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

3.14  ·  Rating details ·  228 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Gay. Straight. Or lying. It's as simple and straightforward as black or white, right? Or is there a gray area, where the definitions of sex and gender become blurred or entirely refocused with the deft and practiced use of a surgeon's knife? For some, the concept of gender ? the very idea we have of ourselves as either male or female beings ? is neither simple nor straight ...more
Hardcover, 249 pages
Published March 10th 2003 by Joseph Henry Press (first published January 1st 2003)
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Jul 03, 2010 rated it did not like it
You guys. Oh. My. God. Do you know this book? Okay, basically, this guy- J Michael Bailey- and a couple other people who blurb this book, or whom he cites in this book, they are in charge of deciding how to frame and classify transsexuality in the upcoming DSM V, ie the official Dungeon Master's Guide of Psychology. Okay.

So, notoriously, to anyone who cares at all about trans people, these folks are clearly wingnuts. But since they have PhDs in psychology from respectable schools, and people wh
Seaby Brown
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Sharad Pandian
I read this book because it set off a massive controversy involving some transgender activists, as well as parts of the medical establishment, and I'll try to talk about why later on. Overall, the book reads like a pop-science review of the culture and science of gay men, intersex individuals, and trans people. The feature that stands out throughout the book is Bailey's willingness to take seriously connections between gender identity, sexuality, and associated stereotypes.

To understand how the
Jun 05, 2022 rated it really liked it

The supposed "controversy" of this book only reveals how much the Overton window on transsexuals has shifted over the past 20 years. Bailey is nothing if not sympathetic, but at the same time takes a reasonable biological approach to homosexuals and transsexuals. What can we say of them and their causes?

It is certain that homosexuals begin life as highly feminine males. The average homosexual male is more feminine than 90% of heterosexual men. Homosexual men can be detected by their high-pi
It reads like a puff piece in the Daily Mail and is about as scientifically rigorous. If you want to learn about trans women you'd be better off banging a wooden spoon on a bucket: you will learn just as much of use and relevance, and you'll make a fun noise. ...more
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, nonfiction
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 t
May 05, 2014 rated it did not like it
i don't think anyone can succinctly describe how loathsome this book is but here are some quick bullet points:
* J. Michael Bailey is 100% certain he knows the entire history of every person he meets including their gendered behavior as a child [he has perfect stats at Gaydar, Transperson Detecting]
* J. Michael Bailey quite probably manipulated his findings by writing recommendations for surgery for participants
* despite this book being labeled as science the only reason J. Michael Bailey wasn't
Daniel Berger
Sep 06, 2013 rated it liked it
This book is gathering rather strong opinions. I'm a physical scientist, and the standard of evidence in psychology is necessarily looser because people are not as well-behaved as atoms and molecules. But some of the negative critiques have a distinct flavor of gored oxen, quick-fried to a crackly crunch.

I don't have the background in psych to judge the standard of research quality or the state of the art. But I did observe these things:

* Bailey is typically careful to distinguish between his o
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great, honest, take on something that people lie about endlessly.
Jan 31, 2013 rated it did not like it
In the opening chapter, Bailey writes about meeting a man named Edwin, who is very feminine. Bailey says that he knows what Edwin was like as a child - played with dolls, hated sports, teased for being a sissy, etc. He also says that he knows that Edwin likes men, and that it is very likely that he will transition to female in the future. But he doesn't ask Edwin about any of these things - he doesn't need to, because he's a psychologist and he's done tons of research on these kinds of things!

Apr 13, 2015 rated it did not like it
Here's an idea: if you're going to write a book about transgender people, how about you treat them respectfully?

The author starts out with a discussion about Edwin, a person he met for a few seconds. In those few seconds, the author has miraculously understood the entirety of Edwin's past and has 100 percent accurately foretold Edwin's future. Edwin is a feminine gay man, according to Bailey. Edwin likes to have sex with men. Bailey knows what type of person Edwin is sexually attracted to. Baile
Dec 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Still processing my thoughts. I was surprised when reading this that it was written as late as 2003, and not ten or fifteen years' prior, because so much of Bailey's language is no longer standard and his casual tone would be highly criticised. A lot's changed, but not much has changed either. I have to read more books and think more before I come out properly with my own views, because this is such a sensitive topic and I don't want my hasty ignorance to hurt anyone, but it is a topic that, whe ...more
Nov 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Overall an interesting read. The author adopts an authoritative voice in areas perhaps where more circumspection might be called for. I do appreciate where the author is explicit in his speculations, but there are points where that is less clear. I remain skeptical of the whole definition of autogynephilia, it just seems absurd in some ways, but maybe I'm not understanding his definition. Would it be possible that this is not an eroticization of being or dressing as a woman, but some other inner ...more
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A must read. Bailey's writing is so easy to read. Does Bailey stereotype a little? Yes, but his anecdotes are good natured and entertaining. I think this book has aged incredibly well and still incredibly relevant, while others focused on overly simplistic notions of a 'gay gene', Bailey focuses on brain masculinization in fetal development. I think Bailey is nonjudgemental, a friend to gay and trans people, as well as someone who is lead where the scientific evidence takes him (even if it means ...more
Aug 21, 2007 rated it liked it
Oh, Professor Bailey! This book has caused much controversy and headache for my human sexuality professor. I like him, and I think this book is decent. It's anecdotal research on different cases of transexualism and theories regarding how it develops, why, and the differences are between 2 main types of transexualsim. Good read if you want to open your eyes to a mindset/'condition' you never think twice about. ...more
Feb 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
A book my brother recommended with the disclaimer of biased science. I actually really enjoyed it and found many of Bailey's arguments fascinating. I would recommend it it anyone who has an interest in gender or queer theory. Apparently this book has caused a great deal of controversy. See:


Sep 08, 2013 added it
Moved to gwern.net. ...more
Jul 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: gender
I decided to read this after listening to an episode of physicist Sean Carroll’s podcast with Alice Dreger about (among other topics) possible tensions between the search for (uncomfortable) truth and for justice. Dreger brought up the controversy between Bailey and the transgender activist community caused by this book, and I was intrigued to learn whether this was really an example of truth being suppressed by activism or something else.

Positives first: I do think the book has some redeeming q
I read this book partly because I'm mulling over the issue in my own mind, but mostly in preparation for Alice Dreger's Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science for which book Bailey's book was the catalyst.

I haven't finished Dreger's book yet, but I agree with her assessment of this book in that you do get the sense that Bailey really wants the people he writes about to be happy while at the same time having absolutely no clue about how tone deaf some
Molly Octopus
Oct 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
Sep 7, 2018: I had rated this book highly after I first read it in 2013; I didn't know that an academic refutation had been published a few years prior. Watching this video ("Autogynephilia" by ContraPoints) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6czRF...] completely changed my perspective on the theories presented by the author. By conflating a small minority of some individuals' experience to an entire group of diverse peoples' experiences, I believe the author and this book's underlying theories ar ...more
Jun 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short and very clear read, where anecdote and evidence-based science were clearly separated. I thought it was extremely sympathetic to its subjects, and allowed space for you (as a reader) to think about existing and possible responses to gender non-conformity in natal males.

I read this after Galileo's Middle Finger and was glad I did so. I hope Mr Bailey writes something similar about natal females.
Nov 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
presents the "other side" of "transgender" from a man who had sex reassignment surgery, has lived decades in "the life" and speaks the truth. S/he doesn't flinch from the sad consequences, while placing her choice in context of history.
This is fraught subject that needs the author's perspective on what is a medical problem. A point that has been lost in the politicization of individual's health choices.
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
4,7 ⭐ Analytical & empathetic (bordering on admiration) of/for transwomen. Certain people on the social medias won't like his conclusions. I find them very plausible & it helpes me understand the different paths of transwomen better. ...more
John Chen
Mar 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
J. Michael Bailey is certainly not an activist, rather a thoughtful researcher first and foremost. Still, his work here is bound to activate something in all of us.... at the least curiosity if not a passionate thrill or revulsion. Although provocative, Bailey's book offers keen insights and personal deliberations on the research available in the early half of the 21st century (conducted mostly in the latter part of the 20th century) on sexuality and gender dysphoria/formerly GID. He even pays h ...more
James Peter
Sep 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
Interesting read. I give it four stars as I feel like it misses the point sometimes, but overall it sheds light on some interesting aspects of the lives and minds of gay men and the two main types of transsexuals (homosexual transsexuals and non-homosexual transsexuals, with a focus on the former). This topic is of particular interest to me as I am an adult (masculine) gay man who used to be a feminine gender-dysphoric boy just like Danny, whom we are introduced to in the book. If I'd been hones ...more
Lily Ruban
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The researches cited in the book as well as Bailey's intuitions (sometimes put too raw and I understand that they may not look plausible to those readers who haven't been around transsexuals folks) did coincide with mine. I enjoyed reading something as sobre and like-minded (like mindedness here comes from a genuine implicated being on the side of LGBT communities along with escaping the political correctness beyond reason).

It is a pity Bailey has had to adopt the tone of a debate in this book,
Aug 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
I find the topic fascinating, and it is interesting to read the different perspectives of researchers, I found the authors assertions at time insulting, un-researched ("Well, my gay friends say this, and they must speak for EVERY SINGLE GAY MAN IN AMERICA!"). Other times the theories he put forth were of the "well, duh" variety. Perhaps I've read too much in this vein, but little of the content was new information for me. ...more
Andel Bailey
Apr 10, 2010 rated it liked it
With me being very open to my sexuality I decided to read this book. I've been with both men and women and remain open to the idea that love comes in different forms. I'm willing to accept and embrace that idea. Although I am against transgender. I believe when a person is born into this world, no matter their differences, they should accept who they are. It scares me to think of the technology we have today. One can literally change anything they don't like about themselves physically...fuck! ...more
Jordyn Banks
Feb 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
I have to give Bailey credit. He wrote, "it is not surprising that the typical television viewer has only superficial knowledge about transsexuals when many 'experts' who make their livings working with them do not understand transsexuals very well." (p. 143). Then spent the rest of the book proving that very point. So assuming that was his thesis, this is excellent work. ...more
Feb 07, 2013 rated it liked it
The last thing my skewed up mind needed. He makes a lot of what seem at first glance like sweeping generalizations about gay and transsexual behavior, and stereotypes. No wonder, it received a lot of backlash.
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