We the undersigned wish to alert you to major unfolding events in the transsexual community, events that are without precedent in their seriousness for trans people worldwide:
The Bailey book controversy:
As you may know, a popular uprising has developed among trans
people all around the world as they've heard about and responded
to the publication by the National Academy Press (JHP) of J.
Michael Bailey's shockingly defamatory book The Man Who Would
Bailey claims that his book is "based on his original research, and is grounded firmly in science." Two of us (Conway and McCloskey) have made direct contact with several of Bailey's original research subjects and have learned that his "firm ground" was a handful of women, all Hispanic and living in Chicago, most in the sex trade. He knew most of them only slightly, around the signing of their SRS letters. During his "research" he did not document the detailed case histories; he informally "observed them" and wrote down anecdotes about their experiences. He operated without approved research protocols for human subjects and without asking his subjects' permission. He selected pieces of their stories to "prove" his two-cell classification scheme, presenting prejudged "results" as though they were scientific fact.
We have discovered that Prof. Bailey has little knowledge of the larger transgendered community and has made no effort to amend his ignorance. He has no understanding of the variety, diversity, and varied trajectories of the thousands of gender transitions that occur in the U.S. each year. He has deliberately avoided contact with the many hundreds of successful, assimilated, postoperative trans women and trans men, easily reachable through web sites such as:
Bailey's book is politically-inspired junk science. Unhappily, Bailey managed to get his "cutting-edge science book" published by the National Academy Press (JHP). We believe this was a mistake, though not an accident. By positioning it as "a popularization of recent important scientific research," he and the National Academy Press set off the current furor.
The investigations now underway:
The rapidly accumulating results of inquiries into Professor Bailey and his allies can be followed at the following two websites, which are coordinating the trans community's web response:
Andrea James Bailey-Blanchard-Lawrence information clearinghouse:
Lynn Conway's Bailey Investigation site:
Those pages document the accumulating evidence concerning many aspects of Prof. Bailey's research conduct. Prof. Joan Roughgarden of Stanford was among the first, writing to the Presidents of the National Academies that "something is terribly wrong." The National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) has issued a press release condemning the book as "science by blatant assertion":
We recommend that you read Prof. Roughgarden's letter and the NTAC Press Release (we've attached copies of those documents for your convenience).
Many in the trans community see Prof. Bailey's work as the most potentially damaging, most outlandish caricature of trans women since Janice Raymond's Transsexual Empire. Indeed it could be worse. Bailey's book is not merely a quietly published academic monograph, as Raymond's was. On the contrary, it is pitched as a trade book, and Bailey writes well (if usually fictionally). Under the mysterious-acquired imprimatur of the National Academy Press, with testimonials by such people as the linguist Stephen Pinker (who believes that biology is all), it can be plausibly viewed by the innocent as the "latest science." It is positioned to poison public opinion of trans women in the U.S. for decades to come.
This danger is heightened by the present political climate. The book has been seized on as an "icon of science" by extreme right wing homo- and trans-phobes such as the columnist John Derbyshire---who is not incidentally connected with Prof. Bailey in other ways--- See Derbyshire's June 30, 2003 review of Bailey's book for the National Review:
The filing of formal complaints about J. Michael Bailey's research conduct:
Our investigations, including much fieldwork in the Chicago area, have uncovered much that is alarming. As a result a formal complaint has been filed against Professor J. Michael Bailey with Northwestern University regarding Prof. Bailey's mistreatment of transsexual women as research subjects during the period 1994-1998. The complaint was filed on July 3, 2003 by C. Anjelica Kieltyka with the Vice President for Research at Northwestern. We have attached a copy; it is also on the web at:
Ms. Kieltyka was mentoring young Latina trans women. She brought a half dozen or so of them to Prof. Bailey, since he promised to sign their SRS letters. Without Ms. Kieltyka or the others realizing it, Prof. Bailey was in fact using them for his "research." He did not tell them they were research subjects or that distorted selections from their stories would be reported in his later publications.
When Ms. Kieltyka finally saw Prof. Bailey's writings, discussing her intimate life (we repeat: inaccurately), she complained, but he changed nothing. Bailey has used fragments of their stories, mixed with fabrications, to their sisters everywhere. Ms. Kieltyka reports for instance that Prof. Bailey recently admitted to fabricating the final, clinching "Danny" story in this "scientific" book.
We anticipate further filings in the near future of additional complaints against Prof. Bailey at Northwestern by other women. We hope the complaints are thoroughly investigated, and that proper sanctions are imposed for all confirmed violations.
As a result of the widening investigations and the growing controversy, many people will turn to HBIGDA's leaders and ask your opinions about Bailey's book. We urge you to begin your own investigation into Prof. Bailey's motives, methods, and activities---including his "research" methods, his treatment of human subjects, his veracity, and his methods of reporting and publicizing his "results."
A helpful site will be:
We urge any of you who can to talk with the "research" subjects involved (we can arrange for some of you to meet them). You can come to your own conclusions. We also urge HBIGDA to take an interest in Northwestern University's investigation of Prof. Bailey's past research conduct, both to ensure that a full investigation is undertaken and to be prepared to take actions on any findings.
The trans community is watching the events unfold on the web. We believe that it is important to the success of HBIGDA that it be actively involved.
The community declares its independence:
This Bailey affair has electrified the mainstream of trans women amd men around the world, in ways that no other event has done. We are weary of being classified, caricatured, and mocked in "research" papers, and objectified and dehumanized by a small clique of arrogant, incurious, and scientifically incompetent "sex researchers" such as Bailey. We will no longer submit to their illiberal programs. We intend to fight back with the tools of open science and clear thinking.
We hope that as HBIGDA moves towards a more compassionate, informed-consent, non-judgmental, and care-giving model of the treatment of gender crossing, it will reject "researchers" who defame, caricature, ridicule and exploit trans people. We hope that you will join us in making sure that gender science is used for good.
Deirdre McCloskey, Ph.D.
Ben Barress, M.D., Ph.D.
Barbara P. Nash, Ph. D.
Joan Roughgarden, Ph.D.
We were very gratified to receive the following e-mail responses to our HBIGDA Alert. The first response, from George Brown, M.D. a member of the HBIGDA Board of Directors, came in only an hour or so after the Alert went out. A few hours later, an even more extensive response came in from Eli Coleman, Ph.D. the President of HBIGDA. Dr. Coleman's e-mail indicated that our HBIGDA Alert would be addressed in an upcoming Executive Committee Meeting, and would also be put on the agenda for the Board Meeting at the HBIGDA Conference in Gent, Belium, in mid-September, 2003.
To: Eli Coleman, Ph.D., President, HBIGDA
Date: Mon, 14 Jul 2003 13:42:40 CDT
I am in receipt of this letter as well today. And, we will
I agree that while not having reviewed the book myself, I
have been very
HBIGDA mission is clear: HBIGDA provides opportunities for
HBIGDA's standards of care and ethical guidelnes advocates
We will do all we can to do to respond to this situation.
On 14 Jul 2003, George.Brown@med.va.gov wrote: