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Editorials on J. Michael Bailey’s The Man Who Would Be Queen (2003-2004)

Editorials on J. Michael Bailey’s The Man Who Would Be Queen (2003-2004)

©2003, 2004, 2013 by Dallas Denny







Source: Denny, Dallas. (2003, Fall). The man who would write about queens. Transgender Tapestry, 103, p. 7.


The Man Who Would Write About Queens


If Michael Bailey had purposefully set out to write a book that deliberately demeaned its subjects; if he had set a goal of eroding any respect he might have had as a scientist; if he had intended to subject himself to scorn and derision, he could hardly have done better than producing the inappropriately subtitled The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism.

The primary title is intentionally insulting to gay men and transgendered and transsexual people. The content continues this theme of derision. Bailey makes sweeping pronouncements and grand generalizations that go far beyond any existing data. He doesn’t even bother to reproduce the few data that exist, preferring instead to refer to his findings and the findings of others in a vague fashion before moving on to absolutist statements. He barely conceals subthemes of his erotic interest in transsexual women and his glee at promoting stereotypes that have proven to be harmful and insulting.

The Man Who Would Be Queen is a sadistic book, one that deliberately belittles and ridicules. Its mean spirit far outweighs any redeeming qualities it might possess. It is a shameful book by a shameless author who should not be surprised at the scorn and disdain to which he has subjected himself.


Source: Denny, Dallas. (2004, Winter). The ups and downs of J. Michael Bailey. Transgender Tapestry, 104, pp. 53-54.


The Ups and Downs of J. Michael Bailey


J. Michael Bailey is Chair of the Department of Psychology and Professor at Chicago’s prestigious Northwestern University. A Ph.D. graduate of Louisiana’s Baylor University, he is trained in clinical psychology and known as a sexologist. The bulk of his research has concerned the behavioral and vocal mannerisms of gay men.

This year, Bailey made a play for the big time— if one considers the talk show and lecture circuit the big time— via a book published under the imprint of the prestigious National Academies of Science. The title is The Man Who Would be Queen: The Science and Psychology of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism.

This choice of title is unfortunate in any number of ways. First, despite Bailey’s claims otherwise, it is deliberately sensationalistic, misleading, and demeaning to the purported subject population. It seems designed to sell books rather than describe what Bailey’s book is about. There is, in fact, no man “who would be queen.” Second, most of the book is devoted to male homosexuality rather than transsexualism; why does the subtitle not reflect this? Third, and far worse, both the author and publisher have touted the book as being based on science and research. It is not science. Fortunately, most reviewers have recognized this. Finally, both the subtitle and NAS imprint imply that Bailey has widespread knowledge of transsexualism. This is not true; Bailey met his (few) transsexual subjects in Chicago’s gay and trans bar scene at two of the morning. Moreover, according to at least five transsexual women who have filed complaints at Northwestern in regard to Bailey’s behavior, he misled them by not telling them that they were research subjects. Bailey is now under investigation by Northwestern— a most serious matter.

Bailey’s book is important because it has brought to the forefront two issues; gay femininity and autogynephilia. Gay men have been slow to react to the exaggerated and stereotypic pictures Bailey paints of them in his books and at his lectures, but transsexuals, outraged by Bailey’s blanket statements that he “knows” their intimate psychologies and his intimations that if transsexuals disagree with his assessments of them, they’re lying, have been quick on the uptake. Reactions have been critical and in some cases personal.

The real importance of Bailey’s book is not that it paints a sloppy and inaccurate picture of transsexuals (it does), but that it hoists the petard of autogynephilia, a theory that depicts transsexuals as sexual fetishists and denies the existence of gender dysphoria (see sidebar on AGN)— and that he has done so with the tacit approval of the National Academies of Science.

Here are the highlights of the controversy to date.

March: TMWWBQ is released, with claims by the author and publisher that it is based on science. A cover blurb by Dr. Anne Lawrence calls the book “… a wonderful book on an important subject.”

April: University of Michigan Professor Emerita Lynn Conway fires the opening salvo to a group of tran friends via e-mail, expressing her “extreme concern about the Publication of Bailey’s book by the National Academy Press— and her fears that the Academy imprimatur would mislead people into thinking the book was sound science, when in fact it was very one-sided and very defamatory of transsexual women.” Conway continues to document happenings on her website, updating it frequently.

25 April: On Conway’s website, Stanford Professor of Biological Science Joan Roughgarden reviews a presentation by Bailey on 23 April at Stanford University; she describes Bailey as mocking and stereotyping gay men and transsexuals.

4 May: Saralyn Chesnut, Ph.D., Director of the Office of LGBT Life at Emory University, describes a lecture by Bailey at Emory on 8 April. Chestnut writes, “I found him to be arrogant, unprofessional (he smelled of alcohol at 4:00 in the afternoon) and absolutely boastful about how ‘scandalous’ and ‘outrageous’ his book is, as if that were more important than academic rigor. I’ve never heard an academic proudly use words like that to describe his/her work.” (from Conway’s website).

