The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism is a book that claims to explore "many of the stereotypes society typically associates with gay men and transsexuals (Pinnel, 2003)." Unfortunately, despite the claims of the publisher and the author, many of the conclusions that Bailey claims have been "proven" by science are little more than over-generalizations that are a veiled attempt to disparage transsexuals under the guise of providing a theory of understanding. By focusing entirely on feminine males and male-to-female transsexuals, the author is able to avoid many of the unpleasant complications that would clearly arise if he were required to explain the converse case: masculine females and female-to-male transsexuals.
The preface of the book is telling; Bailey begins by telling readers about an effeminate man, Edwin, who sells cosmetics at an upscale department store. Immediately we are told by the author that:
While the author claims to know much, unfortunately he provides little evidence to support his claims. In most cases, the author simply states that such and such a fact is true, and that if you do not believe it, it is because you simply are not as educated as the author, or do not possess his deep level of insight into what makes people tick. For example, in the preface, he tells us more about Edwin, saying: "I do not ask Edwin about his childhood because I do not need to (Bailey, 2003, p. x)." He then goes on to relate what he believes happened in Edwin's youth, but every reader should be aware that science is not the same as belief. Science requires facts, it requires evidence, and it requires constant integration of newly available data to ensure that existing hypotheses are still valid. Science is not about making blanket claims, unsupported by facts or evidence.
The evidence that is provided is very selective in terms of what is included and what is omitted. These omissions seem to be calculated to reinforce the conclusions of the author. For instance, Bailey discusses Simon LeVay's research that demonstrated a difference between the brains of homosexual and heterosexual men (Bailey, 2003, pp. 119-121), but does not present similar findings in transsexuals that demonstrated a similarity between the brains of male-to-female transsexuals and women (Zhou et. al., 1995; Kruijver et. al., 2000). This omission is rather significant given the claim of Bailey that "there has been essentially no research on boys like Danny [potential transsexual] that is directly biological (Bailey, 2003, p. 54)."
While Bailey purports to provide an explanatory framework for understanding effeminate men and transsexuals, much of the text is aimed at social control of transsexuals. Drawing upon the opinions of so-called "experts" such as Ken Zucker, Ray Blanchard, and George Rekers, all of whom believe that transsexualism should be avoided at all costs, Bailey seems to concur that transsexualism is a mental pathology. In the section discussing Zucker's views, Bailey tells us that "Zucker thinks that an important goal of treatment is to help children accept their birth sex and to avoid becoming transsexual (Bailey, 2003, p. 30)." Zucker's treatment regimen reads very much like a brainwashing program: 1) use of united pressure from family members to repeatedly tell the child that they are a boy, not a girl, 2) help the boy adjust to the idea that "he cannot become a girl," teach him and constantly reinforce male comportment, and 3) take away all toys such as Barbies and other items typically associated with girls (Bailey, 2003, pp. 30-31). That is, to make him become a man regardless of the results on the child's self-esteem or identity conflicts introduced by this procedure. Bailey claims that Zucker's approach is "less punitive" than other regimens, yet it is not possible to separate Zucker's belief that transsexualism is a "bad outcome" from his desire to use manipulative techniques of behavior modification (Bailey, 2003, p. 31). In my view, these techniques border on child abuse.
I would find this idea humorous if the results were not potentially so tragic. Many authors have written about the use of psychology and sociology to mold members of society into "more desirable forms." One of the most cogent was by Aldous Huxley, who wrote:
What Huxley is referring to here is the abuse of power by so-called experts, who like Bailey, claim that they know the real truth and that if we simply were as able as they, we would come to the same conclusions. In terms of transsexuals, Bailey tells that us that there are only two types. There is the homosexual transsexual who has a history of overtly feminine behavior, a career or job that is stereotypically female, and is sexually attracted only to men. He claims that these individuals are simply gay men who have gone over the edge, as it were. The second type is the "autogynephilic" transsexual, who is generally older at the time of transition, has a career or job that is traditionally male, and who apparently is sexually attracted to herself.
Going back to Huxley, he asks: "Can we accept the theories on which the social engineers base their practice, and in terms of which they justify their manipulations of human beings? (Huxley, 1958, p. 27) This is an excellent question that is highly relevant in this case. Consider the following: "They [Bailey's undergraduate students] are especially hesitant to support surgery for nonhomosexual transsexuals, once they learn about autogynephilia (Bailey, 2003, p. 206)." This begs several questions: Is there really a distinct category of people that are autogynephilic? Is it possible to distinguish between the two categories based on something more objective than career choices or sexual orientation? In my opinion, I think Bailey has over-generalized a bit too far, and this will likely have consequences for any transsexual who does not neatly fit his definition of homosexual transsexual. It will force those who do not fit into Bailey's framework to lie in order to get surgery, thus creating a requirement for deception that is intimately related to these unproven and un-provable theories. Without the theory, there is no need to lie; the need to lie is a direct consequence of the existence of the theory, not a personality feature of transsexuals in general.
In one curious passage, Bailey claims that "learning more about the origins of transsexualism will not get us much closer to curing it (Bailey, 2003, p. 207)." This statement flies in the face of common sense. Knowing the cause of a particular condition is the basis for any cure. For example, cancer research is aimed at understanding the reasons why cells divide in an uncontrolled manner, and attempts to cure cancer are predicated upon this knowledge. Using the cancer analogy, Bailey's claim would translate as: learning more about the origins of cancer will not get us much closer to curing it, which most people will find nonsensical. Unfortunately, Bailey's views will likely garner widespread media attention, further stigmatizing all transsexuals, and in this regard, he has done the transsexual community a grave disservice by publishing this book of conjecture and innuendo which claims to be based upon science.
Pinnel, R. (2003). Gay, Straight Or Lying? Science Has The Answer. Retrieved March 26, 2003, from http://ad01.outinamerica.com/cgi-bin/advertpro/banners.fpl?region=301&bust=236667&keyword=NULL
Bailey, J. M. (2003). The Man Who Would Be Queen. Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press.
Zhou, J.-N., Hofman, M. A., Gooren, L. J. G., & Swaab, D. F. (1995). A Sex Difference in the Human Brain and its Relation to Transsexuality. Nature, 378, 68-70.
Kruijver, F. P. M., Zhou, J.-N., Pool, C. W., Hofman, M. A., Gooren, L. J. G., & Swaab, D. F. (2000). Male-to-Female Transsexuals Have Female Neuron Numbers in a Limbic Nucleus. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 85(5), 2034-2041.
Huxley, A. (2000). Brave New World Revisited (Perennial Classics ed.). New York: HarperCollins. (Original work published 1958)
After receiving news of the publication of J. Michael Bailey's book The Man Who Would Be Queen, I immediately undertook the jaw-dropping exercise of reading it. It is incomprehensibly appalling how such work could be accepted for publication in the year 2003 by a reputable academic organization. It is almost equally appalling that the author could be a professor of any serious repute, let alone be elevated to a department chairmanship in a prestigious institution of higher education.
