An investigation into the publication of
J. Michael Bailey's book on transsexualism
by the National Academies
by Lynn Conway
Copyright © 2003-2007 by Lynn Conway
All rights reserved
[Version of 3-28-08]
This is the story of an extensive trans community investigation into the publication of a highly transphobic book by the National Academies. The investigation involved hundreds of trans participants and thousands of supporters, and uncovered evidence of serious professional misconduct on the part of the book's author, J. Michael Bailey, of Northwestern University. That evidence led Northwestern's central administration to conduct their own formal internal investigation of Bailey's conduct, resulting in his resignation as Chair of the Psychology Department at Northwestern, his career in disgrace.
To follow how the story unfolded, see the Log of Breaking News. To study the historical trail of events in the investigation, see the timeline-spreadsheet of unfolding events. For a more detailed examination of information obtained from many investigators, see Andrea James' webpage: Categorically wrong? A Bailey-Blanchard-Lawrence clearinghouse. For a discussion of the issues involved and the impact of these events, see Andrea James' essay, "A Defining Moment in Our History".
|Log of Breaking News
|Andrea James' "BBL Clearinghouse"
|Major threads and stories
|Formal Complaints against Bailey at NU
|"Psychology Perverted" by Joan Roughgarden (español)
|Early Investigation Files
|The Bailey Book Online (more info)
|"How Bailey Responds to His Critics" by Lynn Conway
|Reviews of Bailey's Book
|"A Defining Moment in Our History" by Andrea James
In the Spring of 2003, J. Michael Bailey, Chairman of the Psychology Department at Northwestern University, threw the socially endangered community of transsexual women into serious distress, by authoring a book that pseudo-scientifically defamed their lives and identities. The situation was made all the worse in that his book was published by the National Academies Press, the publishing arm of the eminent U. S. National Academy of Sciences, and was intensively marketed as being "scientifically correct and groundbreaking".
Containing no specific references to other scientific work, the The Man Who Would Be Queen simply pronounced as a scientific fact that postoperative transsexual women are either (i) effeminate gay men who underwent "sex changes" in order to have sex with lots of men, or else they are (ii) sexual paraphilic males who "changed sex" for bizarre autosexual reasons. The book especially defames trans women who are attracted to men, calling them "homosexual transsexuals" as if they were men themselves.
Cloaked in the guise of a series of “scientific studies”, the book contains page after page of defamatory caricatures of transsexual women, as in the following direct quotes (links to pages in the book enable you to read the quotes in context, and fully confirm their strangeness for yourself):
" - - - homosexual transsexuals are used to living on the margins of society" p. 184
"Homosexual transsexuals tend to have a short time horizon, with certain pleasure in the present worth great risks for the future." p. 184
"Prostitution is the single most common occupation that homosexual transsexuals in our study admitted to." p. 184
"Nearly all the homosexual transsexuals I know work as escorts after they have their surgery." p. 210
"Do they get married? ... homosexual transsexuals are not very successful at finding desirable men willing to commit to them." p. 209
When the book immediately set off a firestorm of complaints from the trans community, Mr. Bailey was quoted in the media as making responses such as the following:
"… the book is intentionally controversial," Bailey said. "I write about things that matter and that people are uncomfortable with. The cover (as well as the book) is meant to be provocative." (Daily NU, April 21, 2003)
Then, when he and the National Academies began receiving large numbers of well thought out, sincere complaints about the credibility of his scientific pronouncements, and about the dangers those pronouncements presented to transsexual women, he cavalierly responded in the media by saying things such as:
“I can’t be a slave to sensitivity” . (Chronicle of Higher Education, June 22, 2003)
When those complaints escalated into a major investigation into ethical misconduct on his part, leading to the filing of many complaints of research misconduct against him at Northwestern University, Mr. Bailey began to bitterly complain in the media about his life being ruined. And yet at the same time he showed no remorse whatsoever about the angst he had caused in thousands of women.
"I am very sympathetic to transsexuals. I like these people, except for the people who hate me -- they scare me." (Daily NU, April 21, 2003)
“Did I think that people would devote their lives to trying to ruin me? I did not…." (SEED Magazine, May/June, 2004)
Mr. Bailey’s behavior towards his lay critics and research subjects, as uncovered in the ongoing trans community investigation, are very troubling. From the start he showed no surprise at the massive scientific and social criticism of his book. He showed no remorse about the angst that his book was causing amongst thousands of trans women. He made no effort to clarify or defend his scientific and social views, or to ease the distress those views were causing trans women. Instead he aggressively attacked his critics’ sanity and veracity.
