Madeline H. Wyndzen

Madeline H. “Maddie” Wyndzen (born 1973) is the pen name of an American psychologist who wrote about gender identity and expression from both professional and personal perspectives between 1997 and 2008. Wyndzen wrote a number of important criticisms of disease models of sex and gender minorities.

Background

In 1997, Wyndzen created an early online gender transition resource on GeoCities called Gender Outside the Lines. The site was moved to the Gender Web domain in 1998. In 2001, Wyndzen changed the name to All Mixed Up and moved it to the domain genderpsychology.org. Wyndzen initially used the name Katherine Heather and Katie, switching to “Madeline H. Wyndzen” in 2004 for professional reasons:

As I have focused more on the psychological research surrounding transgenderism, I have found in more and more awkward not to have a last name. For example, in order to cite my essays in APA style, you would start with my last name. That is why I created a pen name, “Madeline H. Wyndzen.” Please use this name in all citations, publications, and correspondence with me. I also feel that separating my real name from this web-site can help me step away from transgender issues while I work on other priorities.

Correspondences http://www.genderpsychology.org/identity/mail.html

Comments on Ray Blanchard’s taxonomy

In 2003, Wyndzen published one of the first scientific critiques of the disputed diagnosis “autogynephilia” created in 1989 by Ray Blanchard. Blanchard’s ideas had just been popularized by J. Michael Bailey in his book the The Man Who Would Be Queen and by Anne Lawrence on her website. Wyndzen mailed the following notification of the new website material on 13 May 2003:

Scientific critique of autogynephilia & psychopathology model of transsexualism

Hi Everyone,

Ray Blanchard’s Mis-Directed Sex-Drive model of transsexuality, including the controversial notion of autogynephilia, has received a great deal of attention recently. It has had a remarkable amount of success in pervading both general audience and professional medium: Anne Lawrence and J. Michael Bailey each wrote popular accounts, the DSM [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] and HB-SOC [Harry Benjamin Standards of Care] now include reference to Blanchard’s constructs, and I have heard that even textbooks have started to feature it.

I find this trend disconcerting as both a transsexual and a scientific psychologist. I feel the evidence for this theory is weak. Interpreting this theory to say that MtF [male-to-female] transsexuals are ‘really’ gay men or ‘really’ crossdressing men is insensitive. Many perspectives on this controversy have been expressed. Typically the scientific perspective has been held by those most supportive of Blanchard’s model. I would like to advance a scientific perspective that is skeptical of Blanchard’s model and the ability of any Psycho-pathological model to adequately understand transgenderism. Some of you may be interested in the following two new essays found on my web-site (links are below).

The Banality of Insensitivity: Portrayals of Transgenderism in Psychopathology

Though the mental health community intends to help transsexuals, embedded within psychopathology is an insensitivity towards the very people it seeks to help. Removal of the mental illness diagnostic categories “Gender Identity Disorder” and “Transvestic Fetishism” is recommended to allow for objective scientific work and to heal the divisive relationships between the mental health and transgender communities. Included in this essay is a discussion of the idea that we are ‘really’ our biological sex according to Blanchard’s model. Also included is a discussion of the claim that transsexuals who deny a sexual motivation for their gender dysphoria are lying.

WEB LINK: http://www.genderpsychology.org/psychology/mental_illness_model.html

“Blanchard’s Mis-Directed Sex-Drive Model of Transsexuality”

This essay provides a scientific critique of Blanchard’s model. It includes a summary of the model’s key points and the evidence supporting those points. It continues to address what may be numerous serious methodological flaws. The essay also addresses the clinical intuition that sexuality may be the only force powerful enough to explain transsexuality by showing how the psychological literature suggests identity is also a remarkably powerful mechanism.

WEB LINK: http://www.genderpsychology.org/psychology/blanchard/

Any feedback about these essays is always appreciated. I would very much appreciate if you would please forward this message to other transgender mailing lists where Blanchard’s model has been a significant or recent topic.

