Background on Bailey's Book

The generally-accepted model for transsexualism describes our desire to align our bodies with our gender identity. Leading experts consider the causes of transsexualism and the motivations for transition to be highly complex and based on many factors.

Bailey rejects this prevailing model and draws upon oversimplified sexualized categories invented by sexologist Ray Blanchard to reduce us to one of two “types,” which Bailey believes explains our motivations:

Type 1 (“homosexual”) which Bailey calls “an extremely feminine type of gay man.”
Type 2 (“autogynephilic”) which Bailey calls “a man with a sexual obsession for being a woman.”

Autogynephilia (pronounced otto-guy-nuh-FEEL-yuh) is a term coined by Blanchard which links transsexualism with a type of fetish (or paraphilia).

Sexologist Anne Lawrence, who self-identifies as both autogynephilic and transsexual, is the most vocal supporter of the "autogynephilic transsexual" concept among people who have undergone feminizing procedures. While most of us support the right of people to modify their bodies as they wish, many of us consider autogynephilia to be overly vague in describing a number of distinct phenomena, some of which are not even limited to transgender women.

Scientific objections to Bailey’s evidence and methodology

1. Non-standardized use of terms

Transsexual women are generally considered a specific subset of the larger transgender population, which includes other forms of gender identity and expression. Though they are portrayed as transsexuals, Bailey’s anecdotal reports come from people who frequently fall outside the strict definition of "transsexual" proposed by the generally-accepted model. At the same time, Bailey rigidly adheres to the generally accepted model of biological essentialism, in which biology and genetics are used to enforce a strict definition of "male" and "female."

2. Skewed sample

Bailey made almost no attempt to contact or to report the experiences of assimilated transsexual women living and working in mainstream society. Bailey’s access to our closed community was gained through openly transgender women who are visible and accessible to outsiders:

Gay and transgender patrons and performers in bars (including self-identified “drag queens”)
transgender sex workers (including self-identified “she-males”)
Those who socialize through clubs and conventions (including self-identified “crossdressers” and "transgenderists")
Two of his transgender sexology students who have extraordinary, even unique, sexual histories and behaviors

3. “Memorable anomalies”

Bailey frequently relies on anecdotal reports which support prevailing stereotypes. The examples he uses to support his theory frequently fall far outside the experiences of most assimilated transsexual women.These memorable anomalies replace important distinctions and nuances with caricatures of transsexualism which are frequently inaccurate.

4. Little or no discussion of opposing scientific data

Bailey does almost nothing to acknowledge in the book that Blanchard's theories are controversial and not generally accepted.

Issues of bias in Bailey’s book

Many of us find the larger issues beyond the strict "science" debate to be the most troubling part of this book and the theories behind it.

1. Deliberately offensive terminology

Bailey uses terms that are generally considered the most deeply offensive slurs someone can say to transsexual women (calling us "males" and "men"). In doing so, Bailey echoes Janice Raymond's earlier use of these terms, though her unbridled contempt for transsexual women is replaced with Bailey's veneer of care and concern. Like Raymond, Bailey justifies using these terms in the name of "science."

Calling our most "successful" members (in terms of assimilation) gay men or male fetishists is a common strategy for deligitimizing women who live and find partners in the non-transsexual world. Believe it or not, many of us avoid the ghettoes of drag and sex work or the ghettoes of the older transitioners who are unemployed or underemployed because of their visible gender variance. Even completely assimilated transsexual women are still vulnerable to denial of marriage and other basic rights afforded to other women, as long as we are characterized as really just gay men or male fetishists. The only way this model holds is if we are defined as "male" via strict biological essentialism, where phenotype takes a back seat to genotype.

2. "Controversy" as a marketing tool

Bailey's use of inflammatory language and provocative statements echoes Anne Lawrence's early attempts to promote this theory (e.g., "men trapped in men's bodies"). Bailey, Blanchard, and Lawrence all fancy themselves as iconoclasts or as "politically incorrect," which they feel gives them license to dismiss critics and make statements without regard for their consequences. Bailey frequently boasts that his book and lectures are controversial, which appears to be a crass attempt to market the book, its theories, and most of all, Bailey himself.

3. Sexualization of our condition

Bailey not only aggressively promotes the stereotype that we are "men," he also aggressively promotes the stereotype that we are more sexual than non-transgender people. Because of remarkable similarities between Bailey's attitudes and the attitudes of men who are interested in transgender women (vacillating attraction and contempt), many of us wonder about Bailey's personal relationship to transgenderism. Bailey's description of attractive transsexuals is markedly different than his description of those he does not find attractive, and his constant assertion that he is "heterosexual" and "male" are hallmarks of men attracted to women in our community. Many of us suspect Bailey’s objectivity may be colored by his level of sexual attraction to transgender women or to crossdressing.

In addition, Bailey’s “autogynephilic” type is problematic because any sexual activity of any kind (even no sexual activity) is enough to qualify you for this sexualized “type." It’s just as vague as saying there are two types of humans: gay and non-gay. While this may be useful in some minor ways, it is by no means complete or especially descriptive of human sexuality. In fact, Bailey's insistence that the transsexual world mirrors the way he divides the non-transsexual world ("homosexual" and "everyone else") is quite telling.

4. Transsexualism as a mental illness

There is a long tradition in depictions of oppressed minorities to portray them as pathological and unable to function in society. There is a suggestion throughout Bailey's book that we are biologically predisposed to be sex workers, and that we are congenitally unable to form long-term committed relationships with others. According to Bailey, we rarely hold conventional jobs.

Ascribing motivation to Bailey-Blanchard-Lawrence

Since they feel entitled to do this to me, let me propose what I see as their motivations in promoting this sexualized taxonomy. Though each member seems to have a slightly different reason for their alliance, I believe the Bailey-Blanchard-Lawrence triumvirate has four major shared goals:

1. Creating and maintaining boundaries that are important to how they structure the world and their places in it.

2. Retaining control and regulation of the transition process within a medical and psychological "professional" framework.

3. Reinforcing their self-identification as powerful and respected "authorities."

4. Making their own sexual proclivities appear socially acceptable.

I will be discussing all of this in great detail in upcoming months. The articles on the main page are designed to help familiarize you with the issues raised by Bailey's patently offensive book and the Bailey-Blanchard-Lawrence worldview.