Rather than confront scientific or methodological criticism with a scientific defense, Mr. Bailey undertook a campaign of personal attacks in the media upon the women who had lodged formal complaints against him, and upon any others who dared criticize his scientific work, accusing them of being mentally-ill sexual paraphilics who were trying to ruin his life:
"Their primary sexual attraction is to themselves…", Bailey says. Meaning they're turned on by a vagina, but they'd prefer it to be their own. (Chicago Reader, Dec. 12, 2003)
While sweepingly defaming trans women as sexual perverts, including doing so via various surrogates and spokespersons, Mr. Bailey claimed he himself was simply being scientifically “truthful” about them and couldn’t be concerned about their feelings:
"I'm concerned with science and truth and not the feelings of groups," Bailey said. (Daily NU, July 31, 2003)
And in a parallel defensive effort to rally his sex-science colleagues behind him and turn attention away from actual scientific debate, and to further isolate transsexual women from any participation in the emerging debate, Mr. Bailey harangued his colleagues with a conference talk about how the critics of his scientific research were engaging in “identity politics” and were endangering sex-science’s search for “truth”.
This overall pattern of behavior is in very sharp contrast to the manner in which scientists normally respond to critics when defending their work.
For the Chairman of the Department of Psychology of a major research university to feel comfortably and professionally able to openly engage in personal attacks upon the gender identity, sanity and truthfulness of trans women who filed complaints about his research conduct, and upon any others who simply dared to criticize his scientific defamations of their endangered class of people, is a frightening development in the history of "modern science.”
Even more frightening is the way in which the scientific establishment and the National Academies stood by in silence whilst this outrage unfolded, in many cases deliberately turning their backs on trans women who stepped forward to complain about what was being done to them.
We believe that the record of these events will in time expose major flaws in the institutional conduct of scientific research involving human subjects, leading to new rules of conduct for researchers, and to more vigilant community self-policing regarding the rogue scientists amongst us. Otherwise, more scientific fields will fall into ridicule and disrepute in the public eye, as has the field of psychology for condoning of the likes of J. Michael Bailey. Thus it is likely that the investigation of these events will “have ramifications far beyond the Bailey case” .
Meanwhile, the revolution ignited in response to the publication of Mr. Bailey’s book by the National Academies has become a defining moment in our community’s history. Thousands of trans people participated in this, one of the first major 'bloggings' in internet history, well before the word 'blog' even came into use. The resulting revolution against the psychiatric and psychological defamation of gender minorities will insure that, in the end, the academic and scientific establishment will be held to account for these offenses – as trans people move out from under their scrutiny as “pathological specimens,” seize our full human rights, and make our voices heard.
In this website and in Andrea James' BBL Clearinghouse, you can learn about and follow the events that triggered this revolution.
How to explore this site:
Major threads and stories:
The following are major threads of stories that unfolded during the investigation.
1. Scientific reflections on and deconstructions of Bailey's work and its harmful impact:
"The Bailey Affair: Psychology Perverted", by Joan Roughgarden, Ph.D.
Psychology seen as a discipline without standards, nourishing a clique of dumbly insensitive bigots (Deutsch, en español, em português, Русский)
"Psychology Perverted" - A Response by a group of UK Psychologists:
"We are particularly concerned that Bailey's work will be seen as representative of scientific psychological research . . ."
Reflections on the Bailey fiasco by Deirdre McCloskey, Ph.D., in Reason Magazine, Nov 2003:
"Queer Science: A data-bending psychologist confirms what he already knew about gays and transsexuals"
In the American Psychological Association's DIV44 Spring 2004 Newsletter:
"A Personal & Scientific look at a Mental Illness Model of Transgenderism" - by psychologist Madeline H. Wyndzen, Ph. D.
Walter Bockting, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota Medical School reviews, rebuts and rebukes Bailey's book:
"Biological Reductionism Meets Gender Diversity in Human Sexuality", Journal of Sex Research, August 2005.
