J. Michael Bailey 2003 KOOP-FM interview

Originally published by Donna Rose, who writes:

The following is the transcript of an interview with J. Michael Bailey, author of the controversial book, “The Man Who Would Be Queen”. It aired on KOOP-FM, Austin, TX in May 2003. I provide no personal opinion or slant, instead choosing to print the words exactly as they were spoken in the hopes that the reader will make their own decisions regarding what is said. Whether you agree with him or not, I think you will find his thoughts very interesting.

http://www.donnarose.com/JMBInterview.html

I’ve marked some noteworthy comments in bold.

Transcript

Interviewer: In your book you state that most gay men are feminine, or at least they’re feminine in certain ways. I was wondering, what does “feminine” mean to you?

JMB: Well, umm, I think that in general, “feminine” is a murky term.  But to say that it’s murky doesn’t mean that it’s meaningless. I think “feminine,” in general, means “female-like” but there are different ways that one can be female-like. There are ways in which gay men, on average, are somewhat female-like and there are ways in which, on average, gay men are not at all female-like. And the ways in which they are include superficial aspects of behavior such as movement and voice, and then interests, occupational and recreational interests, you know… often in their childhoods many gay men have… will recall, umm, having feminine behaviors such as a preference for female activities and games and female playmates and a dislike of stereotypic male activities such as rough play and competitive sports. So those are the ways in which, on average, and… I’m going to stop saying that “on average” because it’s annoying to have to keep saying it. It’s probably annoying for you to hear it over and over. While I do, let me just say that all of these things that I’m saying don’t apply to all gay men and there are some gay men who are as masculine in any way as the typical straight man and there are some straight men who are feminine, ahh but on average, there are these significant differences between the two groups, so when I say gay men and straight men differ, that’s that way in which I mean it.

I:  Do you think that the post-modern disapproval of stereotyping has actually impeded the scientific process?

JMB:  Yeah, I do. I… well… I think that there are a number of, or at least a couple of main issues that have impeded scientific progress in this area. One of them is the disapproval of stereotyping but, you know, the other is discomfort with this particular stereotype by, uh, not only let’s say the “politically correct” but also by gay men themselves. Many gay men, uhh, have extreme discomfort with the idea that they might be feminine. And, ahh, I think that stems from two different sources. First of all, um, I think that gay men who were feminine boys had a hard time being feminine boys. Our society is not kind to feminine boys and I think that some gay men internalize the shame that they were made to feel, um, and actually have come to feel, even if they wouldn’t explicitly acknowledge this, that there is something wrong with male femininity.

I: You have this phrase, “femophobia.” Is that a phrase that you coined or is that–

JMB: Femophobia is a phrase that I coined, although, uhh, independently another writer named Tim Bergling wrote a book called Sissyphobia about the same phenomenon. And the other thing relates to a finding that we got in a scientific study, and that’s the finding that, uh, gay men, in seeking romantic partners, tend to be really prejudiced against feminine guys. And so to say that a gay man might be feminine, in a way is to say that he might be unattractive.

I:  Do you think that all men display feminine characteristics?

JMB: You know, I don’t think that every action any man does his whole life is classifiable as masculine. But, you know, all of these things are relative traits. It’s not that you either are masculine or feminine. It’s how are you compared with other people.

I: You know, your book actually winds up discussing mostly feminine men and then, um, transgender… what I would call transgender people.

JMB:  Uh-huh.

I: And so, I was wondering, to you, what’s the difference between transsexual and transgender? Since the modern movement is really pushing towards the word “transgender,” why bring “sexual” back into the lexicon?

JMB:  I think that… I don’t really care what word we use as long as we’re speaking in way that leads to correct understanding and, uh, I believe that a subgroup of the transgendered have a very different understanding of motivations than I do and I frankly think that my understanding is more accurate.

I: Your book actually introduces the concept of the homosexual and then the autogynephilic transsexual. Do you care to elaborate a little bit for our audience?

