Saturday, 17 November 2007

Fuck Euphemisms

Shit, piss, fuck, prick, dick, cock, cunt, damn, goddamn, motherfucker, cocksucker, fuckface, bastard, ass, asshole, shithead, crap, fucker, dickhead, bullshit, bullcrap


These are obscenities. Practically from the moment we learn to talk, we hear how awful these words are. They have a strangely mystical, talismanic quality, we are taught, that makes them so evil that they may not be uttered, on pain of a whole plethora of punishments.


If you say them on TV or the radio, you're really asking for trouble. In fact, in the United States Reporter, the publication containing every decision and order of the United States Supreme Court, you'll find a complete, unabridged transcription of a George Carlin bit. Pacifica Radio decided to broadcast the bit, which ridicules the notion of "bad words", and, in so doing, lists them. The FCC was not amused, and the matter eventually made it to the US Supreme Court, where Pacifica lost.


Hundreds of pages of FCC administrative decisions every year concern issues such as whether "dickhead" is more offensive than "bullshit" (it apparently isn't), and whether either is fit to be said on network and basic cable television. These proceedings, it is worth noting, are initiated when viewers actually get mad enough about the use of a word to file an official complaint!


Millions of dollars are spent on "editing" (i.e. "censoring") films for broadcast. In one case, the "standards and practises" censors took issue with a character in Spies Like Us exclaiming "Oh, my God!" (abridged to "Oh, my!"), and an entire sequence involving a Baby Ruth bar that is mistaken for a piece of shit had to be excised from Caddyshack. In at least one movie, the censors felt a need to get rid of the phrase "I think it sucks". Sometimes these censorial choices are truly surreal. The censors in charge of bowdlerising the 1984 hit Ghostbusters, for example, could not bear to hear "We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!" or a woman saying "I want you inside me", but "Let's show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown!" was perfectly all right by them.


This censorship is not cheap. It involves writing and reading additional dialogue, or stringing words together from other words uttered by the same actor, and dubbing them over the original soundtrack of the film so that unsuspecting viewers will not realise how close they came to ultimate evil.


This is clearly serious business. These words, as George Carlin noted in the aforementioned bit, "are the ones that'll infect your soul, curve your spine, and keep the country from winning the war."


A few weeks ago, someone in a chatroom was bemoaning the lack of socially conscious singers in the present day. "There are no Dylans in your generation," she said to me. I replied that this was completely untrue. Hadn't she heard of Ani DiFranco, Jello Biafra, Propagandhi, or even some of the really good, socially conscious rap artists of the past decade or two? At the mention of Tupac Shakur, she asked "does he swear?" When I answered that, yes, he did indeed, she remarked "Well, then that's just trash, then." When I suggested that it isn't exactly incomprehensible for someone to swear about the police violence, discrimination, social marginalisation, and poverty that devastate his or her community, she responded: "There's no excuse for swearing."


Tupac Shakur's Changes is a song about the misery of the present and the urgent need for change in a world in which


Cops give a damn about a negro
pull the trigger kill a nigga he's a hero
Give the crack to the kids who the hell cares
one less hungry mouth on the welfare


His raw, undiluted lyrics tell of the bleak facts of life in the besieged post-Panther African American community ("It's time to fight back, that's what Huey [Newton] said / Two shots in the dark, now Huey's dead"). The world he evokes is one in which police officers can kill unarmed African Americans with impunity, where the only viable employment option for many is the drug trade, and where poverty and hopelessness are so omnipresent that the only way for many not to starve is to go outside of the law:


I see no changes wake up in the morning and I ask myself
is life worth living should I blast myself?
I'm tired of bein' poor & even worse I'm black
my stomach hurts so I'm lookin' for a purse to snatch


N.W.A.'s notorious Fuck tha Police is a song of deep anger at the everyday racism, harassment, and violence suffered by African Americans at the hands of unaccountable police forces. It is presented as a trial at which each member of the group gives his "testimony". The song's first verse puts the problem in unmistakable terms:


Young nigga got it bad cause I'm brown
And not the other color so police think
They have the authority to kill a minority


In addition to talking about the myriad everyday abuses suffered at the hands of the police (e.g., "Searching my car, looking for the product / Thinking every nigga is selling narcotics"), Fuck tha Police contains detailed narratives about fighting back:


Fuck that shit, cause I ain't the one
For a punk mother fucker with a badge and a gun
To be beatin’ on, and throw in jail
We could go toe to toe in the middle of a cell


The song ends with the verdict that the unnamed police officer on trial is a "redneck,
whitebread, chickenshit motherfucker".


Essentially, then the idea is that random police violence and torture, the complete nullification of the constitutional rights of an entire ethnicity, crushing racialised poverty, and internecine violence are bad, but not bad enough to say "fuck".


"Obscenities" may be jarring, disturbing, or even revolting at times, but they all speak truth. Sometimes, they speak truth about the matter being described ("Cops give a damn about a negro"). Other times, as with the use of racial epithets, they speak truth about the person speaking. Words like these exist in every human language, though the specific items included often differ. Wherever they are used, though, they bring us back to a primal and visceral reality, one free of whitewashing or window dressing. As such, if they didn't exist, we'd have to invent them.


Faulty intelligence, intelligence failure, enhanced interrogation, coercive interrogation, detainee, officer-involved shooting, waterboarding, neutralise, collateral damage, peace process, police-community relations, military commissions, depopulate, forced-draft urbanisation, intervention, civilian contractor, authoritarian leader, death in police custody, pro-life, strategic hamlet, shock and awe, free market, free trade, rationalise, downsizing, rightsizing, outsourcing, restructuring, union avoidance, payday lender, tort reform, school choice, crisis pregnancy centre, special relationship, democracy promotion


There is another class of words that you don't normally hear about when "obscenities" come up. Unlike the "explicit" words declared "obscene" by conventional wisdom, these words speak no truth. They do their best to conceal it. They are bloodless, heartless evasions that destroy the truth whilst leaving the underlying facts mostly intact (though they are occasionally outright lies). These are the euphemisms.


Commentators speak of "the war in Iraq". The United States "intervened" in Iraq, they will say, because of "faulty intelligence". Regrettably, there has been the odd bit of "collateral damage" in the midst of what military experts call "low-intensity conflict" or "counterinsurgency operations", which often involve "depopulating" large areas, including "village closures", in order to "neutralise insurgents". This policy of "shock and awe" "counterinsurgency" sometimes involves "civilian contractors", who help in "the defence of Iraq".