"A defining moment in our history", by Andrea James. (PDF)
"BBL will be regarded as an interesting curiosity from the waning years when our community was considered disordered and diseased."
2. Transgender people come out in large numbers to protest defamation by psychologists:
Petition protesting LLF nomination of Bailey's book for an award is successful:
LLF declares the book to be transphobic instead
The petition gained over a thousand signatures from countries all over the world in just its first few days.
See the list of signatures!
An essay by Christine Burns summarizes the situation well:
"The Queen Who Won't Be Crowned"
Story by Kyle Scanlon, on how LLF got it wrong and never really righted it:
"Lost in trans-lation: NOMINATION REVOKED / How a book award went so wrong"
3. The 'Queer Science' of Bailey and his colleagues is linked to eugenics and hate groups:
Formal complaints filed against Bailey at Northwestern:
The following are direct links to the formal complaints filed against J. Michael Bailey at Northwestern University. To visualize how these complaint filings fit into the sequence of unfolding events, see the investigation timeline-spreadsheet (in which they are tabbed in the "Comp" column)
07-03-03: Anjelica Kieltyka files formal complaint with Northwestern University
Also included is a summary of the key events in the 2007 attack on the trans community by Alice Dreger and Ken Zucker, in an attempt to resurrect Bailey's lost reputation.
Summary of Key Events in the BBL Investigation of 2003-04:
Bailey's book published in late March, 2003.
National Academy Press publicist Robin Pinnel issues press release to promote Bailey's book,3-21-03
Bailey lectures at Emory Univ., boasting of how "scandalous" and "controversial" his book is, 4-8-03
Lynn Conway learns of book's publication, and alerts Andrea James and Becky Allison, 4-10-03.
Lynn Conway and Andrea James meet with Bailey's research subjects in Chicago, 7-18/22-03.
Aftermath of the investigation, as Bailey falls into disgrace in 2005-07:
Dreger and Zucker attempt to resurrect Bailey's disgraced career by attacking the trans community in mid-2007:
08-21-07: "Criticism of a Gender Theory, and a Scientist Under Siege": Gay Bailey supporter
Benedict Carey attempts to resurrect Bailey in the New York Times.
This investigation was a community effort directly involving hundreds of trans people, friends and allies. Few participants had ever been "activists". Most were people who were living productive, successful lives before the Bailey book came out. Shocked by Mr. Bailey's defamations of their lives and identities, these women and men were jolted into action.
When the mainstream "non-activist" center across an entire community is moved to mass action, you know that something terrible has happened. Such was the case with Bailey's book: It was a Pearl Harbor-like wake-up call that we were under attack by a very dangerous set of adversaries.
Our response to this attack was enhanced by the latest technological means. We pitched in and contributed, each in our own way, using our technology to build a fast-accumulating web of investigatory results for posting on the internet. This website and Andrea James's BBL Clearinghouse served as the daily newspapers and investigative repositories for this effort. By browsing these sites, participants followed events, found roles they could play and added to the web of results. Postings of intermediate results helped alert and involve many people, who then quickly followed up promising leads, tested promising theories and uncovered evidence. These methods succeeded in uncovering a lot of evidence about Mr. Bailey's research misconduct and unethical behavior towards his research subjects.
