John Michael “Mike” Bailey (born 1951) is an American psychologist, considered one of the most unethical sexologists in history. He is known for a number of ethics scandals and controversies throughout his checkered career.
This site first began criticizing his work in 1999, and since 2003 has been a clearinghouse for cataloguing his role in the academic exploitation of sex and gender minorities. One history book says my work coordinating the community response to Bailey and his supporters “represented one of the most organized and unified examples of transgender activism seen to date.” In 2021 the United States Library of Congress selected this site for archiving because it is “an important part of this collection and the historical record.”
Bailey’s notable ethical scandals
Children and sex
- supporting research stating that childhood sexual abuse is not as harmful as the media claims
- promulgating the concept of “pre-homosexual” children
- claiming he can guess the sexual orientation of children
- supporting fired sexologist Kenneth Zucker, whose “therapy” of gender diverse children has been widely outlawed and described as “child abuse”
- supporting penile plethysmography, a controversial device for measuring genital arousal; some sexologists have attached plethysmographs to the penises of children to measure their erections for “research”
- advisor Lee Willerman was a member of the American Eugenics Society
- stating it is “morally acceptable” to screen for and abort gay fetuses
- arguing that “offering sex offenders the opportunity to be castrated in return for a reduced sentence is not ethically problematic coercion.”
Gay and lesbian
- claiming that “evolutionarily, homosexuality is a big mistake.”
- claiming homosexuality may represent a “developmental error.”
- stating that bisexual and pansexual men do not exist, claiming all men are either “gay, straight, or lying.”
- suddenly “discovering” male bisexuality after getting money from John Sylla at the American Institute of Bisexuality
- arranging a live “fucksaw” demonstration that led to his signature sexology class being permanently cancelled by the university
- having sex with recent Northwestern grad his daughter’s age
- mentoring a new generation of ethically questionable sexologists:
- fabricating the case report that got him tenure: the “Danny Ryan” transgender cure narrative
- misusing images and video of gender diverse children without their knowledge or consent as part of a lurid sexualized presentation that drew laughter from future clinicians
- writing The Man Who Would Be Queen, widely considered one of the most transphobic books in history
- featuring case reports in his book without consent
- offering clinical assessments to satisfy gatekeeping models without being licensed by the state
- attempting to have sex with at least one of his transgender book subjects / clients
- working closely with historian Alice Dreger to cover up his ethical scandals
- making deliberately low population estimates of LGBT people
- writing for and publicizing “gender critical” activists
- supporting the ex-trans movement:
- supporting nearly every disease model of gender identity and expression ever created
- “gender identity disorder”
- “gender dysphoria”
- “early onset”
- “adolescent onset”
- “adult onset”
- “caused by psychotic delusions”
- “rapid onset gender dysphoria”
- “autohomoerotic gender dysphoria”
- paraphilic models, especially those of Ray Blanchard and Anne Lawrence
Homosexuality may represent “a developmental error.”
Bailey JM (1999). Homosexuality and mental illness. Archives of General Psychiatry. 1999 Oct;56(10):883-4.
“Prostitution is the single most common occupation that homosexual transsexuals in our study admitted to.”
Bailey JM (2003). The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism. Joseph Henry Press. p. 184
“To focus on this question, we have to assume that whatever means parents will use to do this are, in themselves, morally acceptable. So, if you have any problem at all with abortion, assume that pregnant women can guarantee a heterosexual child by, say, taking a pill, or avoiding certain foods, or even by reading their children certain bedtime stories. What would make avoiding gay children wrong?”
Bailey JM (2003). The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism. Joseph Henry Press. p. 114
Selected letters and comments from correspondentsI am very happy to announce that I’m getting inundated with email on this matter. All of it is very welcome, but I feel some of it is worth sharing with everyone. This page puts forth wisdom and insight from readers just like you, and my responses when applicable.
Please note that I do not necessarily agree with all the comments below, but I felt they might be helpful or interesting for others who are working to deal with this issue.