On the news, you will often hear that there has been an "officer-involved shooting" or that someone has "died in police custody". This revives the on-again-off-again debate about the serious "police-community relations" problem that has plagued law enforcement.


Sometimes, you might hear about the (implicitly isolated) "abuses" of "detainees" detained as part of the "war on terror". Sometimes, these "abuses" include such things as "waterboarding", "sensory deprivation", and other methods of "softening them up". Often enough someone will bemoan these "coercive interrogation techniques" as a major public relations disaster for "Operation Iraqi Freedom". However, on the other side, someone will note that "enhanced interrogation techniques", while not pretty, are essential in the fight for "peace and security". These same people will argue that "military commissions" are necessary in order to try offences for which "the application of the rules of evidence would be inappropriate".


Turning to business news, we often hear that management has decided to "restructure", a process involving the "rightsizing" of the workforce in order to "rationalise" workflows and "curtail redundancies". While the "externalities" may be substantial, they pale in comparison to the excellent return on investment the shareholders can expect, due in part to "significant wage restraint". Sometimes, rather than "rightsizing" the workforce, certain work processes are simply "outsourced" to "less cost-intensive environments", where "free trade agreements" have led to "economic miracles". Editorials will tell us of the need to enhance "workforce mobility and flexibility" as part of the transition to the "new economy", and hail the increase in "opportunities" in the "service sector". Needless to say, this is all "at-will employment", so it will not present a hindrance to any future "rightsizing" that might become necessary.


The new, "flexible" worker may find, whilst enjoying his new "opportunity", that he is experiencing "negative cashflow". Luckily, there are benevolent "payday lenders" on every street corner to help him make ends meet. The only downside to this arrangement is that he must use his "payday loan" "responsibly".


Each of these expressions manages to express an identifiable fact, while totally obliterating the underlying truth.


There is, indeed a war "in" Iraq. Though one might wonder how it got there, this question must remain unanswered. "Faulty intelligence" has the ring of truth, but only if it is used to refer to the failure of the American people to react intelligently to the campaign of outright lies used to whip them into a warlike frenzy. "Collateral damage" does an admirable job of strangling every last bit of humanity out of the concept of dead civilians (and if it doesn't succeed, the almost complete suppression of accurate casualty figures will). "Low-intensity conflict" and "counterinsurgency" are misdirectors: they focus on the military classification of a series of tactics - in this case, terrorist warfare against a civilian population - while avoiding any actual mention of the tactics themselves. A "village closure" sounds rather innocuous; it refers to the practise of turning villages into concentration camps ("strategic hamlets" in Vietnam-era parlance). "Depopulate" and "neutralise" actually manage to strangle the life out of "killing". A "civilian contractor" sounds like a construction worker, someone who is probably involved in the "reconstruction of Iraq" we keep hearing about; in fact, "civilian contractor" refers to a member of one of the many mercenary forces - many of which include notorious terrorists and mass murderers - operating with complete impunity as part of the occupation of Iraq.


One never hears of a "civilian-involved shooting"; those are just called "murder". When a police officer kills a civilian, however, he has just "participated in an officer-involved shooting". If the death comes as a result of a beating after the civilian has been arrested, he will have "died in police custody"; of natural causes, of course. And just what are "police-community relations"? What community? And how exactly are the police "relating" to them? It does however, sound somewhat better than, "the ongoing pattern of police violence and discrimination".


"Waterboarding" sounds like a sport that might be big in Malibu. In fact, it refers to repeated simulated drowning of the victim, relenting only long enough to prevent actual asphyxiation. These "abuses" (i.e. "systematic torture" or "war crimes") are often described as "enhanced" or "coercive" "interrogation techniques" in order to make it sound like they are somehow useful for - and used for the purpose of - obtaining useful information to protect us all. And what of these "military commissions" that try these people once they have been enhancedly interrogated? As it turns out, the term actually refers to "unaccountable kangaroo courts" that can sentence people who haven't had the benefit of a defence attorney or the right to confront their accusers to the death penalty based on no evidence at all.


When an employer "rightsizes" its workforce, it is, of course, "downsizing" the incomes of employees who will now be lucky to avoid homelessness in the age of "welfare reform". "Externalities" refers to poverty, insecurity, unemployment, destitution, loss of health care, destruction of entire working-class communities, and other irrelevancies. "Mobility" and "flexibility" are positively connoted, and they aren't precisely lies. They just leave out the direction of the mobility (hellward, in a handbasket) and the nature of the flexibility (going to bed not knowing whether you'll have a job when you wake up). The same is true of "at-will employment". At whose will? The employer's, of course. And "opportunities in the growing service sector" does certainly sound better than "low-status shit jobs with starvation wages and no security or hope of advancement".


Who are these "payday lenders" who are only too happy to help out our haplessly flexible working-class friend? You may know them as "loansharks", gone legit. They lend out pittances to poor people at high interest, accruing rapidly. How does one use them "responsibly?" There are two options: default and skip town, or don't use them at all.


If we were not so deeply deluded, we would easily realise that "shit", "piss", "fuck" et al. do not hold a candle in the obscenity department to even the mildest of the above expressions. Each one eliminates unspeakable atrocities and great injustice and suffering from the picture. They seek to anaesthetise mind and conscience alike. They distort the realities that lead people to say "Fuck tha police" or note that "cops give a damn about a negro" into the bloodless truthlessness of "the problems of police-community relations". They turn crimes for which every one of us should feel deep outrage and shame into neat, tidy abstractions, each syllable a mass grave hiding thousands of bodies. They turn the great sadistic butchers of our time into great visionaries who seek only peace and democracy. The mental operation that turns the mass murder of innocent civilians into "collateral damage" is not at all far removed from the one that gave us "special treatment" and "final solution".


No wonder you're not allowed to say "bullshit".

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

With "Defenders" Like This...

Alice Dreger Destroys Academic Freedom in Order to Save It

It is an old adage that “crime, once exposed, has no refuge but in audacity.” This appears to be the thinking behind Alice Dreger’s latest attempt to stifle criticism of J. Michael Bailey’s pseudoscience in the name of “academic freedom”.

