Guest review by Evelyn* of "The Man Who Would be Queen"

* Name changed to protect her privacy.

Editor's note:

In March 2003, Northwestern University psychologist J. Michael Bailey published The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism. Crafted and marketed in ways influenced by academic racists who use scientific-sounding arguments to claim sexual minorities and people who display gender variance are "evolutionary mistakes." This essay is part of a larger Bailey-Blanchard-Lawrence clearinghouse.

Evelyn is a transsexual woman in her mid-20’s who lives stealth (a term in our community for women who live without divulging their history). Her analysis of Bailey’s book opens up a description of our community that allows for tendencies and generalizations beyond the “male sexuality” which Bailey patronizingly ascribes as our motivation and the basis of our social structure.

Evelyn makes some excellent anecdotal observations regarding the social position of visibly gender-variant women (“non-passers,” as she calls them), who by their visibility are taken to be typical by those outside our community, even though they are not. These visibly gender-variant women are in fact avoided by many women like Evelyn who have the option of stealth.

A reader asks: "What do you mean by 'visibly gender variant'? It's not like it's a quality that's either held absolutely or not held at all, and I don't know of anyone who hasn't at some point thought they looked visibly trans."

"Visibly gender variant" is a subjective term based on your perception by others and how they define gender roles. I plan to show how this comes in conflict with strict definitions being bandied about as if they are "objective." Many want to cast this argument in terms of self-identity, but self-identity does not occur in a vacuum and must be reconciled with our place in the world. It's all very complicated, but it's what used to be called (and still is called) "non-passing." Maybe another way to think about it is "involuntarily out."

For more on this, see:

Gender Variance Model (PDF file: requires reader)

http://www.gender.org/resources/dge/gea02006.pdf

Guide to Using the Gender Variance Model (PDF file: requires reader)

http://www.gender.org/resources/dge/gea02007.pdf

Because these visibly gender-variant women bear the brunt of society’s intolerance (an intolerance which is also reflected in the microcosm of our community), they are naturally the most interested in seeking legal protection and legitimacy. Some of these “non-passers” feel inadequate to those who are accepted without question in their chosen gender. They may try to ingratiate themselves with this group by claiming they are just like what used to be called “true transsexuals.” That term itself shows the obstacles these people have faced in the past.

Other visibly gender-variant women ingratiate themselves by putting up support sites that cater to the common interests of all trans women: our desire for varying degrees of physical modification. This may explain the focus on vaginoplasty and hormones to the detriment of socialization on sites of self-professed "autogynephiles."

Personally, I have no problem with anyone getting whatever they want done to themselves, but when "autogynephiles" start claiming that their motivations are also mine or claim they’re just like me, I have to take issue. I don’t ascribe motivations to them, and they should not feel entitled to do so to me, because they are not as “in the know” as they’d like to think.

In recent years, my own online efforts for the community have shifted toward providing information for women interested in the option of stealth, as a response to the new generation of young women who grew up with internet access and its wealth of information previously unavailable to women their age. In addition to being nearly unrepresented online and in academic literature, I believe they are terribly underserved by current transition-related materials online. I remember when I learned the word “transsexual” from The Book of Lists sequel at age 11. If the internet had been available back then, I suspect my transition would have had a different trajectory.

Bailey hurts these young women the most, with his assertion that they can expect sad lives devoid of the kind of love they seek, and with his reduction of our complex sexual motivations to some sort of pathetic either/or. I will not stand by and watch someone like Bailey hurt our children. Our community is full of women who were deeply harmed as children by Money, Raymond, Blanchard, and those informed by their arrogant assumptions. We are not going to watch history repeat itself again.

For source material, Bailey cruises the gender ghetto into which the visibly gender-variant are forced, while completely ignoring those who move to the gender suburbs: quiet, productive, decent, even a little boring. Important issues of race, class, education level and occupation play important roles in who gets out of this ghetto, as does sexuality. This ghetto is as more of a state of mind than a place. Unfortunately, Bailey and Jerry Springer both know that trolling for our most vulnerable members and sexualizing the humanity out of them makes for better entertainment.

We are on the cusp of seeing a vibrant, visible community of transsexual women who are out, proud, successful, and accepted as women. People like Bailey make these women stay in the shadows for now, but if enough of us raise our voices, these women will one day be able to join us openly and without fear of being stigmatized, in a world free of the bigoted worldview Bailey holds.

