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little to worry about

If you want to see what a confused and garbled mess the work of J. Micheal Bailey is, I attach some excerpts from his book followed by my commentary. I have also emphasized in bold one particularly bizarre passage:

“Autogynephilic cross-dressing usually begins in late childhood or early adolescence, but this does not mean that it is not biological. (Pubic hair also begins at adolescence.) Some autogynephiles claim that they have early memories of their condition, such as the desire to be female. I have tended to be skeptical about these memories, but a recent case seen by psychologist Ken Zucker at the Clarke Institute has made me more open-minded. This was a three-year-old boy whose mother had brought him in to the clinic because of his cross-dressing, which she first observed at around age two. According to the mother, the boy wore her or his sisters' underwear, lingerie, slips, and nighties. The mother also reported that (at age three!) he got erections when looking at women's clothing in magazine advertisements, and he would demand that she buy the items he was viewing. His cross-dressing was sporadic, rather than continuous, and it did not appear to reflect early femininity-he did not say he wanted to be a girl or have other feminine interests, for example. The most fascinating development came when Zucker interviewed the father, who admitted that he had cross-dressed erotically since adolescence. There was no indication that the boy had ever seen his father do this or had any opportunity to learn the behavior from him. I predict (as does Zucker) that when he grows up, the boy is very likely to have some variety of autogynephilia. His early onset also smells biological, though as I stressed, early onset is not a necessary component of innate behavior.

Highly relevant to the nature-nurture question is whether autogynephilia has occurred in most cultures and times. In fact, there is only very limited evidence about its occurrence prior to Magnus Hirschfeld's classic work, Die Transvestiten, published in 1910. There are a few more-or-less definitive accounts, such as the Abbe de Choisy, who lived in France from 1644 until 1724. Although the historical record does not document Choisy's masturbatory habits (he was, after all, a cleric), it is clear that he was a heterosexual cross-dresser. He was romantically drawn to women, whom he preferred dressed as men. In fact, he once arranged a marriage ceremony in which he dressed as the bride, and the woman as the groom. He clearly experienced cross-dressing, and particularly being admired as a woman, as erotic. He had periods in which he felt guilty about his unusual preoccupation and purged, just as contemporary cross-dressers do.

The cross-cultural occurrence of autogynephilia has not been well established (in contrast to homosexual transsexualism, which has been). This is not surprising. It is probably rare, secretive, and poorly understood. On the other hand, I expect that it occurs everywhere. Blanchard has seen autogynephilic transsexualism in immigrants from Europe and Asia.

In order to progress scientifically toward the causes of autogynephilia, it will be useful to keep in mind that autogynephilia seems to be a type of paraphilia. Paraphilias comprise a set of unusual sexual preferences that include autogynephilia, masochism, sadism, exhibitionism (i.e., exposing one's genitals to strangers for sexual excitement), frotteurism (rubbing oneself against strangers, such as in a crowded bus, for sexual excitement), necrophilia, bestiality, and pedophilia. Because some of these preferences (especially pedophilia) are harmful, I hesitated to link them to autogynephilia, which is not harmful. But there are two reasons to think that these sexual preferences have some causes in common. First, all paraphilias occur exclusively (or nearly exclusively) in men. Second, paraphilias tend to go together. If a man has one paraphilia, then his chances of having any other paraphilia seem to be highly elevated. The best established link is between autogynephilia and masochism. There is a dangerous masochistic practice called "autoerotic asphyxia," in which a man strangles himself, usually by hanging, for sexual reasons. Although autoerotic asphyxiasts arrange an escape hatch-for example, a well placed stool they can stand on before it's too late-sometimes things go wrong. Perhaps 100 American men every per year die in this way. About one-fourth of the time, these men are found wearing some article of women's clothing, such as panties. There is no obvious reason why autoerotic asphyxia should require cross-dressing. Apparently, these men are both masochistic and autogynephilic. Cross-dressing has also been linked to sexual sadism-although most autogynephiles are not sexual sadists, they are more likely to be sadists compared with men who are not autogynephilic”

Not only is this writing style and content not the least bit academic or scientific but it makes wild leaps without any basis in proven fact. Bailey uses the term "Autogynephilia" as if it were an unquestionable and undisputed condition which of course it is not. The attempt is to convince the reader that the draw towards the feminine in male to female gynephilic transsexuals is exclusively sourced in cross gender arousal.

However even more disturbing is the insinuation that transgender people might possess several paraphilias such as the aforementioned "autoerotic asphyxia", sadism or bestiality clearly showing he has not spent much time with any of us.

Bailey, just like Anne Lawrence in one of her essays, even goes the extra mile here to trot out a dubious case of a 3 year old getting erections while looking at a women's clothing in a catalogue 9 years before he hits puberty. The message one is supposed to take away from all this is that we might be biologically born perverts and at least we can take solace in the fact that it's not our fault.

Comparing this work to Harry Benjamin's is like comparing the work of Ernest Hemingway to comic books and from a truly scientific standpoint, this analysis is a complete and utter disaster. Thankfully it confirms that if this is the level of academic rigor offered by some in the sexologist community to discredit trans people, we have very little to worry about.


  1. I also don't like the tone of his writing. Perhaps I am just reacting to my disagreement with his statements and find myself frustrated that I can't respond. In particular I was amazed how he seems to question people telling him about their early childhood experiences and thinking. I imagine this is because he finds it difficult to fit into his explanation and theory. Therefore he dismisses what doesn't fit.

    About Anne Lwarence: I've also heard from a gender therapist that much of Dr. Lawrence's writing is questionable but I don't know why. Have you written about her elsewhere or have a reference?

    About Harry Benjamin: the same therapist told me that she (like others) highly regards his work. Okay, but for some reason I find that his Sexual Orientation Scale really bugs me. I guess it feels like I'm being categorized into someone who is a fetishisht. Or not really or fully transgender. (I do understand and accept that transsexuals are together with us under that umbrella we talk about.) Maybe I'm like Bailey in that, since the SOS scale doesn't agree with me I want to dismiss it? I hope not, as I like to think of myself as being more open minded than that.


  2. Emma I recommend you read the transsexual phenomenon as a start. I have written about Anne Lawrence before in my blog and you will find most of her essays online. Suggest you start with the one titled "Men Trapped in Men's Bodies" to understand her position on this. She self identifies as an autogynephilic transsexual who read Blanchard's work and immediately resonated with it.

    Benjamin's scale was not perfect because you cannot capture everyone with such an instrument. Still he was an endocrinologist who saw more patients in his lifetime than any other person in this field. His work is the gold standard without question.

  3. Bailey does much the same thing as Blanchard in that he does indeed dismiss the experiences of those people who don't agree with his hypothesis while playing up the ones who do such as that 3 year old. It is actually quite shameful that these people are actually taken seriously by anyone.


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