Alice Dreger defends J. Michael Bailey on KQED

San Francisco Public Radio station KQED featured a discussion of Alice Dreger's defense of controversial psychologist J. Michael Bailey, author of the 2003 book The Man Who Would Be Queen. "Transgender Theories" aired 22 August 2007 on Forum with host Michael Krasny.

Archive of "Transgender Theories" via KQED


Michael Krasny

J. Michael Bailey 
Professor of Psychology, Northwestern University

Alice Dreger   
Associate Professor of Clinical and Medical Humanities and Bioethics, Northwestern University

Joan Roughgarden  
Professor of Biological Science, Stanford University

Mara Keisling
Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality


Krasny: From KQED public radio in San Francisco, I’m Michael Krasny. Coming up next on Forum, outrage and allegations have been hurled back and forth over the controversial work of a Northwestern psychologist explaining what he views as the motivations behind why some men become women. It’s a very messy imbroglio which brings with it questions of research ethics, sexual and gender identity, and charges on both sides of immorality. We’ll attempt to sort it all out and hear from both sides, next after this.

(music break)

Krasny: From KQED public radio in San Francisco, I’m Michael Krasny. Good morning and welcome to this morning’s Forum program. In 2003 Northwestern Psychology Professor J. Michael Bailey published a work on gender-bending and transsexualism called The Man Who Would Be Queen, a study of feminine roles. The work has outraged transsexuals because of its thesis that some of the men who become women are motivated by largely erotic attachments and sexuality, rather than the long-held view that men who become women largely do so because they feel like women trapped in the bodies of men. Or to put it more plainly, that male-to-female transsexuality can be rooted in sexual attraction rather than in possessing or coveting an inner female self or soul. This part of the work of Professor Bailey caused a firestorm, and there followed allegations against him, as well as allegations against those who strongly disagreed with his methods and conclusions about trans men. An investigation took place at Northwestern, and web postings appeared charging Professor Bailey with illegal and unethical conduct, and targeting both him and his loved ones. Many of the feelings on both sides remain raw and damaged, and in fact Benedict Carey reported on this in a discussion that went on controversially at the International Academy of Sex Research in Vancouver. This was reported in yesterday’s New York Times, and he said it was “one of the most contentious and personal social science controversies in recent memory.” We want to try to sort all this out and what is at stake in the argument, and why it has created such a firestorm that really continues right up to the present. Let me tell you who is joining us for this hour. We have with us by phone Dr. J. Michael Bailey. He’s Professor of Psychology at Northwestern and joins us from Evanston. Good morning to you.

Bailey: Good morning.

Krasny: I also have with us Dr. Alice Dreger, who is Associate Professor of Clinical and Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern, and she joins us from East Lansing this morning. Welcome to you.

Dreger: Thank you.

Krasny: And we are also joined this morning by Mara Keisling, who is Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. She’s with us from St. Augustine, Florida. Welcome, Mara Keisling.

Keisling: Thank you, Michael.

Krasny: Here in studio, we want to welcome Joan Roughgarden, Professor of Biological Science at Stanford University, author of Evolution’s Rainbow, and welcome Joan Roughgarden.

Roughgarden: Thank you.

Krasny: And I want to do this sort of in seriatim, we’re going to hear from what I call the Bailey-Dreger side first, and then we’ll hear from Joan Roughgarden and Mara Keisling, who take strong exception to the study and what it puts out there. Professor Bailey, let me begin with you, and let’s get you on the record here in terms of what you see is the minefield you stepped into here. It has to do, as I said, with the nature of transsexual sexuality, I suppose, more than anything else, doesn’t it?

Bailey: Well, it does, but before I address that specifically, I want to point out some inaccuracies in the way you kind of began, one of which is the implication that my book offended all transsexual women. That is certainly not the case. It offended a subset of transsexual women. And the percentage of the transsexuals who it offended is impossible to tell, because the transsexuals who approve of the theories that I wrote about are so intimidated by the people like Lynn Conway, who have attempted to suppress this work. It’s really impossible to know. So I’ll say a bit about the science behind this.

Krasny: Let me stop you there for a second, and thank you for making that—I didn’t want to give the impression that it was anything other than a subset, because I would agree with that characterization. But Ms. Conway did write to us, and I think one of the big arguments seems to be calling this science. You said it was a book in which you interviewed people for a book, as opposed to being taken seriously as perhaps science or research… or nothing other than a social or soft science, so let’s maybe distinguish that if we could.

Bailey: Well, sure thing. This would be a pretty simple matter to tell you what the book was if there hadn’t been an intentional attempt to defame me and my book. I wrote what is commonly understood to be a popular science book, in which I reviewed serious academic work by myself and other scholars. And the serious scholar who did the traditional academic work, peer reviewed and published in respectable journals, who wrote about transsexuals, is a guy named Ray Blanchard from Toronto, who I think is the world’s expert in transsexualism. And I, kind of coincidentally, because they came to me and wanted to talk to me and tell me about themselves, I came to know a group of transsexual women in Chicago. I was struck when I got to know them that there seemed to be these two completely, utterly distinct types of transsexuals, and I had not known about that. I subsequently became familiar with Ray Blanchard’s work, which was published in the 80s and early 90s, and it completely explained what I was seeing. It made me understand. And so I consulted gender experts, allegedly, such as Randi Ettner, and I read autobiographies of transsexuals, and I was struck by how they don’t write about what I could plainly see with my eyes and was there in Ray Blanchard’s work. And so I decided to write my book in part because of this.

