Reflections on J. Michael Bailey’s research:
Claims of ‘scientific results’ versus unanswered methodological questions
An investigative report by Lynn Conway
August 5, 2007
[Update of 8-08-07; 1:12 pm]
[Active hyperlinks in online version] [PDF version]
2. Overview of Bailey’s research career
3. Details of Bailey’s research claims and questions about his methods
3.1. Genetics of homosexuality
3.2. Characterization of transsexualism
3.3. Pornographic arousal study
3.4. Ongoing participation in the search for the ‘gay gene’
4. Evidence of irregularities in scientific methodology
4.1. Convenience sampling and hasty generalization
4.2. Exploitation of anecdotal evidence from outlier cases
4.3. Confirmation bias and exclusion of evidence conflicting with theory
4.4. Self-promotional activities and exploitations of professional power
4.5. Failure to respond to questions about methods, results and claims
5. Insights from Bailey’s teaching record at Northwestern
6. Difficulties in confronting “pseudoscience”
6.1. Controversy-generators exploit media by demanding "balanced coverage"
6.2. Few scientists want to become entangled in such controversies
6.3. Can such "research" ever be scientific or ethical?
7. Summary and Conclusions
9. Additional Readings
J. Michael Bailey of Northwestern University has long been a strident spokesperson for conservative, essentialist views of homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexualism. He has most notably been a staunch promoter of Ray Blanchard's retrograde theory from the 1980's that transsexual women do not experience gender dysphoria. Bailey and Blanchard insist instead that postoperative transwomen are either (i) gay men who underwent sex reassignment in order to have sex with lot of straight men, or (ii) mentally ill sexually paraphilic men who underwent sex reassignment in order to heighten their autoerotic experiences. Blanchard has gone so far as to announce in Canadian national media that such women are "men without penises", leaving no doubt about his and Bailey's "scientific" position in the matter.
Bailey has also gone further in the exposition of essentialist views, pronouncing in US national media in 2005 that he has scientifically proven that male bisexuality does not exist, and thus that men who identify as bisexuals are "liars". To essentialists such as Bailey and Blanchard, you are either male or female, straight or gay. In their world there are no shades of grey, and no other spectra of sexual orientation or gender identity exist.
Some people in traditional psychological and sexological circles have taken Bailey's scientific pronouncements seriously. A few - including a handful of supportive female associates such as Alice Dreger and Joan Linsenmeier - have even put Bailey on a pedestal as a kind of 'oracle' who has special access to the 'truth' (a word Bailey often uses when referring to his work). Much of this support appears to be based on widely-disseminated press reports claiming that Bailey has made important discoveries about human sexuality.
In this report, we present the results of an ongoing investigation into the claims of scientific results by Bailey, including the presentation of many methodological questions that have been raised about his work - in order to better calibrate the scientific qualifications and credibility of this source.
We begin with a brief overview of Bailey’s career, and then document Bailey scientific claims in the areas genetics of homosexuality, characterization of transsexualism, and studies of sexual arousal. In each area we report on Bailey’s publications, his claims of scientific results, methodological questions that have been raised about the work and his responses to those questions.
In the process of conducting this investigation, we have not found a single contribution to scientific knowledge claimed by J. Michael Bailey that has been confirmed by independent researchers. Instead he has left a trail of highly-suspect, unconfirmed claims of scientific discovery that have been seriously questioned by others, and he has never successfully responded to those questions.
Furthermore, we have uncovered and documented considerable evidence of convenience sampling, hasty generalization, confirmation bias, exploitation of anecdotal evidence from outlier cases, exclusion of evidence conflicting with theory, abusive exploitations of professional power and other serious irregularities in Bailey's research. These irregularities have also been questioned by many, without satisfactory responses from Mr. Bailey or from his close supporters.
2. Brief overview of Bailey’s research career:
In this section, we present a brief sketch of Bailey's research career, so that readers can orient themselves regarding key phases of his work before delving into the details.
J. Michael Bailey began his career by investigating homosexual genetics in the early 90’s, leading to a small series of papers on this topic. He then claimed to have made significant demonstrations of a genetic cause for homosexuality. The details of this work are presented in Section 3.1 below.
This claim has not been confirmed by others, and Bailey now downplays the claim. Furthermore, that research has come under serious questioning of its scientific methodology, questions which Bailey has never responded to. Even so, it appears likely that it was this research claim that gained Bailey tenure at Northwestern University.
Bailey went on to claim that he had done original research on transsexualism, as in press releases disseminated by the National Academies, and he published results of this purported research in the book The Man Who Would Be Queen in 2003 (see details in 3.2 below).
It appears that this book and the hype surrounding it (mostly created by his colleagues Ray Blanchard, Dean Hamer, Simon LeVay and Anne Lawrence), were what gained Bailey promotion to full professor and chair of psychology at Northwestern (around 2002). Other than this book, Bailey had very little to show for his previous ten years of research.
In this book, Bailey claimed as if it were a scientific fact that transsexual women are of “two types” according to Blanchard's 1980's theory: (i) gay men who undergo sex changes in order to have lots of sex with straight men, or (ii) mentally ill sexually paraphilic men who undergo sex changes to heighten their autosexual pleasures. These claims led to a storm of protest from the trans community, and to rapid denouncement that the book was “not science" by John Bancroft, Director of the Kinsey Institute.
Subsequent complaints by research subjects and investigations into his work resulted in Bailey being brought up on serious charges of violations of research ethics, leading to his resignation as chair of the psychology department - although he remained on as a faculty member.
Since then, Bailey’s claims about transsexual women have been scientifically refuted by Madeline Wyndzen, Ph.D., in her deconstruction of the 1980’s research by Ray Blanchard on which those claims were based. Bailey has never responded to Wyndzen’s invalidations of Blanchard’s old work.
In more recent years, Bailey has published "original science" in only one area, namely studies to measure sexual arousals to various types of pornography (see details in 3.3 below).
Based on those limited arousal studies, Bailey made three major claims: (i) that bisexuality does not exist in men, (ii) that he has discovered a major difference between the brains of men and women and (iii) that transsexual women have the brains of men, not women.
These three new scientific claims, issued primarily by press releases, were made following the scientific fiasco surrounding his book. These claims generated even more media notoriety for Bailey, this time in the form of a serious controversy in the gay, lesbian and bisexual communities. This led to an NGLTF investigation into his research methods, which surfaced serious questions about his research claims – questions to which he has never responded.
With no new research underway, Bailey then returned to his roots in homosexual genetics, by participating in a non-principal-investigator role on a Northwestern team that is continuing the search for the “gay gene” (see 3.4 below). Although only a minor participant in that project, Bailey again stirred controversy: By failing to respond to longstanding gay community questions about his scientific methods, Bailey earned the dubious distinction of being the first researcher to be banned for cause from advertising for research subjects in Chicago gay media (as discussed in 3.4 below) - and this impacted the access of the entire Northwestern gay gene team to gay research subjects in the Chicago area.
All during Bailey's academic career, he's failed to mention and most people have not noticed that his role at Northwestern is that of "teaching faculty", i.e., with few small exceptions his entire career has involved teaching two big "service courses" to large numbers of undergraduate students (Introduction to Psychology, and Human Sexuality), as discussed in Section 5. This fact further arouses suspicion regarding Bailey's claims to major scientific discoveries.
3. Details of Bailey’s research claims and questions about his methods:
In this section we list Bailey’s publications, his claims of scientific results, the questions that have been raised regarding his research methodology and his responses to those questions. We've compiled this information for each of his research areas, as follows: Genetics of homosexuality, Characterization of transsexualism, and Sexual arousal studies.
3.1. Genetics of homosexuality:
3.1.1. Bailey’s publications:
Bailey, J. M., and Pillard, R. C. (1991). A genetic study of male sexual orientation. Arch. Gen. Psychiat. 48: 1089–1096.
Bailey, J. M., and Bell, A. P. (1993). Familiality of female and male homosexuality. Behav. Genet. 23: 313–322.
Bailey, J. M., and Zucker, K. J. (1995). Childhood sex-typed behavior and sexual orientation: A conceptual analysis and quantitative review. Dev. Psychol. 31: 43–55.
Bailey, J. M., and Pillard, R. C. (1995). Genetics of human sexual orientation. Annu. Rev. Sex Res. 6: 126–150.
