Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bailey's Academic Winter

J. Michael Bailey, a psychologist at Northwestern University, has experienced an academic's version of a harsh Siberian winter, having crossed the transgender community with an idea of all things. Ideas from an academic--imagine that. But ideas that don't conform with political correctness must be attacked. Scratch that. People with ideas that don't conform with political correctness must be attacked, vilified, sued, fired, investigated, accused, etc., and those closest to them must suffer vile attacks as well.

Bailey's academic crime? He published a book, "The Man Who Would be Queen" in the spring of 2003.
In his book, he argued that some people born male who want to cross genders are driven primarily by an erotic fascination with themselves as women. This idea runs counter to the belief, held by many men who decide to live as women, that they are the victims of a biological mistake — in essence, women trapped in men’s bodies. Dr. Bailey described the alternate theory, which is based on Canadian studies done in the 1980s and 1990s, in part by telling the stories of several transgender women he met through a mutual acquaintance. In the book, he gave them pseudonyms, like “Alma” and “Juanita.”

Dr. Lynn Conway, a computer scientist at the University of Michigan who had apparently been born male herself, seems integral to the attack. She consulted with the four transgendered women whom Bailey had interviewed for "The Man Who Would Be Queen". They wrote letters of complaint to Northwestern. One accused him of having sex with her. They also wrote to the Illinois state regulators requesting an investigation. Dr. Conway, the NY Times article says, also kept a running list of the accusations against Bailey on her site.

Things got worse.
[Dr. Conway's] site also included a link to the Web page of another critic of Dr. Bailey’s book, Andrea James, a Los Angeles-based transgender advocate and consultant. Ms. James downloaded images from Dr. Bailey’s Web site of his children, taken when they were in middle and elementary school, and posted them on her own site, with sexually explicit captions that she provided. (Dr. Bailey is a divorced father of two.) Ms. James said in an e-mail message that Dr. Bailey’s work exploited vulnerable people, especially children, and that her response echoed his disrespect.

Not only has Dr. Bailey and his children suffered from this abuse but also those academically associated with him. Two researchers, for example, "were advised by a government grant officer that they should distance themselves from Dr. Bailey to improve their chances of receiving financing."

Dr. Alice Dreger, an ethics scholar, had assumed Dr. Bailey was guilty of the charges against him and decided to investigate. She found the opposite. Of the four who complained, two were never mentioned in the book and the other two knew their stories would be used. The sexual misconduct allegations weren't made until five years after the supposed event, and emails between Dr. Bailey and his ex-wife indicate that he was actually at his ex-wife's home at that time, caring for their children. Dr. Dreger also contends that the book doesn't qualify as scientific research but was merely anecdotal.
“What happened to Bailey is important, because the harassment was so extraordinarily bad and because it could happen to any researcher in the field,” said Alice Dreger, an ethics scholar and patients’ rights advocate at Northwestern who, after conducting a lengthy investigation of Dr. Bailey’s actions, has concluded that he is essentially blameless. “If we’re going to have research at all, then we’re going to have people saying unpopular things, and if this is what happens to them, then we’ve got problems not only for science but free expression itself.”

Once again, we see that academic freedom is extended only to those who espouse views currently in vogue among academics and the politically correct. Run afoul of those individuals, and they'll do what they can to make your life miserable. It's not just your ideas they'll attack. They'll instigate investigations and attempt to get you fired. They'll accuse you of sexual or other misconduct. Even your children won't be safe.

All quotes are from the New York Times article: "Criticism of a Gender Theory, and a Scientist Under Siege" by Benedict Carey.

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