Finally, while being accepted as female is the goal of most transsexual women, being accepted as human beings is the goal of all of us.


Divided we fall: The dangers of categorizing transsexual women

by Evelyn

J. Michael Bailey’s “The Man Who Would Be Queen” has provoked a storm of outrage and controversy within the transsexual community, and with good reason. While purporting to be a serious scientific discussion of Transsexualism, it is largely a collection of lurid sexual imagery backed up by highly questionable assumptions and extremely poorly designed research studies. As many reviewers have pointed out, this book is basically a sieve. It may appear solid from a distance, up close it’s more holes than substance. However, while I think Bailey has completely misinterpreted the transsexual experience, in doing so it is possible he has actually stumbled over a couple of serious issues the TS community has ignored or avoided as too uncomfortable to discuss. These issues are things we should be discussing, if for no other reason than that not doing so leaves the door open for people like Bailey and Blanchard to misinterpret and misapply them.

One of the first things Bailey talks about in delineating his two categories is a deep division within the TS community. According to him, “homosexual transsexuals” and “autogynephilic transsexuals” are like oil and water. They avoid each other religiously, so much so that people who are aware of the existence of one type are often not aware of the existence of the other type. Now of course, his categories may be ridiculous, but in terms of the division, he is on to something. In fact, pretty much all of us know that he is on to something, even if he misunderstood it. There is a serious division in the TS community, such that one part will often want little or nothing to do with the other part. The division, of course, is between passers and non-passers. That transsexuals who pass are often uncomfortable to some degree, for a variety of reasons, around transsexuals who don’t pass is an uncomfortable truth, but it is the truth. In fact, it’s not just a single division. We categorize and rank each other relentlessly. Is it an accident that pretty much all of Lynn Conway’s “successful TS women” are passable and good looking? Or that often one of the things she lists as a success, and occasionally the only thing, is that they transitioned young? I don’t think she’s done that intentionally, and certainly not with the intent of being classist or heirarchist or whatever. I think that’s just what most if not all of us do, whether we’re aware of it or not. I do it myself. I wish I didn’t. In one sense, it’s just a reflection of the natural human tendency to judge each other by appearances. For TSs, there’s also the issue of not wanting to be outed by association. But then there’s the uncomfortable issue that many younger/passing MtF TSs find many older/non-passing MtF TSs just too masculine. I have to admit that at my support group, a lot of the older transitioners do trigger my “man in a dress” alarm, not just in the way they look but by their body language and conversation choices. I tell myself that it’s wrong to feel that way. That it’s hypocritical. I fight against it. I don’t always win. This is not simply about being politically correct and non-judgmental, it has real consequences. It fragments our community. The passers integrate as much as we can. The non-passers are left to do all the activism. I don’t know what to do about this. I don’t want to be out. I know we’re not going to achieve equality until we’re all willing to stand up and fight. Dividing ourselves encourages others to divide us for their own agendas.

Okay. So, other issues we should be talking about. Well, the big “A.” You know, "autogynephilia." It’s an uncomfortable subject. I think Bailey and Blanchard completely misinterpret what it represents. But it’s pretty clear it does exist. That "autogynephilia"/homosexuality are the either/or all-inclusive motives for transitioning is easily refuted from Blanchard’s own data. To wit: some of his androphilic subjects evidenced "autogynephilia" and some of his non-androphilic subjects did not evidence it. Also, his own data indicates that TS feelings usually precede "autogynephilic" feelings and continue after "autogynephilic" feelings recede.

Obviously "autogynephilia" doesn’t cause Transsexualism, at least as a gender condition. So, what exactly is it? Outside of Blanchard/Bailey, there appear to be two schools of thought. One holds that there are people who can correctly be described as "autogynephiles," but they are not transsexuals. They are instead a sort of fetishistic body-transvestite (although transvestite would not be the right term since they are oriented primarily towards female bodies instead of female clothes) who appropriate the tools of transition to live out their fetish, but they identify primarily as men. Lynn Conway holds this viewpoint, and goes so far as to refer to Dr. Anne Lawrence, the most visible self described "autogynephilic transsexual," as a man in her review of Bailey’s book. This is an idea worth discussing. It may even be true. But, here we go fragmenting ourselves again. I’ve never met or corresponded with Anne Lawrence. I think many of her psychological theories are kind of odd, although she’s one of the best surgery resources we have. However, from what’s on her website she clearly identifies as female. To refer to her as a man is really playing just as dirty as Bailey does. Maybe her acceptance of Bailey’s "autogynephilia" theory and her self identification as female are inherently contradictory, but no one else has the right to decide that for her. The only person who can determine Anne Lawrence’s gender identity is Anne Lawrence.

author's note: Lynn Conway has now clarified her description of Anne Lawrence to say that she is a man under Bailey's theory even if she doesn't describe herself that way. I don't want to give people the impression I'm dissing Lynn.

