Duncan Osborne and transgender people

Duncan T. Osborne (born May 6, 1957) is an American journalist who writes extensively on LGBT issues, especially AIDS. In March 2003, he wrote a positive review of J. Michael Bailey’s anti-transgender book The Man Who Would Be Queen for Out magazine, later cited in promotional materials from the publisher.

Background

Osborne grew up in the Boston area. His father taught physics at MIT, and his mother eventually was editor at MIT Press. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in theater from University of Colorado, then moved to New York in 1984. He began writing in 1987.

In his review, Mr. Osborne noted that Bailey “focuses exclusively on men, and he covers a broad spectrum—gay men, male-to-female transsexuals, and men who identify as neither gay nor transgender but engage in behaviors that are typically associated with those who do.”

Bailey’s publisher Joseph Henry Press used an excerpt of this review in its publicity and advertisements. Below is the Out magazine review as it appeared on the Joseph Henry Press site:

“…recommended reading for anyone interested in the study of gender identity and sexual orientation. … Bailey has produced a thoughtful book that cites recent scientific studies on homosexuality and transsexuality. It is written, however, in a style that makes it easily accessible to any reader.”

— Out Magazine, March 2003

I contacted Osborne at the time, and he sent the following reply on 20 August 2003:

I was hired by Out to write the review because I have written a number of stories, including one for Out, on gender identity disorder as well as reparative therapy. The quote you cited above is nearly the entire review. It was roughly one hundred words long and I was required to make a recommendation for or against the book with little opportunity to explore it in any depth. I chose to recommend it because I believed, and I still believe, that it is a good primer on the topics of sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity. 

My only contact with Michael Bailey, if it may be called that, was a failed effort to interview him in 1997 for a story on gender identity disorder that I wrote for a gay paper here in New York City. He never returned my phone call.

Hope this is helpful.

When I asked him if I could quote from the letter above, Osborne agreed under the following conditions:

I expect that you will use everything I wrote and it is particularly important that you note that I would still recommend the book. I would not want to read a quote that makes it seem as if I’m backing away from my original recommendation.

2008 update

In the wake of the 2008 announcement naming Ken Zucker and Ray Blanchard to the DSM-V group involved in “gender identity disorder,” Osborne wrote a piece about the early response:

Flap Flares Over Gender Diagnosis

In interviews with the gay press dating back to 1997, Zucker distanced himself from the practitioners of reparative therapy and he has won praise from some gay psychologists and psychiatrists.

He believes, but cannot prove that his therapy with young children can prevent their being transsexual as adults.

Psychiatrist Richard R. Pleak responded in next issue of Out.

References

Osborne D (April 2003). Voices – Identity Crisis. Out magazine

Osborne D (May 15, 2008). Flap Flares Over Gender Diagnosis. Gay City News. http://www.gaycitynews.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=19693908&BRD=2729&PAG=461&dept_id=568864&rfi=6

Schulman, Sarah (May 5, 2015). Interview of Duncan Osborne. ACT UP Oral History Project. http://www.actuporalhistory.org/interviews/images/osborne.pdf