Pressure from transgender activists caused a gay literary organization to rescind its nomination for a former Northwestern University professor’s book, saying it is “inconsistent with . . . affirming LGBTQ lives.”
Alice Dreger’s book Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science had been nominated for the 28th annual “Lammie” awards, given by the Lambda Literary Foundation (LLF). Last week, however, the foundation’s executive director Tony Valenzuela sent an email to Ms. Dreger informing her that the book’s nomination had been rescinded. Ms. Dreger says LLF yielded to pressure from transgender activists who disliked her book’s treatment of a decade-old scandal involving Northwestern University Professor Michael Bailey’s controversial sex research. Bailey was condemned by transgender activists for endorsing the diagnosis of “autogynephilia,” a type of fetish in which men become sexually aroused by imagining themselves as women. Bailey was accused of ethics violations, including the charge that he had a sexual affair with a transgender patient who had sought his assistance in helping secure approval for sex-reassignment surgery (SRS).
Ms. Dreger’s book Galileo’s Middle Finger was acclaimed “one of the most important social-science books of 2015” by Jesse Singal of New York Magazine, who praised her account of how political correctness “collides” with research “when science makes a claim that doesn’t fit into an activist community’s accepted worldview.” Describing how Ms. Dreger’s book deals with the Bailey controversy, Singal wrote:
[W]hat’s key to keep in mind is that some transgender people and activists hold very dear the idea that they have simply been born in the wrong type of body, that transitioning allows them to effectively fix a mistake that nature made. The notion that there might be a cultural component to the decision to transition, or that sexuality, rather than a hardwired gender identity, could be a factor, complicates this gender-identity-only narrative. It also brings sexuality back into a conversation that some trans activists have been trying to make solely about gender identity . . .
But as Dreger explains, Bailey, being someone with a penchant for poking mischievously at political correctness, wasn’t too concerned about the political dimension of what he was arguing in his book. From a scientific perspective, he explicitly viewed the idea that “everybody is truly and easily assignable to one of two gender identities” as an oversimplification; part of his motivation for writing [his 2003 book] The Man Who Would Be Queen was to try to blow it up, to argue that transsexuality is more complicated than that. So it shouldn’t be surprising that some trans activists and allies didn’t appreciate the book’s argument — and they obviously have every right to disagree with Bailey and [“autogynephilia” theorist Dr. Ray] Blanchard’s views. What is surprising is just how big an explosionThe Man Who Would Be Queen sparked, and how underhanded the campaign against Bailey subsequently got.
Ms. Dreger had previously written about the Bailey controversy at her personal blog in 2006, as well as in a 2008 article published by the academic journal Archives of Sexual Behavior. According to Ms. Dreger, the same activists who condemned Bailey for his views on transgenderism were responsible for pressuring LLF to rescind her book’s nomination as a finalist for the “Lammie” awards. In an email to the foundation’s director,Ms. Dreger noted that in 2003, LLF had been pressured into denying recognition to Bailey’s book, The Man Who Would Be Queen:
As I and Dr. Anne Lawrence (a transgender woman) have explained, the real “problem” was that Bailey’s book put forth ideas about women like [transgender activists Deirdre] McCloskey, [Lynn] Conway, and [Andrea] James that they didn’t want disseminated. They wanted to kill the book to stifle the ideas and stories in it, presumably also to stop others from talking about autogynephilia.
At the time of this mess, writer Victoria Brownworth, who was on the [LLF awards] committee, said she saw the withdrawal as akin to censorship. But facing increasing harassment, the committee voted a third time, one vote flipped, and Bailey’s book had its finalist status withdrawn.
Naturally, given the [conflicts] I’ve been in with Bailey’s detractors since I showed in excruciating detail what they did to try to shut him up with a host of patently false charges, I had been assuming my book would never be named a finalist for the same award. Why would the Lambda Literary Foundation take that risk, particularly given that Andrea James had relentlessly harassed [former LLF official] Jim Marks online even long after it was all over?
But it was true: my book was named a finalist in the non-fiction category. . . .
Not too surprisingly, Conway and James soon launched a campaign against my book’s finalist status, but I pretty much ignored this. I figured the Foundation knew this would happen and was prepared to weather the storm.
But no. You caved. And quickly—much more quickly than the Foundation did under Marks in 2003. In spite of all the LGBT people who have actively praised my book, who have thanked me for the work, you quickly caved to a small group of bullies who have proven time and time again that they will do anything they can to get attention and to force everyone to adhere to their singular account of transgenderism, even when it negates the reported childhoods of gay and lesbian people, even when it denies the reality of many transgender people and attempts to force them into closets because of their sexual orientations.