5 May: The National Academies of Science begin to get letters of complaint about TMWWBQ. The Academies eventually receives letters from, among others, Christine Burns of Press for change, Joan Roughgarden, Karen Guerney of the Australian W-O-M-A-N Network, Dallas Denny, editor of Transgender Tapestry Journal, Monica Casper, Executive Director of the Intersex Society of North America, and faculty members of leading universities.

9 May: Anjelica Kieltyka, “Cher” in Bailey’s book, sends e-mail pleas to Andrea James and Lynn Conway, explaining what had happened to her and seeking their help.

20 June: “Dr. Sex,” an article on the TMWWBQ controversy, appears in The Chronicle of Higher Education; this is the first mention of the controversy in the mainstream press. “Mr. Bailey’s work on transsexuals, unlike his scientific research on gay men, is anecdotal and his book doesn’t cite any figures to back up his claims. In his defense, he says he ‘went every place I could think of that I’d find a decent chance of finding transsexuals’ to talk to and observe. That often meant gay bars near his home…”

21 June: The National Transgender Advocacy Coalition releases a press release criticizing Bailey’s book.

23 June: Conway sends an open letter to the administration of Northwestern University, alerting them to the NTAC press release.

23 June: Andrea James, who has been tracking the Bailey brouhaha on her website, posts a blistering critique of Anne Lawrence, in which she describes Lawrence’s 1997 resignation from her position as an anesthesiologist after conducting an unauthorized and clearly unethical genital examination of an unconscious patient. This resulted in an investigation by the State of Washington Department of Health. James’ website includes images of the Adverse Action Report generated by the investigation.

23 June: James also alleges that Lawrence made unwanted sexual overtures to her while photographing James’ genitalia.

3 July: Kieltyka files a formal complaint with Northwestern University. Kieltyka had previously revealed that she was the subject called “Cher” in TMWWBQ. She states that she was misled by Bailey, who she had contacted years ago after seeing him on television, and who she says did not reveal to her or other transsexuals that he was doing research. By mid-July, four more subject-complainants have come forward.

17 July: Articles in The Daily Northwestern and The Chronicle of Higher Education report that the university has begun investigatory proceedings in response to complaints about unauthorized use of human subjects.

17 July: An article on Conway’s website (posted on 29 July), reports that Kieltyka, who attended the annual meeting of the International Academy of Sex Research at Indiana State University to call attention to Bailey’s behavior, reports that she was prevented from handing out information there and was asked to leave by the police.

19 July: According to an account from an attendee of the conference, posted on 28 July on Conway’s website, Kinsey Institute Director John Bancroft rises from the audience at the Q&A session after a presentation by Bailey at the national meeting of the International Academy of Sex Research and tells Bailey, “Michael, I would caution you against calling this book ‘science’ because I have read it … and I can tell you it is NOT science.”

19 July: Bailey “vacates his position” as IASR Secretary-Treasurer.

29 July: Lynn Conway and Dierdre McCloskey file a formal complaint with Northwestern about Bailey’s research behavior.

31 July: Bailey tells The Daily Northwestern that he told IASR in February about his decision to resign. The article also reports that Bancroft would not confirm that he made the statement reported on Conway’s website. The Daily Northwestern article reports that two more transwomen have filed complaints against Bailey, bringing the total to five.

20 Oct.: HBIGDA President Walter J. Meyer III, M.D. and HBIGDA Executive Director Bean Robinson, Ph.D. respond on behalf of the HBIGDA Board of Directors to a letter sent on 14 June by Drs. Lynn Conway, Dierdre McCloskey, Ben Barres, Barbara Nash, and Joan Roughgarden, expressing their concerns about Bailey. HBIGDA declines to investigate Bailey on the grounds that he is not a member of the association, and calls for all parties in the controversy to exercise professionalism. Meyer and Robinson indicate that HBIGDA has plans to express its concerns about Bailey directly to Northwestern University.

4 Nov.: The Clarke’s Ray Blanchard, who coined the term autogynephilia based on his empirical work in the late 1980s and early 1990s, writes Meyer & Robinson, resigning from HBIGDA on the grounds of HBIGDA’s “appalling decision… to intervene in Northwestern University’s investigation into the allegations… against Prof. J. Michael Bailey.”


Andrea James’ website contains a wealth of material about the controversy.
Lynn Conway’s website also contains even more information. We suggest readers take Conway’s “investigative journalism” with a grain of salt. She nonetheless covers the waterfront most thoroughly.
J. Michael Bailey’s website contains a Q&A about the reaction to his book.

James, Andrea. (2003, 23 June). The Anne who would be queen.

