On the Science of Changing Sex

Flipping the Bird

Posted in Book Reviews by Kay Brown on March 22, 2015

Flip_the_birdBook Review:  Galileo’s Middle Finger – Heretics, Activists, And The Search For Justice In Science, by Alice Dreger

Dr. Dreger’s latest book could be described as a coming of age story as it chronicles her journey from naive graduate student to a world class activist historian, seeker of Truth, Justice, and the American Way.  She truly is a super-hero, if any real, live human being can be.  Hers is a journey into social justice activism, only to find that many of the self-styled activists were searching for anything but social justice.

Dreger’s introduction to activism was the result of meeting modern examples of the very injustice that she had previously documented had occurred to people in the 19th Century when their bodies didn’t conform to the expected norms for males and females, the so called “Hermaphrodites”, which today we called “intersexed” or “people with Disorders of Sexual Development” (DSD).  Writing about her academic work on 19th Century treatment of intersexed people,

“…It ended up pushing me into two unfamiliar and intense worlds: contemporary sex politics and contemporary medical activism.  That’s because, thanks to the Internet, by the time I came to this topic, in the mid-1990s, something was going on that the Victorian doctors would never have imagined: People who had been born with various sex anomoalies had started to find each other, and they had started to organize as an identity movement.  Labeling themselves intersex, many gather under the leadership of Bo Laurent, the founder of the Intersex Society of North America, and after reading my Victorian Studies article, some of these intersex activists, including Bo, contacted me.  A couple wrote me simply to complain that they found some of my language offensive, apparently not realizing I was relaying Victorian rhetoric in my article.  By contrast, Bo got my work.  And she asked for my help in changing the way children born intersex were treated in modern medicine. … I hastened to tell Bo, “I’m a historian; I study dead people.”  However, once I understood what was really going on at pediatric hospitals all over the nation – once I understood that Bo’s clitoris had been amputated in the name of sex “normalcy” and that this practice was still going on – I felt I had to assist in her efforts.”

Dreger rose to that challenge, taking on a leadership role in the fight to end medically unnecessary surgeries on children with ambigous genitalia.  This entailed taking on the medical establishment, confronting them, insisting that they re-examine their protocols in the light of real damage to real people.  It took a while, years, but the work of these activists with whom Dreger worked, began to seriously effect the desired change.  While the work is not truly complete, it is well on the way.  In her book, she details the long hours, the difficulties encountered, but most importantly, the need for such evidence based activism, that the work of these activists was based on demonstrating the real outcomes of these surgeries, which diverged greatly from the view previously held, that these surgeries helped.  If the book went no further, it would be worth buying it.

But Dreger’s work, and her life, as she took a new position at Northwestern University would take another turn,

“It was shortly after this time that I took on a new scholarly project, one that without warning forced me to question my politics and my political loyalties … This was a project that suddenly changed me from an activist going after establishment scientists into an aide-de-camp to scientists who found themselves the target of activists like me.  Indeed, this project soon put me in a position I would never have imagined for myself; vilified by gender activists at the National Women’s Studies Association meeting and then celebrated at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society by the enemies of my childhood hero, Stephen Jay Gould.”

In 2003, J. Michael Bailey had published his book on femininity in males, The Man Who Would Be Queen.   This had set off a firestorm among a group of autogyenphilic transwomen who took exception to Bailey’s effort to popularize Ray Blanchard’s research which had shown that there were two etiologies leading to gender dysphoria, that there were two (and only two) types of transwomen, as different as night and day, one that was gynephilic, autogynephilic, and gender typical until they announced their intention to transition –  and the other that was exclusively androphilic and gender atypical since birth.  This led to a number of serious accusations of wrongdoing by Bailey, to which Dreger was asked by her friend Paul Vasey to investigate.  As Dreger expresses her initial reluctance,

“Still, I thought I knew from my background in science studies and a decade of intersex work how to navigate an identity politics minefield, so I wasn’t that worried when in 2006 I set out to investigate the history of what had really happened with Bailey and his critics.  My investigation ballooned into a year of intensive research and a fifty-thousand word peer-reviewed scholarly account of the controversy.  And the results shocked me.  Letting the data lead me, I uncovered a story that upended the simple narrative of power and oppression to which we leftist science studies scholars had become accustomed. – I found that, in the Bailey case, a small group had tried to bury a politically challenging scientific theory by killing the messenger.  In the process of doing so, these critics, rather than restrict themselves to argument over the ideas, had charged Bailey with a whole host of serious crimes, including abusing the rights of subjects, having sex with a transsexual research subject, and making up data.  The individuals making these charges – a trio of powerful transgender women, two of them situated in the safe house of liberal academia – had nearly ruined Bailey’s reputation and his life.  To do so, they had used some of the tactics we had used in the intersex rights movement. … but there was one crucial difference: What they claimed about Bailey simply wasn’t true.”

Here, I have to break from the usual traditional book review to share my own experiences in this story.  I personally know most of the players.  I was an active participant in Bo Laurent’s work, meeting with her on several occasions, donating money, and helping her in a minor way to raise funds from the transsexual community.  One of those transwomen who donated was at the time, also a friendly acquaintance of mine, Lynn Conway, one of the “trio of powerful transsexual women”.  The other two were Andrea James, who I had never heard of before, and Deirdre McCloskey, who my good friend (and college roommate) Dr. Joy Shaffer, had spoken of highly.  It was reading Dreger’s lengthy paper on the Bailey affair that upended MY life, led me to become friends with Kiira Trea and eventually to write this blog at her encouragement.  This blog is the direct result of Dreger’s history of the Bailey affair.  I can think of no greater testament to the power of a scholar’s work, than that it should inspire others to action.

But Dreger’s story is only just beginning,

“You can probably guess what happens when you expose the unseemly deeds of the people who fight dirty … Certainly I should have known what was coming – after all, I had literally written what amounted to a book on what this small group of activists had done to Bailey.  But it was still pretty uncomfortable when I became the new target of their precise and unrelenting attacks.  The online story soon morphed into “Alice Dreger versus the rights of sexual minorities,”  and no matter how hard I tried to point people back to documentation of the truth, facts just didn’t seem to matter.”

I must share, that I too was vilified by these same transwomen, when I openly supported Dreger, Bailey, Blanchard, and Lawrence.

Because of her experiences, Dreger set out on a new scholarly journey,

“Troubled and confused by this ordeal, in 2008 I purposefully set out on a journey – or rather a series of journeys – that ended up lasting six years.  During this time, I moved back and forth between camps of activists and camps of scientists, to try to understand what happens – and to figure out what should happen – when activists and scholars find themselves in conflict over critical matters of human identity.”

The result of those journeys is her new book.  It explores intersex, transgender, indigenous peoples of the South American rainforest, back to intersexed people again.  Its quite a journey, of which I can only barely touch upon in this review.  While I read the entire book with great pleasure, here I chose to focus on the section dealing with transgender and Bailey’s book and its aftermath.

In delving further into the book, one finds gems like this,

“When people ask me how transgender is different from intersex, I usually start by saying that intersex and transgender people have historically suffered from opposite problems for the same reason.  Whereas intersex people have historically been subjected to sex “normalizing” hormones and surgeries they have not wanted, transgender people have had a hard time getting the sex-changing hormones and surgeries they have wanted.  Both problems arise from a single cause: a heterosexist medical establishment determined to retain control over who gets to be what sex.”

She even has a very insightful explanation of why the “trio”, and many others in the autogynephilic transwomen’s community, went to war against Bailey,

“To understand the vehemence of the backlash against Bailey’s book, you have to understand one more thing.  There’s a critical difference between autogynephilia and most other sexual orientations; Most other orientations aren’t erotically disrupted simply by being labeled.  When you call a typical gay man homosexual, you’re not disturbing his sexual hopes and desires.  By contrast, autogynephilia is perhaps best understood as a love that would really rather we didn’t speak its name.  The ultimate eroticism of autogynephilia lies in the idea of really becoming or being a woman, not in being a natal male who desires to be a woman. … The erotic fantasy is to really be a woman.  Indeed, according to a vision of transsexualism common among those transitioning from lives as privileged straight men to trans women, sex reassignment procedures are restorative rather than transformative… For Bailey or anyone else to call someone with armour de soi en femme an autogynephile or even a transgender woman – rather than simply a woman – is at some level to interfere with her core sexual desire.  Such naming also risks questioning her core self-identity … When they felt that Bailey was fundamentally threatening their selves and their social identities as women – well, it’s because he was.  That’s what talking openly about autogynephilia necessarily does.”