Many conservatives and libertarians have sided with Ms. Dreger in this dispute, particularly because some of her angriest critics, including Sarah Nyberg, are among the SJWs (“social justice warriors”) who made themselves obnoxious by their attempts to impose their politically correct ideas on the videogame industry. However, the dispute over Bailey’s research is not a clear-cut matter of left/right politics. The supporters of Bailey’s “autogynephilia” theory include lesbian feminists like Professor Sheila Jeffreys, whom transgender activists denounce as TERFs (trans-exclusive radical feminists), while one of Bailey’s harshest critics, Deirdre McCloskey, is a libertarian and retired economics professor.
Criticism of Bailey’s work has also called attention to the way in which federal agencies spend taxpayer dollars on controversial sex research. As I reported in 2002, Republicans in Congress criticized the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for awarding a research grant to fund Bailey’s project of studying women’s responses to viewing pornography:
A federally funded study has paid women as much as $75 to watch pornographic videos to determine “what types of audiovisual erotica women find sexually arousing.”
Women participating in the $147,000 study at Northwestern University — funded through the federal National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD] — were paid to “watch a series of commercially available film clips, some of which will be sexually explicit, while we monitor your body’s sexual arousal,” according to a flyer seeking volunteers for the study. . . .
The two-year study began in September 2001 and is intended to “assess the subjective and genital arousal of 180 lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women as they watch erotic video clips of lesbian, gay, or heterosexual interactions,” primary researcher J. Michael Bailey explained in a description of the project.
“We have some really great results on it, and I think it’s going to make a big splash,” Mr. Bailey said of the research, which he said he hopes to publish soon. . . .
Previous studies have shown that male sexual arousal is “target specific” — that is, that heterosexual males respond to depictions of females, while homosexual men respond to images of males, Mr. Bailey said.
“There has been inadequate attention to the question of whether female sexual orientation is target specific,” Mr. Bailey wrote in a grant proposal. “However, some research . . . including our own preliminary data, suggests that target specificity is much weaker for women than for men.” . . .
Rep. Dave Weldon, Florida Republican, cited the Northwestern study as an example of misplaced research priorities . . .
“The NIH couldn’t find the money to look into this relationship between kids with regressive autism and the mandatory MMR vaccine, but they can pay people $150,000 to watch pornography,” Mr. Weldon said. . . .
Reports of Northwestern’s video sex research have prompted some ridicule, landing the study a spot in the nationally syndicated “News of the Weird” feature, but Mr. Bailey said it’s no laughing matter.
“I think it’s extremely important research, and I think it’s pathetic how skittish the government is about funding research about sex,” Mr. Bailey said.
Because I reported extensively on the Bailey controversy more than a dozen years ago, I am familiar with Conway’s activism. From my perspective, the major problem is that federal agencies, in funding such research, lend the authority of government to an “official” theory which may bias public opinion and also tends to preclude funding for research that challenges the “official” theory. Particularly alarming, to anyone familiar with the original Bailey controversy, were accusations that Bailey’s work was slanted by his own personal sexual preferences. Some of Bailey’s critics perceived in his research the typical attitude of so-called“tranny chasers,” i.e., men who have a perverse obsession with transsexuals. Whether or not these suspicions were fair, the history of “scientific” research into sexual behavior is crowded with examples of bias, fraud and methodological error. Anyone who has studied the careers of Wilhelm Reich, Alfred Kinsey and John Money knows how often dubious theories and findings have been presented as “science” by men who concealed their profound biases behind pretenses of objectivity.
While on the one hand, I despise the political correctness that treats Alice Dreger as guilty of ThoughtCrime (“transphobia”) for siding with Michael Bailey against his critics, on the other hand, I do not believe that the interests of U.S. taxpayers are served by spending their money to pay for Bailey to show porn videos to women to find out what turns them on.
Was this why heroic patriots fought the American Revolution? Was this why soldiers bled to death on battlefields? Was our constitutional republic — established at Philadelphia, ratified by the states, and defended against it enemies at such an enormous cost in human lives for more than two centuries — intended for such purposes as represented by the $147,000 grant to fund Bailey’s research? Does anyone suppose that General Washington, and his hungry troops who shivered in the snow at Valley Forge, ever imagined they were fighting to create a government that would squander money on such “scientific” absurdities?
It is one thing to say that Michael Bailey should have the liberty to show porn videos to women, if that’s his idea of “science.” It is another thing entirely, however, to claim that Michael Bailey has a right to have his idea of “science” funded at taxpayer expense. When we consider how the federal government has helped create The Higher Education Bubble, when we furthermore consider that tuition at Northwestern University is$49,047 a year, when we take a close look at the kind of deviant lunatics who get psychology degrees from Northwestern, and finally when we are aware that the national debt is now approaching $20 trillion, isn’t it about time we start taking a hard look at what kind of “science” and “education” is being billed to the account of the U.S. taxpayer?
People need to wake the hell up.