When Liberals Attack
January 1, 2016 2:20 AM   Subscribe

Jesse Singal on Alice Dreger's book about witch hunts in social science: "It’s hard not to come away from Dreger’s wonderful book feeling like we’re doomed."
posted by leibniz (129 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
I joke (more frequently than is warranted by either the circumstances or the actual funniness of the joke) that "the fights are so fierce because the stakes are so low"; obviously that is both true and false in these sorts of instances. If you're railroading people who are doing sound science because in doing so they're holding a knife to the throat of your sacred cow, you are no better than the professional denialists and serial liars waging a high-dollar political offensive against climate science and evo-devo. The stakes are very very high for those being railroaded and for the scientific enterprise itself. On the other hand, the reasons these high-profile hit jobs are undertaken are the pettiest and most self-serving and small-minded imaginable. Disgusting.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 2:57 AM on January 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


When conservatives attack science it is usually in support of either corporate profits or established power structures. When liberals attack science it is usually in opposition to corporate profits and established power structures.
posted by lilburne at 2:59 AM on January 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


Very bad book, horrible example of anything at all. Dreger's book is essentially defending one J Michael Bailey and a generally discredited psychological theory regarding transgender people: that there are two kinds of transgender women...trans men don't come up, for some reason..."homosexual transsexuals" (trans women who are sexually attracted to men) who transition in order to be more attractive to men, and "autogynephiles" (trans women who are bisexual or sexually attracted to women) who become sexually aroused by the idea of themselves as women. This model of gender dysphoria/transness as a type of paraphilia is, as I said, largely discredited by actual science (see for instance here and here.

For some views on Dreger's general awfulness and why her book is, well, a piece of shit, not to put too fine a point on it, see here and here

I guess "transgender people appalled at pseudoscience that paints them as sexual deviants" doesn't quite have the same ring as "liberals attack science", though.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 3:25 AM on January 1, 2016 [119 favorites]


So its a counter-thesis to Stephen Colbert's oft quoted claim that "the facts have a liberal bias"?

I have occasionally felt this is also the case in certain philosophical areas where the results of an argument are criticised based purely on their disagreement with left-ist dogma. (For instance occasionally the Marxist criticism of Foucault seems to take on this aspect, of a criticism of the results - irrespective of the method or argument by which the results are reached)
posted by mary8nne at 3:29 AM on January 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


More like an illustrated account of how people who feel personally threatened by a particular line of argument will use every weapon available to them to discredit those they perceive as attacking them? With the result that, aided by a media circus that is more interested in reporting the controversy (because that’s what gets the clicks) than actually checking the facts, individuals can find their research careers ruined for the crime of goring someone’s sacred cow, regardless of the quality of their research.

I suspect climate deniers do indeed feel personally threatened by climate research & that is exactly why they lash out at the researchers in this fashion, but exactly the same dynamic can happen to groups of people that see themselves as being left-wing or social-justice oriented. It’s a universal pattern.
posted by pharm at 3:50 AM on January 1, 2016 [16 favorites]


This is a terrible article.

What the second example actually says is that two (2) people who happened to be affiliated with liberal activist groups went on a hostile campaign against a scientist's reputation.

From that, one should not conclude that "liberals, emphasis on the plural, like to attack science too when it serves them!". One should conclude that these people who are engaging in outright lies and harassment maybe have mental health issues. It is certainly not liberal behavior in the general sense of the term.

It's like saying anti-vaxxers are a perfect example of liberals who attack/undermine science, or whatever. Except that's a horrible generalization. I mean, are there only two people in the world denying climate change? The article didn't show that a majority of liberals end up adopting a problematic stance in relation to scientific information.

It's possible I've missed a crucial detail, but that's my view after reading this.
posted by polymodus at 3:59 AM on January 1, 2016 [13 favorites]


and they obviously have every right to disagree with Bailey and Blanchard’s views.

Nice; very big of you to allow this, dude
posted by Greg Nog at 4:50 AM on January 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


Pseudonymous Cognomen: For some views on Dreger's general awfulness and why her book is, well, a piece of shit, not to put too fine a point on it, see here and here


It's very welcome to get an opposing point of view on how well the science holds up, but the whole point of Dreger's work is to highlight unjustified ad hominem attacks. I don't see that Dreger's claims on that front have been refuted at all, and your comment here commits the same problem.
posted by leibniz at 5:05 AM on January 1, 2016 [31 favorites]


To the extent that this article may describe a real phenomenon (and it is wholly unclear that it does), it is important to note that it is a different phenomenon to the sort of anti-science typified by climate change denial. What are alleged by the particles are assaults upon individual reputations through damaging allegations about professional misconduct. That is not a systemic attack upon the results of uncomfortable science.

