Transsexual Smokescreen: Ignoring Science In “The Man Who Would Be Queen”
By Michael Bailey | September 4th 2007 11:57 PM
About Michael Bailey
I am Professor of Psychology at Northwestern University. I study sexual orientation and related traits such as sex atypicality and gender identity. In 2003 I published a popular (pseudo)science book.
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Transsexual Smokescreen: Ignoring (pseudo) Science In “The Man Who Would Be Queen”
Both in her recent appearance on KQED’s Forum talk show and in her blog, Stanford University’s Joan Roughgarden continues her campaign to discredit me and my book, The Man Who Would Be Queen.
Roughgarden’ s rate of false (true) accusations per utterance is so high that it is tempting to take the time to refute them one by one to the exclusion of getting around to discussing the science. Indeed, I believe that is the intent of Roughgarden and my other chief critics.
If attention is focused on an endless stream of allegations made against me as a person, then no one will pay attention to the (pseudo)scientific ideas, presented in my book, that
many of my critics wish to keep hidden. That is the purpose of telling the truth about what a lying bigoted sack of shit I am, which can be summarized as follows:
“No one need pay attention to the theory of transsexualism discussed in Bailey’s book, because the theory has no evidence to support it, except for a handful of unrepresentative transsexual women that Bailey abused (including writing by about them without their consent).”
(Bailey, the closet case is getting all pissy because we won’t let him abuse us. How right wing of him. Sound familiar? Maybe like the Taliban Christer reparative therapists of NARTH)
Consider one typical instance of Roughgarden’ s method. In the KQED program she accuses me of being racist: “he actually says this in the book on page 1833: `About 60% of the homosexual transsexuals and drag queens we studied were Latina or Black.’ Latina people `might have more transsexual genes than other ethnic groups do.’ Very clearly racist.”
Here’s what my book actually says, on pages 183-184:
Alma is a 40-year-old Latina homosexual transsexual who got her sex change in her mid-30s & quite late for the homosexual type.
Alma has also noticed, as II have, the large number of Latina transsexuals. In Chicago, there are several bars that cater to Latina transsexuals. About 60 percent of the homosexual transsexuals and drag queens we studied were Latina or black. The proportion of nonwhite subjects in our studies of ordinary gay men is typically only about 20 percent. Alma says she thinks that Hispanic people might have more transsexual genes than other ethnic groups do.
Another transsexual, remarking on the same phenomenon, attributed it to ethnic gender roles: “My culture is very macho and intolerant of femalebehavior in men. It is easier just to become a woman.”
I am not sure about the validity of all of Alma’s observations, much less her theories….(pp.183-184)
I didn’t make the “racist” statement about transsexual genes being more common among Hispanics; Alma did. Roughgarden made several other major misstatements during the interview.
Before I spend more time on Roughgarden et al’s campaign of defamation, let me tell you a bit about the ideas that provoked it.
Why Do Some Men Become Women?
Canadian scientist Ray Blanchard conducted a number of studies in the 1980s and 1990s supporting his theory that there are two, and only two, distinct kinds of males who decide to become women. (Abstracts of some of Blanchard’s relevant articles are available here.)
Members of one type are best conceived (before they become women) as very feminine homosexual males. They have been extremely and recognizably feminine since early in life. They are exclusively, strongly, and unambiguously sexually attracted to men. In my conversations with transsexuals such as these, they have said that they transitioned because they decided they would function better, socially and sexually, as women than as men. After all, they had always had overtly feminine behavior patterns. Furthermore, homosexual men tend to dislike feminine traits in their sex partners, and thus the sexual prospects of some of these extraordinarily feminine homosexual males are likely to be better as women than as
It is the explanation of the other type of male-to-female transsexual that is virtually unknown outside of contemporary sexology, and I believe that it is this explanation that offends Roughgarden and the leaders in the defamation campaign against me: Lynn Conway, Dierdre McCloskey, and Andrea James. Members of this type are not overtly feminine (at least prior to taking steps to become women), and they are not primarily sexually attracted to men. Rather, they are sexually aroused by the idea of becoming and being women. Members of this subtype, whom Blanchard has called both “nonhomosexual” and “autogynephilic” male-to-female transsexuals, are best conceived as a type of heterosexual male. In their unusual heterosexuality, their primary erotic target, or sex object, is not an actual, external woman, but rather, a woman that is fantasized, and ultimately created inside the self. That is, the primary sexual orientation of autogynephilic males is toward themselves as women.
