Ray Blanchard –
Resignation from the HBIGDA
[Abstract] Full Text [PDF]
Ray Blanchard, Ph.D. has been a rather controversial figure in the world of transgender studies. In particular with his work on Autogynephilia and the Taxonomy of Gender. One of the main complaints has been his poor sampling and statistical significance of data gathered. Some say his data is researcher biased and lacks validity. Nevertheless, it is worth reading – see this link.
In November 2003 he resigned from the HBIGDA (The Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association). Here is some information surrounding his resignation.
Tuesday, November 4, 2003:
Blanchard resigns in a huff from HBIGDA!
On November 4, 2003, Ray Blanchard resigned from HBIGDA, the association of clinicians and researchers working in the area of gender dysphoria, transgenderism and transsexualism. A copy of his resignation letter is attached below.
Blanchard’s resignation came in response to dissemination of open letter from HBIGDA regarding J. Michael Bailey’s book on transsexualism, which among other things said that:
“trust and mutual respect between the scientific and the transgender communities is essential . . . to promote the health and well-being of transgender and transsexual individuals and their families. It is felt by many of our members that this poorly referenced book does not reflect the social and scientific literature that exists on transsexual people and could damage that essential trust.”
– HBIGDA Officers and Board of Directors, October 20, 2003
Well now, just who is Blanchard and what does his resignation from HBIGDA mean in the overall context of the Bailey fiasco? We’ll explore these questions here (for more details about Blanchard and his work, see Andrea James “Ray Blanchard” page).
Blanchard is a sexologist who in the late 1980’s coined the word “autogynephilia”, mostly as a replacement for the words “transvestic fetishism”. He then went on to claim this word-invention and the Freudian speculations behind it as a deep scientific discovery of the cause of most transsexualism.
An “expert in addiction and sexual paraphilia”, it was no surprise that Blanchard discovered that transsexualism is caused by, you guessed it: sexual addiction and sexual paraphilia. Blanchard then used a stream of mostly indigent and thus captive clients at his gender clinic (the infamous “Clarke Institute” in Toronto, Canada) to get the answers he wanted in order to prove his new theory of transsexualism.
In the late 1980’s, Blanchard began teaching that all transsexualism is either (i) an extreme form of homosexuality, in which men acquire female physicality in order to be able to have sex with large numbers of other men, or (ii) a sexual paraphilia (“autogynephilia”), in which men acquire female physicality in order to heighten their masturbation experiences (by being in love with their own bodies). In a sweeping claim of having discovered the cause of transsexualism, Blanchard eliminated inner gender identity or gendered feelings (GID) as factors or mechanisms in transsexualism, replacing them with a model of transsexualism as a pathological male sexual disorder.
A rat psychologist by training, Blanchard always wanted to be a famous scientist. (Bailey even talks about Blanchard’s science-fame ambition in his book on pages 157-158 in his book). As is common knowledge in the sexology community, for many years Blanchard used his highly developed alpha-male dominance capabilities in efforts to force his so-called “discovery” on his sexology colleagues and into the sex textbooks. He may have hoped that this approach to doing science would make him famous, even though his ideas have never been taken seriously by the majority of clinicians and researchers knowledgeable about transsexualism.
And then along comes J. Michael Bailey’s book, which teaches the old Blanchardian theory of transsexualism and in parallel extols the supposed scientific genius of Bailey’s hero Blanchard (without revealing the mainstream GID understanding of transsexualism within the larger research and clinical communities).
The Man Who Would Be Queen (TMWWBQ) must initially have been a glorious sight for Ray Blanchard, published as it was by the National Academy Press. Especially since Bailey was successful in obtaining a properly stigmatizing and pathologizing cover art and title – all quite in accordance with the Blanchardian views of transsexualism as pathology. Blanchard must have thought: “this will become a best-selling sex-science book! It’s success will insure my scientific fame…!”
Blanchard and Bailey were inextricably linked together as mentor and protege, and both of their scientific fates were put on the line, when Bailey published TMWWBQ. For more insight into the deep connections between Blanchard and Bailey, see Andrea James excellent “Bailey on Blanchard” webpage, in which she explores how pop psychologist J. Michael Bailey expresses profound admiration for his mentor, considers him a role model, and worked to explain and popularize his theory.