Excerpts from V__’s letter on “autogynephilia” and its flaws:
But before I get too lengthy, I want to get to the heart of my purpose for this e-mail. And that is the concept of “Autogynephilia”. I’ve recently come to believe that this concept is the result of research that didn’t quite go far enough. A few months ago I attended a lecture about sexual addictions given by a prominent local Psychologist who specializes in addictions of all kinds. Additionally, in a brief follow-up, I attended a few group-therapy sessions of men with various sexual addictions. In this lecture he came to a point of describing his own sexual addiction throughout much of his adolescence and early adulthood – compulsive masturbation. In tying this anecdote to his patient-studies, he illustrated what to me was a very lucid observation and one which I feel could shed new light on the whole concept of Autogynephilia.
The observation is/was that, like many other addictions, sexual addictions can be born out of deep suppression and/or internal self-loathing, primarily as secondary to things such as trauma or over-controlling parents/spouses, for examples. The causes of suppression and self-loathing are, of course, virtually innumerable, so he didn’t go much into that except to describe his own awful upbringing and how, indirectly, compulsive masturbation became an escape? a way of self-medicating, if you will. Not that this was a conscious effort. Rather, he explains it as a subconscious process.
Without going into much more extensive detail, I feel that I cannot do this the justice it deserves, but I hope what I’ve described can offer you some idea of the conclusion I’d LIKE to draw – that perhaps erotic arousal associated with cross-dressing has much more to do with internal conflict and suppression than with some skewed sexual proclivity. I have to say that, as I sat in this lecture, the lights started coming on. Add to that the credible research found in more recent publications and I feel that the issue of autogynephilia is one which needs to be revisited and, hopefully revised.
Excerpts from R__’s letter on Bailey, with my reply on “social canalization”:
The transsexual portion of this book dwells on the path taken. Does this mean they started from different places? Maybe. But maybe it is based on the decisions we make at a young age. Those who decide to hide their differences at a young age to try and fit in and those who don’t. The crux of that decision can flavor the rest of someone’s life. Someone who doesn’t try to suppress it will have a rougher time socially, hence a rougher time in schoolwork and at home, and THAT causes the situation where they end up in the different job roles. One who suppresses and tries to fit in, may shut inside themselves a lot more. They apply themselves to schoolwork or some other safe activity. Being too social is opening the opportunity for the hidden information to slip out. To hide in a world of controllable logic (computers) is a natural reaction to a fear of socialization. Further attempts at suppression lead to military careers and/or marriage. Okay, its just a theory, but it covers the split.
This is an extremely important issue, and one I would love to hear more on. Here’s something I’ve been reading on the matter:
According to Valsiner (Valsiner, 1985; Valsiner & Hill, 1989), children are socialized into culturally acceptable ways of acting in given situations through a process of social canalization. In Valsiner’s framework, children’s development of acting and of thinking is explained through the mutually related functioning of three zones. The first zone is called the “zone of freedom of movement” (ZFM) and refers to the structure of the environment that is functionally available to the developing child at a given time. The limits of this zone are negotiated with the caregivers and change as the child develops or moves into an area with a different physical structure. For example, the ZFM of a child may be the playpen or the front yard.
The second zone is the zone of promoted action (ZPA). This term refers to the set of objects and actions that the child’s social environment actively promotes to the child to use and perform. The ZPA may be observed in the parents’ and other people’s preference structure of the child’s different actions. This preference structure includes the actions and social expectancies that others promote as desirable for the child. As the child develops, he or she internalizes the social expectancies and gains knowledge about the acceptable and expected way of acting in a given situation. Once gained, this knowledge may be used in any way by the child. Valsiner and Hill (1989) give the example of an adolescent who in a social situation knows the rules of courtesy well but decides to not act appropriately and instead “cuts” another (p. 165). Valsiner (1985) calls the ZPA an important “selective canalizer of the child’s actions” but also says that the structure of the ZPA can undergo dynamic transformation because it is negotiated in adult-child interaction.
