The Blog

The Second Coming of the Man Who Would Be Queen

Charlotte Allen's article in the, "The Transgender Triumph," which reads like a "Greatest Hits" album of the scientifically ignorant and hateful anti-trans rabble, leads with the return of Professor J. Michael Bailey to the scene of the crimes that originally led to his fall from grace. It's a surprisingly tone-deaf way to stage-manage your Second Coming.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

There are times when you read an article that's nothing more than a screed, a scream of resentment, in this case on behalf of a man who has slid into irrelevancy. In what appears to me to be an attempt to capitalize on the alleged Jenner transition, win some plaudits from reactionary fellow travelers, and prepare the ground to promote Professor J. Michael Bailey once again into the limelight, along comes Charlotte Allen. Her article in the Weekly Standard, "The Transgender Triumph," which reads like a "Greatest Hits" album of the scientifically ignorant and hateful anti-trans rabble, leads with the return of Professor J. Michael Bailey to the scene of the crimes in Chicago's Boystown that originally led to his fall from grace. It's a surprisingly tone-deaf way to stage-manage your Second Coming.

The trans community has triumphed, as the title suggests, to the degree it has because we've come out in greater numbers and educated our neighbors about our unique characteristics as one of many sexual minorities. In the world of science, of which Bailey is a part, we've made great progress not through bullying and political correctness but by slowly and persistently presenting the science that shows that trans persons are normal like everyone else. It has taken time -- the DSM 5 was only published two years ago. "Transgender" was first mentioned in a State of the Union speech last month. Open trans military service is continuing to plod forward.

And into this environment -- because of this environment -- those who have resisted and those who have hated have become increasingly public about their feelings and increasingly shrill in expressing them. It's the backlash part of the civil rights dialectic, which is why it is not unexpected, but apparently the Bailey-Blanchard-Dreger crowd hasn't really been paying attention.

As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the scientific consensus has radically changed in this century. In 2003 the trans civil rights movement was young and ineffective. It was Bailey's publication of The Man Who Would Be Queen that galvanized and mobilized the trans activists. The book was published, remarkably, by the National Academies Press, associated with the Institute of Medicine, and included an encomium from scientific luminary and then-MIT professor Steven Pinker, who wrote on the back cover:

With a mixture of science, humanity, and fine writing, J. Michael Bailey illuminates the mysteries of sexual orientation and identity in the best book yet written on the subject. The Man Who Would Be Queen may upset the guardians of political correctness on both the left and the right, but it will be welcomed by intellectually curious people of all sexes and sexual orientations. A truly fascinating book.

There is little science in the book, and less humanity. The book is an expression of Bailey's salacious interest in the sexuality of trans women, not their humanity. In a remarkable exploration of his personal desires, which he substitutes for data, he fits right in with the Freudians and fetish systematizers who have been marginalized and limited to ever smaller circles in the scientific community. And, remarkably, the author of this review jumps right back into that sensationalistic approach, starting her article with this objectifying comment in the second paragraph: "I stared at her [Sara Andrews] mesmerized, looking for signs that she had once been male." There are images of her "scanty costume" and her "smooth and hairless skin," and she is described as "shy and demure." Language focused on physicality and sexuality, the natural vs. unnatural -- this is the focus of the author and her patron, Professor Bailey. Apparently one needn't have a penis for membership in his crowd.

Sloppiness and calumny abound in this essay. Don't let the essay's title fool you; it's one of the few instances where the title accurately portrays reality in a positive sense (though not intentionally), while the article itself is a hit piece.