The other school of thought holds that "autogynephilia," strictly defined as the tendency to be aroused by the image of oneself as female, does sometimes exist within transsexuals, but rather than a cause, it is more of a by-product of the repression of transsexual feelings. This would seem to be more consistent with Blanchard’s own findings. The young TS girl, terrified to express her feelings, represses them. But, they have to come out somewhere, so sometimes they get tangled in her sex drive. Once she starts transitioning, however, the repression goes away, and the "autogynephilic" feelings go with it. Maybe some older transitioning TSs decide to identify as "autogynephilic" because they feel that describing themselves as having always felt female inside isn’t something they’re entitled to do when they look around and see other TSs who are so much more passable than they are, and who didn’t live so long as men. Yes, it sucks, but appearance is a big deal. On the other hand, maybe if people wait too long to transition their TS feelings finally can’t be untangled from their sex drives. I don’t know. I don’t know if any of this comes close to the truth. But, this is a conversation we should all be having, online and in support groups. If we don’t take control of the conversation, Bailey and his ilk will.

In sum, yes, Bailey is wrong, but he also dances around issues we haven’t addressed. We need to address them, mainly for ourselves but also so that people won’t get the idea that Bailey is bravely airing the dirty little secrets we’re afraid to talk about in public, and that’s the only reason we’re mad at him. I was lucky in that my therapist didn’t share Bailey’s obsessive need to categorize, but there are many out there who do. We need to change their minds. But to do that, we need to be more clear about who we are and where we’re going. If we don’t so it ourselves, Blanchard, Bailey, & Co. will be more than happy to do it for us.

It's not so much categorizing people per se that I object to. There are many legitimate categories I fit into: female, transsexual, brunette, right handed, etc. etc. etc. But when we sinful human beings (YES! I'm a Christian! Run for your lives!!!!!!!!!) start categorizing each other, there are a couple of pitfalls we often fall into. One is to assume that once you've found a convenient category to place someone else in, you know all you need to know about them. The other is when we invent extremely narrow, closed off categories and try to shoehorn whole groups of people into them, regardless of whether they actually fit and however they themselves may feel. Bailey has thoughtfully provided us with letter-perfect examples of both.

A slight disclaimer: I don’t much participate in on-line forums, so maybe everyone there is already talking about all this and I’m just talking out of my butt. But I’ve been in more than one support group, and everybody there seemed very reluctant to go anywhere near these issues.

Another disclaimer: I’m not trying to single out Lynn Conway for any reason. Let’s just say that out of pages and pages of extremely helpful, well written material on her website, there are two little things I disagree with. Considering how many other sites on the web make me want to vomit, that’s unusually low.

Update 4/24/03:

My discomfort with some non-passing TSs has nothing to do with any sense that any of them are attempting to "ingratiate" themselves with me. As far as I can tell, it really just comes from my own internal fears. Andrea may have experienced visibly gender-variant women attempting to ingratiate themselves with her, I haven't.

Also, I think that some in our community are being too hard on Anne Lawrence. Her website does present material to the effect that in many, if not most, and perhaps even all cases, "autogynephilia" may well be a side effect rather than a cause. I really don't want to go near the "are 'autogynephiles' really transsexuals" debate, because I think it's more needless fracturing of the community, and I don't get turned on by my own femininity so I couldn't say for sure anyway. The only thing I really disagree with her about is her uncritical endorsement of Bailey's book and it's all-encompassing, either/or premise.

I really hope this whole thing will blow over, after all, anybody who managed to squeak through Research Methods 101 should be able to tell Bailey seriously biased his data. (Note to Bailey: recheck the meaning and implications for reliability of "randomized samples." Also, look up "accusing everyone who disagrees with you of lying") If it doesn't, the thought of this theory becoming the standard diagnostic criteria for transsexualism, and the effect that would have on the next generation of TSs, scares the hell out of me. Plus, I don't want to have to invent masturbation fantasies or gay cruising stories to get my surgery letters.