The only thing one might generalise from this, perhaps, is that the "left-liberal" socio-political environment is receptive of and sensitive to accusations of moral or political failure. Sometimes I do worry that we are, in general, too prone to valuing purity and condemning splitters, and sometimes I think that the sometimes difficult nature of our discourse is a natural and necessary consequence of the need to detect and address systemic bias and prejudice. I guess it's something to keep under consideration, at least. This article seems to distract from that by entirely ignoring that ways that the communities reacted in the two cases, in particular the self-correction of apparent mistakes made in initial responses. Does this really indicate that we're "doomed"? It's not very convincing.
posted by howfar at 5:14 AM on January 1, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's very welcome to get an opposing point of view on how well the science holds up, but the whole point of Dreger's work is to highlight unjustified ad hominem attacks. I don't see that Dreger's claims on that front have been refuted at all, and your comment here commits the same problem.

From the first of the two articles linked:

autogynephilia is a scientific theory of transgender taxonomy and etiology, and as such, it can be either substantiated or disproven via scientific research. And between 2008 (when Dreger’s original Archives of Sexual Behavior article was initially submitted) and 2014 (when she most likely was completing her book manuscript), four research studies and three critical reviews were published in peer-reviewed journals, all of which individually, and especially taken together, clearly demonstrate that the theory of autogynephilia does not hold true (these papers are listed and briefly summarized via that link).
posted by Greg Nog at 5:20 AM on January 1, 2016 [41 favorites]


It's very welcome to get an opposing point of view on how well the science holds up, but the whole point of Dreger's work is to highlight unjustified ad hominem attacks. I don't see that Dreger's claims on that front have been refuted at all, and your comment here commits the same problem.

It's not an ad hominem (I've criticised her ideas as expressed in the book, and given references for my criticisms) nor is it unjustified. Dreger is a nasty and unpleasant transphobe whose regular Twitter comments include things like tweeting links to "gender critical" feminists and outright making things up (for instance her recent claim that "transgender activists" got the gender identity clinic at Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health shut down, when it was closed following an independent review that found unethical practices and general failure at appropriate standards of care).
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 5:22 AM on January 1, 2016 [23 favorites]


autogynephilia is a scientific theory of transgender taxonomy and etiology, and as such, it can be either substantiated or disproven via scientific research.

part of the problem here is the concept of "social science" and in particular the conviction of psychologists that what they do can be held to the same standards as biology or chemistry, not to mention physics, if you just cram in enough bogus statistics into your research...

It's not an ad hominem (I've criticised her ideas as expressed in the book, and given references for my criticisms) nor is it unjustified. Dreger is a nasty and unpleasant transphobe...

uhh... that's an ad hominem argument.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:34 AM on January 1, 2016 [12 favorites]


Sometimes I do worry that we are, in general, too prone to valuing purity and condemning splitters

No shit.

Sidestepping the quagmire of "they say/sie say" and trans issues, though[1], what about the Chagnon case and the Yanomamö? Do we have any ethologists who'd care to offer an opinion?

[1] Side-stepping it not because I view it as unimportant but because it's a very bad example of the postulated phenomenon under discussion, i.e. left-liberal attacks on scientific research: it's much too deeply entangled within our own cultural matrix for us to aspire to any kind of objectivity. In contrast, the Yanomamö are external and thus hopefully easier to establish truth/falsehood wrt. alleged malpractice.
posted by cstross at 5:35 AM on January 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


Pseudonymous Cognomen When you say "Dreger's general awfulness"- you are inviting us to reject her research purely on the basis of her being an awful person. This is absolutely ad hominem.

In your more recent comment, you provide extra evidence to back up a character assassination. I don't think I'd call that ad hominem- but personally I'd be very wary of that territory. For one thing it risks confusing the substance of the claims about witch hunting with a separate issue about the character of the author.
posted by leibniz at 5:41 AM on January 1, 2016 [9 favorites]


Greg Nog - i think you're confusing the claims of the author of the book in this post and the claims of one of the people discussed in that book. the point you are replying to was arguing that the correctness of the science is not the point; what the book discusses is ad-hominen attacks and these should not occur, whether the science is refuted or not.
posted by andrewcooke at 5:45 AM on January 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yes it seems to me to be potentially damaging to divert the debate into whether or not autogynephilia is true. What conclusion about witch hunting are we supposed to draw from that? That it's okay to attack someone ethically so long as they're wrong?
posted by leibniz at 5:47 AM on January 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


it's also a truism that science progresses through finding things wrong (and there's a serious issue in many sciences with negative results not being published).
posted by andrewcooke at 5:49 AM on January 1, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think the Bailey example is the important one because, as noted, it undermines the entire article. The author (I'm sure I'll be accused of an ad hominen attack by even mentioning) fails to understand both that a) Bailey's book does not contain cutting edge research or insights and b) actual, living, breathing trans people might know something about their own experiences and can't just be swept aside as "liberals". The author implies we should take the critics' concerns seriously precisely because some of the vocal critics are trans!

