Kathleen Becker on "autogynephilia"

On 24 April 2003, Kathleen Becker wrote the following Amazon review of The Man Who Would Be Queen by J. Michael Bailey:

Gritty and Honest

Reviewer: Kathleen Becker, DVM, MEng - Scientist, Engineer, Veterinarian, Rescue Technician, Transsexual from Kentucky

Bailey's work is gritty, controversial, and sure to create a fire storm in the transsexual community. Many will see themselves reflected in the pages, but only after a gut wrenching bout of deep and honest introspection. However, caution must be taken, as with any reference working on the forefront of developing understanding, it cannot be taken as the final word, but rather an opening salvo for further discussion, debate, and research that will either reinforce or refute the evidence. Ultimately, as difficult as it might have been to read, Bailey's work has been a beacon of light to this conflicted soul.

I corresponded with Kathleen in June 2003.

You are one of four people of whom I am currently aware who are willing to be out about having a paraphilic reason for seeking transition and genital modification. As such, I would like to get more information on your experiences and philosophy regarding transition.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Kathleen got back to me with the following thoughtful reply excerpted below (emphasis hers). It is interesting to note that in addition to openness about her feelings, Kathleen mentions she is another "type" based on psychological profiling (Myers-Briggs "INTJ"). As I noted in The Anne Who Would Be Queen, there appears to be considerable interest by some people to be classified with others based on what they feel is a scientific system, as if this explains or legitimizes their feelings and actions.

Hi Andrea!

With regard to the review of Michael Bailey's book, I must first state that it may not be possible to adequately state precisely my feelings within the limits of the written word and this E-mail. And secondly, there are areas where I disagree with Bailey and other areas where I do not feel he has gone far enough. Thus, the center of my review suggesting caution in reading the book, and perhaps not taking everything as rote.

I have known all my life that I have been just not "quite right". Cross dressing, imagining myself as female and placing myself in mental roles, and the classic having difficultly trying to relate with women . . . as a man (although I have always done great as a friend, and in groups have found myself gravitating to the women where I felt more at ease.) And even having an interest in SRS and not understanding why. I had always heard that transsexuals were young, gay, and effeminate, and always knew they were female. I did not fit that standard mold.

In September of 2001, I was browsing through Anne Lawrences site when I happened upon some of the excerpts from Baileys book. To make a long story short, I read my biography from those pages. I was relieved that I finally learned that others have been down the same road. It gave me some validation and direction. And for that, I HAVE to give Bailey credit.

One of the things I have been trying very hard to do is to remember my past as it was, and not reshape it into something more pleasing as I see other persons often do. Doing that has allowed me to realize that this has always been with me, under the surface. And I also feel that being of the temperament type that I am (Myers-Briggs "INTJ") kept me from being able to enunciate my feelings for so many years.

Here is where I deviate from Bailey. Yes, it does hurt me to think that what I have might simply be a paraphilia. However, with the same level of introspection that I have used before, I have taken a lot of time thinking on this issue. Have I had feelings in the past that were consistent with autogynephilia? The answer to that is "yes". BUT, having been on hormones for about a year, with testosterone now quite low and manageable, many of those specific feelings have indeed waned. (And I think that Lawrence has reported that persons post SRS have reported similar changes.) I feel very strongly that autogynephilia is driven by testosterone. What has remained is still the feeling of rightness within a female body. And what I definitely have, and have always have had, are many other mental characteristics that are more predominately considered female, such as deep compassion, caring, and understanding the female point of view. So I feel that autogynephilia is just ONE of MANY components of the total transsexual experience, expressed in a variable amount in each individual, and it is driven by testosterone (thus, the reason that female-to-male transsexuals do not have a similar experience).

One of the other reviewers mentioned the "various shades of grey". I strongly feel that before one can know "grey", they must first know "black" and know "white". Therefore, even though Bailey's book does spell things out in a black and white context, I feel the shades of grey will be filled in eventually.

Andrea, I hope that this is helpful. I know your position is different, and I do respect that. But I do speak from the heart with total honesty. This whole thing has been a tough pill for me to swallow. And for this to be happening while I am making large advances in disaster preparedness on a national task force and taking a very high profile position on these matters seems to have put everything on a collision course. Yet, I know I can no longer live the life of a man, and would take a bullet before being handed that sentence. But some days I just wonder if I can make it.

Again, this E-mail can do little justice to my total thoughts, which have been intense for years. Ultimately, we are all struggling with a condition that none of us asked for. And yet, if asked if I would choose to be "normal" and take on male characteristics and thinking, I would rather be transsexual for all of the rich experience it has offered me, despite the high social price tag. I feel blessed to be allowed to know things most other persons can never know.

I would love to get to meet you someday!

With deepest respects,
Kathleen

Kathleen sent the following postscipt later that day:

Of COURSE E-mail is not adequate! I keep thinking of more to say!I can state that at one time, when autogynephilia seemed to be at the centerpiece for me, at least with what I saw in myself, SRS WAS a central, primary goal. Now that testosterone is gone, and autogynephilia has waned, my goal for transition is just living full time and being accepted as female. I may never afford SRS, but that is no longer a priority anyway. This would align with my thinking (and with most others) that a person is transsexual first, that happening before birth as suggested by the brain studies. But I feel that the autogynephilic tendencies are added as a result of testosterone. But for some of us, who cannot understand WHY we were the way we were, the autogynephilia is all we saw at the time.

I could discuss this all day, but I HAVE to get to work!!

Again, thank you for taking an interest in what I have to say. I do not totally support Bailey, yet I feel what he has to say is important. I'm hoping someday there may be clarification on the origins and all the variations of gender identity. But where I am today, it doesn't really matter, as I know deep in my heart that I MUST transition to stay alive.

Kathleen

Thanks to Kathleen for sharing her thoughts!

Above: Kathleen at work at her emergency veterinary service.