One wrote a letter making another accusation against Dr. Bailey: she claimed he had had sex with her.
Dr. Conway and Dr. McCloskey also wrote letters to Northwestern, accusing Dr. Bailey of grossly violating scientific standards “by conducting intimate research observations on human subjects without telling them that they were objects of the study.”
They also wrote to the Illinois state regulators, requesting that they investigate Dr. Bailey for practicing psychology without a license. Dr. Bailey, who was not licensed to practice clinical psychology in Illinois, had provided some of those who helped him with the book with brief case evaluation letters, suggesting that they were good candidates for sex-reassignment surgery. A spokesman for the state said that regulators took no action on the complaints.
In an interview, Dr. Bailey said that nothing he did was wrong or unethical. “I interviewed people for a book,” he said. “This is a free society, and that should be allowed.”
But by the end of 2003, the controversy had a life of its own on the Internet. Dr. Conway, the computer scientist, kept a running chronicle of the accusations against Dr. Bailey on her Web site. Any Google search of Dr. Bailey’s name brought up Dr. Conway’s site near the top of the list.
The site also included a link to the Web page of another critic of Dr. Bailey’s book, Andrea James, a Los Angeles-based transgender advocate and consultant. Ms. James downloaded images from Dr. Bailey’s Web site of his children, taken when they were in middle and elementary school, and posted them on her own site, with sexually explicit captions that she provided. (Dr. Bailey is a divorced father of two.) Ms. James said in an e-mail message that Dr. Bailey’s work exploited vulnerable people, especially children, and that her response echoed his disrespect.
Dr. Dreger is the latest to arrive at the battlefront. She is a longtime advocate for people born with ambiguous sexuality and has been strongly critical of sex researchers in the past. She said she had presumed that Dr. Bailey was guilty and, after meeting him through a mutual friend, had decided to investigate for herself.
But in her just-completed account, due to be published next year in The Archives of Sexual Behavior, the field’s premier journal, she concluded that the accusations against the psychologist were essentially groundless.
For example, Dr. Dreger found that two of the four women who complained to Northwestern of research violations were not portrayed in the book at all. The two others did know their stories would be used, as they themselves said in their letters to Northwestern.
The accusation of sexual misconduct came five years after the fact, and was not possible to refute or confirm, Dr. Dreger said. It specified a date in 1998 when Dr. Bailey was at his ex-wife’s house, looking after their children, according to dated e-mail messages between the psychologist and his ex-wife, Dr. Dreger found.
The transgender woman who made the complaint said through a friend that she stood by the accusation but did not want to talk about it.
Moreover, based on her own reading of federal regulations, Dr. Dreger, whose report can be viewed at www.bioethics.northwestern.edu, argued that the book did not qualify as scientific research. The federal definition describes “a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation.”
Dr. Bailey used the people in his book as anecdotes, not as the subjects of a systematic investigation, she reported.
“The bottom line is that they tried to ruin this guy, and they almost succeeded,” Dr. Dreger said.
Dr. Dreger’s report began to circulate online last week, and Dr. Bailey’s critics already have attacked it as being biased.
For their part, Northwestern University administrators began an investigation of Dr. Bailey’s research in later 2003 (there is no evidence that they investigated the sex complaint).
“That was the worst blow of all, that we didn’t get much support” from Northwestern, said Gerulf Rieger, a graduate student of Dr. Bailey’s at the time, and now a lecturer at Northwestern. “They were quite scared and not very professional, I thought.”
A spokesman for the university declined to comment on the investigation, which concluded in 2004.
One collaborator broke with Dr. Bailey over the controversy, Dr. Bailey said. Others who remained loyal said doing so had a cost: two researchers said they were advised by a government grant officer that they should distance themselves from Dr. Bailey to improve their chances of receiving financing.
“He told me it would be better if I played down any association with Bailey,” said Khytam Dawood, a psychologist at Pennsylvania State University.
Dr. Bailey said that the first weeks of the backlash were the worst. He tried not to think about the accusations, he said, but would wake up in the middle of the night unable to think of anything else. He took anti-anxiety pills for a while. He began to worry about losing his job. He said that friends and family supported him but that some colleagues were afraid to speak up in his defense.
“They saw what I was going through, I think, and wanted no part of it,” he said.
The fog of war, which can overwhelm the senses of real soldiers, can also descend on academic feuds, and it seems to have done so on this one.
In October 2004, Dr. Bailey stepped down as chairman of the psychology department. He declined to say why, and a spokesman for Northwestern would say only that the change in status had nothing to do with the book.
These unknowns seem if anything to have extended the life of the controversy, which still simmers online.
“I think for me, for the work I do, honestly, I don’t really care what his theories are,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, of Dr. Bailey. “But I do want to feel like any theories that affect the lives of so many people are based in good science, and that they’re presented responsibly.”
But that, say supporters of Dr. Bailey, is precisely the problem: Who defines responsible? And at what cost is that definition violated?
It is perhaps fitting that the history of this conflict, which caught fire online, is being written and revised continually in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which is compiled and corrected by users. The reference site provides a lengthy entry on Dr. Bailey, but a section titled “Research Misconduct,” which posts some of the accusations Dr. Dreger reviewed, includes a prominent warning.
It reads: “The neutrality of this section is disputed.”
List of obvious errors in the Times article:
- - - TBD - - -