Can Professors Say the Truth? (part 4)

Deidre McCloskey and Lynn Conway — the subjects of my previous post on this topic — are both powerful persons. McCloskey is Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication, a title created just for her. In October 2007, she will receive an honorary degree from Goteborg University. Conway is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. McCloskey and Conway abused their power when they attacked Bailey.

As awful as their actions were, even worse is what Northwestern University administrators (led by Provost Lawrence Dumas) did: Let themselves be used as tools in the attack. McCloskey and Conway master-minded the filing of an absurd human-subjects complaint against Bailey — and Northwestern took it seriously! As Bailey says, it was “obvious to Northwestern officials” what McCloskey and Conway were trying to do (ruin Bailey) and why. It was like the teacher in a playground taking the side of the bully. Except worse, because Bailey could have been fired.

Kudos to Alice Dreger for shining light on a very unsavory episode in American academic history.

Dreger’s paper. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.

20 Replies to “Can Professors Say the Truth? (part 4)”

  1. I’ve always found myself surprised by those who didn’t expect the kind of vitriol that Bailey received. You take an already oppressed group of people (transsexuals) and combine that with a scientific theory that is sure to pick up press and portray transsexuals negatively. Regardless of the truth of the matter, *of course* there would be negative feedback.

    The problem with Blanchard/Bailey’s theory is makes grand, overarching statements about a group of people without the incredibly strong statistical evidence needed to justify it. Take myself for instance: I’m a post-op transsexual who is married to a woman (type 2), transitioned before 25 (which would make me type 1), in a male-oriented line of work (type 2), but never got aroused by thinking of myself as a woman or by cross-dressing (type 1.) One of my oldest transsexual friends is interested in men (type 1), transitioned after 40 (type 2), in a male-oriented line of work (type 2), but never got aroused by cross-dressing (type 1.)

    To anybody who is personally familiar with a large number of transwomen, the thought that such a theory could pass any kind of statistical muster seems almost comical. *That* is why there is such a backlash to it. It’s a complicated world out there, and the sciences (especially psychology) that proclaim all people are either Type A or Type B of anything has been historically been fraught with inadequacies.

    It is lamentable that Bailey himself was targeted and not his theories, but this sort of thing has happened before when somebody writes a popular-science book and becomes the spokesperson of a scientific theory (such as with “The Bell Curve”.)

  2. As I said (before my comment on your other pages was erased, you really should do more research into what OTHER trans women (besides Conway and McCloseky)think of Bailey and Drager before you take the position you do. You really don’t add anything of substance to the concept of truth when you defend Bailey.

  3. April, I don’t understand what you mean when you say Blanchard’s theory needs “incredibly strong statistical evidence”. For you to believe it? For me to believe it?

    “A scientific theory that is sure to pick up press” — Bailey found the opposite, newspaper reporters didn’t want to hear it when he said it.

    Blanchard was familiar with a large number of transwomen, and he did not find his theory comical. Nor did Bailey, also familiar with a large number of transwomen.

    Re “The Bell Curve”: Murray was not attacked with the vitriol that Bailey was attacked with.

    Mak, I’ve read a lot about the Bailey “controversy”, including what other transwomen think. I posted about this stuff because it interests me and I hope readers of this blog will be interested as well. Some of what I have written is new — for example, pointing out the contradictory ways that McCloskey and Conway criticize Blanchard’s theory.

  4. It needs “incredibly strong statistical evidence” if it is to be The Truth – that is what you’re driving at, correct?

    People are free to believe whatever they want, whether it’s regarding to the flatness of the Earth or the origin of our species, intelligence of races, or whatever. For it to be The Truth, it should have some kind of statistical validity, and be easily falsifiable, and agree with additional research. Of the forty or so transwomen that I know, only one or two agree that they easily fit into one of his two categories. If the rest of the trans population is feeling that their existences are being invalidated by these claims, then it really shouldn’t be surprising that they have defended themselves (and some, as you pointed out, have done so to excesses that have damaged their credibility.)

    If I were to write a pop-science book that claimed that Cal professors were actually considerably less intelligent than Stanford professors, wouldn’t you agree that such an extraordinary claim required extraordinary proof? If I didn’t have some sort of evidence (as Bailey doesn’t), in the form of WAIS scores, SAT scores, maybe some kind of publishing history, etc., then I would I even deserve to be defended from any public outlash?

