Gordon Walker on transsexualism

Robin Pinnel is a publicist at Joseph Henry Press. They added the following review to the JHP site in August 2003.

Parts in blue are being used by JHP.

Original newsletter:

www.psychsociety.com.au/units/interest_groups/gay_lesbian/glip_news_august03.pdf (PDF: requires reader)

Contact information for the reviewer:

National Convener
Mr Gordon Walker
Department of Psychology, Monash University
PO Box 197, Caulfied East, VIC, 3145
Tel: (03) 9903 2728
Fax: (03) 9903 2501
Email: gordon.walker@med.monash.edu.au


GLIP News
Gay and Lesbian Issues and Psychology
An Interest Group of the Australian Psychological Society Ltd.
Volume 2, Issue 2 August 2003 page 5

by Gordon Walker, Convener

Book review: Bailey, J.M. (2003).
The man who would be queen: The science of gender-bending and transsexualism.
Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press.

This is a book, written by a leading researcher in the field, is about understanding sexual orientation and identity. Although the author makes much use of research, this is not a textbook; any educated person with an interest in this topic would find the material very accessible. The stories of various boys and men are woven together with the discussion of research to create a highly interesting and very worthwhile book. In fact once I started I had difficulty putting down! Broadly speaking it is an examination of the relationship between male homosexuality and femininity. As the author says, to say that femininity and homosexuality are closely bound together has been politically incorrect for some time now, but nevertheless factually correct. The book then goes on to demonstrate this across the sexual orientation spectrum.

The book is therefore a challenge to the postmodern position on gender, although the author clearly occupies the middle ground between social constructionism and essentialism. This is demonstrated in his discussion of feminine boys and of those labeled gender identity disordered (GID) in particular. In looking at the debate between those on the left who want them left alone to be as feminine as they want to be and those on the extreme right who view homosexuality as arrested psychosexual development, he draws the reader's attention to research that shows that therapy directed at reducing femininity in highly feminine boys reduces the number who ultimately seek a sex-change, and therefore increases the number who as adults identify as gay. He suggests that an alternative to this would be to allow such boys to become women very early (pre-puberty) so that they can have better outcomes as women.

The author uses a range of research to clearly challenge the view that pronounced femininity in boys is the result of socialisation. The question of where does extreme femininity come from is also examined

Similarities and differences between gay and straight men are also examined. Broadly speaking, although gay men have interests more in line with those of women, in attitudes to sex and the body homosexual and heterosexual men were shown to be essentially the same; the differences in behaviour come about because heterosexually men are basically constrained in their behaviour by women. The author provides a very accessible and readable account of the sometimes confusing array of studies that have attempted to account for sexual orientation and draws the conclusion that there is some fundamental biological influence that transcends culture. The last section of the book focuses on transsexualism, and produces a compelling argument for recognising two main types: homosexual and non-homosexual types, with the latter being erotically obsessed with the image of themselves as women. A very much more complex picture emerges than the popular image of a woman being trapped inside a man's body.

The great value of this book lies in the way it has brought together a wide range of research on important questions relating to sexual orientation. This gives the reader a wonderful opportunity to reflect further on what being other than heterosexual might mean.

Gordon Walker
Department of Psychology
School of Psychology, Psychiatry and Psychological Medicine
Monash University

Letter to Dr. Walker from WOMAN Network

"We write to express our concern that the Special Interest Group on Gay and Lesbian Issues of the Australian Psychological Society has been implicated in support for the writings of Prof J Michael Bailey of Northwestern University.

In this respect, we draw your attention to the following quote from GLIP News, August 2003:

"...any educated person with an interest in this topic would find the material very accessible. The stories of various boys and men are woven together with the discussion of research to create a highly interesting and very worthwhile book. In fact once I started I had difficulty putting down! ... The author provides a very accessible and readable account of the sometimes confusing array of studies that have attempted to account for sexual orientation and draws the conclusion that there is some fundamental biological influence that transcends culture. ... The great value of this book lies in the way it has brought together a wide range of research on important questions relating to sexual orientation. This gives the reader a wonderful opportunity to reflect further on what being other than heterosexual might mean."

The book referred to is "The Man Who Would Be Queen" which was published under the imprimateur of the National Academies of Sciences. It has brought huge condemnation for its inaccurate and highly offensive portrayal of transsexualism and the people who are affected by it. This has culminated recently in legal action against the author, who is accused of failing to obtain the necessary informed consents of the subjects of his material. Importantly, the scientific veracity of the work has now been shattered in a most public way at the recent IASR Conference in the United States.

Bailey seized on earlier work by Ken Zucker of the somewhat infamous Clarke Institute, and categorised us as either excessively homosexual males or autogynaephilic males. He deliberately excluded the anecdotal evidence of those, the vast majority, who did not fit with his theory and ignored completely the prevailing hard science pointing to the somatic nature of transsexualism. The fall out from this scientific fraud is gaining momentum and it would be very unfortunate if Monash University were to be included in this.

You can gauge the international responses to the issue by visiting these websites:

http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/LynnsReviewOfBaileysBook.html

http://www.tsroadmap.com/info/bailey-blanchard-lawrence.html

One matter of very real concern is the way in which the religious right has already seized on Bailey's writings to further justify their rejection of transsexualism as a valid condition of human sexual formation and their condemnation of those affected by it. These same condemnations will undoubtedly be directed at gay and lesbian people to the detriment of us all.

We therefore ask you to consider repudiating Bailey's work and ensure your next newsletter contains a suitable disclaimer."

It is reported that Dr. Walker is making inquiries about the matter and will respond after he's had time to review the matter.