Northwestern Chronicle


Academic McCarthyism
For the first time in public, NU Prof. J. Michael Bailey answers allegations of ethical and sexual misconduct
10-09-2005, 14:29

By J. Michael Bailey

I appreciate the opportunity the Northwestern Chronicle has given me to provide my account of the events concerning my book, The Man Who Would Be Queen, and the controversies that followed its release. Since the summer of 2003, I have refrained, on the advice of my lawyer, from responding publicly to accusations against me.

I now believe I am in a position to do so, and that I should do so, both for my sake and for the sake of free speech. Understanding these events requires an understanding of the history and content of my book, and so I begin there.

Anjelica Kieltyka and the Origins of TMWWBQ

I met Anjelica Kieltyka in 1994. She'd contacted me because of media reports about my research. She was an extraordinarily enthusiastic and open conversationalist. She did not fit my stereotype of a transsexual woman.

She was rather unfeminine, with some very male-typical interests like working on car engines. As a male, Chuck's (Kieltyka's previous male name) primary sexual preoccupation had been masturbating in the role of a woman – as an adolescent he cross-dressed in female lingerie, often looking at himself in the mirror, and masturbated.

Later, he incorporated "props" such as fake vaginas, fake breasts and feminizing masks. He would film himself wearing them and masturbating. The transition of Chuck to Anjelica seemed, in a very strong sense, sexually motivated. Getting a female body was the realization of intense and persistent sexual fantasies that had motivated Chuck's fetishistic activities.

Kieltyka was enmeshed in a community of transsexual women who seemed fundamentally different from her. These women (to whom Kieltyka was often attracted) were much more feminine than Kieltyka was, and they were also much more convincing and attractive as women.

They were attracted only to men, and none of them had ever engaged in the kind of fetishistic activities that had obsessed Kieltyka before Chuck became Anjelica. Rather, nearly all of them had attempted to live life as gay men, but this had not quite worked for them; they preferred living as women.

The stark contrast between Kieltyka and her transsexual friends led me to consult the scientific literature, and I discovered that scientist Ray Blanchard had done a great deal of research demonstrating the existence of two fundamentally different subtypes of male-to-female transsexuals.

One type, which included Kieltyka's friends, appeared to be motivated primarily by innate femininity, and by the desire to become attractive women in order to attract heterosexual men. Blanchard called these "homosexual transsexuals."

The other type, which included Kieltyka, is motivated primarily by "autogynephilia." Autogynephilia is the erotic orientation of a male toward the fantasy that he is female. Autogynephilic males are best conceived as heterosexual men who are most attracted to women they create inside themselves.

Once I understood the two types of male-to-female transsexuals, I wondered why virtually no one else seemed aware of them. The media invariably presented the "women trapped in men's bodies" story, which certainly did not fit the autogynephilic picture. Nor did it really do justice to the complexity of homosexual transsexuals' motivation.

Partly to rectify this, I decided to write a popular science book including a section on transsexuals. I decided this in November of 1997, years after I had first met Kieltyka. Over these years we'd had many conversations at my office or over the phone, several visits to clubs and bars to see transgendered performers, and visits by Kieltyka to speak to my large Human Sexuality class.

When I told Kieltyka about my writing plans, she was delighted and enthusiastic. I asked the permission of others I wished to include, promising to change their names. Kieltyka insisted that I use her real name. I had several more conversations with Kieltyka and others to get details correct, and to get vivid stories to make the book less dry.

Late in the summer of 1998, I finally wrote a draft of the transsexual chapters, a draft that is quite similar to what was eventually published. I gave Kieltyka the draft in the fall of 1998, for her feedback. She was disturbed by what I had written – not by my depictions of her actions, such as fetishistic cross-dressing or wearing fake vaginas, but by my description of her as "masculine" and by my interpreting her transsexualism as an instance of autogynephilia.

She asked that I change her name, and so I did, to "Cher." She did not ask that I remove her story from the chapters. Our relationship remained cordial, although she continued to try to convince me that I was wrong about her. I did not find her arguments persuasive.

The Attack on TMWWBQ

My book was published in March of 2003. (I had delayed finishing the book for several years due to other concerns.) The book was released to stores, and published for free on the Web site of the National Academy of Sciences.

Almost immediately after publication, I became aware of an organized campaign against the book, spearheaded by Lynn Conway, a retired electrical engineering professor at the University of Michigan and a transsexual woman. During April, she dedicated a large portion of her Web site to my book, first as a place for criticism, then as a rallying point for "investigation."

She wrote to scientists who had "blurbed" the book's cover, including Steven Pinker and David Buss, asking them to reconsider their positive comments. On April 21, Conway managed to use her influence at the National Academy of Sciences – she is a close friend of the wife of an officer there – to have the book removed from its Web site for a few hours.

On April 22 she sent an e-mail to numerous transsexual organizations calling TMWWBQ "transsexual women's worst nightmare [that will someday] be viewed as very analogous to the Nazi propaganda films about Jews in WWII."

Another Web site, run by transsexual Andrea James, closely linked to and from Conway's, contained even more hostile material. For example, in April, she constructed a page of "satire" by taking images of my children from my Web page and putting obscene passages by them – writing that I had sodomized them, for example. James also contacted everyone I had thanked for their efforts on my book, and threatened them menacingly.

Conway, James and their associates portrayed themselves as transsexuals' protectors and me as transsexuals' enemy. Both of these portrayals are false. Most people who have read my book believe that I provided a very sympathetic treatment of transsexuals.

Quite a few transsexuals have contacted me about my book. Although a number of them have been hostile in the Conway-James vein, the majority of their e-mails have been congratulatory. Some transsexuals said they had never understood themselves before reading the book, and at least two have credited it with their decision to become women. Others have said it was about time someone wrote about these important, but forbidden, topics.

Conway's and James' claims to be "transsexual mentors and advocates" (they sometimes signed correspondence this way) were also false. Indeed, they reserved great cruelty for transsexual women who disagreed with them about my book.

For example, James found and published a formal medical complaint against Anne Lawrence, a transsexual physician who has written eloquently and favorably about autogynephilia; James failed to publish the fact that a formal investigation cleared Lawrence. She called Willow Arune (another transsexual woman sympathetic to the ideas in my book) a man, and threatened to publish the false accusation that Arune was a convicted sex offender.

When a group of young transsexuals launched a Web site endorsing some of the ideas I wrote about, James demanded that they be "vectored and exposed," that their identities be made public so they could be harassed. Conway and James are not protectors of transsexuals. Rather, they are the fierce guardians of the myth that transsexuals are women trapped in men's bodies, and attackers of theories less flattering to them, especially autogynephilia theory.

The Complaints

On May 4, Kieltyka sent an e-mail to Conway (who promptly posted it on her Web site) revealing that she was "Cher" in TMWWBQ. Although she made clear her continued disagreement with me about autogynephilia, she also said she continued to respect me. Kieltyka and I continued to have a cordial relationship.

This changed in mid-June, when Conway and James made a "field trip" to Chicago to meet with Kieltyka and other transsexual women (most of whom I had not written about). I do not know exactly what happened during this meeting, but Kieltyka's attitude toward me changed abruptly.

On July 4, I learned that Kieltyka had filed a formal complaint against me at Northwestern's Institutional Review Board (IRB), the body that oversees the certification of research for ethical approval. The complaint stated that I had conducted research without Kieltyka's consent.

This was the first time I had contemplated whether what I had written about Kieltyka comprised formal research. I had been at Northwestern for 14 years, and I knew well that formal research requires ethical approval and written informed consent. I have routinely obtained such approval and consent in my research.

I had never considered my transsexual writings to be research for two main reasons. First, I had never set out to study Kieltyka, but had gotten to know her informally. Because I had no research intentions, I had no systematic research plan or method.

Second, I did not consider what I wrote to be scientific discovery. Research advances knowledge rather than illustrating what we already know. But Kieltyka's story exemplified the ideas of Blanchard, who had done the original research.

Although I had not asked Kieltyka to sign a consent form, she certainly consented to my writing about her. She was enthusiastic when I decided to in 1997. She read the draft of the chapters about her in 1998, nearly five years before the book was published.

Nor can she plausibly claim that I harmed her. It was she who compromised her own anonymity, in her e-mail to Conway. The facts about Kieltyka's life and sexuality had been provided in a variety of very public venues, including lectures to large classes. Kieltyka and "Juanita," a homosexual transsexual prostitute, who also filed a complaint, had both been filmed for an educational video on transsexualism.