There’s a wonderful bon mot moment in the movie, Desert Hearts, when a lesbian scholar vows that she will have her revenge on a homophobe when she writes her memoirs.  In this book, one could say that Dreger takes her revenge on McCloskey, Conway, and especially James by revealing evidence that they are not only autogynephilic, but knowingly so, as Dreger reprints text from an email from Andrea James to Anne Lawrence in 1998,

“A definition is inherently inclusive or exclusive, and there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t feel they belong in or out of a definition.  I got body slammed by the usual suspects in 1996 for recommending a Blanchard book.  Sure, he’s pretty much the Antichrist to the surgery-on-demand folks, and I’ve heard some horror stories about the institute he runs that justify the nickname “Jurassic Clarke.”  However, I found many of his observations to be quite valid, even brilliant, especially in distinguishing early and late-transitioning TS patterns of thought and behavior.  I’ve noticed in most TSs, and in “surgery addicts” especially, a certain sort of self-loathing, a drive to efface every shred of masculinity.  While I readily admit to my own autogynephilia, I would contend that my drives towards feminization seem to have a component pushing me from the opposite direction as well.”

Dreger goes on,

“OK, THIS WAS FASCINATING.  A prior admission to autogynephilia from James and what seemed to amount to the same from McCloskey – plus something very much like an ongoing tacit admission from Conway? – lying behind the attempts to bury Bailey.  All that spoke to motivation on the part of Conway et al.”

Personally, I find this damning, as James has made a special point of defaming a number of individuals in the transcommunity for supporting Anne Lawrence, Bailey, or Blanchard.  She writes scurrilous material on her website against Dreger, Bailey, Blanchard, Lawrence, and many other notable transwomen, including myself; all for writing about a phenomena of which she admits she experiences.

Dreger recounts her year of research on the Bailey affair, detailing the ways in which Conway and James attack Bailey and how she was able to discover the truth of the matter, setting the record straight.  She also recounts how these two transwomen then turned on her, attempting to blacken her name with the same tar filled brush.  In the end, it becomes clear, that though the experience was unpleasant, it lead her to connect with a number of other scholars who have wrongfully been attacked and vilified by other groups, in other fields.

At the end of the book, Dreger lays out recommendations for society and especially for social justice advocates, to follow an evidence based approach.  I would like to think that I would qualify as an exemplar of her recommendations, in my conduct of this affair and of my previous, and definitely of my future, activism.

I highly recommend purchasing and carefully reading this book:


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Triumph for Whom?

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on March 1, 2015

CloudyIn 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.



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What the NEXT Wave of Transgender Activists Need to Know

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on December 9, 2014

CloudyThis post marks five years of writing on the subject.  It seems a good moment to stop and reflect on the reasons I’ve been writing, and to explore what has changed in my lifetime.  I’ve tried to keep the material mostly about the science and its implications.  It hasn’t always been easy, as there is in the background, from what I would call the “Second Wave” of transactivists, a powerful and very ugly, campaign of disinformation.  Why do I say, “Second Wave”?  Because I, and a few folks I knew from the ’70s and very early ’80s, were the “First Wave”.

Christine Jorgensen would undoubtedly have to be called the first, as she wrote and spoke about her life in the hopes that others like her would have a better life in the future. I still keep in my “memory box” a small ticket stub from the day that I attended a talk she gave at a local community college in February of ’76.  After she spoke, she welcomed the small cluster of transwomen who surrounded her, hoping to speak with their heroine.  Christine took a special interest in me, teasing me as a “Baby TS, all of eighteen years old!”

Silvia Rivera is of course oft mentioned when she spoke out from the streets of New York.  I’m sad that I never got the chance to meet Silvia before she died.  Other street warriors came forward, but their efforts were, sadly, largely symbolic, yet important none-the-less.  One of these was Angela Keyes Douglas.  I was with her the evening that she typed the infamous Sister letter that Janice Raymond would later, falsely, use as an example of transsexual misogyny, in her transphobic book, The Transsexual Empire.  Angela angrily pulled it fresh from her typewriter and asked me to review it.  It dripped with hyperbolic sarcasm, angry as she was over the transphobic treatment of Sandy Stone over her employment at Olivia Records, the seminal Womyn’s Music publisher.  I too was angry at the treatment that Sandy was enduring, being on friendly terms with her as well, but I diplomatically reported, “It’s too full of anger to do any good.”  Angela snorted, snatched the letter back from me, and posted it.  Even then, in ’77, it was very clear that Angela’s mind was deteriorating from progressive paranoid schizophrenia.


Dr. Joy Shaffer and Kay Brown in the mid-80s

Little known is the real hero of those very early days, transman Reed Erickson, who put his fortune to work helping both the gay and trans communities.  Through the ’60s and ’70s, he supported the Erickson Education Foundation, whose Executive Director, Zelda Suplee, an iconoclastic non-transsexual woman, was a lifeline, on the phone and through the mails, for many transsexuals who would otherwise have been all alone.  Zelda was a firm believer not only in the transsexual community, but in nudism and reincarnation.  Once, as I drove the three of us to a meeting of transactivists, my roommate, Dr. Joy Shaffer asked her, “Do you really believe in that stuff?”  Zelda quipped in reply, “It beats television!”

ACLUBut in the late ’70s came Joanna Clark, Jude Patton, and Joy Shaffer, who I’m proud to say invited me to join them in founding the ACLU Transsexual Rights committee.  Joanna and Jude also worked very closely with fabulously openly gay Paul Walker to continue the educational work of the recently defunct Erickson Foundation and to eventually found the Harry Benjamin Gender Dysphora Association (later renamed World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).  One night in the mid ’80s, Paul Walker, Joanna, Joy, and I were bar hoping in San Francisco, when we entered a bar that Paul liked to frequent, catering to mostly transwomen of color.  The patrons took one look at the towering whiteness of Joanna and informed us that “This is a private club.”  Joanna, with her typically irreverent, and oft dangerously inappropriate, sense of humor, loudly quipped, “Busted!!!”.  These would be the serious activists that pioneered efforts to work with lawmakers and the courts, physicians, surgeons, clinics and scientists… to earn legal and medical recognition, to enable the majority of transfolk to transition and receive appropriate and respectful medical and legal services.

From these early, daring days, came those that soon followed, expanding the ranks of organizations that took our early cutting edge openings, to expand it and now in most of the Western World we have nearly the legal recognitions and protections we need, with a few exceptions that we can all soon hope will be only a sad memory.

In the early ’90s, transactivists across the Western World began actively lobbying their governments.  In late ’96, transactivist lawyer, JoAnna McNamara asked me to work with her lobbying the Oregon legislature to address language in a new bill that would have stripped transfolk in that state of protections that JoAnna herself had only recently won in admistrative ‘court’.  I worked fulltime, alongside her, as we made appointments to speak to key legislators, using a deliberate one-two punch, in which she, as an older transitioner, not very “passable” would be assumed to be “the transsexual” discussed how transphobia worked to deny employment opportunities to transwomen like her.  As I sat quietly taking notes, I was assumed to be her natal female assistant… until I spoke up about what discrimination awaits transwomen like me who pass, but are later discovered by their employer… The sudden shocking realization would cause the legislator to rethink their opposition to our position.  It reached a climax in a public hearing about the bill in which the room was packed with transactivists that JoAnna and I had hurriedly put together on very short notice.  We won.  The anti-trans* languange was removed from the bill in committee.  Six months of full time lobbying paid off.

But from the very late ’90s came a Second Wave that took the previous work for granted… and started a new, and in my own personal opinion, disturbing direction. Not content with being able to transition and obtain legal recognition, these new activists have decided that they could bend the truth to their will, to use the power of the internet to coerce our best allies, the clinicians, therapists, medical practitioners, scientists, and even other transfolk, to ignore decades of clinical and scientific evidence regarding the uninvited dilemma that is transsexuality and transgender sexuality.  To my shame as a transwoman and transactivist, transfolk I knew and respected turned from respectability toward waging a vicious propaganda and slander campaign.