I suppose this controversy gives our community a reality check on how much work needs to be done in order to communicate the reality of the transgender experience to the overall society. I did not want to devote this much time to criticizing the work of a narrow-minded bigot who happens to occupy a "high place," but I'm afraid it must be done, and I try to see that there could be a silver lining in this controversy--that progressive people in the academy and elsewhere will rise up to laugh this impostor out of his lecture hall. I also hold the hope that the transgender community will unite around this issue, even though there is still an immense amount of fear that governs the lives of many post-transition stealth transsexuals as well as those who are in the beginning stages of expressing gender non-conformity.
It deeply hurts and offends to have oneself and many of one's friends so egregiously distorted and misrepresented by an unsympathetic outsider like J. Michael Bailey. I suppose that we must recognize this is something that many minority groups have had to tolerate and eventually overcome on the way to achieving acceptance in society. The phenomenon of outsiders defining a marginalized group in a negative fashion is hardly novel as is shown by the experience of African-Americans throughout most of our country's history (and still today if we look at contemporary white supremacist literature). Today, we might imagine someone like Bailey undertaking to analyze contemporary African-American culture and generalizing about it based only on interviews with pimps and drug dealers. Nonetheless, the fact that Bailey is an outsider to the transgender community does not mean, per se, that his views are invalid, but this fact can help account for his bias and lack of comprehension.
Bailey's academic expertise comes principally from having conducted numerous studies of homosexual men (particularly on their sexuality) over the past fifteen years. The first part of his book reprises his findings and those of other researchers who've dealt with these issues. Some of his findings might seem reasonable, but often the interpretations he gives to them seem less reasonable and work to reinforce commonly held stereotypes of gay male behavior. I don't know how his work has been received by the gay community in general or by academics (whether gay or not), but Bailey has at least gathered some data and experience to support his assertions. Unfortunately this is not true of his analysis of gender-variant people, who he has failed to study in depth or breadth. Why does he devote so much of his book to variant sexuality as a prologue to an examination of transsexualism? Other than the fact that the study of variant sexuality is where his expertise lies, the main answer is that he believes that the only significant motivation for a person to pursue a transsexual course is for increased sexual gratification.
Part of the way through the book, then, Bailey turns to issues of gender and transsexualism (though he only deals with MtF, i.e. male-to-female persons). He has some obvious political and academic axes to grind (e.g. the "essentialist" vs. the "social constructivist" schools), but suffice it to say that he is a convinced disciple of Ray Blanchard (of the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto), and he gives little or no consideration to any researchers or academics who do not follow Blanchard's philosophy. Blanchard is the person who developed the concept of "autogynephilia" which lumps together all gender-variant MtF people, including crossdressers, who are not sexually attracted to men (i.e. are "non-homosexual" in his parlance). This group Bailey views as heterosexual men who have a disturbed sexuality, and they form one part of his binary classification. Those transsexuals who are attracted to men form the other part of his binary, the "homosexual transsexuals," and Bailey views them as being a subset of gay men. As an example of one of the innumerable offensive and outrageously simplistic statements in the book, Bailey declares that once one is aware of the existence of these two groups of transsexuals, one can tell at a glance which is which.
Bailey pays lip service to the idea that there might be gray areas between the commonly recognized categories of sexual orientation and gender identity, but in the interest of clarity and of making his points, he elects to focus on what he views as typical cases, though many of us would call these extremes. However, in the meantime it becomes rather clear that he really is skeptical about the existence of intermediate states of sexuality or gender. For example, he apparently does not believe that true bisexuality exists. With gender variance, he is more willing to admit that intermediate states might exist but he minimizes their importance. In his view, such people can and do adapt themselves willingly and successfully to the prevailing binary gender role setup, or, in those cases where they pursue a non-traditional transsexual strategy they are assumed to be non-representative (i.e. a small minority of the transsexual population). For Bailey, if bisexuality does not exist or is exceedingly rare, should not intermediate gender identities (including androgyny or any non-surgical form of MtF transition) be equally rare?
One of the most controversial (and grossly biased) approaches of the book is to posit two individuals Bailey met as being typical of the "homosexual" and "autogynephilic" transsexual populations. I think this was a short cut that inadvertently revealed his preconceptions about transsexuals, and it obviously saved him a lot of time, effort, and money not to have to conduct any rigorous academic surveys. Bailey has slowed down considerably in his middle age. When he was a young researcher studying gay men, he sought informants by placing ads in newspapers of a dozen large cities and then drove many miles to those places where he conducted numerous interviews in private homes, restaurants, and hotels. When he later decided to study transsexuals for the current book, he confined his efforts to interviewing those transsexuals he was able to encounter in a few gay bars within walking distance of his home (evidently there were no lesbian bars in his barrio). Why should he have bothered developing any valid new data on the transsexual population, when he had this handy set of obviously "representative" transsexuals, and could fill in any gaps by referring to the earlier findings of Blanchard and associates from Toronto? Evidently he refused to broaden his sampling techniques even though he was repeatedly offered assistance in such an effort by various transsexuals who were already in contact with many other segments of the gender-variant community. Bailey had all the data he needed--a small number of people whose histories fit and supported his theory, and any other data, any other people, he discarded as either atypical or unreliable (i.e. they would lie about their history).
Bailey's example of the prototypical "homosexual transsexual" is a person who was a very feminine boy from an early age, and who developed a sexual preference exclusively to males as sexual partners. In addition, it's important for Bailey that this person have a feminine body type that would permit an easy post-operative transition. It's certainly debatable whether these two characteristics routinely occur together. As I said before, Bailey's interpretation of the need for such a person to transition and have SRS is limited to sexual motivation; given that a male partner is desired, Bailey acknowledges the logic of transition because of the anti-femme bias of much of contemporary gay culture. In this scenario, Bailey may be exaggerating the utility of the choice to transition by overstating the likelihood that a straight man will not have problems once he learns of the transsexual's history, which he generally does. In any case, for Bailey the gender role of the transsexual is totally immaterial--the only important goal is to have sex with men. But Bailey still views this type of transsexual as a "man," not because he can discern in that person any particular masculine behavioral or physical traits whatsoever, but merely because of the flimsy evidence that the person he's chosen to profile (and by extension all of the transsexuals of this category) hasn't been able to form a lasting sexual relationship with a man after only a few years of post-operative status. This to Bailey indicates a "male sexuality" (typical of either gay or straight men), ergo, our hapless transsexual is in fact a "man." One might want to ask Bailey if he would classify as "men" any genetic women who were unable to form a lasting sexual relationship with a man during a similar time period, whether they remained celibate during that time or had multiple short-term sexual partners.
