Rogue Theories of Transsexualism:

By seeing a collection of such theories side-by-side, we grasp the strangeness of them all.


Lynn Conway

June 18, 2006

Copyright © 2006, Lynn Conway.

[V 8-12-06]

While filing away information about various odd theories of "transsexualism" (theories about what it is, what causes it, how to eliminate it, etc.), I began noticing how fascinating they are when seen as a collection.  By looking at the entire array of theories side-by-side, the strangeness of them all suddenly jumps out at you.

I thought this might be other's reactions too, so I've put together this little page entitled "Rogue Theories of Transsexualism", as a fun exercise along those lines. As you'll see, the collection reveals more and raises more questions about the theorists than it does about gender transitioners.

Please note that this page is undergoing ongoing casual development, and I'm looking for more things to add here over time - so please do send your ideas and feedback. I'm sure that there must be more cool theories out there to add to this rather bizarre collection!




Examples of Rogue Theories

Reflections on those who generate and promote such theories








Over the decades, a long procession of psychiatrists, psychologists, academics, religious zealots and social pundits have generated outlandish and unscientific theories of "transsexualism". Among other things they've proclaimed that transsexualism is either a result of gender envy, extreme homosexuality, transvestic fetishism, possession by the devil, a male conspiracy to replace women as sex objects, a male conspiracy to take over women's spaces, an extreme sexual paraphilia, an iatrogenic effect, a mediagenic effect, an 'exorcism of the mother', a result of castration anxiety, an incidence of the 'Snow White syndrome', an amputation fetish, or other similarly bizarre pronouncements. 


What is it about gender transition that so frightens these elites? And why are do they then feel compelled to act out in this way?  And when doing so, how can they allow themselves go so far outside the usual rational processes of intellectual and scientific inquiry, without any self-reflection on how bizarre their behavior is? 


In this page we present a collection of these rogue theories. It's quite amazing to see them all lined up side-by-side, for the strangeness of it all then becomes very clear. This revelation raises many questions regarding how such people could have gotten away with this behavior for so long, and why they were so strongly supported by their peers and their sponsoring institutions as they purveyed such nonsense.


These disturbing questions lead us to reflect on those who generate such theories, questioning their motives, their methods and their support by elite institutions. We also reflect on the terrible impact their theories have had on the lives of gender transitioners, and on how we can turn this all around.





Examples of Rogue Theories:



1.   It's 'Gender Envy': (Oremland, 1973)

As proposed by Psychiatrist Fred Oremland, in 1973.

In this conference publication, Oremland reveals the way in which many psychiatrists think and speak “in tongues” - much as do preachers in various arcane religious sects - somehow imagining that they are communicating deep wisdom from on high in the process. Had he no clue how absurd his "scientific" psychiatric reasoning about "gender envy" would appear to any intelligent common-sensible readers? We also wonder why he is so certain about the pervasiveness and depth of gender envy. Could it be that he's felt it very deeply himself?


2.  It's either 'Extreme homosexuality' or 'Transvestic Fetishism': (Meyer and McHugh, 1977)

Proclaimed by psychoanalyst Jon Meyer and Catholic psychiatrist Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins, in 1977 (and later re-claimed by McHugh in  2004, in his reflections on that work in a Catholic Religious magazine).


Paul McHugh has been on a rampage to "stop sex changes" ever since the early-1970's. When he became psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, he engaged in a vendetta against its gender program and succeeded in shutting down the surgeries there. Later as advisor to the Vatican on sexual matters, he was behind the Catholic Church's later official pronouncement in 2000 that "transsexualism doesn't exist". McHugh and the Church now declare it to be a "madness" instead.  McHugh is now influential in the current U.S. administration as a member of the President's Council on Bioethics.  And in 2005 the IRS disallowed a woman's tax deduction for SRS, citing McHugh's teachings in a Catholic religious magazine as a basis for the government's decision.