(And frankly, leibniz, you're doing the exact same thing. Don't tell us that promoting autogynephilia theories is a-okay.)
posted by hoyland at 5:50 AM on January 1, 2016 [26 favorites]


it risks confusing the substance of the claims about witch hunting with a separate issue about the character of the author.

They're inseparable, in this case; she was intimately involved in the issue (the aforementioned J Michael Bailey was a colleague of hers at Northwestern University, and she published an article in his defence in "Archives of Sexual Behaviour", for a précis and some of the responses see here.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 5:51 AM on January 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


I suppose if we want to restrict ourselves to discussion of the lunatics who went after J Michael Bailey (ignoring the content of his work in order to use him solely as an example of Hapless Scientist Wronged By Frothing Liberals as the article would like us to), we can very easily say that yes, that should not occur. It's bad to call someone's daughter a "cock-starved exhibitionist"

That's bad

I agree that is bad

I think we can all here agree that is bad

I don't think anyone here would ever say that's a good cool thing to do
posted by Greg Nog at 5:53 AM on January 1, 2016 [24 favorites]


It's not an ad hominem

Ad hominem is not always fallacious, but it's pretty easy to identify: are we talking about the speaker or her claims? In most areas, the things I publish do not earn me personal attacks: in a few of my research areas, though, I know there are groups or individuals who will take certain kinds of provocations as opportunities to attack me personally. This makes me much more careful, which is probably good, but it also makes me not like publishing work that is publicly accessible or directly responsive to those scholars on those themes. Sometimes the attacks come from both "sides"! When I give talks open to the public on those themes (prisons, for instance) I can expect that I will be harangued, but it's usually a toss-up whether the attacks will be from the right or the left.
She posted photos of Bailey’s young daughter online with nasty text underneath (in one case calling her a “cock-starved exhibitionist”)
Did this happen?
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:53 AM on January 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yes it seems to me to be potentially damaging to divert the debate into whether or not autogynephilia is true. What conclusion about witch hunting are we supposed to draw from that?

What is "the debate"? You want us to just debate whether it's cool to be extremely shitty to people or not?
posted by Greg Nog at 5:56 AM on January 1, 2016 [11 favorites]


Autogynephilia is a scientific theory of transgender taxonomy and etiology, and as such, it can be either substantiated or disproven via scientific research. And between 2008 (when Dreger’s original Archives of Sexual Behavior article was initially submitted) and 2014 (when she most likely was completing her book manuscript), four research studies and three critical reviews were published in peer-reviewed journals, all of which individually, and especially taken together, clearly demonstrate that the theory of autogynephilia does not hold true (these papers are listed and briefly summarized via that link).

I feel like that's a pretty deceptive paragraph. If you read the Nuttbrock paper the conclusion isn't that "there's no such thing as autogynephilia", it's "Blanchard's homosexual/autogynephile axis is too simplistic a model to describe trans women identity". It takes as read that transvestic fetishism is a genuine psychosexual phenomena.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 5:57 AM on January 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm leaving this thread now, both because I have things to do and because I just got snippy with my brother because anger at this thread boiled over. There are trans people in the room. Trans people know things about their own lives and experiences and should be listened to.

It takes as read that transvestic fetishism is a genuine psychosexual phenomena.

This is true. However, being trans is not related to said fetish. That's well-accepted.
posted by hoyland at 5:59 AM on January 1, 2016 [25 favorites]


Yeah I have a feeling that two things are true about this book: 1) It describes a real thing where vicious ad-hominem attacks are used to drive out researchers who’s conclusions run counter to particular sacred cows 2) Such attacks against researchers the author personally identifies with are described in detail in order to imply that their research was unjustly discredited.

The work on the former is well-researched & extensively documented and feels worth publishing, but I can’t get rid of the feeling that the main justification for doing all that work in the first place was the latter, which makes the whole thing feel dishonest. Selective editorialisation can tell a warped story, even if every fact contained therein is true.
posted by pharm at 6:01 AM on January 1, 2016 [17 favorites]


Greg Nog: I think it's not just that witch hunting is a Bad Thing. We want to understand better why it happens. In that NY article there's a non-obvious claim that having a liberal ideology is no protection against reactionary witch hunting, so long as you are in the dominant group.

More generally, I was interested in the barriers to researching unpopular claims. I read a somewhat related article the other day on 'reputation traps' and how research on cold fusion was stymied.
posted by leibniz at 6:06 AM on January 1, 2016


what about the Chagnon case and the Yanomamö?

Long before the stuff mentioned in the article, my circle of acquaintances largely agreed with the critiques here [PDF] and here [paywall] and favored accounts such as this one or this one among others. Basically, his work was viewed as simplistic and ahistorical in addition to being damaging, but it wasn't a huge scandal--just yet another case of a questionable/problematic ethnographic representation perhaps having consequences for the folks involved.
posted by Wobbuffet at 6:08 AM on January 1, 2016 [10 favorites]


I'm not sure the Bailey case deserves this pride of place. This is quite clearly a general phenomenon, and there are good reasons to recognize that liberals aren't somehow immune to the phenomenon. When we depersonalize, we can see rapid revision within a community of inquiry. When we don't, it takes generations.