It gets worse. For his example of the contrasting prototypical "autogynephilic transsexual," Bailey selects another bar denizen who has a childhood background of minimal expressed femininity but who ends up transitioning, with SRS, in middle age. One must know that Blanchard's definition of autogynephilia centers mainly on the idea that such people are erotically gratified by the image or sensation of themselves being women, which often in practice means that a sexual partner is superfluous. The MtF transsexual presented here indeed had a long history of autoeroticism based on feminine self-imaging, a history that was quite bizarre and extreme in its details and intensity. As far as the motivation of such a person to transition, Bailey again focuses mainly on the sexual--the enhancement of autoerotic gratification. And he has an even easier time pigeonholing this person as being fundamentally a "man" because she too has a "male sexuality" (hasn't formed a lasting sexual relationship), and has certain obvious "male behavioral traits." It's also worth noting that her autogynephilic TS example also has physical--not behavioral--characteristics that keep her from fully passing as a genetic woman. In fact, one is tempted to think that Bailey's idea that one can tell a "homosexual" from an "autogynephilic" transsexual at a glance really reduces down to looks and passability, and has very little to do with behavior, sexual orientation or motive for undertaking a gender transition.
One of the few modern aspects of the book is that Bailey has a strong tendency to believe that gender variance (as well as homosexuality) arises primarily as the result of genetic influences mediated through prenatal hormonal effects on the developing brain. He does not, however, appear to have a particularly sophisticated understanding of human physiological development, or he would have recognized some of the potential mechanisms for, and the existence of a great range of gender-variant states. The only lesson Bailey takes from observations of intersex conditions (he only looks in detail at one of these, cloacal exstrophy) is the likely innateness of gender identity and sexual orientation. By neglecting to consider intersex conditions such as Klinefelter's syndrome or partial androgen insensitivity syndrome, he ignores evidence of ambiguity in sexual orientation and especially gender identity. In any event, given early genetic influences, Bailey does not believe that there is much that can be done to help or "cure" transsexuals and he makes a show of expressing sympathy (perhaps "pity" would be the better word) for them. In terms of "treatment," he brings a Dr. Ken Zucker, a colleague of Blanchard, into the discussion. Bailey positions Zucker as the person with the middle-ground or "reasonable" clinical viewpoint, in contrast to people he places on the "right" (e.g. fundamentalist Christian psychologists) and to the "left" (just about everyone else) of the debate, and implicitly agrees with Zucker's approach. In what was one of the saddest parts of the book for me, Zucker spoke about the problems faced by feminine-acting boys and commented that society can indeed be brutal to them, but "who can change society?" Therefore, it's obviously better to conform! After all, in Bailey's world, one can conform to gender norms and still opt later for an alternative sexuality, whether the choice is homosexuality or autoeroticism. But if a person finds it really really impossible to conform in this way, then and only then, after clearing all the various roadblocks, should any kind of transition be recommended. I don't find this to be a middle-ground clinical approach at all, but rather a fundamentally conservative and retrograde one. It obviously ignores that fact that not very long ago the option of an alternative sexuality was not socially acceptable. I would answer Zucker's question, "Who can change society?" by saying "with respect to homosexuality, it mainly was homosexuals who did." In considering Zucker's opinion, I also thought to myself that it hasn't been so long either since some have been able to say, "Well, at least they're giving me a drinking fountain, even if it's not the same one that white people can use."
One other observation about the Zucker/Bailey clinical position: I believe that they are vastly and perhaps deliberately underestimating the capacity of individuals--especially children--to conform to gender roles, regardless of how pronounced someone's gender-variant genetic inheritance might be. A corollary to this is that they vastly underestimate the power of society to effect this conformity. I believe that there are many gender-variant people who in fact have done what Bailey advises--they have gone along with the prevailing culture and have been unable to escape from an artificial societally-imposed gender identity until later in life, if ever. I might even argue that such people comprise the majority of the gender-variants (or have done so until fairly recently), just as this has been the history of the homosexual communities over the past forty years. Bailey even touches on this in connection with his studies of gay men, and his references to the well-known study by Green (a few decades ago) of feminine boys. Green's findings were that a large majority (75%) of boys identified early in childhood as being feminine went on to become homosexual men. Bailey doesn't deny that many adult homosexual men were not identified as being feminine as children, but he spends a lot of effort arguing that this latter group was in fact feminine in childhood but suppressed it (or lied to investigators about it) and in adulthood limits its expression to permissible occasions, i.e. to specific places and times in today's adult gay culture. Although Bailey can accept that many gay men are compelled by both straight and gay society to act less feminine than they inherently are (both as adults and as children), he can't accept that the same would be true of gender-variant people. It seems to me that concealing one's cross-gender nature would be even more mandatory for the latter group, which is far less accepted in society today than homosexuals are.
I don't know how important this deeply flawed book, which verges on lurid sensationalism, is going to prove to be in the long run, but it does have serious implications for the eventual social acceptance of the entire gender-variant community, not just those people identifying as transsexual. A key question concerns the way in which Bailey's inferior scholarship received the imprimatur of the National Academies, which is discouraging because it confers a presumption of academic legitimacy. What may be less discouraging, perhaps, is that Bailey seems to have adopted the public face of the buffoon for his book publicity tour (the "Jerry Springer approach," as one reviewer commented). Another type of "cheap shot" Bailey often indulges in is allowing other people to express outrageous and unanswered opinions which Bailey himself would not admit to sharing, such as one by a student who commented, with respect to public funding of SRS for an "autogynephilic" transsexual, "they're not in the wrong body, they're just mentally ill!" All of this gives me hope that Bailey's opinions will not ever, or will not for long be taken seriously. For now, Bailey serves mainly as a sort of entertainer with academic credentials, little different from others who have exploited the frustration of certain groups in society that have felt cowed about expressing long-held prejudices.
Perhaps the single most damaging aspect of Bailey's book--for Bailey himself-- in terms of it ever being taken seriously, was the selection of the person named Cher Mondavi as the prototypical "autogynephilic transsexual." I think that any person of average intelligence may get a chuckle or a shock from reading about her personal history but is not likely to believe that hers could be a representative story. And this will be all the more true if our community can present viewpoints and examples of transsexual lives to counter Bailey's. A principal antidote to Bailey's position will result from the continued emergence of transgendered people of all types into the light. We already have seen a significant amount of biography and autobiography of transgendered people, and we need to see more.
There seem to be some similarities between what's happening with the Bailey book and the controversy which arose twenty or so years ago in connection with the work of the biologist Edward O. Wilson, who, if I recall correctly, alleged among other things that people of some racial groups were innately less intelligent than those of others. Wilson had academic credentials at least the equivalent of Bailey's, but did not take nearly as much of a sensationalistic approach to his work, even though his findings were iconoclastic. Instead, he maintained a far more rigorous intellectual stance, marshaled surveys, statistics, theory, etc. in support of his arguments, and therefore seemed to be taken much more seriously by academics. The focus for those who challenged Wilson's views then came to center primarily on scientific methodology and the proper interpretation of data, which is as it should have been. Bailey's work by comparison seems so grossly substandard that it's unlikely his opinions will have much long-term impact once they are subjected to an objective critical analysis that is fundamental to the "Darwinian" progress of scientific inquiry.
