The Man Who Would be Queen: The Science of Gender – Bending and Transsexualism (2003) by Michael Bailey is a fascinating book that looks at sexuality and transgenderism from the scientific viewpoint. It’s a highly controversial book that has seen Bailey viciously targeted because many people don’t like the theories it puts forward for political reasons.
Bailey starts the book with the story of Danny, a boy who as a two year old liked to dress in women’s clothing and play with dolls. Bailey says that by looking at Danny’s behaviour he believes that he has a good idea of how Danny will turn out as an adult.
He then also talks about surgically altering children with ambiguous genitalia and attempting to make them into one gender or another. This frequently goes wrong and inflicts huge pain on the subjects. Bailey uses this to point out that gender and sexuality are very much driven by genetics.
Bailey goes on to look at how genetics influence homosexuality and the way twin studies and other studies have show how genetics again drives this. This part of the book also frequently says that ‘this group believes X, this other group believes not X and Y’ and overall I believe X or Y. It’s a really nice and honest way to write about unclear scientific issues and it’s great to see.
The book then shifts to transsexualism and Bailey puts forward the controversial idea that is attributed to Ray Blanchard that there are two types of transsexualism, homosexual transsexualism performed on very effeminate homosexuals who at a young age wish to become women in large part to attract men and what Bailey terms autogynephilic transsexuals who are heterosexual transsexuals who are aroused by having a female body and who love the female body.
Bailey puts forward considerable evidence for this theory including case studies and more work from Blanchard. It’s hard to dismiss and a really interesting idea.
The book is pleasantly short and is really fascinating. For anyone who wants to know what the controversy is about it’s definitely worth a read.