Common wisdom says not to judge a book by its cover. But one can’t help but be struck by the uncanny resemblance between the cover of Ms. Heath’s 2006 Handbook and J. Michael Bailey’s 2003 The Man Who Would Be Queen. Take a moment to look at both, compare and contrast the two. Given the nasty fuss within the autogynephilic transwomen’s community regarding Bailey’s book, even deriding its cover, calling it transphobic and disrepectful, one can’t help but wonder if the editors at Praeger and perhaps even Heath herself, were making an insider’s editorial comment? Consider Heath’s own words, in fact the second paragraph of Chapter One, which states it clearly,
“When writing about a sensitive issue such as transsexuality, the temptation to right the wrongs is always present. However, it is equally important to offer readers a critical evaluation of what is known. By so doing, transsexed people will not be deluded by half-truths, and professionals and researchers will not be deterred by uninformed claims from disenchanted clients. This book treads a fine line between upholding the human rights of the downtrodden minority and ensuring that what is known about transsexuality and related conditions is presented accurately and understandably.”
Heath’s book was published before Alice Dreger’s history of the contretemps surrounding Bailey’s book, but I strongly suspect that she understood the wrongness of accusations against Bailey, given the cover and the complete coverage of the very material, the research into the true nature of transsexuality, upon which Bailey relied.
If I have any serious criticism of this book it is that although a wonderful aggregation of the research, it lacks the very “critical evaluation” that Heath states as a goal. Further, the work lacks a comprehensive synthesis of the voluminous data and accrued hypothesis, which was tested and found supported by them. It is left to the reader to perform these tasks. Given that in this absence, a critical analysis requires going back to the original papers, it is essential that a serious reader constantly refer to the many footnotes.
As an example of the failure to synthesize the information contained, consider how she covers the two type taxonomy and the evidence supporting it. In Chapter Five, Interesting Correlates of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation, she writes in a subchapter, “Relations Between Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation,
“Young transsexed woman are more likely to be nonheterosexual than are older transsexed women. Transsexed men tend to be nonheterosexual irrespective of their age at transition. This generalization suggest that the independence of gender identity and sexual orientation is difficult to discern… A contentious idea is to associate heterosexual transsexed people with autogynephilia, the tendency to be sexually aroused by one’s own image as a woman. … According to Blanchard, there are only two fundamentally different types of transsexuality in males: homosexual and nonhomosexual. In his view, nonhomosexual transsexed women, that is those with a sexual preference for women, are characterized by their propensity towards autogynephilia.”
She goes on for several pages covering the research and evidence, but then fails to note later in the book that other researchers are referring to the exact same two populations and their characteristics, while a critical reader can’t fail to note them. Consider her Chapter Seven, Transsexualism as a Medical Condition and her subchapter Primary and Secondary Transsexualism,
“Primary transsexualism is distinguished by its early onset, with clients reporting memories of cross-dressing when they were young, as well as partaking in feminine activities such as playing with dolls from an early age. Primary transsexed women who often exhibit homosexual preferences from adolescence onwards frequently enjoy greater success in transition than do their older counterparts. Secondary transexualism develops after a period of possibly fetishistic cross-dressing when the client starts to assume a more permanent feminine self-identity around puberty. Often secondary transsexed women prefer sexual relationships with women. They seek initial assessment at an older age … The primary transsexed group tends to present earlier for assessment, show better social gender reorientation, have less erotic arousal when cross-dressing, and experience fewer postoperative regrets than does the secondary transsexed group. … Differences between primary (young) and secondary (older) transsexed people have some diagnostic value.”
Note the clear connection between age of transition, sexual orientation, and “erotic arousal when cross-dressing”, also known as autogynephilia. Later in the same chapter, Heath discusses Anne Vitale’s Group 1 vs. Group 3, while completely missing the obvious, that these are simply names for the same groups as Blanchard’s and for the classic dichotomous Primary vs. Secondary transwomen.
The book, while being somewhat encyclopedic, is very poorly indexed. For example, she frequently refers to researchers by name, but these names are not found in the index, making it difficult to find such references.
Even with its weaknesses, I recommend buying and referring to this handbook.