Joelle Ruby Ryan recently issued a Call for Proposals for a proposed panel of the National Women’s Studies Association entitled The Bailey Brouhaha: Community Members Speak Out on Resisting Transphobia in Academia in Beyond. In it, she accurately summarises the history of the “controversy” around Bailey’s The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science [!] of Gender Bending and Transsexualism, as follows:

While Bailey's book The Man Who Would be Queen was released in 2003 to overwhelmingly negative reviews, the book caused a stir for its assertion that trans women can be split into two groupings: "homosexual transsexuals" and “autogynephilics." Trans activists and allies mobilized and took Bailey to task for his bogus claims and helped to document a compelling case against him. Many considered it an open-and-shut case until the 2007 appearance of an article by Bailey colleague and intersex researcher Alice Dreger, who published a lengthy apologia for Bailey in the Archives of Sexual Behavior and castigated trans women activists for their attempts at "ruining" Bailey.

In response, Dreger declared that the CFP was “laden with factual errors and misrepresentations about the history of the Bailey controversy and my work”, of which she could identify none, and points to her own dubious “scholarly history” (to be published by a journal controlled by Bailey, Blanchard, and Lawrence) and a breathtakingly inaccurate New York Times article that I have discussed previously as reliable sources of information. Dreger repeats her unsupported and unspecified claims of misrepresentations (in one case “profound” misrepresentations”) and factual errors throughout her correspondence on the subject with Emi Koyama on the Women’s Studies listserv WMST-L, and falsely claims that Bailey’s critics attempted to censor him. She does not enlighten interested readers about the scientific status of Bailey’s claims or his defamatory responses to criticism. She closes the e-mail exchange by endorsing a veiled threat directed at Ryan by Emi Koyama:

I also appreciate your advising Joelle Ruby Ryan " that she was putting herself at risk as a scholar working within a controversial field (trans issues) by tolerating tactics that breed fear and stifle academic freedom."

What is the “academic freedom” that Dreger defends so fiercely as to resort to threats and blatant misrepresentations? Is it the freedom to publish scientific findings and engage in scholarly discussion without state or institutional censorship? Clearly not. That right has not been impinged upon. No one is calling for censorship of Bailey’s work, nor has any censorship occurred. The book remains in print, for all to see. Bailey’s right to fetishise “controversy” over science remains inviolate.

No, the “academic freedom” Dreger is so vigorously defending goes much farther. She believes that Bailey should not only have the right to publish and discuss his work without censorship, but without criticism. She believes that academic freedom includes the right to be free from complaints by research subjects whose rights you have violated, the right to make defamatory misrepresentations without them being exposed. Dreger believes that academic freedom includes not only the right to misrepresent pseudoscience as The Science of Gender Bending and Transsexualism, but also the right to have one’s work go unchallenged. By her own definition, then, she is violating the academic freedom of the scientists and other academics who have exposed Bailey’s quackery and research misconduct.

Dreger, ultimately, is defending the Emperor’s right to demand that his new suit of clothes be praised.

Lest one start to think that Dreger has reached the height of audacity, Dreger actually attempts to defend her fanciful version of academic freedom by using intimidation and defamation to stifle an academic discussion of Bailey’s work! What other purpose could be served by unsupported claims of unspecified (and, in fact, nonexistent!) “misrepresentations”? What else would Dreger be trying to do by cautioning Ryan that she is “putting herself at risk” by attempting to hold an academic forum to discuss the issue?

In Dreger’s bizarre world, Bailey’s misrepresentations are “science” and Dreger’s defamation and intimidation tactics are a “defence of academic freedom”. Lysenko would surely approve.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Science and Ideology II: The J. Michael Bailey Affair in the New York Times

Science and Ideology II:

The J. Michael Bailey Affair in the New York Times

Martyr for Academic Freedom or Thin-Skinned Quack?

The opening paragraphs of Benedict Carey’s 21 August article for the New York Times, entitled Criticism of a Gender Theory, and a Scientist Under Siege, draw the lines of the recently revived controversy around J. Michael Bailey’s The Man Who Would be Queen (TMWWBQ) quite clearly: science versus ideology.

On the one hand, we have J. Michael Bailey, a “Scientist Under Siege”, who authored a book (TMWWBQ) “intended to explain the biology of sexual orientation and gender to a general audience.” On the other, we have his “critics”, identified as “several prominent academics who are transgender”, who think his “theory” is “inaccurate, insulting and potentially damaging to transgender women”. No non-trans critic is identified, nor is there any mention of the scientific status of Bailey’s “theory” (which, in reality, is Ray Blanchard’s brainchild). Nor do we find out in any real detail why Carey’s carefully selected Bailey critics – he steers clear of anyone from the relevant scientific community[1] – object so vehemently to TMWWBQ, or, indeed, anything else that might contextualise the controversy.

Instead, we are told about the fear that the “harassment” (read: criticism) of Bailey has engendered in Bailey’s (unnamed) peers, who complain of the “corrosive effects of political correctness on academic freedom”, asserting that “it has become increasingly treacherous to discuss politically sensitive issues”. Indeed, “If we’re going to have research at all, then we’re going to have people saying unpopular things, and if this is what happens to them, then we’ve got problems not only for science but free expression itself”. Alas, Carey does not see fit to muse on the irony of charges of censorship being levied against the very people whom Bailey sought to silence and stigmatise with his book. Nor does he point out that “criticism” and “censorship” whilst both beginning with the same letter, are indeed two very different things.

Carey tells us precious little about the actual subject matter of Bailey’s book, apart from the statement that he “argued that some people born male who want to cross genders are driven primarily by an erotic fascination with themselves as women,” a “theory” that is contrasted with “the belief, held by many men who decide to live as women [sic],” which Carey describes in the most hackneyed and stereotypical terms, “that they are the victims of a biological mistake — in essence, women trapped in men’s bodies.” (emphasis supplied) Bailey’s “argument”/”theory”, we are told, is based on “Canadian studies done in the 1980s and 1990s”. Readers will have to search elsewhere for any discussion of the basis of the opposing “belief”; Carey provides none.

And thus, Carey has successfully created the impression that the only counterpoint to the “scientific theory” of J. Michael Bailey and Co. is a “belief” held by “men who decide to live as women”.

At this point, a few nagging questions arise: Why is Carey’s sourcing so lopsided? Why is it so important for the story Carey wants to tell that Bailey appear to be opposed only by a few trans women who aren’t even psychologists? What would be wrong with quoting some of the many psychologists and psychiatrists who are much more respected in their field than a J. Michael Bailey – a member of the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association, perhaps?

