Kendra Susan Blewitt (born August 1945) is an American amateur tennis player and “autogynephilia” activist.
Blewitt lives in San Francisco and lists her occupation as independent writing and editing professional. She got a Bachelor’s degree in philosophy from UICC in 1974.
I corresponded with Kendra in 2003. Kendra talks about her time living “as Kendra” as well as her time living “as Ken.”
I am thankful to Kendra for sharing her letter is because she shows why psychologist and “autogynephilia” activist J. Michael Bailey is not offensive to her– she agrees with Bailey’s model that “transsexuals” may have a form of deviancy. As Kendra notes, “If you turn out deviant, say, homosexual or paraphilic, that is a fact of your existence that you must learn to live with.”
Kendra’s letter (2003)
I am writing with regards your words about Dr. Bailey’s book, The Man Who Would Be Queen.
Let me state a couple of things about myself at the onset: (1) I am post-op. I was approved for SRS in April, 2002 by a well-known and very experienced gender therapist, Dr. Barbara Anderson; and I had the surgery done by Dr. Preecha last August. (2) I am autogynephilic. I never claimed to be a woman trapped in a man’s body to Dr. Anderson. I told her I wanted SRS because I had a condition of the sex drive, namely autogynephilia.
Because I was completely inexperienced at dressing and did not know anyone in the TG community when I showed up in San Francisco to start my year of RLE under Dr. Anderson, she had me go to TG support groups in order to meet the people of the group. For a year I went to two support groups every week > one in SF and one in Berkeley.
The people in the SF group were “indigent” types — mostly girls on SSI for mental problems, and prostitutes. The people at the Berkeley group mostly had jobs. In the course of attending these two support groups for a year I came to know pretty much the whole spectrum of types of the TG group — everything from the “gender-fucked” bearded man who liked to go out in public in a short skirt and nylon stockings (he was a very nice man, by the way), to very passable TS women who mostly lived in stealth, to queens who worked the street.
I am sure I don’t know the group as well as you, Andrea, since I’ve only been Kendra for a couple of years. But I do have some experience in this regard.
Since I’ve been in SF I have also acquired some experience with the gay group. I have an apartment at Geary and Leavenworth. My neighborhood used to be very gay until the AIDS epidemic hit, and there still are a lot of gay men in this neighborhood.
There used to be several gay bars and also a queen bar named the Black Rose in my neighborhood. Now there is only one gay bar — the Hob Nob Lounge. It has been in existence for 27 years, I have been told. It is right across the street from my apartment. I go there all the time — I am a regular there.
The men at the Hob Nob are mostly older men who have lived in SF for many years. As older men are prone to do, especially when they’ve been drinking, the men in this bar reminisce about their lives a lot. I have learned a good deal about gay men from the many hours I’ve spent in this bar.
Now then, I have not encountered anything in Dr. Bailey’s book that contradicts the experiences I’ve had with either the TG group or the gay group.
Regarding the autogynephilia theory, I fail to understand your hostility toward it. You obviously feel that it invalidates TS women or sullies their reputation. I do not understand why you feel this way.
I have said that I became sex changed because I was afflicted with the autogynephilia condition. Let me explain how I have justified this action.
I think there is much more to a sex drive than the erotic desires and pleasures it gives rise to. I think it is a powerful force that is active within you at all times, not just when you are aroused. It is like a river that flows in your consciousness. And at every moment, and in every activity, you are either swimming, as it were, along with the current of this river within you, or you are swimming against the current of this river. Either the current of the river is propelling you forward or you are expending energy opposing it, that is.
Now there is nothing you can do to change the kind of sex drive that you have. The sex drive assumes its form during the teen years, or earlier, and once it has assumed its form there is no changing it. If you turn out deviant, say, homosexual or paraphilic that is a fact of your existence that you must learn to live with.
Thus, if you are autogynephilic that is how the river that flows within you is. And you are confronted with an existential decision. You must either live your life swimming against the current of the river that your autogynephilia is, i.e., you must oppress it. Or else you must go with it — you must swim with the current behind you.