Bailey, J.M., Kim, P.Y., Hills, A., Linsenmeier, J.A., "Butch, femme, or straight acting? Partner preferences of gay men and lesbians", J Pers Soc Psychol. 1997 Nov;73(5):960-73.
Bailey, J. M., Pillard, R. C., Dawood, K., Miller, M. B., Farrer, L. A., Trivedi, S., and Murphy, R. L. (1999). A family history study of male sexual orientation. Behav. Genet. 29: 79–86.
3.1.2. Claims of scientific results:
In past years, J. Michael Bailey has claimed that these studies demonstrated that there is a genetic basis for homosexuality. The Bailey-Pillard work also aligned Bailey’s career with the work of Dean Hamer at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), who claimed to have discovered the “gay gene” in the early 90’s. By strongly supporting Hamer’s ‘gay gene’ claim, Bailey found a powerful patron in Hamer, and a source of ongoing funding at NIH.
Bailey's early connection with Hamer, and the high-level of visibility and elite access they gained from their gay genetics claims, can be seen in their presentation of a session entitled "Is Homosexuality Biological" at a National Academy of Sciences Frontiers in Science Conference in November, 1993.
Even though both Bailey’s and Hamer’s scientific claims failed to be confirmed by any later studies, it appears likely that the widely touted claims made in Bailey’s “gay twins studies” were what gained him tenure at Northwestern University.
3.1.3. Serious methodological questions about this work:
The Council for Responsible Genetics investigated that work, and issued the following position paper, which raises very serious methodological questions about Bailey’s claims:
“Do genes determine whether we are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or straight?” Position Paper, Council for Responsible Genetics, 2004. [PDF]
3.1.4. Bailey’s response to questions about his methodology:
Bailey has never responded to the questions raised by the Council for Responsible Genetics. Instead, operating under the assumption that he and Hamer had made the scientific case for the "gay gene", Bailey began publishing his thoughts on the eugenics implications of their discovery, eventually creating a lot of notoriety for himself regarding this issue:
A.S. Greenberg and J. Michael Bailey, "Parental selection of children's sexual orientation", Archives of Sexual Behavior. 2001 Aug;30(4):423-37; discussion 439-41.
3.1.5. References and critiques regarding “twin studies”:
Twin studies have been favorites of eugenicists for a long time. For some critiques of this form of "science”, see the following:
Joseph, J. “Twin studies in psychiatry and psychology: Science or
pseudoscience?” Psychiatric Quarterly, 2002, 73(1), 71-82.
Horwitz, A.V., Videon, T.M., Schmitz, M.F., and Davis, D.. “Rethinking twins and environments: possible social sources for assumed genetic influences in twin research”. J Health Soc Behav. 2003 Jun;44(2):111-29.
Joseph, J., The Gene Illusion: Genetic Research in Psychiatry and
Psychology Under the Microscope, 2004, New York: Algora.
Joseph, J., The Missing Gene: Psychiatry, Heredity, and the Fruitless Search for Genes, 2006, New York: Algora.
3.2. Characterization of transsexualism:
J. Michael Bailey, The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism, Joseph Henry Press (an imprint of the National Academy Press), 2003.
In Bailey’s own words and in National Academy Press press releases (more), this book was initially claimed to be the result of Bailey’s own original research, using transsexual research subjects he had “recruited” in Chicago bars and clubs. For example, we find this on the inside cover-sheet:
”Written by cutting-edge sex research J. Michael Bailey, The Man Who Would Be Queen is a frankly controversial, intensely poignant, and boldly forthright book about sex and gender. Based on his original research, Bailey’s book is grounded firmly in the scientific method . . . ”
Then in the following pages in Bailey’s book we find claims that he was doing “research” on transsexual subjects, including details about his recruitment of those subjects: p141, p168, p177.
3.2.2. Claims of scientific facts:
In this book, Bailey claimed as a scientific fact that transsexual women are of “two types”: (i) feminine gay men who undergo sex changes in order to have lots of sex with straight men (and that these ‘homosexual transsexual men’ are especially suited for prostitution), or (ii) mentally ill sexually paraphilic men who undergo sex changes to heighten their autosexual pleasures (see direct quotes from Bailey’s book in which he makes these claims). Bailey based these pronouncements on his purported ‘original research’ with transsexual research subjects – as if he had actually proven an old 1980's and now discredited theory of Ray Blanchard (Blanchard is widely known for his pronouncement in Canadian national media that postop women are "men without penises").
3.2.3. Challenges from the scientific community:
Following the publication of Bailey’s book, there were almost immediate scattered challenges from the scientific community (which was very unusual indeed), including a public denouncement that the book was “not science" by John Bancroft, then President of the Kinsey Institute, at a conference at which Bailey was speaking in July, 2003.
The Board of Directors of the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA, now WPATH) also publicly denounced the book, as did Walter Bockting, Ph.D., a leading clinician at the University of Minnesota’s Program in Human Sexuality.
Psychologist Madeline Wyndzen, Ph.D., then undertook a deconstruction of Ray Blanchard’s original two research papers from the late 1980’s that are the foundation of his theory, exposing fatal flaws in Blanchard’s methodology and reasoning.
3.2.4. Bailey’s response to these criticisms of his scientific methods:
Bailey has never responded to Wyndzen’s invalidations of Blanchard’s old work, and never made any attempt to challenge her successful deconstruction of the theory on which his book is based.
Nevertheless, Bailey still asserts Blanchard’s theory not as theory, but as scientific fact and "truth", and continues to use Blanchard’s assertions in his ongoing defamations of transsexual women.
3.2.5. Further challenges from the trans community:
Upon investigation it was discovered that Bailey had lied about how he recruited his “homosexual transsexual” research subjects. He had not discovered them in trips to gay bars in Chicago. They had instead initially made appointments to meet him at his office, where Bailey posed as a clinical psychologist, interviewed the women, and wrote SRS letters for them (even though he had no knowledge of transsexualism at the time, nor did he have a license as a clinical psychologist).
Bailey was then able to exploit his ongoing access to the then grateful women, including social access to them and reports of sexual relations with one of them. This enabled him to learn more about their stories, their bodies and their personal lives – thus surreptitiously using them as research subjects without gaining their informed consent.
3.2.6. The subsequent Northwestern University investigation:
When Bailey’s research subjects learned of the publication of his book in 2003 and read what he had written about their very personal stories, a number of them filed formal complaints against Bailey at Northwestern University. Northwestern began a preliminary evaluation of the complaints and then, based on the evidence therein, opened a formal internal investigation into Bailey’s research conduct.
Apparently seeing the handwriting on the wall as the investigation unfolded, Bailey caved in and negotiated his and the University’s way out a major research ethics catastrophe by claiming that he was not doing any research on the women after all. Bailey also resigned as chair of the psychology department - although he remained on as a faculty member.
Bailey thus completely reversed the claims in his early National Academy press releases and in the discussions in his book about his cutting edge transsexual research and his recruitment of transsexual women as research subjects. His career imagery of having done "original" science on transsexualism is gone now. In direct contradiction to his earlier claims in his book and in National Academy press releases, Bailey claims instead that he was only writing reminiscences of adventures with transsexual women he'd met in Chicago bars and clubs.
3.2.7. Bailey’s response to the Northwestern investigation:
Bailey never directly responded to the many formal complaints filed against him. He has never answered the charge that he did not recruit his research subjects in bars and clubs, but instead instead lured them to his office with promises of letters of permission for sex reassignment surgery – in violation of Illinois law regarding the practicing of clinical psychology without a license. He also never countered the complaints that he used information from the confidential clinical interviews in his book without the women’s permission (he claimed to have gotten such permissions, but has never been able to present documents supporting those claims).
Instead of directly challenging the formal complaints against him, Bailey has attempted to defend himself by deflecting attention away from the serious charges by lashing out his critics - accusing them of being part of a vast conspiracy of "transsexuals" whom he claims are angry at what his "science" says about them.
3.2.8. A final note about Bailey's book:
In February 2006, the online version of Bailey's book was quietly removed from the National Academy Press website.
3.3. Pornographic arousal study:
3.3.1 Bailey’s publications:
Meredith L. Chivers, Gerulf Rieger, Elizabeth Latty, and J. Michael Bailey, "A Sex Difference in the Specificity of Sexual Arousal", Psychological Science, 2004, 15 (11), 736–744.
