Joelle Ruby Ryan chairs NWSA panel on resisting transphobia in academia:

The event Alice Dreger failed to stop

A Report by Lynn Conway

Copyright © Lynn Conway 2008. All rights reserved

First posted 6-27-08 [V 1-28-09] 




The Panelists and their Papers

Joelle Ruby Ryan, graduate student at Bowling Green State University

Élise R. Hendrick, Independent Scholar

Katrina C. Rose, University of Iowa

Andrea James, GenderMedia Foundation

Reflections on the Event

References and Resources

See also: "Alice Dreger's attacks on critics of J. Michael Bailey", by Andrea James

Link to Katrina Rose's audio recordings of the presentations  NEW!

Link to Andrea James' videos of all the presentations  NEW!



"The Bailey Brouhaha: Community Members Speak Out on Resisting Transphobia and Sexism in Academia and Beyond,"

29th Annual National Women's Studies Association Conference, Cincinnati, OH, June 21, 2008. 

Panelists (left to right): Andrea James, Joelle Ruby Ryan, Katrina Rose and Élise Hendrick 




In a long arc from Janice Raymond, to Germaine Greer, to Paul McHugh and then on to J. Michael Bailey, Ray Blanchard and Anne Lawrence, transgender women have for decades been systematically demonized by transphobic academics.


A blatant example of such demonization occurred in July 2007 when Ken Zucker, the trans-reparatist editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior (ASB), subverted that journal as a propaganda tool in defense of editorial board members Bailey, Blanchard and Lawrence by announcing and pre-publishing Alice Dreger's one-sided history of the Bailey book investigation. Dreger's history contained over-the-top attacks on Bailey's critics while lionizing Bailey as a great scientist under siege. Zucker promoted Dreger's hit-piece as if it were an independent scholarly work, planning the entire June 2008 issue of the ASB around Dreger's defense of Bailey.


In a response to Dreger's and Zucker's actions, a graduate student named Joelle Ruby Ryan at Bowling Green State University sent out a call for papers proposing a panel discussion at the 2008 National Women's Studies Association Conference entitled: "The Bailey Brouhaha: Community Members Speak Out on Resisting Transphobia and Sexism in Academia and Beyond"


Upon learning of the proposed panel, Alice Dreger tried to stop it from happening by launching a public e-mail attack on Joelle and threatening Joelle's academic career. Proclaiming her own work to be a "scholarly history", Dreger defensively defamed Joelle for having the nerve to criticize her work. 


Joelle decisively called Dreger's bluff by exposing her e-mail attack, a move that received wide notice in blogs and GLBT media:


"With "Defenders" Like This...Alice Dreger Destroys Academic Freedom in Order to Save It", by Élise Hendrick, LifeAfterGonzalesBlogspot, Sept. 25, 2007.


"Academic Attack Against Trans Graduate Student by Alice Dreger of Northwestern University", by Lynn Conway, a letter to the WPATH Board of Directors, September 27, 2007.


"A TransAmazon Takes on The Man", By Jacob Anderson-Minshall, San Francisco Bay Times, October 18, 2007.


Joelle's courageous action caused Dreger's attack to backfire. The panel went on as scheduled, gained wide notice and yielded powerful essays that further exposed  trans-defamations by Bailey and Dreger. We are pleased to report on the panel in this page, and to provide excerpts and links to the essays below.


In parallel with these events, Dreger's work was further called into question when a large set of peer commentary papers were published in the June 2008 Archives of Sexual Behavior, right alongside her revisionist history. In what had to be a shock to Zucker, Dreger, Bailey, Blanchard and Lawrence, the large majority of those papers were critical of Dreger's scholarship. It appears that Zucker's exploitation of the ASB to defend Bailey has backfired too.





The Panelists and their Papers:


Joelle Ruby Ryan's National Women's Studies Association panel, a first of its kind, was successful beyond all expectations. It was history in the making, and I wouldn't have missed it for anything. We've listed the panelists and provided excerpts and links to the essays below, so that you can visualize what happened at this amazing event (announcement flyer ; session handout). See also the YouTube videos of all the presentations.


Organizer and moderator: 

Joelle Ruby Ryan, graduate student at Bowling Green State University.


