Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Day in Neverland

The Neverland Essence Narrative and latent homosexuality

by Curtis E. Hinkle
Available on OII's website:

Blanchard, Bailey and Dreger have attempted to deconstruct what they call the “feminine essence narrative”. Their articles and analysis are replete with internal contradictions and lack of empirical data. Some of the illogical fallacies included are: 1) In comparing male to female transsexuals to natal women, lesbians are not even considered as a possible control group for male to female transsexuals who are attracted to women. Instead, Blanchard suggests that homosexual transsexuals (those who are attracted to men) are the proper control group for autogynephiles. 2) Bailey pretends that he doesn’t even know what a gender identity is. However, he has a clear gender identity because he states in the very book in which he questions the validity of a gender identity that he is a heterosexual man. 3) According to Bailey, all males are gay or straight. Bisexuals are simply gay men in denial. On the other hand, he puts bisexual males who transition to female into the autogynephilic category, instead of the homosexual transsexual category. If males who say they are bisexual are really gay men, how can they fit into any other of his two transsexual categories than homosexual transsexual? 4) Women are basically bisexual according to Bailey. If so, are most natal women in denial? Wouldn’t natal women, make a perfect control group for male-to-female transsexuals as both are said to be in denial? Wouldn’t feminine lesbians, in particular, and not so-called “homosexual transsexuals”, make a perfect control group for so called autogynephilic transsexuals, since each claim NOT to be male oriented?

Recently, I read a few articles written by Blanchard, Dreger and Bailey. Everything I read was full of contradictions, illogical assumptions and binary sex categories that left me feeling I had spent a day on Neverland, the fantasy island in Peter Pan where children never grow up. The simplistic, often contradictory binary logic with overwhelming focus on male sexuality reminded me of the locker room fantasies of adolescent boys stranded on Neverland who have absolutely no idea of female sexuality whatsoever.

One of the articles I read was entitled Deconstructing the Feminine Essence Narrative by Blanchard. In this article he is writing about his proposed theory of transsexualism based on the sexual orientation of the individual and not the person's gender identity (or feminine essence narrative). First of all, I want to be clear that I am convinced that Blanchard's observations of certain behaviors in "men" seeking sex reassignment are correct and that there are those who would fall into the category he has proposed. That is not what seems so illogical and basically "Neverland" about the theory. What is conspicuous is that female sexuality is totally banned from this Neverland adventure into male-to-female transsexualism. This is very problematic because there is no possibility of deconstructing the feminine essence narrative, the alleged purpose of the essay by Blanchard, without a thorough understanding and description of female sexuality since Blanchard's theory is based on sexual orientation, not gender identity, per se.

Blanchard wrote in his article:

The notion that typical natal females are erotically aroused by—and sometimes even masturbate to—the thought or image of themselves as women might seem feasible if one considers only conventional, generic fantasies of being a beautiful, alluring woman in the act of attracting a handsome, desirable man.

This tells me more about Blanchard than the autogynephiles (who are transwomen attracted to other women) he is writing about. How could he possibly compare autogynephiles with heterosexual natal women as the control group? Why would Blanchard assume that typical natal females would necessarily be interested in attracting a handsome, desirable man? Many are interested in attracting a beautiful, desirable woman, just like the autogynephiles he is supposedly describing. Would it have to do with the constant focus on the male phallus? It certainly appears the case and is symptomatic of what I call the Neverland Essence Narrative – (phallo-centric sexual ideation generalized as a description of the only "real" sexuality that counts). Has this man never heard of femme lesbians? Wouldn't this be a more promising control group to consider? What is striking is that lesbianism is not even part of the discourse when talking about natal women, much less femme lesbians.

In the same article, Blanchard wrote:

Proponents of the feminine essence theory could argue that it is an empirical question whether heterosexual male-to-female transsexuals manifest a higher prevalence of autogynephilia than do natal females. My view, in contrast, is that the correct control group for such (necessarily survey) research is not natal females but rather homosexual male-to-female transsexuals, and that the results of such research have already shown that autogynephilia is characteristic of heterosexual transsexuals (Blanchard, 1989a).

Once again Blanchard exhibits the same logical fallacy. Instead of considering natal females as a control group, he posits that the best control group for understanding autogynephiles is made up of male to female transsexuals who are attracted to men. How odd! If the basic categories of his theory of transsexualism are defined by sexual orientation, why use a control group with an orientation towards men? Well, it seems clear. In the previous paragraph, he did not even consider the fact that there are women who have no desire for male partners. It was almost a given in his characterization of women that desiring male sex partners was the primary definition for "woman". Although he knows that lesbians exist, his text and his discourse on female sexuality (which is almost invisible) are so phallocentric that either consciously or unconsciously, there is no real representation of the wide range of diversity characteristic of female sexuality in the text even though he is supposedly talking about natal females. Very typical of the Neverland Essence Narrative. Even when talking about natal females and female sexuality, it is all based on MALE sexual orientation. It has nothing whatsoever to do with female sexuality, femininity and eroticism in femme lesbians, the female body or sensuality.