Krasny: What was there is what I described earlier as erotic attachment.

Bailey: Well, you simplified a bit. That was the key thing that was missing, which is an erotic motivation in some males to become women. And this is expressed most commonly and most early in these individuals as erotic crossdressing. So when they first go into puberty, they discover that it really turns them on to wear, say, panties, women’s panties, and look at themselves in the mirror, and to masturbate and so on. And there are various manifestations of this trait, which is called autogynephilia: auto (self), gyne (woman) philia (love for). In a subset of autogynephilic individuals—who remember, begin life as men—this drive manifests as the desire to have female anatomy. And these are the males most likely that go on and get sex reassignment surgery and become women.

Krasny: And we should mention that this was actually nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, but there’s been a lot of opposition aside from the subset of transsexuals. Dr. John Bancroft, for example, Director of the Kinsey Institute, said this is not science, it’s anecdotes. And you’ve been singled out for a lot of criticism, particularly with some things gay men—let me just get you on record on this—gay men supposedly, you said, are suited… you said, some gay men are suited to be florists or beauticians, Latinos have genes that suit them for transsexualism, and they are more likely to be prostitutes, so you’ve been charged with—

Bailey: You sound like you’ve been reading straight off of Lynn Conway's website.

Krasny: I have. I want to give you every opportunity to answer her charges here.

Bailey: I didn’t say any of those things that way. All I did was notice some things. Is this controversial that gay men are more likely than straight men to be florists? [66] That’s what I said. I didn’t say they were suited, although—you know, I don’t know what that means. And I also said that in my observations, that Latina women are more likely than —or I’m sorry, Latina transgender people—are more likely than white transgender people to be a certain type of transsexual, that is the other type that we haven’t talked about yet. [183] I just talked about what I noticed with my eyes. I didn’t talk about them having genes. [183] If you’re going to be summarizing things that are really negative about me from Lynn Conway's website, we will be here all week, and we will make no progress.

Krasny: Lest we do that, let me go to Professor Dreger, who has written a very strong and passionate defense of your work and of you. And she’s again Associate Professor of Clinical and Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern. And she has actually said in her paper, which is going to appear in the Archives of Sexual Behavior next year, that she sees this as a problem with science and free expression, and of accusations that are groundless. I want to find out Professor Dreger from you if it indeed is not the case, as I understand it, that you had your own concerns and skepticism about these theories when you started out… before you became a rather passionate defender of Professor Bailey.

Dreger: Yeah, I guess I should correct the misperception that I’m a defender of Professor Bailey. What I did was to look very carefully at the history of what happened with regard to this book controversy. And what I did was do an in-depth one year long study, which essentially ended up in a book-length article that you can read online now. What I did was try to figure out what happened in terms of this controversy. So I was much less interested in the question of, and am much less interested in the question of the theory itself… than in fact what happened when he put forth this theory that turned out to be unpopular among this particular subset of transwomen. And so I wouldn’t say that I’m a strong and passionate defender of Bailey and his work. What I would say is that I am strong and passionate defender of the right to free speech, and also to scientific progress, and of people being able to study things that may be unpopular though scientific. A good example of that is John Bancroft of Indiana University, as being portrayed as having been somebody who denounced Bailey as not being a scientist. But I have talked to Bancroft myself, I interviewed him for this, and in fact what he was saying is actually what Dr, Bailey just said, which is that the book is not science in the traditional sense of the book was not original research—what the book was is a scientific popularization. Bancroft told me and I think would tell you that it was based on scientific theories, in particular Blanchard’s work. And Blanchard’s work is science. So that’s clinical studies and laboratory studies and things like that. So I think there’s a real difference there, and I wouldn’t say that I’m somehow a defender of Blanchard’s theory or a defender of Bailey’s work. What I would say is that I looked at what happened to Bailey and was stunned and shocked to discover what three transwomen in particular did to try to basically ruin him because he was putting forth a theory they didn’t like.

Krasny: Well, one of those women who’s been mentioned already, Lynn Conway, said your history was one sided, was paid for by the sex research consortium at Northwestern.

Dreger: Yeah, Lynn Conway is actually making that up entirely. There is no sex research consortium at Northwestern. Northwestern could confirm that for you and would be happy to do so. I am paid out of an entirely different system than Bailey is. We are in different colleges. I am paid out of the medical school system. My research budget is mine to do with what I please, and this is exactly what I do in all sorts of different projects.

Krasny: We should mention you are an intersex researcher and activist and longtime veteran advocate of intersex—