The inward focus of autogynephilic eroticism is usually incomplete, and so most autogynephilic individuals have some sexual attraction for actual women as well. A male-to-female transsexual with a clear history of attraction to women, such as heterosexual marriage, is almost certainly autogynephilic.
Autogynephilic males typically first manifest their condition during adolescence via erotic cross-dressing, that is by putting on womens’ clothing (especially lingerie such as bras and panties) and masturbating. Some restrict their autogynephilic activities to cross-dressing. Others discover that performing certain stereotypic female activities (ranging from knitting to having intercourse with a man)is exciting. Still others discover that it is especially erotic to fantasize about having female anatomical features, such as breasts and a vulva. It is the latter group that is most likely to undergo sex reassignment surgery [i]. This is not to say that autogynephilic feelings are only intensely sexual, any more than heterosexual mens
are. Over time, autogynephilia may become less intensely erotic, just as heterosexual men’s sexual feelings for their partners often do.
Blanchard has referred to the general type of inward erotic focus found in autogynephilia as a “target location error” ; the erotic target that should be on the outside is somehow misplaced to the inside. There are some other fascinating examples of inwardly-focused erotic targets, and I will write about these in a later blog. (For example, some men become erotically attached to the image of themselves as amputees.)
It is important to note, again, that in general, autogynephilic transsexuals show little evidence of femininity aside from their autogynephilia- motivated actions. For example, autogynephilic transsexuals often pursue stereotypically male activities and interests such as the military or race car driving. Interestingly, autogynephilia appears to be associated with increased science and mathematical abilities and interests[ii] (and these are correlated with the male sex). Indeed, the prototypic occupation for autogynephilic individuals is computer scientist. Without knowing about autogynephilia, it is difficult to understand why a masculine, apparently heterosexual man who has fathered several children would
decide to become a woman.
The mantra of some male-to-female transsexuals is that they are simply “women trapped in men’s bodies.” This assertion has some truth for homosexual transsexuals, who are extremely and recognizably feminine (and like most women, attracted to men), but for autogynephilic transsexuals it is not true in any meaningful sense.
Useful places to learn more about Blanchard’s theory and autogynephilia include autogynephilia. org, Anne Lawrence’s website, a FAQ I assembled in the early stages of attacks by Roughgarden et al., and transkids.us, a site dedicated to education about, and advocacy for, homosexual transsexuals.
Roughgarden’ s Treatment of the Evidence for Autogynephilia
In her blog Roughgarden actually provides a critique of some relevant scientific studies, so obviously she knows of some of the science.But she provides a (very partial) review of the evidence for Blanchard’s taxonomy of male-to-female transsexualism. She restricts her comments to data from three studies as available in a powerpoint file used by Blanchard in a conference presentation, ignoring the complete reports of these studies, as well as other relevant studies.
Even beyond the partial nature of her review, her dismissal of the evidence she does bother to consider is bizarre and unscholarly. Most strikingly, in the first study she notes that: “About 75% of 63 heterosexual, asexual, or bisexual (HeAB) people [nonhomosexual male gender patients] found wearing women’s clothing to be arousing, whereas about 15% of 100 homosexual (HO) people [homosexual male gender patients] did too.”
A difference of 75% versus 15% is huge and important. Roughgarden rejects it as “mixed” presumably because she believes (or wants you to believe) the difference should be 100% versus 0%. However, this is naïve and unrealistic. Both the relevant variables, sexual orientation and admission of erotic arousal to cross-dressing, are measured with error. (For example, in another study not mentioned by Roughgarden, Blanchard showed that men who fit the autogynephilic profile are not always aware of erotic arousal to cross-dressing even
when it occurs. Such men would have been wrongly counted in the study Roughgarden reviewed.) This is an elementary point.
