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John Derbyshire vs. transgender people

“Lost in the Male”: review by John Derbyshire

Below is an excerpt from a glowing review of J. Michael Bailey’s The Man Who Would Be Queen, penned by professional homophobe John Derbyshire for the conservative magazine National Review on June 30, 2003 (pp. 51-52).

Like most positive reviewers of Bailey, Derbyshire is a member of the Human Biodiversity Institute, a conservative-run eugenics thinktank.

LINK: Who is John Derbyshire? by Lynn Conway

LINK: Full text and commentary by Lynn Conway

LINK: Follow-up report describing Derbyshire’s involvement in this matter.

See my comments following the excerpt.

Part Three is the book’s most difficult section, because it deals with the rarest and most puzzling aspect of male effeminacy: According to Bailey, less than one man in 12,000 is transsexual, a condition defined simply by “the desire to become a member of the opposite sex,” whether or not that desire has led to actual surgery. The striking finding here is that there are two quite distinct types of men who wish they were women, distinguished by the choice of erotic object. On the one hand there are “homosexual transsexuals,” who desire masculine men—heterosexual men, for preference—and who dress and behave like women to attract them. And then there is the “autogynephilic transsexual,” a man whose erotic attention is fixed on the idea of himself as a woman.

The strangeness of this latter type is captured nicely in the title of Bailey’s chapter on them: “Men Trapped in Men’s Bodies.” An autogynephile is essentially a heterosexual man whose object of desire is an imaginary feminine creature which happens to be himself… or herself, depending on how you look at it. Such a person was usually not effeminate as a child, has likely been married, and does not show typically homosexual preferences in career or entertainment choices. The historian and travel writer Jan (formerly James) Morris, to judge from her autobiographical book Conundrum, belongs to this category. The consummation of sexual desire presents obvious difficulties for the autogynephile. Indeed, it is occasionally fatal: Around 100 American men die every year from “autoerotic asphyxia,” which seems to arise from a conjunction of masochism and autogynephilia—the two conditions are related in some way not well understood.

All of these types—girlish boys, male homosexuals, transsexuals of both types—are of course human beings, who, like the rest of us, must play the best game they can with the cards Nature has dealt them. No decent person would wish to inflict on them any more unhappiness than their mismatched bodies and psyches have already burdened them with. At the same time, there is circumstantial evidence that complete acceptance and equality for all sexual orientations may have antisocial consequences, so that the obloquy aimed at sexual variance by every society prior to our own may have had some stronger foundation than mere blind prejudice. Male homosexuality, in particular, seems to possess some quality of being intrinsically subversive when let loose in long-established institutions, especially male dominated ones. The courts of at least two English kings offer support to this thesis, as does the postwar British Secret Service, and more recently the Roman Catholic priesthood. I should like to see some adventurous sociologist research these outward aspects with as much diligence and humanity as Michael Bailey has applied to his study of the inward ones.

Derbyshire, J. “Lost in the Male.” National Review, June 30, 2003. pp. 51-52.


Mr. Derbyshire’s positive review (as with Dan Seligman in Forbes) shows why this book will be embraced by conservatives as part of the new “calculated compassion” movement in the face of significant and unstoppable GLBT political advances in the last 30 years. Seems they hope to slow things down at least.

As expected, uber-conservative Mr. Derbyshire loves Bailey. In discussing the first two sections, he brings up Bailey’s cloacal extrophy story, his woefully uninformed “homosexual voice” thinking and clueless conjectures on why certain jobs in the gender ghettoes go to gay men.

Then he gets to the part on transsexuals, which he sums up perfectly. Mr. Derbyshire cuts through Bailey’s attempts to obfuscate his bigotry and exposes the book for what it is.

Bailey has been claiming he never called us men, but that’s not how anyone else sees it, whether they’re Mr. Derbyshire, yours truly, or other psychologists.

He also picks up on how Bailey claims there’s a connection between transsexual women and 25 men a year who die from self-strangulation while whacking off in panties.