Dreger: Indeed, I helped lead the Intersex Society of North America for ten years, which is part of how I got into this. Because I had heard through the gender activist grapevine, which I was part of, that Bailey was this horrible person. And I simply believed it all. Conway was in fact a donor to the Intersex Society, so she and I knew each other that way. In fact, I had invited her over to my home one day, because we both live in Michigan, to help out a colleague of mine who was considering sex reassignment surgery. And she was very kind, and came over and spent a couple of hours with this friend of mine. And I left them alone so they could do one-on-one peer support. I had heard all of these terrible things about Bailey, so when a mutual friend finally introduced us last year in February of 2006, he stuck me as somebody who didn’t seem at all like what I was hearing. And so I became interested. And then one of the three transwomen who went after him actually went after me for complicated reasons, so then I became even more interested and decided to do this study. I really expected when I started doing this history that I would end up with a “he said she said” kind of story, that there would be a misunderstanding. And I was absolutely shaken to my core to discover what I did find, which was that they had absolutely charged him with things that were baseless—and that they must have known were in fact baseless—and made his life absolute hell and nearly got him basically thrown out of the scientific profession in some ways… because people became so afraid of associating with him because of all these charges that in fact had been—as far as I could find from my intense investigation—were not true. Now, Professor Conway says that she hasn’t had a chance to respond to this, but in fact I tried every which way but Sunday to get her to talk to me, and she refused. And this claim that the New York Times piece was published without her consultation, I also think is false. Mr. Carey at my request gave her a copy of my article so she could respond to it three weeks ago. So I simply don’t take her—you know… “I haven’t had a chance to respond” kind of claim as being false, frankly. I think she’s had plenty of chances to respond. In fact, most of what I do in the article is actually taken from Conway’s own site. She has been so obsessed with Professor Bailey—and with ruining Professor Bailey and anybody associated with him—that I was able to take largely things off of her site, and simply connect the dots in terms of what she did. All these things that she organized in terms of charges at Northwestern, she puts on her site. She calls them “confidential,” but they’re all right there.

Krasny: There’s stuff on the site even about his children as I understand it.

Dreger: Well, that stuff actually she didn’t put up, although she links to it. That’s put up by a woman named Andrea James who’s a trans woman out of Los Angeles, and Andrea James basically does whatever she can to harass people who cross her. Bailey crossed her in this way by talking about a theory she didn’t like, so he [sic] went after his children by putting up photos of them when they were in grade school and middle school blocking out their eyes and putting basically obscene captions underneath. She says it was a satire, meant to be of his book, but his children didn’t take it as a satire as you might imagine, they took it as a personal threat, basically. And I’ve talked to them about that, and it’s actually in my article.

Krasny: Alice Dreger again is with us from East Lansing—she's Associate Professor of Clinical and Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern—and will have a piece appear in the Archives of Sexual Behavior next year on the whole history of this. Joan Roughgarden is here with us in studio, she’s Professor of Biological Science at Stanford University, author of Evolution’s Rainbow, well-known transsexual and academic. Professor Roughgarden, I know this has you pretty exercised. Let’s find out why. You’ve used the word “fraud” to me repeatedly.

Roughgarden: Yes I have, and thank you for inviting me. It’s interesting listening to the dialogue we’ve just heard. From my standpoint the situation is fairly clear, and it’s been clear for several years. The book by Bailey was initially advertised as science, and there’s no doubt about this. For example, The National Academy of Sciences letterhead had an advertisement that read “Gay, Straight, or Lying? Science has the answer,” and conclusions were promised that “may not always be politically correct, but are scientifically accurate, thoroughly researched, and occasionally startling. And the bottom headline to the cover of Bailey’s book says “The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism.” But in point of fact, there is no science in the book, as they’re apparently now agreeing. And on the whole, the book as a work of science is fraudulent. It presents only interviews of six subjects that Bailey himself admits—states in the book—that he met while “cruising” (page 141) [141] in "The Baton, Chicago’s premier female impersonator club." [186] And so based on a sample size of six, he’s tried to draw the conclusions that he’s just mentioned. And furthermore, he didn’t correctly and rigorously transcribe the narratives from those people. He relied on his memories of what they told him. And he manipulated those narratives, because when they said things he disagreed with, he in turn argued with them. So the data are corrupted and tampered with throughout. And then there are these additional charges of the absence of consent by the women. Some of the women claim to have had sex with him as well. And there’s a narrative in his book called “the Danny narrative” which is apparently completely fabricated. So as an act of science, this is fraudulent.

Krasny: I read that Danny narrative. How do we know it’s completely fabricated? I found it a pretty fascinating narrative actually.

Roughgarden: Yeah, well it would be if it were true.

Krasny: How do we know it’s not?

Roughgarden: Well, we don’t, but it’s been reported not to be true. And so this is what surrounds the supposed data in the book. And so issue number one with Bailey is the fact that the... the claim that the science is fraudulent, and number two, that there is manifest bigotry throughout the book. And let me read, if I might, three quotations there that illustrate the manifest bigotry. One of them refers—one example quotation involves this “Juanita,” in which he says—

Krasny: The one with which he’s alleged to have sex with, we should say for the record, yes.

Roughgarden: And he goes on to say, quote in the book, “Her ability to enjoy emotionally meaningless sex appears male typical. In this sense, homosexual transsexuals might be especially suited to prostitution." [185] Homosexual transsexuals "lust after men.” [191] And then he goes on, he actually says this in the book on page 183: “About 60% of the homosexual transsexuals and drag queens we studied were Latina or Black." [183] Latina people "might have more transsexual genes than other ethnic groups do.” [183] Very clearly racist. And then number three, the third one, is a particularly interesting one and gets at both women and gays at the same time: “The brains of homosexual people may be mosaics of male and female parts." [60] Gay men’s pattern of susceptibility to mental problems reflects their femininity: "The problems that gay men are most susceptible to—eating disorders, depression, and anxiety disorders—are the same problem that women also suffer from disproportionately." [82] "Learning why gay men are more easily depressed than straight men may tell us why women are also.” [83] So basically, if Bailey hasn’t insulted you, you’re no one.