In fact, Carey does quote one critic from a relevant field: Stanford neurobiologist Ben Barres, but the quote Carey selects – “Bailey seems to make a living by claiming that the things people hold most deeply true are not true.” – is so ambiguous that it could even be taken to suggest that Barres supports Bailey’s “theory”, about which Barres has in fact said that

Bailey truly doesn't get the gender identity dissonance that transsexuals experience--it really is hard for people to understand what they haven't experienced themselves. I have talked with many MtFs [trans women] who have contacted me, and have listened to the feelings they have gone through their whole lives, and it is always an exact mirror of what I have experienced as an FtM. These MtFs have no reason to lie to me, as I have no power over what treatment they receive. For Bailey to say that most MtFs are primarily doing the gender change because of a fetish rather than a true gender-identity issue just doesn't ring true to me, or to many other people that have worked in clinics taking care of many MtFs[2].

(emphasis supplied)

The answer to the above questions is obvious enough. A few phone calls and a PsychLit search would suffice to demonstrate that the Ray Blanchard “theory” luridly regurgitated by J. Michael Bailey is not, and has never been, accepted science. Indeed, had Carey wished to go to the trouble, he would have discovered that Blanchard’s own studies not only fail to validate his separation of trans women into two mutually exclusive categories, but have also never been reproduced by anyone else. He might also find that the Clarke Institute so highly praised by our “scientist under siege” has fallen into such disrepute that they have to refer their patients to England for surgery, because the leading Canadian surgeons won’t take their referrals.

It is also clear why Carey would choose to quote only trans women as criticising Bailey. The article explicitly makes the controversy a battle between the popular right-wing fiction of “political correctness” – i.e. opposition to bigotry and other similarly offensive things – and “science”. By putting only trans women in the “critics” corner[3], it becomes easier to frame the controversy as a dispute between a scientist and those personally offended by his findings.

In effect, had Carey sought out gender specialists in psychology and psychiatry to discuss the Blanchard-Bailey-Lawrence “theory” of trans women, he would have had to come up with a new headline: Quackery Exposed – Northwestern in Damage-Control Mode, perhaps.

Bailey’s (carefully selected) critics get a much chillier reception from Carey. Carey insinuates that Drs. Lynn Conway and Deirdre McCloskey, two of the aforementioned “prominent academics who are transgender”, were the driving force behind the ethics complaints filed by several of Bailey’s unwitting “research” subjects, complaints Bailey associate Alice Dreger (identified only as an “ethics scholar” who carried out a “lengthy investigation”) characterises as “harassment”. We hear that Conway chronicled the accusations against Bailey on her website[4], but not that her site also linked to scientific critiques of the Blanchard-Bailey-Lawrence model by psychologists[5].

We are told that Andrea James “downloaded images from Dr. Bailey’s Web site of his children, taken when they were in middle and elementary school, and posted them on her own site, with sexually explicit captions that she provided.” While we do read James’ response, that the captions were intended to “echo [Bailey’s] disrespect”, we do not hear that “echo” is meant literally. In fact, the captions James placed on the photos in question were epithets from Bailey’s own book, terms he found “sympathetic” (at least when used on trans women). Nor does Carey mention the interesting contrast between Bailey’s defamatory epithets and the (almost as indefensible) way in which Andrea James sought to echo them: Unlike Bailey, James actually took the pictures down and apologised for what she did. Bailey, on the other hand, not only has yet to apologise for smearing a highly vulnerable group with sexually explicit (and patently false) epithets; he actually compounds them by directing even more invective at his critics.

And while we hear Alice Dreger bemoan the “harassment” suffered by Bailey, we (unsurprisingly) do not hear of Dreger’s harassing and defamatory blog postings about (and e-mails to) Andrea James (including, ironically enough, one comparing James to a neo-Nazi). Nor, of course, do we get to hear how Dreger used defamatory claims in an attempt to cause a student group at her university to rescind its invitation to James to discuss her critique of Bailey, or how she sent harassing e-mails with similar content to James’ agent[6].

To Carey’s credit, he does get one fundamental thing right: the Bailey “controversy” is fundamentally a conflict between science and ideology. Unfortunately, Carey seems to have mixed up the cast of characters.

To put Bailey on the side of science is an insult to science. Even a cursory look at the scientific literature on transsexuality would reveal that the Blanchard-Bailey-Lawrence “theory” has been overwhelmingly rejected by the scientific community, and that the “belief” attributed in hackneyed, stereotypical terms to Bailey’s critics in fact more closely represents the scientific consensus.

As if that were not enough, Carey compounds this insult to science by placing the real scientists – the ones who publish in peer-reviewed journals and don’t use samples that could easily fit in an efficiency in Queens – in the corner of “political correctness”, i.e. ideology. As noted above, there is no shortage of scientists who are critical of Bailey and his cronies. It would be relatively easy to find well-documented scientific critiques of the vaunted “Canadian studies”, which do as much as any of Bailey’s unprofessional behaviour to discredit Blanchard’s own theory, or to find at least one of the many clinical psychologists or psychiatrists specialised in trans issues – Bailey is neither[7] – to provide a scientific counterpoint to the BBL clique[8]. One could even go so far as to look at Bailey’s book, in which he is quite proud to note that his “theory” successfully inoculates the uninitiated against any sort of empathy for trans women[9], or look to back issues of the New York Times for information on his other discredited claims[10]. If Carey were to quote genuine academic gender specialists – thus placing the contenders in the right corners – it would quickly become apparent that Bailey is a purveyor of ideologically motivated pseudoscience who prefers to evade the peer review process by “publishing” his findings in press releases and pop psych books.

Of course, this would probably make it harder to sell Bailey as a beleaguered truth-seeker, besieged by “political correctness”, but ultimately exonerated by an “ethics scholar” (who herself happens to be anything but a neutral observer).

If Carey’s article demonstrates anything, it’s that no one has anything to fear from “political correctness”, when even scientific correctness cannot make it through the ideological filter of the Newspaper of Record.


[1] One might note that this echoes Bailey’s own preference for tiny, unrepresentative samples.

[2] http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1568/is_6_35/ai_109085443/pg_6

[3] While Ben Barres is a trans man, his context-free quote, as noted above, can be easily taken as either critical or supportive.

[4] http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/LynnsReviewOfBaileysBook.html

[5] Bockting, W, Biological Reductionism Meets Gender Diversity in Human Sexuality, J. Sex Research, Vol. 42, No. 3, Aug. 2005, pp. 267-270, available online at: http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/Bailey/Bockting/Bockting%20Review.html ; See also http://www.tsroadmap.com/info/bailey-blanchard-lawrence.html

[6] http://www.tsroadmap.com/info/alice-dreger/hermaphrodite-monger.html

[7] Nor is he even a member of the major associations of psychological professionals.

