A critique of J. Michael Bailey's "The Man who would be Queen: The Science of Gender Bending and Transsexualism" includes a discussion of writing style and use of evidence. Bailey's book is compared to Richard Green's "The 'Sissy Boy Syndrome' and the Development of Homosexuality."
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J. Michael Bailey's (2003) book, "The Man who would be Queen: The Science of Gender Bending and Transsexualism" was published under the imprint of the National Academy of Sciences. Despite its scientific affiliation, its greatest merit is more personal. As I first read Bailey's book, it felt like following Bailey on his journal through a diverse world of sexuality and gender. Sometimes he expresses genuine sympathy and support for those he meets. Sometimes he expresses value judgements and a paternalistic attitude, as though he understands people better than they understand themselves . Reading his book, I was reminded of a quote I have heard attributed to Anais Nin, "We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are." We can learn a lot about Michael Bailey by reading his book, and he is a very interesting person.
Bailey is enthralled with a potpourri of diversity in the world. Though Bailey's title says the book is about "the science of gender-bending", it's really only about one aspect of gender-bending. Given his perspective, the sub-title might have more accurately read, "the scientific study of the intersection between sexuality and gender." Even with this focus, it's just too much for a single book. This book is about so many things: gender identity disorder in male-bodied children, gay men's gender, social constructivist accounts of homosexuality, and gender identity disorder in male-bodied adults. Each of these could be its own book. In fact, some of these topics are already books. Richard Green's (1987), "The 'Sissy Boy Syndrome' and the Development of Homosexuality" is about gender identity disorder in male-bodied children. In contrast to Bailey's book, Green's book is thorough, provides extensive citations, and contains detailed transcripts of his case studies.
Trying to fit too much into too little space can not explain away the most disappointing part of the structure of Bailey's book: its lack of citations. I happen to be well-read in much of the academic literature Bailey was discussing. I can guess what peer-reviewed studies he interprets. At other times I find myself interested in learning more, but I do not have the information I need to do this. An intellectually curious person approaching this material for the first time would be especially disadvantaged by the lack of scholarship and overly personal nature of the book.
When Bailey has to choose between scholarship and personal chatting, he all too often chooses the latter. He does this even in cases where he hurts his own arguments. For example, Bailey (2003, pg. 173) discusses a passage that 'turns on' some cross-dressers and suggests that he does not believe "any man would" be turned on too. He quips, "you [reader] can be the judge." Making this point a personal quip to the (assumed male) reader hides important information that bolsters his argument. The study he refers to (Blanchard, Racansky, & Steiner, 1986) includes a control group of non-cross-dressing heterosexual men.
Bailey writes eloquently about his interesting experiences and interesting research. Though he leaves us as readers with an ample understanding of himself, he also leaves us feeling empty in our knowledge of the book's subject matter.
Footnote 1: On page 212, Bailey says of one of his transsexual participants, "And I think that in her own way, Cher is a star." On page 58, Bailey suggests he knows that some of the 6 gay men who visited his class really had a feminine childhood, though they shrugged when asked if that described any of their childhoods.
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