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Review of J. Michael Bailey, The Man Who Would Be Queen (2003)

Review of J. Michael Bailey, The Man Who Would Be Queen (2003)

©2003, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: My review of J. Michael Bailey’s The Man Who Would be Queen.

J. Michael Bailey. The Man Who Would Be Queen. (2003). Joseph Henry Press.




It’s interesting that Michael Bailey gets a lot of one star and a lot of four and five star reviews on these pages, but almost nothing in between.  I suspect that’s happening for three reasons:  first, because Bailey has organized his allies and supporters to write good reviews (many of the five-star reviews start out with interestingly similar descriptions of Bailey and his work); second, because Blanchard’s autogynephilia theory resonates with some transsexuals, who are, just as are Bailey’s critics, politically organized; and third, because transsexuals are so incensed by Bailey’s deliberately provocative tone that they are angry and want to protest a book that demeans and stereotypes them (and it does).  And yes, there are some very upset transsexual women who would like nothing better than to see Bailey go down in flames and are doing their best to see that he does.

If Bailey had written a credibly scientific book which received a political response like the one he is getting, it would be frightening.  He didn’t write that book.  What he did write was a book stuffed with smug proclamations about who people are and asserting, often and loudly, and without sufficient evidence, that their own lived experience and self-examination is subservient to the god of science (which he invokes in name only.  Certainly he does NOT carefully build the sort of persuasive case that would allow him to definitely state his beliefs as fact (and he repeatedly so states).  He does cite the work of Ray Blanchard, but he acts as if Blanchard himself has built an unimpeachable case for his interpetation of his data.  Even Blanchard’s data are suspect; certainly his interpretation of them is questionable and in the opinion of most workers in the field, wrong.

People who don’t know much about science (and alas, this includes many, many scientists, and perhaps ever MOST of them) are often blind to the fact that the conclusions they draw from their data are political acts, often motivated by their personal political and religious and moral beliefs.  Anyone who doubts this need only read Stephen Jay Gould’s wonderful The Mismeasure of Man to see how the ideologies of those who would measure mental functioning in their fellow humans have historically twisted their own interepretations (and sometimes their data) to fit their beliefs.  Blanchard has certainly done such twisting, and Bailey is essentially acting as Blanchard’s pimp, promoting not so much Blanchard’s data as his ideology.  He makes global proclamations, definitive statements, and predictions based on this ideology, and not on the data. And that’s why The Man Who Would Be Queen is not, cannot be, honestly called science. Instead, it’s anti-science.

Those who know little or nothing about science (including all those scientists who think their data give them a clear picture of what is really happening out there in the universe [it doesn’t; paradigms fall], and those who know nothing little or nothing about transseuxalism might thing Bailey compassionate, might think him knowledgeable, might think him persuasive.  I dare say that most of those who understand the limitations of the social sciences, and those with more knowledge of transsexualism than demonstrated by Bailey (who ignores 50 years of research, except for a few studies which for some reason he likes), are not the ones giving the five star responses.  Look at them again, you’ll see most of the authors of such know nothing about transexualism.  Their five star responses show they know nothing about science.

I am forced by Amazon’s software to rate this book.  I would have preferred not to.  I’m giving it two stars because ultimately it may prove useful as a role model for how to do bad science.