Rieger, G., Chivers, M.L. and Bailey, J. M., "Sexual arousal patterns of bisexual men". Psychological Science,2005, 16(8), 579-584.
Chivers, M. C. and J. Michael Bailey, "A sex difference in features that elicit
genital response", Biological Psychology, 2005, 70, 115-120.
Lawrence, A.A., Latty, E.M., Chivers, M.L. and Bailey J.M., "Measurement of sexual arousal in postoperative male-to-female transsexuals using vaginal photoplethysmography". Arch Sex Behav. 2005;34(2):135-145. (more)
3.3.2. Results claimed from the arousal study:
(i) Bailey claimed to have demonstrated that bisexuality does not exist in males, basing this claim on plethysmograph measurements in which he claims that none of the males tested showed arousal to both heterosexual and gay porn.
(ii) Bailey then claimed to have made a major discovery of a “brain difference between men and women” claiming that almost all women are bisexual while no men are bisexual, again based on plethysmograph tests in which Bailey interpreted the results.
(iii) Bailey went on to claim that postoperative transwomen have the brains of men, not women – because none of his tiny select sample of trans women were “bisexual”according to his measurements. I.e., according to Bailey, none of those women’s plethysmograph tests showed arousals to both heterosexual and gay porn.
Examples of the claims derived from this one small study, even prior to its publication, can be seen in a Northwestern University Press Release of June 12, 2003, in which Bailey claimed to have made a major discovery in brain-difference between men and women, and then claimed that transwomen have the brains of men, not women:
“Study suggests difference between female and male sexuality", Northwestern University press release, June 12, 2003
Two years later, a New York Times article widely publicized Bailey’s claim to have shown that male bisexuality does not exist:
“Straight, Gay or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited”, by Benedict Carey, The New York Times, July 5, 2005.
Following the publication of their 2005 paper,
Lawrence and Bailey so widely and stridently promoted their claim that
transsexual women have "male brains", that the claim soon appeared in the
concluding lines of
AETNA's Policy Bulletin 0615 on Sex Reassignment Surgery - as follows:
"Lawrence and colleagues (2005) stated that male-to-female transsexuals display male-typical category-specific sexual arousal following sex reassignment surgery, and that vaginal photoplethysmography is a promising methodology for studying patterns of sexual arousal in post-operative transsexuals."
The fact that such highly defamatory words appeared in a major insurance company's SRS policy bulletin, so soon after their publication in a scientific journal, demonstrates the wide reach and public impact of Bailey's "scientific" claims.
3.3.3. Unanswered methodological questions about this work:
In response to alerts from bisexual advocacy groups, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force investigated and then denounced the New York Times “science by media-release” article, especially Bailey’s accusations that men who claim to be bisexual are lying:
NGLTF Press Release: "Task Force denounces New York Times story promoting bisexual stereotypes" July 11, 2005.
The Task Force went on to investigate Bailey’s research methods, publishing a Fact Sheet raising very serious methodological questions about Bailey’s arousal study, including his use of the plethysmograph, a device long discredited as having no scientific utility, to measure sexual responses. Here is a link to that NGLTF Fact Sheet:
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Fact Sheet: "The Problems with “Straight, Gay or Lying?", July 11, 2005. (PDF)
Then, regarding the 2005 paper by Lawrence, Latty, Chivers and Bailey: Numerous scientific studies have raised serious questions regarding making of psychological inferences from penile and vaginal plethysmograph measurements. See the following webpate for an overview of those studies and detailed links and references into that body of scientific work:
Andrea James, "Plethysmograph: a disputed device", TSRoadmap.com.
Following publication of the Lawrence, Latty, Chivers and Bailey "male-brain" claims in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2005, yet another team of investigators published an article calling into question the use of the vaginal plethysmograph, this time regarding its use on postop women:
Lori A. Brotto, et al, “Psychophysiological and subjective sexual arousal to visual sexual stimuli in new women”, Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, December 2005; 26(4): 237–244
Bailey's misuse of his narrow arousal study to make sweeping claims that bisexuality does not exist in males, and to pronounce that men who claim to be bisexual are liars, went on become widely known as a classic case of scientific malfeasance. For example, in March 2007, the authors of a groundbreaking new report on bisexual health ripped into Bailey's infamous pronouncements on bisexuality in the New York Times. One of the major recommendations of that report is that "Researchers and journalists should avoid sensationalizing stories and research and should include bisexual people’s perspectives".
Miller, M., André, A., Ebin, J., and Bessonova, L., "Bisexual health: An introduction and model practices for HIV/STI prevention programming". National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, the Fenway Institute at Fenway Community Health, and BiNet USA. New York, 2007.
(See pages 35-37, 94, and 101 in this 143 page, 4.2MB PDF report for commentary re the Bailey case.)
Bailey has never responded to these realities, other than to repeat his "scientific" pronouncements that male bisexuality does not exist and that males who claim to be bisexual are lying.
3.3.4. Bailey’s response to these questions about his methodology:
Bailey has refused to respond to any of the methodological questions the NGLTF has raised about his arousal study, and still insists that he has made major scientific discoveries in this work.
When publishing their purported brain-difference findings from studies of sexual arousals in postoperative women, Lawrence, Latty, Chivers and Bailey failed to respond to the large body of scientific literature questioning the validity of making such psychological inferences from plethysmograph measurements. They made no references to any of the past work that brought the plethysmograph into question.
However, when the Brotto, et al paper raised further serious questions about plethysmograph usage, Chivers wrote a letter to the JPOG editor on behalf of Lawrence and Bailey, in which she claimed:
" . . . we were able to reliably distinguish MtFs who sexually preferred women from those who preferred men, on the basis of their genital responses to male and female sexual stimuli."
Here we see Chivers evading serious questions while being quick to claim reliability and validity in order to make splashy claims - just as her mentor Bailey has done his entire career (see section 4.2.2. below for more on this example of confirmation bias and exclusion of conflicting evidence).
3.4. Ongoing participation in the search for the ‘gay gene’:
Following the fiasco surrounding his book, Bailey returned to his roots in homosexual genetics, by participating in a non-principle-investigator role on a Northwestern team that is continuing the search for the “gay gene”.
However, even though only a side participant in that project, Bailey has again has stirred controversy: By totally failing to respond to the gay community’s longstanding questions about his scientific methods, Bailey earned the dubious distinction of being the first researcher to be banned for cause from advertising for research subjects in Chicago gay media. As a result of this ban, Bailey impacted the access of the entire Northwestern gay gene team to gay research subjects in the Chicago area:
“Bad Science", Editorial, Chicago Free Press, August 9, 2006 (announcement that the Chicago Free Press no longer accepts ads for Bailey sex research subjects)
“Bailey never responded to CFP questions about his book or his research. . . . We appreciate good science. We don’t appreciate being used to further the dubious agenda of someone who believes he should not be held accountable to our community.” - Chicago Free Press
"Chicago Gay Paper Nixes Ad From Controversial Sex Researcher," by Mark Fitzgerald, Editor and Pubisher.com, August 15, 2006. (more on this story)
Further questions are now being raised about possible internal biases and other methodological problems within Northwestern’s gay gene project, as a result of the scare-tactics now being used by Bailey’s close colleague Simon LeVay. LeVay has taken to the lecture circuit to whip up biased forms of support for the project:
"Speaker: Tolerance of gays hinges on science: Finding a "gay gene" or similar evidence holds the key to acceptance, he
says", The Post Standard, Syracuse, N.Y. September 30, 2006.
"Researchers also are studying genes to determine if a "gay gene" exists, LeVay said. The National Institutes of Health is currently funding a $2.5 million project on gay twin brothers to study their genes. "If they don't find anything there, you can kiss gay genes goodbye," LeVay said." - The Post Standard
Along with Hamer's and Bailey;s claims re gay genetics, LeVay is a claimant to the discovery of a brain-structure-related biological basis for male homosexuality and his entire scientific legacy is dependent on confirmation of such biological causations. However, almost 15 years have gone by and the claims of Hamer, Bailey and LeVay have never been confirmed by independent groups of researchers. For LeVay to now be using scare tactics to bias thinking about the outcome of the current gay-gene study raises even more red flags about the scientific credibility of this clique of researchers (LeVay, Hamer, Bailey and their associates in gay genetics).