The third zone is the well-known Vygotskian zone of proximal development (ZPD) and refers to the subset of ZPA actions that could be actualized with the help of other people. According to Valsiner (1985), the difficulty with this zone is that often one cannot know which actions actually constitute the ZPD because the existing structure of the ZFM and ZPA may restrict the opportunities of testing the limits of the ZPD. For instance, if the act of holding a fork is not within the ZPA or ZFM of a 16-month-old, it may not be possible to see if the 16-month-old child is physically capable of holding the fork. Thus, the ZPD-ZPA relationship is seen to determine what can or cannot be performed next by the child.
Valsiner, Jaan. (1985). Parental organization of children’s cognitive development within the home environment. Psychologia, 28, 131-143.
Valsiner, Jaan, & Hill, Paula E. (1989). Socialization of American toddlers for social courtesy. In Jaan Valsiner (Ed.), Child development in cultural context (pp. 163-179). Toronto: Hogrefe & Huber.
An e-mail from a Jewish transgender woman concerning her reactions to Bailey’s lectures [ 4-30-03 ]:
Frankly, the report of Bailey’s lecture disgusts me more than almost anything else I’ve read about him. As a Jew whose mother grew up in Nazi Germany, it reminds me of nothing more than one of those lectures by Nazi “experts” on “physiognomy” about how you tell someone’s a Jew — by their big hooked noses, naturally. Just like you tell gay people by how they talk. I’m sure such lectures were accompanied by similar gales of laughter.
I (and the wonderful woman who is my partner) had such strong personal reactions to the whole idea of trying to identify and single people out in that disgusting way, that I felt I had to say something. I still remember my mother’s story about how when she was a child in Germany, after Hitler came to power but before she was prohibited from attending school with non-Jewish children, a Nazi party official came to her school one day to lecture on the “Aryan” ideal — and, out of the whole class, actually selected my mother, who had light hair, green eyes, and “Aryan” features, as the perfect example of Aryan girlhood. As you can imagine, he wasn’t pleased when he found out she was Jewish. So, you can see, sometimes the “experts” are wrong.
Is this what research about gay sexuality has come to? This is from a Chronicles of Higher Education piece on J. Michael Bailey, author of The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism:Gay men have more feminine traits than straight men, he writes, including their interests in fashion and show tunes and their choice of occupations, including florist, waiter, and hair stylist. If a man is feminine, says Mr. Bailey, it is a key sign that he is gay. And if a man is gay, Mr. Bailey says he can tell a lot about what that man’s childhood was like. He “played with dolls and loathed football” and “his best friends were girls,” he writes in the book.
Um, maybe the problem here is that Bailey refined his so-called theory “during his visits to gay bars near his home” in a gay neighborhood in Chicago. Would he have found men with different interests and experiences in a different neighborhood? At leather bars or biker bars? Mightn’t the gay men who “played football and loathed dolls” have been at a baseball game, or at home watching a Blackhawks game, or changing their transmission fluid? Maybe visiting bars at one time and place isn’t the best way to gather information about a phenomenon that has transcended particular times and places?
From The Guardian
J Michael Bailey’s The Man Who Would Be Queen (Joseph Henry) is an engaging book on the science of sexual orientation. Though highly sympathetic to gay and transsexual men, it has ignited a firestorm by claiming that transsexuals are not women trapped in men’s bodies but have either homosexual or autoerotic motives.
From K on 15 June 2003
I’m thinking that a point being missed in all of the discssion is that this isn’t just about transphobia.
Let’s say J. Michael is describing non-transsexual women. It might look like this:
“There are two types of women – the first are pretty, feminine love to please their man and are limited quite naturally to occupations such as hairdressers, entertainers and prostitutes.” One can imagine it not being far off for him to advise this group that to keep her man happy; she should meet him when he comes home from work everyday with a martini and wearing a neglegee’
“The other are “mannish looking”, work in fields like science, law enforcement and construction. They are attracted to other women and the defining point of their existence is this deviant compulsive sexual thought and behavior”
Besides the horrible transphobia – the misogyny is appalling!!! Let’s remember this is a guy who states he doesn’t understand female sexuality at all. Not transwoman or non-transwoman – he certainly seems to feel a need to define and control it though; doesn’t he? Again – sounds familiar.
