Joan Linsenmeier on transsexualism

Northwestern University psychology professor Joan A. W. Linsenmeier is credited by J. Michael Bailey in The Man Who Would Be Queen as a collaborator who read the entire manuscript and offered suggestions. Bailey was formally investigated by Northwestern as a result of this book and is no longer department chair in the wake of the investigation.

Linsenmeier has continued work attempting to prove stereotypes about sex and gender minorities are true. She has since co-authored with Bailey on the "psychological distress" of gay people and concludes that gay people can be identified as children based on videotapes of their behavior.

She scowled at me from the back of the room after her Northwestern pal Alice Dreger was unable to suppress a 2006 speech I was invited to give at Northwestern (so much for academic freedom), and Joan concocted an allegation that Professor Lynn Conway had threatened Bailey:

"I don’t recall exactly what she said, but basically it was that some people with very negative feelings toward Mike knew where he lived, that this put him in danger, and that she thought I might encourage him to consider moving. […] while she definitely scared me, this was something I chose not to share with Mike at the time."

She put her own children through Northwestern thanks in part to her work defaming sex and gender minorities with Bailey

Below is my correspondence with Joan.

Sent 17 May 2003

Joan Linsenmeier
Senior Lecturer, Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies
Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology
Swift Hall 311, 2029 Sheridan Road   
Evanston, IL 60208-2710
Phone: (847) 491-7834
Fax: (847) 491-7859
Web: http://www.psych.northwestern.edu/~jlins/
E-mail: j-linsenmeier@northwestern.edu

Dr. Linsenmeier--

My name is Andrea James. I maintain an Our Bodies, Ourselves type website for transsexual women called tsroadmap.com.

After my business partner's boyfriend Barry Winchell was beaten to death with a baseball bat because he was dating her, I expanded my efforts from practical matters of gender transition to improving media depictions of our condition.

I am writing to you today because of your involvement in J. Michael Bailey's The Man Who Would Be Queen. In it, Bailey states that you "read the entire manuscript and made sure my thoughts were clear." (p. xii-xiii).

Dr. Linsenmeier, you are complicit in the publication of what many in my community believe is the most defamatory book on transsexualism written since 1979. You are responsible for allowing us to be associated with depraved murderers (p. 142) and to be described as little more than socially stunted deviants generally unable to form long-term relationships or even hold conventional jobs. (p. 188). Imagine if the following were said about women you know:

[They] work as waitresses, hairdressers, receptionists, strippers, and prostitutes, as well as in many other occupations. (p. 142)

I intend to see that you remain clearly linked to this historical document and are held accountable for this outrage during the remainder of your career. I also plan to secure your shameful place in the history of our community's struggle to enjoy the same basic rights afforded other women. Make no mistake: you will have helped to hurt a great many women and children before we get those rights, and I can assure you your efforts will not go unnoticed.

I will be re-reading the entire manuscript as well and making a painstaking record of all the ways you and Bailey have hurt all of us by bringing out such bigotry in the name of science.

Though I doubt you are, you should be absolutely ashamed of yourself.

Andrea James

Sent 18 May 2003

Joan's reply, with my follow-up comments indented

Andrea,

It is my sincere hope that the publication of Mike Bailey's book will lead to further research on what I think are some very important issues. In my view, there is much more to be learned about many of the topics he addresses.

Thanks for your reply, Joan. We are in complete agreement here.

I am currently teaching a course in which we are reading books written for a popular audience by highly respected psychology professors. Throughout the course, I have tried to make the point that what's in these books is not necessarily the final word on the topics we are studying. Rather, the books are the sincere efforts of top-notch scientists to communicate what they feel is currently known about these topics.

I feel Bailey’s work on transsexualism is anything but sincere, and anything but top-notch. I am not exaggerating when I say you and he have brought out the worst book on transsexualism in a quarter century. I will be collecting responses and shaping my case for the next several months here:

http://www.tsroadmap.com/info/bailey-blanchard-lawrence.html

You have already been included in my Annotated Bailey:

http://www.tsroadmap.com/info/bailey/annotated-bailey-142.html

I encourage my students to read the books with some degree of skepticism, to think about alternative explanations of findings the authors present, to think about the match between what is in the texts and what they have seen in their own lives -- and about the possible reasons for any discrepancies.

You and Bailey didn’t bother with the alternative explanations, and you did not discuss that your ideas on transsexualism are based on a questionable theory by a fringe element of academia. If you find yourself teaching Bailey, I suggest giving your students True Selves as an antidote, and the Milton Diamond piece at the top of my Bailey-Blanchard-Lawrence clearinghouse, or send them to my Annotated Bailey when it’s done. I’m sure college kids will find it an entertaining read— it’s written to entertain and educate the high school and college aged women who read my site.

Even thought [sic] they are only first-year students, I encourage them to see science as a process, not as a fixed body of facts, and to speculate about future research projects that might answer remaining questions. This is how I anticipated that Mike Bailey's book would be read also: as a sincere effort by a top-notch scientist to communicate what he feels is known at this point about the topics he studies and writes on -- and as a stimulus to further thinking and research.

You have brought out what I consider to be The Bell Curve of transsexualism: bigotry cross-dressed in academic robes. I intend to show exactly how prejudicial the two of you are.

I would also like you to know that, in my role as an editorial consultant to Mike Bailey, there were certainly points where I suggested toning down some language, or presenting some ideas in a more tentative manner.

Then you failed miserably in making your case.

Throughout, however, my role was just to respectfully ask questions and make suggestions. The final language and content were always his.

Considering that I have found only three changes to date comparing Bailey’s manuscript to the published chapters on transsexualism, none of which are substantive, your questions and suggestions were apparently given as much credence as my own comments to him in May 2000.

If you actually did make any suggestions, Mike didn’t seem to consider your opinions to have much merit. In that sense, I suppose we both failed miserably.

If you feel moved to write something explaining how your opinion on transsexualism differs from Bailey’s, or a piece outlining some of the specific suggestions you made, I will be happy to give it a permanent home online, on the page dedicated to your involvement in this historical book. Let me know. I respond to all emails.

Andrea James

Joan replied:

I think exposing students to disagreements is an excellent teaching technique, so if I do ever teach a course where this book is relevant, I'll certainly consider your suggestions. Having students puzzle through ideas that don't seem to fit together is a good way to get them to think -- and, again, to see science as a process, with lots still to be learned. In fact, having them do their own Annotated ______ (where ______ is some author I do assign) might be a great assignment to give sometime.

I'm not an expert on any of the topics Mike covers in his book. That was not my role in reading the manuscript and giving feedback. Partly because of my lack of expertise, one thing I can say with confidence is that I don't know if the two types Mike presents in the chapters on transsexualism are the only types [or] not. It certainly seems conceivable to me that the answer is no and that the full story is actually more complicated.

Many things I learned in my psychology classes as a student in the 1960s/70s turned out to be only part of the whole story. This has certainly been true when it comes to research on sex and gender. (As an aside, I find it interesting that when I was a student at Northwestern, I took a course called something like The Psychology of Sex Differences, but now we have, instead, a course called Psychology of Gender.) After all these years of additional work in this area, we're still learning. As you noted in your response to my earlier message, one thing you and I agree on is that there's more to be learned about the topics that Mike Bailey has chosen to address in his book.

Sincerely,
Joan Linsenmeier

External links

http://faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/jlins/

http://www.wcas.northwestern.edu/psych/people/faculty/faculty_individual_pages/Linsenmeier.htm