Bailey on Blanchard
In the defamatory book The Man
Who Would Be Queen , pop psychologist J.
Michael Bailey expresses profound admiration for his mentor:
Ray Blanchard, Head of the Clinical
Sexology Program of the Clarke Institute
of Psychiatry in Toronto, knows more about transsexuals than just about anyone
else. Like so many sex researchers, Blanchard 's introduction to sex research
was fortuitous rather than intentional
In 1980 Blanchard took a job
at the Clarke, where he has remained, recently taking [Kurt] Freund's position
after his death. (157)
Blanchard is irreverent, cynical, and politically incorrect. During the opening
ceremony of the International Academy
of Sex Research, during the eulogies for members who died during the previous
year, he regularly engages in wickedly entertaining whispered commentary about
the deceased, unsentimentally recalled. (158)
Bailey considers him a role model:
Academics remember each other by their "contributions," or ideas
that make a mark, ideas that get the attention of other academics, motivating
others to study the same thing. Blanchard has made two contributions so far.
Blanchards observations about homosexuality and birth order have led
him to the gay germ hypothesis:
Psychologist Ray Blanchard has found that gay men tend to be later born sons
in a series of brothers
Blanchard has obtained this same result in more
than 10 studies, so we can have confidence in it. He theorizes that the "older
brother effect" is a biological one, caused by the mother's immune system,
which reacts increasingly to a succession of male fetuses
response affects brain development and, in particular, the sexual differentiation
of the brain. Blanchard is in the early stages of testing the immune hypothesis,
so we don't yet know if it's true. (111)
Blanchard has also put forward a disease model for gender variance which Bailey
and Blanchard find intriguing:
But I think his more revolutionary contribution has been to the classification
and explanation of transsexualism. In a series of articles beginning in 1985
and continuing for about a decade, Blanchard established that there are two
very different types of men who change into women, who have very different
presentations, motivations, and probably, causes. Blanchard 's observations
transformed male-to-female transsexualism from a seemingly chaotic and bizarre
collection of phenomena into two straightforward and clinically comprehensible
Bailey believes the "pathology" of gender variance will be found
by comparing symptoms, and that research of this supposed disease will proceed
like AIDS research:
Eventually, they hypothesized that these were all consequences of the same
infection, and when it was possible to test for HIV, its presence was confirmed
in virtually all cases. Ray Blanchard 's contribution to transsexual science
was of the lumping variety Distinguishing "homosexual," "heterosexual,"
"bisexual," and "asexual" transsexuals diagnostically
makes sense only if the different types have fundamentally different causes.
Bailey and Blanchard believe this second type of transsexual is
in reality a subgroup of crossdressers with what Blanchard calls autogynephilia:
While cross-dressed, they typically pretend to be women: taking female names,
trying to walk and sometimes talk like women. According to Blanchard , even
crossdressers who do not want to change their sex have autogynephilia, which
they share with nonhomosexual transsexuals. (164)
The difference between a crossdresser and a transsexual in this model is the
severity of the disease:
Blanchard hypothesized that the type of autogynephilia that a man has should
predict whether the man would become transsexual. A cross-dresser with only
transvestitic or behavioral autogynephilia can probably satisfy his urges
by periodically cross-dressing in private or in the company of other transvestites.
Why would Blanchard appeal to someone like Lawrence?
Anne Lawrence is the primary promoter
of "autogynephilia," which allows Dr. Lawrence's behavior and erotic
interest to sound more socially acceptable. Blanchard advances the claim that
crossdressers are born and not made:
Blanchard 's conceptualization of cross-dressing, as arousal by an image
of oneself as a woman, is very different from the idea of a fetish. Conceptualized
Blanchard 's way, it is difficult to see how cross-dressing could arise through
By taking crossdressing out of the category of lifestyle choice
and into the category of sex-fueled mental illness one is born with, behavior
that is considered socially unacceptable is now an innate medical condition
one cannot help.