[8] See, e.g., http://www.genderpsychology.org/autogynephilia/j_michael_bailey/

[9] TMWWBQ, p. 206

[10] See, e.g., Gay, Straight, or Lying, NY Times 5 July 2005, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/05/health/05sex.html?ex=1278216000&en=5a82f18cadf2ad83&ei=5088

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Science and Ideology: The Blanchard-Bailey-Lawrence Model of Transsexuality

Autogynaephiles, Homosexuals, and Fabricators:

The Blanchard-Bailey-Lawrence Taxonomy of Trans Women

I. A Hypothetical

Let us suppose that someone claimed to have found that rape is primarily a function of the sexuality and presentation of the victim, and proposed a binary taxonomy of rape victims:

(1) The provoker: Provoker-type rape victims are heterosexual women no older than their mid-to-late twenties at the time of the incident. They are generally sexually active, and are characterised by general attractiveness and a preference for attractive, even provocative modes of dress and behaviour. In these women, the rape is the subsconsciously desired result of their behaviour and presentation.

(2) The confabulator: The confabulator, like the provoker, is heterosexual, but homely and unattractive, and at least in her late twenties or thirties. She is not sexually active, nor does she dress in a particularly attractive or provocative manner. She is most likely to have convinced herself that she was raped in order to deceive herself into believing that she is sexually desirable despite her age and appearance.

Let us further suppose that the person who has “discovered” these categories also claims that there are no categories outside of the two above, and that any woman who claims not to fit within these categories in any particular is either lying or delusional. In dealing with these claims, rational people will likely do as suggested by Noam Chomsky in The Case Against B.F. Skinner[1], and ask:What is the scientific status of the claims? What social or ideological needs do they serve? The questions are logically independent, but the second type of question naturally comes to the fore as scientific pretensions are undermined.”

The scientific pretensions of the provoker/confabulator taxonomy would most likely be dismissed with derision by all rational observers because this binary taxonomy accords no validity to the accounts and experiences of the women involved, implicitly privileges the rapist’s claims over those of the victim, and is not falsifiable, i.e., any example that might lead the rational observer to question the validity of the model is automatically deemed a fabrication or a delusion.

If the proponent of the hypothetical model sketched above were to respond to serious questions about his methodology and the substance of his claims with derisive comments about “political correctness” or insinuations that critics were mentally unbalanced or improperly motivated, this would be taken as proof that even the proponent of the model considers it indefensible (as already suggested by the built-in “liar/delusional” catch-all).

Thus, the scientific status of the claim would be recognised virtually immediately as nil, and rational observers would quickly move on to examine the social and ideological needs that the provoker/confabulator model serves. They would turn their attention to the significance of repeated assurances that rape victims are generally liars and to lurid and detailed descriptions of the attractiveness of the proponent’s research subjects. They would note that the entire taxonomy operates to validate the rapist whilst marginalizing and dismissing his victim.

It would, thus, quickly become clear that the provoker/confabulator/ liar model is a pseudoscientific fabrication put forth for the likely purpose of validating the perpetrator of rape and harming the victim. Its proponent and adherents would be ipso facto discredited, and attention would be returned to real scientific work.

II. The Blanchard-Bailey-Lawrence Autogynaephilic/”Homosexual” Model

In the 1980s, Ray Blanchard, of the disreputable Canadian Clarke Institute, proposed a model of male-to-female transsexuality (like many of his colleagues, he ignored female-to-male transsexuality altogether), at the heart of which was a binary categorisation very similar to the hypothetical one sketched above:

(1) “Homosexual[2] [sic] transsexuals”: “Homosexual” transsexuals, i.e. heterosexual trans women, are sexually attracted to men, present in a conventionally feminine manner, are attractive as women, and transition at a relatively young age.

(2) “Autogynaephilic (AGP) transsexuals”: Autogynaephilic transsexuals are trans women who transition later in life, are not conventionally feminine in appearance or behaviour, are not particularly attractive, are sexually attracted toward women, and are sexually aroused by the idea of themselves as women.

It must be stressed that, as in the hypothetical above, the BBL model claims that these categories encompass all trans women. While this taxonomy in itself would seem trivial, Blanchard (and his adherents Anne Lawrence and J. Michael Bailey) added to these two discrete, all-encompassing categories assertions about causality. “Homosexual” (i.e. heterosexual) trans women transitioned in order to be attractive to heterosexual men, while “autogynaephilic” trans women transition out of a “mis-directed” heterosexual sex drive that leads them to sexually fetishise the idea of themselves as women.

The BBL model attributes male-to-female transsexuality entirely to sexuality: Matters of identity not only take a back seat to sexual desire as the driving force behind transition; they are actively dismissed as fabrications. In his The Man who Would be Queen[3], Bailey writes as follows:

Most people—even those who have never met a transsexual— know the standard story of men who want to be women: "Since I can remember, I have always felt as if I were a member of the other sex. I have felt like a freak with this body and detest my penis. I must get sex reassignment surgery (a "sex change operation") in order to match my external body with my internal mind." But the truth is much more interesting than the standard story.

(Bailey, p. 143; emphasis supplied). Thus, in a few short sentences, Bailey has relegated an account that will resonate with many (if not most) trans women to a significant degree to the “standard story”, a piece of conventional wisdom that is much less interesting than the “truth”.

“One way”, Bailey continues,

that the standard transsexual story is wrong is in its singularity. Two types of men change their sex. To anyone who examines them closely, they are quite dissimilar, in their histories, their motivations, their degree of femininity, their demographics, and even the way they look. We know little about the causes of either type of transsexualism (though we have some good hunches about one type). But I am certain that when we finally do understand, the causes of the two types will be completely different.

(Bailey, p. 145). Thus, the “standard story” is juxtaposed against the “truth”: a binary typology about which Bailey admits to nothing more but a “hunch” and his certainty that “when we finally do understand, the causes of the two types will be completely different”. This is, in itself, an odd claim to be making in a purportedly scientific work. It is one thing to propose a direction for future research, a direction that may or may not be promising or have intuitive appeal; it is quite another to state that there is reason to be “certain” about the ultimate result of inquiry into an admittedly poorly understood subject. Claims like this should make us suspect any scientific pretensions in a work that makes them.

Bailey explains the fact that the observations of the general public and the relevant medical community do not generally confirm the BBL model by asserting that “members of one type sometimes misrepresent themselves as members of the other.” Indeed, “they are often silent about their true motivation and instead, tell stories about themselves that are misleading and in important respects false.” (Bailey, p. 146) The claim that trans women who are not consistent with the BBL model are deceptive is a pervasive feature of the model.