Lots of early scholarship on a topic is mistaken in some way. It's unscientific to expect otherwise. The problem with personalizing attacks on early, erroneous scholarship is what it does to the field going forward. If being wrong about something means that you'll be personally attacked for the rest of your life, that will tend to cement whatever the second round of scholarship looks like, even if the second generation of scholarship, too, has errors or mistakes. If instead we treat scholarship on a topic as accretive and fallible, new research doesn't have to *destroy* old research (and thus older researchERS). That means the collective enterprise of getting something right can go forward much more quickly, whether this is ethnography or sexuality or climate or genetically modified foods or vaccine safety.

Interestingly, social scientists working on cognitive bias are themselves often the subject of personalized attacks, because they're constantly pointing out flaws in other scholars' research communities. Obviously you *must* be a liberal shill of you're criticizing conservatives. And obviously you *must* be a conservative shill if you're criticizing liberals. It can't be that you're just interested in human cognition and noticing how some kinds of biases are universal!
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:26 AM on January 1, 2016 [39 favorites]


When liberals attack science it is usually in opposition to corporate profits and established power structures.

When liberals attack science it is usually in opposition to other corporate profits and established power structures. Nobody escapes the system.
posted by Modest House at 6:30 AM on January 1, 2016 [8 favorites]


Greg Nog: I think it's not just that witch hunting is a Bad Thing. We want to understand better why it happens.

And this takes the form of a debate because
posted by shakespeherian at 6:53 AM on January 1, 2016 [8 favorites]


One time someone used some ad hominem attacks on a friend of mine that destroyed his career. That was pretty bad, I guess they thought his research was biased against and being used to ruin the lives of some oppressed people? Whatever, that's not important. What's important is that my friend is a social SCIENTIST, and the entire beautiful, ideal world of science we all take part in is obviously facing an existential threat from those crazy ad-homineming purity freaks.

Whose career of promulgating shitty, bigoted, harmful soft science will be harmed next?? IT COULD BE YOURS.
posted by nom de poop at 7:22 AM on January 1, 2016 [12 favorites]


It was linked upthread, but I'm going to excerpt from Julia Serano's post about Dreger's book rather than attempt to pull together a critique of her dishonest characterisation of The Man Who Would Be Queen and its consequences from memory.
Dreger’s new book Galileo’s Middle Finger had just come out, and it contained her critical portrayal of the backlash against J. Michael Bailey’s trans-misogynistic book The Man Who Would Be Queen. Most people outside of certain transgender and/or sexology circles are probably unaware that this particular part of Dreger’s book first appeared in 2009 as an article in a research journal along with numerous peer commentaries—one of which was written by me, and most of which criticized Dreger for being highly selective with the evidence she presented and/or for blatantly misrepresenting trans activists’ concerns and motives in the process. So I initially penned this post to inform potential readers about those past critical reviews of Dreger’s depiction of this particular matter.

And I thought that would be it. I had no reason to believe that she had any kind of vendetta against transgender people or trans activism per se (although some trans activists certainly did think this). Frankly, my impression at the time was that she had a story that she wanted to tell about “activism gone awry and constituting a threat to scientific freedom,” and that her narrative would be easiest to sell if she played down the trans community’s legitimate concerns and played up a handful of incidents that seemed to bolster her case.

But now I believe that I was wrong. Not about Dreger’s disingenuous portrayal of the backlash against Bailey’s book—I stand by that assessment. Rather, now I do think that she has a vendetta against transgender activism, as she has since penned a series of articles wherein she repeatedly 1) criticizes ideas and policies that are forwarded by, and generally accepted amongst, transgender activists, 2) presents selective and/or distorted evidence (usually via “straw men” and false dichotomies) to bolster her argument, 3) points to instances where some trans activists have supposedly “gone too far” (in her mind, at least) in order to paint us as unreasonable and/or extremist, 4) ignores all reasonable and knowledgeable trans activists and advocates whose view points would illustrate that the topic is way more nuanced and complicated than she is presenting it, and 5) inevitably drops in a few comments to make it seem like she is “trans-positive,” or an “ally” or “advocate” of the trans community, when in reality the only trans people she seems to respect are those who buy into psychopathologizing theories about trans identities and sexualities.
Please, read the rest of it. The book this article is based on is not something you can trust.