I first met Dr. Anne Lawrence in ’95, when Dr. Joy Shaffer brought her to have dinner at CedarStar, my Portland communal house.  While I prepared dinner, Anne and Joy explained Blanchard’s theory.  OF course, I totally understood and agreed, since I had been first educated about the very same issue when I was but 18 years old by my world wise transwoman of color friend, Marcella, who explained “older transistioners” as “… just TVs that need a bigger fix”.  I remember being amused at the thought that the scientists were finally proving it.

I first heard of Lynn Conway in 1982 from Joy’s father, who was a professor of electrical engineering.  Prof. Shaffer had proudly informed me that Lynn was also transsexual, offering the information to strongly encourage me to finish my undergraduate degree and apply at Stanford Graduate School, urging me to study to become an engineer like Joy’s younger sister was at the time, (joining my boyfriend’s mother in chorus, who being an engineer herself, also wanted her son’s girlfriend to also be an engineer). I finally met Lynn in the late ’90s, when she wrote to me regarding my TransHistory class I was teaching at the Harvey Milk Institute in San Francisco.  I had taken advantage of the web to post my class notes, which brought me to her attention.  I was very happy to finally meet this famous transsexual Silicon Valley pioneer.  Of course, during our conversations, during her frequent visits, over dinner, lunch, and at my house, etc.  I had a chance to explain Blanchard’s two type taxonomy.  I was under the honest impression that she understood and agreed with it.

Then, in 2003, Lynn called asking me to join her in protesting Bailey’s new book that she thought was so dangerous, The Man Who Would Be Queen.  Though I hadn’t read it, I had no interest in protesting what I personally believed was true.  Seriously, I can’t imagine what would lead Lynn to believe that I would join in a fight to deny the science I knew to be true.  But, I was not to take the steps that lead to this blog until I read Alice Dreger’s history of the horrendous behavior of these ‘Second Wave’ transactivists. In 2008, I read Alice’s article, Bailey’s book, and corresponded with a number of the players, including Bailey and Kiira Triea, who became a friend as a result.  I was horrified.  I was also ashamed; ashamed for our community, ashamed for my earlier cowardice for not having tried to stop Lynn and the others.  These people, our community, behaved abominably.  They attacked the very people who were working hard to understand us, to help us.  They falsely vilified both non-transfolk and transfolk alike, members of our own community… and established a poisonous atmosphere of fear and intimidation that persists. As Bailey and Kiira wrote in 2007,

“Beyond denying the role of autogynephilia in MtF transsexualism, some transsexual activists have mounted attacks on those who publicly disagree with them. In 2003, the first author published a book, The Man Who Would Be Queen, about male femininity, including MtF transsexualism. The section on transsexualism included summaries of Blanchard’s theory illustrated by transsexual women of both types whom he had met, and who agreed to let their stories be included. Upon publication, there was a firestorm of controversy among some MtF transsexuals. Most notably, the transsexual activists Lynn Conway (2006) and Andrea James (2006) led an internet “investigation” into the publication of the book. Conway (2004) likened the book to “Nazi propaganda” and said that it was “transsexual women’s worst nightmare.” As a result of Conway’s and James’s efforts, a number of very public academic, personal, and professional accusations were made against the first author. None of these accusations was true (Bailey 2005). The attacks on The Man Who Would Be Queen were precisely an attempt to punish the author for writing approvingly about Blanchard’s ideas, and to intimidate others from doing so.  The second author was also attacked by some of the same transsexuals after she helped create the Website transkids.us. This website was created by a group of homosexual transsexuals, or “transkids,” their nonclinical name for themselves, to educate the clinical and research communities in the wake of the controversy regarding The Man Who Would Be Queen. The writings on the site both endorsed Blanchard’s distinction between homosexual and autogynephilic MtF transsexuals and criticized the standard feminine essence narrative as being both false and harmful to homosexual MtF transsexuals. Subsequently, Andrea James (2007) conducted highly personal attacks on individual transkids (including the second author), urging that these transkids be exposed and asserting that they were “fakes” because they would not reveal their identities publicly”.

As an example of this attempt to intimidate those who might speak out… and “discredit” those who do, James spent a year trying to figure out who the last of the transkids.us website authors, “Cloudy” was… while simultaneously attempting to convince the trans-community that “Cloudy” was yet another “fake”.  After she discovered that I was “Cloudy” she attempted to intimidate me by email and phone, in which Conway participated in a minor way.  James, failing to intimidate me from further writing on this subject, produced a scandalously scurrilous webpage, describing me as both “fringe” and… well… you can search for it yourself.

Let my experience be an object lesson for the NEXT wave of transactivists.  It is not enough to work to change the world… we need to make sure that we ourselves maintain the values that we would wish in others: respect, cooperation, open-mindedness, kindness.  We need to stand up against bullies, even our own… NO, Especially our own. Above all… we need to maintain and reward a search for the truth, even if it is an uncomfortable truth.

References: Bailey, J. Michael – Triea, Kiira. “What Many Transgender Activists Don’t Want You to Know: and why you should know it anyway” – Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Volume 50, Number 4, Autumn 2007, pp. 521-534 DOI: 10.1353/pbm.2007.0041

Alice D. Dreger, “The Controversy Surrounding The Man Who Would Be Queen: A Case History of the Politics of Science, Identity, and Sex in the Internet Age” – Archives of Sexual Behavior, June 2008, Volume 37, pp 366-421 DOI: 10.1007/s10508-007-9301-1

Alice D. Dreger, “Galileo’s Middle Finger – Heretics, Activists, And The Search For Justice In Science“, 2015

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The Measure of…

Posted in Science Criticism by Kay Brown on November 4, 2014


narcissusOver the years, certain aspects of autogynephilia and its expression have caused both confusion and consternation in the transgender world.  Some of the quirks found in the data, such as the now well documented (slightly) lower level of reported erotic cross-dressing in “bi-sexual” transsexuals, suggested that perhaps some bisexuals weren’t autogynephilic, etc.  But a new paper, though VERY tentative, give some credence to the idea that there are different subsets of autogynephilia, different expressions of it, that correspond with sexual behavior, specifically, that in addition to the previously well documented four types of autogynephilic expression, a fifth expression exists, that may explain these quirks.

Hsu, et al. have created a new instrument for experimental purposes and did a validity and factorial analysis of a population of known autogynephiles against a control group of men.  The known AGP men were from an internet AGP erotic sharing group, as the authors explained,

“Participants were 149 adult men (M age=34.40 years, SD=11.20) recruited from Internet forums dedicated to sharing and discussing erotic fiction and media depicting autogynephilic fantasies, including cross-dressing, transforming into a woman, and body swapping with a woman. Most of the participants identified as heterosexual (80.54%) although a substantial minority identified as bisexual (14.77 %). Four other men identified as homosexual and one as asexual; the remaining two men selected‘‘Other’’but did not specify their sexual identity. Because participants were recruited from Internet forums catering to men with autogynephilia, all participants were included in the analyses regardless of their sexual identity.  In addition to the 149 participants considered to have autogynephilia, 112 adult heterosexual men (M age=32.63 years, SD=10.88) who reported having never cross-dressed were recruited as a control group from Amazon Mechanical Turk, a website used by people who want to earn small sums of money quickly by taking online surveys.”

However, this study was not directly meant to learn about how AGP and non-AGP men differed, as the authors explained,

“Specifically, our study did not address the issue of whether autogynephilia represents a dimensional or taxonic difference from typical male sexuality. In order to explore that issue, it would be necessary to obtain a representative (and presumably large, given the likely rarity of autogynephilia) sample from the general population (Beauchaine, 2007). Rather, we explored differences among autogynephilic men, assuming that such differences are dimensional, and we focused on describing their dimensional structure. Thus, the primary empirical question that we addressed was not ‘‘How do autogynephilic men differ from other men?’’ but ‘‘How do autogynephilic men differ among each other?’’