Sadly for Blanchard, the ill-conceived Bailey book unexpectedly ran off the rails soon after publication…
Blanchard must have been under incredibly intense pressure these past months, especially as his best behind the scenes efforts (and the efforts of Bailey’s other key colleagues) failed to bail Bailey out of his difficulties. He must have felt ridiculed and defamed by his association with Bailey, as Bailey’s work became openly and fearlessly ridiculed and defamed within the trans community and out into the clinical and research community.
The worst part of it all for Blanchard was that people were actually paying attention to what “those transsexuals” were saying about Bailey’s book! “My god” he must have thought, “why would anyone care what those creatures think”!
Could it be that Blanchard, like so many of Bailey’s other supporters, had never actually read Bailey’s book? Is it possible that he hadn’t seen the appalling contents within? Who knows.
In any event, Blanchard could hardly take the criticisms of thousands of transsexual women seriously. After all, under his theory trans women are all either ghettoized young sex maniacs or aging male paraphilics.
Thus Blanchard couldn’t allow himself learn that the book really is as bad as we were saying it was. After all, it supported his theory, and we trans women have always been targets of his scientific pathologizing. Thus we are all known to be his “enemies”. So no wonder they were complaining. Right?
Nor did Blanchard express any concern whatsoever about Bailey’s treatment of transsexual research subjects. Why should Blanchard care whether Bailey ever told trans women he wrote SRS letters for that they were his research subjects? After all, he treated trans women that same way for years at The Clarke Institute, using their desperate need for SRS letters as a means of getting the interview results he needed to support his theory.
Not visualizing what an actual disaster the Bailey book is, and not taking trans women seriously as intelligent, fully-human beings, Blanchard could not possibly understand what the ruckus was all about. He could not understand why anyone was paying so much attention to “those darn transsexuals’ websites”! (What can we say Ray, except welcome to the future…). He especially could not understand why the HBIGDA executives felt compelled to act in reaction to the obvious damage HBIGDA by now realized had been done by Bailey’s book.
It must have been just too much for Ray Blanchard to take…
Within this context Blanchard resigned from HGIBDA in a huff, lashing out with barely concealed anger at the HBIGDA Board Members in the process (see his letter below).
In his resignation letter, Blanchard continues the style of alpha-male confrontation with opponents that he and Bailey have long used: He attacks his opponents (here the Board of Directors of HBIGDA) on a personal level, in this case impugning their due diligence and personal motives for commenting on Bailey’s book. At the same time, he (like Bailey) avoids mentioning or responding to any of HBIGDA’s very well-considered criticisms of Bailey’s work.
It is as if Blanchard and Bailey cannot possibly conceive of anyone disagreeing with their views unless those persons are (i) of low character and intelligence and (ii) are out to get them personally. Could this be projection? Who knows. But it is certainly in character for Blanchard and for Bailey too to act this way. They have for years been intimidating anyone and everyone in the sexology community who dared to publicly disagree with them (as, for example, in reports that they threatened to impact the funding of those who challenged their theories).
Nevertheless, it is amazing that Blanchard would have the nerve to openly accuse the HBIGDA Board of attempting to intervene in and deliberately bias the Northwestern University investigation of Prof. Bailey. After all, the so-called “intervention” by HBIGDA was made in a publicly open, well-considered way. They simply asserted in an open letter their concern over the very real shattering of trust that Bailey’s book has obviously caused between the trans community and those who “research us”. They also point out that the book is (quite obviously) “poorly referenced”.
My goodness, does Blanchard believe that Bailey’s book has not shattered the trust between trans people and trans-researchers? Does he think that Bailey’s book is “well referenced ” (has he actually found some scientific references in it?…). Does he not see that the internet is a remarkably democratic place where a handful of alpha-males cannot get their ways by shouting down and bullying the meek? Does he not see that the internet is a place where large numbers of people vote by joining in on collaborative processes they believe in – such as working to investigate and counter the research behind Bailey’s book?