Krasny: Joan Roughgarden, again with us here in studio, is Professor of Biological Science at Stanford and author of Evolution’s Rainbow. I wanted also to get Mara Keisling in this. Mara is Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. Mara Keisling, there’s something that has emerged out of this, those who are sympathetic with Professor Bailey—the power of a subset of transsexuals to ruin a man’s life—and it does seem to be us versus them.

Keisling: Well, let me just echo Dr. Dreger for a second. We’re talking about two different issues here. One is the alleged ruining of a man’s life. And the other was what was this, and I hate to use the word “study” as it’s been used here, but going back to Professor Bailey’s book, what is that? This would have been just some obscure thing that just happened and dissipated and nobody ever heard of it again had it not been for four things: One: The way it was presented as a scientific study. And everybody’s talked quite a bit about that. Had this been called Stuff I Suppose after Meeting Some People in a Gay Bar, that probably would have lessened the attention it got from trans people. Second: In the book, he then—based on these seven people—he then says there are only two types of transsexuals, and I think Professor Roughgarden just did a good job of explaining that. But it’s equivalent to me saying, “Well, I talked to three professors on the phone today, and I can tell you that all professors live in California, Michigan, or Illinois.” It’s kind of that stark. Third: There were the questions of impropriety and inappropriate following up of human subject rules. And then fourth: Just the way the book was sensationalized, even in its visuals. It’s called The MAN Who Would Be Queen. And I think it’s unclear if “the man” refers to gay people or trans people, although it’s pretty clear that they’re interchangeable in this context to a large extent. But then there’s a picture, which is clearly meant to be a muscularized calf in high heels. And it’s trying to sensationalize it to… obviously to sell the book. But really to follow in the theme that Professor Bailey follows throughout the book, of trans people being well-suited for prostitution, and really being just men.

Krasny: Mara Keisling, I’m going to have to come in here, because I think you can hear our theme is coming up. We’re coming to our break, and I want to give out the phone number for those of you who would like to join us, you are cordially invited to do so. Our toll-free number for your calls is 866-733-6786. Again, toll-free from wherever you’re listening to us or however—radio, internet, Sirius satellite, join us: 866-733-6786. Or you can send an email I’m Michael Krasny.


Krasny: This is Forum. I’m Michael Krasny. We’re talking about a debate that began a number of years ago with the appearance of a book by Professor Michael Bailey of Northwestern called The Man Who Would Be Queen. And it continues to cause a good deal of stir as it was reported in the New York Times yesterday in a discussion of this controversy that took place at the International Academy of Sex Research in Vancouver. We have on the line with us Dr. Bailey, who is the author of the book and the subject of a great deal of this controversy, as well as Dr. Alice Dreger who is Associate Professor of Clinical Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern, who did a history of this affair, we’ll call it. And we also have with us Mara Keisling on the line, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. And with us in studio, Professor Joan Roughgarden, Professor of Biological Science at Stanford and author of Evolution’s Rainbow. You are indeed welcome to join us. Our toll-free number again for your calls is 866-733-6786 or you can email us: Before I go to your calls and emails, I wanted to go back to Professor Dailey [sic]. I know he wants to respond to many of the things he’s heard here—I want to afford him the opportunity to do that—but what I am really interested in, because I said I read the section on "Danny" and I found it fascinating. A boy who was what Professor Bailey calls a feminine man and an outcast going back to really before kindergarten and cross-dressing at an early age, wanting all kinds of girly things and playing with dolls and so forth. And we’ve heard Professor Roughgarden say that you made this out of whole cloth, so I’d like to know what you have to say to that.

Bailey: I think her accusation reflects the degree of accuracy to which we’ve become familiar with Dr. Roughgarden. I… Not only does "Danny" exist, but I am… I have several informants who keep me apprised of his development, and now he’s a happy, out gay man, as I predicted in the book. And I would say that both the critics in the studio there, either have not read my book, or they are lying about it. And that is, both of them, are saying that the only evidence I present for the theory of transsexualism that I espouse in the book is my interviews, or whatever… my associations with several transsexual women. That is utterly false as I said earlier in the show, and it’s clear to anybody who reads the book, there is a very systematic and large set of studies by Ray Blanchard, and that’s where the science comes from. I don’t know why it’s so hard for them to understand, so I assume that this is what they prefer your listeners to believe. And it’s—

Krasny: Let me—

Bailey: It’s false.

Krasny: Let me ask Professor Roughgarden about that, because there’s been a good deal of criticism about the… Mr. Blanchard’s research as well from you and others, this what’s been called this “subset” of transsexuals.

Roughgarden: Right, um—we have to be clear that the issue here is not whether or not there exist some people who satisfy the narrative of… that they’re motivated to become transsexuals because of a sexual motivation. The issue is whether or not you can take all transsexuals and subdivide them exclusively into two subsets, with characteristics associated with each subset. And everyone who knows transsexuals knows that there are a lot of individual narratives. And all the work prior to Blanchard was involved with an elaborate taxonomy with different kinds of gender- and sexuality-variant people. And there are of course different sexuality- and gender-variant expressions in other cultures around the world. So it’s ludicrous on its face to think that you can subdivide all of transsexuals into these two categories that Bailey and Blanchard before him were pushing. Now, the book wasn’t advertised as being about Blanchard’s work, and Blanchard’s data are not actually presented in the book. The book is all about Bailey’s work. But if you go back to Blanchard’s work, you again do find that the existence of these two clean-cut categories is a figment of imagination… because Blanchard sent out a bunch of questionnaires, and he has three different studies in which the results of the questionnaires are tabulated, and you see a scattering of all sorts of answers to the questionnaires. And trying to find that they coalesce into two distinct clusters is really an exercise in pure imagination.