To conclude, I did not choose to undergo sexual reassignment surgery because I sought sexual gratification — I did this because I sought a better life.
Finally, it would seem that my choice has worked out well for me. My Mom and sister have twice come out to SF (from the Chicago area) to see me, and they are of the opinion that I am much happier as Kendra than I was as Ken.
I believe that my therapist, Dr. Anderson, considers my transition to be a success story.
It is true that I am happy as Kendra. I do not think I was unhappy as Ken, but I like my life as Kendra very much and I am sure I shall never regret my decision.
Kendra Susan Blewitt
P.S. I am sending a copy of this letter to Dr. Bailey.
Additional materials (8 May 2003)
I would like to add something to my Kendra-Letter. I have sent two e-mails to Dr. Bailey that I would like to add, along with some general comments.
Very often I hesitate to call myself a transsexual to other transsexuals because I know they will deny that I am a transsexual. I am not one to barge into places where I feel unwelcome, and very often I do feel unwelcome in transsexual circles. Very often I am made to feel like an intruder by transsexuals when I refer to myself as a transsexual.
The general public treats me with much more respect than the transsexual group does. I don’t get called a man in a dress very often when I am interacting with ordinary people. I get called a man in a dress routinely when I am interacting with transsexuals. That is what I am to many, if not to most of them — a man in a dress.
Up the line we autogynephilic transsexuals are going to have to form a group of our own. The present situation is intolerable for us. We are made to feel like freaks or perverts by what should be our own people more than by anyone else. We need a group that we can belong to as equal, full-fledged members. We need to belong to a group where we can feel proud to be what we are. Belonging to a group where we are “false transsexuals” is beneath our dignity and is even unhealthy for us. We need a group of our own.
I know that unity is in our general interest as transsexuals. We are being discriminated against in the workplace. This is a big problem. There are other problems that we all have in common as transsexuals.
But what do we autogynephilic transsexuals have in common with anyone? What we need more than anything else right now is a sense of identity. We need that more than we need fair play in the workplace.
First Letter to Dr. Bailey:
Dear Dr. Bailey,
I think the cause of all the hostility directed toward you and your book by so many transsexuals is that they cannot bear the truth. They have not built their houses of the sense of self on the bedrock of knowledge but on the sandy soil of mere belief, and now the earth is shaking and their houses are falling down — their sense of self is breaking apart and they are experiencing the pain of deep insecurity.
I do not think Dr. Benjamin was acting completely as a scientist when he drew a sharp distinction between a cross-dresser (“transvestic fetishist”) and a transsexual. I think the man was a friend to transsexuals. I think he sympathized with them and wanted to give them some legitimacy in the medical field as well as in the general public’s opinion. And he was smart enough to realize that this could not be done if sex in the sense of erotic desires was a part of the meaning of transsexualism. So, to get what he wanted, he drew a line between those who cross-dressed for sexual reasons and those who cross-dressed for “gender” reasons.
I believe that Benjamin’s distinction between the “transvestic fetishist” and the “true transsexual” was more polemical than scientific. It was a smart thing to do to get what he wanted, i.e., to give transsexuals some social legitimacy.
This distinction was a necessary thing, given public opinion regarding sexual matters that existed at the time — i.e., thirty, forty or fifty years ago. But it was not the product of a search for truth. It was Rhetoric as opposed to Philosophy, as Plato would put it.
It was good. It worked. Transsexuals were treated less like criminals. A giant stride forward was taken in this respect. However, whenever mere rhetoric gets institutionalized and given the title of “established fact”there are certainly going to be problems up the line.
Sooner or later this theory that was “rhetoric that worked” is going to be examined by scientists, by men whose interest is the truth.
And this will cause problems. The “myth of gender” that Benjamin gave birth to and which has been institutionalized for a long time now, and given the title of “established fact,” has become deeply integrated in the sense of self that exists in many, if not almost all transsexuals. As this myth is being exposed as myth or discredited as scientific theory the poor transsexual women of the present day are getting their egos melted down, and they are experiencing the pain of deep insecurity.