The study was most especially NOT about the differences between AGP transsexuals and MTF transkids.  In fact, as I will explain below, this new instrument has several items that make it invalid to such a task.  But in studying autogynephilia in AGP males in general, it is a very good start.

The most exciting thing that can happen when conducing science is to hear this phrase, “That’s odd…”  It means that something unexpected has been found in the data, something new.  In this case, we may have found something, two somethings actually.

It has always been mooted about that ‘transvestic’ autogynephilia is the most commonly found form of autogynephilia, along with ‘anatomic’, ‘behavioral’, and ‘physiological’.  Sometimes, a fifth type is discussed, ‘interpersonal’.  The usual explanation for bisexual or “pseudo-androphilia” sexual behavior is that ‘behavioral’ autogynphilic ideation includes acts of having sex with a man as a woman.  But this paper supports the notion that the fifth type, ‘interpersonal’, is responsible.  The central concept of ‘interpersonal’ autogynephilia is that of narcissistic desire to be admired by other people, as an attractive, sexually desirable woman, emphasis on being a woman.

It has also been suggested that gender dysphoria, the desire to “change sex” is most motivated by ‘anatomic’ autogynephilia and that most Cross-Dressers, who do not have such strong gender dysphoria experience less ‘anatomic’ and more ‘transvestic’ autogynephilia.  But in this study, the reverse seems to hold!

Those interested in the details should read the paper carefully, but to summarize, the authors explored four factor models and five factor models to explain the variance of the data.  They also explored the idea that a single factor underlay the whole.  The best model seemed to be the five factor model with a single factor, “autogynephilia” underlying the whole.  Thus, a generic ‘autogynephilia’ does exist, but also that there are variations on a theme, with (at least) five types identified.  The newly identified type is indeed interpersonal’ and is very strongly correlated with both identifying and being behaviorally bisexual.  The ‘behavioral’ type did NOT correlate with bisexuality / androphilia.

However, a note of caution needs to be introduced here, as two of the four items that had high loading for the ‘interpersonal’ factor specifically relate to dating and having sex with men… thus is essentially measuring the same construct.  It might be interesting in the future to redact these two items to see if the high correlation remained.  I’d even like to add another item to the ‘interpersonal’ set (see below).  Yet another caution needs to be observed… and that is finding EXACTLY who (or rather, what) these men were finding attractive and having sex with.  The “men” these individuals may be having sex with are very likely to be other Cross-Dressers!  IF so, this puts a rather different interpretation on their putative ‘androphilia’.

In looking at the correlations, both zero order and partial regression coefficients, ‘anatomic’ autogynephilia did NOT correlate with gender dysphoria, counter to previous report (Blanchard).  Instead, the highest correlation with gender dysphoria was ‘interpersonal’ !!!  While it may have made some theoretical sense to believe that ‘anatomic’ autogynephilia would be a powerful motivator for “changing sex”, given that both involve anatomic features.  This data suggesting that ‘interpersonal’ autogynphilia would be even more motivating makes sense when one considers the required “real life test” before one may obtain SRS, that social transition and the ‘real life test’ are all about interpersonal aspects of life.  But, again, we need to introduce a note of caution here.  The sample used in this study were NOT sufficiently gender dysphoric as to actually proceed to transition and SRS… only that they might have wished that they could have been born as girls, etc.  This may be more a measure, in this population, of such weaker desires.  This study needs to be repeated with a sample of AGP transwomen to confirm or disconfirm this unexpected result.

The fact that ‘interpersonal’ correlates so highly with both an interest in sex with men (even with the caution of the items I mentioned above) and gender dysphoria might explain why so MANY post-transition APG transwomen experience a “change in sexual orientation” from exclusively gynephilic to being bisexual / (pseudo)androphilic.  Lawrence showed that perhaps 38% experience such a change.  The two may go together, transition and “orientation change”.

Over all, this study suggests ‘anatomic’ autogynephilia may be just as common, if not more common than ‘transvestic’.  Most importantly of all, as the authors explain,

“The finding that a general factor of autogynephilia underlies the five types among the sample of autogynephilic men was not predestined to be true. For example, autogynephilic men may engage in or be invested in behaviors or fantasies of one type of autogynephilia at the expense of those of other types. In contrast, the general factor accounted for a much greater amount of the total variance of the 22 items than did the group factors, suggesting that there is an overall tendency for some men to be more autogynephilic than others. Indeed, scores on the GAS, a measure we constructed by adding all 22 items,were normally distributed. From these results, it appears that the types of autogynephilia that a man has are less important than the degree to which he has autogynephilia.”

To explore their new instrument’s validity as a measure of autogynephilia, they compared the scores of their putatively known autogynephilic men with heterosexual control men:
Scale/subscale                                             AGP                         Controls         Cohen’s d

General Autogynephilia Scale (SD)      3.32  (0.89)        1.16 (0.38)       3.33

The absolute range for the General Autogynephilia Scale was 1–5.   My guess is that most people would find the fact that the scale is from one to five confusing, so if we made the scale from zero to four, the numbers would be 2.32 for AGPs vs. 0.16 for the controls… being more intuitively obvious that the scale works to differentiate AGP from non-AGP males.  And, for comparison purposes, making the scale from zero to eight, like Blanchard’s Core Autogynephilia scale, would be very useful.

As to my earlier comment as to why I believe that this new instrument is not valid for exploring the differences between putatively autogynephilic transwomen and putatively “homosexual” transwomen is the construction of three of the items in the instrument:

How sexually arousing would you find each of the following activities?

9. Having a stranger mistake me for a woman.
10. Picturing myself as a woman having sex with a man.
11. Having a man take me out for a romantic evening.

Item number nine, as constructed, is very likely to be interpreted in a rather different manner than that intended by the authors.  The term “mistake”, in someone who is extremely gender dysphoric and presently identifying as a woman, would have a very negative emotional valence.  Even if that individual might find having strangers who accept / perceive her as a woman as sexual arousing, she is unlikely to endorse this item as she will not experience that act of “passing” as a “mistake”.  This item would need to be modified to have a more acceptable valence.

Items 10 and 11 are problematic in that a truly androphilic and extremely gender dysphoric transwoman would also endorse these items, even in the total absence of autogynephilia, as would any heterosexual natal female for that matter.  The context of the question is not self-evident.  In fact, the construction of 11 doesn’t even specify “as a woman” or “dressed as a woman”… and even if it did… they still would not be interpreted as describing an autogynephilic motivation.  Context is everything.

In the same vein, but on the flip side, I would, for the purposes of strengthening the measure of ‘interpersonal’ autogynephilia, suggest a companion question of,

23. Picturing myself as a woman having sex with another woman.

This, I believe, is a VERY common ‘interpersonal’ autogynephilic fantasy.

And speaking of common fantasies.  The authors also explored correlations between their factors and paraphilic sexual interests.  Not unexpected, there was a slightly increased interest in sexual masochism in the AGP sample.  The correlation was highest with ‘interpersonal’ and ‘transvestic’ autogynephilia.  To explore this better, I would add another item to the instrument:

24. Being forced to wear women’s clothing by another person.

This might answer a question regarding “forced feminization” fantasies, that of which of the two competing hypotheses is correct.  Is “forced feminization” a convolution of ‘transvestic’ autogynephilia and simple sexual masochism?  Or… Is “forced feminization” a means for reducing the guilt and shame of ‘transvestic’ autogynephilia, without experiencing masochism.

Hypothesis were meant to be tested.



Kevin J. Hsu, A. M. Rosenthal, J. Michael Bailey, “The Psychometric Structure of Items Assessing Autogynephilia”
Archives of Sexual Behavior, DOI 10.1007/s10508-014-0397-9


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Posted in Book Reviews by Kay Brown on December 25, 2013

Review:  The Man Who Would Be Queen – The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism

TMWWBQ CoverJ. Michael Bailey’s book was written ten years ago, in 2003; So I thought this last month of 2013 was a good time to review and look back on the book and its aftermath.  The importance of a book is measured in how it encourages people to think about and discuss, even if they don’t agree… maybe especially if they don’t agree… on its thesis.

