me of this and I was aghast. I visited with the chair of Psychology to inquire if this was true and to express my dismay at the legitimizing of the sensationalizing of transgendered people that this invitation might seem to imply. The chair hadn't heard anything about this, but inquired and got back to me confirming the seminar and saying that it was open to the public.
So I'm trying to decide at this moment how to play the situation,
because it will be quite difficult from the audience in having
the standing to effectively refute the talk. As you may know,
I organized a symposium at the AAAS in Denver in
I showed the handout to the chair of psychology, who said it made him embarrassed to be a psychologist, and he was skeptical at first that his department would have anything to do with such a person. Yet, Bailey is apparently about to be the chair himself of psychology at Northeastern (if I recall correctly). So, the integrity of psychology as a discipline is yet again suspect, as if evolutionary psychology weren't enough. So, I'm sure you didn't want to hear all this, but I feel it's important to reinforce the sense that this is really serious.
If Bailey were just giving a lecture or two, it would disappear.
But the fact that this stuff is being taught in undergraduate
Considered at a distance, the book is useless as research, but is an artifact in the continuing cultural war by medicine to control and discipline natural human diversity.
Thanks so much for getting in touch.
I find this book offensive in the extreme.
What Bailey is saying, in no uncertain terms, is that he believes that the majority of transsexuals are autogynephilic--the popular translation of which (regardless of what he says) is that they are all perverts (that it is about a sexual fetish and not about gender identity).
There are two additional aspects about this that I find particularly offensive:
The first is that it is junk science: Bailey has no large and representative set of transsexuals and so has no real scientific data of his own and is basing his views on Blanchard's theories which the rest of the world has discounted as being unrepresentative.
The second is, that in his defense for why he is right and
everyone else is wrong, he invokes a kind of McCarthyism: "well
of course transsexuals would never admit to being autogynephilic
as they wish to represent themselves in the best possible light".
So how can transsexuals defend themselves from such an accusation?
What if I were to say that "Bailey is gay (or a communist
or an autogynephile) but of course Bailey would never admit that"--how
could he defend himself against that?
So, given that many others who have worked in gender clinics and seen hundreds of MtFs more than Bailey, and given that they have strongly disagreed with Blanchard's position for years, I think that for Bailey to come out with such an offensive position now that he must have quality science to back it up (and publish it in a peer-reviewed journal). Otherwise he causes the transsexual community severe, perhaps irreparable, damage.
We are fighting a very tough battle for our rights and it is tough enough as it is without someone like Bailey saying we are all perverts. We are also fighting for our self esteem, and so being called autogynephilic if it is not true, does not particularly help.
True, Bailey keeps saying how much he really cares about MtFs
even if they are all perverts, and I believe him--but with friends
like this, who needs enemies?
Bailey also asserts that McHugh's ideas deserved more attention to find a way to treat the minds of transsexuals rather than their bodies. I have never met a transsexual that would have any interest in having their "mind" fixed. The very idea seems reminiscent of trying to treat homosexuals with hormones to "fix" them.
Bailey is really quite ignorant about transsexuality and has no business writing a book on it that is published by the National Academy Press.
Instead of "friends" like Bailey, transsexuals need highly regarded, sympathetic folks to look out for them and to defend them against such McCarthyism-like attacks.
In the end, this book left me with a foul dirty feeling such as I have rarely felt.
Ben Barres, M.D., Ph.D.
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003
Frankly, the report of Bailey's lecture disgusts me more than almost anything else I've read about him. As a Jew whose mother grew up in Nazi Germany, it reminds me of nothing more than one of those lectures by Nazi "experts" on "physiognomy" about how you tell someone's a Jew -- by their big hooked noses, naturally. Just like you tell gay people by how they talk. I'm sure such lectures were accompanied by similar gales of laughter.
I (and the wonderful woman who is my partner) had such strong personal reactions to the whole idea of trying to identify and single people out in that disgusting way, that I felt I had to say something. I still remember my mother's story about how when she was a child in Germany, after Hitler came to power but before she was prohibited from attending school with non-Jewish children, a Nazi party official came to her school one day to lecture on the "Aryan" ideal -- and, out of the whole class, actually selected my mother, who had light hair, green eyes, and "Aryan" features, as the perfect example of Aryan girlhood. As you can imagine, he wasn't pleased when he found out she was Jewish. So, you can see, sometimes the "experts" are wrong.