Faculty members show off talents at DM fund-raiser
“Hansen said DM[Dance Marathon] hopes to have more faculty performers at future talent shows. For example, if students raise $3,000, Fenrich and psychology Prof. Michael Bailey will dress in drag and sing a duet together during DM.”
Daily Northwestern 3 March 2003
Letter from Sarah
I got the following letter in July 2003:
I don’t know if this is of interest to you, I wrote it at as an answer to a woman (with a TS history) who couldn’t understand our hate against B, B and L. If you find use of it, feel free to do so. The language has been slightly revised.
Yes. There are a lot of hate in all this. If one hate, one expresses ones anguish and fears, but one do not necessarily communicate, that is trying to get the other person to understand. As many on this list I hate. But I will try to explain WHY to you (I am not trying to patronize you!):
Some of my ancestors lived in the ghetto. Outside Venice in Italy, In Prag and at the then German-Polish border. They didn’t want to live in the ghetto. They where forced to; by the Venetian merchant nobles, by the Habsburg monarch and the German Kaiser. The where forced to live there because they where considered as “untermenchen” (the term existed looong before Hitler). What my ancestors wanted was to leave the ghetto, live the life of “normal” people. When Hitler and his gang came to power they used the noble science of race biology to legitimize their ideology that Jews (and Gypsy’s) where “untermenchen”. They even turned the star of David to the sign of stigmatization of the Jews, to identify them as non-humans. And they reinforced the ghetto. Then came the final solution…
Many of us has felt since our infancy that we are women, but that we were born with an handicap that we had to correct. And we did. Now we only want to go on with our lives – be normal women. As my ancestors wanted to be normal people.
But no, there are people out there, who in the name of the noble science of psychology, want to give us a David’s star, to confine as in the pathologic ghetto of transgenderism. These people (it may the Protestant extreme right, the Catholic extreme right, the Islamic extreme right or the Orthodox Jewish extreme right) are happy to get science to legitimize their claims. And many scientists are profiteers of their need.
These scientists now tell us (and the world at large) that we are not women. We are perverted men. Either extremely feminine gay men, who like to live out our attraction to men, or fetishised heterosexual men, who want to live out our fantasy to inhabit a female body.
Some of these scientists just like us to accept (in a positive spirit) these desires and live with them. But that means that they want to force us to live in the transgender ghetto, as body-modified men. In the ghetto, because outside no-one accepts a body-modified man.
This seems to be the standpoint of Anne Lawrence (Some people have insulted Anne Lawrence by calling her Mr Lawrence. But in some respect this insult is logical because she cannot live out her fantasy of inhibiting a woman’s body, if she was forced to live the life of a woman. She can only live it out if she is recognized just for living out her fantasy. So she stays in the ghetto. By choice; an uncle Tom).
But others would like to treat us, give us therapy so that we could become “normal”. And it is perhaps not by hazard that electric chocks are gaining in popularity again among American psychiatrists.
Some, like Reker, even want to force a reverse srs on us.
Racial biology never recommended extermination of the “untermenchen”, they just studied the “objective” differences between them and real humans. The psychologists claim to do the same with us.
But then the “plan” (or rather plans) in the minds of their political patrons is bigger than us. Gays should get therapy also. And in the mind of some of them women are also “untermenchen”. The Talibans didn’t even give women passports or identity cards, as they where not considered as humans.
Farfetched? In the early 1930’s Germany was one of the most modern societies in the world. Hitler was VOTED to power in 1932.
Long ago? Not more than that when in school in the 1960’s I had a friend whose father woke up every night out of nightmares produced by the anguish that while in the resistance of the Warsaw ghetto he had killed German soldiers with piano wire.
It is evident from what I have written that I hate. I don’t necessarily expect you to share this hate, or even accept it. But I hope I have managed to communicate my motivations to hate.
