Willow Arune

“When people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.” [1]

Willow Arune is a former lawyer who lives on disability in Canada. Arune is also a nudist who claims to be an "escaped person under Thai law" and who is best known as a USENET troll on transgender newsgroups.

Arune is also a frequent defender of Ray Blanchard at Canada's notorious Clarke Institute, and Arune is a prominent supporter of a disease model of gender variance called "autogynephilia," made up by Blanchard in 1989. [2] Blanchard defines this sex-fueled mental illness as "a man’s paraphilic tendency to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman." [3] Blanchard claims this disease explains gender variant behavior among "nonhomosexuals." Many believe it is a spurious diagnosis akin to "nymphomania" and other discredited illnesses made up to pathologize socially unacceptable behavior.

Blanchard and his proteges J. Michael Bailey and Anne Lawrence frequently suggest that a “handful” or “subgroup” of trans people have concerns about describing this behavior as a psychosexual pathology. This is a blatant distortion. In reality, the opposite is true. Most gender-variant people, their service providers, and experts on gender variance have expressed concern about this diagnosis. The tiny but vocal minority who base their identities on this diagnosis are a small group, typically older divorced people who can't or won't adapt to culturally proscribed appearance and behavior based on gender roles. Their ideology and outlook is akin to that of transgenderist Virginia Prince, but they insist on the primacy of genital modification as the signifier of their identity as female. Most also identify through metaphors of disease and impairment, which is why this concept appeals to them.

Beyond Arune and about ten people on an "autogynephilia" support group Arune started in 2003 (and inadvertently destroyed in 2005 due to Arune's incompetence), there is little community support for this diagnosis. Arune was one of the three people responsible for about two-thirds of all the content on the group. In fact, about one in three posts on that forum were Arune's, mostly unoriginal cut-and-paste jobs from other publications and newsgroups and attacks on people Arune didn't like.

Arune is well-known both on and off the internet as a prodigious kook. Arune has probably been kicked off more email lists and out of more transgender groups than any other transgenderist in North America. Arune enjoys trolling and baiting people online "to get a quotable quote," [4] which then gets used as evidence that Arune is being attacked.

Shortly after publication of J. Michael Bailey's defamatory book The Man Who Would Be Queen in 2003, Arune began a quest to replace Anne Lawrence as the poster child for "autogynephilia." Both seek validation from clinical diagnoses, because neither get much approval beyond "approval" letters they sought and received from therapists to qualify for vaginoplasty. Like Anne Lawrence, Arune has an interest in nudism, and both appear to have other erotic interests considered unusual or socially unacceptable in many places. Given Arune's more florid behavior, it is more likely that the people promulgating this diagnosis will choose Arune over Lawrence as exemplifying this spurious disease. Lawrence's only saving grace for retaining the crown may be a combination of florid behavior and academic credentials.

Of special interest to Arune are matters in Thailand, where Arune claims to have spent time in jail on a forgery charge. My guess is that there is more to be learned about Arune's alleged illegal misadventures in Thailand, which also includes an alleged sexual assault. Arune told a reporter in 1999 that "his therapist suggested becoming a woman." [5] Following this suggestion, Arune was able to manipulate the Canadian health system to indulge an erotic interest in vaginoplasty. Arune is apparently drawing Canadian welfare, while being able-bodied enough to spend 12 to 16 hours a day devouring and regurgitating anything related to transgenderism. Arune seems to have a compulsion toward hoarding, especially with online materials, books about transgenderism, and animals. This hoarding impulse seems connected to the amount of energy Arune spends on this topic, and Arune's identification with a disease that characterizes Arune's behavior as a sexual compulsion.

Arune attacks BBL critics

As the Bailey-Blanchard-Lawrence (BBL) matter unfolded in 2003, Arune and I had agreed to carry on private correspondence after the Bailey book came out. Arune stopped honoring this agreement once Arune got a "quotable quote" from me. I asked Arune to confirm or deny allegations that Arune is a registered sex offender. Arune immediately published this far and wide as evidence of something or another, prompting me to ignore this type of trolling from that point on. As expected, Arune's trolling continued to escalate the insults in hopes of regaining the attention I'd been giving Arune, including comparing me to Osama bin Laden [6] as well as all sorts of other inflammatory personal attacks.

