Transsexuals Protest Academic Exploitation Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Transsexual women accused a Northwestern University psychology professor of using them as research subjects without their consent for his controversial 2003 book on transsexuality, The Man Who Would Be Queen. For the first time, transsexual activists succeeded in speaking out publicly against academic exploitation.

Summary of Event

In March, 2003, J. Michael Bailey published The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism, a book that immediately became the center of a debate over the origins of male-to-female transsexualism and its relationship to sexuality. Employing a theory first advanced in the 1980’s by Ray Blanchard, a researcher and head of the clinical sexology program at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto, Canada, Bailey stated that there are two types of male-to-female transsexuals: homosexual transsexuals and nonhomosexual transsexuals. The former group, he wrote, are “extremely feminine gay men,” whereas the latter “suffer” from a condition called “autogynephilia.” "Autogynephilia," definition of[autogynephilia] Bailey argued that transsexuals with autogynephilia are “men erotically obsessed with the image of themselves as women.” [kw]Transsexuals Protest Academic Exploitation (Mar., 2003-Dec., 2004) [kw]Academic Exploitation, Transsexuals Protest (Mar., 2003-Dec., 2004) [kw]Exploitation, Transsexuals Protest Academic (Mar., 2003-Dec., 2004) Transgender/transsexuality[Transgender transsexuality];academic research on Colleges and universities;and human-subject research[human subject research] Man Who Would Be Queen, The (Bailey) Psychology [c]Publications;Mar., 2003-Dec., 2004: Transsexuals Protest Academic Exploitation[2670] [c]Transgender/transsexuality;Mar., 2003-Dec., 2004: Transsexuals Protest Academic Exploitation[2670] [c]Marches, protests, and riots;Mar., 2003-Dec., 2004: Transsexuals Protest Academic Exploitation[2670] Conway, Lynn Allison, Becky James, Andrea Roughgarden, Joan Kieltyka, Charlotte Angelica Bailey, J. Michael

By describing transsexualism as a phenomenon best understood in terms of deviant sexual desire rather than as an issue of gender identity, Bailey angered many male-to-female transsexuals, and others, who felt that such a characterization ran counter to their own experiences and was not supported by valid, scientific research data. In response, former computer science professor Lynn Conway created a Web site dedicated to the investigation of Bailey’s research methodology and the implications of his conclusions. Activists Andrea James and Becky Allison also began posting criticisms of Bailey’s work on their online transsexual resource sites in April, 2003, stating that they, too, profoundly disagreed with his findings.

In late April, 2003, Stanford University biology and geophysics professor Joan Roughgarden attended a psychology lecture given by Bailey and wrote a scathing critique in the university’s newspaper, The Stanford Daily, of what she viewed as a “vulgar performance” of unfounded assertions about transsexuals based on stereotypes. Dismissing The Man Who Would Be Queen as “junk science,” she then wrote an open letter to two presidents of divisions of the National Academy of Sciences in which she called for the academy to discredit the book as a scholarly publication. (Joseph Henry Press, which published the book, is an imprint of National Academies Press.) Roughgarden warned that Bailey’s conclusions are not based on empirical data and have worrisome implications for gay and lesbian people as well as transsexuals, “setting the stage for others to advocate the persecution of gays from a scientific perspective.”

In early May of 2003, Charlotte Angelica Kieltyka discovered that aspects of her personal life and sexual history had been published in Bailey’s book, under the pseudonym “Cher Mondovi,” without her knowledge or consent. Kieltyka contacted Conway, who posted a series of e-mails and interviews online on her behalf. On July 3, 2003, Kieltyka filed a formal complaint with Northwestern University, stating that she had never been aware that Bailey considered her a research subject, and that he had not obtained her informed consent to participate as a human subject in his study. By the end of July, three more individuals used in Bailey’s research had filed formal complaints against him. On November 12, 2003, Northwestern University launched a formal investigation in response to the allegations that Bailey did not obtain the consent of his research subjects.

On December 12, 2003, the weekly academic newsmagazine Chronicle of Higher Education Chronicle of Higher Education (periodical) reported that Bailey had been accused by a transsexual woman of “having sex with her while she was a subject of his research.” In January, 2004, an article by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) linked support of Bailey’s research to the Human Biodiversity Institute, which the SPLC terms a “neo-eugenics outfit” that also promotes racist scientific research.

One month later, The Man Who Would Be Queen was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award Lambda Literary Award in the “Transgender/Genderqueer” category, spurring a massive protest and petition drive to have the title removed from the nomination list. On March 12, 2004, the nomination was rescinded after the panel of judges found that “the book was not appropriate for the category.”

In April of 2004, further complaints were filed with the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation against Bailey for practicing clinical psychology without a license and for publishing clinical case histories without permission. Bailey denied the allegations, saying he had “done nothing wrong.” On December 1, 2004, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Bailey had resigned his position as chairman of the psychology department at Northwestern in October, in a move that a university spokesman said “had nothing to do with the investigation.” In letters to the transsexual women who had filed complaints against Bailey, Northwestern provost Lawrence Dumas wrote that the investigation had been concluded and he had “taken action that” he thought to be “appropriate in this situation.”


The series of protests stemming from Bailey’s publication of The Man Who Would Be Queen represented one of the most organized and unified examples of transgender activism seen to date. Linking issues of exploitation of human subjects to the politics of scientific research on homosexuality and transsexualism, the efforts of Lynn Conway, Andrea James, Charlotte Angelica Kieltyka, Joan Roughgarden, and other transsexual women marked a new moment in transgender history. Transgender/transsexuality[Transgender transsexuality];academic research on Colleges and universities;and human-subject research[human subject research] Man Who Would Be Queen, The (Bailey) Psychology

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bailey, J. Michael. The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism. Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press, 2003. Available at http://fermat
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Beirich, Heidi, and Bob Moser. “Queer Science: An ’Elite’ Cadre of Scientists and Journalists Tries to Turn Back the Clock on Sex, Gender, and Race.” Intelligence Report. Southern Poverty Law Center (January 1, 2004). http://www.splcenter .org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?sid = 96.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bockting, Donald O. “Biological Reductionism Meets Gender Diversity in Human Sexuality.” Review of Bailey, The Man Who Would Be Queen (2003). Journal of Sex Research 42, no. 3 (August, 2005): 267-270. Available at
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Conway, Lynn. An Investigation into the Publication of J. Michael Bailey’s Book on Transsexualism by the National Academies.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ehrenstein, David. “Kinder, Gentler Homophobia.”, April 6, 2006. http://www
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">James, Andrea. “Categorically Wrong? A Bailey-Blanchard-Lawrence Clearinghouse.”
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Roughgarden, Joan. “Open Letter to the National Academies.” J. Michael Bailey Investigation.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. “Psychology Lecture Lacks Sensitivity to Sexual Orientation.” Stanford Daily Online. April 25, 2003.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wilson, Robin. “Dr. Sex.” Chronicle of Higher Education, June 20, 2003.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. “Northwestern U. Concludes Investigation of Sex Researcher but Keeps Results Secret.” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 1, 2004.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. “Northwestern U. Psychologist is Accused of Having Sex with Research Subject.” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 12, 2003.

November 21, 1966: First Gender Identity Clinic Opens and Provides Gender Reassignment Surgery

1978: Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association Is Founded

June 2, 1989: Lambda Literary Award Is Created

1992: Transgender Nation Holds Its First Protest

June, 1992: Feinberg Publishes Transgender Liberation

1993: Intersex Society of North America Is Founded

1996: Hart Recognized as a Transgender Man

1998: Transgender Scholarship Proliferates

Categories: History