JMB:  Sure. By the way, this terminology is not mine. That particular part of the book, the third section on transsexualism, is based upon the work of a psychologist named Ray Blanchard, and Blanchard proved, I think, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that there are two very distinct types which he calls “homosexual transsexualism” and the other kind he called  “non-homosexual transsexualism.” A homosexual male-to-female transsexual is a transsexual who is unambiguously attracted to males. Um, and I believe that this type of transsexual is essentially a type of gay man who is very feminine and very gender dysphoric. That is, they really don’t like, for example, having a penis. One thing that I write about in the book, uh, is that one element of some of their motivation, of this type anyway, is because some of them are far more attractive as women than they are as men – particularly because they tend to be extremely feminine men – and as I say, most gay men don’t want to be romantically involved with very feminine men. So, that’s the first type.

Uh, the other, the second type – the one that invented the word “transgenderism” is more likely to be in identity politics and so on. These include primarily transsexuals that Blanchard classified as non-homosexual and basically that means that any natal male that is naturally born male who wants to become a woman or who has become a woman, and they’re not unambiguously attracted only to men. What Blanchard’s, um, discovery, and this is the most brilliant aspect of it, is that they are motivated by something called “autogynephilia.” Autogynephilia is, um, the sexual arousal and attraction to the idea of oneself as a woman. That is, these individuals… and their primary sexual object is not some person on the outside, but it’s some person on the inside. And that is, the idea or the image of themselves as a woman.  

I:  What do you think about the, um, common saying that, you know, “I am just a woman trapped in a man’s body” or “I’m a lesbian woman trapped in a man’s body.”

JMB: Well, you know, it depends upon what one means by being a woman trapped in a man’s body. You might mean two things. If all you mean is that it’s a person who was born a man who really wants to become a woman then sure, I agree. But I don’t think that’s what they mostly mean. I think that they mean that they are “like” a woman, in the sense of having the same psychology and feelings that a woman has. And I don’t think that autogynephilic transsexuals do. I think that autogynephilic transsexuals are much more like heterosexual men than they are like women. Ah, in contrast I think homosexual transsexuals, uh, do have a strong flavor of being a woman trapped in a man’s body although even they have some atypical traits for a female.

I: One of the things that was mentioned in the book about the autogynephillic transsexual was the fact that they’re interested in themselves as sexual objects as a woman, and proof for this was things like wearing women’s undergarments and masturbating.

JMB:  Right.

I:  And that made me wonder if, perhaps, they were not just attracted to women and the idea of a woman was sexually arousing in the same way that a gay man might wear a jockstrap and masturbate.  

JMB:  Well, I don’t think so. Um, and it’s not just wearing female undergarments, uh, you know, I have somebody I write about in my book, Cher, uh, is an autogynephilic transsexual who is also a friend of mine. She used to wear, um, fake breasts and fake vaginas when she was a man, and film herself, uh, simulating intercourse with a… with a basically a robot, and that was extremely erotic to her. Uh… You know, I just don’t think straight men really find the idea of wearing frilly undergarments to be sexy, uh, and this has actually been studied. 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.

I:  Do you think that there is any consensus at all, amongst the psychological community, that the homosexual transsexual is, I don’t know, somehow acceptable versus the autogynephillic somehow being a disorder?

JMB:  There is not, uh, widespread discussion of this distinction. Uh, I think that my book, uh, breaks ground that way. I mean, these ideas have been around for a decade, but the fact that non-homosexual transsexuals are motivated by autogynephilia is not known and I think that that relates to your question. 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! Now, why would they deny it? Well, I think it’s because, in part, people in our society are very judgmental about sexual motivation. Some people are able to accept the “woman trapped in the man’s body” justification for getting a sex change but they have much more of a problem accepting the idea that somebody has some sort of sexual “attachment” to this image of themselves as a woman. Personally, I don’t think either is a superior justification. To me, they’re both good excuses. All I want to know is, is somebody going to be happier if they get a sex change than they were before? If so, good for them.

I:  One of the researchers that you mentioned was Ken Zucker, who is the head of the child and adult gender identity clinic in Toronto. He was representing the view that Transsexualism was wrong and that he would suggest treating the gender identity disorder in childhood while he was kind of, uh, value-neutral concerning homosexuality. How can one make a distinction between a feminine gay man and someone who’s going to become a transsexual?