Bailey's book is much more a commentary on human sexuality than it is on gender identity. I would scarcely deny that human sexuality is an important motivation that drives some human behavior, but Bailey seems to think it is the only motivation that drives a person's decision to change gender. Let's look a bit more closely at this concept by hypothesizing the existence of a utopian gay male culture in which the so-called feminine and masculine traits are equally valued. Would any boy who grew up expressing predominantly feminine traits, and who later developed a sexual orientation to men, ever need to choose a transsexual course if he knew he would be able to easily fit in and find a suitable sexual partner in such a utopia? Bailey would presumably answer "no," whereas we would answer "yes." What is the crux of this divergence of opinion? I would say that it comes down to two important differences. One is sexual--whether the individual in question had a clear preference for interacting sexually with a man as a man or as a woman. It's astounding that Bailey, a supposed "sexologist," cannot understand this significant difference, but he has embarrassingly admitted as much, being quoted that he is unable to comprehend female sexuality. It doesn't seem reasonable that Bailey can claim to understand homosexuality without being one; he'd presumably say that his understanding came from reading about and studying homosexuals. Wouldn't a comparable investigation of female sexuality have been an indispensible prerequisite for a balanced consideration of transsexualism? The second difference is behavioral (or sociological)--that the individual in question has a clear preference for playing the feminine role in the overall culture (not just within the gay culture). Why can't Bailey understand these differences? These two differences--the sexual (meaning here the physical body rather than sexual preference) and the behavioral roles--are the two most fundamental elements of gender identity. May I suggest that Bailey's inability to comprehend the desire of the "homosexual transsexual" to be a woman derives not only from a lack of empathy but possibly even more from a profound sexism? In other words, what "sane man" would want to occupy the inferior sexual and social position of a woman?
To analyze Bailey's assertion that his other category of transsexuals, the "autogynephiles," desire to transition for autoerotic sexual motives, let's speculate along some different lines. Let's say that a male-bodied non-homosexual gender-variant person's sexual drive significantly diminishes, which in fact does often happen with advancing age. Does this mean that as people age Bailey would expect them to be much less likely to undertake a transsexual transition? I don't think this supposition is borne out by the evidence we have seen. Alternatively, let's assume that this kind of person's sexual drive significantly diminishes as the result of taking anti-androgenic drugs in the earlier stages of transition, which is in fact what happens in most cases, and that the resulting lowered sexual drive also is going to approximate what can be expected post-operatively. If autoerotic gratification is the sole motivation for such a person's change of sex, wouldn't Bailey have to conclude that many prospective "autogynephilic" transsexuals would abort their transitions after experiencing the effects of anti-androgens? Yet this is not something that seems to happen as far as I know. A similar argument could be made with respect to the potential loss of sexual responsiveness which many times accompanies SRS, a risk of which transsexuals are well aware. Once again, those consumed solely by the quest for sexual gratification would not be likely to take such a risk. For us, it is obvious that there has to be a stronger motivation, and that motivation can be none other than expressing the non-sexual components of one's gender identity. Again, Bailey's inability to understand this may very well come down simply to a lack of empathy and to a profound sexism.
It is possible that the intent of Bailey's book is more political than intellectual or financial. If we look at history we can see that overemphasizing the sexual, fomenting alarm about "deviant sexuality," has been a commonly employed technique to raise the fears of the majority society about many outsider groups that have sought acceptance, even though we mustn't forget that this technique is also a time-honored method of boosting book sales. It was often alleged, for example, that African-Americans desired full civil rights not so much to have voting rights, opportunity in employment or housing, human dignity, etc., but mainly in order to have sex with white people. Something similar was often alleged about homosexuals who sought protection from discrimination--that what they really mainly wanted was the ability to have sex with and proselytize among young heterosexuals.
One aspect of Bailey's book that must be emphasized is its considerable misogyny. Bailey's unquestioning acceptance of the marginalization of feminine men in many sectors of gay (and of course straight!) culture is part of this. His acceptance of occupational stereotyping that dismisses the appropriateness of female-gendered persons in engineering, information science, etc. is another part of it. His locker-room attitudes toward women, and his imputing of such attitudes toward all "normal men" is still another. One of the telling parts of the book for me was reading his anecdote about Ray Blanchard, who was allegedly asking an academic colleague what his reaction would be if a woman he were dating revealed that she were transsexual. Blanchard began by asking the colleague, "Let's say you had found the perfect woman--someone who's attractive and sexy and interested in you." Objectification, anyone?
An important question in this brouhaha, which is as much political as it is intellectual, is how the GLB part of the GLBT (especially gay men) is going to react to Bailey's book. I did not read the first part of the book with quite the critical attention that I read the sections dealing with transsexualism, and not ever having been a gay man I possibly did not react as strongly to Bailey's stereotyping assertions about gay behavior. Certain people have pointed out that in some ways Bailey's work reflects a common gay male view of transgenderism dating from the mid-1990's, and though there are doubtlessly some in the gay community who still adhere to such views, I think that the GLBT alliance will endure despite this controversy and will in fact emerge the stronger for it. At present, I am waiting eagerly to see what the national organizations are going to have to say about Bailey's book, and I am especially curious about what the reaction of Tim Bergling (author of Sissyphobia) might be.
I think it's important to mention Tim Bergling's work because it sheds light on one of the appeals of Bailey's book. It's been a while since I read Sissyphobia, but I would characterize it as having exposed to general view some complex love-hate attitudes with respect to femininity that exist in much of gay culture. Bailey draws on some of Bergling's concepts (though he steadfastly avoids interpreting contemporary gay attitudes as reflective in any way of a pervasive misogyny in the overall culture) and styles himself as one who reveals "the unflattering inside truth" about contemporary gay culture. This resonates strongly with the general public because much of the public is misogynistic (not to mention homophobic and averse to any candid discussion of sexuality), and because the public already senses that there is some truth to the idea that many gay men are somewhat feminine while still scorning femininity. From there, the public may be willing to consider that Bailey is equally capable of "telling the unflattering inside truth" about transsexuals and other gender- variant people. While Bailey's views are egregious distortions, this does not absolve our community from the need for periodic re-examination of our own attitudes, including the antipathy or discomfort of various segments of the gender-variant community for various other segments. In addition, we must not ignore the fact that there are people in the transgender community who have bizarre sexual proclivities, just as such people exist in any so-called normal population; the legitimate questions, regarding any such people, are how harmful their behavior is, how they came to be that way and how representative they are.
The author is a transgender woman and artist living in Denver, Colorado
Date: Sat, 10 May 2003 13:50:21 EDT
I haven't written anything about "the controversy" for a while, because I've been waiting to see what other people would write. I've seen some of the new info on your and Andrea's sites and have looked at Bailey's page of responses (the one in Q & A format). So far I have seen nothing from the GLB side. I thought Joan Roughgarden's recent letter was fantastic!
At this point I thought I would write down some observations about what has happened recently. If you would like to use any of this in any way, please go ahead.
I hope that we have all read Bailey's book by now, or have done so before writing any criticism of it. I know of one person who is refusing to read it because of it having been characterized as transphobic, but I don't think this is a very useful or mature attitude. Bailey seems to be emphasizing that many of his critics haven't read his book, and he's justified in that.
