In a new low in decorum and scholarship, J. M. Bailey mocked gay, lesbian and transgender people in a lecture at Stanford University on April 23, 2003. As you will see in Joan Roughgardan's report below, ten faculty members and 100 students attended Bailey's lecture. They joined in great laughter as he caricatured the lives of GLBT people in words and photos. Bailey is now on tour giving similar lectures at other leading psychology departments in the U.S., touting his new book just published by the National Academy Press as the latest science on homosexuality and transsexualism. He is causing a sense of panic in the transgender community, as we learn that famous "scientists" are teaching university students that "transsexuals don't exist" and that we are "gay men instead". But Baily goes even futher than that, and claim that scientists now know that "gay men are more feminine that straight men", and "lesbian women are more masculine than straight women". Something sure seems to be amiss here, and many of us are determined to find out how the National Academies could have lent their support to this utter nonsense.
Joan and I urge all GLBT people everywhere to get this "scientist" on your radar screen. Go listen to his lectures. Take notes. Then report on what you are seeing and hearing to the heads of psychology departments all throughout the U.S. Ask them: Is this science? Or is it junk science and propaganda, such as that seen in the "Reefer Madness" era?
Today J.Michael Bailey, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University, presented a lecture entitled "Gender Nonconformity and Sexual Orientation" to the Stanford University Psychology Department as part of its regularly scheduled departmental lecture series. The audience, including about 10 faculty and 100 students, enjoyed laughter at pictures, quotations, and voice recordings of gay, lesbian, and transgendered people. The material consisted mostly of film clips, and animated cartoons. At no point was the audience admonished to assume a professional decorum. No faculty challenged the scholarship, and criticism of the evidently limited sampling was left to several graduate students.
Bailey was introduced as "controversial," someone whose work has important implications for law, medicine and social policy, and as a successful teacher who courses feature "transsexuals stripping after class." (First big laugh.) The initial photographs included a male-bodied child wearing her mother's shoes. (Second big laugh.) A female-bodied child was then shown in male clothes, and quoted as saying he "wanted a penis." (Third big laugh.) Then an older child in a clinical setting was given the choice of toys, and chose a doll and a wig. She was quoted as saying, "I hate my hair." (Fourth big laugh.)
Bailey's main claim is that 75% of gender-variant male-bodied children grow up to "be" gay men. Furthermore, gay men questioned about their childhood report more feminine identification on the average than straight-identified men. A similar claim is made for gender-variant female bodied children growing up to become lesbians, though with less certainty. Therefore, Bailey's thesis is that gay men are more feminine than straight men, lesbians more masculine than straight women, and that transgendered people do not exist as a distinct category but as an extreme gender-variant "subtype" of homosexuality. Bailey did not present, much less do justice, to the many alternative theories and supporting data that conceptualize gender identity and sexual orientation as distinct axes of description.
Bailey followed this claim with more photographs and film clips. Two gay men were interviewed and the audience was invited to sharpen their ability to discern a gay male from a straight male---to train their "gaydar" (his word) and "pick up the vibes." An animated cartoon showing effeminate gestures for a gay man was contrasted with one depicting a macho manner for a straight man. (Fifth big laugh.) Clips of a drag queen and a transgendered woman were then shown. The transgendered woman was described as "an extremely feminine gay man who decided to become a woman." Then bar graphs were presented (without error bars) purporting to show that gay men and straight men prefer "casual sex" more than straight women, and straight women more than lesbian women. The transgendered woman was claimed (though no data given) to be as sexually active in casual sex as a straight man or gay man, and for this reason had to be considered a gay man "himself."
The lecture continued with a catalogue of diagnostic criteria to include in one's gaydar for accurately discerning gay people from straight people, a project that drew an approving wisecrack from one faculty member. Using Northwestern undergraduates as subjects ("Northwestern has a good theater department") a rating for gay presentation, was developed leading to the phrase, "the gayest rated gay man." (Sixth big laugh). Then voices of two gay men and two straight men were played and the audience was asked to guess who was gay and who was straight. Those who guessed correctly grinned with joy and were applauded by their neighbors, leading to the conclusion that "if a gay sounds really gay, then he probably is." If Bailey had presented a scholarly account of his theory in comparison with alternative theories of gender expression and sexuality, he would not have had to rely on a comical and vulgar performance to garner audience support.
