Madeline Wyndzen critiques J. Michael Bailey's book, "The Man who would be Queen: The Science of Gender Bending and Transsexualism" by examining his explanation of scientific studies and his similar attitudes toward diverse groups of people (e.g., transsexuals, cross-dressers, gay men, bisexual men, social constructivists, and psychologists who do not endorse Blanchard's Autogynephilia model
Citation: Wyndzen, M. H. (2005). The world according to J. Michael Bailey inside "The Man who would be Queen: The Science of Gender Bending and Transsexualism." All mixed up: A transgendered psychology professor's perspective on life, the psychology of gender, & "gender identity disorder". Available: http://www.GenderPsychology.org/autogynpehilia/j_michael_bailey/
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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. In the first two essays, I introduce the book, frame the controversy, and critique the stylistic structure from which Bailey makes his arguments. In the third essay, I examine how Bailey interprets Blanchard's mis-directed sex-drive model of transsexuality. In the next 4 essays I examine Bailey's attitude toward those he disagrees with, including: some psychologists, social constructivists, bisexual men, and transgendered women. In particular, in the last 2 essays I examine the two scientific studies he draws upon to justify why you should believe his characterization of transsexual women rather than believing their own life stories.
In the preceding essays I have discussed J. Michael Bailey's book, "The Man who would be Queen: The Science of Gender Bending and Transsexualism", and the controversy surrounding it. I wish I had more nice things to say on his behalf because he has spunk, a quality too often missing from our profession. Yet Bailey is dismissive and cynical in his attitude towards many of those he disagrees with. I have shown that his attitude is not justified. Psychologists who disagree with him are more informed than he credits them for being. Social Constructivists do not try to avoid seeing the truth, though they may be dismissive of Bailey's lack of effort to consider their perspective. Bisexual men may be not lying, but simply may have different biases than Bailey. Moreover, Bailey's biases reflect his own value-judgements and intuitions, not science.
Bailey points to scientific evidence for why you should believe his characterization of transsexual women rather than believing their own life stories. I have shown that he mischaracterizes these studies. In fact, these studies show transgendered women are largely honest people and their physiological responses match their self descriptions.
J. Michael Bailey fails to think critically about Blanchard's model. He acknowledges neither its methodological flaws nor the over-interpretation of its data. By focusing his attention on case studies, he had the opportunity to explore the subtleties in how Blanchard's model relates to the lives of transgendered persons. Instead, when he differed from Blanchard's accounts, it was typically by over-simplifying, stereotyping, or by further over-interpreting data.
By dismissing the perspectives of transsexual women and failing to think critically about Blanchard's model, he set up an environment of exceptional hostility between himself and the transgender community. This hostility further amplified an already existing hostility between these groups over the authority given professionals under the mental illness model. At a time when sensitivity and careful exposition were most needed, his book was instead most divisive. I still believe some good can from Bailey's book. He has illustrated the epitome of what science is like when you emulate an in-your-face talk-radio persona. His illustration shows why scientists need to always have sensitivity for their research participants. Sensitivity is not only good manners, it is good science. Through our shared experience with this book, I hope more psychologists will acknowledge the legitimacy of the self-perceptions of transgendered persons.
Even if J. Michael Bailey never revises his opinions, I hope all transgendered people will consider forgiving him. Though I am upset that he over-simplifies and stereotypes my experiences, I forgive him. I believe he just got caught up in a persona that is merely in vogue within present-day American culture. Anybody can get caught up in adopting societal ideals. Since his book's release, I have noticed him start to move away from this persona. In the preceding years, I noticed him become less judgemental. Through our forgiveness I feel we can help foster his personal growth. I hope the broader transgendered and mental health communities can forgive one another and acknowledge the legitimacy of each others' perspectives.
I hope that by seeing what dismissive cynicism can do, we can see in its reflection what honest communication can do. I am personally optimistic about the future for the relationships between psychologists and transgendered persons.
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