Jeffrey Robbins on transsexualism

Jeff Robbins, Senior Editor at Joseph Henry Press, the publishing arm of the National Academies Press. Robbins is credited by J. Michael Bailey in The Man Who Would Be Queen as a collaborator who prepared the manuscript. Below is my correspondence with Jeff.

Sent 17 May 2003

Jeffrey Robbins, Senior Editor
The Joseph Henry Press
36 Dartmouth St. #810
Malden, MA 02148
Tel. 781-324-4786
Fax 781-397-8255

Mr. Robbins--

I maintain an “Our Bodies, Ourselves” type website for transsexual women called

After my business partner’s boyfriend Barry Winchell was beaten to death with a baseball bat because he was dating her, I expanded my efforts from practical matters of gender transition to improving media depictions of our condition.

I am writing to you today because of your involvement in J. Michael Bailey’s The Man Who Would Be Queen. In it, Bailey states that you edited this book and "made my writing better than I could." (xii-xiii)

Mr. Robbins, you are complicit in the publication of what many in my community believe is the most defamatory book on transsexualism written since 1979. You are responsible for allowing us to be associated with depraved murderers (p. 142) and to be described as little more than socially stunted deviants generally unable to form long-term relationships or even hold “conventional jobs.” (p. 188). Imagine if the following were said about women you know:

“[They] work as waitresses, hairdressers, receptionists, strippers, and prostitutes, as well as in many other occupations.” (p. 142)

I intend to see that you remain clearly linked to this historical document and are held accountable for this outrage during the remainder of your career. I also plan to secure your shameful place in the history of our community’s struggle to enjoy the same basic rights afforded other women. Make no mistake: you will have helped to hurt a great many women and children before we get those rights, and I can assure you your efforts will not go unnoticed.

I will be re-reading the entire text as well and making a painstaking record of all the ways you and Bailey have hurt all of us by bringing out such bigotry in the name of “science.” I will be sending my full findings to the National Academies leadership later this year.

The fact that any publisher allowed this to be printed under the auspices of "science" raises serious concerns about the process by which books are subjected to review at Joseph Henry Press. I intend to assist with the full investigation into how you personally allowed this to happen.

Though I doubt you are, you should be absolutely ashamed of yourself.


cc: Barbara Kline Pope, Director
Phone: 202-334-3328

Below is the form letter being sent out by the National Academies to anyone who wrote to them. I received my copy on 22 May 2003.

Office of Communications

500 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: 202 334 1212
Fax: 202 334 1210

We have received your message about the book, The Man Who Would Be Queen, by J. Michael Bailey, and I am responding on behalf of the National Academies. We appreciate knowing of your concerns and recognize that the contents of this book are controversial. The copyright page of the book carries the following notice: "Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this volume are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Academy of Sciences or its affiliated institutions." This statement applies to all books published by the Joseph Henry Press. Joseph Henry Press publications are not reports of the National Academies, but are individually authored works on topics related to science, engineering, and medicine.

In our opinion, the best response to writing with which one disagrees is more writing. Those who hold views contrary to those expressed in this book are encouraged to present and publish the evidence and reasoning in support of their conclusions.

Suzanne H. Woolsey, Ph.D.
Chief Communications Officer

My response to Jeff that day:

I hope you don’t think some tepid form letter is going to deter anyone in our community from holding you responsible for bringing out the most defamatory book on transsexualism in a generation, Jeff.

I’ll be dealing with you after I deal with some other issues. Bye for now.