In discussing the “autogynaephilia” category invented by Blanchard, Bailey dismisses out of hand the single most consistent feature in trans people, the painful lifelong inconsistency they feel between their gender identity (“subconscious sex,” in geneticist Julia Serano’s phrase) and their superficial physical and social sex, asserting that


Autogynephilia is not primarily a disorder of gender identity, except in the obvious sense that the goal of the transsexual is to become the other sex. At the cross-dressers' meeting I attended, the wife of one of the men asked me: "When they say they feel like women, how do they know what that feels like?" This question, which reflected the woman's skepticism about the men's account, is profound. How do we ever know that we are like someone else? Unless you believe in extrasensory perception (and I don't), the answer must be found in overt behavior, which somehow signals fundamental similarity. Evidently, the woman did not get those signals from the men. (If instead of being the wife of an autogynephile, she were the sister of a homosexual transsexual, I doubt she would have asked an analogous question.) The fact is that despite their obsession with becoming women, autogynephilic transsexuals are not especially feminine.


Bailey supports his claim about “autogynaephilia” with an example drawn not from the trans women he claims to be describing but from cross-dressers, many of whom have no desire to transition. One could as reasonably draw conclusions about schizophrenics by making observations about LSD enthusiasts.


Also notable is his insistence on remaining at a superficial level, even to the extent of reporting the views of the wife of one of the cross-dressers whilst completely ignoring anything the cross-dressers themselves might have to say. In reporting the rhetorical question of the wife of one of the cross-dressers at the meeting, he does not point out that “to feel like a woman” has more than one meaning. While it can certainly mean “to feel similar to a woman” (or “to want [to do] something”, come to that), in this case the more likely meaning is “to feel one is a woman”, i.e., to have a persistent sense of inconsistency between one’s social and superficial gender and one’s gender identity/subconscious sex. Except where the context is truly ambiguous or where one is being intentionally obtuse, a normal speaker of the English language will instinctively assign the respective interpretations to the phrases “I feel like a meatball sandwich”, “I feel like a woman,” and “I feel like you do”. Bailey has no time for such niceties, and thus does not hesitate to select the most easily dismissed interpretation.


Having thus elected to interpret “I feel like a woman” as “I feel similar to how a woman feels”, Bailey seeks to dismiss this statement:


How do we ever know that we are like someone else? Unless you believe in extrasensory perception (and I don't), the answer must be found in overt behavior, which somehow signals fundamental similarity.

Here, Bailey seeks to discredit what is in reality a rather hackneyed, stereotypical phrase by setting up a false dichotomy (as he is wont to do). Either one believes in ESP, and therefore can claim to “feel like” someone or something in Bailey’s preferred sense (his failure to even mention empathy is unsurprising), or one must remain at the entirely superficial level of “overt behavior”. If one’s overt behaviour is not “especially feminine”, then, Bailey decrees, one cannot claim to have a female identity. Or, as Bailey puts it, “Supposedly, male-to-female transsexuals are motivated by the deep-seated feeling that they have women's souls. However, - - - men who want to be women [sic] are not naturally feminine. There is no sense in which they have women's souls[4]." (Bailey, p. xii)


How, then, Bailey – despite his avowed scepticism about ESP – can claim to know that what others feel is not what they say they feel, is a mystery on which I feel no overwhelming urge to speculate.


Thus, for Bailey, all women behave in a stereotypically feminine manner and overt behaviour is a reasonable basis for drawing far-reaching conclusions about a person’s identity. The possibility that these “autogynaephilic” trans women might have learnt early on that feminine gender expression in someone perceived to be male would be met with severe consequences, and thus learned to project masculinity to the extent they were able as a defence mechanism, does not even occur to Bailey. Either you demonstrate a satisfactory degree of conventional femininity, or can lay no claim to a female identity. One wonders how the butch lesbian community took the news.


Thus, the identity of trans women whose superficial behaviour is not sufficiently conventionally feminine to satisfy Bailey is at best an “obsession”. One might think, therefore, that Bailey might be more inclined to portray the second BBL category, the “homosexual” transsexual, in a more humanising fashion. Alas, while Bailey certainly finds the latter category – trans women who are more conventionally feminine, are heterosexual in sexual orientation, and transition at a younger age – more attractive (“There is no way to say this as sensitively as I would prefer, so I will just go ahead. Most homosexual transsexuals are better looking than most autogynephilic transsexuals” [Bailey, p. 180]), this does not stop him painting this category with equally derogatory stereotypes.


Attractiveness aside, Bailey is no more respectful of the identities of “homosexual” trans women, who “simply lust after men” (p. 191), than he is of those of “autogynaephilic” trans women. These women, in Bailey’s eyes, are “a type of homosexual man” (p. 146) with a “short time horizon, with certain pleasure in the present worth great risks for the future." (p. 184) “"Prostitution,” Bailey notes, “is the single most common occupation that homosexual transsexuals in our study [a sample found by “cruising” bars frequented by sex workers] admitted to." (Id.) "Nearly all the homosexual transsexuals I know work as escorts after they have their surgery." (p. 210)

When not discussing the occupational similarities in a sample of trans women selected from venues likely to have a high percentage of sex workers, Bailey moves on to his other favourite subject: their sexual attractiveness (to him) and willingness to sleep with men. In this vein – apart from the already-quoted line – Bailey states that "Many of the transsexuals we interviewed in the course of this study were more attractive than the average genetic female." Consider also his description of “Kim”:


I start upstairs to get the panoramic view, and I see Kim for the first time, on the stairs, dancing, posing. She is spectacular, exotic (I find out later that she is from Belize), and sexy. Her body is incredibly curvaceous, which is a clue that it might not be natural. And I notice a very subtle and not-unattractive angularity of the face, which is also not clearly diagnostic on this tall siren. It is difficult to avoid viewing Kim from two perspectives: as a researcher but also as a single, heterosexual man. As I contemplate approaching her, I am influence by considerations from each perspective. I have this strong intuition that I am correct about her, but if I am not, I may have the unpleasant experience of simultaneously insulting, and being rejected by, a beautiful woman. […] in a tribute to her beauty, I decide for now not to approach her.


