[NOTE: The following is a guest post by Joelle Ruby Ryan, who has been a target of not-so-veiled threats by Alice ‘J. Michael Bailey’s Greek Chorus’ Dreger]
Has Alice Dreger Gone Neo-Con?
by Joelle Ruby Ryan
The Blanchard, Bailey, Zucker, Cantor, Dreger controversy continues! In 2008, I moderated at a panel at the National Women’s Studies Association entitled “The Bailey Brouhaha.” The panelists were Andrea James, Elise Hendrick and Katrina Rose. In the panel, we critiqued Alice Dreger’s “scholarly history” of the Bailey controversy and exposed the multiple ways in which she was complicit with cultural transphobia by defending J. Michael Bailey and presenting trans community advocates as witch-like ideologues intent on “ruining” a heroic man of science. In my introduction, I discussed how Dreger was part of a long history of transsexual imperialists, cissexual persons who have appropriated trans identity to control the flow of discourses that determine our lives. These gate-keepers have been severely challenged by trans and allied advocates for the past 15 years. Many have retired, died off or finally changed some of their oppressive ways. But there is an old guard of non-trans “scientists” (and their tiny band of trans devotees) who have resisted the paradigm shift and white-knuckled it to hold onto their little turf of colonized space (see the above list of names, and add trans devotees like Anne Lawrence, Hontas Farmer, and other deluded trans people with internalized oppression issues.) The panel was a great success, and none of us cared one bit that Ms. Dreger decided to attempt to intimidate us by sitting front and center to listen to our righteous voices of concern about her role in the oppression of our community.
Well, apparently we must have struck a nerve, because the Dredge decided to publish an article in which she re-hashed the panel from her distorted perspective and used it as an anecdote to introduce the work of her Guggenheim-funded new book project. (For the article, see the October 2009 issue of the Newsletter of the History of Science Society). Which brings me to the subject of this Blog. One of the definitions of a neo-con is a once-progressive person who dramatically changes their political orientation and becomes a raving voice for right-wing conservatism. Leading neoconservative voice Irving Kristol once describe neo-cons as “liberals mugged by reality.” Was Alice mugged by Mike B’s version of transgender “reality”? Apparently for Dreger, she was unsatisfied with the amount of attention she was getting as a left-leaning academic (after all, we are kind of a dime a dozen.) So, she decided it was time for a move to boost her career profile just a bit. She hitched her wagon to the Bailey-controversy train, accomplished the dubious distinction of helping to establish the nomenclature of “Disorders of Sex Development” (DSD) to replace intersex and further pathologize the intersex community, and now is defending all manner of people who are actively working against social justice and progressive analyses of cultural issues. Perhaps Dreger is taking advantage of the right-wing turn in society and cashing in on being a phony “enfant terrible” by exposing the supposed histrionics of politically-correct ideologues who are using identity politics as a weapon against truth-seeking men and women of Science.
There are so many things wrong with Dreger’s piece that it is difficult to know where to begin. What I do know is that is Dreger is obsessed with unleashing a torrent of hatred against transgender women, women who have dared to speak out and who have dared to speak truth to power. When I sent out my CFP and was meanly attacked by Dreger in front of 5,000 of my peers on the Women’s Studies Listserv (WMST-L), Dreger pulled rank to try to put me in my proper place. As a transgender feminist woman who desired to critique her fawning apologia of the uber-patriarchal transphobe Mike Bailey, I was acting “uppity” and needed to be quickly and resolutely put in check. This included contacting some of the leadership of NWSA about my proposed panel (she was probably smarting after I professionally rejected her paper to be on the panel; she subsequently gave a highly amusing paper in a different session in which she referred to my colleagues Andrea James and Lynn Conway as “intellectual terrorists.”) For someone supposedly so concerned with free speech and academic freedom, she sure did seem determined to try to shut down my panel, just like she tried like the dickens to get trans advocate Andrea James disinvited from Northwestern, academic home to her and Bailey. It is also one-half of what has affectionately come to be known as the Northwestern-Jurassic Clarke (AKA the Center for Addiction and Mental Health) axis of transphobia. Jurassic Clarke is home to Dreger cronies Ray Blanchard and Kenneth Zucker, whose damage to transgender youth and adults is well-documented.
I will leave it to others to tease apart the other “scientists” that Dreger has taken to defending in her yet-to-be-published tome. But, I can say with certainty that if it anything like her egregious defense of rabid transphobic bigots Bailey and Blanchard then Dreger’s credibility with progressive academic will be nil. Dreger has made her bed, and has decided to sleep with the right-wing enemies of positive, progressive change. So be it. Perhaps the next career move will be for Dreger to leave academia all together and start a fascist think tank a la David Horror-witz. But rest assured Al: your transgender and intersex critics will meet every piece of hate literature you produce with militant resolve. While your megalomaniacal self continues to try to selfishly grab the spotlight (like your “hermaphrodite-mongering” opportunism during the Caster Semenya controversy) we will continue to speak out, fight for justice, empower our communities and move the culture forward in regards to sex, gender and sexuality.