Arune has tried to get a number of other prominent transwomen to pay attention to various rants, goading Professor Dierdre McCloskey and other critics of Bailey's book with childish taunts and mockery.

Arune also appears to have a vendetta against Professor Lynn Conway for presenting a wide array of Transsexual Women's Successes from around the world. In November 2002, about four months before Bailey's book came out, Arune sent the following complaint to Professor Conway, stating that post-transition success is "not typical" and that most people who contact Arune "are not great scholars" who lack the intellect to have realistic expectations:

While I appreciate your website and believe that it is good to have success stories available for these people, I truly believe a big warning should be attached. Such would state that the TS women shown are *not typical* and any financial success after transition is rare.

Not only from my own personal experience, but also on the few statistical reports available, TS women suffer from great prejudice in the workplace. This is acknowledged in every book on transsexuality. Generally, I advise those that seek me out that they should be prepared to loose everything - their families and friends, their job and career, their assets and more. Only if their need is great enough to risk all of that should they go forward. I also advise them that the chances of "passing" totally are minimal as is the case in the majority of transsexual women that I know. So after I dampen their enthusiasm and get them thinking, they head off and find your site. "Willow, you are all wrong!!!," they say. "We can pass and still be successful. We saw Lynn's page on the Web".

Please, amend your site so that potential TS patients are not lured into transition by unrealistic dreams. Many of these people are not great scholars; they need a caution in big, bold letters. [7]

In what appears to be a case of narcissistic projection, Arune's "personal experience" with failure post-transition becomes the standard trajectory, when in fact by any objective standard, Arune is near the lower bound of what anyone might realistically expect after transition.

Since Professor Conway disregarded Arune's suggestion in 2002, Arune has resorted to a series of lies and misrepresentations, including claims that Professor Conway had allegedly suggested that a woman who started transition over a certain age was an aging crossdresser. Professor Conway has stated many times that this is a bogus accusation on Arune's part.

Here's an example where Arune claims Professor Conway transitioned at the same age as Arune:

They had maybe 50 years of being males and being forceful and aggressive and shouting to get what they want as men. They're only a few years, relatively, into their lives as women when they have these strong feelings that Bailey is wrong, but they don't yet know how to control feelings the way a woman would, so they go about arguing against him in a very male way. I know that's the worst insult I can aim at a fellow tranny, but look, these people like McCloskey and Conway are used to being powerful in their respective occupations, and they demand to be listened to. [8]

This is typical of Arune's tactics. Lynn Conway began transition in her 20's and finished by age 30, after which she started over in her field in steath, because of the staggering prejudice at the time. Professor Conway had been summarily fired by IBM when she transitioned in 1968, despite being one of their most promising researchers. Luckily, she was able to succesfully move on into her new life after that, and then make many of the advances in computing for which she is now famous.

Getting back to the quotation, it was of course Arune who had maybe 50 years of being male before "his therapist suggested becoming a woman." Much of the rest of the quotation also sounds like projection on Arune's part: only a few years into transition, arguing in a "very male way" (whatever that means), demanding to be listened to...

Professor Conway has also prepared a report describing Arune's involvement in this matter, which exposes the type of sleazy, dirty tricks Arune uses to lash out at perceived enemies.

Arune's collaborations with other kooks

In May 2003, Arune teamed up with Lisanne Anderson, aka Lori Anjou, to create an online "autogynephilia" support group. See those pages for more on the similarities in behavior and outlook between these two. Arune and this group were both kicked off Yahoo for violations of Terms of Service in 2005, allowing Arune to retain the crown of biggest transgender netkook, and adding another group to the long list of groups and services which had to remove Arune for trolling and baiting.