A few responses of my own to the article, rather than the book:

1) Autogynephilia is bullshit.
Autogynephilia, an erotic interest in the thought or image of oneself as a woman, has been described as a sexual interest of some male-to-female transsexuals (MTFs); the term has not been applied to natal women. To test the possibility that natal women also experience autogynephilia, an Autogynephilia Scale for Women (ASW) was created from items used to categorize MTFs as autogynephilic in other studies. A questionnaire which included the ASW was distributed to a sample of 51 professional women employed at an urban hospital, 29 completed questionnaires were returned for analysis. By the common definition of ever having erotic arousal to the thought or image of oneself as a woman, 93% of the respondents would be classified as autogynephilic. Using a more rigorous definition of “frequent” arousal to multiple items, 28% would be classified as autogynephilic.
The whole point of "autogynephilic transsexual" and "homosexual transsexual" is that they are backformed from the assumption that trans women are actually just ill men: the "homosexual transsexual" is a man so obsessed by his need for male sexual contact that he transforms himself into a woman; the "autogynephilic transsexual" is a man so obsessed by the sexuality of the female form that he transforms himself into a woman. These are the theories that Bailey was defending, and it shouldn't take you more than a moment's thought to realise how damaging these theories are. The propagation of these theories and their application to transgender healthcare has killed people. A lot of people.

Furthermore, the attitudes that these theories prop up have been used to attack trans women socially, to justify our mistreatment, and as excuses to keep us from accessing women's resources and spaces -- including homeless and domestic violence shelters -- resulting in yet more suffering and death.

2) From the article: "What is surprising is just how big an explosion The Man Who Would Be Queen sparked, and how underhanded the campaign against Bailey subsequently got."

Someone wasn't paying attention.

A timeline:

Trans women spend decades struggling to depathologise our lives, to make our medical care more humane, to fight for the right to live our lives like any other women.

Some dude comes along with a book that says, "Hey, that old theory about trans women just being sick men? It's true lol. Here's some personal anecdotes I gathered." People in positions of influence unaccountably take it seriously.

No shit it sparked an explosion. I understand it's upsetting when the lab rats speak up, but we can hear you and we can see what you're doing.

3) From the article: "Before the full weight of the controversy descended, The Man Who Would Be Queen had been nominated for the Lambda Literary Award’s 2004 prize in the transgender/genderqueer category for its textured, supportive portrayal of its transgender subjects."

This is cited as an example of just how dangerously out of touch the transsexual activists were, but more accurately it is a perfect example of how dangerously out of touch the Lambda Literary Award was. Queer organisations have a long history of paying only the merest lip service to transgender people -- particularly trans women -- and throwing an award to something that billed itself as being a scholarly work on the lives of trans women without even consulting with trans women -- or reading the title, apparently -- either demonstrates in the best case an extraordinary lack of care about the nomination process and in the worst case an actively malicious attitude towards trans women.

Since then, as a result of constant and careful activism, the calling out of transmisogynists, transphobes and terfs, and the diligent promotion of trans women's needs and rights, queer lit orgs have spent the last ten years getting progressively less likely to nominate for awards books that call trans women sick men.

--

Books like The Man Who Would Be Queen and Galileo's Middle Finger don't get to exist in a vacuum where theories about marginalised people can be dreamed up and publicised without consequence. Just as shouting "fire!" in a crowded theatre is an irresponsible act, so projecting with "scientific" authority your theory about how a group of marginalised women are liars, delusional men, and sex-obsessed perverts is also an irresponsible act. At least in the former case it's easy for a layperson to confirm that there is, in fact, no fire, but how is a layperson -- or a charity worker, or a policymaker -- to determine that what these apparent scientists are saying is no more than self-serving conjecture?

Claiming that the subjects of your pontification are sick and broken, and then accusing them of overreacting when they fight back, is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Don't fall for it.
posted by these are science wands at 7:54 AM on January 1, 2016 [103 favorites]


Has anyone here actually read the book? The article's author basically gives a one-sentence description of it ("Galileo’s Middle Finger is about what happens when science and dogma collide") and then hamfistedly provides two examples of "liberal politicization of science" without describing the book's thesis or whether the approach is strictly from a liberal point of view.

It has been suggested in this thread that the book is an argument over the science of trans identities, but the discussion here around that has been pretty unhelpful.

Shit article. Can anyone cut through the shit?
posted by Room 101 at 7:55 AM on January 1, 2016


Did this happen?

Yes.
posted by effbot at 7:58 AM on January 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


wow, an argument ("argument") about whether J. Michael Bailey's insidious garbage has some merit, Happy New Year!
posted by listen, lady at 8:00 AM on January 1, 2016 [10 favorites]


What is this thing where we ("we") think that there's a) rigorous investigation and critique and b) respecting people's identities and experiences, but never the twain shall meet—and that a) overrides b) by default?
posted by listen, lady at 8:05 AM on January 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


much less c) that anything that calls itself rigorous investigation and critique must be, simply by virtue of announcing itself as such?
posted by listen, lady at 8:09 AM on January 1, 2016 [10 favorites]


That's a fair criticism of like 90% of social science. I think my biggest problem with the article is that it conflates liberal fuss at essentially qualitative work with conservative fuss at empirical findings. I wonder if there are examples to be found of lefty outrage at harder science? Perhaps some work on race?
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 8:15 AM on January 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


That's a fair criticism of like 90% of social science.
Point taken, though I was talking about MetaFilter lolololol
posted by listen, lady at 8:17 AM on January 1, 2016


Look all I know is if a conversation doesn't take the form of high school debate, it's not a real conversation.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:56 AM on January 1, 2016 [8 favorites]


There seems to be some confusion about the nature of ad hominem.