I think it's ironic that Bailey complains of censorship when he is effectively attempting to do the same to any transpeople who disagree with his theories by saying that we lie. The issue of lying is an interesting one, and Bailey's position is not so easily supported by referring to a study of how people select stockings from a display case (weak and really overreaching, in my estimation). Since Bailey now is asserting that his interactions of the trans community were not in the nature of original academic research, this means he's relying solely on data developed by Blanchard, and to a lesser extent by A. Lawrence (even though the blurb on the NAS website claims he is presenting new original research). Specifically, it means he's accepting Blanchard's and Lawrence's opinions about transpeople lying. It strikes me that Blanchard would naturally be disposed to think that most transpeople lie, because of the historic TS treatment models (widely prevalent during his years of research especially at the Clarke but also elsewhere) that encouraged it.
I read one of Anne Lawrence's web pages that contained comments from 28 transwomen on the subject of autogynephilia. I would have expected that they would all have unreservedly supported her position by saying that the autogynephilia theory fits them to a--dare I say--T, but it seemed to me that a good half of them did not do so.
I haven't seen anyone comment yet on what seem to be two separate aspects of the alleged lying by transpeople. One area of lying is in regard to denying involvement in autoerotic parctices based on feminine self-imaging. The other would be in regard to denying that this autoeroticism is the main motivation for undertaking a gender transition. Wouldn't you view these as separate issues? I think this is an important distinction because the first-mentioned autoerotic activities are quite common, and lying about them is understandable both because of the obvious cultural taboos and because admitting them was for so long an impediment to authorization for SRS. Because this autoeroticism is so common, we tend to perhaps look foolish if we protest too much on this point. With respect to a causal connection between autoeroticism and a desire to transition, it's a far murkier situation. I believe I have known people for whom this was one of several motivations for transition, and I have heard about some others for whom it was the principal motivation, but it's not true for the majority of MtFs I have known, nor was it true for me. Of course in the context of the old-fashioned clinical approaches, it made sense for people to lie about this second thing as well, and the old cultural taboos would also apply. However, this is not good enough reasoning for branding as a liar anyone who denies that a sexual motive is present or important in their desire to transition, particularly in this era when the discussion of taboo subjects (especially beteween therapist and client) is more relaxed and given that sexual motives no longer disqualify an individual from SRS.
I think there are two interrelated aspects of contemporary society that bear on this issue. One is that there are still many cultural taboos in the larger society around the issue of sex, in large part based on our Judeo-Christian religious heritage. The other, which is partly a consequence of the former, is that society has become gradually more and more obsessed with sex. With these conditions, it's not surprising that sex has come to be the favored popular explanation for practically all behavioral phenomena. It is used to explain the kind of car and toothpaste we choose, the career we follow, the leisure activities we engage in, and the statuses we seek. Why would anyone keep a healthy body by exercising or eating right? For sexual reasons, of course. People (such as the sociobiologists, among others) have even attempted to explain altruistic, spiritual, and religious behavior on the basis of sex. If these arguments seem at times implausible, the strategy of stretching the meaning of sex is employed--expanding the definition of sex, as Anne Lawrence does, to represent a "life force." It is as if contemporary society has finally caught up with Freud, whose work, though of great and pioneering importance, is nonetheless 100 years old and has in significant respects been discredited. To me, this kind of reductionism is nonsense, though a form of nonsense which appeals to the prurient mind.
I have been reading Walter Williams's book The Spirit and the Flesh. It is an in-depth examination of berdachism in Native American cultures. As you probably know, the great majority of these cultures found natural and productive ways to integrate gender-variant and sexual-variant individuals into their tribes. With regard to the Europeans' attitudes upon discovering this cultural difference (referring specifically in this passage to gender-variant males who occupied a female social niche and were usually oriented sexually to men), Williams writes:
"Generosity and spirituality, not homosexual behavior, are what underlie the social prestige of the berdache from the Indian viewpoint, but these qualities are emphasized without denying the sexuality of the berdache. Spirituality, androgyny, woman's work, and sex with men are equally important indicators of berdache status. They are all seen as reflections of the same basic character of a person; this is what Indians mean when they talk about berdaches being 'spiritually different.' This assured sense of balance and interconnectedness has been sadly lacking in writings on the sexual diversity of American Indians. How ironic that homosexual behavior has been either denied, or most emphasized, by the Europeans. The Western fixation on sex has, from the sixteenth century to the twentieth, had a tremendous impact on the American Indian berdache."
I see Bailey as the direct descendant of the Spanish Inquisitors, the puritanical anthropologists, the self-righteous priests and all the others who, in their xenophobic incomprehension and revulsion about any sexual expression but their sanctified own, acted to exterminate any alternative (even if it happened to be their own secret preference), and when that failed, to demonize, moralize about, exclude or regulate those alternatives.
When it comes to The Other--the Other as Woman, Native American, homosexual--ah, yes, how can we contemplate or comprehend The Other? Isn't this one of the great attractions of truly loving another person--that some degree of union and understanding is indeed possible? And I'm obviously not talking only about carnal love, though that may be the only kind that some people, Bailey perhaps among them, know. What kind of window can I ever get into another's psyche, into their soul, such that I could ever judge myself to be like them or unlike them? Is this task really so very difficult for someone who can love, or, alternatively, who is open, whose defenses are disarmed? How can I know that I am more like a woman than like a man? Does it mean anything that I can know men, compare myself to them, and see a difference--or know women, and see a similarity? Does it mean anything, in the reverse and much broader sense, that men would compare themselves to me and see a difference, and women, a similarity?
I have one other comment, and it again has to do with lying--not by transpeople but by Bailey. Is he lying when he says that he can't understand why transpeople would be offended by his book, by its title and cover art? Is he lying when he says he thinks his book will help transsexuals? Is he lying to select Cher Mondavi as the prototypical autogynephilic transsexual? Or is it possible that he is simply insensitive or stupid? I find this very difficult to credit. Bailey gave a number of explanations for why people might lie, such as to be seen in a favorable light, or because they don't understand or repress their true motivations. I think he left out an important explanation that may be relevant to his own case--that people will lie in pursuit of financial reward, power, and notoriety.
The author is a transgender woman and artist living in Denver, Colorado
"This book is pretty awful by anyone's standards: voyeuristic in the extreme, with little in the way of actual research or bibliography, and with a theoretical framework largely dependent on Ray Blanchard's discredited ideas. The aim of Bailey's book is to propound the notion that all male-to-female transsexuals can be placed into two groups: either "homosexual transsexuals" who are "extremely feminine gay men," or "autogynephiliacs," men with an auto-erotic fascination with the female body or female clothing or both. To put it bluntly, there is no clinical basis for this grouping, which grossly oversimplifies reality. The actual book, however, is largely an exercise in applying this theory through (excruciatingly described) excursions to gay bars. I cannot honestly say that I have ever read a worse book on human sexuality.
What makes Bailey's book really outrageous is that it comes with the imprimatur of the National Academies, a major scholarly organization. How could this have happened? Why is it that psychologists can still get away with publishing such books?"