Bailey went on to ask the audience "what was a woman trapped in a man's body" and someone shouted out "a transsexual" which led Bailey to assert that there are two subtypes of transsexuals, those who are "really" homosexual males, and another type he wouldn't disclose publicly because of being too controversial, but would disclose privately.
Bailey then showed a photograph of the cover of a newly released book, The Man Who Would Be Queen, published by the National Academy Press and available through their website, in which he identifies the other "subtype" of transsexual as someone motivated by fetishistic body morphing, a largely obsolete idea originating with Ray Blanchard. Bailey said his seminar had avoided the "really controversial" material that was available in his book. The official publicity for the book distributed at the Denver AAAS convention in February, leads with the phrase "Gay, Straight, or Lying? Science Has the Answer" and ends with the claim that Bailey's conclusions "may not always be politically correct, but they are scientifically accurate, thoroughly researched, and occasionally startling." Instead, many are now offering the book as the latest example of junk science, and are appalled at the National Academy's complicity in the sensationalizing of lesbian, gay, and especially transgendered people.
Bailey's book is fulfilling the prophesy of being "controversial." Gay, lesbian, and especially transgendered people are organizing protests at bookstores around the country, and are writing critiques in every media outlet possible, including the readers comment section on Amazon.com. While this attention will certainly promote book sales, some have offered the comment that Bailey is no more than "a Jerry Springer cross-dressing as an academic," and doubt his staying power.
To this observer, Bailey came off as rather dumb, a regular guy with quite some experience in locker-room humor, possibly deceptive, not mean, but very stubborn, a bit dense. Meanwhile, the day before, on April 22, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the California State Assembly passed a bill extending California's housing and employment nondiscrimination laws to cover gender variant people, including transvestites, transsexuals and butch dykes. The bill, AB196, introduced by Mark Leno, (Dem, Dist 13) next moves to the state senate and then to the governor. The political progress being made by gay, lesbian, and now transgendered people greatly exceeds that in academia, if the homophobic and transphobic welcome to Bailey given by the Stanford Department of Psychology is any indication.
Director, Office of LGBT Life
Bailey spoke here at Emory on April 8th, 2003, after his publisher contacted us to say he'd be in Atlanta anyway and would appear here for free. I went to his talk; fortunately, there were only a handful of people there.
He made it clear right away that he is heterosexual, as if that were relevant to his talk.
I found him to be arrogant, unprofessional (he smelled of alcohol at 4:00 in the afternoon) and absolutely boastful about how "scandalous" and "outrageous" his book is, as if that were more important than academic rigor. I've never heard an academic proudly use words like that to describe his/her work.
I'm glad others are onto him and will take steps if they can to discredit him and his "research." I argued with him on points that I know something about, and at one point he admitted that much of his data are "anecdotal," but then went on to say that anecdotal evidence is as rigorous as data from controlled studies(!!).
He also acknowledged that his research subjects were not randomly chosen--can't remember exactly how he recruited them, but I remember being amazed that he would claim to have arrived at valid conclusions about anything. In fact, his book has virtually no footnotes or bibliography, and does not give any data; it consists mainly of stories about individuals and summaries of studies he and other people have done.
Bailey also claimed that his findings would apply in any culture, at any point in history, citing John Boswell and seemingly unaware of any of the more recent scholarship on lgbt/queer history. (In his book he writes, "How can we know anything about the sex lives of Greeks who lived 2,500 years ago?" to dismiss the "social constructionist" argument that a gay identity is a relatively recent phenomenon. Of course, he totally misrepresents the constructionist point of view in general; it's unclear whether he's being disingenuous or just is really clueless about constructionism. I suspect the latter.)
I had a hard time believing that this guy teaches at a university, and that his work is widely published and disseminated. It's truly scary, and I urge any of you who know more than I do about psychology and biology to familiarize yourselves with his work and do what you can to raise awareness of his astonishingly shoddy scholarship.
LynnConway.com > TS Information > Bailey Investigation > Stanford Lecture Report