But no, Blanchard doesn’t want to be confused by facts, nor by the reality of the mess caused by Bailey’s book, nor by the reality of the trans community’s internet-based reaction to the book.
Nor does he want others to know other key facts: Namely that it is the clique of Bailey’s close intellectual colleagues and friends, including Ray Blanchard, Anne Lawrence, James Cantor, Steven Pinker, David Buss, Kenneth Zucker, John Derbyshire, Dan Seligman and Steve Sailer who have made their own presence felt, in interventions behind the scenes – in their strong support for Bailey with the Northwestern administration, in a series of staged reviews of Bailey’s book, in shill uses of selected clips from those reviews in the National Academy website, in right-wing targeted articles in media such as the National Review and Forbes Magazine – all in rather obvious efforts to affect the outcome of the investigation and save Bailey from the well-deserved ‘Rekerian fate’ of total scientific obscurity within an increasingly marginalized intellectual circle of aging men who live in the past.
Perhaps Blanchard felt so puffed-up in self-importance as a “famous scientist” that he believed that his resignation would be a disaster for HBIGDA. Maybe he thought his resignation would cause its own “controversy”, and somehow turn the Bailey mess around (the NTAC press release comments along those lines).
Instead, it seems that the research community has called Blanchard’s bluff: His resignation has been met only by unconcerned silence among other researchers – a clear sign that no one cares much anymore about what Blanchard thinks or does.
I have personal knowledge of how many HBIGDA members feel about Blanchard and his methods. Reflecting on the likely reception Blanchard’s resignation letter received from the Board members, I suspect many thought “Whew – it’s great that he’s finally out of here, so we won’t have to put up with his constant bullying and dissing anymore…”
In a way, Blanchard’s resignation from HBIGDA marks the end of an era – an era in which sexologists constantly pathologized transsexual people, and did so without any remorse whatsoever. Blanchard rose to the top of the sexology heap by conducting relentlessly pathologizing scientific forays against trans people and then forcing his “results” onto his field.
Unfortunately for Blanchard, he and Bailey went “one book too far” in their arrogance – and in their total ignorance of the increasingly successful and powerful community of people they were defaming. Unable to scramble back across that fallen bridge, they’re now cut themselves off from the larger scientific community. Exposed for all to see as the trans defamers they are, they’re falling into well-deserved ignominy, thus ending an era…
Now the only question is when will Blanchard be followed by Anne Lawrence. We’re sure that many folks in HBIGDA, along with huge numbers of transwomen, will be similarly relieved when Lawrence is outta there too!
Further suggested readings:
See also the following webpages containing background information that will help put Blanchard’s resignation in context, and visualize the deeper issues revealed by these recent events. As you can visualize, Blanchard, via the reaction to Bailey’s book and his deep associations with that book, had already come under fire from the research community. These events occurred at a time when the research community was being openly challenged by mainstream transwomen for its long tradition of doing science that almost always tended to pathologize transsexual people. This was a time in which a total breakdown of trust of researchers was running rampant in the trans community – largely due to the Bailey book and to Blanchard’s work behind it – threatening the doing of any new science in this area in the future.
1. HBIGDA President blasts Bailey book (on Andrea James’ website):
This page discusses the challenge made by Eli Coleman during his presidential address at the HBIGDA at the 18th Biennial HBIGDA Symposium, in Ghent, Belgium, September 10-13, 2003. There you will learn that Dr. Coleman really stepped up to the plate and confronted the breakdown in relations between the trans community and those who do research on transsexualism. Here’s an except from that page:
“As he outlined the need to “promote sound and ethical research,” Dr. Coleman made a direct reference to The Man Who Would Be Queen by J. Michael Bailey of Northwestern University. The book has been widely denounced as scientifically unsound and deeply biased.
Dr. Coleman urged members to work with the transgender community to “end antipathy and distrust of researchers.” To illustrate what Dr. Coleman called “unfortunate setbacks” to ending this problem, he displayed the Bailey book cover. The book’s provocative title and image of masculine legs and feet in feminine shoes are widely considered to be deliberately insulting.