3.   It's caused by "evil spirits" (aka "possession by the devil"), and is curable by exorcism: (Barlow, Abel, Blanchard, 1977)

Proclaimed by psychiatrists David H. Barlow, Gene G. Abel and Edward B. Blanchard, in an article entitled "Gender Identity Change in a Transsexual: An Exorcism" published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 1977 (the Journal of the International Academy of Sex Research (IASR), the sex-research-clique later dominated by Bailey, Blanchard, Lawrence, Zucker, LeVay, et al).

This paper is illustrative of the emotional torture and scientific defamation of trans women by superstitious psychiatrists during the 1970's. These psychiatrists proclaimed to have scientifically documented a reversal of transsexualism in a clinical subject following an exorcism of "evil spirits," and they include detailed "scientific measurements" of the before/after effects of the exorcism. They claimed "this case, and other recent developments, suggests a reexamination of the possibilities of psychosocial intervention to modify atypical gender identity," adding fuel to the fire (which is still burning) of psychiatric entrapment and forced reversions of gender transitioners.


4.   It's a Male Conspiracy to 'Replace Women as Sex Objects' and 'Invade Women's Spaces': (Raymond, 1979)

Proclaimed by lesbian feminist academic Janice Raymond, in her now notorious book "The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male", 1979.


- - - Insert some of Raymond's bizarre quotes here - - -


Reprinted in 1994, this book is still in use in women's studies programs in many U.S. colleges and universities today.


"This classic of transphobia compares us to rapists and Nazis, and remains the shrill voice of the transsexual backlash." - Andrea James


5.   It's either 'Extreme homosexuality' or the sexual paraphilia 'Autogynephilia': (Blanchard, 1989; Lawrence, 1999; Bailey, 2003)

Canadian sexologist Ray Blanchard appropriated the Meyer-McHugh theory and renamed 'transvestic fetishism' in1989.


Blanchard's theory was later resurrected in the late 1990's by self-proclaimed "autogynephile" Anne Lawrence. Psychologist J. Michael Bailey then attempted to popularize it in his notorious book The Man Who Would Be Queen, in 2003. A subsequent investigation into Bailey's, Blanchard's and Lawrence's research and self-promotional methods exposed widespread misconduct and Bailey was forced to resign his department chairmanship in disgrace.


Further analysis by psychologist Madeline Wyndzen, Ph.D., deconstructed and exposed serious errors in Blanchard old studies on which he based his theory. Following a denunciation of Bailey's book (and by implication of Blanchard's theory) Blanchard resigned from HBIGDA and later widely defamed trans women in national new media in Canada as being "men without penises".


6.   It's caused by 'Overshrill Narcissism', or it is 'Iatrogenic' or 'Mediagenic': (Chiland, 1997)

Proclaimed by the infamous transphobic French academic psychiatrist, Colette Chiland, in1997.


- - - Insert some of Chiland's bizarre quotes here - - -


Chiland's hateful publications and open public defamations of transsexual people still continue, and are being widely protested today by trans advocates in France (more, more, more)


7.   It's an 'Exorcism of the Mother': (Greer, 2000)

Theory of the prominent feminist thought-leader and remorseless witch-hunter of trans women during the 1980's and 90's, Germaine Greer, in 2000.  Working closely with Janice Raymond (see 4.), Greer sought to identify and remorselessly "out" any successfully transitioned women who had managed to cover their pasts and gain good employment in universities and corporations (see Rachael's story, for an example of this).


Even now in the 21st Century, Greer continues to viciously defame trans women in her book "The Whole Woman".  Upon reading her chapter on "Pantomime Dames", you can't help but see a person who is truly anxiety-ridden about the existence of gender transitioners, as she demonstrates in comments such as the following (bold for emphasis):  "There is a witness to the transsexual's script, a witness who is never consulted. She is the person who built the transsexual's body of her own flesh and brought it up as her son or daughter, the transsexual's worst enemy, his/her mother. Whatever else it is gender reassignment is an exorcism of the mother. When a man decides to spend his life impersonating his mother (like Norman Bates in Psycho) it is as if he murders her and gets away with it, proving at a stroke that there was nothing to her . . ."


Greer's book is on women's studies reading lists at many colleges and universities, continuing a long tradition of ridiculing trans women by many such programs.