June 12, 2003
Study on Differences in Female, Male Sexuality
“A Sex Difference in the Specificity of Sexual Arousal.” The study is forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science.
To rule out the possibility that the differences between men’s and women’s genital sexual arousal patterns might be due to the different ways that genital arousal is measured in men and women, the Northwestern researchers identified a subset of subjects: postoperative transsexuals who began life as men but had surgery to construct artificial vaginas.
In a sense, those transsexuals have the brains of men but the genitals of women. Their psychological and genital arousal patterns matched those of men — those who like men were more aroused by male stimuli and those who like women were more aroused by the female stimuli — even though their genital arousal was measured in the same way women’s was.
“This shows that the sex difference that we found is real and almost certainly due to a sex difference in the brain,” said Bailey
Bailey’s systematic distortion of transsexualism
Editor’s note: Elizabeth has contributed several pieces for this section.
Andrea has stated, correctly, that a lot of the problems surrounding B-B-L involve their use of language. Bailey describes us in highly insulting terms throughout his book, Blanchard and the Clarke idiots insist on calling us men, Lawrence promoted that stupid “men trapped in men’s bodies” phrase that got so many people at each other’s throats, etc. Focusing solely on the insensitivity of the language and how insulting it is however has two unfortunate effects: it enables Bailey to claim we just can’t handle him being such a politically incorrect badass, and it overlooks the fact that their particular word choices can paint a very distorted picture of the facts simply by a slight alteration of the terminology.
Bailey’s KOOP-Fm interview is an excellent illustration of how supporters of Blanchard’s typology alter terminology to make extremely misleading statements without technically lying. When discussing the idea of “autogynephilic” transsexuals Bailey states:
Autogynephilic males will become sexually aroused in the lab if they listen to a narrative about cross-dressing whereas men without any history of erotic cross-dressing do not become aroused. Regardless, some of them insist that, you know, that it’s not about autogynephilia, it’s just they feel like women so they dress like women and any male who wore frilly lacy panties would become sexually aroused. I don’t think so.
Note that he didn’t actually use the word transsexuals. He just said “autogynephilic males.” This is a reference from page 173 of Bailey’s book, concerning heterosexual crossdressers, not transsexuals. However, since in Blanchard’s crazy little world transvestism and transsexuality are both subtypes of “autogynephilia,” Bailey can use “autogynephilic males” to make a true statement about crossdressers which, applied in this misleading context, will sound like a statement about transsexuals. He made an even more misleading statement in his next response in the interview, where he claimed:
I think that those types of transsexuals tend to dislike discussion of autogynephilia; many of them deny that it applies to them. However, Blanchard showed the ones who deny it also show evidence for it. So, for example, males who denied ever cross-dressing fetishistically, if you bring them to the lab and you measure their erections while they listen to a narrative saying, “Well, you’re getting ready…you’re putting on your panties…you’re putting on your stockings…” they get erections!
The “evidence” on “males who denied ever crossdressing fetishistically” is Blanchard’s 1986 paper “Phallometric detection of fetishistic arousal in heterosexual male cross-dressers.” Again, this is a study of crossdressers, not transsexuals, but since both are presumed “autogynephilic” Bailey can make statements about “autogynephilic males” and be presumed to be talking about transsexuals when he’s actually talking about crossdressers. This is a pretty standard tactic in pseudo-science: just redefine the terminology to make your thesis correct, e.g. Bailey redefines transsexual as anyone seriously considering a sex change, Blanchard redefined it as anyone who said they felt like a woman (even though crossdressers do both those things all the time). Bailey plays the same trick in his book, where chapter nine is supposed to tell us about “autogynephilic transsexuals” but then ends up discussing mostly heterosexual crossdressers and justifies lumping them together on the basis of research which itself confused the differences between the two groups. He plays the language trick again on the page on his website devoted to the book controversy, where under the heading about TSs who deny being autogynephilic he uses terms like “autogynephilic individuals” to hide the fact that he’s actually talking about crossdressers, not transsexuals. Even then, it’s a pretty tenuous leap.