Best wishes,
[Madeline – signed “Katie” in the original]

American Psychological Association Division 44

In 2004, Wyndzen published an essay in response to a favorable book review written by Bailey friend James Cantor that appeared in the newsletter for Division 44 of the American Psychological Association.

A Personal & Scientific look at a Mental Illness Model of Transgenderism

http://www.apa.org/divisions/div44/2004Spring.pdf [archive]

Madeline H. Wyndzen, Ph. D. (pen name)

Editor’s Note: Ms. Wyndzen originally submitted a brief letter to the editor in response to a recent book review of The Man Who Would Be Queen in this Newsletter. I invited her to expand on that letter here.

If a man sought therapy due to unhappiness over his attraction to other men, a therapist would likely diagnose him with Depression. If a transsexual sought therapy due to unhappiness over his or her biological sex, a therapist would almost certainly diagnose him or her with Gender Identity Disorder. Whereas gay men and lesbian women are diagnosed for how they suffer, transsexuals are diagnosed for who they are. As a psychologist and transsexual, I find that the mental illness label imposed on transsexuality is just as disquieting as the label that used to be imposed on homosexuality.

Similar to antiquated ideas suggesting that homosexuality is a deviant sex-drive, Ray Blanchard (1989, 1991) proposed that transsexuality is a mis-directed form of either heterosexuality (named “autogynephilia”) or homosexuality. Rather than asking the scientifically neutral question, “What is transgenderism?” Blanchard (1991) asks, “What kind of defect in a male’s capacity for sexual learning could produce … autogynephilia, transvestitism …?” (p. 246).

Blanchard’s model is featured prominently and uncritically in J. Michael Bailey’s (2003a) recent book, The Man who would be Queen: the Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism. A balanced portrait of Blanchard’s key empirical findings (1989) would reveal that they: (1) have never been replicated, (2) failed to include control groups of typically-gendered women, (3) failed to covary the acknowledged age-differences from ANOVA, and (4) drew conclusions about causality from entirely observational data.

Inconsistencies between transsexuals’ self-portraits and Blanchard’s model are reconciled by Bailey (2003a) with the suggestion that some transsexuals are deceptive: “There is one more reason why many autogynephiles provide misleading information about themselves that is different than outright lying. It has to do with obsession” (p. 175). Aware of concerns that some may be troubled by his portrayal of them, Bailey has said, “I cannot be a slave to sensitivity” (quoted in Wilson, 2003), and “ There is good scientific evidence that says you should believe me and not them” (quoted in Dreier & Anderson, 2003). In a critique of Bailey’s book available on my website, I provide alternate interpretations of this evidence: http://www.genderpsychology.org/autogynephilia/

Bailey (2003b) contends that negative reactions to his book are merely “identity politics” that are a “hindrance” to “scientific truth” (Bailey, 2003b). Contrasting his objectivity with others’ politics reminded me of “81 Words,” a radio documentary about the removal of homosexuality from the DSM (Spiegel, 2002). Those who diagnosed ‘homosexuality’ as a mental illness genuinely felt that they were helping their clients. I know that Ray Blanchard, J. Michael Bailey, and others are similarly concerned about the welfare of transsexuals. I only wish they would see the bias in their theories and diagnoses. When I listened to “81 Words,” I was struck by how foreign it sounded to talk about being gay or lesbian as a disorder. I am too young to remember that time. My hope is that someday my children will think it just as unfathomable that I was once diagnosed and treated for “Gender Identity Disorder.”

References

Bailey, J. M. (2003a). The Man who would be queen: the science of genderbending and transsexualism. Joseph Henry Press, Washington DC.

Bailey, J. M. (2003b, July 19). Identity politics as a hindrance to scientific truth, presented at the conference of the International Academy of Sex Research. Abstract retrieved July 16, 2003, from http://www.iasr.org/meeting/2003/ABSTRACTS2003.doc

Blanchard, R. (1989). The Concept of Autogynephilia and the Typology of Male Gender Dysphoria. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 177(10), 616-623.

Blanchard, R. (1991). Clinical Observations and systematic studies of autogynephilia. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 17(4), 235-251.