"You're wrong because you're an asshole" is ad hominem.

"You're wrong and also an asshole" and "You're wrong and therefore an asshole" are not ad hominem.

"You're not wrong, you're just an asshole" is, of course, ad Dudeinem
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:59 AM on January 1, 2016 [62 favorites]


Claiming that the subjects of your pontification are sick and broken, and then accusing them of overreacting when they fight back, is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Don't fall for it.

So, first, the claim is not that transgender is an illness but rather that it's partly cultural, in the context where society's hatred of homosexuality produces different responses. That does not quite seem to be "sick and broken" except in the sense that the theory claims that society's "sick and broken" failure to accept LGB produces TQ. There's nothing "sick and broken" about being homosexual, which I think you have to believe if you believe that Bailey/Blanchard are stigmatizing transgender people by comparing them to homosexuals. The ensuing evidence has shown that this claim is wrong, which is awesome! But it was "ensuing" evidence, right? That is: evidence produced after the initial error.

But the "cock-starved exhibitionist" thing actually happened. So how wrong does a person have to be before their children deserve that, where that's the right reaction? When do we get to say, "You're wrong, and we'll publicly revile your children for it"?
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:08 AM on January 1, 2016 [5 favorites]


anotherpanacea, let's just focus on how wrong he was/is. It's irrelevant what other people did to him.
posted by huguini at 9:14 AM on January 1, 2016


The major problem with books like Bailey's is that because they appear to have scientific value they can definitely influence how people are treated in society and potentially the access they have to treatments (and the option to transition). When social scientists publish theories that can have negative social impacts on marginalized individuals and present anecdotal evidence as somehow universally true yeah that scientist deserves ridicule especially when his theory can easily be disproven as false given even the slightest bit of scientific rigor (which happened after his book's publication). It seems like his book was published precisely to advance an agenda rather than advance scholarship which is a time honored strategy in some disreputable corners of social science but should be attacked when it shows it's ugly head.

Or should liberals stay silent when people bring out psuedoscience like phrenology too?
posted by vuron at 9:26 AM on January 1, 2016 [9 favorites]


It's irrelevant what other people did to him.

It's not at all irrelevant, since, you know, that's the whole topic of Dreger's book.

Science is sometimes wrong about stuff. Sometimes it's wrong about stuff that is really important; sometimes it's wrong in ways that directly impact people, before it's corrected. Sometimes it seems as if it might negatively impact people. None of that justifies the things that Andrea James did not only to Bailey but to Dreger. Even if you have no particular sympathy toward Dreger, if you think that those sort of tactics couldn't be used against, say, a trans-positive scientist by transphobes, you're living in a fool's paradise.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:39 AM on January 1, 2016 [9 favorites]


I think my biggest problem with the article is that it conflates liberal fuss at essentially qualitative work with conservative fuss at empirical findings. I wonder if there are examples to be found of lefty outrage at harder science? Perhaps some work on race?

The best examples of this is are probably the anti-vaccination movement and the pushback against GMOs. To be sure, neither phenomenon is exclusively left-wing, and neither reaction is solely based on rejection of the science behind them. But in both cases, there is a certain disregard of the broad scientific consensus, sometimes backed up by one or two scientific articles that did not stand up to subsequent scrutiny. In both cases, this disregard stems from two things: an essentially left-wing concern about the "purity" of one's environment and specifically what one puts in one's body; and a generalized distrust of corporations and a belief that they have "captured" the medical/scientific/regulatory systems to their own nefarious ends.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:43 AM on January 1, 2016 [9 favorites]


So how wrong does a person have to be before their children deserve that, where that's the right reaction? When do we get to say, "You're wrong, and we'll publicly revile your children for it"?

I guess I'm an asshole, but that looked a lot more like "How does it feel when people talk about someone you love in this way?" than "publicly reviling his children." Shitty? Sure. Whatever. But the "nasty text" wasn't exactly pulled from thin air.
posted by listen, lady at 9:58 AM on January 1, 2016 [10 favorites]


There's nothing "sick and broken" about being homosexual, which I think you have to believe if you believe that Bailey/Blanchard are stigmatizing transgender people by comparing them to homosexuals.

Bailey and Blanchard call straight trans women homosexual because their theory is that straight trans women are men who have taken being gay "too far". Which is both a homophobic and transphobic concept at the same time.