8.   It's caused by either 'Castration Anxiety' or by the 'Snow White Syndrome': (Michel and Mormont, 2002)

Theory of the academic psychologists A. Michel, C. Mormont, Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Liege, Belgium, 2002.


These psychologists apparently project their own fantasies into the heads of trans women, in order to explain the unexplainable and calm their own fears.  They claim that "The Rorschach Ink Blot test is considered to be an essential analytical instrument when studying the personalities of individuals presenting identity disorders, in particular, in the context of a sex change request". They then use that "scientific" technique to "confirm" their theory.


9.  It's caused by "spirit attachment" and can be cured by "spirit release therapy": (Sanderson and Fiore, 2003)

In 2003, British Psychiatrist Alan Sanderson published the following article in the website of the Royal College of Psychiatrists:

"Spirit release therapy: what is it and what can it achieve?A clinical presentation of therapist and patient perspectives"


In that article, Sanderson discusses a number of conditions (including transsexualism) that he believes are caused by "spirit attachment" and are curable by hypnotic "spirit release therapy" (more).  In doing so, Sanderson refers to and resurrects the 1977 case study and theory of transsexualism of Barlow, et al (i.e.,"possession by evil spirits"), re-labeling it in less religious terms as "spirit attachment". In support of his theory, Sanderson refers to only one other case study (an unpublished one), as described in the following webpage by clinical psychologist Edith Fiore (Fiore "pioneered" the field of spirit release therapy via her book The Unquiet Dead, in 1987):

"The Treatment of Gender Dysphoria - Sex Change or Spirit Change?", by Edith Fiore Ph.D


10.   It's a sexualized 'Amputation Fetish' as a form of BIID: (Blanchard and Lawrence, 2003-2006)

The Bailey book fiasco and the scientific deconstruction by Madeleine Wyndzen of Ray Blanchard's autogynephilia theory of transsexualism (see 5.) left Blnchard's theory in disarray, and it will likely never recover its early cult following.


Not to be thwarted in their life-quests for scientific fame by discovering the cause of transsexualism, Ray Blanchard and his close colleague Anne Lawrence began turning their Freudian-like introspective speculations in a new direction in 2003. 


You may recall the pseudo-scientific method of "lumping", for which Blanchard is lionized by Bailey and Lawrence (Bailey, p.162)?  Blanchard is doing it again by making "connections" between GID and BIID (and thus apotemnophilia). Under this "scientific lumping" process, which includes making close parallels between proposed treatment protocols, Blanchard and Lawrence are implicitly surfacing a new theory that transsexualism is actually a "male sexually paraphilic amputation fetish".  We speculate that Lawrence now strongly identifies with this particular self-perception (noting that for many years Lawrence has made special efforts to personally observe many SRS procedures).


In 2006, Lawrence published an article on this new "research" in the IASR journal Archives of Sexual Behavior (recall that Zucker is President of IASR and Bailey runs IASR's listserve SEXNET). Lawrence rehashes Blanchard's two-type theory of transsexualism as if it were a scientific fact, and then attempts to correlate "non-homosexual" trans women with amputation wannabees. The resulting paper is one of the most deeply defamatory and emotionally disturbing treatments of gender transitioners that we've seen so far:

"Clinical and Theoretical Parallels Between Desire for Limb Amputation and Gender Identity Disorder", by Anne Lawrence, Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 35. No.3, June 2006, pp. 263-278.






Reflections on those who generate and promote such theories:


Just who are the "professionals" who make careers out of caricaturing trans women  And why do they always seem to have such certainty about the strange theories they generate? 


Could it be that in some cases they feel something of "it" in themselves (where "it" is the particular thing they are theorizing)?  Could having these uncomfortable feelings in themselves be a motivating factor for their rather obsessive 'studying' of transsexual women - leading them to project what they are feeling onto others?  Projecting it along with the guilt, shame, embarrassment, repression and frustration about such things they feel within themselves? 


Or in some cases could it derive from waging ideological battles in other causes, and exploiting gender transitioners as foils in those academic debates? If so,  how can they do this without consideration of the emotional and social damage they are doing in the lives of innocent people? Are they completely ignorant of how many people they are affecting, and of the terrible impact they are having in those people's lives?


