J Michael Bailey’s seminal book, The Man Who Would Be Queen (TMWWBQ) sparked huge controversy when it was published in 2003. The furore it caused, while small in focus, was spectacular in its incandescent rage at the author. This was categorically different from the conservative reaction to works of other controversial authors like D H Lawrence, or even Vladimir Nabokov’s deeply unsettling study of male attraction to pubescent girls. In those, the hostility was principally against the work; not so here. It was J Michael Bailey in person who was vilified.
And to cap that, TMWWBQ is not a work of fiction, but of popular science. It is well written, in non-scientific language, is easy to read and deeply sympathetic to its subject. So what on Earth happened, to provoke such a furious backlash? It included entirely spurious attempts to end Bailey’s career, personal slurs and threats of violence against him. His attackers even accused him of sexually molesting his children.
The campaign against Bailey, coordinated by a small group of internet bullies, amounted to nothing more or less than a blatant attempt at censorship associated with a virulent personal attack on the author. It’s time, now, to revisit this book and see why it caused such a storm in a latte cup.
Homosexuality and Transsexualism
The Man Who Would Be Queen begins with a general overview of the scientific understanding of male homosexuality, firstly by describing the life of a young, highly feminine cross-dressing boy called ‘Danny’ (not his real name.) Danny began to show feminine behaviour and to cross-dress when he was three years old; his mother came to Bailey for help.
In Part Two it progresses to describe femininity in adult male homosexuals and contrasts this with masculinity in the same group. At the end of this section, Bailey briefly discusses the known history of male homosexuality.
He introduces the ideas of ‘transgender homosexuality’ on one hand, in which although both partners are born male, one plays a woman in all manners including appearance, comportment and in sexual intercourse. On the other hand there is ‘egalitarian’ homosexuality, where both parties are masculine in appearance and comportment.
The former is the norm across the world and was the only model until the 20th century. The latter appeared in Western culture, specifically the USA, in the 1960s and has been spread by contact since. Bailey makes the important point that in the former, only one partner is actually homosexual, since she is born male but desires masculine men, while her partner desires women and plays a masculine sexual role. In the latter, both are homosexual because both desire men and appear to be men.
Assessing Transgender and Egalitarian Homosexuality.
He makes the accurate assessment that transgender homosexuals, since they are attracted to straight men, who are therefore attracted to femininity, are naturally driven to appear to be as feminine as possible. On the other hand, egalitarian homosexuals, themselves attracted masculinity, appear to be very masculine themselves. This is sometimes called ‘clone’ homosexuality. The author then poses questions about how Danny’s adult life might proceed in view of all of this.
In Part Three, the book discusses persons born male who desire to become women, in the light of the preceding parts. Bailey calls these individuals ‘transsexuals’. He makes it clear that this is a broad church that is not limited to those persons who wish to undergo or have undergone Genital Reconstruction Surgery.
He discusses the popular ‘brain sex’ idea, which posits that male-to-female (mtf) transsexuals are ‘women trapped in men’s bodies’ and notes that there is no evidence to support this. In any case, he asks, how does anyone know what it feels like to be someone else?
Bailey explains that there are actually two different types of male-to-female (mtf) transsexual. This had been noted almost a hundred years earlier by the German psychologist Magnus Hirschfeld and repeatedly confirmed by later scientists. None, however, had been able to explain this difference.
He then describes the research carried out by Dr Ray Blanchard, which explains these differences by showing that there are two distinct profiles of people born male who wish to become women. These profiles have nothing in common save that the subjects are born male and become women;. The differences are enormous, and Blanchard’s research, for the first time, explained these in proper scientific studies. This is the foundation of the modern science of transsexualism.
This section is illustrated by descriptions, again sensitively handled, of the lives of several transsexuals of both types. It is quite clear from the writing that these examples are meant to serve only as examples.
The two types, Bailey explains, are ‘homosexual transsexual’ or HSTS, and ‘autogynephilic transsexual’ or AGP. Bailey explains that HSTS are uniquely attracted to masculine men, whereas AGPs, at least before transitioning, are attracted to women.