Prof. Bruce W. Frier, University of Michigan
As a mental health clinician specializing in gender identity issues, I am deeply distressed that J. Michael Bailey, author of The Man Who Would Be Queen, is being given academic credibility.
He is not contributing to our fund of knowledge. Rather, he seems to be grinding an ax of his own at the expense of sexual minorities who already have the monumental task of trying to overcome being a stigmatized and often disenfranchised segment of society.
Vulnerable people are harmed by the dissemination and endorsement of this misinformation about LGBT people. Shame on the National Academy and on any university that professes a commitment to do no harm while perpetuating this kind of rhetoric that incites disrespect and perhaps even hatred of transsexual women.
Sandra Samons, Ph.D., DCSW
Date: Wed, 09 Jul 2003
I don't know if this is of interest to you, I wrote it at as an answer to a woman (with a TS history) who couldn't understand why some of us actually feel hate against B, B and L. If you find use of it, feel free to do so. The language has been slightly revised.
Yes. There is a lot of hate in all this. If one hates, one expresses ones anguish and fears, but one does not necessarily communicate, that is trying to get the other person to understand. As many on this list I hate. But I will try to explain WHY to you (I am not trying to patronize you!):
Some of my ancestors lived in the ghetto. Outside Venice in Italy, In Prague and at the then German-Polish border. They didn't want to live in the ghetto. They were forced to; by the Venetian merchant nobles, by the Habsburg monarch and the German Kaiser. They where forced to live there because they where considered as "untermenchen" (the term existed looong before Hitler).
What my ancestors wanted was to leave the ghetto, live the life of "normal" people. When Hitler and his gang came to power they used the noble science of race biology to legitimize their ideology that Jews (and Gypsy's) where "untermenchen". They even turned the star of David to the sign of stigmatization of the Jews, to identify them as non-humans. And they reinforced the ghetto. Then came the final solution...
Many of us has felt since our infancy that we are women, but that we where born with an handicap that we had to correct. And we did. Now we only want to go on with our lives - be normal women. As my ancestors wanted to be normal people.
But no, there are people out there, who in the name of the noble science of Freudian psychology, want to give us a David's star, to confine as in the pathologic ghetto of transgenderism. These people (it may the Protestant extreme right, the Catholic extreme right, the Islamic extreme right or the Orthodox Jewish extreme right) are happy to get science to legitimize their claims. And many scientists are profiteers of their need.
These scientists now tell us (and the world at large) that we are not women. We are perverted men. Either extremely feminine gay men, who like to live out our attraction to men, or fetishised heterosexual men, who want to live out our fantasy to inhabit a female body.
Some of these scientists just like us to accept (in a positive spirit) these desires and live with them. But that means that they want to force us to live in the transgender ghetto, as body-modified men. In the ghetto, because outside no one accepts a body-modified man.
This seems to be the standpoint of Anne Lawrence (The insulting "Mr" Lawrence is logical because she cannot live out her fantasy of inhibiting a woman's body, if she was forced to live the life of a woman. She can only live it out if she is recognized just for living out her fantasy. So she stays in the ghetto. By choice; an uncle Tom).
But others would like to treat us, give us therapy so that we could become "normal". And it is perhaps not by hazard that electric chocks are gaining in popularity again among American psychiatrists.
Some, like Reker, even want to force a reverse SRS on us.
Racial biology never recommended extermination of the "untermenchen", they just studied the "objective" differences between them and real humans. The Freudian psychologists claim to do the same with us.
But then the "plan" (or rather plans) in the minds of their political patrons is bigger than us. Gays should get therapy also. And in the mind of some of them women are also "untermenchen". The Talibans didn't even give women passports or identity cards, as they where not considered as humans.
Farfetched? In the early 1930's Germany was one of the most modern societies in the world. Hitler was VOTED to power in 1932.
Long ago? Not more than that when in school in the 1960's I had a friend whose father woke up every night out of nightmares produced by the anguish that while in the resistance of the Warzaw ghetto he had killed German soldiers with piano wire.
It is evident from what I have written that I hate. I don't necessarily expect you to share this hate, or even accept it. But I hope I have managed to communicate my motivations to hate.
Please read an article by Katherine Heather about the perverted Freudian psychology, "The Banality of Insensitivity: Portrayals of Transgenderism in Psychopathology" at http://www.genderpsychology.org/psychology/index.html"
Okay. Leave aside the smarmy, patronizing tone of the entire book. Ignore the huge media flap, including the teensy insignificant part about how Bailey made several unsuspecting transwomen into subjects for his book without their knowledge or consent. Pretend you don't know a single thing about that pesky scientific method or how it is supposed to work. Now. Let me sum Bailey's argument up for you in a a sentence. Ready? Here it is.
Het-identified transwomen are really just uber-faggy gay men (but should be "allowed to change" anyway), and dyke-identified transwomen are sexual fetishists and should "just" crossdress.
No, I am not making that up.
This was supposed to be a June book review column. But I had to postpone it to July, because I would read five or ten pages of Bailey's book and fling it across the room (which is very satisfying) and then need to take some time to calm myself down. This book is chock-a-block with crappy science, outdated ideas of a totally bipolar gender system, a great deal of full medical model, I'm-a-woman-trapped-in-a-man's-body-and-thass-what-a-tranny-is-end-quote foolishness, and a lack of understanding of human sexuality that dazzles even me, and I've seen some.
However. There is one thing I would like to address, and since I get this column, I'm going to: Bailey posits that extreme autogynophilia, or sexual arousal based on seeing one's self as a woman is why dyke-identified transwomen have SRS, and that it should not be "allowed." In other words, his idea is that they have discovered what makes them feel sexy and desirable, able to have happy sexual lives, and they *shouldn't* do it -because they would be doing it for reasons of sex. It's such a hugely sex-negative comment of the lives of queers and trannies that I hardly know where to begin addressing it.
This is not to say I agree with Bailey about the etiology of transwomen's desires for SRS - I don't. Not at all. But he presents it like the worst bogeyman you ever imagined, as though the reason was so simultaneously horrible and silly that you'd have no choice to agree with him. And I don't think it is. I think finding a way to deliver one's self from a lifetime of no sexual pleasure, and no sexual desire is a perfectly good reason to do anything that's legal and moral. And I think that as a community of gender-variant folks and those who love them, we need to fight against this way the culture has of assigning us a helping of pity and shame instead of a sexual life full of good surprises.
The whole book is terrible - the writing, the science, the conclusions, everything. But the massively sex-negative, pleasure-negative view from which he approaches his autogynophilia argument is just the rancid icing on the moldy cake. Ew.
Recommendation: If you're dying to know what all the fuss is about, you can borrow my copy, bent and battered though it is. Don't give them your money.
I chose anonymity because of Prof. Bailey and Blanchards power within North America to prevent funding of research projects and the publication of any scientific papers that discredit their views is well known. Fortunately, much of the high quality long-term research in this area has been performed outside North America by researchers in Australia, Germany, Holland and the UK, who are well beyond the power and influence of these people.