In her introduction to this important panel - a first of its kind - Joelle talks of transgender people finally "speaking truth to power":


“The Bailey Brouhaha: Community Members Speak Out on Resisting Transphobia and Sexism in Academia and Beyond”


"For many years, the transsexual community was a colonized community.  We were colonized by psychiatrists, psychologists, endocrinologists, social workers, academics, surgeons, lawyers and others in positions of power.  Our own voices were rarely heard.  Others deigned to speak for us and, often with good intentions, defamed, denigrated and distorted our lives. . . .


I believe that this panel is so immensely important because it represents a formerly colonized people speaking truth to power.  As an African proverb succinctly states, until the lions come to power, the hunters write the history. Through using our own agency and demanding on the validity of our own lived experiences, we, the lions, are charting our own experiences, decolonizing our own minds, and usurping the power that is rightly our own. The papers that follow are so important because they contribute to the process of decolonization and fight back against the old-guard backlash that is so detrimental and insidious to our very lives." 


Video of presentation:

Part I:  

Part II:




Panelist 1: 

Élise R. Hendrick, Independent Scholar.


In a brilliant essay, Élise Hendrick exposes Bailey's and Dreger's claim to a special form of protection from criticism called "Bailey-Dreger academic freedom" (BDAF):

"Quiet Down There! The Discourse of Academic Freedom as Defence of Hierarchy in the Aftermath of J. Michael Bailey's The Man Who Would Be Queen" [PDF]


"Bailey and Dreger assert that their academic freedom has been violated by conduct - including conduct by persons holding academic positions - that is virtually indistinguishable from the conduct they assert is protected by academic freedom when engaged in by them. Indeed, the only meaningful difference between the conduct that Bailey and Dreger consider to be protected by their version of academic freedom and the conduct they consider to be a violation of their version of academic freedom is that the protected conduct is their own, whereas the (virtually indistinguishable) violative conduct is that of their critics.


Thus, as we will see, Bailey-Dreger academic freedom accords heightened protection to their right as academics to engage in whatever conduct they wish, while prohibiting any criticism of that conduct by anyone. . . .


What, then, is the key status attribute that distinguishes those who benefit from the virtually absolute right of Bailey-Dreger academic freedom from those who are subject to the corresponding duty to applaud or remain silent? It would be cynical to suggest that the only beneficiaries of the doctrine of Bailey-Dreger academic freedom are Bailey and Dreger, and no evidence suggests that the doctrine would never apply to anyone other than themselves. Thus, the necessary status attribute must be something more than merely belonging to the academic establishment.


Judging from the case studies above, it would appear that the key criterion is not membership in the academic hierarchy, but one's attitude toward hierarchy itself. This is the one clear distinguishing characteristic between the conduct of Bailey and Dreger and that of Conway et al. Bailey and Dreger, above all, defend the hierarchical position of "experts", their right to define and categorise the lower orders, without regard to the lived experiences or insights that the latter might provide. By demanding to be heard on the question of "who and what are trans women," and even daring to contradict a J. Michael Bailey, Conway et al. challenged one of the most entrenched hierarchies in our society: the right of Thorstein Veblen's "substantial people" to define the discourse on any given subject. It is not the butterfly's place to lecture the entomologist; it may feel pain whilst being pinned to a corkboard, but it had best keep that to itself."


Video of presentation:

Part I:   

Part II:

Part III:




Panelist 2: 

Katrina C. Rose, University of Iowa.


In her essay, Katrina Rose explores Dreger's ill-conceived defense of Bailey and the inevitable negative impact on her own reputation:

"Go Ask Alice – But Not About Transsexuals’ Lives and History: A Defense of the Right of Members of an Oppressed Class to Speak for Themselves" [PDF]


"I intend this paper as a vindication of the right of transsexuals to speak for themselves – and not as any form of threat, coercion or any manner of negativity aimed at anyone who might happen not to be transsexual but who also might happen to write about the subject or any person or persons who are encompassed by that category. It is, however, a warning to all that transsexuals will never again stand silent as our very existence is attacked. . . .


Yes, I’ll repeat, Bailey is a human being, but The Man Who Would be Queen was – and is – as indefensible as anything ever typed out by a human being.


But, one thing that Bailey is not is a victim – at least not of anything other than his own scholarly self-delusions and his willingness to be yet another bully in the lives of people who have survived more bullying than anyone deserves. He has no standing to complain of their being held up to scrutiny by his ‘data’. The original working title for this paper was “Is Alice Dreger to J. Michael Bailey as George W. Bush is to Scooter Libby?” Dreger, in attempting to be just that – to give Bailey an undeserved ‘Get Out of Hell Free’ card – has permanently tarnished her reputation – and the entire notion of true academic freedom."