JMB: You actually raised two issues, and let me address both of them. First off, is kind of a value issue of, you know, does he say that transsexualism is “bad” and I think many people who are sympathetic to transsexuals still think that transsexualism would be good to avoid if one could. Because this involves major surgery, it involves, often, an adjustment in one’s social life that requires a level of acceptance in society that we just don’t have yet. I know transsexuals who say that they think that it should be considered a disorder because it would have been good if they had been cured of it.

Another question is, how do you distinguish feminine gay men from homosexual transsexuals? Do you mean in childhood, how do you know who is going to become what?

I:  You seem to suggest that you needed to treat this condition during childhood…

JMB:  Right.

I: What if you make a mistake? How can you tell the difference between someone who’s just feminine and someone who wants to become a woman later in life?

JMB: Let me start by telling the listeners an important fact. There are boys who, ah, I think it’s reasonable to think of them as transsexual children. These are boys like, in the file “Ma Vie en Rose” who want to be girls, and they are pervasively and persistently feminine in a number of ways, and they would be happy to be girls. Now, those boys who have been followed-up – boys who start out that way – usually become… not transsexuals but gay men. A few of them are transsexuals but not nearly as many as are gay men. There is a number of questions, like “How does that happen?” “How do you know which ones are going to be gay men and which ones are going to be transsexuals?” and so on. Now, nobody really knows, you know, because we can’t do controlled scientific studies on kids like that. Zucker thinks that these kids who become gay men, he thinks that that’s the more desirable outcome than being transsexual because transsexualism is a hard life.

I:  It sounds like people have been saying that about, uh, just being a gay person, in general.

JMB:  Yeah.  Well, that’s… but I… Zucker also thinks that what distinguishes those who become gay men versus those who remain transsexual is, in part, how they’re reared, and if they do not have systematic pressure to masculinize, he believes, then they may not. So, a parent who never puts their foot down and takes away the Barbie dolls and so on, Zucker believes, ahh, risks having a transsexual child more than those who do make a persistent effort to masculinize the child. I’m very torn. I know mothers in this situation..

I:  Well, should we encourage of should we be discouraging that behavior?

JMB: I don’t… I don’t… I don’t know. I don’t know. I see both sides.  Because we really don’t know… I mean, let’s assume that Zucker is right, and he might be, then should we enable these kids to become women as soon as they can? Maybe we should! Maybe we should keep our minds open and… and say that these boys will have a better life if they’re allowed to become girls as adolescents. That’ll keep them from masculinizing, and they’ll be prettier, and so on… ahh, if we can… ahh facilitate their sex change earlier. I mean, what are the chances that people are going to do that?

I: It seems such a murky situation cause, I mean, on the one hand I definitely did display some feminine characteristics as a child and was told I was “wrong,” but then I have a straight friend who was allowed to play with Barbie dolls. And then you have the autogynephilic transsexuals who are, by all means, masculine during their childhood and…

JMB: Okay. Let’s not get the situation overly murky. There is a clear, strong correlation between these very strong feminine traits and a homosexual outcome. Now, I personally don’t see a homosexual outcome as any kind of problem. A transsexual outcome is a harder case for me because, you know, I have transsexual friends. I quite like them, but I think that they’ve had a very hard time and they’ve had to undergo some very risky medical procedures, too. I think we’ve got to be honest about the potential tradeoffs here, and that is if we’re gonna struggle for a more gender “kind” world that there might be more transsexualism and if so, is that okay with us? Are we willing to accept that? And maybe we are… maybe we should be.

I:  Speaking of feminine characteristics, in your book you were talking about the high number of gay men who have dancing careers…

JMB:  Uh-huh.

I: …and you seem to indicate that there is some latent cause. You have your son saying, you know, why do you think that gay men are more likely to be dancers and he says, “because dancing is feminine and gay men tend to be feminine.”

JMB:  Right.

I:  Is it possible that there are social factors, rather than biological factors at play? Cause you seem to be building a case that there are feminine career tracks that gay men are interested in. It seems possible that masculine men are just discouraged from being dancers.