I've played the "maybe it is YOU who are the homophobes" game before.
posted by these are science wands at 10:00 AM on January 1, 2016 [39 favorites]


if you think that those sort of tactics couldn't be used against, say, a trans-positive scientist by transphobes, you're living in a fool's paradise.

Um, that's actually how those tactics are probably most often used. Julia Serrano—a trans-positive scientist!—gets garbage by the shovelful.
posted by listen, lady at 10:01 AM on January 1, 2016 [9 favorites]


an essentially left-wing concern about the "purity" of one's environment and specifically what one puts in one's body; and a generalized distrust of corporations and a belief that they have "captured" the medical/scientific/regulatory systems to their own nefarious ends.

I, buh, I mean maybe this is more of a US thing, but trying to use the above to put anti-vaxxing at the feet of "the left" seems like an absolutely gobsmacking stretch?
posted by ominous_paws at 10:08 AM on January 1, 2016 [11 favorites]


Is "too far" a direct quote?
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:08 AM on January 1, 2016


It's the summary of someone who lived through all this the first time around. I can dig up quotes to support it but that would require a willingness to become really really upset and angry that I just don't have right now.
posted by these are science wands at 10:11 AM on January 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


Until pretty recently the party line was that gay people are "born this way" i.e. that there's some purely mechanistic biological reason behind people being homosexual, and so proceeding from that, it's plainly unfair to discriminate against an accident of birth, a particular shuffling of the genetic cards. People felt that if you allowed that environment and culture affected sexual orientation to some extent then it fell into the realm of a "choice" and therefore was open to criticism. Obviously that's ridiculous, the "reason" for someone being same-sex attracted is totally irrelevant to their entitlement to equal treatment in society.

The trans rights movement seems to be in something analogous to the "born this way" phase right now, where allowing that purely sexual factors - as distinct from gender identity - may influence some people's decisions to identify as trans opens up lines of attack, or dismissal as "just a paraphilia" or whatever, whereas if you adopt the position that trans identity stems from something ineffable - queue dubious fMRI studies about "female" or "male" patterns of electrical activity in the brain - then the injustice of anti-trans bigotry is much more apparent. What composes gender almost necessarily incorporates a sexual dimension - apologies to ace folk - and so if a major factor in someone's decision to identify as a woman is that they find it hot to imagine themselves with female sexual characteristics then I mean, sure, awesome, who gives a fuck? That doesn't invalidate the experience of people with more traditional trans identity narratives of dysphoria etcetera, and I think it's absurd to claim that autogynephila is never a factor in decisions to transition - just browse the bimbo fetish and sissification corners of the web. I feel like it's an artifact of cultural misogyny, where fetishism is coded as masculine, and so if someone is displaying fetishistic behaviour then clearly they're "really" a man.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 10:48 AM on January 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


I think it's absurd to claim that autogynephila is never a factor in decisions to transition

Autogynephilia is never a factor in decisions to transition, because "autogynephilia" is a paraphilia. "Finding it hot to imagine oneself as a sexy woman" is an experience common to an awful lot of women, cis and trans, and I still can't think of any trans women I've known over the years who would describe their primary motivation to transition in those terms.

(There are a few trans women these days who describe themselves as autogynephiles or "gnc men" and the like; you occasionally find them attached to groups of terfs, who tolerate them until they start to develop self-respect.)

we can very easily say that yes, that should not occur. It's bad to call someone's daughter a "cock-starved exhibitionist"

It's appalling. Bailey wrote a book doing just that to people like me; I wonder if you've read it.

(I am not defending Andrea James' move there: it was ill-considered as well as appalling. But it still has to be read in context, which is James attempting to turn Bailey's rhetoric on his own family, rather than hers.)
posted by these are science wands at 11:04 AM on January 1, 2016 [21 favorites]


I wonder if there are examples to be found of lefty outrage at harder science?

FLUORIDE.
posted by listen, lady at 11:04 AM on January 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


(fluoride's pretty firmly right-wing in origin, ain't it? i thought it was all bircher fear over communist minerals or something?)
posted by mittens at 11:11 AM on January 1, 2016 [7 favorites]


I am not defending Andrea James' move there: it was ill-considered as well as appalling. But it still has to be read in context, which is James attempting to turn Bailey's rhetoric on his own family, rather than hers.

Here's some context.
posted by huguini at 11:11 AM on January 1, 2016


I think Alice Dreger's book is great and I defend Bailey's academic freedom, but that doesn't mean I embrace Bailey's theories (and neither does Dreger). Her point is that just because someone has a controversial theory and makes a few mistakes, that shouldn't lead to a vast campaign to get him fired and personally attacked.