As a successful and published researcher in this field, it is incredibly obvious that Prof. Bailey simply does not have a clue. Notably, the overwhelming majority of genuine researchers in this field and the majority of peer-reviewed publications do not support the work of Dr Blanchard and the studies he conducted at the Clark Institute of Psychiatry. It is these studies that Dr Bailey recapitulates in this book. Furthermore, it is notable that Dr Blanchards work now has little support even within the Clark Institute.
Aside from gross scientific methodological flaws, a demonstrated lack of understanding of basic definitions of terms relevant to this field of study and clear bias, Prof. Bailey shows a complete lack of knowledge of the basic sociology of the transsexual population. This is obviously demonstrated by his recapitulation of the popular and damaging myth that "most transsexuals earn their living by prostitution" which has been long discredited by the by the large, well-conducted and long term (10-20 years) studies of male to female transsexual populations by Dr Frank Lewins, the Monash Gender Unit, and the publications of the well known German, English and Dutch research groups. It is notable that Prof. Bailey did not bother to examine the female to male transsexual population.
Prof. Baileys assertion that there are only two groups of transsexuals is incredibly over-simplistic. It is equivalent to saying that there are only 2 types of men or two types of women. There is substantial peer-reviewed literature that supports the concept that the transsexual population is an extremely diverse one: it is diverse as humanity itself. Attempting to reduce this population into two oversimplistic categories is just a denial of the complexity of these issues and this population and an example of misleading scientific reductionism at its worst. Although the phenomenon of "autogynephilia" may well exist, it is not the norm, nor is it even particularly common amongst transsexual women. This is well-born out by several long-term studies that have been published in relevant peer-reviewed journals. In fact, performing gender reassignment proceedures if the presence of this type of behaviour would directly contradict the Benjamin Standards of Care (the internationally accepted guidelines for gender reassignment) and would thus be ethically questionable. Furthermore, autogynephilic behaviour, according to the criteria listed in DSM IV, would not be consistent with a diagnosis of gender identity disorder of adolescence/adulthood manifesting as transsexualism. These are facts of which Prof. Blanchard seems to be completely unaware. It would seem that Prof. Blanchard inadvertently confuses gender identity disorder of childhood with gender identity of adolescence/adulthood in several passages within his book. It is notable that these are quite distinct and different conditions.
Perhaps the greatest travesty of this book is that the existence of much larger, peer-reviewed and better conducted studies get no mention and no publicity, but Prof. Baileys and Dr Blanchards studies do. This is hardly a balanced approach. I would strongly urge Prof. Bailey to go back and read ALL of the last 30 years of scientific literature on this subject and reconsider his position.
The real tragedy is that Prof. Baileys actions have significantly damaged the ability of transsexuals to overcome their problems, overcome the myths and stereotypes that pervade their lives, participate in society and live long productive and happy lives. This, after all, is the whole point of treating transsexuals. Perhaps one might venture to suggest that Prof. Bailey has lost sight of this aspect in his rush to publish and publicise his book.
Despite Prof. Baileys claims that he is trying to help transsexual people, I fear that all that has been accomplished by this text is to reinforce many of the popular myths associated with this condition and to increase its overall morbidity and mortality. Perhaps next time, Prof. Bailey might just consider that transsexuals are human and that they are deserving of care, compassion, and support.
I would very strongly urge Prof. Bailey to actually spend some time with the medical professionals who treat significant numbers transsexuals on a day to day basis rather than just cruising around the gay bars of Boystown in search of research subjects. He might learn a lot. There are several such medical professionals located within the Chicago area. Apparently, given his method of locating "research subjects," Prof. Bailey seems completely oblivious to this fact.
I've read this sorry excuse of a book and wonder what I can add to the many well-worded explanations of the train wreck youll find in its pages.
I guess I can only repeat that simple minds love simple answers. Here, everything is explained in very simple, absolute terms with the out of dismissing all detractors as deluded or deceptive. Pretty straight-forward and simple, no? The anecdotes are interesting reading, but apparently those have even been twisted and misrepresented.
Hello? Natl Acadamies Press? Yes, that flushing sound youre hearing is your own credibility going you-know-where!
That this book was written by a Professor doesnt lend one iota of credibility to it. Rather, the inumerable flaws speak volumes about the credibility of the writer. Or else his own prejudice.
First let me state that I am not a transsexual or transgender and my motives for this comment have nothing to do with the politics of these issues.
My background is as a well-published scientist who is significantly concerned with the issues of academic integrity and ethics associated with this book.
For those who are not aware, the author of this book was recently denounced at the recent International Conference of Sex Researchers. The following is a direct quote from John Bancroft, the Director of the Kinsey Institute: "Michael, I would caution you against calling this book science because I have read it ... and I can tell you it is NOT science."
Furthermore, Dr Bailey has open admitted to several people that he fabricated and fictionalized much of the material in his book. Dr Baileys response is to have state that he was writing a "personal account" rather than a scientific discourse. This response is a direct contradiction to the title his book and publicity associated with it.
It is notable that Dr Bailey is not a member of the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association, the oldest and most prestigious scientific organization related to the study of these issues. The meetings held by this organization are the major international forums for exchange of information in relation to these matters. Dr Bailey has never presented at these meetings. It is surprising that a so-called "expert in the field" has not presented his work in front of his peers. Dr Baileys lack of serious involvement in the core research organization in the field is evidenced by his frequent misuse of many basic terms and his complete lack of understanding of the core basic concepts of the field.
In short, this book is little more than blatent academic fraud.
Subtitled "The Science and Psychology of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism," "The Man Who Would Be Queen" reads more like a limited review of the literature merged with abstracts from a diary than the results of truly scientific study. Employing an engaging literary technique to draw readers into the "life" of one dramatic character, "Princess Danny," to whom the author returns as to a port in a storm, Bailey practices near-tabloid journalism with essentially the same educative effect as the novel and film "Silence of the Lambs."
The technique is obvious: It relies on the audience's fascination with stereotypical notions of freakishness or difference to create a bond between author and audience, enabling these two entities to indulge what might seem an almost morbid curiosity about transgendered and transsexual people, in this case specifically male-to-female people and gender-variant, male-bodied people, gay and straight.
Bailey relies most heavily on the work of Canadian psychologists Ken Zucker and Ray Blanchard, yet there are very few actual citations of their published work. Dr. Bailey makes suggestions for further reading, but offers no bibliography, nor references to studies he mentions, nor discussions of any work that might contradict his own theories and experience. In fact, there is no real premise or hypothesis, no experiment, no result -- no science at all, only invocations of science.
Is it science because he says it is? Certainly Dr. Bailey does make statements throughout the text that ring true to our own experience and assumptions, such as "Coming out as gay to others, or even to onesself, sometimes takes time ..." (p. 19). He also makes some intriguing statements, such as "Men's category-specific pattern of sexual arousal is probably important in developing their sexual orientation. The experience of intense sexual arousal to one sex or the other, but not to both, is a powerful source of information" (p.94). I only wish he had given us more real information in the form of citations of further studies or sources that corroborate the information he purports to be reporting.