We need to prioritize. Bailey and his book represent a direct threat to our struggle for equal rights. Let's be honest, we're starting to finally make progress with equal rights legislation in some areas, but people are never going to vote to give employment and housing discrimination protection to male sex perverts, and that's what this book encourages people to see us as, no matter how "compassionate" the tone or how many professional gatekeepers protest that they still consider that a "valid" reason to transition, not to mention that this premise invalidates ALL post-transition TS marriages.

I'm going to be out over $70,000 for all my transition expenses before it's done because some nutty academic with an axe to grind wrote a ridiculous book about people she really knew nothing about 24 years ago and got insurance companies to largely refuse us coverage. Being more "compassionate" in tone makes The Man Who Would Be Queen in some ways even more of a danger than The Transsexual Empire, whatever the author's intention may be. That's the danger. Blanchard, from what I can tell, (and I might be wrong) is mainly a threat to people forced to go through the Clarke. At this point I think all Anne Lawrence is really guilty of is inconsistency. But that's just my opinion.

Update update:

Ok. I made a mistake. I will admit it freely in the hopes that I may start a trend in this debate. Anne Lawrence is going beyond simple inconsistency. She declares herself "autogynephilic," great. She wants to promote her own beliefs on this topic, fine. She disparages everyone who disagrees with her and implies we’re all deceiving ourselves by not buying into her worldview, no. That crosses the line. In the spirit of attempting to show that we presumed “transsexual fundamentalists” are actually being far the more reasonable side in this debate, consider the following true email exchange:

To: alawrence@mindspring.com

Dr. Lawrence,

First of all I should thank you for putting such excellent SRS information up on your site. It's helped me a lot in deciding which surgeon to use. However, your treatment of the 'autogynephilia' subject concerns me, particularly your uncritical endorsement of "The Man Who Would Be Queen" and your characterization of the book's detractors. I'll be honest, I absolutely loathe this book's characterization of transsexual women, and I think its widespread acceptance would doom any chance we'll have of gaining equal rights for a very long time. The actual concept of 'autogynephilia' isn't something I have a problem with, and from reading and corresponding with some other TS women who have put up negative reviews of the book on their sites, I don't think the concept per se is really what they're objecting to either, although some people may be. If you want to define yourself as 'autogynephilic,' I have neither the right nor the desire to stop you. What I take very strong issue with is Bailey's either/or, all-encompassing theory of all TS women as being motivated by an inability to attract male partners as effeminate gay men or as men sexually obsessed with the image of themselves as women. If that really is the motivation for some of us, fine, I won't say it makes them any less authentic. The problem, which in my view turns this book from science into junk science, is Bailey insisting that his theory accounts for absolutely all cases of transsexualism, and his insistence that anyone who presents contrary data is lying. I'm not a research professional, although I have taken research methods classes at the graduate and undergraduate level. I spotted the serious flaws in his methodology right away. He has clearly taken small, non-representative, nonrandomized samples and generalized them to the entire population. From my own experience, and that of many other TSs I know personally or have talked to, there are simply too many of us who don't fit either of his extremely narrow, non-representative categories... [personal info deleted]… From what I've read it seems that a lot of people over the years have tried to contact Bailey with similar stories, and he always dismisses them as liars. If you are determined to weed out any data that doesn't fit your predetermined conclusion, you are not practicing science… [personal info deleted]… If some people out there do [fit], fine. But to characterize anyone who doesn't as a liar is simply wrong. To base a generalization of an entire population on some prostitutes and people in gay bars is simply wrong. If I had presented my research methods professor with a study designed like these, he would have flunked me in 2 seconds, and I would have deserved it. I don't know why a respected professional would do something like that. I don't want to ascribe motivations to someone I've never met. From his earlier characterizations of gay people in the beginning of the book and what's on his website, it may be he's just obsessed with gay stereotypes. "May be" being the key phrase. I don't know him, and he doesn't know me, so his ascribing motivation to me and implicitly calling me a liar just doesn't seem fair, or objective, or scientific. If you want to promote the book as being able to help some TS women validate their condition, that's your right, and it may even help some, but I think at the very least you owe the rest of us some sort of disclaimer.

Evelyn

Anne replied, thanking me for my letter. She agreed that the cover was offensive, and said she might have put some things differently, but she still thought the book was a valuable contribution.