  5. I think April makes a good point that, just because a person is attacked in an unfair way, it doesn’t make his theory true. The fact that Blanchard “was familiar with a large number of transwomen, and he did not find his theory comical” is not really additional evidence, since he was the one who came up with the theory in the first place, right? It would seem fairer to describe the case as an open question, perhaps with so much politics on both sides that it will never be possible for outsiders such as myself to be convinced of the truth one way or another. (Just as, for example, no amount of Middle East archeology is going to be able to convince non-experts of the amount of truth in various passages from the bible–there are too many people on both sides of the issue who are pre-convinced of the truth of their side of the story.)

  6. Okay, I was trying to think of something more scientific and actually try to cite examples of refutation of the two-type theory when I just realized the following. I don’t really need to do that, because Bailey himself states he wants us to be happy. So, I’ll take it from that angle.

    Unlike many transsexuals I have actually read the entire book. It makes me feel attacked, damaged and dirty. The book made me feel _worse_ about myself, it made me feel like some sort of sexual pervert, it made me feel even more isolated and discriminated against then I already am. I know Bailey claims to be focused on the happiness of transsexuals, but just reading his book has made me extremely unhappy and disgusted with myself because I am either a liar or an ideal prostitute.

    The book makes me, on a personal level, feel worse off than before I read the book. That’s all that matters to me personally.

  7. “Blanchard was familiar with a large number of transwomen, and he did not find his theory comical.”

    Yes, but you see, among the many many flaws Blanchard overlooked was that he was in a position to get those transwomen to tell him whatever he wanted through his control over whether or not they got medical treatment. If Blanchard were to declare tomorrow that all transsexuals like to wear giant pink bunny suits, pretty soon all the transsexuals who are trying to get government subsidized medical treament in Ontario, which is only available through his clinic and can be denied to anyone for any reason, would start showing up at his clinic in giant pink bunny suits, and he could write another “scientific” paper about bunny fetishism in transsexuals.

    But you’re right, really. It’s just so unsavory when the damn ni- oops, transsexuals don’t know their place.

  8. “If I were to write a pop-science book that claimed that Cal professors were actually considerably less intelligent than Stanford professors, wouldn’t you agree that such an extraordinary claim required extraordinary proof? If I didn’t have some sort of evidence (as Bailey doesn’t), in the form of WAIS scores, SAT scores, maybe some kind of publishing history, etc., then I would I even deserve to be defended from any public outlash?”

    Answer to Question 1: No you would not need “extraordinary proof” to say such a thing. You might to need such proof to convince other people. Bailey was not proposing Blanchard’s theory, he was reporting it. Blanchard’s theory had stood the test of time in his and Bailey’s community of researchers.

    Answer to Question 2: Bailey was not reporting his own ideas; he was reporting Blanchard’s — who did have evidence. Bailey was appropriately not going over much of the evidence because it was a book for a general audience, not a scholarly paper. Yes, Bailey deserved to defended. For the same reason the Bill of Rights defends freedom of speech.

    Boo, if you want to list the “many many flaws” in Blanchard’s work I would be happy to post it and send it to Blanchard to see if he wishes to comment.

    Andrew, you write: “Fairer to describe the case as an open question.” It’s not quite clear what you mean. Bailey did not say that Blanchard’s theory couldn’t possibly be wrong. Bailey did say — by giving the theory so much space — that it was a reasonable theory, the best so far, and seemed credible to him based not only on Blanchard’s evidence but also Bailey’s own experience. To call this an “open case” — if I understand that term correctly — seems to be ignoring a lot of evidence, including the evidence in Blanchard’s papers, the reactions of other sex researchers to the theory, and Bailey’s reasons for believing the theory.

  9. Seth,

    You’ve clearly read more than I have in this area, so I defer to your knowledge about this case. But in an area such as sexual preference, where the data probably aren’t so clean, and the phenomenon itself is changing rapidly, I’d expect scientific research to be pretty preliminary and inherently not so solid. Hence, maybe it’s a bit strong to refer to Blanchard’s findings as “truth.”

