Anne Lawrence is a disgraced American anesthesiologist and the most prominent “autogynephilia” activist in history. Lawrence is author of the 2013 book Men Trapped in Men’s Bodies: Narratives of Autogynephilic Transsexualism.
Many people (including me) have come forward with observations and first-hand reports where Lawrence performed inappropriately sexual “medical” exams. Following a 1997 resignation for examining an unconscious patient for signs of ritualized genital modification, the bulk of Lawrence’s personal and professional life has been dedicated to promoting the “autogynephilia” diagnosis. Lawrence has since worked closely with Ray Blanchard, the Toronto psychologist who invented this disease in 1989.
Anne Alexandra Lawrence was born on November 17, 1950. Lawrence earned a bachelor’s degree from University of Chicago in 1971, then a medical degree from University of Minnesota in 1974, with a specialty in anesthesia. Lawrence began taking hormones in medical school but stopped at some point. Lawrence took an anesthesiologist position at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, Washington.
In 1987 Lawrence married speech therapist Marian Sheehan (born 1950), and they had two children, David (born 1988) and Katherine (born 1990). Lawrence began making a gender transition again in 1992, ending the marriage in 1995 and transitioning at work soon after.
In July 1996, Lawrence created Transsexual Women’s Resources, one of the most important early online resources for trans medical information, later housed at annelawrence.com. Much of it was first-hand reports, such as Lawrence’s 1996 essay about vaginoplasty with Toby Meltzer titled “Taking Portlandia’s Hand.” It also had the largest collection of vaginoplasty information and results from around the world, captioned with Lawrence’s personal opinions about the results. Many of the images of results were taken by Lawrence, often at community gatherings or at Lawrence’s home. Lawrence has since removed most of the material and excluded it from archival sites.
Lawrence discovered the disease “autogynephilia” in 1994 after reading Blanchard’s journal articles published between 1989 and 1993. Lawrence then began proselytizing for “autogynephilic transsexual” as an identity at gender conventions, finding few community supporters.
It soon emerged from her papers, that Lawrence, after periods of personal confusion, ‘found herself’ with reference to Blanchard’s concept, in much the same way that so many transgendered people speak of ‘finding themselves’ when first becoming acquainted and adopting the medical terms ‘transvestite’ or ‘transsexual’.
Via Ekins and King (2012):
Lawrence says that on reading Blanchard’s journal articles that she experienced the ‘kind of epiphany that trans people often feel when first coming across words and formulations that fit and work for them’ (Lawrence 1999a). Not only do they feel empowered to make sense of their predicament, but the formulations are proof to them that they are not alone.
In 1996, Lawrence began promoting the disease online, which brought Lawrence to the attention of other “autogynephilia” activists promoting it. They began to shower Lawrence with attention and validation.
1997 hospital resignation
In 1997, Lawrence was administering anesthesia to an Ethiopian patient during a surgical procedure. When the gynecologist left the room, Lawrence moved from the anesthesia position to between the patient’s raised legs and examined the unconscious patient for signs of ritualized genital modification, despite being told several times by the surgeon that the patient had not had it. Co-worker reports triggered a state investigation, and Lawrence resigned prior to the full investigation.
The incident was not widely publicized until trans activist Roberta Angela Dee published a 2002 exposé that included excerpts from the case file from the State of Washington.
I later obtained the complete adverse action report from the state.
Reinvention as sexologist
Following these failures in marriage and in anesthesiology, Lawrence began focusing more on online resources. As Lawrence became more and more focused on “autogynephilia” activism, the trans community opinion began to turn as well.
Lawrence and I both ran prominent websites on gender transition, and we began discussing collaboration on a book, to the point that we met in person at Lawrence’s home in 1999. Lawrence’s website at the time contained photographic examples of vaginoplasty results, and I agreed to let Lawrence photograph my results provided they were not connected to my name. At the end of the photography session, Lawrence came on to me while I was still getting dressed, which I considered inappropriate. In a 2003 exposé, Dallas Denny published a similar account of Lawrence doing the same thing to journalist Donna Cartwright.