JMB: Well, I think it’s both ways. As masculine men are discouraged by…I mean… ALL men are discouraged from being dancers in a certain way, you know? In our dance study we, uh, asked how people got interested in dance and we found that, actually, straight men – on average – got into it a couple of years earlier than they gay men. You know how they got into it? They got into it because their parents made them. The gay men got into it on their own. Something happened… they saw something on tv… they went to a dance performance… they said, “Oh, I love that!  I want to do that!” And, you know, what is it about dancing… I mean, I do think that dancing, uh, is a feminine activity, but what is it about dancing that’s feminine? I don’t really know, but I think that that is the cause of the relation between male sexual orientation and interest in dancing careers.

I: There is some data that was in the book that, I have to admit, I got upset about. I guess it’s that most of it was pre-AIDS data…

JMB:  Uh-huh

I:  …and one was saying that a typical gay male has 500 sex partners…

JMB: Well, I didn’t say “has.”  I… I think I said that was a study in San Francisco before the AIDS epidemic. And it also… it gets a little more complicated with gay men, because what does one mean by sex partner?  We should be clear that gay men are not just counting anal sex when they are listing their sex partners. They are counting oral sex, they’re probably counting manual sex… So, I think if heterosexual people counted those they would have more than they think of when they think of their “sex” partners. Nevertheless, I’ve done several studies and gay men always have substantially more partners than straight men.

I: Well, you also talk about monogamous relationships between homosexual men usually become open relationships within five years. You know, speaking as a gay man whose adolescence happened after AIDS, I think the entire atmosphere for dating, and for monogamy, and casual sex, has really changed. And I’m surprised that this book is still quoting those older datas.

JMB: The study I… that we have been talking about is one by David McWhirter which is well over a decade old. However, I have lots of gay friends and they all conform to that generalization. That is, the ones who have been together for five years are not monogamous.

I:  When you’re comparing, um, gay people to straight people are you looking at gay club-going men and straight club-going men?

JMB: Well, I think that, for many of our studies we’ve advertised in urban publications. Gay Chicago is a bar magazine, and The Chicago Reader is a very alternative publication. Ah, and so… yeah… I think actually, they tend to be comparable in their lifestyle and I would say that actually, that’s a bias against my hypothesis. I think it minimizes differences in partner numbers between gay and straight guys. Because the fact is, gay men who read Gay Chicago and respond to our ads are probably more typical gay men than the straight people who read The Chicago Reader.    

I:  How do you think that gay and straight men are alike?

JMB:  Uh, well, I think that the whole thing with sex partners is… and the fact that gay men have more… is a function of the ways in which gay and straight men are exactly alike. And that is the fact that they both find casual sex to be gratifying and, uh, exciting. Much more so than women do, on average. The difference is that gay men can get it because their partners are also into casual sex. So, um, I don’t think that gay men are psychologically promiscuous. I think they’re just like straight men. They just are able to realize their desires more easily than straight men.

Another way is that gay men are like straight men in being shallow and focused on physical looks as partner. It’s not that woman are necessarily deep. They’re more concerned with, like, resources and dishin’ and that kind of thing whereas men are focused on how the face and the body looks.

Ah, another way in which they’re alike… their interest in looking at naked people, erotica – that is a male sort of thing. Men pay money to watch videos of people having sex with each other. Well, the big markets for that are straight men and gay men.

I:  You mention findings that, uh, being gay has biological background and one of them was the INAH 3. Could you elaborate?

JMB:  In 1991 Simon LeVay published a study in The journal Science that made the front pages across the nation and got him on Oprah. This was the study showing that, in a region of the brain called the hypothalamus, which has long been known to be important for sexual behavior, there was a small group of cells called the nucleus, that was larger in straight men than in gay men. And gay men’s INAH3 looked like that of women. This was a very exciting finding because it was in the right region of the brain and it was the way, you know, people thought it might turn out that since women and gay men are both interested in men, that they should have similar sexual orientation centers. Now, this was an autopsy study and it depended upon people of known sexual orientation having died and it was made possible by the tragic AIDS epidemic. This study hasn’t been followed up until recently when a guy named Bill Byne repeated the study, didn’t have quite as many subjects as LeVay had, and my sense of his replication is it looks similar to what LeVay found. That he was, in fact, on to something. So, I think that there is likely something there, and I think that type of research is potentially quite valuable.

I:  Do you think the finding that there is a gay gene will lead to gays being treated as handicapped?