The main thesis of TMWWBQ is that homosexuality and gender atypicality are highly correlated.  Most of the book is about the scientific research that has shown that the folk-wisdom (sounds better said that way than “stereotype”) that gay men were usually notably “sissy” or “effeminate” as boys and that most “sissy” boys grow up to be gay men.  Of course, also as part of this thesis, is that there is a continuum of femininity, and that the most feminine of such “homosexual” males grow up to live as women, to seek out hormone and surgical interventions to feminize their bodies to match their feminine personalities and natural manners.  But to explain who he meant, he also had to describe and delineate those who were not on that continuum, but are often conflated and confused with them, namely, autogynephiles, especially, autogynephilic transsexuals (AGP).

This set off a firestorm that quickly became a witch-hunt against Bailey, led by several noted transwomen.  I needn’t explore that episode, as it was well documented by Alice Dreger in 2008.  She also published a book that touched in on the topic in 2015.  Instead, I want to explore how the science regarding transsexuality that Bailey touched upon has evolved since then, in part because of TMWWBQ and the fuss that those transwomen made, and continue to make.

But first, I should point out that it is very likely that Bailey understood that his book might upset some in the AGP transsexual community, as in his closing notes on suggested further reading made clear, “For an article that angered many autogynephiles – but which provides a sympathetic portrayal of both cross-dressers and their wives – See Amy Bloom’s “Conservative men in Conservative Dresses, “… ” or when he suggests reading Anne Lawrence’s website,

“Anne Lawrence maintains an awesome website for transsexuals, Transsexual Women’s Resources, (www.annelawrence.com/twr), and one section of her site is devoted to autogynephilia. … Not only does she have clear explanations of autogynephilia, but she also includes testimonials of transsexuals who have visited her site and read about the concept.  Most of them are thankful that someone is finally talking about the sexual side of transsexualism.. Some say that the finally understand themselves.  A few are angry with Anne for embracing Blanchard’s “wrongheaded” ideas. … “

But Bailey could not foresee that he would be vilified and deliberately defamed as he was in the aftermath of the book’s publication.  Many of the people who continue to do so have never read his book, even though they can read the key chapter regarding AGP transsexual women online, or even know that Bailey was sympathetic to transfolk, speaking warmly and openly, that they should be respected and supported.  For example, after quoting Paul McHugh, the &^%$#@! (expletive deleted) who shut down the Gender Clinic at John Hopkins, “[The focus on surgery] has distracted effort from genuine investigations attempting to find out just what has gone wrong for these people – what has, by their own testimony, given them years of torment and psychological distress and prompted them to accept these grim and disfiguring surgical procedures.” Bailey rebukes McHugh,

“One problem with McHugh’s analysis is that we simply have no idea how to make gender dysphoria go away.  I suspect that both autogynephilic and homosexual gender dysphoria result from early and irreversible developmental processes in the brain.  If so, learning more about the origins of transsexualism will not get us much closer to curing it.  Given our present state of knowledge, saying that we should focus on removing transsexual’s desire to change sex is equivalent to saying that it is better that they should suffer permanently from gender dysphoria than they should obtain sex reassignment surgery.”

Bailey is being too polite, but basically spells it out, McHugh has no sympathy for transfolk, saying to us instead that we should suck it up and be men, or more colorfully, that we should “eat $#!+ and die”.  I doubt it would surprise many of my readers to learn that McHugh is a conservative observant Catholic, who substitutes religious intolerance for pragmatic palliative medicine.  It astounds me that Bailey, friend as he was to the trans-community, should be vilified and hounded, while the likes of McHugh are barely noticed.  But then, I think an observation made by one of the original 2004 authors of the transkids.us website explains it all, it wasn’t that Bailey was wrong, but that he was too right.

When Bailey wrote his book, Blanchard’s papers were the latest thing in transsexual research.  It summed up and explained the confusion of the past researcher’s work, most notably Person & Oversey, Stoller, and Meyer.  It brought together and explicated, in a concise way, what had been coming together already, but slowly, and sadly, under the burden of psycho-analysis.  Blanchard swept away the unscientific notions and put the study of transsexuality on a firm scientific foundation.  But, as all will admit, much of his original research had yet to be properly replicated.

Ironically, I believe that the transsexual community’s violent objections to Bailey’s book, and by extension, his defense of Blanchard’s work, inspired others to replicate his research.  Most of the key data showing that there are two (and likely only two) types of MTF transsexual have been very convincingly replicated by Lawrence, Smith, and Nuttbrock.  The only paper that no one has attempted to replicate yet has been the one where Blanchard tested “non-homosexual” transwomen who denied being aroused by autogynephilic ideation on whether that was really true.  His paper showed that they did become sexually aroused by listening to spoken narratives of cross-dressing, while control (non-AGP) men did not.  I sincerely hope that this study is replicated, as it would answer the only remaining possible question as whether there was a “third” type of transsexual as some claim.

As well as being Blanchard’s “Bulldog”, Bailey also speculated about the nature and behavior of the two types of transwomen.  The most disturbing to me was on the relative paucity of marriages or even just long term relationships among “homosexual” (feminine androphilic / MTF transkid) transsexuals.  This hit home, as I myself had trouble finding a suitable long term partner.  In my younger days, I came to the conclusion that I may never find a husband, so I lived in communal housing with other transwomen and/or ally lesbian/bisexual/straight women.  These women became my “family” (platonic, though a few of them most definitely wished it had been more), even as I continued to date men, who never seemed to stick around more than a few months after they learned of my medical history… until my husband surprised me by asking me to marry him.  I still insisted upon a long engagement, because in my cynical and wounded heart, I feared that he would be like all who came before, and would wake up one day and say to himself, “WTF am I doing?”.  Bailey reports,

“Do transsexuals find partners?  Certainly, homosexual transsexuals find sex partners after their surgery, but do they find steady partners?  Do they get married?  I have already mentioned my impression that homosexual transsexuals are not very successful at finding desirable men willing to commit to them.  In part, this reflects the difficulty that men have with the notion of coupling with women who used to be men (no matter how attractive such women may be), as well as the difficulty most transsexuals have keeping their secret.”

So far, I could agree totally with Bailey.  It is difficult, but not impossible, as Green documented decades before him.  However, he goes on,

“But it also reflects the choices that homosexual transsexuals are prone to make.  My impression is that they would rather have a relatively uncommitted relationship with a very attractive man than a committed relationship with a less desirable partner.  Although the homosexual transsexuals I have met are all searching for “Mr. Right,” perhaps in vain, their sex lives have all clearly improved after surgery.  They can hide their past identities for a while, at least, and no longer have to worry about how to respond to attractive men who hit on them in bars.”

Here, I suspect that Bailey means, that MTF transkids would rather have a physically attractive partner… but he does understand the reality that those men who are most likely to want a transsexual wife are themselves transgendered, closeted cross-dressers, who transkids rarely find truly desirable.  So, he is partly right, but massively wrong.  He goes on to admit that he has only known street transkids, the type who work as “escorts”.  Thus, he has the classic issue of a “sampling bias” in that at the time he wrote the book, he had never had contact with the more respectable, “invisible transsexual” population of transkids who had managed to stay off of the street, and out of bars.  (For myself, I rarely went to bars, as I found the selection of men there to be of very low quality, and never of my own socio-economic or educational background.)  It is important to note that two thirds of transkids have never been ‘escorts’.  (Elsewhere in his book, Bailey notes that although common, around half of the transkids in one of his studies were never prostitutes.)  For this, less street wise population, their difficulty in finding husbands is not related to any putative desire to continue to date other handsome men when they already have a fine man in hand.

“When I asked Jaunita […] about the best, and worst, reactions she had had from lovers after she revealed that she used to be a a man, she replied, “I have really never had a good experience.  The men always leave.” …  All the homosexual transsexuals I have talked to say that they wish they could find a man they could tell and who would love them anyway, but they all worry that such a man does not exist.  And they are all deeply suspicious of men who prefer transsexual to real women.  (These men have something similar to “sexual interest in she-males” and transsexuals find them weird.)  There is little incentive for the postoperative homosexual transsexual to be honest.”

Bailey’s book, because he fully understands and acknowledges that transkids are different than AGP, is one of the few books that really discusses the the problems that MTF transkids face.  It was refreshing… and at the same time… very disturbing and sad, to read what is essentially a tour guide to both my life and many of my past transkid friends and acquaintances.

