The following article was sent to me by Caroline and can be read in full at the New York Times, link follows. Caroline (whose last name I won’t use because I didn’t get permission) writes:
Dear Heart, I am a writer who found your site through [a publication]. I was interested in Bitch being barred from performing at the Dyke March in Boston. (I think Bitch is fabulous.) Anyway, I thought this article in today’s New York Times would be of interest to you, if you haven’t already seen it. It talks about a scientist at Northwestern University who came up against some aggressive transgender activism. The scientist whose book was nominated for a Lammy was harassed by people in the transgender community because of his theories. …what I found interesting was the aggressiveness of some of the people who opposed it.
Aggressiveness is correct. Take a look at the harassment this scientist received because he refused to tow a particular party line.
Criticism of a Gender Theory, and a Scientist Under Siege
In academic feuds, as in war, there is no telling how far people will go once the shooting starts.
Earlier this month, members of the International Academy of Sex Research, gathering for their annual meeting in Vancouver, informally discussed one of the most contentious and personal social science controversies in recent memory.
The central figure, J. Michael Bailey, a psychologist at Northwestern University, has promoted a theory that his critics think is inaccurate, insulting and potentially damaging to transgender women. In the past few years, several prominent academics who are transgender have made a series of accusations against the psychologist, including that he committed ethics violations. A transgender woman he wrote about has accused him of a sexual impropriety, and Dr. Bailey has become a reviled figure for some in the gay and transgender communities.
…The hostilities began in the spring of 2003, when Dr. Bailey published a book, “The Man Who Would Be Queen,” intended to explain the biology of sexual orientation and gender to a general audience.
“The next two years,” Dr. Bailey said in an interview, “were the hardest of my life.”
Many sex researchers who have worked with Dr. Bailey say that he is a solid scientist and collaborator, who by his own admission enjoys violating intellectual taboos.
In his book, he argued that some people born male who want to cross genders are driven primarily by an erotic fascination with themselves as women. This idea runs counter to the belief, held by many men who decide to live as women, that they are the victims of a biological mistake — in essence, women trapped in men’s bodies. …
Other scientists praised the book as a compelling explanation of the science. The Lambda Literary Foundation, an organization that promotes gay, bisexual and transgender literature, nominated the book for an award.
But days after the book appeared, Lynn Conway, a prominent computer scientist at the University of Michigan, sent out an e-mail message comparing Dr. Bailey’s views to Nazi propaganda. She and other transgender women found the tone of the book abusive, and the theory of motivation it presented to be a recipe for further discrimination.
Dr. Conway did not respond to requests for an interview.
…after consulting with Dr. Conway, four of the transgender women who spoke to Dr. Bailey during his reporting for the book wrote letters to Northwestern, complaining that they had been used as research subjects without having given, or been asked to sign, written consent.
One wrote a letter making another accusation against Dr. Bailey: she claimed he had had sex with her.
Dr. Conway and Dr. McCloskey also wrote letters to Northwestern, accusing Dr. Bailey of grossly violating scientific standards “by conducting intimate research observations on human subjects without telling them that they were objects of the study.”
…In an interview, Dr. Bailey said that nothing he did was wrong or unethical. “I interviewed people for a book,” he said. “This is a free society, and that should be allowed.”
But by the end of 2003, the controversy had a life of its own on the Internet. Dr. Conway, the computer scientist, kept a running chronicle of the accusations against Dr. Bailey on her Web site. Any Google search of Dr. Bailey’s name brought up Dr. Conway’s site near the top of the list.
The site also included a link to the Web page of another critic of Dr. Bailey’s book, Andrea James, a Los Angeles-based transgender advocate and consultant. Ms. James downloaded images from Dr. Bailey’s Web site of his children, taken when they were in middle and elementary school, and posted them on her own site, with sexually explicit captions that she provided. (Dr. Bailey is a divorced father of two.) Ms. James said in an e-mail message that Dr. Bailey’s work exploited vulnerable people, especially children, and that her response echoed his disrespect.
Dr. Dreger is the latest to arrive at the battlefront. She is a longtime advocate for people born with ambiguous sexuality and has been strongly critical of sex researchers in the past. She said she had presumed that Dr. Bailey was guilty and, after meeting him through a mutual friend, had decided to investigate for herself.
But in her just-completed account, due to be published next year in The Archives of Sexual Behavior, the field’s premier journal, she concluded that the accusations against the psychologist were essentially groundless.
For example, Dr. Dreger found that two of the four women who complained to Northwestern of research violations were not portrayed in the book at all. The two others did know their stories would be used, as they themselves said in their letters to Northwestern.
The accusation of sexual misconduct came five years after the fact, and was not possible to refute or confirm, Dr. Dreger said. ..The transgender woman who made the complaint said through a friend that she stood by the accusation but did not want to talk about it.
…“The bottom line is that they tried to ruin this guy, and they almost succeeded,” Dr. Dreger said.
Dr. Dreger’s report began to circulate online last week, and Dr. Bailey’s critics already have attacked it as being biased.
…One collaborator broke with Dr. Bailey over the controversy, Dr. Bailey said. Others who remained loyal said doing so had a cost: two researchers said they were advised by a government grant officer that they should distance themselves from Dr. Bailey to improve their chances of receiving financing.
…Dr. Bailey said that the first weeks of the backlash were the worst. He tried not to think about the accusations, he said, but would wake up in the middle of the night unable to think of anything else. He took anti-anxiety pills for a while. He began to worry about losing his job. He said that friends and family supported him but that some colleagues were afraid to speak up in his defense.
“They saw what I was going through, I think, and wanted no part of it,” he said.
…In October 2004, Dr. Bailey stepped down as chairman of the psychology department. He declined to say why, and a spokesman for Northwestern would say only that the change in status had nothing to do with the book.
…It is perhaps fitting that the history of this conflict, which caught fire online, is being written and revised continually in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which is compiled and corrected by users. The reference site provides a lengthy entry on Dr. Bailey, but a section titled “