JMB:  Well, let me give a little context to this. Uh… Greenberg and I have collaborated on papers and neither he nor I thinks that there is anything wrong with being gay. The issue, though, is I have had people say, “You know, you’ve got to stop doing your research because we’re gonna find something that allows people to manipulate sexual orientation or test for it, and then they’re going to do terrible things like, abort fetuses with the gay gene, and so on. First of all, I would say that those scenarios are scientifically very impossible. But secondly, I think that they’re hysterical because the people making these claims are not thinking through the ethics of it. And these are the same people who think that abortion on demand for any reason is no business except for the woman who wants to have the abortion, and then they’re at the same time raising the spectre of murdering gay babies when they would never countenance the word “murder” in any other discussion of abortion. So anyway, I think that, uh, Greenberg’s analysis which I talk about in the book is, uh, actually very cogent. And it is that changing the sexual orientation of a baby from gay to straight, or for that matter, from straight to gay, really doesn’t have any ethical import, first of all, and to get to your question if we find a gene or if we find a brain region or any kind of biological factor influencing sexual orientation will it lead to gay people being thought of as handicapped, I don’t see how that would happen. For any people who differ in their behavior there must be, at some level, biological differences between them because at some level of explanation everything is biological. And, that doesn’t mean that people who behave differently than the norm are handicapped.

I:  Recently there has been some discussion about the evolutionary advantages to being gay. Um, specifically, the idea of the pack mentality.  The idea that if you’re in a family of three, let’s say, and all of your brothers and sisters have children and you don’t then you can use your resources to help those children rather than spread it out amongst more children. Then also the issue of zero population growth. How do you feel about some of these evolutionary arguments? 

JMB:  Well, the evolutionary hypotheses about homosexuality, and I have reviewed these very carefully… I’m writing a paper on them… they have all been, in my opinion, quite lame, um, and this is another place where sensitivity has impeded careful thought. I mean, one thing to realize is that evolutionarily, homosexuality is a big mistake. And, I don’t mean anything bad by saying that because lots of good things, that we would like to have more of, would be evolutionary mistakes. People being extremely kind to strangers and giving poor strangers lots of their money, that would be a great thing. But evolutionarily, it would be a terrible mistake. And when I say something would be a big mistake I just mean I don’t see how it would ever evolve. And I don’t see how homosexuality has ever evolved and remained in our population at relatively high rates: 1, 2, 3, 4 percent?! That’s very high for something that has vastly reduced fertility related to it. And I should…uhh… the flip side of when I say it’s an evolutionary mistake certain things that are evolutionarily clearly adaptive include jealousy, selfishness, the uh willingness to commit infidelity, all those things. Those are very evolutionarily adaptive. But, they’re not good, right? So by saying something is an evolutionary mistake or evolutionarily adaptive that’s not a value judgement. That’s just counting number of descendents one leaves. So the hypotheses that people have raised to explain homosexuality have included all kinds of things like population control. That’s a non-starter because nothing can ever be explained at such a group level because you could always have selfish people who would thwart population control and they would, um, they would win the evolutionary race.

The other hypothesis which we’ve actually investigated empirically, uh, is what I call the “kind gay uncle” hypothesis. That instead of, uh, investing in his own offspring, uh, a gay man invests a lot in his, uh, nieces and nephews. Well, first of all, empirically we don’t find much evidence that gay men do that. But secondly, the amount by which they would have to do that in order to make up for not having children or having, you know, half the number of children… actually we… the best estimates are that gay men have about one fifth the number of children than straight men… the amount of investment that they would have to do would be tremendous. They would have to devote their lives to helping their nieces and nephews and of course they don’t do that.

I:  I was wondering, can we expect a book about masculine women and transsexuals in that community?

JMB:  We certainly should have one. Uh… and… there are such books, you know, about the individual topics… there are books about tomboys, there are books about female to male transsexuals, and there are certainly books about lesbians, including butch lesbians. But it would be good to have them all in one book, I think. And if you’re asking me am I going to write a book…such a book? I don’t know. No time soon. I’m still involved in the controversies and discussions about my current book and I have a lot of work to do in that domain. So…

I:  Well, I really want to thank you for your time and this interview.  I think it’s been really informative. 

JMB:  Well, I think you have asked very thoughtful questions, and I hope I said some things you can use.