He’s essentially arguing that:
1. Blanchard did a study showing that what he terms “non-homosexual” transsexuals at the Clarke showed a lot of social desirability bias, while what he terms “homosexual” transsexuals at the Clarke showed a little social desirability bias, and crossdressers at the Clarke showed none. (from Blanchard’s 1985 paper “Social desirability response set and systematic distortion in the self-report of adult male gender patients”)
2. Blanchard then did a study showing that heterosexual crossdressers who deny an erotic component to their crossdressing became aroused hearing crossdressing narratives.
3. Since the crossdressers lied about sexual arousal to crossdressing, “nonhomosexual” transsexuals probably lie about it too, because the ones at the Clarke showed social desirability bias.
Even if you take Blanchard’s interpretation of his data at face value, this is questionable at best. If you compared “non-homosexual” transsexuals to, say, people you suspect are pedophiles, both would probably deny molesting children, but that doesn’t mean both groups are lying. This argument falls completely flat when you consider that the transsexuals at the Clarke are desperately trying to convince the clinicians to let them access medical services while the crossdressers aren’t, and transsexuals the Clarke considers to be “homosexual” have a somewhat easier time doing so than those the Clarke considers to be “non-homosexual.” In other words, social desirability isn’t a personality feature of transsexuals per se, it’s just something brought on by the repressive treatment environment of the Clarke.
Of course, Maxine Petersen says we all lie, and Maxine Petersen is an “ace gender therapist.” (Is that statement supposed to make us laugh or cry?) Then again, Maxine Petersen is transsexual herself, so maybe she’s lying? Oh wait, that’s right, we only lie when we say anything the Clarke clinicians don’t want to hear.
Oh, there’s also something on Bailey’s webpage about how transsexuals probably lie about autogynephilia because of the way some people choose socks. Yeah, I didn’t get it either.
This page gives an overview of issues raised by J. Michael Bailey’s book on gender variance.
J. Michael Bailey is Chair of the Psychology Department at Northwestern University. In March 2003, he published a book called The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism. Many see this book as the most defamatory book written about gender variance since Janice Raymond wrote The Transsexual Empire in 1979.
Introduction to taxonomies and theory
• A Critique of the Autogynephilia Hypothesis (by Catherine Anderson, Ph.D.)
• LINK: The Bailey Affair: Psychology Perverted (by Joan Roughgarden, Ph.D.)
• The Bailey Affair: Psychology Perverted: A response (by Drs. Hegarty, Lenihan, Barker and Moon)
• LINK: GIDReform.org: Depathologizing gender identity (by Katherine Wilson, Ph.D.)
• Scientific critique of “autogynephilia” & psychopathology model of TS (by Madeline Wyndzen, Ph.D.)
• LINK: Bailey, Blanchard, Lawrence, and the fallacy of autogynephilia (by Jed Bland)
• LINK: The World according to J. Michael Bailey (by Madeline Wyndzen, Ph.D.)
• LINK: The gender variant phenomenon–A developmental review (by Anne Vitale, Ph.D.)
• Counseling transgender, Transsexual, and Gender-Variant Clients (by Lynne Carroll et. al.)
• DSM-IV-TR on gender identity “disorder” by American Psychology Association
• LINK: The Empire Strikes Back: A posttranssexual manifesto (by Sandy Stone, Ph.D.)
• LINK: Beyond gatekeeping: truth and trust in therapy with transsexuals (by Maureen Osborne, Ph.D.)
• LINK: Joan Roughgarden’s works
Dr. Roughgarden is a Stanford biologist whose new book Evolution’s Rainbow explores the “social selection” theory of gender variance and sexual orientation. She has just published two excellent articles highly critical of recent books by evolutionary psychologists Thornhill & Palmer and J. Michael Bailey.
Transsexuality Treatise Triggers Furor
By Constance HoldenJul. 18, 2003 , 12:00 AM https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2003/07/transsexuality-treatise-triggers-furor