Krasny: Seems to be the heart of one of the arguments that has been so contentious—and we have Joe, a caller from Idaho who says “What’s the argument?” I guess… Does that make it a little more clear, Joe, what you just heard?

Joe: Well, yes, yes, I appreciate your taking my call and I must say I am impressed by everyone’s level of education. But from somebody who’s just switching around the Sirius satellite radio, and I tune in, it sounds to me like an educated Jerry Springer Show, and real civilized. I hear the one doctor or professor say that you can’t categorize these two people, or these people into two groups, or two subsets… well, they do it to all males, you’re either normal or gay, right? You just kind of divide them into two groups, so… this argument to me is... so, this guy wrote a book, it seems like it’s a halfway decent book. I’ve never read it, it sounds like the guy’s opinion, and people are up in arms about it. Again, it’s a civilized Jerry Springer Show. I just don’t get it.

Krasny: Well, that’s the first time we’ve been called a civilized Jerry Springer Show (laughs). Thank you for the call.

Keisling: Can I jump in there, Michael, for a second?

Krasny: Yes, please do, it's Mara Keisling.

Keisling: I was just about to say when we went to the break, when this book came out, my organization, the National Center for Transgender Equality, was relatively silent on the topic. And there was a good reason for that, and it really ties in with this Jerry Springer idea here. What happened—somehow this has now been framed as a bunch of crazy transsexuals got all crazy, and they’re crazy… when in fact what’s happened here is an academic wrote a book, and other academics, and some other people, but mostly other academics with really incredible academic credentials, just as Professor Bailey seems to have, they said, “Wait a minute, here’s how we react to that academically.” And then other people join in, and that’s how academic things are supposed to happen. And so we steered clear of it initially, just because academics were reviewing it, responding to it, didn’t like it, thought it was junk science, and stated that. You know, I was asked by an interviewer the other day, “Was it fair that they tried to get Dr. Bailey in trouble with Northwestern University?” And that was such an absurd question to me, because what from my view as a non-academic—although I taught college a long time ago, I don’t now—but from my view as a non-academic, an academic wrote something and other academics responded to it, and that’s how academia is supposed to work.

Dreger: (unintelligible)

Krasny: Alice Dreger, I know you want in here, yeah…

Dreger: Yeah, sorry I lost you a little after the break. Yeah, you know I think Ms. Keisling does wonderful work, and it’s really important work politically. But I think that’s a little bit of a misrepresentation of what happened. And as somebody who delved into the history, what I see is that it started with an academic discussion, but it very quickly morphed into something else entirely, which was a personal attack on Michael Bailey, and everything he stood for, and all of his friends, and all of his colleagues who chose to stand by him. The kinds of things you see on Lynn Conway’s site, the kinds of things, of stuff you see on  Andrea James’ site is not academic. I would challenge anybody to Google “Bailey Conway timeline” and take a look at what Lynn Conway has done… and to see it as like anything what academics do, which is to meet each other on the point of concepts, and to look at the evidence, and to do careful reasoning, and to have discussions in that way. This looks nothing like that. What concerns me is that Professor Roughgarden is repeating charges, and is in fact even misrepresenting those charges. For example, before the break she said some of the women claim to have had sex with him. One woman claims to have had sex with Professor Bailey, and as I show in my article, the evidence for that is very poor, and even if he did, in fact, it wouldn’t have represented any violation of ethics in any kind of reading of normal ethics reading. So I think it’s easy to say that, “Well, this is an academic dispute,” but it’s really not. What we see here is an academic who chose to write a popularization, said some stuff that was unpopular, and then was the subject of a most extraordinary system of attack. And really, I would call it a system of attack, and I think if you look at Conway’s site, you would agree with me.

Krasny: And let me say also that we do run a very civil discourse type program here, but I think there are serious questions—we don’t try to create heat for the sake of creating heat, or have people slugging each other—but there are questions of scientific research, there are questions of free expression, there are questions of how the internet is used. Accusations and denials and attacks, and all of that… and I want to go to more of your calls. Jen, join us, thanks for waiting, you’re on the air.

Jen: Hi, yes, thank you very much for taking my call. I’m actually surprised I got through because I’ve tried to call before. This is airing in San Francisco, where I’m sure lots of people are interested in this topic. Anyway, I guess I’m calling because I’m up in arms—and I apologize because I haven’t read the book—but I’m very interested in what’s going on. I actually had a couple of comments. One comment, first of all, I have a lot of trans friends, although most of my trans friends are female to male, and actually one of my best friends is female to male. And I wondered, I’m actually looking at Ray Blanchard’s site here online… I wondered if this reasoning also applied to female to male transsexuals in his work, and it sounds like it does.

Krasny: No, actually I think, Professor Bailey, you stated pretty clearly from the beginning, that this is a research project for someone else, right?

Bailey: That is correct, and I happen to know that Ray Blanchard thinks it’s very unlikely that any analogue of autogynephilia exists in genetic females.

Krasny: Jen, you had some more comments, please.

Jen: OK, well online it says a female to male attracted to women is driven by his attraction to women to become a man. Which is saying that basically a female to male wants to change their sex to become a man because they’re attracted to women, which again, would—

Bailey: What website, what URL are you looking at?