Dreier, S. and Anderson, K. (2003, April 21). Prof’s book challenges opinions of human sexuality. The Daily Northwestern, retrieved December 31, 2003, from http://www.dailynorthwestern.com/

Spiegel, A. (2002, January 18). 81 words. This American Life, retrieved January 18, 2002 from http://www.thislife.org/pages/descriptions/02/204.html

Wilson, R. (2003, June 20). Dr. Sex’: A human-sexuality expert creates controversy with a new book on gay men and transsexuals. Chronicle of Higher Education, retrieved June 27, 2003, from http://chronicle.com/free/v49/i41/41a00801.htm

Comments on J. Michael Bailey’s book

In 2005, Wyndzen expanded earlier online materials to summarize the controversy and criticisms of Bailey from professional and personal perspectives.

The World according to J. Michael Bailey inside “The Man who would be Queen: The Science of Gender Bending and Transsexualism”

J. Michael Bailey’s book, “The Man who would be Queen: The Science of Gender Bending and Transsexualism” has disrupted the lives of transgendered persons and the lives of mental health professionals who work with them. Some psychologists question the truthfulness of their transgendered clients. Some transgendered persons question if the therapists conceal a dismissive cynicism underneath an exterior of unconditional acceptance. It has become acceptable for transgendered persons to dismiss each others feelings as deception. And it has become acceptable for psychological researchers to regard the feelings of transsexuals as merely politics getting in the way of important work.

As a psychological scientist and a transsexual I find myself both deeply affected by this controversy and in a unique position to interpret it. The following essays are my attempt to make sense of Bailey’s book and the controversy surrounding it.

http://www.genderpsychology.org/autogynephilia/j_michael_bailey/

Comments on DSM

Wyndzen has written about how gender identity and expression are covered in the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV):

In 1994, the DSM-IV committee replaced the diagnosis of Transsexualism with Gender Identity Disorder. Depending on their age, those with a strong and persistent cross-gender identification and a persistent discomfort with his or her sex or a sense of inappropriateness in the gender role of that sex were to be diagnosed as Gender Identity Disorder of Childhood (302.6), Adolescence, or Adulthood (302.85). For persons who did not meet the criteria, Gender Identity Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (GIDNOS)(302.6) was to be used. 

DSM IV http://www.genderpsychology.org/transsexual/dsm_iv.html

That version also listed “Transvestic Fetishism” (302.3) under paraphilias.

Comment on Alice Dreger’s target article

In 2008, Wyndzen published a peer commentary responding to a target article by historian Alice Dreger. The article was published by Kenneth Zucker in Archives of Sexual Behavior, a sexology journal where Bailey served on the editorial board. Zucker had been praised throughout Bailey’s book, so many Zucker critics saw this as a conflict of interest. Dreger had also given a draft to journalist Benedict Carey at the New York Times a year before publication. Carey had given favorable coverage to Bailey before with his 2005 piece “Gay, Straight, or Lying: Bisexuality Revisited.” That piece uncritically repeated Bailey’s claims that male bisexuality does not exist. Carey’s 2007 favorable coverage of Dreger painted Bailey as a “scientist under siege.” In 2008, Wyndzen’s commentary was published with a number of others:

A social psychology of a history of a snippet in the psychology of transgenderism.

Alice Dreger wrote an oral history for the Archives of Sexual Behavior, “The Controversy Surrounding ‘The Man Who Would Be Queen: A Case History of the Politics of Science, Identity, and Sex in the Internet Age. Though Dreger suggests disagreeing with autogynephila is the focal point of the backlash against J. Michael Bailey, I suggest from the historical pattern that Bailey experienced a backlash because he accused those who disagree with him of lying. Merely acknowledging autogynephilia or opposing a “feminine essence model” provoked little controversy. I explain Dreger’s misconstrued historical account and Bailey, Anne Lawrence, and Ray Blanchard’s over-simplified psychological accounts with common biases described by social psychology: fundamental attribution error, group polarization, groupthink, stereotyping, representativeness heuristic, base-rate neglect, framing effects, and the correspondence bias. Journal editor Kenneth Zucker offered the opportunity to write responses. Though we have very different perspectives on autogynephilia and the way transgendered persons are understood by psychology, he graciously agreed to include my response.