In this video, for which they signed a consent form with a textbook publisher, they revealed virtually everything I wrote about in my book. There is no plausible argument that either transsexual was embarrassed by the facts I revealed.

The attacks by Conway, James and others, and the complaint by Kieltyka, were clearly motivated by dislike of the ideas in the book. The purpose of the attacks and complaints was to punish me for writing the book, to silence me if possible, and to intimidate and discourage others from defending the ideas in my book, especially the idea of autogynephilia. This is obvious to anyone who examines the massive record available on the Internet (but one must ignore Conway's interpretations of the information, the goal of which is to get me into the greatest amount of trouble).

I believe this was also obvious to Northwestern officials, who pondered my fate during July of 2003. Furious transsexuals wrote threatening letters to Northwestern, saying that if Northwestern did not formally investigate me, they would pursue litigation and take their case to federal agencies.

Such threats are effective at universities. During the past decade, there have been several highly publicized cases in which a university's entire research program was temporarily halted by the federal government, due to concerns about the school's IRB.

And so Northwestern capitulated. On July 29, I was informed that there would be a preliminary inquiry into the complaints against me. The Committee would ascertain whether a full investigation was necessary. I would be investigated for "scientific misconduct" for not properly obtaining informed consent for scientific research.

I retained a lawyer, who advised me to avoid any public comment on the substance of the complaints. On November 14, I learned from a Chicago Tribune reporter (who had been tipped off by Kieltyka) that I would be subject to a full-scale investigation.

Inquiries and investigations of this kind are highly unusual at Northwestern, even for faculty who conduct research without proper approval (and I deny that I did so). Those situations have almost always been resolved at the IRB itself, through instructions to the researcher not to repeat the error. I was singled out in this public and formal manner due to the determined and organized nature of the transsexual women – a fact that a Northwestern attorney alluded to.

Further Accusations and Attacks

When Northwestern decided to subject me to a full investigation, it declined to pursue a separate complaint, by Juanita, that I had had sex with her. The transsexual attackers immediately released her complaint to the press, and articles were published in The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Daily Northwestern.

Soon afterwards, I learned I was being investigated (at the instigation of Kieltyka, Conway, James and comrades) by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for my alleged membership in the "Human Biodiversity Institute." In fact, I am a member of an e-mail discussion group, called the "Human Biodiversity List," with some individuals the SPLC disapproves of.

This includes, for example, Steve Sailer (the moderator), Charles Murray and Phil Rushton, all of whom have written controversial pieces on matters including intelligence, race and sex. In January a report was issued by the SPLC that resulted in further articles in the Chronicle and the Daily.

Strangely for a book that has been compared to Nazi propaganda, TMWWBQ was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award in their "Transgender/GenderQueer" category. Lambda awards are "given annually to recognize excellence in gay and lesbian writing and publishing in the United States during the preceding year." Naturally, Conway and colleagues went ballistic and orchestrated an intensive lobbying campaign. On March 12, the Lambda Literary Foundation announced that my book had been removed as a finalist.

From the time she allied herself with Conway to the present date, Kieltyka has called many of my colleagues, close and distant, to discuss me. These conversations are invariably described to me as meandering and bizarre, and they often concern various conspiracies that Kieltyka attributes to me.

One of these is the "gay germ" conspiracy, a plan to prevent homosexuality by killing the germs that allegedly cause it. (I am in fact open to the possibility that microorganisms can affect sexual orientation, but I have no desire to prevent homosexuality.) Recently, Kieltyka appears to have split with Conway, whom she accuses of being involved in massive conservative conspiracies.

I have come to accept that I will have the enmity of Conway, James and friends for life. Whenever they have the opportunity to attack me, they will take it. This happened in July, after an article on my lab's research on bisexual men was featured in The New York Times. An eruption of activity on their Web sites, and a flood of furious letters to the Times, followed. So be it. The pursuit of truth has many enemies, and it is a scholar's duty to thwart them.

My Response to the Complaints and Accusations Against Me

Research and Informed Consent. When I was first accused of scientific misconduct by Kieltyka, I did not believe that I had done anything wrong, but I was also unsure about the precise guidelines concerning which writing requires IRB approval. I became an expert on this question during the investigation, and my intuition had been correct.

