- Chronicle of Higher Education
- Thursday, July 17, 2003
- 2 Transsexual Women Say Professor
- Didn't Tell Them They Were
By ROBIN WILSON
Two transsexual women who are featured in a controversial new
book by the chairman of Northwestern University's psychology
department have filed complaints with the university, saying
that the professor did not tell them that they were subjects
of his research and did not get their consent as participants.
At issue is a book by J. Michael Bailey, The Man Who Would Be
Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism, which
was published this year by the National Academies Press (The
Chronicle, June 20).
"The book contains numerous observations and reports of
interviews with me," C. Anjelica Kieltyka, one of the
transsexual women, wrote in a letter this month to C. Bradley
Moore, Northwestern's vice president for research. She added:
"I did not receive, nor was I asked to sign, an
In her letter, Ms. Kieltyka wrote that she unwittingly became
a "recruiter for [Mr. Bailey's] research subjects."
1990s, she brought several men who wanted to get sex-change
operations to Mr. Bailey's office, where he agreed to sign the
letters they needed to proceed with "sex reassignment"
After their surgeries, Ms. Kieltyka said in an interview on
Tuesday, Mr. Bailey befriended the women, socializing with
them at Chicago bars and even attending one of their weddings.
Stories about several of the transsexual women then appeared
in Mr. Bailey's book, where they were identified by
"At no time were any of us aware of our status with Dr.
as research subjects," wrote Ms. Kieltyka, who is called
"Cher" in the book and agreed to allow The Chronicle
her real name.
Another transsexual woman who wrote a letter of complaint to
Northwestern this month provided a copy of it to The Chronicle
on the condition that she remain anonymous. When she visited
Mr. Bailey in 1998, she wrote, "my sole purpose ... was
obtain the most important Ph.D.-level letter for my surgery."
Mr. Bailey, she charged, is guilty of misconduct because of
his "misuse of the [sex-reassignment] interviews as research."
Many transsexual women have harshly criticized Mr. Bailey's
book, saying it mischaracterizes their motives for changing
their sex. The common medical diagnosis -- gender-identity
disorder -- holds that men who want to become women are women
trapped in men's bodies. But Mr. Bailey writes that men who
become women are really either extremely gay or sexual
Under federal law, research universities must have
institutional review boards that oversee all research
involving human subjects. Even if a professor's work is not
financed with federal funds, Northwestern requires all
research "involving the collection of data from human
subjects" to be submitted for possible IRB scrutiny, according
to guidelines posted on the university's Web site.
The IRB determines whether a professor needs to obtain the
informed consent of research subjects. That involves telling
the subjects the purpose of the research, as well as its
potential risks and benefits to them.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Bailey said he did not want to
talk about the two women's assertions. But in an e-mail
message to The Chronicle, the professor wrote that he had
"never considered Anjelica et al. research subjects."
added: "I was writing about my own life experiences among
The jacket of Mr. Bailey's book, however, directly contradicts
that statement. It says the work is "based on his original
research" and is "grounded firmly in the scientific
According to federal regulations, a human subject is someone
from whom a researcher obtains data through "interaction,"
which includes "communication or interpersonal contact
investigator and subject." As long as the identity of the
subject is known to the researcher -- even though the
researcher may not make the person's identity public -- the
participant may be considered a "human subject."
William J. Skane, a spokesman for the National Academy of
Sciences, which directs the National Academies Press, would
not comment on the complaints.
A Northwestern spokesman said the university would "respond
the complaints using its established policies and procedures."
Many scholars believe that IRB's, which were originally
established to oversee medical research, have overstepped
their bounds. "My concern is the mission creep of IRB's
the social sciences and even the humanities," says Matthew
Finkin, a professor of law at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign. Mr. Finkin says that applying a biomedical
model to other disciplines creates problems.
Joan C. Sieber, a professor of psychology at California State
University at Hayward and an expert on how IRB's operate,
shares Mr. Finkin's concerns. She says it sounds as if Mr.
Bailey's critics are using IRB regulations "as a tool"
But, she says, Mr. Bailey should have let Northwestern decide
whether his work constituted research, whether people like Ms.
Kieltyka should have been considered "human subjects,"
whether he needed subjects' consent. If he did not inform the
IRB's members of his project, the professor "is on very
ground," says Ms. Sieber. "They should have made the
Copyright © 2003 by The Chronicle of Higher Education