Categorically wrong?

A Bailey-Blanchard-Lawrence clearinghouse

This clearinghouse explores varying viewpoints about The Man Who Would Be Queen and the ideology that informs the work of J. Michael Bailey, Ray Blanchard, and Anne Lawrence.

This clearinghouse was created in April 2003 to document materials in this controversy as they became available. Though much of it remains in an unsynthesized format, pages about key people and concepts have been updated in some cases. Due to renewed interest in the topic following attacks on Bailey's critics by his coworker Alice Dreger, links and descriptions are being updated throughout.

For a chronological overview of this matter, please see the timeline of events compiled by Professor Lynn Conway.

Section history: revised 26 June 2008

Background

In March 2003, J. Michael Bailey, then Chair of the Psychology Department at Northwestern University, published The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism.

Despite having “science” in the title and being promoted as “original research,” many consider the book scientifically unsound and deeply biased. It describes gender variance in metaphors of disease and impairment that are an extension of Bailey's belief that homosexuality is an evolutionary mistake and a developmental error. Bailey's writings on homosexual eugenics and his belief that male bisexuals are liars echo his thinking on trans issues as well.

Bailey's book is based on an obscure and outdated model of gender variance created by Ray Blanchard of Toronto's notorious Clarke Institute. Bailey's and Blanchard's models contradict cutting-edge research by renowned experts on causes and motivations of those who express gender variance.

Initial positive spin created by Joseph Henry Press publicist Robin Pinnel and a handful of Bailey supporters (primarily sexologist Anne Lawrence and members of a conservative-run eugenics thinktank) quickly gave way to a deluge of negative responses by a wide range of concerned communities, starting with academics, notably those responding to Bailey's lectures exploiting gender-variant children. For a sense of the size and global scope of the protest, a petition against the book garnered over 1,300 signatures from 35 countries in just its first few days. Given our percentage of the population, this would be equivalent to obtaining millions of signatures in a few days from the general population.

Also speaking out were those of us working to stop defamation of trans people in the media, and even the research subjects portrayed in Bailey’s book. These voices were later joined by those from the gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex communities. In early 2004, hate group monitor Southern Poverty Law Center featured Bailey's and Blanchard's ties to neo-eugenicists and right-wing journalists.

These early negative reviews were later echoed by many of Bailey’s own peers in sex research, as well as by clinical experts on transsexualism. In front of large crowds of peers, Kinsey Institute Director John Bancroft M.D. said the book was "not science," and HBIGDA President Dr. Eli Coleman said it was "bad science").

In the wake of this, book sales tanked, Bailey has vacated his position as an officer of the International Academy of Sex Research and was subject of a full investigation by Northwestern University for failure to get informed consent. In November 2003, Bailey's mentor Ray Blanchard finally resigned from HBIGDA after their officers wrote to Northwestern expressing concerns, suggesting that Blanchard will go down in history as what George Rekers is to homosexuality: the old-school holdout who outlived his time.

Normally, a book this scientifically unsound and tainted with charges of academic misconduct, practicing without a license, fabricating data, and sex with a research subject would not even be dignified with a response by many involved, but this book somehow got published through the National Academies Press, online via the NAP website and in print through their Joseph Henry Press unit, which specializes in science books for popular audiences.

Executive Editor Stephen Mautner claimed in a 24 June 2003 letter that the book was subjected to “scientific review” and “was reviewed as a well-crafted and responsible work.” Mautner refers to Bailey as a “scientist” who follows “a legitimate avenue of scholarship and research.” In the wake of a full investigation into the systemic failures at the National Academies, they continue to remain silent about their culpability.

In November 2004, Northwestern University reported that Bailey resigned as Psychology Department Chair and that Northwestern was taking secret unspecified action against Bailey based on their findings. In February 2006, the online version Bailey's book was quietly removed from the National Academies Press website.

Bailey's lurid and unscientific portrayal is easily disproven by successful trans women and men around the world leading joyous and productive lives after transition.

Introduction

Discrediting Bailey was the easy part. Framing the theoretical issues involved is the profoundly difficult part of this controversy. The Bailey-Blanchard-Lawrence model of gender variance raises several issues regarding reproduction, assimilation, biological determinism, and what it means for trans people and society at large.

Please note that many of the concepts and terms discussed in the following articles are controversial and/or inconclusive. They give a sense of the issues at hand, and are not definitive statements on any particular subject.

“Illegal immigrants” vs. the border patrol of sex and sexuality

This short essay seeks to frame the debate sparked by this book.

Causes of transsexualism: Current findings

This position paper by Milton Diamond, Ph.D. and 20 other renowned sex researchers summarizes the latest scientific research.

