The Bailey Flap

Ruth sent me the following note on 23 April 2003.

Hi Andrea:

You commented...

"One of the most important things that can happen up your way is to collect stories of women who had to deal with the Clarke and Blanchard. We need to get a recorded history of exactly how they hurt and helped people. Do you know of women in the area who were turned down or were able to navigate their system? Any contacts would be most useful, and I can promise absolute anonymity for anyone who wants to share a story."

Well, I'm one for sure. I was both hurt and helped... in that they finally couldn't deny me. I managed to navigate (circumnavigate?~) their gatekeeping system and gained their approval for paid SRS. It took 18 years mind you.... I do know of several others with interesting stories to tell.

I finally read the Bailey's book (on-line) and put together my own comments for our local TG e-mail list. There are a number of points I've not covered as I did not want to repeat what had already been said by others. However, I thought you may be interested in what I had to say....

It's fairly lengthy....

You all knew this was coming sooner or later.....

I have just finished going through THE BOOK. I had to grit my teeeth, laugh, cry, pound the table, shake my head (both ways) and generally ward off the temptation to stop reading.

To give him his due, Bailey has a tremendous amount of valid information in his book. It's unfortunate that 99% of it does not relate to us as trans people, it relates to homosexual people. What he is trying to say to the world at large is that transsexualism is a subset of homosexuality.

Like many researchers, he abhors too many PigeonHoles (PHs), the fewer the simpler. So he agrees with Blanchard and arbitrarily puts us into two PHs... homosexual and autogynephile. If we're not one we must be the other. And if we disagree obviously we are lying about our feelings. The fundamental mistake he makes at the outset is his failure to differentiate clearly between sexual orientation and gender identity. Occasionally he waffles about orientation and maleness/femaleness possibly being innate. But like many others before him he discounts the basic feelings exhibited by children. (Notice they are all boys? Never girls...) He falls into the trap of assuming that children can be manipulated by therapy to prevent them from "becoming transsexual". (This is a favourite ploy used by Zucker, who, according to Bailey, is the world's foremost authority on gender identity disorders in children.) Notice he doesn't apply the same reasoning to "becoming homosexual".

I wonder who else he used as advisors besides the Clarke people? Blanchard, Zucker, Petersen, Freund, he mentions them all. "Ace gender therapist"... give me a break! (For the uninitiated he's referring to Maxine Petersen.) Blanchard had a grandstand seat for Maxine's slow and laborious transition (as did I to a lesser extent). Maxine is your classic autogynephile. Before transition she would deny vehemently that she had any wish to "become a woman". Lately she has voiced regrets, although I have to say that comes to me from other sources.... I digress.

So from the outset Bailey tries to prove that sexual behaviour signatures given out by young boys are precursors to sexual orientation. Gender identity is ignored. An overtly feminine boy will most likely turn out to be homosexual.... And Horrors! If left undisciplined or therapeutically uncorrected may even wish to become a girl! One of the major problems here of course is the inability of children (particularly boys) to adequately explain their feelings. By the age of 6 they already are keenly aware of the dangers of expressing anything but "boy" behaviour. I know. When I was that age I was already very good at saying the "right" thing and avoiding anything that could be construed as "girl" behaviour. I had been caught a couple of times "dressing up" and strongly reprimanded for crying too much.... It is the adult male who causes most of the trauma. He cannot stand anything but stereotypical behaviour in his boy child. The slightest suspicion of his boy acting like a girl is a direct attack on his manhood!

It's a pity we don't have more women in this field of research bringing the feminine perspective to bear to counter the masculine "head-in-the-sand" approach to sex differences.

The examples Bailey uses to "prove" his theories are all true of course. Transpeople come in all shapes, sizes, orientations and identities. We are a mosaic people. We cannot be placed in just two PHs. We resent being pathologized into just two classifications as if we were lab rats being used for experiments. He tries to explain away anomalies by inferring that we are simply not telling the truth. I can understand the reluctance of CDs to verify whether they are sexually aroused by CDing. They are not transsexual though. They ARE another point within the gender mosaic however. When I first went to the Clarke in 1977, contrary to what Blanchard stated, if you showed any tendency towards being heterosexual (i.e. married), you couldn't possibly be transsexual. Yes, I was labelled a transvestite, and told bluntly to learn to live with it, with psychotherapeutic help of course. (OK, that was before Blanchard's time there...)

I am one of those "others" who do not fit the mold. I am asexual and therefore a liar. Bailey doesn't believe anybody could live without sex. Well... Hello!!! Yes I had sex as a married man through duty and a helluva lot of anxiety, guilt and stress. It produced one son after much effort, none of which I enjoyed. So, because of that I had to be heterosexual.

The assumptions both Bailey and Blanchard make are based on gender identity being fluid. The thought of a conflict between one's gender identity and anatomical sex is not discussed, other than a passing reference to the feeling of "being a woman in a man's body". We all know what Blanchard's famous comment about that was, and I quote: "What's that? Like a cat locked in a closet?"

Blanchard's reaction to the current criticism is all too predictable. I quote...

"The audiences for which this book was intended, which include students, clinical professionals, and laypersons, should not mistake the campaign of disinformation (verging at times on hate-mail) currently being waged by an ideologically-driven group of self-appointed "activists" as the universal view of all transsexual and transgender persons."

Well Mr. Blanchard, your views are not my views, and I don't fit into the convenient pigeonholes you have so carefully crafted for us and now reinforced by Mr. Bailey. We are human beings with feelings. We know who we are. Despite your best efforts, we still pursue our dreams and goals to effect the changes necessary to be at peace within ourselves. Sex is hardly ever the primary reason for wanting to change our bodies. Our orientation before and after SRS is indeed fluid as we experiment with our feelings towards others.... or it might just stay as it was, is, and always will be. We are all different. We come from different molds. We are each unique, to be treated uniquely. Is that too much to ask? Oh and by the way, Mr. Bailey, young children who later identify as TS in their teens come from all sorts of backgrounds, not just the poor, uneducated, disadvantaged families you allude to.

Come talk to us, not just those apparent TS people who inhabit gay bars in Chicago. Did you know you might actually find some of us in church? We'll soon put you "straight". Yes, some of my close friends are gay, really. And they know who I am.... and who they are...

OK, that's enough for now.... Boy oh boy! When I get going, look out....!! One day, I might even do a chapter-by-chapter critique... but that's in the future... I've got more important things on my mind right now.

Climbs down off soap box, time for another cuppa tea....

Blessings all