Richard Green to Bailey on "Political Correctness"

Editor's note: Richard Green, M.D., J.D. is research director and consultant psychiatrist at Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic in London. During the 1960s he worked in the USA with Professor John Money and Harry Benjamin and has been involved in the treatment of transsexuals and research into transsexualism for over 35 years. He is past president of Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA), and researches medical, social and legal issues surrounding gender dysphoria.

Lynn Conway writes:

In February 2003, an exceptional Letter to the Editor by Richard Green, M.D., J.D. was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. The letter is exceptional because it was the first time 30 years that Dr. Green had written one. It is also exceptional in its timing and its possible encoded message.
 
Here Dr. Green cautions J. M. Bailey on his use of language, using the example of how the label "tomboy" for certain girls once cost him grant money. He suggests that poor use of emotionally-laden terminology might lead to funding losses from "politically correct" funding agencies.
 
If funding agencies were to ask trans women how we felt about Bailey's terminology, and about his sweeping caricatures of us, they might understand one reason why we are so outraged by Bailey. If only the funding agencies thought of transwomen as human beings, Dr. Green could then directly warn Bailey that his blanket and sweeping use of terms that are highly offensive to trans women might also cost him something.
 
Is this Letter nothing more than a hint about funding politics, and the use of the word "tomboy"? Is that motive enough to write the first such Letter in 30 years? Or is it a marker placed into the archives, just as Bailey's book was about to be published, saying: "I see it coming. I see how T's will react to Bailey's use of language about them"?
 
We can only speculate about its meaning here. We hope that it is more than a mere coaching regarding insuring funding by being politially correct, without any regard to the issue of emotional sensitivities of research subjects (much less those of the transgender community at large). Is Green here a keen observer and astute predictor of human social behavior, or is he a merely passing a few hackademic tips along to Bailey? You will have to ask Dr. Green about that.

Letter to the Editor

The "T" Word

To the Editor

I waited 30 years to write a Letter to the Editor.

I hope Bailey, Bechtold, and Berenbaum (2002) have greater fortune in conducting a longitudinal study of tomboys than I did(Green, Williams, & Gooman, 1982). After collecting data on 50 tomboys and a demographically matched non-tomboy group 20 years ago, we applied to NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) for a grant renewal to do follow-ips. At out site visit, we were scolded by a psychiatrist who said that calling a girl a "tomboy" was like calling a Black person a "nigger." So, there was no systematic follow-up.

I can, however, provide long-term follow-up on two of our former tomboys who contacted me in recent years. One is lesbian and the other evolved through lesbianism to female -to-male transsexualism. Advice to Bailey et al.: Concider a politically correct term to use for your subjects in case you are visited by the same psychiatrist who happened, like you, to be Illinois-based. John Money concocted the title "Incongruous Gender Role: Nongenital Manifestation in Pre-Pubertal Boys" for my first professorial paper (Green & Money, 1960) long before political correctness rendered us all tongue-tied. We could have called them "sissies."

REFERIENCES

Bailey, J. M., Bechtold, K. T., & Berenbaum, S. A. (2002). Who are tomboys and why should we study them? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 31, 333-341.

Green, R., & Money, J. (1960). Incongruous Gender Role: Nongenital Manifestation in Pre-Pubertal Boys. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 131, 160-168.

Green, R., Williams, K., & Goodman, M. (1982). Ninety-nine "tomboys" and "non-tomboys": Behavioral contrasts and demorgraphic similarities. Archives of Sexual behavior, 11, 247-266.

Richard Green, M.D., J.D.
Gender Identity Clinic
Department of Psychiatry
Charing Cross Hospital
Fulham Palace Road
London W6 8RF
England
e-mail: richard.green@ic.ac.uk

Christine Burns writes on the topic of Political Correctness .. and what an important figure in British trans people's treatment evidently thinks on the topic...

I've never liked the term "Political Correctness".

Terms like "well mannered", "polite", "considerate" have always seemed to me to get far closer to the roots of what such considerations are supposed to be about. To be "politically correct" is to engage the brain before opening the mouth - to consider the meaning of what you are saying in an inclusive and fair society - to differentiate personal subjectivity from professional objectivity. And what's wrong with that?

Whoever coined the term originally .. and all those who have since lined up to pour scorn on the idea by scorning the expression itself .. demonstrate to the rest of us that they think there is something inherently wrong about striving to be "correct" when practising politics.

To those people, the discipline of stopping to consider one's thoughts and prejudices before uttering them is an annoying encumbrance - a tedious distraction when they ought to be getting on with more important things. People's feelings and the dismissal of their lives don't matter if they stand in the way of their work.

Such people become angry and defensive when parallels are drawn between their thought processes and those of tyrants and bullies. And what is the difference? Democracy is a sentimental encumbrance to be scorned if you are busily intent on putting your ambitions before others. Democracy is for wimps!

Always bear that in mind. When someone talks contemptuously about "Political Correctness" they are saying that they have no real time for consideration of the impact of their words and views or interests on others on every plane - presumably because they consider those things to matter less than their own interest. They feel that being hurt by what they do is the victim's problem, not the agressor's and that any view opposing that behaviour is evidence that "Political Correctness has gone mad".

Bear those thoughts in mind therefore when reading the published advice from the head of Britain's largest Gender Identity Clinic to J M Bailey in "The Archives of Sexual Behavior" in February of this year. This is a topic which has clearly aroused the good professor so much that after 30 years he felt moved to write his very first letter to the editor. Andalmost as though in recognition of the significance of that move, the editor placed his letter at the top of page 1. Richard Green's advice when considering how to refer to one's research subjects is to worry about the possible effects upon ... your funding.

Note ... Not the respect for the human beings whose lives are reduced to mere data for the next paper to advance your career.

No... The advice is clear. That consideration is not number one. But the bank balance is. For without the funding there would be no Richard Green's and no J M Bailey's financed to make a career out of objectifying others. And that would be such a terrible thing, wouldn't it?

Christine Burns
Trans Rights Campaigner
Manchester, UK
May 5th 2003