Bailey: (laughs) That’s not Ray Blanchard’s website. Alice Dreger, you want to take that?

Dreger: (laughs) That’s not at all Ray Blanchard’s website. This is one of the things that's happened--

Jen: Well, what’s his website?

Dreger: This is actually a website of an enemy of Blanchard’s who doesn’t like his theory.

Jen: Well, what’s his website?

Dreger: His website would be at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada, he’s got a very dull website, in fact, that just basically presents his research papers in a very scholarly fashion.

Jen: Well, I’m a molecular biologist, I can understand this stuff.

Dreger: One of the things that’s happened is that the folks who don’t like this stuff have put up websites that represent themselves as being the websites of these people saying outrageous things. And then people say to us, “Gosh, you say the most outrageous things," but in fact that’s not actually what’s going on.

Krasny: There has been in fact on some websites charges that Mr. Blanchard has—I  should say Professor Blanchard as well as Professor Bailey—are actually saying that transsexuals are perverts, that they’re against sex reassignment surgery, things of that sort, so lots of stuff has gone on here that rhetorically just doesn’t have much basis for it. Let me thank the caller. However, what about the issues, and let me go to you on this, Mara Keisling, what about the issues that we keep hearing about with Professor Bailey failing to get institutional board permission on human rights subject research, lacking informed consent from research subjects, that these are in play as issues, and these are certainly what brought the Northwestern investigation into play.

Keisling: Well, yeah, and absolutely in the context in which I mentioned them was again, this would have been much less of a big deal had those issues not arisen. And those were reviewed and investigated—or whatever the right terms are—at Northwestern where they should have, and they probably do on a regular basis with lots of different kinds of research. And had there not been those claims, and had there not been other conditions not being met, my comment is that this would not have been a big deal.

Krasny: I think, excuse, me, I think one of the things that made it a big deal was the imprint of the National Academy of Sciences, don’t you think?

Keisling: Absolutely. And I think if you read—I think Professor Roughgarden read from their… I think that’s where she was reading from, their initial announcement of the book… that caused a real problem. Again, framing this as science. What’s—the thing that’s really hard to do here is to separate these two issues. The one is the initial book, and the second is the story behind what happened after the book. So when I mentioned earlier about academics responding as academics do, I still stand by that. Were there non-academics responding? Sure. Were there academics responding in non-academic ways? That’s not my expertise. But I don’t pass judgment on those charges, you know. They were investigated as they should have been investigated.

Krasny: Professor Bailey, can you let us know why you left the chairmanship? You were Chair of the Psychology Department, as I understand it, at Northwestern.

Bailey: You know, I don’t see how this campaign of defamation requires me to open up my entire personal life to everybody, so—

Krasny: Let me just ask you—

Bailey: Everything that I—

Krasny: Let me—

Bailey: Everything that I’m willing to say about my personal life I’ve already said, and you should probably be asking Alice Dreger…

Krasny: All right, I’m not asking you a personal question, I’m asking you what I hope will be a professional question, and Alice Dreger maybe because it’s—because he has been defamed, and I want to give him every opportunity to clear his name here. If he resigned because of the investigation as has been alleged, then that probably ought to be made clear. If he resigned for other reasons, we don’t have to know what they were.

Dreger: Yeah, there’s no evidence in fact that he resigned because of the investigation. He says otherwise, Northwestern says otherwise… the dates don’t make any sense. Why would he have resigned in October of 2004 if the investigation finished in December of 2004?

Krasny: That’s what I wanted on the record, thank you for that.

Bailey: I don’t know why you were asking my critic about the issue of consent and so on. I don’t think she has any expertise or knowledge about that. Alice Dreger just did a big investigation of that, and I think you should be asking her.

Krasny: Well, or—

Keisling: Professor Bailey, that was the point I was making. That’s not for me to pass judgment on.

Krasny: Yeah, but Professor Roughgarden—

Bailey: That’s why I don’t know why he asked you.

Krasny: Um, I asked for an opinion, just like you have given forth opinions here. We’ll hear other opinions, in fact. Let’s go to another caller. Mike, you’re on the air, good morning. Mike, are you there?

Mike: Hello?

Krasny: Go ahead, you’re on the air.

Mike: Yes. Dr. Bailey, these are really hot issues that have political implications that are current right now, and there’s a lot of heterosexism rampant in our culture, as the first caller indicated. Are you aware of any of your own personal biases around these matters? And what have you done to take care of those, and amp up your personal cultural competence around those issues? I’ll take your answer off the air.

Krasny: Thank you for your call.

Bailey: I believe my book, if you will read it—and most people who are talking about it and yelling about it haven’t—you will find it to be an enormously sympathetic portrayal of both gay men and transgender males, and that’s in part why it was nominated for a Lambda Award until Conway et al. managed to get it off the nomination list. So I assume—I certainly have worked to eliminate any bias. I don’t know if I’ve been successful, but I actually think that my book is very sympathetic. It really calls for tolerance for feminine males and for transsexuals, and I think that reasonable people would agree with me.

Krasny: And I know that Professor Dreger does, but I want to ask Professor Dreger about something else, which is that—some of those seeking grant money were actually told to dissociate themselves from Professor Bailey? That’s a charge from Professor Bailey’s bailiwick, so to speak.