4. Evidence of irregularities in scientific method:
During our investigations, we have found considerable evidence of serious irregularities in Bailey's research, including convenience sampling, hasty generalization, exploitation of anecdotal evidence from outlier cases, confirmation bias, exclusion of evidence conflicting with theory, and abuses of professional power, as discussed further in this section. Many people have raised questions about these irregularities, without any satisfactory responses from Mr. Bailey.
4.1. Convenience sampling and hasty generalization:
One of the biggest criticisms of Bailey’s science is his frequent use of non-probabilistic sampling (especially convenience sampling and snowball sampling), and then jumping to strong conclusions based on such flimsy evidence (hasty generalization). This is the principal criticism made by the Council for Responsible Genetics.
For instance, when Bailey claims transsexual women are more frequently non-white and prostitutes, it may have something to do with taking his surveys in a hooker bar in a bad part of town.
Then, when Bailey set out to prove Blanchard's assertions about “autogynephilic transsexuals” (namely that all "non-homosexual transsexuals" are mentally-ill male sexual paraphilics), he focused on the presentation of just a single case-study, namely that of Anjelica Kieltyka, and later pushed forward just two other outlier cases (Lawrence and Arune, see 4.2)
4.1.1. The Kieltyka case: (see also 4.2.2)
Kieltyka was an older postoperative woman who had brought the young transwomen to Bailey, in order to help them get SRS letters. Unemployed for decades, Kieltyka lived alone and on public support (disability income). Bailey showered the vulnerable Kieltyka with attention, including her desire for admiration by bringing her into his large sex lecture classes at Northwestern and encouraging her to perform strip teases in front of all the students. He later went even further in flattering Kieltyka, as seen at this link:
". . . you are certainly not a mere case study (although your honesty and openness make you an illuminating case), but also an unusual combination of artist and scientist and scientific and artistic subject." - J. Michael Bailey in e-mail to Anjelica Kieltyka, May 11, 2001
Over time Bailey drew out Kieltyka's innermost secrets and private reflections on her past sexual behavior. Bailey then published a highly prurient version of her case-study without her permission, in Chapter 8 in his book (in pages 151 through 158), acting as if this convenience sample from one research subject confirmed Blanchard's assertions.
4.1.2. The Kiira Triea case and ‘transkids’ hoax: (see also 4.2.4)
Bailey and Lawrence later went on to exploit a tiny handful of cases described in a so-called "transkids website", in what by then had become a desperate effort to prove Blanchard's assertions about "homosexual transsexuals”- namely that all "non-autogynephiles" are effeminate gay men who have been mistaken for girls since childhood, and who, being unattractive to gay men, undergo sex changes in order to have sex with lots of straight men. (See direct quotes on this in Bailey’s book).
However, upon later investigation the transkids website turned out to be a hoax. It was not the work of a young self-identified “homosexual transsexual”. It had instead been constructed by a lesbian intersex woman in her mid-40's named Kiira Triea (more), and the other entries there appeared to be sockpuppets constructed by Triea herself. Although Triea reported herself to be a “former HS transsexual” in the transkids site, she had also been one of the founders of the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) – and she had previously reported her intersex female (XX) birth sex and lesbian sexual orientation in this page and this one too.
But how did Triea become available as a convenient sample of a “homosexual transsexual” (albeit an inauthentic one as we now know)? It’s simple: Triea had been involved with Bailey since way back in 1997 when she was invited to join Bailey's SEXNET listserv (see 4.4.2). Furthermore, we see in her own words that Triea is a transphobic person who had long accepted and promoted Blanchard's transsexual classification scheme, apparently as a way of venting her hatred of transwomen.
Both Bailey and Lawrence had links to the "transkids" site within minutes after the site went live on 14 December 2004, respectively proclaiming it to be "thrilling" and "marvelous", in yet another rather extreme example of "convenience sampling". They either did this out of ignorance that Triea's site was a hoax, or they were complicit in that hoax.
4.1.3. The 11-case arousal sample:
In the arousal study, Bailey's claims that (i) bisexuality doesn't exist in men, (ii) that he's proven a brain difference between men and women, and (iii) that postoperative transwomen have the "brains" of men. However, all of these strong claims rest on the flimsy foundation of plethysmograph tests performed on a tiny convenience sample of 11 transsexual women, with Bailey hastily interpreting the results as being scientific proof of his assertions. Furthermore, here as in many other aspects of Bailey's claims, he overlooks the fact that correlation does not imply causation.
In all these cases we see Bailey resorting to happenstance convenience samples to hastily "prove" his points, while completely ignoring a much larger universe of samples that were easily accessible for study.
4.2. Exploitation of anecdotal evidence from outlier cases:
Occasional convenience sampling as a form of lazy-science by minor academics is one thing. However, the deliberate and ongoing public exploitation of anecdotal evidence from non-representative outlier cases in strident attempts to ‘prove’ a failed theory is quite another.
In this section we discuss the handful of outlier cases that Bailey, Blanchard and Lawrence keep returning to when presenting and defending their transsexual classification scheme (see 3.2.).
First, it is important to visualize the meaning of ‘anecdotal evidence’, which Lawrence refers to as "narratives":
“Anecdotal evidence is an informal account of evidence in the form of an anecdote or hearsay. The term is often used in contrast to scientific evidence, such as evidence-based medicine, which are types of formal accounts. Anecdotal evidence is often unscientific because it cannot be investigated using the scientific method. Misuse of anecdotal evidence is a logical fallacy and is sometimes informally referred to as the "person who" fallacy ("I know a person who..."; "I know of a case where..." etc.). . . Researchers may use anecdotal evidence for suggesting new hypotheses, but never as supporting evidence.” – Wikipedia
4.2.1. The Lawrence case:
Anne Lawrence is a sexologist and former anesthesiologist who self-identifies as having the sex-fueled mental illness Blanchard called "autogynephilia". Lawrence is close colleague of Blanchard and Bailey, and collaborated with Bailey on the pornographic arousal project (see 3.3).
Lawrence is well-known to have sexualized fixations on genital mutilation and limb amputation, and self-admittedly underwent a sex change in order to enhance her fetishistic autosexuality. Following her sex change, Lawrence was forced to resign her anesthesiology position after being observed inspecting an unconscious Ethiopian patient’s vagina for signs of ritualized genital modification.
Blanchard and Bailey have made much of the Lawrence case as a classic exemplar of their “type-II transsexual”. While doing so, they smothered Lawrence with attention and posed her as if she were a “scientist”, bringing her into the IASR fold (see 4.3.2., below) where she publishes such things as claims that GID is a form of “amputation fetish” (which she apparently experiences). In return, Lawrence has become a committed disciple of Blanchard’s classification scheme and an unrelenting supporter of its “scientific” presentation in Bailey’s book – projecting her own personal experience of sex-fueled mental illness onto almost all other transsexual women.
The exploitation of this one case by Bailey and Blanchard has become a classic in outlier anecdotal exploitation.
4.2.2. The Kieltyka case (continued from 4.1.1):
When Bailey was approached by Anjelica Kieltyka in the mid-90’s, he found himself with a sudden windfall of convenience samples in the form of Kieltyka and the handful of women she brought to him for SRS letters. Bailey initially exploited these samples to give his peers and colleagues the impression he was doing “transsexual research” – in a lazy form of science.
In time, however, Bailey mined the Kieltyka case for far more: By gaining Kieltyka’s trust and getting her to share her innermost secrets with him, he obtained outlier anecdotal evidence, in particular in the form of Kieltyka’s stories of Robot-Man masturbation episodes. He then exploited prurient retellings of these anecdotes in his book and his lectures, thus transforming this one outlier case into a classic, memorable exemplar of the so-called “autogynephilia”.
4.2.3. The Arune case:
When Kieltyka filed a formal complaint against Bailey’s publication of her confidential interview information without her permission, Bailey, Blanchard and Lawrence lost access to their one apparent exemplar, other than Lawrence herself, of “type-II transsexualism.” They needed another case to exploit in this way, and found it in the person of Willow Arune.