The 1 in 12,000 number cited is way off, as Bailey is about to find out. I would estimate several thousand assimilated transsexual women in the Chicago area alone, and probably five times that many who would fit in Bailey’s overbroad definition of anyone seriously thinking about transition.

Bailey should be very pleased to see that conservatives like Tammy Bruce and John Derbyshire are taking up Anne Lawrence’s offensive “Men Trapped in Men’s Bodies”cliche, which dovetails perfectly with his Man Who Would Be Queen title.

Mr. Derbyshire sees homosexuals as “intrinsically subversive”when allowed in positions of power (see the Califia-Rice quotation on my “illegal immigrants” page for how those of us who pass get painted as moles and traitors).

NaSHILLnal Review?

One thing I like about the National Review crowd is that they are smart and have senses of humor. I got several chuckles among their eyeroll-inducing cluelessness as I read their site to find how this review came about. It came about the same way as Bailey’s Amazon shill reviews, it turns out. A little logrolling.

Both boys are recently published by National Academies Press:

Prime Obsession:Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics
John Derbyshire
5.5 x.8.5, 448 pages, 2003.

The Man Who Would Be Queen:The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism
J. Michael Bailey
6 x 8.5, 256 pages, 2003.

The Derb is well-known for anti-gay commentary, and he’s taking us to task for being those “‘transgender’ extremists,” miserable ingrates who just aren’t satisfied with the crumbs from the table.

The homosexual-rights activists are in a period of overshoot. They have banished the old regime of illegality, persecution and blackmail, and a good thing too. Now, however, they are trying to effect radical changes in society, changes which huge numbers of people will not stomach. As I have said before: “Homosexuals would, I believe, be wise to lower the volume, cherish their private lives, withdraw the more contentious litigation, and stop ‘pushing the envelope.’ Envelopes can break.”

There’s also this gem (interesting in light of my business partner Calpernia’s boyfriend Barry, who was gay-bashed on base for months before he was literally beaten to death with a baseball bat):

The extremist-homosexualist lobbies are extremely skilled at this. Just look at the word “gay-bashing.” It ought to mean whacking someone over the head with a baseball bat. What it actually means–is taken to mean by ordinary Americans–is the utterance of anything opposed to the extremist-homosexualist cause. (It was used against me just five minutes ago in an e-mail, because I wondered aloud about diseases specific to male homosexuals.)

And last, before we get to the review, an anecdote about his wacky adventures with Bailey (emphasis mine):


Yes, it’s true: NRODT really did assign me to review Michael Bailey’s book about effeminate men. I urge you to do one, or better yet both, of the following: (a) get a subscription to NRODT so you can read my review, or (b) buy Michael’s book. As well as the obvious reasons to buy it (it’s a good book, full of fascinating observations and, so far as I could discern, agenda-free), there is also the fact that Michael, the nicest guy you could ever wish to meet, and a very conscientious researcher, is being vilified by militant trans-gender extremists. Here is an anecdote about the book. It happens that Michael and I share the same publisher. We had adjoining tables at Book Expo America in Los Angeles the other day. The drill is, you get half an hour at a table in a huge hall, where people line up in front of the tables to get a free book (this is a trade show) signed by the author. It’s all timed very precisely by the organizers, as they have a LOT of authors to get through. Well, I was waiting in the green room with my publisher’s publicity lady, to do my signing at 12:30. Michael was scheduled to sign at the same time, but he was late. It got to be 12:15, 12:20, and the publicity lady was getting worried. Derb: “I sure hope he gets here on time. A long line of angry transsexuals doesn’t bear thinking about…” Fortunately Michael showed up with a minute to spare.

The DerbThe Bail

I promised I’d stop being so catty, but I gotta say it… rounding a corner at a book expo and seeing these two side by side doesn’t bear thinking about.

More fun with The Derb

From his blog work on the National Review’s The Corner. Links in text added by me.

November 16, 2003


Following the “Derbophobe” link at the end of today’s column, a number of readers have e-mailed in to ask what on earth I have done to tick off this Lynn Conway person so very comprehensively. 

It’s a long story but here is the gist of it. 