There is overwhelming evidence for the validity of the distinction between homosexual and nonhomosexual (i.e., autogynephilic) male-to-female transsexualism. Roughgarden’ s unscholarly review cannot hide the evidence.
My book, The Man Who Would Be Queen , is a popularized summary of the best available bullshit regarding male femininity, including transsexualism. The book is about (pseudo) scientific studies, including some (gossip I heard while picking up queens in drag bars where I paid them for sex) that I conducted. It was not intended as a scientific study, itself, and this is obvious to most people. The section on transsexualism both reviews some of Blanchard’s research and illustrates Blanchard’s theories using anecdotes about several transsexual women whom I met over the years.
In her radio interview, and also in her blog, Roughgarden repeats her accusation that I committed fraud by only “studying” a few transsexuals and basing my conclusions on them. These accusations are clearly false to anyone who has read my book or internationally- respected historian Alice Dreger’s accounting of the controversy.
Soon after my book was published, Lynn Conway of the University of Michigan sent emails to a group of prominent transgender people, including Roughgarden, McCloskey and James, calling my book “transsexual women’s worst nightmare” and calling for help in “investigating” and “exposing” me. Shortly afterwards, Roughgarden attempted to have me disinvited as a colloquium speaker at Stanford. When this failed, she wrote an inaccurate account of my talk there. She claims that I was making mean-spirited fun of gender non-conforming children and adults. Any reasonable person who has read my book or seen me speak about this topic knows that I am highly sympathetic toward feminine males and masculine females.
Lynn Conway and Deirdre McCloskey of the University of Illinois in Chicago eventually persuaded two of the transsexual women I wrote about in my book to file formal charges to my Institutional Review Board that I conducted research without informing them properly.
These charges were false (see Dreger’s article, pages 38-41). Other false charges include the accusation that I had sex with a “research subject” (see Dreger, pages 41-46), that I made up the story of Danny(the feminine boy featured in the first part of my book; see Dreger, page 50), among other false accusations.
Why Believe Me?
If Roughgarden, Conway, and McCloskey insist that Ray Blanchard’s ideas have no merit, why should one believe my claim that those ideas are true?
Firstly and most importantly, I have already noted, albeit briefly, that there is a body of empirical evidence that provides strong evidence for those ideas.
Secondly, the insistence of many transsexuals whom Blanchard would classify as autogynephilic, that they cannot be explained via his theory, is unconvincing. Take Anjelica Kieltyka, the transwoman I wrote most about in my book. As a non-feminine male, Chuck Kieltyka cross-dressed erotically from adolescence, and then in college he learned that wearing fake breasts and vaginas and watching himself in the mirror simulating sex with a penis (actually a dildo) was immensely erotic. But to this day, Anjelica Kieltyka denies that her
transsexualism had anything to do with autogynephilia.
Blanchard did two relevant studies. In one he measured the sexual arousal (via penile erections) of apparently autogynephilic males who denied ever being sexually aroused to cross-dressing. He showed that on average, they were in fact so aroused. In the other study, he showed that among apparently autogynephilic males, those who denied their autogynephilia scored high on a psychometric test developed to detect the tendency to respond in socially desirable ways. Thus, among the transgendered, denial of autogynephilia is apparently
related to the desire to give a good impression. Both of these studies suggest that denial of autogynephilia should not be taken at face value.
For these reasons, the protestation by some transsexuals that Blanchard’s theory does not include them is unconvincing. Although it is possible that another kind of male-to-female transsexual exists, no good evidence exists that this is the case.
Are Blanchard’s Ideas and My Book Bad for Transsexuals?
Many of my critics, including Roughgarden, would have you believe that transsexuals are only and always harmed by people believing that Blanchard is correct. Obviously, some transsexuals (evidently including Roughgarden, Conway, McCloskey, and James) dislike the ideas conveyed in my book, especially autogynephilia. I did not mean to hurt these, or any, individuals by writing my book. Rather, I meant to write what I believed, and continue to believe, is the truth. That said, I would not have written my book had I believed
that it could have only negative consequences for the transgendered.