I do not see that anyone is to blame for the pain that many transsexual women are presently going through. Benjamin meant well and he was very successful in a practical way. He bettered the lots of transsexuals, to be sure. But there was a price that would have to be paid in the future that came along with his good work.
There is Science and there is the Political. Rhetoric, the art of engendering belief, is what works in the Political. The scientist hates rhetoric and will destroy it. No one is to blame for the pain we observe in transsexuals today. There is Science and there is the Political. What is happening is just a natural event of the world we live in.
Second Letter to Dr. Bailey:
Dear Dr. Bailey,
I read your response to the article that appeared in the Stanford paper. I also clicked on “from the beginning” and read the whole thing you wrote.
It was very good.
Lynn Conway’s actions constitute censorship. How can someone who calls herself an intellectual, a scientist, etc., justify this?
These transsexuals are complaining that if your opinions become accepted by society they will be adversely affected personally. People won’t see them as women anymore but as men who have a sexual condition.
That is the truth of what they are, in my opinion. They are men living as women who are doing this, in the final analysis, because they have a sexual condition.
They want to believe that they were born with a female gender identity. This way there is a sense in which they are true women – and they are dependent upon this belief.
I don’t think there is any such thing as an innate sense of self.
Maybe I’m wrong. Sometimes it does seem that I was a girl all along. I think this is because I have been living as a woman for two years now, and my sense of self has been affected by this experience. But maybe I was born with a female gender identity.
I am willing to be reasonable and discuss the matter. Are they? No, there is something they are dependent upon. There is something that they need to believe. They cannot afford to be reasonable.
They will try to have it made “politically incorrect” to espouse the autogynephilia theory.
One thing they have conveniently forgotten is the effect that the institutionalization of the gender identity theory has had on autogynephilics like me. We are not true transsexuals but mere transvestic fetishists, according to this theory. Isn’t that nice? We live as women too. We don’t like being made to feel like a man in a dress any more then these “true ones” do.
The “true ones” have been doing this to us for a long time — denying that we are real transsexuals and making us feel like a man in a dress. I guess they don’t remember.
Kendra’s note to me (sent 18 May 2003)
The photo you asked for is included as an attachment.
At first I was going to send you a “nice girl” photo. It was a photo of me with my Mom. It was taken when she and my sister came from the Chicago area to visit me in San Francisco last November.
I decided instead to send you a sexy photo. This one was taken last September, a month after I’d had SRS.
Why a sexy one? Andrea, why did you call Anne Lawrence a “brick”? Would you have said such a hurtful thing if she were not promoting the autogynephilia theory? Do you think that those of us who identify as autogynephilic are doing so out of resentment because we are physically too man-like to pass and live in stealth? I chose the photo I did because I wanted to show you that I have a good body. (It is a terrible photo of my face. I was drunk at the time. Very drunk.)
Andrea, I have a body that has sex appeal to men. Andrea, I have not gotten breast implants, as you can see. Why is that? It is because I am confident of my sex appeal. I know I can turn men on even though I’m flat. Andrea, are you that confident? Do you think your body is good enough that you could afford to be flat? Well, I am that sure of myself. I haven’t bothered with breast implants for that reason.
It is the same with my voice as it is with my flat chest. If I had to I would do something about it. But I don’t have to. My sex appeal is good enough that I can get away with talking like a man.
Now then, the most passable TS woman I know is a plain jane who is fat. She is great at passing as a woman, yet her appeal to men is nil.
There is no correspondence between passability and the ability to have men want you as a lover. Passability does not imply attractiveness, and attractiveness does not imply passability.
By what authority has it been determined that the true woman of our kind is the one who can pass? Is this written in the Book of Moses, or what?
I say the criterion of who is a true woman of our type is how good you are at getting an attractive, masculine man to want you to be his lover.
I am good at that. Therefore, I am a true woman.