In this article, Blanchard was defending both J. Michael Bailey and Dreger who is a great fan of Bailey's. In an article by Dreger in defense of her colleague at Northwestern University, she quotes Bailey:

"gender identity… what the hell does that mean?" p 50 of his his book, The Man who would be Queen.

Who is Bailey trying to fool? I would like for Bailey to spend just one day with many of the intersexed people in the Organisation Intersex International if he really would like to meet a group of people who in fact do wonder what the hell a gender identity is because to many of us there is no defined gender identity (or feminine essence narrative or masculine essence narrative) which can be PRESCRIBED by the gatekeepers which fit with our own sense of self which can be very fluid and undefined within a binary gender identity construct. OII has many intersexed people who have an undefined gender identity and who really do question the validity of any of the "essence narratives" as valid in prescribing a gender identity for them at birth. However, when one reads Bailey's book and his articles, his question seems artificial, almost hypocritical because elsewhere in the same book, he makes it clear he identifies as a heterosexual MAN.

Quote from the "Queen" book by Bailey:

Bailey confirms this opinion when he describes his own sexual response (only) to homosexual transsexuals: "It is difficult to avoid viewing Kim from two perspectives: as a researcher but also as a single, heterosexual man" (p. 141).

Bailey knows quite well what a gender identity is and he is very explicit in informing us that he is not only a man but a heterosexual man. This is interesting because the particular woman he is sexually aroused by is described by Bailey himself as a "male". Very interesting indeed.

In another article by Bailey, who supposedly supports Blanchard's taxonomy of all male-to-female transsexuals as either homosexual transsexuals (those who are attracted to men) and autogynephilic (including those who are asexual and those who are attracted to women or who are bisexual), I was surprised that Bailey insists that bisexuality does not exist in males. How contradictory! There was an article in the New York Times which analyzed Bailey's research which allegedly proves that all males are gay or straight or lying. In other words, males who say they are bisexual are really gay men in denial.

Let's follow the logical fallacy here which is characteristic of the fundamental empirical flaw of Blanchard and Bailey's theories – anyone who does not agree with their definition of them is in denial or a liar. However, when you compare Bailey's research on bisexuality with his research on autogynephilia, it is clear who is in denial of empirical data: Blanchard and Bailey themselves.

On the one hand, their theory and taxonomy for male to female transsexualism does include bisexuality as a real orientation for m to f transsexuals. However, they both put bisexual m to f transsexuals, who transition to female, in the autogynephilic category. But wait. Bailey has concluded that bisexuality does not exist in males. They are all gay men in denial. So how can Bailey put someone who by their definition, is a gay male, in the autogynephilic category, which EXCLUDES male to female transsexuals, who are attracted exclusively to males and whom they call “homosexual transsexuals”? Wouldn't bisexual male to female transsexuals also fit their definition of gay men in denial? Wouldn't they have to be categorized according to their taxonomy instead, as “homosexual transsexuals”? The problem with this "research" is that it is not based on empirical evidence which can be falsified. It is based on Blanchard's and Bailey's own Neverland Essence Narrative projected on to all the subjects of their research. And typical of this lack of empirical methods, Bailey concluded that all females are basically bisexual – once again, female sexuality was dismissed and phallocentric arousal remains the only important criteria for categorizing all people. Neverland at its worst.

The fundamental flaw of Blanchard's, Bailey's and Dreger's attempt to deconstruct the feminine essence narrative, is their inability to see anything beyond male/female, and to conceive of a world which is not based on what makes a male's penis erect. I prefer the real world which is full of diversity where a whole spectrum of sex variations exist with some people who have no defined gender identity and for whom NO prescribed gender within the binary will ever categorize them. I prefer to conceptualize a world, where female sexuality exists, where feminine lesbians and their sensuality exist, and where the whole world does not revolve around what makes a penis erect. Neverland is especially well-suited for those who have a monochromatic vision disorder (no real rainbows on this island) with only shades of black and white where the only attraction is the ebb and flow of the inhabitants' own phallocentric erection fantasies.

In conclusion, what did I learn from this foray into Neverland? Not much really. But I did learn something about the people who pretend to be deconstructing the feminine essence narrative and questioning the very concept of gender identity as a valid construct for describing transsexuality. Bailey, Blanchard and Dreger have done absolutely nothing to deconstruct gender identity as a binary or gender identity itself. They have simply prescribed a "masculine essence narrative" on all the subjects of their discourse (male to female transsexuals) with focus on the phallus and what makes it erect in coming up with a new taxonomy for transsexualism. This is about gender policing, not science. There is nothing in the Neverland Essence Narrative that can even fathom the undefined gender identity of many intersexed people who know that NO prescribed gender (feminine or masculine) applies to them.

Now, back to reality which is a lot more interesting, complex and diverse. I will leave Neverland to those who want to perpetuate narcissistic visions of their own budding masculine essence narrative and who never developed any concept that women and intersex people really do exist. Bye-bye Neverland.