“They [HSTS] are outcasts as children because of their extreme femininity.  They mostly come from poor, broken families, and family rejection is common.  … They have, in fact, had to cope with rejection and disapproval since childhood, because of their extreme femininity.  And they have not had the advantages that tend to instill respect in the social order.  The early chaotic backgrounds of so many homosexual transsexuals might help explain why they do not defeminize the way that most very feminine boys do.  A feminine boy from a middle-class or upper-middle-class family has more motivation to “hang in there” until he normalizes his gender role behavior, because he has a good chance at a conventionally successful future.”

I should note, that I was subjected to just such “disapproval” from an early age… and that I am from an upper-middle-class family that was extremely homophobic, and also very dysfunctional, though outwardly appearing normal.  Nothing less than being totally straight would have satisfied my mother, though my father actually tried to convince me to live as a closeted gay man when I was a teen (in essence, to live like his gay brother did).  I am estranged from my mother and all of my siblings… but my father, who was unwillingly divorced from my mother when I was a teen, is very supportive and proud of my accomplishments, both personal and professional.  Although I’m not at all convinced that Bailey is right, he is onto something, as it is likely that socio-economic status is one of the important factors in transkid decision making about whether to transition or not.

Bailey remarked upon the ethnic background of the transkids, noting that most of them were either Black or Latina, while the opposite is true of AGP transsexuals.  He related some speculations from his transkid informants about why this might come about, which didn’t seem to satisfy him.  Since the book was published, his observation has been confirmed in the Nuttbrock study of the trans-scene in New York City.  But more importantly, Lawrence has shown that the percentage of AGP transsexuals in a country is highly correlated with that country’s Hofstede Individuality Index.  I wish to point out here that the Black and Latino/a communities are both subcultures in the US, which have much lower Individuality Index scores… and thus are less likely to have AGPs transition within them.

In writing about transkids and AGPs, Bailey found himself having to educate his readers about the differences between them.  He wrote a somewhat tongue in cheek quiz, which I earlier blogged about, which is useful in learning the differences.

Bailey remarked upon and speculated on the general intelligence of “homosexual” transsexuals, saying he thought that they were below average intelligence generally.  As we now know, this is simply not true, as studies in the Netherlands show that as a group they have average IQ (98.86 to be exact, where 100 is by definition, average).

Thus, all in all, Bailey’s book has helped spur further research… and has largely been shown to have been prophetic and insightful.  I recommend that this book should be read, carefully read, by transsexuals and their allies, with an open mind and heart.  Don’t let a few unhappy, and very loud, individuals tell you what is “wrong” with Bailey’s book.  Find out for yourself.  I predict you won’t find that is it “wrong”, but “too right” for comfort.

Addendum 10/2/2014:

When I first read Bailey’s book six years ago, it was via a .pdf that he has on his website.  He asked me NOT to publish the link.  However, I just discovered that he posted a link to the file in comment on another’s blog.  Thus, to me, this indicates that he now wishes to allow such links to this file.  You may read The Man Who Would Be Queen here:  http://faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/JMichael-Bailey/TMWWBQ.pdf

Further Reading:

Book Review by Rod Fleming

Book Review by S. Alejandra Velasquez

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Transkids.us Update

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on February 23, 2013

CloudyNow that I have taken on the responsibility of maintaining the Transkids.us website (with my husband’s dutiful help, as I’m not all that good with web stuff, it not being my field, but was his before he retired) we’ve moved the site to a new host and begun to clean-up typos and other issues, including dead links.  We’re not done yet, but it is improving.

In cleaning up some of the typos and silly grammatical errors (it’s amazing what a misplaced comma does to a sentence), I’m once again marveling at the insight of the original authors, especially “Alex Parkinson” (not her real name) in her essay on how GID as a theory obscures the real nature of transsexuality.  If you have never read it, you really should take the time to do so now.  Read it very slowly, as though the words were being spoken aloud by an erudite lecturer.  The essay is amazing for such a young author.

Although the original authors have moved on… which is as it should be for young people to do, I have been wondering where this should go next.  I have come to the conclusion that additional voices, additional essays, would be welcome.  If you are a transkid (transgender youth), who is clearly such, and have insights into the issues being explored at the transkids.us website and/or here on my blog, I would welcome a dialog.  Its been ten years since the original authors took note of the controversy surrounding the publication of Prof. Bailey’s book, The Man Who Would Be Queen, and it is time for a new perspective.

You may reach me at formertranskid@gmail.com

Addendum 3/6/2013:

The edits are pretty much complete.  If you find dead links or serious typos, please let me know?

I’ve been rereading the posts as I edit them.  I was once again struck by how well many of the issues were addressed.  I would strongly recommend that any and all gender therapists and physicians read the recommendations regarding treatment of MTF transkids.  I find it difficult to add much to them, save perhaps to amplify by example.  IF you are a health care provider working with transgendered children or teens, and would care to discuss more explicit and detailed recommendations with me, I would be very interested in working with you.  There are things that I would not wish to discuss in an open forum.

Addendum 4/2/2013:

You may wish to read my earlier comment on why I have inherited the transkids.us website:

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Losing Kiira

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on November 4, 2012

Cloudy“My heart has joined the thousand, for my friend stopped running today.”
–Richard Adams, in Watership Down

Two days ago, on the 2nd of November, my friend and collaborator on the transkids.us website, Kiira Triea (AKA Denise Magner), died of cancer.  I am not alone in mourning her loss.  Her sister will miss her most.  But our mutual friend, Alice Dreger will miss her acutely.  Alice has written a fitting tribute to Kiira on her blog, far better than anything that I will be able to write.

I first corresponded with Kiira in early 2008, as I had just discovered Alice’s article on the contretemps surrounding Bailey’s The Man Who Would Be Queen and wanted to learn as much as I could about the events for myself, as I felt an irrational personal guilt for not having paid attention to what happened in 2003.  I felt guilty for not having spoken out against the rampant ugliness at the time.   I needed to do something.  In Kiira, I found a path forward.  We corresponded at great length and had long, almost weekly phone calls.  After a year or so of these conversations, I gathered the courage to finally speak out and write an essay of my own to add to those already on the transkids.us website.  I knew full well that I was inviting down the wrath of those who opposed the science that Bailey had written about… and was not disappointed.  However, I had joined good company.

With Kiira’s encouragement, I began this blog to explore and explicate the science… to tell the truth.

Our correspondence and conversations also covered our personal lives.  Strange, that in Kiira, whose biology was so different than mine, I should find a kindred spirit.

Correspondence and long distance phone calls are all well and good, but no substitute for face to face, in person dialog, so a few years ago, I bought her tickets to travel from her home in Maryland to my home in California, as Kiira and her sister were as poor as church mice.  My daughter and I picked her up at the airport.  From her writing and her wicked, witty, dialog during our phone conversations, I had always pictured her as a strong, almost Amazon-like, warrior.  Instead, she was a frail, delicate, very feminine middle-aged woman who I felt concern for her lest the cold California winter winds whisk her away.  She spent a week at our house, during which I had the uncomfortable feeling that I was seeing in her a deep pain that could never be healed.

Though I will miss her, I sincerely hope that she can now find healing balm.

Addendum 11/25/2012:

When I began to write this blog, Kiira impressed upon me the guidelines that she and the other contributors to the Transkids.us website followed, of keeping the essays largely non-personal, only describing ourselves to the extent necessary to explain who we were as a population, not as individuals.  This had two purposes.  First, it protected the identities of the young people who were involved in creating the content of the original 2004-2005 website (whose identities and photos she DID share with me).  Second, it was an effort to be as objective as is humanly possible regarding the differences between the two types of MTF transwomen.  This effort to protect the identities of the contributors allowed a number of people who opposed publishing and exploring documentation of the differences to question whether such individuals even existed,  even to the extent of stating and/or insinuating that Kiira made up those individuals as a “hoax”, in an effort to cast doubt on the information contained on the website.  In a way, it was an unearned complement to Kiira, as it presupposed that Kiira had the literary talent to write in what even a cursory examination of the essays will show are completely different and consistent writing styles, the individual “voices” of those very real young transwomen.  The simple truth was that Kiira loved these kids, and as the website-mistress, worked hard to protect them from being “outed” and libeled, by those same opponents.  Opponents who have shown themselves to be devoid of honor and decency, having gone to great lengths to vilify and smear those who have merely said or written about the science or politics of the transcommunity.