Referring to Bailey’s shoddy scholarship and deeply flawed research methods, Dr. Coleman emphatically declared: “We need to challenge bad science.” ”
2. The Banality of Insensitivity: Portrayals of Transgenderism in Psychopathology (on Katherine Heather’s website):
This page thoughtfully considers the overall issue of the insensitivity involved in past scientific portrayals of transgenderism and transsexualism as psychopathology, and the challenges now faced by the research community as the trans community begins to assert its inherent normalcy and begins to openly confront those researchers who habitually show gross insensitivity towards trans people. All professional researchers and caregivers involved with transgender people should carefully read and ponder this very important article. Here’s an opening except:
“It might seem absurd to you to think of the mental health community as a major source of the insensitive portrayals of transgenderism. Afterall, by their choice of career, they seek to help. It puzzles me. When I usually think of insensitivity, I think of: bullies in school stealing lunch money, whispered gossip on the hallways, exclusion from groups, and so forth. Shockingly, the insensitivity expressed in psychopathology towards transgenderism is actually quite similar. It comes in the form of stereotypes, as the imposition of value judgements, as the assumption that transgenderism is a problem, and in a ‘paternal’ way of assuming they ‘know what’s best’ for us. In short, it’s a insensitivity so pervasive in psycho-pathology that it starts to appear like a normal, natural thing to do. In what follows I hope I can highlight this insensitivity and, having done so, help all of us become more sensitive in the future – – – ”
3. Commentary about Blanchard’s resignation on the widely read www.queerday.com, Nov. 23, 2003:
“Jurassic Clarke’s sexology head resigns from HBIGDA
Dr. Ray Blanchard resigned from the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA) in protest to the ethics investigation of his protégé, J. Michael Bailey. Blanchard, a psychiatrist, member of a eugenics think tank, and vocal proponent of repathologizing homosexuality as a mental illness, still runs Toronto’s Clarke Institute as a maximum security processing facility, using the same procedures, locked rooms and shared space areas for pedophiles, rapists, homosexuals, and transsexuals. Resigning from HBIGDA is a good start, but why stop there?”
Blanchard’s letter of resignation from the
Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA):
November 4, 2003
Walter J. Meyer III, MD
Bean Robinson, PhD
Executive Director, HBIGDA
Dear Drs. Meyer and Robinson:
It is with deep regret that I tender my resignation in the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA). I have long supported the goals of the HBIGDA. I have been involved in the clinical care of transsexual persons for 24 years. During the years 1983 to 1991, I conducted eight research studies on the therapeutic impact of hormonal and surgical treatment of transsexuals, studies that were reported in six refereed journal articles and two book chapters. I published an additional article on the desirability of insurance coverage for sex reassignment surgery as recently as 2000. It is therefore a matter of some sadness that the recent actions of the HBIGDA Executive have made it necessary for me to disassociate myself from this organization.
I am referring to the appalling decision of the HBIGDA Officers and Board of Directors to attempt to intervene in Northwestern University’s investigation into the allegations made by certain members of the transsexual community against Prof. J. Michael Bailey. This decision is documented in the attached letter, which is prominently displayed on a popular transsexual Web site. Such an intervention, undertaken without any effort by the HBIGDA to conduct their own systematic inquiry or to learn all the relevant facts of the matter, could only be prejudicial to Northwestern’s investigation. In fact it has the appearance, whether this is accurate or not, of being a deliberate and improper attempt to bias that investigation. The HBIGDA would have been better advised to allow the Northwestern authorities, who are actually taking the trouble to investigate the allegations, to reach an impartial decision based on all relevant testimony and factual evidence.
I do not know the motives behind the Officers’ and Board of Directors’ actions, but those motives are irrelevant. It is their actions that are unacceptable and that make it impossible for me to continue to belong to the HBIGDA.
Very truly yours,
Ray Blanchard, Ph.D.
Head, Clinical Sexology Services
Professor of Psychiatry
CAMH – Clarke Site Faculty of Medicine
250 College Street University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario M5T 1R8