    Remember how, when we taught our course on left-handendess, there were many published papers but still many open quesetions? And some of the published papers seemed to contradict each other? And there were always worries about data quality? I’d expect to see much more of these problems in studies of transsexuals. Not to knock Blanchard, jsut to say that there might be legitimate differences of opinion–even if he and Bailey found the theory to be reasonable, others might have good grounds to differ.

    Of course, that’s no excuse for intimidation, suppression, etc.

  10. The truth that Bailey wrote was that a serious scientist had come up with a reasonable theory that deserved the world’s attention — a theory that Bailey himself found credible. Bailey’s book is science journalism. Like journalism it tries to reach a broad audience. Bailey’s book is especially journalism when he wrote about someone else’s (Blanchard’s) research. It’s like a quote: No one criticizes a journalist if the words inside a quote make a false statement. (Peter said, “The world is flat.”) The question of accuracy is whether or not the person quoted actually said them. That’s what I meant when I said Bailey spoke the truth: He told the world about Blanchard’s ideas.

    “Others might have good grounds to differ.” They might, but I am still waiting to hear them. If anyone will send me a list of such grounds, I would be happy to post it and send it to Blanchard for comment.

  11. You continue to seem to state that Blanchard’s theory is more or less ‘settled theory or science’ etc. However I have googled constantly for over an hour just now and the only study I can find discussing this, aside from Bailey’s pop-science book, is Blanchard’s 1989 study.

    If it is so studied, why can I only find one study, the original, on all the internet? I would assume if this was such a solid theory it would have been tested several times, but I see no evidence of that anywhere. Quotes I have found more recently from Blanchard seem to indicate he isn’t even studying transsexuals anymore, he has no interest in continuing the work.

    How can something be refuted or supported with so few studies? I’m not a scientist and especially not a psychologist, but I thought the point of a new theory was to test it over and over again. I’m not the best internet searcher but I would have thought I would have found at least one more study in support/against, I can’t find ANYTHING, pro or con his findings.

    What other studies have you seen that bring you to agree with his findings? Are all these studies in journals then? I can’t even find citations for them though, nothing at all.

  12. “Boo, if you want to list the “many many flaws” in Blanchard’s work I would be happy to post it and send it to Blanchard to see if he wishes to comment.”

    I already put three of them into comments on your Huffingtonpost blog, so you can start there. I doubt he’d be willing to acknowledge that his clients lie to fit into his typology tho, for some reason the “conservative” clinicians never seem to want to admit that their clients are just as capable of manipulating them as they are capable of manipulating their clients. And if you brought up the fact that not one of his studies ever involved comparing transwomen to cissexual women, he’d probably look at you like you were from Mars. After all, these are “transsexual men,” so what on earth could women have to do with anything? (If you pay enough attention, you may notice that when Blanchard and Bailey talk about femininity in transwomen, they are most definitely not talking about the degree to which we’re like cissexual women. They’re talking about the degree to which we’re like effeminate gay men, which is rather a different thing.)

    Plus:

    Blanchard raised the possibility that AG might actually be a reaction to some cases of transsexualism in an early paper, then just ignored it. The idea that it’s more of a side effect that can occur in some transwomen who repress their TSism is actually more consistent with the evidence of transwomen who acknowledge eroticism connected with their Tsism, since they consistently say their TS feelings developed well before any eroticism occured, and faded away once they began transition. It also doesn’t make sense from a physiological point of view that AG could motivate transition, since the mtf transition process involves lowering testosterone levels, which is known to diminish paraphillic drives, which should take the desire to transition away with them if they were the cause of it. This is actually what happens when middle aged transvestites try to transition. A few months on hormones, and they’re like oh, this isn’t the kick I thought it would be.

    Blanchard also notes that male-attracted transwomen tend to transition earlier in life than other transwomen, but overlooks that this is something we should expect regardless of whether or not his typology is accurate. Transwomen who exist in the gay community before transition are in an environment where cross-gendered behavior is much more visible and tolerated than it is for transwomen who aren’t in the gay community, and hence they would tend to come to see transition as a realistic option sooner.