True Selves: An introduction to motivations for transition

Dr. Mildred Brown has observed in her clinical practice that some people seeking feminization do so for reasons other than the traditional motivation, and questions whether these reasons are "transsexual" in the clinical definition.

Bailey's words and ideology

Homosexuality and gender variance represent an "evolutionary mistake" and "developmental error," according to Bailey's ideology. This disease model of these traits has led him to "gay gene" and "gay germ" hypotheses about causation. This section explores Bailey's links to the eugenics movement. It includes extensive quotations from his work and includes a chart of "usual suspects" who are part of this movement.

The investigation

This site is designed to complement the concurrent Investigative Report by Lynn Conway. Our research into how this book got published and promoted focuses on the following six entities.

Joseph Henry Press and the National Academies

Joseph Henry Press published this book under the auspices of the National Academies. This section documents the people accountable for this decision.

Northwestern University

J. Michael Bailey's employer. Northwestern faculty, administration, and students have had a range of responses to Bailey's work and the charges leveled against him. This section documents these reactions.

Clarke Institute (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health)

This Toronto mental institution is home base for most of Bailey's collaborators and is heavily involved in the North American eugenics movement. It is widely considered by gender-variant people and experts who work with them as out of touch and regressive.

Human Biodiversity Institute

This conservative-run eugenics think tank hopes to usher in "The Age of Galton." Francis Galton coined the term "eugenics," and this group represents a revival of the eugenics movement.

Amazon.com Reviews

In March 2004, Amazon removed 35 customer reviews of Bailey's book, all but one of which gave it the worst review possible. This had a net effect of raising his average rating a full point and giving the wrong impression that opposition to the book was evenly divided. Since that time, one or two anonymous trolls continue to add shill reviews, which are pretty easy to spot.

Lambda Literary Foundation

This group nominated Bailey for an award in February 2004, which led to immediate protests. The nomination was revoked in March 2004, the Director was ousted in 2005, and the site is currently offline.

The response

Scientific criticism and commentary

A selection of papers by academics and other experts.

Community response

The trans community has mobilized around this matter, with a wide variety of letters, published commentaries, petitions, etc.

Published commentaries on Bailey

A selection of comments from people concerned about this book and its message.

Commentaries on Anne Lawrence

Anne Lawrence is the chief apologist and collaborator with Bailey and Blanchard. Lawrence very strongly identifies as having a sex-fueled mental illness invented by Ray Blanchard. Lawrence's career and life are now spent promoting this diagnosis.

Alice Dreger's attacks on critics of J. Michael Bailey

In 2006, Bailey's coworker Alice Dreger at Northwestern University began an ongoing backlash against the populist response to Bailey's book, culminating in a one-sided hatchet job on key critics of Bailey.

Theoretical issues

A defining moment in our history: examining disease models of gender variance

LINK: My GenderTalk interview on "A defining moment"

Gender identity and expression take on different meanings within different systems of thought. Because medical technologies are available to assist in the somatic expression of these identities, several medicalized disease models of the phenomena have developed. This article examines three disease models as typically applied to those who seek feminization:

Psychosexual pathology (Bailey-Blanchard-Lawrence [BBL] model)

The author argues that the BBL model is the least scientific and most stigmatizing, tracing its roots to the eugenics movement of the 19th century.

Psychopathology (“gender identity disorder” [GID] model)

The GID model is currently considered legitimate within psychological literature and is a required diagnosis to receive access to trans health services in many places. The author reviews several problems with mental illness models, including “childhood gender nonconformity” and “transvestic fetishism,” two other “mental disorders” currently considered legitimate diagnoses. The author makes several analogies, asking readers to consider whether “racial nonconformity” or “religious identity disorder” seem legitimate as well.

Pathology (“birth defect” model)

This third metaphor of impairment describes a physical disorder rather than a mental one. The “order” implied by positioning these traits and behaviors as diseases reinforces heteronormative hierarchies. These models use scientific-sounding terminology to reinforce the social belief that the “purpose” or “function” of sex and sexuality is procreation. This leads to an examination of historic problems with anatomical thresholds for determining sex, and parallels with other bioethical debates about technologies that disrupt the “natural” order of procreative sexuality. The author suggests this is a phenomenon that is stigmatized in many cultures, and makes some suggestions for ways to consider it independently from models of sin or disease.

Introduction to taxonomies and theory

This section looks at various models of gender variance and the implications of those models.

Lighter fare

Comic relief

Some funny parodies, cartoons, and essays about this matter. I'm sure you need it by now.