Dreger: That’s actually something that Ben Carey at the New York Times was able to uncover. I was not able to get anybody on the record to say that sort of thing, because I didn’t ask them specifically about that. Ben Carey at the Times interviewed a number of scientists who told him they had been told by various granting agencies that if they had any association with Bailey they should downplay it, because in fact it wasn’t going to make them look good in the granting system.

Krasny: Have you compared this or have others compared this to the Helmuth Nyborg episode, the Danish researcher who was fired back in 2006 after he reported a slight IQ difference between the sexes?

Dreger: Others have done that. I haven’t done that specifically, and that’s another example though, of where researchers go into controversial areas and say things that are unpopular. And rather than responding basically to the work in terms of the evidence and the reasoning, they go after the individuals. And that is something that has been frankly problematic since the time of Galileo.

Krasny: Joan Roughgarden.

Roughgarden: I’d like to add to this, though, that from my perspective, the implications of this science—that I consider to be fraudulent and unfounded—are that it gets incorporated into textbooks and used for instruction in medical schools. And we find for example in Simon LeVay’s large over $100 textbook, this science which is at best controversial, and as I say, in my view, completely fraudulent. And what this does is it means that a transgender patient of a doctor has to look at the doctor and wonder whether or not they’ve—whether the doctor’s been indoctrinated in some science which is both pejorative and unfounded. And that’s why it’s very important to make sure this isn’t seen solely in terms of personalities. And as Mara says, as the events that took place after the publication of the book. It’s the book itself and the research that it claims to present and popularize which is where the real problem lies in my view. And all this personality stuff that’s coming up is quite a distraction from where the serious issues lie.

Krasny: We go to more of your calls and we’re joined by Ben. Morning, Ben.

Ben: Yes, hi—this is Ben Barres, I’m a professor at Stanford. So, I think an important point that really hasn’t come out on the show yet is that transgender people as a group are amongst the most oppressed and disparaged groups in this country, perhaps in the world. Dr. Bailey’s book is using questionable science, I think both his and Blanchard’s, to further oppress these people. And so I’d like to ask Dr. Bailey—he feels he’s been defamed. The transgender people feel rather defamed as well, and I would be very grateful if he could directly address whether he still feels many transgender people are best suited for work in the sex trades.

Bailey: You want me to—so just let me address the general point first. Again, I reject the assertion that it’s all transgender people who are offended by my book. Many transgender people are actually very happy that people are finally talking about this phenomenon called autogynephilia, which they feel captures their motivation. Now of course when certain transgender people such as Anne Lawrence have publicly come out and said that, they’ve been the object of attack and defamation by Andrea James and Lynn Conway, who almost invariably erect a web page devoted to very negative publicity about them. So I think that’s what I will say.

Krasny: Well, what about what the caller says about making the connection between this transgender and the sex trade?

Bailey: OK, the idea is that the other kind of transsexual, which Blanchard calls a homosexual male to female transsexual, meaning they’re homosexual with respect to their birth sex—that is, they like men—is a type of, if you will, very feminine gay man… who decides for various reasons that he would be more happy living his life—“his,” meaning before transition—as a woman. I think that men in general, including heterosexual men, including homosexual men, even including very feminine homosexual men, have a greater propensity to enjoy casual sex than women do. If this is a news flash, you all need to get out more. And homosexual male to female transsexuals for whatever reason tend to be male typical in that respect.

Krasny: And you find that offensive, Ben?

Ben: I don’t think he’s answered my question. Does he think that some transgender people are best suited for work as prostitutes in the sex trades? Yes or no?

Bailey: That’s typical of Professor Barres’—

Ben: I’m quoting your book.

Bailey: I say “they’re best suited”? Is that a quote?

Ben: Your book is very clear on that.

Bailey: Does it say the words “best suited”? Does it say the words “best suited”? If not, I think that you are—

Ben: Just answer my question, whatever your book says. Do you feel that transgender people, some of them, are best suited for work as prostitutes?

Bailey: I never said “best suited.” And I—

Ben: Just answer the question, do you feel so or not?

Bailey: I don’t say “best suited” and I don’t think they are best suited.

Krasny: I think you answered the question.

Bailey: They’re better suited than genetic women are.

Roughgarden: He says “especially suited.”

Krasny: You say “especially suited,” you have that there, the quote?

Roughgarden: I have the quote, yes. [reading from page [185]] “...transsexuals might be especially suited to prostitution.”

Krasny: Professor Bailey?

Bailey: Well, I think that reflects what I just said, especially compared with genetic women. That’s not like “best suited,” like that’s the best thing they could ever do.

Krasny: All right, let me go to some more of your calls. We’re going to Richard next. Richard, you’re on.

Richard: Hello, yeah, I was just kind of—I heard some of the stuff that Michael Krasny was saying about your study, and I have some objections to it. I mean, I’m a black male, and I’m not that well off, but you know, I have a bit of an organic problem. I have gynomastia, so does that mean I now have to… I’ve experienced a lot of this recently where I’ve got people sniffing around me, trying to determine, I guess, what it is that they think that I am. And I’m just sort of minding my own business and now... I kind of think one thing you might be ignoring.. I think there’s a lot of things you might be ignoring in your study. One is economic factors. I mean, if people, poor people, can’t find jobs, then what else are they going to do? I mean, some of them probably are turning to the sex trade simply because they can’t find jobs. And then you also have health factors. If you’ve got people, possibly like me, that have got male breasts, where do we go to get help? Do we just get cataloged as possibly some sort of drag queen, while some of your men want to sniff around and determine our sex?

