January 26, 2005:
Lynn Conway writes Professor Alice Eagly,
the interim Chair of the Psychology Department at Northwestern University,
concerning the dark cloud now hanging over the Department.
Ms. Eagly is later reported as saying that Bailey's "sudden abdication" led her to take the Chair...
and that the administration may have seen that as a good "antidote" to Bailey...
Overview of Lynn's letter to Ms. Eagly.
Lynn's letter to Ms. Eagly, January 26, 2005. (pdf file)
Report on conversation with Ms. Eagly by attendee at symposium at UCLA, January 30, 2005.
Overview of letter to Ms. Eagly, January 26, 2005:
[Posted on 3-12-05]
On January 26, 2005, Lynn Conway sent an e-mail letter to Professor Alice Eagly, the new Chair of the Psychology Department at Northwestern University (see original letter below and also in PDF format).
Lynn wrote to Ms. Eagly in a sincere effort to alert her to (i) the Provost's TBLG Task Force Report at the University of Michigan and (ii) the recent Illinois legislation amending the Illinois Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations and credit. Under the recent amendment, transgender and transsexual people are now protected under that Act's definition of sexual orientation, which now states: "Sexual orientation" means actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or gender-related identity, whether or not traditionally associated with the person's designated sex at birth.
In her letter, Lynn reflected on the dark cloud that now hangs over Northwestern University's Psychology Department, as a result of J. Michael Bailey's open defamation of transsexual women while he was Chairman of the Department, and his subsequent forced resignation as Chairman following an NU investigation of charges of research misconduct. Lynn encouraged Ms. Eagly to dismantle some of the transphobic culture that Mr. Bailey had injected into the department in recent years, especially via his "sex courses" in which he routinely lampoons trans women as "especially suited for prostitution", etc. This communication seemed quite relevant, given the new laws in Illinois specifically protecting trans people from discrimination.
Several months passed, and Lynn never received any reply from Ms. Eagly - not even a simple acknowledgement that she had received and read this well-intentioned letter. Thus the "silent treatment" of transsexual women by academic elites continues (and we now openly post Lynn's letter here, for the longer-term record).
January 26, 2005
Alice Eagly, Professor and Chair
Department of Psychology
Dear Professor Eagly,
I am writing to bring to your attention the Report of the Provost's TBLG Task Force at the University of Michigan. I have attached a copy for you, and it can also be downloaded from the UM Provost's website at:
The Task Force investigated the environment for TBLG students, faculty and staff at Michigan, with special emphasis on the situation facing transgender and transsexual people here. The report identifies many difficulties facing the highly stigmatized, almost invisible but ever-present minority of gender variant people in our colleges and universities.
Many of the difficulties, especially for those in the process of gender transition, are practical ones such as problems in finding housing, gaining safe access to basic medical care, changing identification records, etc. Practical and non-controversial solutions for many of these problems are presented in the recommendations within the UM report. Most of these recommendations have now been adopted and put into effect by the Administration here.
As a social psychologist who studies the psychology of attitudes and the psychology of gender, and as the new Chair of Psychology at Northwestern, you may find this report quite interesting - especially in light of recent events in Illinois and at Northwestern. You may find the summary re Transgenderism and Transgender Rights in Appendix III (p. 41) particularly useful.
As you may know, recent Illinois legislation amended the Illinois Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations and credit.
Transgender/transsexual people are protected under that Act's definition of sexual orientation, which now states: "Sexual orientation" means actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or gender-related identity, whether or not traditionally associated with the person's designated sex at birth.
Given the new protections for trans people under Illinois law, it may be important for the Northwestern community to carefully reflect upon its own internal culture and environment regarding the treatment of gender variant people.
Sadly, a very dark cloud now hangs over Northwestern University in the minds of trans people worldwide, as a result of your past Chairman's aggressive pronouncements that transsexual women are really either (i) sex-obsessed gay men who are especially suited for prostitution, or else are (ii) sexually paraphilic men who are obsessed with fetishistic forms of masturbation.
He did this in total ignorance, without having any serious research or clinical practice background in gender dysphoria, and without having any contact whatsoever with the large mainstream of successfully transitioned women who are living productive and happy lives - lives that go totally counter to his pronouncements (as you'll find in many representative examples at the following pages):
As a result of Mr. Bailey's actions, Northwestern's Department of Psychology is now irrevocably identified with the ideological defamation of trans women in the name of "science." We doubt that anything can ever be done to fully erase that stain.
Naturally, trans people all around the world felt vindicated upon learning that Mr. Bailey had had to resign as Chairman of Psychology following the internal investigation of scandalous research misconduct. However, the deep stain on Northwestern Psychology remains.
On the other hand, the internal culture of the Department could perhaps be improved over time if signals were quietly sent that it now at least tolerates open discussion of alternatives to Mr. Bailey's views (in contrast to the situation there while he was Chairman).
It might also be important to reflect upon what is being taught about transsexualism to Northwestern's undergraduates in the large "sex courses" given by your Department's faculty members. Hopefully, the Department can gradually shift towards preparing Northwestern's students for a future in which trans people will have gained their full human rights, instead of indoctrinating students into thought-styles from the past that stereotype trans women as mentally-ill sexual-deviants who can only live far outside of mainstream society.
I wish you the very best in your new role as Chair of Psychology. I hope that the information in the TBLG Task Force Report and in these reflections on recent events is helpful to you.
Ms. Lynn Conway
Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Emerita
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109
Member, National Academy of Engineering
Report on conversation with Ms. Eagly by an attendee at a public symposium at UCLA, January 30, 2005:
On January 30, 2005, the Third Annual Public Symposium: Gender and Genomics – Sex, Science and Society was held at the University of California, Los Angeles.
An eye-witness attendee at this symposium reported as follows on a conversation with Ms. Alice Eagly, Bailey’s replacement as interim Department Chair of Psychology at Northwestern University, following a lecture Prof. Eagly gave at the symposium:
"I had a chance to speak to Dr. Eagly briefly about the Bailey matter, and she said his "sudden abdication" led her to take the Chair. She said the administration may have seen that as a good "antidote" to Bailey, though she hopes one of her younger colleagues will step in soon..."
We thus learn from Ms. Eagly herself that (i) Mr. Bailey in fact "suddenly abdicated", making it even clearer that he resigned under great pressure from above, (ii) that the resignation was done without the usual lead time that would enable an orderly transition to a new permanent department chair (and thus Ms. Eagly is in fact an interim chair instead) and (iii) that Ms. Eagly is openly commenting even to strangers at scientific conferences that the administration may have seen her stepping in as a "good antidote" to Bailey.
Note that Ms. Eagly is a "social psychologist whose interests are mainly in two areas: the psychology of attitudes and the psychology of gender". She is therefore well positioned to analyze and comment upon Mr. Bailey's peculiarly harsh attitudes towards and mis-gendering of trans women.
This page is part of Lynn Conway's "Investigation into the publication of J. Michael Bailey's book on transsexualism by the National Academies"