Those in the trans-community who know, or just suspect, who I am, know that from my many years of transactivism and personally aiding transfolk of all kinds, that I would never participate in any “hoax”, and that I would never do anything I knew would harm any individual or community.  Kiira is gone.  I have inherited her mission.  I intend to maintain the existence of the transkids.us website largely untouched, as she created it, to honor her and those young transwomen who created it.  But her passing has left me to my own ideas of how I should explore the differences, both scientific and political, here on my own blog.

Further Reading:

Essay on Responsibility and Bullying in the Transgender Activist Community

Book Review of Galileo’s Middle Finger by Alice Dreger.

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The Right Stuff…

Posted in Book Reviews, Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on October 15, 2010

… or How to Tell the Difference.

TMWWBQ CoverProf. J. Michael Bailey, in his book, The Man Who Would Be Queen, wrote a very simple set of questions, almost a Cosmopolitan Magazine style quiz, on how a novice can tell the difference between autogynephilic (AGP) and transkids / “homosexual” transsexuals (HSTS):

Start at Zero. Ask each question, and if the answer is “Yes,” add the number (+1 or -1) next to each question. If the sum gets to +3, stop; the transsexual you are talking to is autogynephilic. If the sum gets to -3, she is homosexual.

+1 Have you been married to a woman?

+1 As a child, did people think you were about as masculine as other boys?

+1 Are you nearly as attracted to women as to men? Or more attracted to women? Or equally uninterested in both?
. (Add 1 if “Yes” to any of these.)

+1 Were you over the age of 40 when you began to live full time as a woman?

+1 Have you worn women’s clothing in private and, during at least three of those times, become so sexually aroused that you masturbated?

+1 Have you ever been in the military or worked as a policeman or truck driver, or been a computer programmer, businessman, lawyer, scientist, engineer, or physician?

-1 Is your ideal partner a straight man?

-1 As a child, did people think you were an unusually feminine boy?

-1 Does this describe you? “I find the idea of having sex with men very sexually exciting, but the idea of having sex with women is not at all appealing.”

-1 Were you under the age of 25 when you began to live full time as a woman?

-1 Do you like to look at pictures of really muscular men with their shirts off?

-1 Have you worked as a hairstylist, beautician, female impersonator, lingerie model, or prostitute?

Finally, if the person has been on hormones for at least six months, ask yourself this question:

If you didn’t already know that this person was a transsexual, would you still have suspected that she was not a natural-born woman?

+1 if your answer is “Yes” (if you would have suspected)

-1 If your answer is “No”.


Many transsexuals have lampooned this quiz. Yet, should it be treated so lightly? What does the science say about each question? Let us take each question, in turn, starting with all of the positive valued questions, those whose affirmative answers would indicate the likelihood of the transsexual being autogynephilic:

“Have you ever been married to a woman?” As Lawrence showed, and I blogged about in BridesHead Revisited, sorting on this very question allowed us to increase the signal strength of the difference between the assumed to be HSTS and non-HSTS groups with respect to erotic cross-dressing. So, statistically speaking, this has been proven to be a useful marker for autogynephilia. The question indirectly tests for gynephilia, as that is one of the primary motivations for marriage to a woman, which is positively correlated with autogynephilia in transsexuals.

“As a child, did people think you were about as masculine as other boys?” As has been shown in many studies, AGP transsexuals usually were considered by family and friends to have been unremarkably masculine as children. However, in this regard, self-report from AGP transsexuals is notoriously inaccurate, likely due to inner feelings of wishing to have been feminine coloring their memories. To get the right answer more consistently, we would be better to ask her parents or other older relatives.

“Are you nearly as attracted to women as to men? Or more attracted to women? Or equally uninterested in both?” This is based on Blanchard’s work showing that gynephilia, both exclusively, and in self-reported bisexuals, along with asexuals are all “non-homosexual” and all exhibit autogynephilia as groups.

“Were you over the age of 40 when you began to live full time as a woman?” All of the studies that differentiate AGP transsexuals from transkids clearly show that exclusively androphilic transsexuals never transition so late in life. They typically transition before the age of 25. Bailey could have used the age of 30 to the same effect, as the typical age of transition for an AGP is 30 or older.

“Have you worn women’s clothing in private and, during at least three of those times, become so sexually aroused that you masturbated?” This one is obvious. Erotic cross dressing is one of the most common forms of autogynephilia. More interesting is the requirement that it be “at least three of those times”. This is likely to reduce false positives, as it is possible to have anticipatory arousal (e.g. an MTF transkid or natal female getting prepared for a hot date with a sexy man).

“Have you ever been in the military or worked as a policeman or truck driver, or been a computer programmer, businessman, lawyer, scientist, engineer, or physician?” We need to break this one down into its pieces. First, in the past, the military is unlikely to have retained an MTF transkid, as her obvious femininity would be noticed. Given the present (when this essay was written ~KB) enforcement of “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell” by the U.S. military, it is just possible that she might have kept it to herself just well enough not to have triggered an investigation, even if everyone around her assumed that she was really a gay man. However, statistically, just as with being a policeman, transkids just don’t usually aspire to such obviously macho occupations. But many AGPs, in their naturally more masculine mindset and often wishing to sublimate their autogynephilic desires, often do choose such stereotypically masculine jobs. The second group of occupations, while statistically more likely to be filled by men than women, actually has as its statistical power to differentiate AGPs from transkids the socio-economic selection pressure on AGP individuals to consider whether they can “afford” to transition or not. Compared to transkids, AGPs tend not to transition unless they have higher socio-economic status than average. Intelligence correlates with such higher status and of achieving success in the very fields mentioned in this question. As I showed in Smarter than the Average Bear, AGP transsexuals have an average IQ of ~120, while transkids are likely to be of average intelligence, since IQ and socio-economic status figure less in their decision making. That means that the percentage of AGPs that are eligible to join Mensa, the high IQ society, is 27%, while only 2% of transkids would qualify. Assume for the moment than any given transkid is just as likely to pursue a given career as a natal female, compounding the likelihood that a woman might take such a job times the percentage with the IQ to be successful, says that a few transkids will have any of these positions. However, compounding the higher likelihood that a man would take such a position times the percentage with the IQ needed to be successful, many more AGPs will be in such positions.  Conversely, AGPs in those positions will have the socio-economic status that make it more likely that they would elect to follow their heart’s desire and transition. That does not mean that an MTF transkid could not have such a career. In fact, one of my heroines, Terry Noel was a systems analyst (computer programmer), as well as a wife and step-mom, after her career as a secretary, and before that as a female impersonator! But those transkids almost always find such careers after transition, not before.

Now turning to the negatively valued questions, those whose affirmative answers indicate the likelihood of the transsexual being a transkid:

“Is your ideal partner a straight man?” and “Does this describe you? “I find the idea of having sex with men very sexually exciting, but the idea of having sex with women is not at all appealing.” ” Pretty obvious… an MTF transkid is not likely to answer in the negative. Nearly every study has shown that exclusive androphilia is negatively correlated with being autogynephilic. Asking this question in two different ways gives a high weighting to it.

“As a child, did people think you were an unusually feminine boy?” Studies show that unlike AGPs, exclusively androphilic MTF transsexuals were uniformly considered unusually feminine, often to the point where they would qualify as having Gender Identity Disorder of Childhood.

“Were you under the age of 25 when you began to live full time as a woman?” As we can show in multiple studies, including the Nuttbrock, transkids typically transition very young, often as teenagers, but rarely after age 25.  Does this mean that anyone who transitions before age 25 is a transkid?  Not a bit!  A fair number of AGP TS women transitioned in their early 20’s.  I had several AGP roommates and friends over the years who did so.  But, statistically, if someone transitioned by age 25, they are more likely to be a trankid than someone who transitioned after age 25.