(p. 141-142; emphasis supplied). When we move on to “Terese”, we are regaled with pronouncements such as “In many ways Terese has blossomed since her surgery. She looks great. Not only do people fail to notice that she is a transsexual, but most men find her sexy and attractive. Depressed and in self-imposed isolation when I first saw her, she is flirtation, energetic, and socially busy now. Among other things, she models lingerie [at least it’s a representative sample with such common professions]. (p. 150; emphasis supplied) Later, we are told that “homosexual [sic] transsexuals aspire to be objects of desire.” (p. 180) “Homosexual” transsexuals express femininity because “they want to attract men, and they get constant feedback (in the form of propositions from men […])…This allows them to hone their presentations faster than the autogynephilic transsexual, who has spent most of her femme life looking at the mirror by herself.” Reading all of this, one is forced to wonder whose sexual proclivities this book is supposed to be about.


In addition to prostitution, for which Bailey believes that “homosexual” trans women, with their “male” psychology, are “especially well suited” (p. 185), Bailey uses a combination of rumours and sweeping generalisations to tell us of another supposed occupation of “homosexual” trans women: theft:


As for shoplifting, homosexual transsexuals are not especially well suited as much as especially motivated. For many, their taste in clothing is much more expensive than their income allows. Transsexual call girls are among the few who can afford expensive clothes. In female impersonator shows, transsexuals often wear designer gowns, which are widely believed (by other transsexuals) to have been acquired via the five-fingered [sic] discount.


(Id.)


It is, of course, possible to propose another model that accounts for all of the characteristics on which the BBL model is purportedly based. One could begin by noting that there is nothing particularly unusual about one’s sexual fantasies including oneself in the body of one’s identified sex. Indeed, it seems reasonable to assume that non-trans men and women, regardless of sexual orientation and gender expression, generally have sexual fantasies in which they are men and women, respectively. Both groups would likely have a great deal of trouble achieving arousal whilst imagining themselves in the body of a member of a sex inconsistent with their own gender identities. One would further note that these “autogynaephilic” fantasies generally subside once trans women begin living in their identified sex, and therefore cease to feel the dissonance the BBL group are at great pains to ignore, and posit that such fantasies are a function of the deep, subconscious need to live and be perceived as their identified sex, rather than the other way around.


Once we remove the constraints imposed by the assumptions of the BBL model, it is also not hard to deal with one of Bailey’s admitted stumbling blocks: the fact that there are gay men who are highly feminine in gender expression but nonetheless do not transition. If we accept the BBL model, this datum is a true riddle, because it is based on the assumption that sexual orientation equals gender expression, and that gender identity does not exist. Thus, the existence of men and women – regardless of sexual orientation – who do not have any desire to transition and live as the other sex despite having gender expression typical of the other sex, cannot be explained. However, once we give credit to the accounts of trans people and others who have long reported a lifelong, persistent sense of dissonance between their assigned sex and their gender identity/subconscious sex, all of these mysteries quickly evaporate. It is only by Bailey’s refusal to accept what he admits is the consensus of the relevant professional community that the answers to questions like these become unattainable.


Not only is a model like the one sketched above – which reflects the essential contours of the scientific consensus – able to provide adequate answers to questions that lead BBL adherents to throw up their hands and change the subject; such a model is capable of providing consistent explanations of the bulk of the available data on issues of gender identity, expression, and transsexuality without the need to resort to so many assumptions. Unlike the BBL model, this model has no need to assume that trans people are fundamentally deceptive or deluded, that trans men are somehow a completely different species, or that identity simply cannot be the motivation for the desire or decision to transition.


II. The Scientific Status of BBL-Style Taxonomies


Ultimately, Bailey’s account (and the underlying BBL model) is abysmal from a scientific standpoint. It does not meet one of the basic – and most easily met – requirements for a scientific theory, falsifiability, because it pervasively paints trans women as liars who will misrepresent themselves to avoid being placed in one of the two categories. Thus, it does not even attempt to account for the many lesbian and bisexual trans women who are conventionally feminine in appearance and gender expression and transition in their twenties or earlier and do not have a history of erotic cross-dressing, nor does it seriously contemplate trans women who, at least prior to transition, manage a conventionally masculine gender expression, but transition young (thus undermining its ability to adequately describe and explain a wide range of pertinent data). The ink that could have been dedicated to these vaguely important issues is instead dedicated, in substantial part, to Bailey’s “hot or not” judgements about trans women. It is not exactly a great shock that this “theory” has failed to gain acceptance in the relevant professional communities.


However, the above discussion of the BBL model does not mention its most salient characteristic: its vapidity. It takes little to no intellectual effort to invent BBL-type taxonomies for any imaginable group of people. One is reminded of a popular joke: “There are two kinds of people: those who say that there are two kinds of people and those who don’t.” Indeed, about all one needs to do in order to create a BBL-type taxonomy is to start by (1) declaring that there are two kinds of people. Then, carefully following Bailey’s injunction to stick to the superficial (lest one appear to believe in ESP), (2) one delineates the specific characteristics of the “two kinds of people” identified. In order to escape triviality, the dichotomy must then be (3) enhanced by making assertions about causation: the overarching category to which these “two kinds of people” belong exists because of a common superficial characteristic allegedly shared by the two groups. Once this is all in place, all one has to do to render one’s BBL taxonomy immune to contrary evidence (particularly non-superficial contrary evidence) is (4) to claim that “members of one type sometimes misrepresent themselves as members of the other,” and that both types “are often silent about their true motivation and instead, tell stories about themselves that are misleading and in important respects false.”


It is instructive (or, at the very least, amusing) to illustrate this by creating a BBL-type taxonomy for the BBL clique and their adherents. Essentially, one would say, BBL adherents break down into two fundamental types: deluded BBL adherents (DBAs) and mendacious BBL adherents (MBAs). Both groups commonly claim that they are fundamentally scientists, and that their adherence to the BBL model is scientifically motivated, and (the former type in particular) may indeed actually believe that this is the case. However, the argument would go, the careful observer will discount these protestations (after all, who can truly claim to be a scientist unless they actually know how it feels to be a scientist, by ESP perhaps) and instead look at the common denominator in the overt behaviour of the two groups. They both are obsessed, in different ways, with sexualising trans women. DBAs need to believe (and MBAs, similarly, need to convince others) that trans women are, in fact, men, who transition either out of a pathological need to have sex with large numbers of heterosexual men or out of a pathological need to achieve sexual arousal and climax by seeing themselves as women.