In his preface, Dr. Bailey writes: "Butch women are fascinating, too, and [he has] studied them. ... Butch women are not simply the opposite of femme men. ... Masculine females deserve their own book." That feels like being put on notice! He also says his book is concerned with transsexual sexuality, but is Dr. Bailey giving transsexual sexuality the attention it deserves, as he claims to be doing? What is his book about? Is it about "the science of gender-bending and transsexualism," as the subtitle implies, or is it about transsexual sexuality, as the preface states? Or is it about Dr. Bailey's interpretation of something he calls "transsexual sexuality," something that he does not define, perhaps because he can't?
Readers cannot know, because Bailey has not made a commitment to a scientific topic. He wants us to believe these people he tells us about are his bailiwick (he is so expert, he tells us many times, that he only needs to look at some of them to know exactly what their childhood was like and what their future will be), but how can we trust someone who sees only what he wants to see?
He does write positively about sexuality, however, and I must applaud his approach in some respects. He acknowledges and criticizes the inability or unwillingness of society and government to deal realistically with childhood sexual development, and he touches on the complexities of social and biological factors that affect human beings as they grow and come to terms with who they are as individuals. But is it enough to tout one's gay friends and occasional attractions to tranny girls? Is that redemptive enough to counter the net result of this book, which is to pronounce: Trans people have always existed; the stereotypes society has of them are true, but we don't have to be so afraid of them because some of them are nice and attractive people in spite of their transness and the exigencies of their childhood experience. That is the primary message underneath the superior tone of Bailey's words, a tone that shifts from patronizing to salacious and back again.
If Bailey were to employ the same logic and tone to write about those masculine females he's studied, we would have first the presentation of a typical tomboy with one supportive parent and one ambivalent one. We'd then be led into a review of the literature, which would most likely rely on the work of Leslie Lothstein and Robert Stoller, perhaps with a nod to Holly (but not Aaron) Devor.
As we traversed the erotic territory between childhood gender variance and adult transsexualism, we would drift through a few tenets of feminism that Bailey might interpret as encouraging women with ambivalence or even hatred toward men to become lesbians.
Perhaps we'd visit some lesbian bars and even be treated to a drag king show. At last we would hear about some men who had been born in female bodies, some whom he might find pathetic parodies of men and some he finds so convincing as men that they even cause our intrepid scientist/author to question (but only for a moment) his belief that they are still women.
For that is the unstated, unquestioned underlying assumption in "The Man Who Would Be Queen": that the presumption of Y chromosomal material and the presence of male genitalia are the determinants of maleness, hence a presumable lack of Y and presence of female genitalia determines femaleness, and these states cannot be changed. And further, that sexual drives and social expectations of gender-based behavior and individuals' ability or inability to "measure up" is the primary reason people attempt to live as the opposite sex.
There is no scientific basis for this theory, no matter how much assumption or projection one invokes as an attempt at proof. This theory is nothing more than a social agreement. In fact, it is this same social agreement that allows transsexual people who go through the prescribed course of treatment to be adjudicated members of their new sex, with some or all (depending on the jurisdiction) of the attendant rights and privileges.
On page 201, Dr. Bailey praises the "very conservative real-life experience requirement" of the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Canada and states it "is motivated by a concern for genetic females who want to become men" arising from the irreversible effects of testosterone. Rather than be accused of gender bias, Bailey tells us, Dr. Blanchard holds transsexuals in both directions to the same requirements. This sounds like scapegoating to me. Testosterone actually introduces fewer health-risk factors than estrogen does. Is Bailey trying to imply that transsexual people must be protected from their own self-awareness?
Granted, not all transsexual people are socially or mentally stable (like any other group), but I suspect that if all transsexual people were treated first as responsible adults and counseled about the consequences, both medical and social, of transsexual treatment, whatever aspects of their personalities that were dysfunctional could be dealt with, in most cases, on a separate trajectory from their gender issues. In fact, dealing with "the gender issue" can often facilitate dealing with other complicating issues as the individual has an opportunity to grow through her or his personal transformation, removing old barriers and old patterns from lived experience, while certainly introducing new problems to deal with for which the patient can only be partially prepared, as anyone is only partially prepared for the events of her or his life.
Could it be that for people like Drs. Bailey and Blanchard, whose curiosity about gender variance is primarily driven by interest in sexuality and sexual behavior, there is a fixation on the erotic charge inspired by any behavior? Is that why they so vehemently discount any other explanation than their own theories for transgender and/or transsexual experience?
It is this writer's opinion that sexism is a large part of what fuels the fear of gender variance. Merge sexism with a sense of moral superiority in the belief that biology is destiny and you have nothing more than essentialism. For those who think that the purpose of one's body is to tell others who we are and what place we have in society, the fear and loathing of people who fall outside conventional norms runs very close to the surface of their potentially volatile psyches.
Bailey touches on this when he talks about the risks for young men of revealing a homosexual orientation (p. 35) and acknowledges the kind of fear inspired by confrontations with such rigid beliefs, and he seems to want to fight against this convention. But he makes only a halfhearted attempt to urge change in the status quo.
The real damage Bailey's book could do is undermine the recent efforts of some legislatures and courts to validate the lived experience of gender-variant people -- transsexual or not -- when our opponents hold it up as validating the stigmas and social bias against gay and lesbian people, even though Bailey claims his own attitudes are not anti-homosexual or anti-feminine. Bailey may very well be as egalitarian as he positions himself to be, but his reported "science" supports a position of social disapproval of both sex- and gender-variance from presumed norms because, in spite of the occasional compassionate sentiment or flattering comment on their appearance, he continually characterizes his subjects as easily analyzed, simply categorized, defective, sex-obsessed damaged goods.
Some people tell me that J. Michael Bailey is a very nice guy, that I'd probably like him if I met him. That may very well be true -- I'd be willing to give him a chance, personally. But his book panders to popular misconceptions about all transgendered people, and those women who shared their stories with him thinking he was a friend (some claim he did not inform them he was doing research when he met them in Chicago's tranny bars) have every right to complain. This is not science; it's just a very small Baileywick.
I do not believe this book will become a classic text. Though it may be cited by some anti-trans and anti-gay lobbyists concerned with reinforcing notions of the danger of acknowledging or encouraging gender variance in children, it cannot ultimately carry the authority it claims. Trying to make a "popular" book, Bailey cut too many scientific corners. Trying to make a "science" book out of personal opinion, and adventure stories out of his interviews, undercuts the authority Bailey might have had in his academic position.
I am also fervently opposed to censorship. I think Dr. Bailey has every right to create his text and disseminate it. It should be read and discussed. The author should not be shouted down at presentations, nor should he be barred from making appearances. He does have some ideas that are worthwhile, and no idea is so threatening that a rational person cannot analyze it, discern its flaws, engage in respectful debate and persuade others to see their own rationale. This is how knowledge is advanced. Dr. Bailey's "popular science" approach may end up a stepping-stone to the truth about femininity in male-bodied people. It isn't the end of the road.