To: alawrence@mindspring.com

The title and cover are extremely offensive, but that's beside the point. It's the science that is bad, and the dogmatic insistence that it applies in all cases, and the implicit labeling of most if not all of us as liars. I am lucky enough to be in the position that people don't need to know I'm TS unless I want them to know. If this theory becomes the widely accepted either/or definition for being TS, I'd be much more reluctant to reveal that information even to people who have become close friends, because I'd be afraid they'd assume I was just a cock starved gay boy or... whatever it is that Cher is. I know that this is an academic book and will hopefully not be read too widely outside the field, but seriously, if it was, we could probably expect passable TSs to become more in danger of being raped, cause if the wrong guy finds out, he might remember he read somewhere that we're just gay boys starved for sex. Sure, that happens already, but this just fans the flames. In the past, we often had to lie to our gatekeepers to fit into the extremely small box of acceptability for a transsexual diagnosis. Is Blanchard really to be all that commended for giving us two little boxes to lie ourselves into instead of one? Cause that's what I would have had to do if my therapist had bought into all this. What would having to invent (from my perspective) weird masturbation fantasies or stories of endless gay cruising to someone I was supposed to be establishing trust with have done to my mental health? Like I said, if this works for you, great. But I really do wish you could put a disclaimer in your recommendation for the book to the effect that the author's assertion that his theory covers all cases no matter what is completely without foundation.

Evelyn

Well, no disclaimer’s been forthcoming yet. I really can’t figure this out. These people are supposed to be scientists. NOBODY KNOWS how widespread this “autogynephilia” stuff really is among people who want SRS. What is the real hard evidence so far? As far as I can tell: some studies at the Clarke Institute, a handful of people at a sex drenched TS confab, “Cher,” and emails Anne Lawrence has received. It’s interesting that Anne Lawrence herself said that close to half the emails she received on this topic appeared to be completely fantasy based themselves. And while at least some of them are almost certainly real, how do we know that some of them aren’t just people who can write more convincing fantasies? Hasn’t the fake TS web site phenomenon taught us anything? Some people apparently get off on passing themselves off as TSs. Call it autotransophilia if you want, although personally, I’d say they’re probably just some TV fetishists who’ve found a new outlet. As for the Clarke, well, it’s the Clarke for crying out loud. Never been there, but if they kept me waiting for years while they made up their minds if I was really TS I think I’d end up telling them any stupid thing they wanted to hear if they’d JUST GIVE ME THE DAMN HORMONES! Sure Dr. Blanchard, I beat off in skirts all the time. I’ll do it right here in your office, if you want.

So much for wanting to be a voice of reason. Okay, to be fair, most people Blanchard’s diagnosed as "autogynephilic" probably didn’t go nearly that far in behavior, all building robot men and such. Unfortunately, as some are pointing out, when you start stretching the definition of this term to cover more and more people, it gets to the point where it really doesn’t mean anything, at least from a scientific/medical point of view. Calling one’s drive to be female “a river that flows in your soul,” as Kendra does, is a perfectly valid philosophical point of view, but not much of a scientific descriptor for the sex drive. B-B-L just seem to see sex behind everything. I love all my friends, but I don’t, you know, love all my friends. I like being able to interact with people as a woman. Anne Lawrence may call that, for her, an aspect of her sexuality. Is it that way for me? No. And don’t tell me that it is, because at the end of the day I’m the only one in a position to know. And if I had wanted sex at a gay bar, I’d have just gone and gotten it. I mean, seriously, I don’t think it would have been that hard.

Update 5/19

(Why not trei a holidey in Sweden this yer?)

Well, what do you know? I made another mistake. After all the shouting and the hoopla, at the end of the day, the entire body of scientific support for the Blanchard/Bailey model of transsexualism boils down to:

a single study

conducted 14 years ago

at the most notoriously regressive gender clinic in the western hemisphere

which has never been replicated.

I really wanted to keep this all nice and objective, but I just have to say it:

What... the HELL... is WRONG... with these people?

Oddly enough, people thinking the above question about people like us is what led to this whole mess in the first place. GID is in the DSM simply because we're different than most other people. There is in the final sense no other reason. It's been 30 years since homosexuality was removed and still the lightbulb's never gone off.

--Evelyn

© 2003 by the original author. All Rights Reserved.

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