In fact, my book has had some clearly good effects. I have received correspondence from many transgender individuals; including some who explicitly identify as autogynephiilic (Willow Arune);who have thanked me for writing as honestly as I diid in my book because it has helped them to know that Blanchard’s theory makes sense of their realities, their
identities. The excerpt below just came Sunday (I am happy to allow the editor of this site to check the veracity of these emails):
I have been following with great interest the controversy that has been over your book and I feel it most unfortunate that you have been subject to such invective from many activists. I myself am a transgender person and have been involved with the transgender community in Germany for several years and feel that many of the observations made in your book are – at last anecdotally – quite an accurate portrayal of some- but not all – transsexuals. Also the observation that homosexuals have an effeminate background is true in some cases – but perhaps not all. Describing your book as an affront to transsexuals seems to me to be very far fetched and unfair, indeed your book seemed sympathetic to our cause.
This came just a few days before:
I just recently listened to your KQED interview, and wanted to write in support of your position or autogynephilia. I had been keeping up with Ray Blanchard’s theory of autogynephilia as I fully support its conclusions and the sexual component toward M2F transitioning.
I did purchase and read your book a couple years ago and did not find it offensive but rather a step forward toward bringing the sexual component into the transgendered world. I have struggled with my transsexual issues my entire life but due to a past marriage with children, unsupportive parents, and working for a family business I have not found the right time or courage to transition.
One more, from a couple weeks ago:
For almost half of my life, I’ve had (and still have) a lot of questions about my sexual orientation and sexual identity (I’m a heterosexual biological male). A few months ago, I had a fling with a man I met outside of a transsexual strip club. Afterwards in his apartment, I chatted with him about the confusion I had over my own sexual identity. For a sleazy guy I met outside of a house of ill repute, he was remarkably intelligent and empathetic to what I had to say. He recommended that I read your book, The Man who would be Queen. After a lot of bungling and misplaced orders by Borders, I finally got a copy of your book a few weeks ago and read it cover-to-cover in a single sitting. Until I read the section onautogynephilia, no one I’d ever spoken with and nothing I’d ever read had given me such a sense of identity and self-awareness. Everything I had read about transsexualism prior focused on “the woman trapped inside the man”, which never really clicked for me. In fact, your characterization was so spot-on that I’m embarrassed to know someone knows so much about the side of me that I keep hidden from the public. I’m an autogynephilic transsexual, and, embarrassment aside, it feels wonderful to know that there are others like me.
None of Roughgarden, Conway, McCloskey, and James has ever acknowledged the subset of transsexual individuals who are grateful that autogynephilia is being discussed. Furthermore, the best example of a transsexual woman who openly endorses Blanchard’s ideas, Dr. Anne Lawrence, was savagely attacked by James, who assembled an ugly
website devoting to smearing Lawrence’s reputation. Sound familiar?
I understand that despite the liberating effect Blanchard’s ideas have on some transgendered individuals, those ideas present a significant challenge to some others. Reconsidering one’s identity; the way one conceives of oneself; can be quite distressing. (When scientists first sugggested that the earth is not the center of the universe, or that there is no undamental difference between Man and other animals, this must have provoked a great deal of discomfort.) I am sympathetic to this distress, but there is simply no excuse for
dishonest and vicious personal attacks and disingenuous discussions of science.
It is not uncommon for autogynephilic individuals to feel great shame (not unlike the great shame tragically felt by so many homosexual individuals) . I find such shame to be unfortunate and unnecessary. As a sexual orientation, autogynephilia may be difficult to understand, but it need harm no one. To me, the most obvious harm occurs when an
autogynephilic individual becomes a husband and father and the family then dissolves when he decides to become a woman. Helping to acknowledge autogynephilia earlier in life may help to prevent more trans women from unintentionally ending up in this situation. Shame about autogynephilia can only be intensified by continuing to deny its existence and by acting as if anyone who brings it up is trying to damage transgendered people. As I wrote in my book: True acceptance of the transgendered requires that we truly understand who
(i) Blanchard, R. (1993). Varieties of autogynephilia and their
relationship to gender dysphoria. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 22,
(ii) Laub, D. R., & Fisk, N. M. (1974). A rehabilitation program for
gender dysphoria syndrome by surgical sex change. Plastic and
Reconstructive Surgery, 53, 388-403.