In a recent popular magazine article, intellectual essayist, Charlotte Allen wrote an extensive and deep exposition on the events of the past 15 years of the increase in visibility of the Transgender community. Encouragingly, it was unflinching in its exploration of not only the pop-psychology, but also the REAL psychology and politics. Of neccessity, this also means that she explained about the two type taxonomy, Blanchard’s role in researching it, Bailey’s role in popularizing it… and of the disgraceful behavior of the autogynephilic transwomen who attempted to shout down those who, in their research, came to support the scientific recognition that “late transitioning” transwomen are on the same continuum as transvestites / cross-dressers. Ms. Allen writes,
“Blanchard’s theory is that transgenders fall into two distinct categories whose sexual orientations, interests, choice of careers, and even, to a large extent, social class are violently different from each other. One of those categories he calls “homosexual” transgenders, whose sexual attraction, from childhood to death, is strictly toward members of their own genetic sex. Among males, they’re the extremely effeminate boys who identify as girls in early childhood, play with dolls and other girls’ toys, and shun the rough-and-tumble play typical of boys their age. Studies at Vanderbilt and the University of London have shown that 70 to 80 percent of those trans-children grow out of their trans-identity at puberty and become, simply, gay adolescents and, later, gay adult men. The 20 to 30 percent who do take formal steps toward transitioning, Blanchard believes, are a self-selected group who, thanks to their more delicate looks, can function fairly successfully as women. “They’re people who might be unsuccessful as men,” Blanchard said. — Homosexual transgender men transition early in adulthood, typically during their twenties, Blanchard observed. They account for the vast majority of transgenders in the non-Western world: from the “two-spirits” of indigenous North American tribes, to the fa’afafine of Samoa, to the kathoeys of Thailand who can easily fool Western sex tourists into misidentifying them as women. In those societies there is typically a recognized and thoroughly integrated social niche for men who identify and dress as women. The fa’afafine typically work as secretaries, nannies, and housekeepers—stereotypically female occupations. In that respect, they’re not unlike the flamboyant gay men of Western culture who carved out a recognized social niche for themselves in such occupations as hairdresser, dancer, makeup artist, interior decorator, couturier, and fashion consultant (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy). Boys and men in drag played women’s roles on stage from classical times to the 17th century, and they continue to be popular entertainers for both gays and heterosexuals to this day, as the demographics of the Kit Kat Lounge attest. — By contrast, Blanchard discovered that the predominant form that trangenderism takes in the West today involves men who, as men, have never identified as homosexual in their erotic attractions, but rather as heterosexual, bisexual, or asexual. Those men, his research revealed, tended to make their transitions in their mid-to-late thirties, or even later—at least a full decade on average after the homosexual transgenders did. Furthermore, many of those men were married and fathers before they came out. The paradigm might be travel writer Jan Morris, now 88, who spent the first 46 years of her life as James Morris, the journalist who covered Edmund Hillary’s ascent of Mt. Everest and who fathered five children before undergoing transition surgery in 1972. And many in this heterosexual population—in contrast to the homosexual transgenders on the drag scene—worked in stereotypically hypermasculine professions: They’d been parachutists, Navy SEALs, engineers, policemen, firemen, and high school football coaches. The billionaire philanthropist James Pritzker, who became Jennifer Natalya Pritzker in 2013, in his early sixties, is a retired much-decorated U.S. Army lieutenant colonel with three children by his former wife. “They’ll say that they chose those professions in order to suppress their feelings as females,” Blanchard said. “But no one put a gun to their heads to choose those jobs.” Many late-transitioning transgenders (Jennifer Finney Boylan, for example) insist, contra Blanchard, that they were aware from early childhood that they were born into the wrong body—but Blanchard thinks they aren’t being honest with themselves.”
Ms. Allen then goes on to explain how certain members of the autogynephilic tranwomen’s community took umbridge with Bailey’s attempt at popularizing Blanchard’s work,
“The Man Who Would Be Queen inflamed transgender activists. It did have certain inflammatory aspects. There was the jacket photo of the man in high heels. Blanchard’s coinage “autogynephilia” (extensively used by Bailey in the book), with its connotations of fetishism, deviance, and mental disorder, has never sat well with transgenders. Bailey was even more adamant than Blanchard that autogynephilic transgenders often lied about their erotic fascination with cross-dressing. Furthermore, Bailey observed, drawing on his previous studies, that homosexual transgenders tended to come from lower socioeconomic classes than autogynephiles, and that they tended to have short time-horizons that often led them into streetwalking, shoplifting, and other petty crimes. “Prostitution is the single most common occupation,” Bailey wrote. His book also, perhaps inadvertently, included details about “Cher” that made her real identity quickly discoverable to those in the know: Anjelica Kieltyka, a Chicago transgender woman who, although disagreeing with Bailey about his characterization of her as autogynephilic, had made frequent guest appearances in his classes and had introduced him to other figures in the city’s transgender scene. — Bailey’s book caught the immediate—and hostile—attention of Lynn Conway, now 77, a pioneer of computer-chip design during the 1970s, a longtime engineering professor at the University of Michigan, and a leading transgender activist who figured as one of Time’s “21 Transgender People Who Influenced American Culture” in its May 2014 cover story. Conway was close to Andrea James (both had been patients of Dr. Ousterhout and touted his facial-feminization techniques on their websites). James, best-known for counseling Felicity Huffman, the star of the film Transamerica (2005), on transgender voice and mannerisms, underwent transition surgery in 1996. She and Conway teamed up with Kieltyka, and with Deirdre McCloskey, to make sure that The Man Who Would Be Queen would not receive a respectable academic hearing. McCloskey’s participation in this enterprise seems odd. For one thing, her memoir, Crossing, describes her pre-transition self as having been “sexually aroused” as a young man by accounts of cross-dressing—a classic Blanchard-esque theme.”
She also notes that the science does not support the contention that “late transitioners” have female brains,
“The medical evidence for a mismatch between brains and bodies is ambiguous. The two studies cited most frequently by transgender activists, published in 1995 and 2000, examined the brains of a total of seven male-to-female transgenders and found that a region of the hypothalamus, an almond-shaped area of the brain that controls the release of hormones by the pituitary gland, was female-typical in those brains. But those studies have been criticized for not controlling for the estrogen—which affects the size of the hypothalamus—that most male-to-female transgenders take daily in order to maintain their feminine appearance.”
If I had any serious criticism of her essay, it would be in the way that she hews to the stereotype that transkids, “homosexual transsexuals”, are stereotyped as being prone to becoming petty criminals, prostitutes, and drag performers. I also found her take on the recent improvments in medicine and law regarding the treament of transchildren and teens to be unsympathetic. She gives one the impression that too many gender variant pre-teens are being pushed into iatrogenic trauma via puberty blockers, etc. While it may be true that autogynephiles may overvalue transition, most transkids and our caregivers are careful not to push children who are more likely to become gay and lesbian adults into wrong paths.
It may be uncomfortable reading, but I highly recommend that you do.