We wish to acknowledge the many trans women, friends and allies who participated in this investigation. Below we list those who can be openly identified - even if only by pseudonyms. Please remember, however, that many participants are living in "stealth" and could not openly identify themselves. We honor their contributions just as we honor those named below:
Calpernia Addams, KatieA, Becky Allison, M.D., Anneliese Anderle, BarbieAnn, Patricia Anderson, Anonymous#1, Anonymous#2, Anonymous#3, Caitlyn L. Antrim, Walter Bockting, Ph.D., Ryka Aoki de la Cruz, Gary Barlow, Ben A. Barres, M.D., Ph.D., E. B., Christine Beatty, S. Bear Bergman, Heidi Beirich, Dana Beyer, M.D., Bambi Blanchard, Janice Blanche, Jenny Boylan, Marci Bowers, M.D., Helen Boyd, Andrea Brown (Northern Ireland), Christine Burns (UK), Alison Campbell, Monica Casper, Kate Clarke (Australia), Saralyn Chesnut, Eli Coleman, Ph.D., Lynn Conway, Dallas Denny, Donna, Debra DeSilva, Elizabeth (Evelyn), Sarah Fenwick, Beth Flanagan, Vanessa Foster, Sarah F., "IASR Friend", Bruce Frier, Ph.D., J.M.G., Gabrielle, Karen Gurney (Australia), James MacGregor Halleman, Emily Hobbie, Diane Hutchinson, M. Italiano (more), K. J., Kristin J. (Canada), "Bonnie Jackson" (UK), Andrea James, Victoria Jefferies (UK), Karen Johannesson, Ph.D., Sonia John, Christine Johnson, Julie Ann Johnson, Daphne Jones, Joanne, "Juanita", Mara Keisling, Donna Kelly, Joan Kershaw, Anjelica Kietlyka, h m, Denise Leclair, Lisa Lees, Gordene MacKenzie, "Maria", Julie Maverick, Deirdre McCloskey, Ph.D., Kim McNabb, Gwyneth Rhian Morgan, Bob Moser, Nancy Nangeroni, Barbara Nash, Ph.D., "Nell", Jane Newman, Kelly Novack, Jennifer O'Conner, Doug Ousterhout, M.D., D.D.S., Kathy Padilla, Pauline Park, Geoff Parks, Susanna Boudrie, Mark Potok, Vicki Rene, Donna Rose, Joan Roughgarden, Ph.D., Ruth, K. S., Sandra Samons, Ph.D.(more), Nick Sauer, Kyle Scanlon, Cynthia Huebscher-Scott, Skylark (more), Gwendolyn Ann Smith, Margaret Stumpp, Erin Swenson, Katie Thomas, Paul Varnell, "Victoria", Robyn Walters, Kelley Winters, Ph.D., XSteve.com
We also want to thank the following organizations and media groups for their active support in this effort:
National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC), W-O-M-A-N Network (Australia), Chicago Gender Society (CGS), Press for Change (PFC - UK), Illinois Gender Advocates, TransFamily, International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE) (more, more), Chicago Free Press (more, more), Independent Gay Forum (more), Windy City Times (more), Exit Online (South Africa) (more), The Renaissance Transgender Association (TCN), Diverse City Magazine, GenderTalk Radio, Gay.com/PlanetOut.com Network, Gender Identity Center of Colorado, Inc., HBIGDA (now WPATH) (more), National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) (more, more).
Following his resignation as Chair of the Psychology Department at Northwestern, Bailey attacked the identities of bisexual people, claiming that male bisexuality does not exist and that men who self-identify as bisexual are "lying". We want to thank the many individuals and organizations that rose up and participated in the bisexual community response to Bailey's attack. Their response echoed and reinforced the earlier trans community response to Bailey's unsound 'science':
Loraine Hutchins, Ph.D. (more), Ron Suresha (more), IASR Friend, Michael in New York, Gary Barlow, Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg, Annalee Newitz (more), Ethan Jacobs, Paul Varnell, AMERICAblog.com, GLAAD, QueerDay.com, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), Chicago Free Press, Washington Blade, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) (Fact Sheet), Bay Windows Online, Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Bisexual Resource Center, BiNetUSA.
In memory of our dear friend Kristina,
who played an important role in this investigation:
November 17, 1949 - July 31, 2004
About the investigative journalist:
Lynn Conway is an early pioneer of gender transition. After completing her transition in 1968, she went on to become a prominent computer scientist and research engineer in her new life, living in stealth mode for over 31 years until "outed" by events in 1999.
Lynn's innovations in modern methods of VLSI silicon chip design underly much of the modern electronics, computer and communications revolution, and have brought wide recognition from colleagues all across high-technology. Now retired, as Professor Emerita of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan, Lynn is still active in high-technology circles. As an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering, she serves on a number of national committees and advisory boards in high-technology.
A happy, fun-loving woman, Lynn has lived a full life since her transition. Most important to her are the simple joys of everyday life, especially life with her husband Charlie. They enjoy life together on 23 acres of country property in rural Michigan, and have been love-mates for 20 years now. If you'd like to contact Lynn or learn more about her story or about transsexualism, see her homepage at http://www.lynnconway.com/
Lynn and her husband Charlie
Reset on 4-26-03
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