The definition of "research" used by the federal government and by Northwestern University is "systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge." If these words have any clear meaning beyond "whatever a professor writes," they cannot mean what I wrote about Kieltyka and Juanita.

"Systematic investigation" cannot mean getting to know someone via informal conversations with no intention of writing about them. "Contributing to generalizable knowledge" cannot mean using stories about individuals to illustrate established scientific theories. Indeed, "case studies" are explicitly exempt from IRB review, both by the federal government and by Northwestern.

Northwestern's investigation was for "scientific misconduct," which includes serious deviations from established practice. "Research misconduct is to be distinguished from honest error and differences of interpretation." I do not believe that anyone – even someone who believes that my book is research – can plausibly argue that I committed such misconduct.

Northwestern's investigation concluded during the fall of 2004. Neither NU officials nor I will discuss results of the investigation. However, I will say that if the investigative committee did its job, I was cleared.

In evaluating my research ethics, it is important not to get lost in the technicalities. I wrote about people with their permission. If I were not a university professor (or professional researcher), I would be under no obligation to get IRB approval to write about people, even if I chose to do so without their permission, and even if what I wrote fit the formal definition of research. Journalists do this all the time, and we are all better off that they can.

I am of course bound to adhere to Northwestern's rules and to federal laws, even if they are bad rules and laws. I insist that I have done so. However, like many other academics, I believe that IRBs have overstepped any reasonable mandate of protecting research subjects from real harms (such as risky medical procedures) and often have an inhibitory effect on free speech.

University of Chicago Law Professor Phillip Hamburger has argued cogently that IRBs violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, because IRBs license speech to some individuals (journalists) and not to others (scientists), and they have the result of making people believe they have less liberty than the Constitution guarantees them. With him, I hope that someday the IRB system will change, and that we will look back at the present as a dark time for academic freedom.

Sex With a "Research Subject." This charge was clearly intended to embarrass me rather than to protect a research subject. The complainant was, after all, a prostitute. I offer two responses.

First, there is nothing intrinsically wrong or forbidden about having sex with a research subject (and I insist that Juanita was not a research subject). Some of my colleagues have had sex with their research subjects, because it is not unusual to ask one's romantic partner to be a subject.

Even if Juanita's complaint were true, there is nothing wrong with what she claims. But her "complaint" is not true. The alleged event never happened. If I ever needed to do so, I could prove this, but there is no reason why I should.

My Membership in the Human Biodiversity Institute. To my knowledge, there is no "Institute" per se, and if there is, I am not a member. I remain a member of the Human Biodiversity Institute e-mail discussion list. The discussions include sensitive topics, such as sex and race differences.

I find some postings on the list fascinating and useful, and others disagreeable for various reasons. I do not need to agree with everything people say in order to associate with them. The report by the SPLC was inept, as far as it discussed my ideas.

Furthermore, anyone who knows of Joseph McCarthy's excesses should be repelled by the implication that I should be investigated for associating with intellectuals who discuss taboo topics. Whatever its former merits, the SPLC has become an organization not worth the support of any liberal-minded person.

Conclusions

The story of my book and the attacks on it had many subplots, but the basic plot was simple. Individuals who hated an idea tried to prevent the idea from spreading. Here they have clearly failed. Although I was frustrated in the 1990s that Blanchard's brilliant ideas were barely known, that is no longer true.

Everyone truly interested in transsexualism has heard about autogynephilia, for example. Web sites have been started for both autogynephilic transsexuals and homosexual transsexuals. Many more people know about my book than would if Conway had never attacked me.

It is also striking to me that such an accomplished and intelligent woman as she has utterly failed to provide any convincing scientific critique of Blanchard's ideas.

Of course, much research remains to be done about transsexualism, and there is much we still don't know. I have faith that the truth will come out, and I believe that the truth will be much closer to what I wrote in TMWWBQ than to the tired old mantra that transsexuals are all merely women trapped in men's bodies.

I have always been drawn to issues that matter, and the ferocity of the opposition to the ideas in TMWWBQ demonstrates that the issues there mattered, at least to some. There are things I would have done differently – although I do not believe I was conducting research requiring IRB approval, I would certainly have gotten approval if I had known what trouble it would have prevented.

But I most certainly would not have avoided writing something I believed was true and important because it enraged a sensitive group. And be assured, I will not in the future.


Copyright 2003 Northwestern Chronicle. All rights reserved.

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