    It’s also worth noting that there doesn’t appear to be a single transwomen alive who completely agrees with them. Willow Arune has denied having a history of crossgendered eroticism, and in her shortlived “autogynephiliasupport” group (which Yahoo shut down after she started another group devoted to cyberstalking Andrea James- a common oddity of Bailey sycophants is their weird fixation on Andrea) of the dozen or so actual “autogynephilia supporters” who made themselves known, most denied that AG was a paraphilia. Even his number one cheerleader Anne Lawrence makes claims about herself that are inconsistent with the theory, such as claiming to have been effeminate in childhood. (Although to be fair, I suppose it is possible she’s just trying to demonstrate his contention that transwomen such as herself are prone to lie about their pasts.) The transkids site disputes the notion that transwomen of the “type” they choose to identify as are well suited to prostitution. Ironically, there are actually several “hallmarks of autogynephilia” on the transkids site if you look hard enough.

    Hmm… more fun Blanchard questions:

    “Can you construct a rationalization for why Maxine Petersen went before the Canadian Legislature to testify against adding transsexuals to Canada’s human rights legislation that doesn’t involve the fear that it might undermine your control of your clients?”

    “Did it ever once occur to you that forcing people who have serious body image issues, often involving their genitalia, to let you strap machines to their genitals and make them watch a bunch of weird fetish porn is not exactly the most ethical thing to do?”

    “Has it ever occured to you that forcing transwomen to act out stereotypes of femininity such as only wearing skirts or dresses will harm your ability to make unbiased assessments of their behavior?”

    “Are you aware that women do in fact wear pants?”

    “Is there any rational purpose to demanding control of what your clients can change their names to?”

    “Would a transwomen named Terry be the end of civilization as we know it?”

    “Does the strain of pretending that the multitude of gay and bisexual transmen out there don’t exist ever wear on you?”

    “The truth that Bailey wrote was that a serious scientist had come up with a reasonable theory that deserved the world’s attention — a theory that Bailey himself found credible.”

    The truth is that Bailey lied repeatedly in the book and in his subsequent responses to his critics. When he grudgingly acknowledges that Blanchard’s ideas are not accepted by the majority of his colleagues, he claims this must be because they just aren’t well read enough. The truth happens to be that Blanchard’s colleagues are well aware of his ideas, but find them silly and not particularly applicable to many of the clients they see. The truth is the claim that Bailey’s critics all subscribe to a “feminine essence narrative” or claim to be or have been “women trapped in men’s bodies” is false. The truth is that McCloskey’s book makes no such claim despite Bailey’s claim in his book that it does. The truth is that the only place on her website where Andrea even uses that phrase is to mock it. The truth is that Bailey lied when he claimed Lynn Conway and Andrea James did not want people to read his book, as both had prominently displayed links on their websites to where the whole book could at the time be read online for free. The truth is that Bailey exposed his complete and utter contempt for transwomen when he called his own words “dirty captions” and “obscene” when applied to nontranssexuals. The truth is that however much he might like to believe otherwise, our lives are not delineated by the degree to which we make “single, heterosexual men” like Bailey pitch a tent.

    And here’s a question for you- applying Baileylogic where objecting to something means it must be true, and considering that denial of autogynephilia is alleged to be a symptom of autogynephilia, let me ask you something: Are you autogynephilic? And if your answer is no, why should we believe your denial any more than Blanchard and Bailey believe the denials of transwomen?

  13. Robert, yes, the papers are in journals. Here are some citations:

    Blanchard R. Early history of the concept of autogynephilia. Arch Sex Behav. 2005 Aug;34(4):439-46.

    Blanchard R. The concept of autogynephilia and the typology of male gender dysphoria. J Nerv Ment Dis. 1989 Oct;177(10):616-23.

    Blanchard R. Typology of male-to-female transsexualism. Arch Sex Behav. 1985 Jun;14(3):247-61.

  14. I think the spirit of Robert was driving at is that, aside from Blanchard’s studies and Anne Lawrence’s and Bailey’s commentary on Blanchard’s studies, there’s really aren’t any studies that offer confirmatory evidence for autogynephilia. Or at least, I couldn’t find any in PubMED or PsycINFO.