In December 2004, Arune teamed up with yet another unstable kook named Kimberly Williams, a deeply troubled person who became obsessed with the idea that I was "pagejacking" Williams' website, despite my attempts by phone and email to explain that Williams was very confused. Arune and Williams began working together, spreading lies that I had filed for bankruptcy and had fabricated my academic degrees. Williams may actually be even more incompetent and obnoxious than Arune, which is no small feat. Williams has referred to me with Nazi epithets and claims I am using several aliases. Williams also brags in a self-published autobiography about terrorizing an immobilized hospital patient, snatching the patient's wig off and swirling it in the toilet before putting it back on the patient's head. Williams then brags about moving the call button just out of reach, leaving the patient helpless. [9] Arune and Williams are certainly cut from the same cloth, so it was no surprise when they began working together to attack me, nor is it a surprise that Arune continues to cite Williams as a reliable source of corroborating information. This incompetent and libellous collaboration led to the demise of Arune's support group on Yahoo in 2005.

In March 2005, Arune's continued escalation of personal attacks on me led to yet another incompetent decision. Arune set up a Yahoo group devoted to insulting, harassing and cyberstalking me, so Yahoo removed both this new group and Arune's older group for violations of their Terms of Service. Though Arune was obviously the only person to blame for this incident, Arune was unable to see that this was yet another instance where Arune's incompetence led to a bad decision, just like the fateful trip to Thailand that landed Arune in jail and subsequently triggered Arune's belief that Arune is a transsexual. I had not had much interaction with people at this level of incompetence previously, and it is remarkable how many of them I have come into contact with as a result of their support of Bailey and his book. In many ways, it's probably good that they don't understand how they appear to others. Arune has vowed to bring this "support" site back on another service, but for now, it's just more evidence of Arune's incompetence.

As with most of these fringe element kooks and trolls, Arune's personal attacks are better left ignored. Some of these kooks will escalate things to cyberstalking and violence when provoked. The Registrar's Office at my alma mater had to update their cyberstalking policy because of Arune's activities [10]. I recommend only countering the misinformation Arune and friends spread. They crave attention, even if it's negative attention, from those who are "respected authorities," as a way to compensate for their own incompetence. Ignore them, and they will find some other compulsion to indulge in time.

Taking the sick role

As I discuss in my essay on disease models of gender identity, some gender-variant people agree with "experts" who consider them diseased and sexually disordered.

As an aside, it's interesting to note that the clinical literature is is full of references about people like Arune, who normally defers to clinicians as experts. People like Arune have been described by so-called experts as “transvestitic applicants for sex reassignment” [11] who are “aging” [12] and “distressed,” [13] suffering from “pseudotranssexualism,” [14] a “non-transsexual” variant of “gender identity disorder” (GIDAANT), [15] and “iatrogenic artifact.”[16]

Arune is especially fond of claiming that we are mentally ill, asserting that without a mental illness diagnosis, there is no way to get trans health services through government health programs. Unfortunately for Arune, this is simply untrue in many countries. Had Arune read the GIRES materials available on this site since Bailey's book came out, Arune would know that the UK goverment among others do not consider this a mental illness and continue to fund trans health services. Arune defends the alleged "experts" at one regressive Canadian clinic, while the rest of the community looks to the current consensus of 24 world-renowned experts who are signatories to the document on causes of transsexualism, the final draft of which was provided to this site via lead investigator Milton Diamond. [17]

Arune dismisses the 2002 UK policy that allows funding of trans health services without the stigma of mental illness, because it badly undermines Arune's identity as a mentally ill man. Arune claims the UK policy "merely serves a political role and distorts any scientific judgement in favour of appeasement." [18] Because Arune's incompetence clouds rational judgment, Arune can only view this policy as a problem, rather than a major step forward brought about by progressive transactivists.

As seen with the "forced feminization" script played out by Arune with Arune's own therapist, the deference to an expert for validation is an important part of Arune's identity. "Let's face it, honey... We're the patients in this exercise. We're not the experts." [19]

Arune needs an "expert" diagnosis to maintain a legitimate identity as a type of diseased man. Some of us feel that we are in a better position to define and describe ourselves, and we feel that Arune's bizarre outlook and self-identity is different than a transsexual identity. People like Arune will go down in history as similar to the gays and lesbians who consider themselves diseased, or other oppressed groups who buy into the idea they are biologically inferior. Those folks defer to experts, too-- many of the same "experts" Arune defends.

In a newspaper interview, Ray Blanchard called Arune a "man without a penis." [20] If Arune wants to defend someone who says that about all of us, I personally can't fight for Arune's rights.