http://www.genderpsychology.org/autogynephilia/alice_dreger.html

Wikipedia controversy

In 2008, Canadian sexologist James Cantor began editing Wikipedia under the pseudonym MarionTheLibrarian. He quickly began promoting himself and his friends and removing criticisms of himself and his friends. His editing patterns and his inadvertent self-outing soon led to his editing under his own name.

Among his early edits were attempts to remove all references to Wyndzen’s work from Wikipedia.

I told Wyndzen about Cantor’s activities, and Wyndzen wrote the letter below to Wikipedia editors on July 31, 2008 in hopes of having Cantor’s suppression reverted. Despite a year of effort by Wyndzen, Cantor prevailed in keeping Wyndzen from being cited on Wikipedia. This controversy marked the end of Wyndzen’s public writings about gender.

Dear Andrea James,

Thank you for letting me know about James Cantor’s effort to remove reference to my work from Wikipedia.  Though disappointing, it is also flattering that he considers this worth his time.  Perhaps he recognizes the accuracy of my critique of autogynephilia and he worries that when other behavioral scientists read it (especially those not already committed to a side), they will recognize how weak Ray Blanchard’s model is.  James Cantor and his colleagues may also be starting to recognize the larger problem of beginning their account with the assumption of a mental illness model and how it results in stereotypes of transgender persons.  They may be worried about the ongoing debate about including transgendered persons in the DSM for being who they are; censoring Wikipedia so it only showcases their side as reliable might delay uncommitted psychiatrists and psychologists from readily finding the scientific accounts on the other side.  It’s a clever manipulation of our scientific heuristic that peer-reviewed journals contain more credible information.  Like all heuristics that usually work, it sometimes fails.  It fails in this case because the journals are part of a mental health community that begins with the assumption that we are mentally ill for being who we are.  Those who begin from a neutral or positive perspective on transgenderism lack journals of their own.

Imagine what James Cantor’s life as a gay man would be like today if those at the American Psychiatric Association dismissed Dr. Anonymous as “unreliable” because he did not publish against the mental illness model of homosexuality in a peer-reviewed journal or because he protected his identity.  As psychology professors, James Cantor and I both know that it’s the quality of our arguments that matter – not our names, credentials, or the sources in which we publish.  Perhaps the transgender community should gently remind him that you cannot raise yourself up by pushing others down.  Even if he continues to behave unscientifically, I am not sure why this persuades other Wikipedia editors?  I thought the spirit of Wikipedia was to be neutral, present all sides, and let readers judge for themselves?  It’s a spirit I agree with.  When Anne Lawrence introduced autogynephilia to the transgender community, I discussed with Ray Blanchard exposing a wider audience to his original work and he graciously allowed me to post some of his writing on my website.  Maybe James Cantor feels better believing I am unreliable.  Maybe others will feel that I am credible because of my decade of involvement in the trans-community and my numerous efforts to bridge the divide between transgender and psychological communities.  If it may help, please feel free to post this message.  I hope you are successful in preserving Wikipedia’s principled neutral stance.

Best wishes,
Madeline Wyndzen
http://www.GenderPsychology.org/

References

Wyndzen MH (2004). A Personal and Scientific Look at a Mental Illness Model of Transgenderism,” American Psychological Association Division 44 Newsletter (Spring 2004). http://www.genderpsychology.0rg/autogynephilia/apa_div_44.html [PDF]

Wyndzen MH (2008). A social psychology of a history of a snippet in the psychology of transgenderism. Arch Sex Behav. 2008 Jun;37(3):498-502; discussion 505-10. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-008-9340-2. [link]

Resources

All Mixed Up (genderpsychology.org)

Gender Web (gender.org)

  • http://www.genderweb.org/~katherine/ [archive]