Video of presentation:

Part I:

Part II:



Panelist 3:

Andrea James, GenderMedia Foundation.


In the concluding essay of the panel session, Andrea James explores the trans-reparatist treatment of gender-variant youth as the overarching theme of Bailey's book, and discusses the now unstoppable populist response against such trans-reparatism. Making connections between the methods of sex science and race science, Andrea also illuminates how profoundly the trans-community has been harmed by the National Academies' publication of Bailey's book:

"Fair comment, foul play: Populist responses to J. Michael Bailey’s exploitative “controversies”" [PDF]


"Bailey’s book is first and foremost a cure narrative framed by the story of “Danny Ryan,” a pseudonymous child displaying “gender nonconformity.” . . .


The populist response to Zucker’s reparative therapy has been largely driven by the internet, the most significant advance for trans people that will happen in my lifetime. . . .


Our populist uprising targets high-end academic research, which has become a corrupt, bloated money grab with almost no consequence as long as employees generate grant money and publicity. Bailey and colleagues like Alice Dreger exploit master narratives (Dreger 2008), consensus statements (ISNA 2006), college texts (LeVay 2007), and selective peer review (Mautner 2003) to reinforce their views and dismiss differing views, especially from their objects of study. . . .


Bailey’s book is a self-aggrandizing exercise in identity politics, where he’s a heroic scientist who is “curing” gender-variant children and speaking “scientific truth” despite “hysterical” activists whose “identity politics” and “narcissistic rage” drive their efforts to “ruin” him (Bailey 2003c). Bailey outlines transsexuals’ “common lies and deceptiveness” (p. 232) and explains away those who take issue with his claims as inept (p. 176), mentally disordered (Dreier 2003), or lying (Krasny 2007). . .


Bailey’s “controversy” was countered by a populist response that exposed his indefensible actions. He unwittingly started an unstoppable populist movement which still amazes me daily. It evokes a passage from Maya Angelou (Angelou 1978) that I first read in Les Feinberg’s Transgender Warriors (Feinberg 1996):


You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I'll rise."



Video of presentation:

Part I:  

Part II:

Full Length  (on Facebook):






Reflections on the Event:

[work in progress - - - TBD - - - ]


We'll be adding some reflections on the NWSA panel here sometime soon. In the meantime, here are several photos from the event:



Joelle Ruby Ryan, Lynn Conway, Maria (aka 'Juanita') and Andrea James, the evening before the panel:



Lynn setting up the video camera before the session:



After the session: Special panel guest Maria with Andrea James:






References and Resources:

[work in progress - these are refs from the session-handout for now]

Bailey, J. Michael. The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism. Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press, 2003. Read the book online at:

"An investigation into the publication of J. Michael Bailey's book on transsexualism by the National Academies", by Lynn Conway:

"Categorically Wrong: A Bailey-Blanchard-Lawrence Clearinghouse", by Andrea James:

"The Controversy Surrounding The Man Who Would Be Queen: A Case History of the Politics of Science, Identity and Sex in the Internet Age by Alice Dreger". Pre-Print, Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Information on Alice Dreger and her 'scholarly' activities:

"Deconstructing the Feminine Essence Narrative", by Curtis Hinkle

"Alice Dreger Played Intersex People a Nasty Trick for Halloween", by Cynthya/BrianKate

"Did I Mention a Guggenheim Award? Notes from Upsetting the Clique", by Sophia Siedlberg

"Science Subverted: How a Scientific Journal Became a Propaganda Tool in the Science War Against the Social Emergence of Transgender Women". A report by Lynn Conway

For Information about Alice Dreger s Attack of Trans Graduate Student Joelle Ruby Ryan, please see:

"Dreger's Defense of J. Michael Bailey: The Peer Commentary Papers Take It Apart." A report by Lynn Conway

"The Man Who Would be Queen: Bigotry as "Science"", by Andrea James

"Alice Dreger Defends J. Michael Bailey on KQED", transcript and report by Andrea James

"The Bailey Affair: Psychology Perverted", by Joan Roughgarden

Deirdre McCloskey on the Bailey Controversy:

"Yet Another Attempt to Pull a `Scholarly' Fast One Against Trans Women", by Katrina Rose

"With "Defenders" Like This...Alice Dreger Destroys Academic Freedom in Order to Save It", by Élise Hendrick

"A Bailey Controversy Follow-Up", by Julia Serano



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