According to Arune, the urge to "change sex" came on suddenly late in life, after spending six weeks in a Bangkok prison where he claims he was repeatedly raped by guards. Upon release Arune reportedly sought counseling and the therapist “suggested becoming a woman”. It isn't clear what happened in that Thai prison to make Arune think a sex change would be a good idea, for she now lives a marginalized life as an unpassable woman on welfare in Canada. In any event, Arune went on to become a principal spokesperson for Bailey, Blanchard and Lawrence, believing as they do that overpowering sexual feelings resulting from severe mental disease are what trigger urges to change sex.
Following the filings of complaints about Bailey’s research conduct, Bailey positioned Arune as his media spokesperson and exemplar of transsexualism, as seen in this news article in which Bailey and Arune attack Bailey’s critics as being mentally ill sexual paraphilics – again exploiting an outlier case (Arune) as anecdotal evidence to support Bailey’s scientific claims.
4.2.4. The Kiira Triea case and the 'transkids' hoax (continued from 4.1.2.):
As part of their effort to classify as many transwomen as possible as being “type-II”, Bailey and Lawrence carried the requirements for classification as a “homosexual transsexual” to a bizarre extreme: The only people who qualified as “type-I” were those who identified as gay men, were of low-IQ and low socio-economic status, were very feminine and had been seen as girls since childhood, were for the most part employed as sex workers and had undergone sex changes in order to have sex with lots of straight men.
A big problem with this extreme version of type-I classification was that Bailey and Lawrence couldn’t seem to find any anecdotal outlier exemplars of this type. Without such exemplars their assertion of Blanchard’s theory seemed on shaky ground indeed - even by their own standards.
Their variant of Blanchard’s classification scheme at first appeared saved when a so-called transkids website came online 14 December 2004 – a site claiming to be the work of a small group of young homosexual transsexual “transkids” who met the type-I criteria.
Unfortunately for Bailey and Lawrence, later investigation revealed that the transkids site was a hoax created by a transphobic intersex woman named Kiira Triea (as discussed above in 4.1.2). Meantime, we are still waiting for some “homosexual transsexuals” to step forward as anecdotal outlier exemplars of Blanchard's "type-I" transsexual.
4.2.5. A contrasting example demonstrates how major trans studies CAN be done:
Operating under a decades-old misimpression that transsexualism is extremely rare, and failing to locate larger numbers required for scientific statistical studies, Bailey, Blanchard and Lawrence may have mistaken the tiny handful of outlier cases they came across as being “representative”.
It is instructive to contrast such methods with those of the recent UK government sponsored study, based on a significant sample size, which yielded the following research report:
Stephen Whittle, Lewis Turner and Maryam Al-Alami, Engendered Penalties: Transgender and Transsexual People’s Experiences of Inequality and Discrimination, Research Project and Report Commissioned by the Equalities Review, UK Crown Copyright, 2007. (122 page 934kb PDF file)
That report states that its “empirical and qualitative report's findings were based upon an analysis of over 100,000 emails, a survey with 873 respondents, and interviews,” and it documented “the extent of inequality and unlawful discrimination experienced by trans people in a modern European, liberal, society.”
The UK report found that “Starting in early childhood and through to the grave, trans people face repeated and ongoing prejudice which results in violence, abuse, institutionalised discrimination and 'othering' throughout all aspects of their lives” – with an important segment of institutionalized discrimination occurring in the medical and psychiatric establishment (seen in the U.S. in such events as the publication of Bailey’s book by the elite National Academies).
Given that transsexualism is not rare, and that access to hundreds if not thousands of case studies is demonstrably available, there is no excuse for Bailey, Blanchard and Lawrence to continue the defense of their classification scheme via anecdotal evidence from a handful of outlier cases.
4.3 Confirmation bias and exclusion of evidence conflicting with theory:
During the interval from 2000 until its publication, Bailey posted the transsexual chapters of his upcoming book online in his website (these can be read at the following archived page).
4.3.1. Failure to interview cases that conflict with theory:
Many transwomen learned about those pages and contacted Bailey prior to publication of his book, offering to meet with him and discuss their experiences in efforts to add more depth and diversity to his sample. Bailey refused to even meet with any of those transwomen, much less add them into the tiny sample he had studied (e-mail threads between the women and Bailey yield extensive evidence of such deliberate exclusions).
Furthermore, Bailey completely ignored the much larger universe of postoperative transsexual women who by then were emerging into visibility and telling their stories, as seen in sites such as the "TS Successes Pages". Bailey's refusals to look for and meet with any of the many other transwomen beyond the tiny sample exploited in his book is open evidence of his exclusion of evidence conflicting with theory.
Even more egregious was Bailey's exclusion from discussion in his book of two particular subjects among the very tiny group of women whom he DID study, namely two subjects who were counter-evidence to his classification scheme. Bailey failed to mention either of these two women in his book, because they both shatter the illusion of the "two-type" theory he was trying to "prove".
During our investigation we learned of and were able to identify and locate both of these women. The first was a young woman who had immigrated to this country, and who then worked and passed as a male, saved her money and quietly transitioned. This young woman did not fit Bailey's "homosexual transsexual" classification because she had not "always been seen as a girl", was very intelligent and had a good education, was not promiscuous and had not worked as a prostitute. However, she completed a successful transition, and, as a very attractive woman, went on to a successful career and successful marriage. Her story is told in the page at this link.
The second young woman was perhaps the most strikingly beautiful among the group Bailey encountered. However, she was attracted to women instead of men. Even so, she hardly fitted the alternative "autogynephilic transsexual" classification, because she was young and very feminine and not at all "masculine and unattractive". After reading Bailey's book, the young women filed a formal complaint with Northwestern University summarizing these two excluded cases, thus exposing Mr. Bailey's exclusion of evidence that went counter to his classification scheme.
The research behind Bailey’s later claim that male bisexuals don’t exist was similarly assailed for using small samples and throwing out inconvenient data, as discussed in the NGLTF Fact Sheet regarding Bailey's claims, entitled: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force: The Problems with “Straight, Gay or Lying?”
4.3.2. Failure to reference conflicting reports:
In the years preceding publication of Lawrence and Bailey's "male-brain" claims in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2005, there had been numerous reports calling the use of plethsmography into question. However, Lawrence, Latty, Chivers and Bailey did not reference and discuss any of the reports that raised such serious questions about their instrumentation.
Shortly after Lawrence et al published their study, a different team of investigators published a report calling into even more serious question the use of the vaginal plethysmograph on postop women:
Lori A. Brotto, et al, “Psychophysiological and subjective sexual arousal to visual sexual stimuli in new women”, Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, December 2005; 26(4): 237–244
Chivers responded on behalf of Lawrence and Bailey to that article via a letter to the JPOG editor, in which she claimed:
" . . . we were able to reliably distinguish MtFs who sexually preferred women from those who preferred men, on the basis of their genital responses to male and female sexual stimuli."
Brotto responded to Chivers' letter with a well reasoned critique, including
an entertaining comment re the possibilities of "data exclusion" by Lawrence, et
al., and a mention of the earlier reports that had also questioned
plethysmography - concluding with the obvious fact that the Lawrence and Bailey
claim cannot stand alone, but must await confirmation by independent groups:
"It is also not clear from the Lawrence et al. paper  whether or not data from all participants were analyzed or if ‘‘nonresponders’’ were excluded. In our paper, data from all participants were examined." . . . "We . . . appreciate the important points raised in Chivers’ Letter to the Editor, but must respectfully disagree with her conclusion that ‘‘. . . this methodology is, in fact, a reliable and valid measure of sexual response in this population’’. Until this effect can be replicated by different research groups using different samples of transsexual women, and until some of these potentially confounding factors can be identified and controlled, it remains unclear if vaginal photoplethysmography is a useful tool in this population."
This incident is another example of Lawrence and Bailey asserting they have "have proved" something without recognizing the requirement for independent confirmations by others. The incident also reveals how defensive Lawrence and Bailey had become when questions were raised about the validity of conclusions drawn from plethysmograph measurements. Not only did they not reference earlier contrary reports on plethysmography, but they went even further – to complain about and dismiss newly emerging papers calling plethysmography into question.
4.3.3. Evidence of the Rosenthal Effect:
Many past studies have been made of such science-distortion effects, particularly in psychological research, and these might prove useful when reflecting on the above incidents. See in particular the work by Robert Rosenthal which led to his articulation of the "Rosenthal Effect", i.e.:
"The tendency for results to conform to experimenters' expectations unless stringent safeguards are instituted to minimize human bias".