“Do you like to look at pictures of really muscular men with their shirts off?” This is yet another way of asking about androphilia. It would seem to be redundant, but actually, it asks a more subtle question, “Are you attracted to masculine bodies, or is it possible that you are really just saying you like men due to pseudo-androphilia” Pseudo-androphilia is when an autogynephilic individual incorporates men as props in their behavioral autogynephilic sexual fantasies. That is, the act or fantasy of being female having sex with a man is sexually arousing to pseudo-androphilic autogynephiles. Such transsexuals are unlikely to experience an actual attraction to masculine men per se, independent from their autogynephilic fantasy. That is to say, that their attraction to men is dependent upon perceiving themselves as female. However, this question is actually weak in that it requires the exclusively androphilic transsexual to be highly motivated by photographs, visual imagery, over other modalities, such as written fiction. She may answer in the negative, simply because she doesn’t go out of her way to view such photos and misinterpreted the intent of the question as having asked about habitual behavior rather than potential behavior. The question may have been better asked, “Would you enjoy seeing pictures of really muscular men with their shirts off?”

“Have you worked as a hairstylist, beautician, female impersonator, lingerie model, or prostitute?” Hairstylist and beautician are both occupations that are traditionally filled by women and gay men, thus it would appear to be unlikely that an AGP would have filled them, especially pre-transition. For an MTF transkid, though, these positions are equally likely both pre and post- transition. I’ve personally met a number of transkids in such positions.  Looking at the questions, it appears that Bailey is expressing an observation bias, as these jobs are usually filled by working class individuals. From personal experience, for middle and upper-middle-class transkids, it is more likely that they would have found jobs in other pink collar occupations such as receptionist, secretary, office clerk, physician or dental assistant, etc. They may also take positions as child-care provider, store clerk, bank teller, waitress, or fast food server. Essentially, any job that young women may be welcome and find acceptable. But, it is extremely unlikely that an AGP transsexual would have taken a pink collar job pre-transition.  Although, becoming an electrologist seems to be a choice for some post-transition AGPs… To be even considered as a female impersonator and especially a lingerie model, that transsexual would have to be both quite attractive and unexceptionally female appearing. While not every MTF transkid would fit that bill, it is very unlikely that an AGP would do so. Finally, prostitute… it is a sad fact that a sizable minority, but a minority none-the-less, find themselves becoming working girls when they are young. It is more likely to occur when a teenager is disowned by her family for being a transsexual, being unacceptably feminine, and/or homosexual. Transkids that have family support, both financial and emotional, are unlikely to become sex workers. On first examination, it would appear unlikely that an AGP would become a sex worker, but in fact, I personally knew of one, and have read an online biography of another. So, perhaps statistically, it is far more likely that a transsexual / transgender sex worker would be an transkid, but I know for a fact that AGPs have also been.

And finally, the issue of truly passing. It has been noted, over and over and over, by unbiased observers that transkids are more likely than AGPs to pass. But this is only statistically. I’ve known transkids that could only pass in the dark. And I’ve known a couple AGPs that do pretty well for themselves. But, on the whole, because of transitioning younger, being more naturally feminine behaving, and perhaps because of self-selection, transkids just pass better.

It is clear that Dr. Bailey did not intend the quiz to actually serve as a test instrument. He wrote it more as an educational tool to help people who have not met both types and learned how to tell the difference, ‘in the wild’, so to speak, understand the differences in presentation, sexuality, and life arcs, of the two types. However, it is still amusing to apply the quiz to see how well it works.

First, let’s try it on the most famous transsexual of all, Christine Jorgensen:

Married to a woman? Nope. Zero
Masculine as a child? Unclear, as we have only her own recollection… Zero
Sexual attraction? Uninterested in either: +1
Over 40 for transition, Nope, at age 27, still +1
Erotic arousal cross-dressed? Unknown, Still +1
Jobs? Military, now +2 (not only was she in the military, but she joined an all male secret society, indicating that she was quite comfortable and accepted as an adult man.)
Ideal mate a man? Nope, not interested, still +2
Feminine as a child? Unclear, still +2
Men sexually exciting? Nope! still +2
Under 25 for transition? Nope. still +2
Enjoy pics of hunks? Not likely, still +2
Female jobs before transistion, nyet, +2
Passes? Almost… call it a draw +2 (I personally met her when I was 18 years old… in photos, she passed reasonably OK. In person? Close, but not quite. She also patronized me, cooing over me, calling me a “Baby TS”)

So, we have a score of +2 for Christine Jorgensen, who I personally believe is AGP, so it would appear to agree.

(Addendum 5/31/2015:  Ms. Jorgensen may no longer be the most famous, as Caitlin (nee Bruce) Jenner has come out.

Bruce Jenner beginning transition

Bruce Jenner beginning transition

So, now let’s “ask” her:

Married to a woman? Yes, three times! +1 (or should that be +3??)
Masculine as a child? Undoubtedly, +2
Sexual attraction? Only women: +3 Oh… we can stop here… but let’s do go on…
Over 40 for transition, Heck yes (!) at age 65, now +4
Erotic arousal cross-dressed? Quite likely, given her description of her secret cross-dressing, Still +5
Butch Jobs? None of those listed… but come on… male athletic champion? +6
Ideal mate a man? Nope, not interested, still +6
Feminine as a child? No fricking way, still +6
Men sexually exciting? Nope, she adamantly rejected that idea! still +6
Under 25 for transition? Nope. still +6
Enjoy pics of hunks? Not likely, still +6
Female jobs before transistion, nyet, +6
Passes? Not even close (photos aren’t real life)… now +7

The evidence that she is an autogynephilic transsexual is overwhelming.)

How about Terry Noel?

Married to a woman, Nope. Zero
Masculine as a child, No way! Zero
Sexual attraction to women? Ha! Zero
Over 40 for transition, Nope, had SRS at age 29… Still zero.
Erotic arousal cross-dressed? Unknown, still zero.
Butch Jobs? Heck no! But she did become a computer programmer after transition, +1
Ideal mate a man? Yes. Married a Naval Officer, Cancels out, now zero
Feminine as a child. Yes! -1
Men sexually exciting? Yes! -2
Under 25 full time? Unclear still -2
Enjoy pics of hunks, unknown still -2
Female Impersonator!!! -3 (Oh, we can stop now… but lets keep going shall we?
Passes? Flawlessly! -4

OK, how about you? I’ll go first:

Kay BrownMarried to a woman, Nope. Zero
Masculine as a child? Not according to my mother, who complained bitterly to Dr. Fisk during an intake interview at the Stanford Clinic when I was 17, “He was always very prissy” {“prissy” was my mother’s favorite word for “unacceptably effeminate”} Still zero.
Sexual attraction to women? I can say with absolute honesty that I never had, nor wanted, intercourse with a woman! Yet, as a teen, I had sex with young men.  Still zero.
Over 40 for transition? Nope, had SRS at age 23.
Erotic arousal cross-dressed? Not that I can recall. Still zero.
Butch Jobs? Ummm… I became a silicon valley engineer, than a CEO, after transition. so… ok… +1 (BTW, I grew up in Silicon Valley… used to hang with this girl named Patti, Patti Jobs, who had older brother named Steve… yes, that Steve.)
Ideal mate a man? Ohh… yeah! I dated four straight boys from high school… and I’m presently happily married to a wonderful, very straight man. Cancels out, now Zero
Feminine as a child? My mother votes, bitterly, “yes”. Now -1
Men sexually exciting, women not? You might say that. Now -2
Under 25 full time? I turned 18 and graduated from high school the same week… and that was that for me! So, Now -3, but let’s keep going, shall we?

Enjoy pics of hunks, yes, if he’s also handsome and smiling at the camera…  -4

Lingerie model? Well… actually… yes, when I was 20 years old, I modeled for a small boutique in L.A. I was also a full time nanny as a teenager in high school, a secretary, an office clerk, an electronics assembler (pink collar job), a technician (mixed men and women), an engineer (a few women, not many, but a few), and finally CEO of a Silicon Valley high tech company. (I’m a bit like Carly Fiorina in that regard.) -5

Passes? OK, other people should answer that… so… still -5

Hmmm… according to the quiz…

Additional Reading:  An updated and revised quiz based on the critique above.


J. Michael Bailey, The Man Who Would Be Queen, 2003

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