Four years later, the controversy over 2003’s The Man Who Would Be Queen by J. Michael Bailey, is still boiling over. With an impressive CV and two documentary films to her credit, Joelle Ruby Ryan – a graduate student at Bowling Green University – recently became the first MTF-spectrum trans person to receive a prestigious Point Foundation Scholarship. She inadvertently stumbled into the fray around Bailey’s book, when she posted a call for proposals on a women’s studies listserv.
Even before questions were raised about the Northwestern University psych professor’s research methods and alleged professional misconduct, The Man raised the ire of trans women by re-asserting Ray Blanchard’s theory that transsexual women are either “feminine homosexual males who want to be women” or they suffer from “autogynephilia: a sexual attraction to, and love of, the idea of oneself as a woman.”
Ryan (joellerubyryan.com), who identifies as a transgender woman and a genderqueer, pansexual trans-feminist, says Bailey’s taxonomies are “patently ridiculous. People don’t transition for sexual reasons – they transition because of their gender identity.” Furthermore, she argues, “His theories on male bisexuality (it does not exist), his endorsement of gay gene selection (eugenics) and his connection to Kenneth Zucker (who supports reparative therapy for gender-variant youth) [also] taint him as an enemy to [the LGBT] community.”
This summer the Bailey controversy resurfaced when intersex researcher/activist Alice Dreger (alicedreger.com) released a 62-page paper (to be published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior next year) defending Bailey and accusing several trans women of attempting to “ruin” him.
In that light, Ryan proposed a panel for 2008’s National Women Studies Association conference entitled “The Bailey Brouhaha: Community Members Speak Out on Resisting Transphobia and Sexism in Academia and Beyond.” “Trans people have repeatedly been silenced by powerful elites,” Ryan argues. “We’ve been endlessly researched and talked about by others. We’ve been objectified and gazed at like a butterfly pinned to a wall. [Now] we refuse to let others define us in ways that we know to be harmful, specious and destructive.”
After posting on an international women’s studies listserv, Ryan was surprised when Dreger responded, calling Ryan’s post “laden with factual errors and misrepresentations,” and, in reference to another post, noting, “I also appreciate your advising Joelle Ruby Ryan ‘that she was putting herself at risk…within a controversial field (trans issues) by tolerating tactics that breed fear and stifle academic freedom.’”
“I was floored to be so viciously attacked by,” Ryan says. “Clearly, Dreger has used her considerable power as a tenured professor at a prestigious university, as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as her privilege as a middle-class, white, cisgendered woman to bear on someone with less cultural and institutional power than her. Such actions are appalling and unethical and absolutely anathema to feminist principles.
Well, in the words of Lynn Conway: “In spite of Dreger’s best efforts to infringe on Joelle’s academic freedom, Joelle persisted and the panel will go on as planned.”
Why am I pointing all of this out?
Well, I was one of many (thousands?) who saw through Dreger’s assumption of the Dubya role to Bailey’s banal performance as Scooter Libby.
Ryan extended an invitation to me to appear on that panel she was putting together and, despite the Dreger-Bailey pseudo-academic thuggery, the panel was accepted by the National Women’s Studies Association for its conference – which is this coming weekend in Cincinnati. Some particulars:
The Bailey Brouhaha: Community Members Speak Out On Resisting Transphobia and Sexism in Academia And Beyond
The National Women’s Studies Association Conference:
Saturday, June 21, 2008 : 3:45-5:00 PM
Millennium Hotel, North 200
A Ground-Breaking Panel Featuring:
Joelle Ruby Ryan, American Culture Studies/Women’s Studies, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio
Katrina Rose, History Department, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
Andrea James, Deep Stealth Productions, Los Angeles, California
Élise Hendrick, Independent Scholar, Cincinnati, Ohio
I encourage everyone to show up and hear for yourselves the caliber of woman that the Blanchard-Bailey-Dreger axis effectively claims does not exist.
Lil’ ol’ intelligent, non-gay-male, non-prostitute transsexual WOMEN such as myself.
Its gonna be good. Dreger herself will be spewing her own nonsense earlier in the day.