For more re Rosenthal, see the following American Psychological Association page which reports:
"Because of his creative contributions to research methods and data analysis, as well as his substantive and theoretical discoveries and insights, Robert Rosenthal's name and reputation as one of the giants of modern psychology are known throughout the world. . . . His 1966 book, Experimenter Effects in Behavior Research, provided and impetus for hundreds of investigations and fostered the development of procedures to improve our science. The experimenter-efficacy effect, or Rosenthal Effect, refers to the phenomenon in which the researcher's tacit hypothesis or expectancy can become a self-fulfilling prophecy of the subject's responses. Another methodological contribution was Rosenthal's collaborative investigation of the nature and treatment of self-selection bias in research with human subjects, which resulted in the 1975 book, The Volunteer Subject."
Based on the evidence we've already uncovered, we believe that the works of Bailey, Blanchard, Lawrence, Zucker, Hamer and LeVay will yield many interesting case studies for demonstrations of the Rosenthal effect and volunteer-subject self-selection bias.
4.4. Self-promotional activities and exploitations of professional power:
Given the above evidence of irregularities in scientific methodology and strident but unverified scientific claims, how is it that Bailey managed to become such a well-known and powerful figure in academic psychology? We explore this question in this section.
We first report on our findings regarding Bailey's memberships in professional organizations, sources of research funding, and awards and professional recognitions. We then go on to investigate Bailey’s professional connections and self-promotional activities, reporting on how he exploited these activities to gain notoriety and power over others in the field of psychology.
4.4.1. Bailey's professional affiliations, research funding, achievement awards and professional recognition:
> Bailey's memberships in professional organizations:
We have determined that Bailey is not a member of the American Psychological Association, the premier organization in his field and one to which most academic psychologists belong. Furthermore, even though his book claims that he has done original research in the science of transsexualism, we find that he has never even been a member of HBIGDA (now WPATH), the primary international organization of researchers and clinicians involved in transgenderism, nor had he ever published a single journal paper on the topic of transsexualism. We also discovered that Bailey has never been licensed as a clinical psychologist in the State of Illinois, even though he conducted clinical interviews and wrote SRS letters for young trans women in return for surreptiously exploiting them as research subjects (and thus was in technical violation of Illinois law).
The only organization in which we can confirm Bailey's membership is the International Academy of Sex Research (IASR), namely the clique of sexologists dominated by leaders of the infamous Clarke Institute (now CAMH) in Canada (see 4.4.2).
> Bailey's research funding:
Bailey has a very limited record of research funding. Except for a tiny grant of five thousand dollars from the American Psychological Foundation in 2000, the only other grant from a public funding source that we have identified is the $147,000 NIH grant that funded Bailey's pornographic arousal studies beginning in 2001, as reported in the Washington Times:
"Federally funded study measures porn arousal", by Robert Stacy McCain, Dec. 23, 2002:
It is possible that Bailey has received support over the years from private sources of funding, such as the infamous Pioneer Fund headed by race-scientist J. P. Rushton (which sponsors research on eugenics, race, intelligence, etc.). However, Bailey has not listed his private (non-public) sources of funding, and thus we can only speculate on that.
In any event, for someone who has worked for over 16 years as an academic psychologist, Bailey has received very little support for his research from main-line scientific funding agencies. Bailey's limited track record in bringing in research funding is consistent with and apparently relegated him to the role of a "teaching faculty" member (one who primarily teaches large service courses to undergraduates), as seen in his teaching record over the years (see Section 5.).
> Bailey's achievement awards and professional recognition:
Bailey was nominated by his promoters at the National Academy Press and some of his fellow controversy book authors for a Lambda Literary Foundation award for his book, The Man Who Would Be Queen. The LLF committee overseeing the awards approved the nomination without realizing that the book was transphobic, leading to a massive protest in the trans community - including a petition drive to get the nomination rescinded. Once they actually read the book, the LLF leadership declared it to be transphobic and rescinded the nomination. Mishandling of this affair was one of the things that led to the ousting of Jim Marks, LLF's long-time executive director.
Other than the fiasco surrounding the LLF nomination and withdrawal, we have not been able to identify any form of award nominations, achievement awards or professional recognition received by Mr. Bailey during his many years in academia. His website does not mention any form of recognition from any professional group for any scientific contribution, nor does his site mention any recognition from Northwestern University for his teaching or service work. It is extremely unusual for a full professor at a major university to have never received even a minor award or other recognition for their research, teaching or service to their university.
4.4.2. Connections via IASR and dominance over the field of sexology via SEXNET and ASB:
Given that Bailey has not generated any scientific contributions that have been validated by others, and has never received any kind of professional recognition or awards for his work - then how is it that he became such a central figure in the field of sexology? In order to understand how this happened, we need to look at his professional connections with, and his serving as a very visible spokesman for, a clique of researchers who dominate that field.
Bailey's professional connections have been primarily made through the International Academy of Sex Research (IASR). This niche organization of sexologists is dominated by a clique of researchers at the infamous Clarke Institute (now CAMH) in Toronto. Included in this group are Ray Blanchard, Kenneth Zucker, James Cantor, Kurt Freund (now deceased) and their associate Anne Lawrence - along with Dean Hamer of gay gene and God gene fame and Bailey's longtime scientific promoter at NIH.
Blanchard and Zucker and their colleagues at the Clarke have long held editorial powers over the sexology community's journal, Archives of Sexual Behavior (ASB), controlling who and what gets published there (Zucker is currently editor of the ASB, and Blanchard, Bailey, Lawrence and Cantor are all on the ASB editorial board). In parallel with this clique's control over ASB publications, Bailey has long been positioned as the "moderator" of SEXNET, the internet listserv for the sexology community. (For some background on SEXNET, see the discussion at this link).
Bailey's visibility as SEXNET moderator led to him being noticed and seen as a "leader" in his field, as mentioned in the cover sheet of his book and in National Academy press releases about the book. He then heavily exploited SEXNET as a bully pulpit for promoting his and his colleagues views on homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexualism, and for containing and attacking critics of his views.
For example, clear evidence in the form of SEXNET e-mail threads reveals that for many years now Bailey has openly defamed critics of his work on SEXNET. Bailey has especially exploited SEXNET to attack transwomen who criticize his work or whose case histories conflict with his theory, by remotely diagnosing such women by name as being mentally-ill sexually paraphilic men. Bailey makes these remote-diagnoses of mental-illness without ever having met these women, and without having a license or experience as a clinical psychologist. We have archived copies of many such e-mails, sent to us by SEXNET participants who were appalled at this practice. We plan to reveal and discuss this evidence in future reports.
By making devastating personal defamations of outside critics on the SEXNET listserv, Bailey implicitly cautions all other sexologists against ever openly criticizing his work or that of his close colleagues. After all, sexology is a small niche field of research constantly struggling for legitimacy in eyes of others. Many participants in this marginal field live in fear of damaging their fragile academic careers if they ever get crosswise with such dominant figures in the field - especially those who control access to publication for their research.
By using such tactics and controlling access to SEXNET discussions and publication in ASB, Zucker, Blanchard, Bailey, Lawrence, et al have exploited their clique's dominance of the field of sexology to shield themselves from the usual requirements for open defense of scientific claims when questioned by others in their field.
4.4.3. Connection with the Human Biodiversity Institute and 'controversy book' authors:
During the investigation into the publication of Bailey's book, we also uncovered the fact that he and Ray Blanchard had close ties with a group of conservative ideologues and "controversy-book" authors, all of whom were members of the "Human Biodiversity Institute". The HBI is an internet-based clique of like-minded people overseen by a man named Steve Sailer, who says of himself:
"I'm a reporter, movie critic for The American Conservative, VDARE.com columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute, which runs the invitation-only Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.- - - The Human Biodiversity Institute promotes the study of biological differences among humans and their impact on society. Major areas of interest include race, sex, and sexual orientation."