There is a professor of psychology at Northwestern UniversityMichael Bailey. Michael’s research specialty is the psychology of “gender identity.” He studies–in a formal, peer-reviewed academic sense–things like homosexuality, transsexualism, and so on. Earlier this year he published a book about his research, titled The Man Who Would Be Queen. I am slightly acquainted with Michael and his work–we are both members of a certain invitation-only e-list dealing with matters of human variation from biological, psychological and sociological perspectives. I therefore volunteered to review his book for National Review. My review duly appeared in the June 30 issue of NRODT this year. Here it is. 

Now, the last part of Michael’s book deals with male transsexuals–men who wish to become women. In it, he subscribes to the theory (which did not originate with him) that there are two quite distinct types of male transsexual. The first type is pretty straightforward, just a particularly effeminate kind of homosexual, who wants to be a woman in order to attract male sex partners–heterosexual ones for preference. The second type, however, is much stranger. This is the “autogynephile”–a masculine, basically heterosexual man, whose erotic attention is fixated on the image of himself as a woman. In the studies Michael (and others) have done, this type appears quite distinct from the other. Autogynephiles, for example, are likely to have been married to normal women and to have fathered children by them. They differ from the other type–the “homosexual transsexual”–in all sorts of other ways, too, that show up clearly in life histories and psychological tests. 

Now, this is all psychological theory. It may be wrong–though on the evidence Michael presents, in his book and elsewhere, it seems to this non-specialist that he has a pretty good case. This theory, however, is pure poison to those autogynephiles who, like Lynn Conway, have hadsex-reassignment surgery. They take very strong exception to the implication that they are fundamentally males–and heterosexual males at that! WE ARE WOMEN! They scream. FULLY FEMININE WOMEN! To say that they take strong exception to Michael’s work is, in fact, to understate the situation. They are spitting furious with Bailey, and have launched a huge campaign against him and anyone associated with him. 

The scale of their campaign is tremendous. Anyone who ever shook hands with Michael Bailey is being tracked down and “exposed” via materials like those I linked to. This campaign is very well financed and has pulled in some big guns–the Southern Poverty Law Center, for example, is carrying out a “hate crimes” investigation. Our publisher has been lobbied ferociously to withdraw Michael’s book (Michael’s publicist, who is also mine, has been a target of their campaign) and Northwestern has also been threatened with various kinds of action if they do not shut Michael’s mouth. 

What’s this got to do with me? Well, I gave Michael’s book a friendly review, see, so I must be part of the Axis of Evil. In fact, these lunatics have erected a huge conspiracy theory about myself and Michael, based on the fact that, wait for it, we have the same publisher!!! It follows, you see, that Michael and I meet secretly in a basement somewhere every Friday to plot further insults and outrages against these autogynephiles. I’m not kidding. This stuff is bizarre. 

In fact, other than belonging to the same e-list, Michael and I are not acquainted. I have met him just once: his book came out at the same time as mine, and our publisher sent us both to BookExpo in Los Angeles this summer, along with all their other authors whose books had just appeared. Michael does not, in fact, altogether approve of me. He is–as his book clearly shows–sympathetic to people with “gender identity” problems, and regards me as a primitive homophobe. (Imagine! Me!!) 

A great many other facts on Lynn Conway’s website are wrong, too. I have never, for example, written a book about yachting, and I have never heard of half the people she names as being part of the great Bailey-Derbyshire conspiracy to present autogynephiles as essentially male. 

Not to put too fine a point on it, Lynn Conway is nuts. She and her pals have money, though, and energy, and a big cheering section in the “gay rights” crowd, so I shall probably end up in jail for some kind of “hate crime” before they are through with me. 

OK, it’s all a bit of a storm in a teacup. It does illustrate, though, the savagery of the “gender issues” and “gay rights” campaigners. These people are pure totalitarians, intent on shutting up and destroying anyone who goes against their party line–even someone as generally sympathetic as Bailey. They are absolutely unscrupulous, very well funded, and have powerful friends in Congress and the judiciary–it is they who are driving this new “hate crimes” legislation. 