What motivates HSTS?
The core motivation for HSTS is a powerful desire for straight, masculine lovers. They may have numerous gay friends but they are not attracted to them.
This, Bailey explains, is a relatively easy orientation to understand. HSTS transsexuals are naturally feminine boys who desire men. If they think they can be successful as women, they are likely to at least try to follow this path. Everything they do from the point they decide to transition is in order to make themselves more attractive. This, after all, whether feminists approve or not, is what most young women do.
(HSTS do not take hormones and have surgeries in order to become more ‘like women’ but to become more beautiful women.)
On the other hand, the core motivation for autogynephilic transsexualism is ‘a man’s propensity to be attracted to the idea of himself as a woman’. While it is a complex sexuality, autogynephilia, like HSTS, is rooted in male sexuality. It could hardly be rooted in any other type.
Blanchard identified three distinct sexualities of autogynephilic men. These were heterosexual, the majority, who retained their normative male attraction to women and never or rarely had sex with men. Bisexuals begin experimenting with sex with men after transition or while ‘dressed’;, Finally ‘analloerotics’, need no other person for romantic or sexual satisfaction. (These last are sometimes called ‘asexual’ but this is wrong; just ‘being women’ is a sexual release for them.)
To complicate matters even more, autogynephilia may manifest in four different manners. In transvestic AGP, the subject is stimulated by cross-dressing. In behavioural the stimulus comes from doing ‘womanly’ things such as knitting. In physiological the attraction is to female bodily functions like menstruation (AGP men may wear sanitary pads and urinate in them, for example). And in and anatomic, the subject is aroused by the thought of having a woman’s body parts such as a vagina.
The complexity of autogynephilia.
These four manners may occur individually or in conjunction with each other and they affect the three types of autogynephiliac. The complexity of this condition, and the incisiveness that Blanchard showed in identifying the cause of them all, autogynephilia, are obvious.
So what causes autogynephilia? Put simply, this is an ‘Erotic Target Location Error’. Instead of the subject being romantically attached to a person outside of themselves, they are attracted to a pseudo-personality created within their own minds. This is a facsimile of a woman. (She has to be since they are gynephilic, or attracted to women.) As the condition advances, this pseudo-personality is strengthened through sexual reward until it overwhelms the male host. At this point the subject experiences feelings of great psychological unease as the created pseudo-woman now in control rejects her male body.
(This is so different from the ‘gender dysphoria’ that HSTS experience that some HSTS reject the term.)
HSTS typically present while still young, often in their teens and rarely over the age of thirty, while AGPs, on average, present much later, with a median age of 43. This has allowed some AGPs to claim that the only difference is one of age at presentation; but Blanchard debunks this.
At the same time, thanks to the internet and social media, there is significantly more overlap in age now than when Blanchard was researching. It is possible to compare the types side by side now; they are completely different. HSTS are extremely feminine and have no difficulty ‘passing’ as women. They often, themselves, claim they are ‘useless at being men’. AGPs (in the West), even when younger, find it difficult to be feminine at all, and those who transition later in life may really struggle.
Bailey observes, ‘There is the rare exception, but for the most part, autogynephilic transsexuals aspire (with some success) to be presentable, while homosexual transsexuals aspire (with equivalent success) to be objects of desire.’ (Note, however, that HSTS are interested in attracting straight male lovers and are in direct competition with natal women for them; AGPs, in the main, are not.)
Bailey, as a clinician, is equally sympathetic to both types and makes it clear that both should be treated fairly. Having presented the case that male homosexuality may be genetic Bailey then suggests that autogynephilia may also be so and run in families. If that’s true it would therefore be a discrete, genetically-dependent orientation in itself.
‘Gender dysphoria’ is a deeply-felt discomfort with their male physical attributes, associated with both types of mtf transsexual. Indeed it is the clinical diagnosis upon which a referral for surgery must be based, and this has caused some considerable confusion.