While investigating HBI, VDARE and The Pioneer Fund headed by race scientist J. P Rushton (a fund that sponsors conservative "scientific studies" on race, immigration and sexual minorities), we learned of and joined forces with a parallel investigation of these very same groups by the prestigious Southen Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
With the help of evidence from our investigation, SPLC documented and published an expose' of Bailey, Blanchard, Sailer, et al in a special SPLC Investigative Report on transgender hate crimes in the Winter of 2003. Following are titles and links to key articles in that report:
Heidi Beirich and Bob Moser, "QUEER SCIENCE: An 'elite' cadre of scientists and
journalists tries to turn back the clock on sex, gender and race", Southern
Poverty Law Center Investigative Report, Winter 2003 - Issue 112.
Bob Moser, "'Disposable People': A wave of violence engulfs the transgendered, whose murder rate may outpace that of all other hate killings", Southern Poverty Law Center Investigative Report, Winter 2003 - Issue 112.
Mark Potak, Editor, "Rage on the Right: A rage is growing on the right. Before
it is done, untold numbers of men and women may have to die, casualties in
America's ongoing culture wars", Southern Poverty Law Center Investigative
Report, Winter 2003 - Issue 112.
The well-documented connections of Bailey, Blanchard, Lawrence and others in their clique with the HBI group of conservative ideologues, race-scientists and controversy-book writers raises further serious questions about underlying ideological motivations and biases in Bailey's work For more on these connections, and the methods used by this group to generate and exploit science-controversies for fame and fortune, see section 5.1 below.
4.4.4. How these connections came to be – Bailey’s mentoring by eugenicist Lee Willerman:
It was natural that Bailey would fall in with the HBI clique, for he was a student and protégé of the eugenicist Lee Willerman at the University of Texas. Bailey studied under Willerman and apparently thought of him as a father figure:
“My advisor, Lee Willerman, was a much better role model. Lee was one of the most intellectually and personally delightful people I've ever met, and he led me to discover a love of individual differences·IQ, sex differences, psychopathology, behavior genetics, etc. And he taught me the human sexuality course when I learned about an interesting theory of sexual orientation, which I investigated for my dissertation.” – J. Michael Bailey
Willerman was by then a long-standing member of the American Eugenics Society, and throughout his career focused on the study of eugenics-themed theories. He received considerable support for his work (such as the ‘Texas Adoption Project’) from the infamous Pioneer Fund, a group the prestigious Southern Poverty Law Center characterizes as a ‘hate group’ and that has been profiled as racist by the Institute for the Study of Academic Racism.
Willerman was well-connected with some of the conservative science-controversy-book writers who later formed the core of HBI. He was, for example, one of 52 signers of "Mainstream Science on Intelligence," a Wall Street Journal editorial published in 1994 which defended the pronouncements on race and intelligence in The Bell Curve.
Thus it is hardly a surprise that as Willerman’s protégé Bailey would be introduced into and active within conservative controversy-science-generation circles. Nor is it surprising that Bailey would begin building a career along the path of controversy-generation and exploitation – and would go on himself to become a proponent of homosexual eugenics (more).
4.4.5. Exploitations of the media:
- - - (i) including science by press release, (ii) staged pronouncements of scientific discoveries, and (iii) subversions of the scientific journal (ASB) where he serves on the editorial board - - - TBD - - -
Perhaps this method is best summarized in the website of Alice Dreger - Bailey's close supporter and colleague at Northwestern - who has employed unscrupulous media manipulation herself. Here we see Dreger, in her own words, proudly teaching her "method".
"If you're serious about changing medical practice, the best way to do it is the one-two punch: publish in a medical journal, and then make as big a media stink about it as you can, for example, by writing a national editorial about it, or by using relationships you've developed with reporters. That way, the busy docs who aren't reading the medical journals at least hear about what you're up to through the media." - Alice Dreger
What goes unspoken here is that the reporters don't read those journal papers either. Instead they often simply take the word of these manipulative researchers, including the spin they wish to put on the stories.
4.5. Failure to respond to questions about methods, results and claims:
When publishing general works that summarize basic research, scientists carefully explain the evidence behind any major scientific pronouncements, in order to make those results more accessible, intelligible and credible. Most importantly, no real scientist would ever put forward raw theory to a lay audience as if it were a “scientific fact.”
Scientists also provide references to the research on which they base their reasoning and conclusions. If any sources are controversial or suspect, they are careful to cite alternative research in conflict with those sources - being careful to reveal contrary theories and evidence regarding the topic under discussion. If anyone presents clear counter-evidence or uncovers logical inconsistencies in a scientist's work, that scientist must respond to those criticisms by revising their work and modifying their conclusions on the basis of such new evidence.
As we've seen above, Bailey has often gone against these standard practices. For example, in his transsexualism pronouncements Bailey presented an old unproven theory as if it were a scientific fact. He failed to present any detailed references or discussion about the "science" on which the theory was based, nor did he mention that the theory was widely dismissed by other scientists as being unsound and unscientific. He simply stated his transsexual classification scheme as if it were a "fact".
When his pronouncements were challenged, he totally evaded any defense of his position within the scientific community. Instead he launched remorseless ad hominem attacks on transgender and bisexual critics in efforts to discredit and silence those critics, often calling them liars and remotely diagnosing many of them by name as being mentally-ill sexual-paraphilics.
The following report on "How J. Michael Bailey Responds to Critics" discusses Bailey's unscientific and highly problematic behavior in more detail. In it you will see how he deflects attention away from questions about his research methods and scientific claims, by accusing questioners of engaging in identity politics and attacking their credibility - even resorting to accusations of "academic McCarthyism" and attacks on science when others question his work:
Lynn Conway, “How J. Michael Bailey Responds to Critics”, Investigative Report, LynnConway.com, October 12, 2004.
In a further deterioration of his thinking, Bailey applies a perverse logic to claim in effect that minority-group criticisms of his work are a sign of the merit of that work - going on to demonstrate an almost sociopathic delight while saying things like “I can’t be a slave to sensitivity“ in response to questions about the harm he has done to at-risk gender minorities:
Robin Wilson, “ 'Dr. Sex': A human-sexuality expert creates controversy with a new book on gay men and transsexuals”, The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 20, 2003.
In summary, in this section we have considerable evidence of serious irregularities in Bailey's research, including convenience sampling, hasty generalization, exploitation of anecdotal evidence from outlier cases, confirmation bias, and exclusion of evidence conflicting with theory. We have also seen how Bailey engaged in abuses of professional power. He applied a deliberate strategy of seeking “notoriety” in the media via claims of scientific discoveries that appealed to base prejudices. He enhanced his notoriety by confronting sexual and gender minority groups with those claims via staged press releases and media articles, articles widely splashed around by his HBI connections. Meanwhile, by establishing power over the sexology community as moderator of SEXNET, he avoided criticisms of his research by his peers.
By exploiting all these irregular means, Bailey launched himself on an alternative path to career fame as an academic psychologist, i.e., an alternative to the more difficult path of making real contributions, as a real scientist, doing real science.
5. Insights from Bailey’s teaching record at Northwestern:
As part of this investigation, we compiled a list of courses Bailey has taught at Northwestern over the years, in order to gain further insights into the overall nature of his academic career.
Unlike the majority of serious academic scientists who teach mostly graduate courses in their specialty research fields, it appears that Bailey has been the go-to guy at Northwestern for teaching large undergraduate service courses such as “Introduction to Psychology” and “Human Sexuality” – courses attended by hundreds of students, many from outside the Psychology Department (thus bringing outside funds into the Department).
As we see in Table 1., Bailey has with few exceptions taught only those two large undergraduate courses each year (the exceptions being two times that he taught small special topics courses, and his twice teaching a linear models courses). Also note the fact that he has not taught anything at all since the spring of 2006; what this means is not yet clear – perhaps he’s been on a sabbatical? Or?
Table 1. J. Michael Bailey’s teaching record at Northwestern University
Source: "Archive of Course Descriptions", Office of the Registrar, Northwestern University
Note: The “expected enrollments” in parentheses indicate comparative sizes of classes.
On studying the above table, many mainstream academics will immediately “read” Bailey as “teaching faculty,” i.e., a faculty member having a weak research program who is bringing in little or no funding, and who pays their dues by teaching large undergraduate courses.
If Bailey had indeed made fundamental contributions to science as he has so often claimed, then where in his teaching record are the graduate courses and graduate seminars in his area of specialty? Why is he instead teaching only beginner-level undergraduate courses to huge classes?