    I think when the head of HBIDGA (who sets the rules for psychologists and psychiatrists) and the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota (one of the foremost sexuality research institutions in the world, as well as a place that sees more transgender patients than anywhere in the world), as well as Editor of the International Journal on Transgenderism, declares that Blanchard’s/Bailey’s research is “bad science”, then perhaps that should be a sign that it might actually somewhat maaaaaybe actually *be* bad science, and not just some global conspiracy by thousands of autogynephiliac transsexuals to disgrace Blanchard/Bailey.

    http://www.tsroadmap.com/info/eli-coleman.html

  15. So…only he studied it? No one else confirmed his findings? Color me highly confused suddenly. Why hasn’t another psychologist done the same study?

    Whatever happened to the concept of ‘peer-review?” I thought the entire point of scientific journals was to help spread the information so peer-review could take place. It’s been almost 20years and no one else has attempted to duplicate this observation?

  16. Robert: “Only he studied it”? I didn’t say that. I don’t know who else has studied it.

    April, when I was an undergraduate I gave a talk called “The Scientific ____ ” My claim was that when you read that such-and-such is “scientific” or something else is “unscientific”, that’s a good sign that you should stop reading. Because the term “scientific” is nearly meaningless. I still think that. To say that someone’s research is “bad science” is about as interesting and helpful and clear as saying someone’s research is “bad”. It says more about the person who said it than anyone else.

  17. “April, when I was an undergraduate I gave a talk called “The Scientific ____ ” My claim was that when you read that such-and-such is “scientific” or something else is “unscientific”, that’s a good sign that you should stop reading. Because the term “scientific” is nearly meaningless. I still think that. To say that someone’s research is “bad science” is about as interesting and helpful and clear as saying someone’s research is “bad”. It says more about the person who said it than anyone else.”

    Seth, have you considered seeking employment at The Discovery Institute? It looks like you’d fit right in. They love to pretend scientific is meaningless too. Legitimate scientists of course realize that good science would be that which strictly follows the rules of scientific investigation and analysis, and bad science would be that which does not. Like, say, purporting to investigate the sexuality of a whole population by trolling hooker bars at 3am. Or insisting that any evidence you see against a theory must automatically be reinterpreted as evidence for the theory. Which is why when anthropologists found evidence that Homo Habilis was co-existent with Homo Erectus, they immediately accused the Habilis fossils of “not being honest with themselves,” instead of adjusting their views of human evolutionary ancestry to compensate.

  18. http://www.genderpsychology.org/autogynephilia/ray_blanchard/

    I managed to find this site, it’s a much more…calm discussion and study of Blanchard’s work. She admits to being transsexual herself, but she doesn’t throw around wild personal accusations of the man’s theory.

    Apparently the only studies that have ever been done were by Blanchard and he only did one study, all the other papers are merely commentary and further extrapolation of his own data. Furthermore his study was done on the population he himself helped select, there was no blinding or double blinding or control grouping. At the center he did his work at he apparently rejected 90%+ of the patients that came to him for help.

  19. The site you link to is relatively calm but also very biased. For example:

    Blanchard’s model is not supported by the empirical data. Blanchard’s model assumes the very things it seeks to prove by assigning transsexuals to types and by a peculiar definition of gender dysphoria.

    This makes little sense. The data Blanchard describes supports his theory. Models do not “seek to prove” anything.

  20. “This makes little sense. The data Blanchard describes supports his theory. Models do not “seek to prove” anything.”

    Actually, it doesn’t support the theory. Blanchard’s theory of transsexual typology is “All male-to-female transsexuals who are not attracted to men are attracted to the thought or image of themselves as women.” Not some, not correlations, all are one or the other, no exceptions. Even if you take the data at face value (and as I’ve noted, there are several good reasons not to), it doesn’t support the theory. Exclusively male-attracted transwomen should experience NO cross-gendered eroticism, yet this and Blanchard’s other studies consistently find that some of them do. Bailey and pals try to weasel out of this by claiming, without evidence, that those who do must not really be male-attracted, which amounts to claiming the data as support of the theory and then turning around and goosing the very same data because it doesn’t support the theory. (And that’s where the unfalsifiable part comes in.) But as I’ve noted, since his measurement instrument doesn’t actually measure cross-gendered eroticism, there’s no way to draw any meaningful conclusions from this study.

    Also, as you have ducked the question of your own autogynephilia, applying the logic and Bailey and cohorts means you must therefore be autogynphilic but too ashamed to admit it. Admittedly, this is ridiculous logic to apply to you, but applied to us, it’s “science.”

Comments are closed.