Eventually, Lawrence’s primary source of attention and validation was from “experts” who promoted disease models of gender identity and expression. Soon Lawrence was invited to speak at their conventions and publish in journals supportive of disease models.
Lawrence returned to school to study sexology at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, an unaccredited school in San Francisco. That school gave Lawrence a doctorate in 2001 shortly before closing permanently. Lawrence later studied clinical psychology at Argosy University, Seattle, which gave Lawrence a master’s degree in 2006. That school has also ceased operations.
In 2008, prominent “autogynephilia” activist Paul Vasey brought Lawrence on as an adjunct professor in the psychology department at the University of Lethbridge.
Lawrence on Bailey (2003)
Lawrence has also worked closely with another Blanchard supporter, psychologist J. Michael Bailey of Northwestern University. Bailey had self-published a 2000 article online called “Transsexualism: Women trapped in men’s bodies or men who would be women?” That work was incorporated into Bailey’s 2003 book The Man Who Would Be Queen. Lawrence is quoted on the cover, calling it “a wonderful book on an important subject,” despite the fact that nearly everyone else who read it found it to be one of the most defamatory and inaccurate books on gender diversity since 1979.
When readers started posting negative Amazon reviews, Bailey enlisted friends and colleagues to write shill reviews. Lawrence published the anonymous review below:
Outstanding scholarship, April 18, 2003
Reviewer: A reader from USA
Michael Bailey’s new book offers an entertaining, informative, and provocative discussion of gender variance in biologic males. The author is Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University, and is one of the world’s foremost authorities on gender and sexual orientation. Fortunately for readers, he is a superb writer as well as a gifted scholar.
The author’s detailed discussion of femininity and masculinity in gay men is outstanding, and his treatment of male-to-female transsexuality is remarkable for its insight and compassion. Bailey is not afraid to be politically incorrect, and some of his conclusions are bound to upset the handful of transsexuals who still cling to the “I was a woman trapped in a man’s body” fantasy. But many more transsexuals will be grateful for the author’s willingness to go beyond the stereotypes and clichés and reveal the complicated truths about their lives.
Below may be the most succinct expression of Lawrence’s position. It is a rigid medical model of “sex” combined with Lawrence’s fluid foray into identity politics by claiming to be “transsexual” that is the issue here (emphasis mine).
I should explain that I will be using the term “transsexual” in its most literal sense, to mean one who desires to approximate as closely as possible the anatomic characteristics of the opposite sex. Note that the word “gender” does not appear in my definition. This reflects my belief that transsexuality is fundamentally about changing one’s anatomy, or sex; and that sometimes it may have little to do with gender identity, or with gender role.
My message today is that some biologic males who pursue sex reassignment do so, not primarily because they have a gender problem, but because they have a sex problem, and indeed a sexual problem. I will explain why I have come to believe that male-to-female transsexualism is sometimes the expression of a paraphilia — an unusual or variant pattern of sexual arousal.
Ekins R, King D (2001). Transgendering, Migrating and Love of Oneself as a Woman: A Contribution to a Sociology of Autogynephilia. International Journal of Transgenderism 5;3, http://www.symposion.com/ijt/ijtvo05no03_01.htm [archive]
Zagria (17 March 2009). Anne Lawrence (1950 – ) anesthesiologist, gender therapist, activist. A Gender Variance Who’s Who. https://zagria.blogspot.com/2009/03/anne-lawrence-1950-anesthesiologist.html
State of Washington (1997). Anne Lawrence medical license record (PDF)
[Denny, Dallas] (2004). Concerns about Dr. Anne Lawrence. Transgender Tapestry; Spring 2004, Issue 105, p. 13.
Archival commentary from this site
- Anne Lawrence: The Anne Who Would Be Queen
- Anne Lawrence and Fundamentalism
- Pink triangulation
Anne Lawrence (annelawrence.com)