Further reading

Willow Arune: words and actions

Willow Arune: Harassment

On the Science of Bonerism and the Identity Politics of "Single Heterosexual Men," originally published in Transgender Tapestry.

LINK: Who Is Arune? by Professor Lynn Conway

LINK: I AM ARUNE by Willow Arune via Lambda Literary Foundation

LINK: Willow Arune bibliography via transray.com

LINK: A scam that keeps on rolling by Willow Arune

LINK: Photos of Arune

References

1. Kruger J, Dunning D (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one's own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. December 1999 Vol. 77, No. 6, 1121-1134
http://www.phule.net/mirrors/unskilled-and-unaware.html

2. Blanchard (1989). The concept of autogynephilia [ sic ] and the typology of male gender dysphoria. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease . 1989 Oct;177(10):616-23.
http://www.genderpsychology.org/autogynephilia/male_gender_dysphoria/ (full text)

3. Bailey JM (2000). Phenomenology and classification of male-to-female transsexualism. Symposium conducted at the meeting of the International Academy of Sex Research , Paris. June, 2000. Slide 38.
http://www.psych.nwu.edu/psych/people/faculty/bailey/Blanchard's%20Paris%20Talk.ppt (requires reader)

4. Arune WC (2004). USENET post 11 April 2004.
http://groups.google.com/groups?q=g:thl101135305d&dq=&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&c2cof f=1&safe=off&selm=Kxoec.84223%24Ig.10853%40pd7tw2no

5. Plant D (1999). Willow sculpts a life. Kelowna Daily Courier January 27, 1999. For more on Arune's incarceration in Thailand, see:
http://www.tsroadmap.com/info/bailey-willow-arune.html

6. Arune W (2004). "Autogynephilia" support, 21 August: "The same reason as Ben Laden - able to justify any act due to belief and faith"
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/autogynephiliasupport/message/3570

7. Arune W (2002). Letter to Professor Lynn Conway, 20 November. Reprinted with permission of recipient.

8. Rodkin D (2003). "Sex and Transsexuals." Chicago Reader, 12 December 2003.
http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/Bailey/Reader/Chicago%20Reader.12-12-03.html

9. Williams K, Killeen MJ (2004). The Transsexual Gladiator: The Sword of Apodictic and The Shield of Woe. Apodictic, Inc., p. 258.

10. Arune W (2005). "A matter of degree." "Autogynephilia" Support, 12 January.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/autogynephiliasupport/message/4699

11. Wise TN, Meyer JK (1980). The border area between transvestism and gender dysphoria: transvestic applicants for sex reassignment. Archives of Sexual Behavior . 1980 Aug;9(4):327-42.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=7416946

12. Lothstein LM (1979). Psychological treatment of transsexualism and sexual identity disorders: some recent attempts. Archives of Sexual Behavior . 1979 Sep;8(5):431-44
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=496624

13. Wise TN, Dupkin C, Meyer JK (1981). Partners of distressed transvestites. American Journal of Psychiatry . 1981 Sep;138(9):1221-4.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=7270729

14. Wise TN, Lucas J (1981). Pseudotranssexualism: iatrogenic gender dysphoria. Journal of Homosexuality . 1981 Spring;6(3):61-6.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=7341667

15. American Psychiatric Association (1987). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM III-R).
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0871400499/qid=1094416834/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/002-8778638-7938457?v=glance&s=books

16. Moser C, Kleinplatz PJ (2002). Transvestic fetishism: psychopathology or iatrogenic artifact? New Jersey Psychologist , 52 (2) 16-17.
http://home.netcom.com/~docx2/tf.html

17. Diamond M (2003). Personal correspondence with the author, 16 July 2003.

18. Arune W (2004). "Autogynephilia" support, 10 November.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/autogynephiliasupport/message/4243

19. Rodkin D (2003). "Sex and Transsexuals." Chicago Reader, 12 December 2003.
http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/Bailey/Reader/Chicago%20Reader.12-12-03.html

20. Armstrong J (2004). The body within, the body without. Globe and Mail, 12 June 2004, p. F1.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20040612/COVER12/TPComment/TopStories