In the way that most crossdressers are not interested in therapy, this model
bypasses the talking cure and skips to chemical or surgical interventions:
Blanchard 's ideas have not yet received the widespread attention they deserve,
in large part because sex researchers are not as scholarly as they should
be and so don't read the current scientific journals. And although Blanchard
's ideas are fundamental to an understanding of transsexualism, they might
not matter that much for helping transsexuals, which most clinicians have
as their first priority. With luck, the next revision of the DSM will distinguish
"homosexual" from "autogynephilic" transsexualism. (176)
This explains Dr. Lawrence's interest in hormones and surgery and not in therapy
and socialization. Dr. Lawrence believes in better living through chemistry,
just like another transgender doctor who self-administered hormones:
... you better get on Thorazine or Zoloft or Prozac or get locked up or do
whatever it takes to keep you from being allowed to do something like this.
-- Renée Richards (1999)
It is understandable that people with medical training would have faith that
medical intervention will cure their "disease," but Richards' regrets
and Lawrence's loss of career suggest that the disease model does not adequately
explain this phenomenon, and that chemicals and surgery are only part of the
It is interesting to note that Anne Lawrence and Marci
Bowers both transitioned within the same hospital group in Seattle. Dr.
Lawrence resigned amid a scandal and lack of acceptance following transition.
Dr. Bowers continued to run a thriving OB/GYN practice, even though her involvement
with female patients was significantly more personal and intimate than Dr. Lawrence's
anesthesiology job. Bailey and Blanchard would claim they are the same "type,"
so why such different reactions to their transitions? The answer to that question
goes to the heart of the problem with Blanchard's taxonomy, and it will have
to wait for another essay.
For now, suffice it to say that Anne Lawrence is heavily invested in being
considered a "real transsexual," as she noted on annelawrence. com,
even though my encounter
with Dr. Lawrence was charged with "the unmistakable presence of a
lust being satisfied," which Dr. Lawrence notes as a hallmark of crossdressing.
Why would Blanchard appeal to someone like Bailey?
Bailey starts off his section on transsexuals asserting he is a "single,
heterosexual man." (142) Later he returns to his mentor:
Ray Blanchard is the only researcher who has studied men who are sexually
attracted to she-males. (Blanchard calls men with sexual interest in she-males
"gynandromorphophiles." ... Blanchard thinks that a significant
number of men who want she-males are "partial autogynephiles" they
are primarily aroused to the image of themselves as shemale. Blanchard says
that the men are not gay but are more like "scrambled up heterosexual
men. The transsexuals I know who worked as she-male prostitutes confirmed
this. "There was nothing gay about those men," said one, who knows
plenty about gay men. (187)
Suddenly, a "single heterosexual man" can maintain that self-identity
while he's attracted to "a type of gay man" (178). Perhaps Bailey
should rename his two classifications "Hot" and "Not":
If Blanchard and I saw the same 100 transsexuals, I would be surprised if
we disagreed on more than 2. But most readers will not have met a single transsexual
of either type, and even most clinicians who see gender patients are not used
to thinking about them this way. (192)
Blanchard's appeal to his academically stunted progeny might be best looked
at from a disease model as well. By lumping the types of sexologists who gravitate
to his ideas, we can start to understand more about the origins of Blanchard's
unfortunate mind virus, the meme of "autogynephilia."
In future essays, I will look at why Blanchard's meme about gender variance
appeals to unsophisticated gay sexologists like James
Cantor and Simon LeVay as well.
In the meantime, I will continue to look at ways to cure therapists who might
have been exposed to this toxic recombination of science and ideology
and prevent future infections from occuring by isolating the carriers.
Originally published 13 November 2003.
1. Bailey JM. The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and
Transsexualism. Joseph Henry Press, 2003. Parenthetical numbers throughout this
essay refer to page numbers in the book. Links within quotations were added
by the reviewer.
2. Lawrence AA. Book Review: Normal. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Volume 32,
Number 4, August 2003, p. 387.