This reading of Bailey as apparently functioning as a “teaching faculty” member rather than a serious academic scholar (who would be provided relief from teaching large undergraduate courses) is a significant one. This insight is consistent with our earlier observations of Bailey as someone who seeks scientific fame not by real contributions, but by whatever means possible – including using convenience sampling and hasty generalization, exploiting anecdotal evidence from outlier cases, engaging in confirmation bias and exclusion of evidence conflicting with theory, engaging in self-promotional activities and exploitations of professional power, and then failing to respond to questions about his methods, results and claims.
6. Difficulties in confronting "pseudoscience”:
Upon looking closely at Bailey’s work and uncovering these many distortions of scientific method and irregularities in his career trajectory, we sense that this is not science at all but is pseudoscience instead. In this section we examine some of the difficulties in confronting such pseudoscience that places itself outside scientific method and fails to respond to critiques of its methods and results. For further insights into how to tell science from pseudoscience, see these links (more, more, more, more, more).
6.1. Controversy-generators exploit media by demanding "balanced coverage":
First we examine how such pseudoscience can gain wide public notice, and be very difficult to confront, when writers of "science-controversy" books exploit the media by (i) cooking-up pseudoscience, (ii) generating notoriety and controversy surrounding the claims of their pseudoscience, and then (iii) challenging the media to give "balanced coverage" to their claims vs the claims of existing mainline science.
Members of Human Biodiversity Institute (HBI) have developed this practice into an art-form, with tutelage in the art provided by HBI member Louis R. Andrews in his "Stalking the Wild Taboo" website.
Many of the controversy
books written by this clique follow the pattern of stalking the wild taboo -
Race, Evolution and Behavior by J. P. Rushton, The Bell Curve by Charles Murray,
g Factor by Chris Brand,
Nation by Peter Brimelow,
Man Who Would Be Queen by J. Michael Bailey,
Separate Creation by Chandler Burr,
Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We're Afraid to Talk About It
by Jon Entine, The Evolution of Desire by David Buss,
The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Stephen Pinker
and The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into Our Genes by Dean Hamer.
That Bailey and his colleagues among the controversy-book-writers have so often followed this method raises deep ethical questions in science and journalism - especially questions regarding widespread media dissemination of pseudoscience designed to generate fame and fortune for its creators. And as you can imagine, when someone becomes "famous" by generating one of these controversies, few real scientists dare take them on lest they become entangled in the controversy themselves. For more on this topic, see:
Chris Mooney, "Blinded By Science - How ‘Balanced’ Coverage Lets the Scientific Fringe Hijack Reality", Columbia Journalism Review, November/December 2004.
6.2. Few scientists want to become entangled in such controversies:
Unfortunately, people like Bailey not only know that a splashy statement will get them headlines (like The Bell Curve did for race scientists), but also that most people won’t have the energy or patience to listen to detailed refutations by other scientists. They also know that most real scientists usually won’t waste their time refuting such pseudoscience, for fear of entanglement in the controversies surrounding such work.
Occasionally prominent scientists like Stephen Jay Gould, when aware of harm being done by pseudoscience, step forward and expose its flaws - as Gould did in his book The Mismeasure of Man regarding intelligence testing and race science as in works like The Bell Curve.
However, scientists like Gould are a rarity. Most responders to pseudoscience are instead people who specialize in the philosophy of science, history of science, bioethics, etc., who themselves want to become enmeshed in and gain career advantage by participating in the controversies generated by such work.
For example, the “gay gene” claims have never been replicated despite many attempts. Nevertheless, people like Dean Hamer, who made names for themselves by splashy science press releases, have seldom been called to task for their extravagant claims - and have instead gone on to greener pastures such as claiming to have discovered the “God gene.”
Meanwhile, rather than questioning whether Hamer's gay gene work is sound and verifiable by replication, most commentators on his claims have focused on presumed implications of the work (such as in the homosexual eugenics publications by J. Michael Bailey), as if the "gay gene" actually had been found.
6.3. Can such "research" ever be scientific or ethical?
Finally we come to a big question: Can this kind of sex research EVER be scientific or ethical? Is it not pseudoscientific at its core because of vague and arbitrary definitions? Is not sex science in a homophobic culture, giving the institutional structures for the support of such science, always going to be normative and essentialist in its operational definitions and hypotheses?
For instance, no one is looking for the “straight gene.” Most of the research on homosexuality is in fact research on male homosexuality as a "disorder", reflecting our society’s greater fear/hatred of gay men. Unfortunately, some gay men themselves believe that a genetic cause will lead to greater acceptance. Nancy Ordover and others point out that eugenics is a scavenger ideology in which causation theories are additive.
Also note that researchers have pinpointed genetic differences that roughly correlate with the categories man and woman, but this has done little to alleviate discrimination against women. In fact, the latest salvo by Bailey’s colleagues like Steven Pinker is that women are bad scientists because they are born that way. Sadly, gay men who think that a “born that way” genetic marker will help them gain social acceptance seem unaware that it has never worked that way in the past.
For further discussions of these issues see:
Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man, W.W.Norton & Co, 1981.
Janet E. Halley, “Sexual Orientation and the Politics of Biology: A Critique of
the Argument from Immutability”. Stanford Law Review, Vol. 46, No. 3
(Feb., 1994), pp. 503-568
William Byne, Jacinta Kerin, Udo Schuklenk, Edward Stein; “The Ethics of Genetic
Research on Sexual Orientation”. The Hastings Center Report, Vol. 27,
Pepper Schwartz, “The Science Of Sexuality Still Needs Social Science”, The Scientist, 1995, 9(3):12
Nancy Ordover, American Eugenics: Race, Queer Anatomy, and the Science of Nationalism. University of Minnesota Press, 2003.
Richard York and Brett Clark, "Debunking as Positive Science: Reflections in
Honor of the 25th Anniversary of Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man",
Monthly Review, February 2006.
7. Summary and Conclusions:
In this report we have presented and discussed the claims of scientific results made by Northwestern University psychology professor J. Michael Bailey, and the many methodological questions that have been raised about his work in the areas of: Genetics of homosexuality, Characterization of transsexualism and Sexual arousal studies.
In each area we have discussed (i) Bailey’s publications, (ii) his claims of scientific results, (iii) methodological questions that have been raised about his work and (iv) his responses to those questions.
In the end we did not find a single contribution to scientific knowledge claimed by J. Michael Bailey that has ever been confirmed by independent researchers. Instead he has left a trail of highly-suspect, unconfirmed claims of scientific discovery that have been seriously questioned by others, and has never successfully responded to those questions.
We also found considerable evidence of convenience sampling, hasty generalization, exploitation of anecdotal evidence from outlier cases, confirmation bias, exclusion of evidence conflicting with theory, and other serious irregularities in Bailey's research. Furthermore, we have found considerable evidence of over-promotion of the unproven claims from such irregular research by means of controversy-generation, science by press release, abusive exploitations of professional power and other irregular means. These irregularities have been questioned by many people, but there have been no satisfactory responses from Mr. Bailey or his close colleagues.
The results of this investigation thus raise serious questions about J. Michael Bailey's scientific qualifications, research methods, research claims and personal credibility when making scientific pronouncements in the areas of homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexualism.
We wish to thank the many individuals who participated in this investigation of J. Michael Bailey's scientific claims, and who helped in drafting, refining and proofreading this report. Many of the participants also helped in the original investigation of the publication of Bailey's book by the National Academy Press, and we are very grateful for their ongoing help.
9. Additional Readings:
The main references for this report are included in-line within the text, with many including hyperlinks to original sources. The following readings provide further perspectives on topics covered in the report:
Joan Roughgarden, "The Bailey Affair: Psychology Perverted", Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, February 11, 2004 (posted in LynnConway.com).
Peter Hegarty, Penny Lenihan, Meg Barker and Lyndsey Moon, "The Bailey Affair: Psychology Perverted: A Response", UKPFC News, March 19, 2004.
Andrea James, "A defining moment in our history - Examining disease models of gender identity", TSRoadmap.com, September 2004. Also published in Transgender Tapestry - The Journal of the IFGE, Issue 110, Fall 2006, pp.18-23.
Stephen Whittle, Lewis Turner and Maryam Al-Alami, "Engendered Penalties:
Transgender and Transsexual People’s Experiences of Inequality and
Discrimination", UK Crown Copyright 2007. (122
page 934kb PDF file)
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