Five Questions With… Vern Bullough

Vern L. Bullough is a SUNY Distinguishedvern bullough, helen boyd Professor Emeritus, was a past President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex, was honored with the Kinsey Award for his research, and is the author of Crossdressing, Sex, and Gender, along with 50+ other books on various subjects, most of them involving sexuality.
< Helen with Vern Bullough at IFGE 2004.
1) In terms of trans and gender subjects, what do you think is the most important piece of your scholarship?
The field of trans research is rapidly changing as it moves more into the mainstream of variant sexual behaviors. I think the best back ground is the book that my late wife Bonnie and I did, entitled Cross Dressing, Sex and Gender. The best survey of the field up to l997 was also one that Bonnie and I edited entitled Gender Blending. The best for female to male transsexuals is that by Holly Devor, entitled FTM. There are more specialized books coming out now but I think these three are the basis for a good understanding.
2) In your opening remarks at the IFGE two years ago, you talked some about the technology of transsexualism. What did transsexuals do before transition was possible?
Transsexuals did not exist before the technology was available and the first ones who began to appear in the 1920’s were not very satisfactory because it was not until the 1930’s that hormones were known and could be isolated. The big problem then became was persuading surgeons that such people existed and that surgery was a good solution to their problems. This is a battle that is still going on but the surgery can now be done and the MTF surgery is really outstanding and has been for a couple of decades. The surgery for FTMs is not quite as satisfactory, at least in terms of creating a penis and testicles. Before the surgery was developed they would probably often cross dress and pass, and large numbers of women in the past did so. Males did so also but it was more difficult for them to pass as they aged then it was for women. Even the Abbe de Choisy quit cross dressing in public as he aged.
3) Do you think crossdressers are different sexually than non-CD heterosexual men? Why?
I don’t know whether heterosexual cross dressers are different sexually from other men. Part of the difficulty in making a statement is that there is a more or less unwillingness of the TVs to discuss their sex life.. In Richard Doctor’s biography of Virginia Prince, he goes into some detail about her masturbation whole cross dressed, and this has led all the transvestite magazines to so far refuse to review the book. They feel this is something that should not be admitted, nor should any allusion to possible homoerotic feelings be publicized. Still, I think there is a strong sexual element in it and I think those men who do have women as partners, probably do engage in sex with them, although not always in the dominant position. I also think some TVs flirt with men. I do not subscribe to the notion of Blanchard that most TS were homoerotic. Having said this, I still can’t explain the phenomenon and it is fascinating in trying to do so. Those active in the club movement or who come out, I think are a very small minority of those who are out there.

4) Thank you so much for your books: they have been such a great resource for me. What are you working on now?

I do have a new book on trans people coming out, co authored with Ari Kane. It is a collection of biographies and is entitled Crossing Sexual Boundaries: Transgender Journeys, Unchartered Paths*. It should be published in December by Prometheus. I think it will be the last book I will do on the topic and I only did so at the request of Ari. My next book after that will be one on Adoption which is nearly finished.
5) Once and for all, I thought you might want to comment on the rumor that you *must* be a crossdresser because you write books about crossdressing. Are you?
If I was everything I wrote books about, I would probably be a very screwed up person. I have done three books on prostitution; four on homosexuality, two on contraception and birth control, one on pornography, and written articles on sado masochism, pedophilia, masturbation, and various other forms of sexual expression, and I have even written two books on women even though I am not a woman. All told I have written or edited some 54 books. I have also edited an encyclopedia of sex, and a book on current sex researchers (How I Got Into Sex) and a major book on sex research entitled Science in the Bedroom (you can look up my vita on the web at I consider myself a sex researcher and I will admit to having a strong interest in the way people sexually express themselves.
* Helen’s bio is one of these.