In talking to many HSTS transwomen both online and in person, it is quite clear that they do not suffer gender dysphoria in the way that AGPs do. For the latter, this is a deep and unsupportable loathing of their male organs.It is triggered by the collapse of their male persona under onslaught from their pseudo-feminine one.
Most HSTS have no such issue with their organs; they have an issue with being beautiful. This is so that they may compete with natal women and be accepted as sexual partners by straight men — who are the only men they are interested in. If winning such a man means losing the penis, so be it.
(Bailey is pessimistic about the extent to which GRS improves a transwoman’s chances of winning and keeping a straight male partner.)
Not Perfect, but…
Throughout, Bailey avoids inflammatory language and, while this is not a science textbook, writes in a very neutral manner. He presents the evidence and explains the scientific theories, but leaves the reader to draw conclusions.
The book is not perfect and this in part is because it was published over a decade ago. Where it falls down most is where there was least scientific research. In addition, the author tends to extrapolate from the US experience to the global one, which is unsupported. He somewhat assumes that the US milieu can be regarded as a ‘standard of normativity’ when in fact, many observers would regard it as a very peculiar one indeed, informed by some deeply unpleasant Anglo-Saxon prejudices.
For example, the author clearly regards the idea that ‘Danny’ should grow up to be a gay man, rather than a transsexual woman, as a good outcome. He acknowledges that this must mean Danny suppressing his femininity, and does remark that if he grew up in a milieu less prejudiced than the US, he would probably be transsexual. But he makes no attempt to argue that US culture should be changed, meaning that boys like ‘Danny’ must continue to suppress their true natures, however hard that might be. (Today, social change means that there would be a much greater chance that ‘Danny’ would indeed grow up to be transsexual, even in the USA.)
An Excellent Book.
Notwithstanding these points, which Bailey might well view differently today anyway, The Man Who Would Be Queen is, overall, an excellent book. It lays out the science of transsexualism in a clear and easily understood manner and thus provides an accurate and factually correct lay person’s guide. I would say this book is a very useful primer and explains a great deal that would otherwise be mysterious.
All in all, it is well written, contains much insight and treats its subjects with great respect. It preserves their dignity, even when describing practices that most people would be surprised by. It is not at all prurient or lascivious and maintains a consistent good humour throughout: so why on Earth did it cause so much trouble?
Storm in a Latte Cup
While The Man Who Would Be Queen discussed several different types of sexuality and the individuals who have them, only one of these groups showed any negative reaction to the book at all. Gay men and HSTS transwomen were largely silent. (I have explained Blanchard to many HSTS transwomen; all were suspicious at first but very quickly recognised themselves in his description.) The only group that objected to the book at all was a small number of AGP activists, most of whom were themselves academics.
This is surprising because academics, while frequently scathing about each other’s conclusions, are usually very careful to avoid any kind of ad hominem attack; but the very opposite happened here.
While some AGP activists did try to debunk Blanchard, whose research informed much of the book, they were unsuccessful.
In any case, Blanchard did not write this book and it was the book that caused the anger; J. Michael Bailey wrote it. He, rather than Blanchard was the target of what his colleague Dr Alice Dreger called a ‘narcissistic rage attack’. A classic case of ‘shoot the messenger’.
A shocking attack.
The attack on Bailey was shocking for its intensity and its personal nature. An investigation by Northwestern University, where Bailey is a professor, fully vindicated him and an excellent rebuttal of the attacks was written by Dreger. However there is no doubt that a small group of people in positions of responsibility, including senior academics, colluded to ruin Bailey’s career and destroy his private life. Thankfully they failed but this reflects no credit on the perpetrators whatsoever.
The attempt to discredit both Ray Blanchard and Michael Bailey was not on scientific grounds, but on personal ones. There is no credible evidence to refute Blanchard. Yet, to this day, many autogynephile activists and even a few HSTS ones (who should know better) claim that his typology is ‘out of date’ or ‘debunked’.
Nothing could be further from the truth. While some of the terminology has been modified in certain publications, the core ideas have become the de facto scientific consensus. These are that there are two distinct types of male-to-female transsexualism, both rooted in male sexuality. Individuals in one group are strongly attracted to men, while the others are attracted to the idea of themselves as women.