She uses the term "transgenderism," calling it the new politically correct term for transsexualism, but had she done a minimum of searching, she'd have learned that it has never been accepted in the trans community. It is a term used by the Weekly Standard crowd to disparage trans persons. The same goes for the use of "transgender" as a noun, which is just as unacceptable grammatically. She calls Sara Andrews a "transwoman," in parentheses, denying her right to self-identification (and misspelling "trans woman" in the process). She mentions the 1970s meme that "transgenderism is an overwhelmingly male phenomenon," in spite of the fact that the numbers have been equal at least since the turn of the century. Doing so plays into Bailey's fetishist theme and again denies the identity of her interviewee, Sara, who "insisted on defying Bailey's sexual-desire hypothesis. 'It's not a sexual thing,' Andrews said. 'It's who I am.'"

Allen says the Bailey thesis was controversial in 2003 and is even more controversial now. Now, not really, because while it was controversial then, it is laughable today, held only by this cast of characters increasingly ignored by their colleagues. The two APAs -- the American Psychological and Psychiatric Associations -- and the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and growing numbers of therapists of all schools recognize the biological innateness of gender identity and its manifestations, contrary to her belief that "[t]he medical evidence for a mismatch between brains and bodies is ambiguous." The most recent review was published just last week in Boston. The classic paper on the biological roots of transsexualism, entitled, "Atypical Gender Development," was published nine years ago.

Bailey's attempt to fetishize trans women, who today are still being manhandled by his colleagues, Drs. Ray Blanchard and Ken Zucker in Toronto, plummeted into a sinkhole in 2003 by virtue of his refusal to recognize the existence of trans men, who don't fit the male fetishist profile. Today we see ever larger numbers of children announcing their identity to accepting parents -- are they proof of what Ms. Allen calls, in support of Bailey, "a matter of sexual desire and romantic yearning"? Sexual desire and romantic yearning in 4-year-olds? Even the intellectual leader of the Bailey clan, Professor Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins, recognized in 2005 that gender identity exists in the human brain. It confuses him, and he still can't separate sexual orientation from gender identity in his mind, but he's an old man and can possibly be forgiven for his closed-mindedness. But that doesn't stop Allen from referencing McHugh's misreading of the Karolinska study to suit his anti-trans conclusion (trans women actually benefit greatly from transition with appropriate support) or completely misinterpreting the significance of the Reimer case. David Reimer was not trans, was surgically feminized at birth after developing in utero as a male and raised female, and was lied to about his traumatic circumcision until Professor Mickey Diamond of the University of Hawai'i discovered the John Money cover-up.

Allen's cultural transphobia factoids come fast and furious. She's uncomfortable with properly identifying victims of hate crimes, such as CeCe McDonald, whom she makes into a perpetrator rather than a victim, and uses Chelsea Manning (a convicted traitor) and Michele Kosilek (a convicted killer) as poster girls. Then she targets older women for the crime of being late-in-life transitioners, thereby supporting Bailey's theory that this class of women, unlike the "homosexual transsexuals" (an archaic British classification) over whom Bailey drools in drag bars, is just composed of fetishists. The accomplishments of Martine Rothblatt, Jenny Boylan, Diedre McCloskey and Meghan Stabler are masculinized in a manner Janice Raymond, the notorious second-wave feminist hater of all things trans and author of The Transsexual Empire, would applaud.

I will leave it to Professor Lynn Conway and Andrea James to once again take the lead in exposing this stew of pseudoscientific salaciousness. The people with the sexual fetishes are Bailey and his friends, not the trans women who struggled with their gender incongruence before finding the courage to lead authentic lives.

Alice Dreger should know soon that her attempt, in her soon-to-be-published book, and with this article, to resurrect the reputation of J. Michael ("isn't gay himself") Bailey, will land not on virgin ground but in the lap of an engaged, erudite and committed group of activists who are proud of their identities and contributions to society. It's worth noting that the hotbed of Baileyism, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (isn't that a welcoming name for a scared family looking for support?) in Toronto, formerly known as the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, home to both Drs. Zucker and Blanchard, is today reconsidering its long history of reparative therapy and resistance to scientific progress. When what is affectionately known as "Jurassic Clarke" fades into history, the major battle in the war for legitimacy will be over.

Popular in the Community