Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Neverending Story....

The never ending story...

Anyone who has ever seen a typical horror film knows how it ends. The monster/serial killer/villain appears to be dead, everyone breathes a sigh of relief, the scary music starts up, as suddenly the monster/serial killer/villain sits up/reaches out of the grave/grabs the nearest potential victim by the throat, before being finally dispatched to the great beyond.

I had that same feeling recently when the Michael Bailey controversy, which we all thought had finally died down, roared back to life with the release of Alice Dreger's rather biased take on the entire mess entitled "The Controversy Surrounding The Man Who Would Be Queen: A Case History of the Politics of Science, Identity, and Sex in the Internet Age. Archives of Sexual Behavior" which is to be published in an upcoming edition of the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Michael Bailey, for the benefit of those few who have not heard of this issue, is a psychology professor at Northwestern University. He wrote a book a few years back entitled "The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism." The book was a rather nasty attack on male to female transsexuals based on Ray Blanchard's rather bizarre theories that divide all transsexuals into two groups. According to Blanchard, we are all either gay men who become women to attract straight men, or we are straight men who are in love with ourselves as women. Bailey wrote the book to counter the idea that transsexuals are really women. He was trying to counter this view, which Randi Ettner presented in her excellent book, "Confessions of a Gender Defender."

So, one might ask, what's the big deal? Unfortunately, that is a hard question to answer. The simple bottom line is, the response to Bailey's rather nasty little book has turned out to be more than was warranted. Bailey's book did not have the effect that the author clearly intended, or that transsexuals feared. In the larger scheme of things, it turned out to be of little real consequence.

Still, Bailey's book was a nasty attack on transsexuals. It contained much misinformation, most of it based on Blanchard's pseudo-scientific claims about transsexuals. Blanchard is affiliated with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, formerly known as the Clarke Institute, in Toronto, Canada. The CAMH is notorious for its approach to the treatment of transsexuals. For example, it requires a year of living in the target gender before the patient is allowed to take hormones. This is far beyond any reasonable standard. The Standards of Care only requires 90 days of therapy. It is difficult, at best, for most people to accomplish the CAMH requirement. On top of that, they have a long standing reputation for only allowing low doses of hormones, far below the amounts needed for any therapeutic effect.

When Bailey's book came out, a lot of transsexuals feared the worst. It was thought that this book would be interpreted as fact and would lead to increased discrimination. In truth, it failed to make much of a mark. It got a small amount of notice from the right, but was otherwise largely ignored. Unfortunately, that did not stop some from reacting quickly to address the issues in the book.

The reaction was, at times, excessive. And those involved have admitted as much. But, the counter-reaction from the Bailey side was not much better. Bailey himself tried to remain above the fight, allowing others to make the attacks. For example, one somewhat notorious net-kook by the name of Willow Arune attacked Andrea James viciously, making numerous false claims. Arune also make false accusation of anti-Native American bias against Lynn Conway. That these attacks were made with the knowledge and at least tacit approval of Michael Bailey is obvious.

Eventually, things seemed to settle down. Bailey's book faded quickly, and things seemed to be largely forgotten. Until Dreger was called in to stir the pot again. The article makes two things clear. First, that Bailey really is not a nice man, especially as regards transsexuals, and secondly, that some people are not willing to let this matter end.

The article presents a very biased, one sided version of the events. In the first part, which is, one would presume, a reasonably accurate history of why the book was written, Bailey is exposed for his biases. In the second part, Dreger shows her own biases. It distorts the facts, and is largely a piece of yellow journalism.

And so, the battle began again. The dust is again settling. Is the monster finally dead? Or will their be a sequel?

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