Krasny: Professor Bailey, I think there’s a question in there. Do you want to respond?

Bailey: You know what, I think because of her background, Alice Dreger is a better person to address that question.

Dreger: Yeah, I actually would love to. First, the caller is talking about gynecomastia, which is what’s considered female-typical breast growth in men, although it happens in so many men I think there’s a problem with thinking of it as female-typical. But it’s got a bigger question in how that Bailey talked about this. And one of the things I’ve uncovered in the work that I’ve was doing was this videotape of this woman identified as “Juanita” in the book, And one of the things that happened was that “Juanita” participated very willingly in a sex textbook video. And in that, she talks very openly about being a sex worker with no shame, and frankly, I don’t think she should have any shame. I don’t think there’s a problem with people who are able to choose sex work, truly choose it, doing it. But she talks very openly about doing it, making $100,000 a year, and about really, really enjoying sex with men. She said, “I did it because I enjoy sex with men. I like men and I enjoy doing it, and I make a lot of money out of it.” And so I think one of the things that’s happening with this representation of Bailey as if he’s the only person who’s ever said this stuff. But in fact “Juanita” herself—who ends up charging him with all sorts of things after she meets Conway—in fact said in this 2002 video that she was a sex worker, she enjoyed making the money, and she really enjoyed casual sex with men. 

Krasny: All right, we’re coming to the end of the program, and I want to give Joan Roughgarden a final word here. What do you object most to in this study? The science, or the lack of science, should we put it?

Roughgarden: Well, yeah, from my position, it’s the fraud and the bigotry. And the implication of the fraud is of course that it gets incorporated uncritically into textbooks, and which then feed an institutionalization of prejudice. And the problem with the bigotry—I mean, someone is entitled to be bigoted if they want—but this creates a culture of siege at Northwestern. And it interferes with the possibility of developing research questions in an uncoerced and free way. And I think that the culture of siege that’s now grown up around Northwestern—and that Alice unfortunately has become involved with—is hurting that institution. And I think that the administrators there have to be more courageous about looking into this situation.

Krasny: It was hurt a lot more by a man named Arthur Butz, who I’ll just, for the sake of memory bring up here, but I want to thank Professor Bailey who is Professor of Psychology at Northwestern… for his book again, The Man Who Would Be Queen. And Professor Alice Dreger, Associate Professor at Northwestern Clinical and Medical Humanities and Bioethics. Thanks also to Mara Keisling, Executive Director of National Center for Transgender Equality, and to Joan Roughgarden, Professor of Biological Science at Stanford and author of Evolution’s Rainbow. And thanks to you, our listeners. We are appreciative of you being with us. Our producers are Robin Gianattassio-Malle, Keven Guillory, and Dan Zold, and I’m Michael Krasny.

Please contact me with any corrections.


All quotations below were read or discussed during the program and are from Bailey's book The Man Who Would Be Queen. Numbers refer to the page containing the quotation. Notes are in italics and indented.

Page #:

[60] "Psychologist Sandra Witelson has hypothesized that the brains of homosexual people may be mosaics of male and female parts, and I think she is right. This mixture explains much of what is unique in gay men’s culture and lives."

[66] "Here in Chicago just past the turn of the century, I think I observe a preponderance of gay men in the following occupations: florists, waiters, hair stylists, actors (or at least acting students), classical musicians (but not rock musicians), psychologists (or at least psychology students) and psychiatrists, antique sellers, fashion and interior designers, yoga and aerobics instructors, masseurs, librarians, flight attendants, nurses, clothing retail salesmen (e.g., at the Gap and Banana Republic), web designers (but not software or hardware designers), and Catholic priests."

[82] "Another possibility is that gay men’s pattern of susceptibility to certain (but not all) mental problems reflects their femininity. The problems that gay men are most susceptible to—eating disorders, depression, and anxiety disorders—are the same problems that women also suffer from disproportionately."

[83] "Learning why gay men are more easily depressed than straight men might tell us why women are also."

[141] "I have had only limited success tonight recruiting research subjects for our study of drag queens and transsexuals and am cruising the huge club one more time before leaving."

Note: Here, Bailey is talking about the gay night at Crobar, and not the Baton. Bailey does discuss the Baton starting at page 186 (see below).

[183] "About 60 percent of the homosexual transsexuals and drag queens we studied were Latina or black. The proportion of nonwhite subjects in our studies of ordinary gay men is typically only about 20 percent. Alma says she thinks that Hispanic people might have more transsexual genes than other ethnic groups do."

Note: Bailey frequently attributes controversial statements to other people. By deferring to spokespeople like Dreger or his graduate students, he can later say, "I never said that."

[185] "Although Juanita is so feminine in some respects, even some behavioral respects, her ability to enjoy emotionally meaningless sex appears male-typical. In this sense, homosexual transsexuals might be especially well suited to prostitution."

[186] "The Baton is Chicago’s premier female impersonator club, featuring several past Miss Continentals, including the gorgeous Mimi Marks."

[191] "Furthermore, I do not believe that Cher’s attraction to men is as intense or as unambiguous as that of homosexual transsexuals. She is autogynephilic, and men’s place in her sexual world is complicated. So the loss of a potential sex partner is less of a loss, overall, to Cher than it is to the homosexual transsexuals, who simply lust after men."