Why is it that such theories are inevitably defamatory towards trans women, and put forward with an air of total certainty without a shred of solid empirical evidence behind them?  How can this be done without any hesitation, shame or remorse?


Unfortunately, there are many external social forces that encourage such theorizing, such as the effects of organized religion, especially Roman Catholicism - - - leading to frightened superstitious reactions to trans women as if they were some kind of "witches" - - - Victorianism prudery - - - gay Fourattism - - - strident early feminism - - - confused forms of homophobia - - -  uptightness and 'disgust' - - - etc.


The internal anxieties caused by these social forces often lead to unthinking presentations of theories in un-falsifiable forms, as if they were "scientific facts". Such theorists then often exhibit a dismissive arrogance towards any critics of their theories, leading to ad hominem attacks on anyone who dares criticize them, in further actings-out of anxieties regarding gender transitioners.


While acting out in this way, such theorists display ignorance of, dismissals of and suppressions of evidence of the large numbers of successful transitioners who are living happy and successful lives. It's as if they cannot bear to hear, for deeply personal reasons, that many transitioners are leading really cool lives.


If they do have any contact with transitioners, it is often with tiny numbers of marginalized self-pathologizing individuals, or individuals who have otherwise come under their control, who are specially-selected as "confirming case-studies" for their theories.  Such marginalized individuals are easily manipulated (for example by being smothered with attention) into involvement in the "scientific" pathologization of all gender transitioners.


Other motivations, and supportive institutional infrastructure:


The need to publish - - - niche fields of 'experts' - - - scientific cliques - - - cronyism - - - self-promotion - - - crass careerism - - - political climates - - - the almost desperate search for scientific fame - - - the trend towards media exploitation, controversy-generation and "notoriety" - - - the impact of funding agencies and rogue program managers pushing their own pet theories by funding supporters - - -


Lack of accountability for collateral damages on innocent lives - - - noticing the sociopathic nature of the actions of many of these theorists - - - noticing how niche fields often provide cover for such "white-collar sociopaths"- - - prevalence of - - - impact of - - -


Bottom line:


In the end, by studying this collection of theories side by side, we suddenly see the whole lot of them as merely projections of the superstitious, anxiety-ridden reactions of the theorists to inner demons within themselves.







"Rogue theory watch" - - -  study the individual theorists and their works - - - gather evidence of biases and personal motivations - - - maintain and evolve ongoing reports regarding their work - - - make all such theories visible as a collection, so as to clarify the rather pathological nature of the overall collection - - -


"Rogue theory promoters watch" - - - collect and expose evidence of active promotion of rogue theories - - - by cliques of mutually self-promoting supporters - - - by self-pathologizing pseudo-transsexuals - - - by the media - - - by religious groups - - -


"Rogue theory institutional support watch" - - - collect evidence of and expose irrational elite institutional support of rogue theories and theoreticians - - - by universities, by research funding agencies, by scientific organizations and professional associations - - and of their failures to respond to reasoned criticism - - - especially of their "silent treatment", defamations and ostracisms of gender transitioners who make any kind of complaints - - -


Encourage the emerging alternative approaches aimed at improving the situation of gender transitioners through practical, pragmatic real-world means instead of attempting to "explain them" based on past prejudices and ancient superstitions about them.







The failure of psychiatry and academic psychology:


GID Reform Advocates


"Psychology Perverted", by Prof. Joan Roughgarden:


"Psychology Perverted - A Response", by U.K. psychologists:


"A defining moment in our history: Examining disease models of gender identity", by Andrea James:


“Collected Essays in Trans Healthcare Politics: Documenting the Scandal of How Medicine Lost The Trust Of Trans People”, by Christine Burns of Press For Change (UK). (66 pages; 840 KB pdf file).



Alternative and emerging approaches:


An emerging consensus re etiology:


More links to emerging studies with a focus on trans health and well-being - - - human rights - - - legal rights - - - employment rights - - - etc:



- - - TBD - - -





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