Blanchard’s typology remains the basis of the APA’s understanding of transsexualism, along with that of the WHO and other psychological and psychiatric bodies across the globe.
MRI tests on separate and controlled groups of HSTS by Rametti et al. on one hand and on AGPs by Savic and Arver on the other, in 2011, clearly demonstrated major differences between HSTS and AGP brains This directly confirmed Blanchard.
Today, the principal researcher into autogynephilia is Lawrence, herself AGP. She has amassed many narratives from other autogynephiles that fully support Blanchard, which she also does. This, of course, has also made her a target for attack, despite the thorough and painstaking nature of her research.
The attacks on Bailey were both academically disgraceful.It is worse because senior academics prosecuted them. They attempted to force the acceptance of an explanation that lacked any independent support. They rejected properly designed, supported, peer-reviewed scientific research, as Blanchard’s was.
Worse, when it became impossible to break the science, they used the tactics of politicians, rather than scientists. They attempted to shout down a perfectly well developed and executed piece of research and to destroy the lives of those who proposed it. When all else failed they resorted to simple defamation, character assassination, accusations of child abuse, personal insult and innuendo and even death threats. Nobody could be in any doubt that this was an atrocious way to behave. Why did they do it? Because they had no evidence to refute Blanchard.
This is no different from the anti-science mindset of climate change denialism. It is no different from the anti-science preaching of extremist religious fundamentalists who deny the evolution or how the universe came to be. It is the wilfully ignorant point of view that because one believes something, it must be so, irrespective of whether it is true or not.
Darwin was right. So was Blanchard.
Well, the Earth is not 6,000 years old and Darwin was right. Science is the only credible means we have to explain natural phenomena. To deny it because it might harm the interests, or hurt the feelings, of some people, is unacceptable. That such a position is held by some claiming to be scientists themselves is egregiously so. For those people to then collude in a pack attack on others with whose ideas they disagreed with is beyond the pale.
In the thirteen years since this celebrated storm in the latte cup, further research has vindicated Blanchard. No serious scientist now subscribes to the ‘brain sex’ notion .The consensus is firmly that there are two distinct conditions that lead to male-to-female transsexualism, both rooted in male sexuality. The politically-correct myth that transsexuals are ‘women born in men’s bodies’ has been debunked, not once, but time and again.
This has not prevented autogynephile activists from continuing to promote it, to the detriment of HSTS transsexuals and of course, women. So persuasive have they been that many lay persons apparently believe that the only way to be a ‘real’ woman is to have been born with a penis. To this end they continue to use the same tactics as they used against Bailey: misrepresentation, traduction, quote-mining, bullying, character assassination, defamation and flat lying.
Blanchard and Bailey today.
Blanchard himself no longer researches in the area of transsexualism.He was on the editorial board for the most recent revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. J Michael Bailey has returned to an earlier fascination. He recently collaborated in research which re-examined, using pairs of identical twins, the idea that homosexuality might be genetic and innate. His contribution to studies in the field of human sexuality remains important. Anne Lawrence continues to publish and contribute to the actual science of transsexualism — rather than the socio-political nonsense that is all too prevalent.
The Man Who Would Be Queen, in summation, then, is a well-written and enjoyable book that explains the science of transsexualism in everyday language, citing real examples of real people. It is a must-read for anyone interested in this subject. The book makes it possible to understand the phenomenon of people like Bruce ‘Caitlyn’ Jenner.
While not itself a scientific textbook it is an accurate and readable primer that points the reader in the direction of the peer-reviewed research, on which it is based, with an excellent bibliography.
However, it would be of especial interest and help to those who have, in their families, autogynephilic transsexuals, particularly women whose husbands have announced that they intend to transition, as well as the sons and daughters of such men.
You can download a free copy of The Man Who Would Be Queen by clicking HERE. If you like it or find it useful I suggest you buy a copy to show some love to Dr Bailey.
Also published on Medium.