According to this model, these types are not readily visible to the untrained eye, since MBAs commonly misrepresent themselves as DBAs (and may even come to believe this themselves), and both types are often silent about their true motivation, and instead tell stories about their “research” and “findings” that are misleading, and, in important respects, false. Why, a proponent of this model would ask, do BBL adherents exist, given that there can be no true scientific motivation in a group of pretend scientists? One answer would quickly commend itself: both groups spend an inordinate time – even at the risk of public ridicule and the loss of their careers and credibility – sexualising trans women and portraying them as men. This pathological need could be termed alloandrophilia[5] (aloe-andro-feel-ya), a need to achieve sexual arousal and climax by viewing others as hypersexualised men.


Both DBAs and MBAs will often take offence at being assigned to either diagnostic category, and try to downplay the erotic aspects of their fixation with viewing trans women as men. Many will invent long, detailed narratives of their “research” and even go to the extent of founding “scientific” journals to create the superficial impression in the uninformed public that they are in fact real scientists, despite the fact that their overt behaviour will often appear to be anything but scientific. In any case, the argument would go, we must discount anything we may hear about the “true” motivations of BBL adherents. While one occasionally encounters open and honest BBL adherents of both types, who admit to the erotic nature of their obsessions, most BBL adherents are desperate to convince both others and themselves of the validity of the standard BBL narrative.


Because it is easily possible to shoehorn any group one wants into a BBL type taxonomy (though the above case has at least empirical validity speaking for it), its scientific status is even more undermined. The BBL taxonomy fails to conform to the criteria of a scientific theory in multiple respects. First: it lacks explanatory and descriptive adequacy in that it fails to adequately explain, or even describe, a wide range of pertinent data. Second: it seeks to create an unsupported catch-all (lying) in order to discount any contrary data, thus rendering it unfalsifiable. Third: the BBL taxonomy is vacuous and lacks any serious theoretical content, and thus is accurately termed trivial.


Accordingly, the scientific status of the BBL taxonomy is nil.


III. The Social and Ideological Function of the BBL Taxonomy


Moving on to the second issue, the social and ideological needs served by the BBL claims, Bailey himself inadvertently tips his hand in a section dedicated to the issue of public and private funding for sex reassignment surgery:


My undergraduate students at Northwestern are surely more liberal than average […] but even most of them balk at the idea that the surgery should be subsidized. They are especially hesitant to support surgery for nonhomosexual transsexuals, once they learn about autogynephilia. The idea of men sexually obsessed with having vaginas is incomprehensible to them, and like most Americans, they are too puritanical to give sexual concerns much priority in the public trough. But even when I invoke the standard transsexual narrative – “Imagine that you have felt your entire life that you had the body of the wrong sex” – they balk. When I press them, they say something like the following: “But they don’t have the wrong body. They are mentally ill.”


(p. 206; emphasis supplied) In other words, Bailey expressly acknowledges that the effect of teaching the BBL model, especially to inexperienced undergraduates who may not know any better, is to bias them against the legitimacy of the needs of trans women. By inculcating in these students “the idea of men sexually obsessed with having vaginas”, he is – by his own account – able to eliminate any empathy or understanding the students might have for the “standard” (i.e. actual) narrative. The typical response Bailey claims to get when he presses these students is exactly the one he has been at great pains to propagate: “They don’t have the wrong body. They are mentally ill.” (Id.)


Thus, while not capable of even attempting to explain the vast range of gender-variant identities and behaviour without resorting to broad, sweeping assumptions, the BBL model is quite suited to the ideological and social needs of those who seek to do serious harm to the social, political, and legal position of trans women. This also explains why Bailey would choose to address his book to a lay audience, rather than the relevant scientific community: like the undergraduates he describes, the lay public is unlikely to have the sophisticated understanding of the issues that would allow his colleagues to recognise his work as nonsense.


IV. Conclusion: Conforming Popular Ideology to Reality


Returning to the hypothetical case we considered initially, it is important to remember that it is not particularly hypothetical. While the terminology and pseudoscientific window-dressing are products of my own imagination, the basic ideas that the model put forth were common coin just a few decades ago. Why, then, would the hypothetical provoker/confabulator model now be likely to be dismissed with derision, while the long-discredited and fundamentally flawed Bailey-Blanchard-Lawrence fetishist/effeminate gay man model can be published by an imprint of the National Academy of Sciences? Why can the proponent of such pseudoscience, after being exposed, be portrayed in the media as the victim, and those who seek to counteract his propaganda as the aggressors?


I would submit that the answer ultimately lies in the hypothetical case. What happened that caused the scientific community and the public to go from generally accepting the ideas about rape underlying the hypothetical provoker/confabulator model to recognising it as the misogynistic nonsense it is? The data did not change. The ideas underlying the model were no more objectively valid before than they are now. However, the political position of victims of sexual assault has changed. Through the feminist movements, these and other (cisgendered) women have demanded a voice in defining their lives and their experiences, and their fundamental right to self-determination and personal autonomy. One sign of the moderate success they have enjoyed in these efforts is the fact that a proponent of a model of rape like the hypothetical one sketched above would be immediately recognised by most as a misogynist and an apologist for rapists.


Trans women, on the other hand, have not yet been successful in their struggle to define their own lives and experiences, much less in vindicating their right to meaningful personal autonomy. Because of this, the proponents of the BBL model can play to the media (the only forum left since their colleagues have long since rejected it), and expect the prevailing climate of ignorance and cissexism to prepare fertile ground for their propaganda. However, the response of a number of trans women – scientists, educators, lawyers, and others – to The Man who would be Queen is a definite step in the right direction. Their immediate efforts to debunk the BBL pseudoscience and document the severe methodological and ethical irregularities of Bailey’s work[6] successfully led to Bailey’s forced resignation from his post as department chair at Northwestern, and caused the National Academy of Sciences to remove his book from their website. While those who would seek to prevent trans women telling their own stories on their own terms were quick to cry “censorship” and blame the justified outrage of those defamed by Bailey’s work on “political correctness” or “identity politics”, it is only through persistent, vocal, and public challenges to bigoted propaganda such as Bailey’s that the ideological climate will be forced to catch up to the realities of trans women’s lives.



[1] Available online at: http://www.chomsky.info/articles/19711230.htm

[2] The BBL model categorically denies that trans women are, in fact, women, and thus considers trans women who are attracted to men to be “homosexual”.

[3] Available in full text online at: http://web.archive.org/web/20041010020208/books.nap.edu/books/0309084180/html/1.html#pagetop

[4] While much could be said about references to “souls” in a work that claims to be grounded in the scientific method and based on “research”, there are much bigger fish to fry.

[5] From the Greek allo- meaning other and andro meaning man/male.

[6] See, e.g., NAS member Lynn Conway’s documentation at http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/LynnsReviewOfBaileysBook.html