Citations and full text of all articles cited above can be found on Lynn Conway’s and Andrea James’ websites. Our thanks to Conway and James for pulling together the relevant information.


Source: Denny, Dallas. (2004, Winter). Why the Bailey controversy is important. Transgender Tapestry, 1(104).


Why the Bailey Controversy is Important


In 1979, Boston’s Beacon Press published Janice J. Raymond’s pseudoscientific polemic The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male. Based on her Ph.D. thesis at Boston College, Raymond argued that male-to-female transsexuals (or, in her terminology, “male-to-constructed females”), are tools of a patriarchal medical system, designed to make women obsolete.

Raymond’s book appeared in the same year as a methodologically flawed and almost certainly fraudulent study by Jon Meyer and Donna Reter of Johns Hopkins University, published in the professional journal Archives of General Psychiatry. Together, these two publications— one a 200-page political manifesto masquerading as science, and one a six-page politically-motivated article which also masqueraded as science, dealt American transsexuals a blow from which they are only now recovering.

How could that be?

We’ve told the story of Meyer & Reter before (Transgender Tapestry #100, p. 31), but here’s the brief version— The study was engineered by psychiatrist Paul McHugh, who has since written that he accepted the position of Chair of the Psychiatry Department at Hopkins in part to shut down Hopkins’ gender clinic. By manufacturing data that supported McHugh’s political ends, Meyer & Reter concluded there was “no objective advantage” to male-to-female sex reassignment surgery.

However fraudulent Meyer & Reter’s study may have been, it had the desired effect. Within months, the Hopkins clinic closed. Within two years, most of the more than 40 gender programs in the United States had closed, as a direct result of the study.

Meyer held a press conference, presumably with McHugh’s help, ensuring that every newspaper and news and issues-oriented magazine in the U.S. announced that sex reassignment surgery just did not work. Consequently, for more than ten years most helping professionals in the U.S. believed sex reassignment was an ineffective and dangerous treatment.

Raymond’s manifesto was supposedly based on her study of a small number of transexuals, but Angela Douglas has claimed all the quotes of Raymond’s “subjects” were extracted from a letter Douglas had sent her. In other words, it is entirely possible that Raymond may have had no subjects, may have done no “study.” To our knowledge, Raymond has never been challenged to show her data.

Empire facade as a work of science gave it additional clout. It was enormously influential with radical feminists and in the emerging field of queer studies. It resulted in the expulsion of unknown numbers of transsexuals from social and political organizations, the most notable case being the removal of Sandy Stone from the Olivia music group.

Raymond had considerably more energy than Meyer and McHugh. She traveled the country denouncing transsexuals (and was still at it in 1994, when she managed to get Empire reissued by Teacher’s College Press). Her lobbying of the National Center for Health Care Technology and other agencies ensured that no federal policies would be favorable to transsexuals and no public monies would be available for research on transsexualism, and her arguments that transsexualism is a social and legal issue and not a medical one influenced the insurance industry to deny medical coverage for all treatments related to transsexualism.

In both the Raymond and Meyer & Reter cases, much political hay was made— and the vehicles which allowed them to do so much harm to transsexuals were respected and respectable publishers who, for one reason or another, uncritically published their inferior and politically motivated work.

Which brings us to J. Michael Bailey, whose The Man Who Would be Queen was published by the National Academies of Sciences.

Instead of portraying transsexuals as dupes, as did Raymond, Bailey calls us sexual deviates. Worse, he promotes a theory that allows male-to-female transsexuals no defense— if we say we aren’t autogynephilic, we are at best in denial and at worst lying.

Bailey is but one arm of a latter-day attack on transsexualism. The other arm is the researchers of autogynephilia, who are motivated to interpret, and have interpreted, their data in political ways— they use transsexuals as pawns as they attempt to develop theories of human sexual behavior, change transsexualism from a gender identity disorder to a paraphilia (the new word for sexual perversion) in the DSM, or justify their personal experiences.

If successful, they, and Bailey, will change transsexualism, in the eyes of the public and in the eyes of professionals, from a quest for ego-consonant gender to a perverse erotic desire to have the body parts or social role of the other gender.

If and when this happens, there will be no possible basis for civil rights protections for transsexuals, and the door will be opened for reparative therapists to “cure” us all of what will have become our sickness.

In 1979, transsexuals and other transgendered people were isolated. There was no transgender community, no way to mount an attack on the lies and inaccuracies of Janice Raymond and Jon Meyer. Except for reviews in the photocopied newsletters of the day (which were not read outside the immediate circle of transgendered subscribers), and the occasional letter to the editor of more mainstream publications, there was no response to an attack that closed gender clinics, made transsexuals persona non grata in the gay and lesbian community, and cost us our medical coverage. Today, there is a community and the means for organized opposition. The political stakes are enormous.

J. Michael Bailey is, for the moment, at least, on point, a visible and vulnerable target. What will happen, will happen.