As an opinion journalist, I am fair game, and I can take care of myself. Michael, though, is a scientist, a “retired and uncourtly scholar,” quite unused to this kind of vituperation and misrepresentation. His work ought to be validated, or disproved, via the usual processes of discussion and peer review. 

Lynn Conway and her gang couldn’t care less about any of that. Like the rest of the “gay rights” and “gender issues” crowd, they want to shut down all discussion and debate. Fundamentally they are extreme narcissists, who react with blind unreasoning fury when their precious self-esteem is pricked. They don’t want peer review; they don’t want science; they don’t want discussion; they want blood. This is real culture war here, and if we lose it, we shall lose our freedoms. 

Posted at 02:43 PM

November 17, 2003


Many readers have expressed great interest in the flap ove Michael Bailey’s book, which I sketched out in a long Corner post yesterday. Michael Bailey himself has set up a site to give his account of the affair. You can, by the way, read Michael’s book free on the web–there is a link somewhere in that site. 

Posted at 11:02 AM


A reader (one of several expressing the same sentiment): “Why do you play along with this person’s [i.e. Lynn Conway’s, the male-to-female transsexual who put up that ‘Derbophobe’ web site] pathology by calling him a “she”? As a woman, I can tell you one thing for sure: He is not a woman, just a poor, deluded amputee.” 

In my opinion, this is not an easy call. You can make a polemical point–and, if the offending theory is true, be technically correct–by referring to Lynn Conway as “he.” I think my own preference for “she” just derives from a strong, old-fashioned attachment to good manners. 

Now, you could argue that, given the vituperation heaped on my head by Lynn Conway, she has forfeited any right to good manners on my part. I just don’t agree. If she considers herself a woman, and has gone to all the pain and expense of having an operation to make her feel more like a woman, I think common courtesy dictates that we call her what she wishes to be called, however deluded we may think she is. To start referring to her as “he” just seems a bit spiteful and nyah-nyah-ish, even if technically correct. Perhaps I’m not making a good case here; perhaps I’m not sure about this; but that is kind of the point. When in doubt, stick with good manners. 

This is related, in some way I can’t be bothered to figure out, to the question of whether to pronounce your enemy’s name properly. I used to work with a woman who was perfectly detestable–everyone detested her, she was a sneak and a suck-up, incompetent and lazy, but highly skilled at ingratiating herself with management. Her name was “Diane,” which in England is pronounced “die-AN.” Well, she had this big thing about how she wanted everyone to say “DEE-an.” Naturally we all referred to her as “die-AN.” Now, twenty years on, with the sage maturity of my years, I think I would have said “DEE-an,” while working very hard indeed to get her fired. 

[By the way, “Derbyshire” is pronounced “DAH-bi-shuh.” That’s “DAH-bi-shuh”–everybody got that?] 
Posted at 02:31 PM


Derbyshire has been reading the work of his eugenicist friends like J. Michael Bailey:

Now, the trend in current research on homosexuality, if I have understood it correctly, suggests that the homosexual orientation is indeed mostly congenital — the result of events in the mother’s womb, or in early infancy, with perhaps some slight genetic predisposition. The thing is, in short, mainly biochemical — part of a person’s physical make-up.

Supposing this is true, let us conduct a wee thought experiment — admittedly a fanciful one. A young woman in the late stages of pregnancy, or carrying a small infant, shows up at her doctor’s office. “Doctor,” she asks, “is there some kind of test you can do to tell me if my child is likely to become a homosexual adult?” The doctor says yes, there is. “And,” the woman continues, “suppose the test is positive — would that be something we can fix? I mean, is there some sort of medical, or genetic, or biochemical intervention we can do at this stage, to prevent that happening?” The doctor says yes, there is. “How much does the test cost? And supposing it’s positive, how much does the fix cost?” The doctor says $50, and $500. The woman takes out her checkbook. 

Of course this is not happening anywhere in the U.S.A. right now. If my understanding of the state of current research is correct, however, it might very well be happening on a daily basis ten years from now.