One flaw in Dreger's book (and especially in the title of this post) is the assumption that attacks from leftists are the greatest threat to freedom we face. It's worth noting that all the nasty attacks on Bailey by the left never really endangered his job at all; but he was almost fired and was (and still is) banned from teaching his class on human sexuality at Northwestern because of a conservative backlash against an extracurricular sex toy demonstration he organized. Likewise, the left-wing attacks on Dreger never really affected her, but she resigned from Northwestern in August because of conservative censorship of a journal about sexuality. I think we should hold leftists to a higher standard and critique their misguided efforts at repression, but we should also be honest in recognizing that the right-wing still poses the greatest threat to freedom of expression, even in "liberal" places like Northwestern.
posted by JohnKarlWilson at 11:14 AM on January 1, 2016 [13 favorites]


Yeah anti-vax and fluoride suspicion is common to paranoiacs on both sides of the aisle, your Alex Jones types AND your Lemurian crystal headband types. Same with crisis actors and lizard people.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 11:15 AM on January 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


that doesn't mean I embrace Bailey's theories (and neither does Dreger)

Dreger has written in support of conversion therapy. Here's some people commenting on her recent article about it.
posted by these are science wands at 11:23 AM on January 1, 2016 [5 favorites]


>Did this happen?

Yes.


Yes, but not quite the way that Dreger wants to present it. I gather (that page is not the easiest thing in the world to parse), that the point was to underline how Baily's approach to trans women was to sort them into one of two categories -- both unpleasant and broken. It's kind of a "have you stopped beating your wife?" of social analysis -- if you are a trans woman and you buy his classification, there is no way to to be healthy (or, i suppose, to "be" at all).

It looks like James was trying to drive this point home through pictures of children with Bailey's categories attached. One label reads "A cock-starved exhibitionist who's especially well suited to prostitution (p 185), or a fetishist who just gets off on the idea of it? We'll find out in 12 easy questions! (p. 192)." If I understand correctly, the original picture was Bailey's daughter, later changed to a picture of James as a child.

So nasty and stunty, but not quite the same as denouncing Bailey's daughter (as a child) as "A cock-starved exhibitionist." I think James a) acted badly and b) hurt her own cause through this particular approach, but it's not quite the same thing as just attacking Bailey's daughter.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:23 AM on January 1, 2016 [18 favorites]


Dreger has written in support of conversion therapy. Here's some people commenting on her recent article about it.

I really couldn't understand the critiques of Dreger in that pile of comments. Dreger is saying that it's bad to pass laws banning conversion therapy because gender is so complex. For some people, it's not clear what gender they are born with, and so it's hard to even know what "conversion" means in their cases. I think she's arguing for a sensitive, nuanced approach to gender identity that allows individuals the freedom to seek their own paths without having doctors or lawyers dictating anything to them, and that's what concerns her.
posted by JohnKarlWilson at 11:35 AM on January 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah anti-vax and fluoride suspicion is common to paranoiacs on both sides of the aisle, your Alex Jones types AND your Lemurian crystal headband types. Same with crisis actors and lizard people.

Opposition to vaccines is indeed bipartisan (and slightly more popular among those with Republican party-ID) but it's very common in a few high status, high income leftist enclaves so those of us on the left probably only know leftist anti-vaxxers. I don't really know any Republicans, but I do know a lot of antivaxxers. Thus, it comes to me framed as a leftist problem. If I were a Christian conservative I'd probably associate it with a certain strand of Quiver-full Christians instead.

Anti-GMO, though, is actually more popular among Democrats than Republicans, so it does become tempting to see a misplaced purity intuition at work. (Part of the problem is that there are still a few smart arguments out there about GMO that scholars are working through, and there's also the issue of corporate exploitation of poor farmers through their IP in gene lines, so it's not nearly so settled a question.) I don't think we really have good reason for seeing any of this as fundamentally partisan (that I think is a mistake we can blame squarely on Jonathan Haidt).

More likely the general phenomenon is not some lineup between partisan identity and particular views, but rather a lineup between membership in certain communities and both partisan and scientific views. Living in Marin County exposes you to lots of lefty antivaxxers, so you are much more likely to become a lefty antivaxxer too. (It helps that new parents are especially likely to be evaluating a lot of evidence and information at once and for the first time, so you take shortcuts and trust your fellow parents.) But it's not the leftiness doing the causal work here: it's Marin County.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:35 AM on January 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


IIRC, can't find where I saw it now and I may not have this right, the last thing I saw from Bailey was a survey being passed around online fishing for a link between autogynephilia and pedophilia. There's a difference between stumbling upon controversial findings and actively seeking them out. I think Bailey wants controversy more than solid science.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:37 AM on January 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think she's arguing for a sensitive, nuanced approach to gender identity that allows individuals the freedom to seek their own paths

If so, then she's doing it wrong and is apparently impervious to criticism so she's probably not the right person for the job.
posted by these are science wands at 11:40 AM on January 1, 2016 [18 favorites]


"It's not as awful as it seems because it came from justified anger" strikes me as a pretty solid endorsement of the Montague and Capulet (or Hatfield/McCoy if you prefer) sort of social condition.
posted by phearlez at 11:40 AM on January 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


Maybe we're done talking about whether this other person did something garden-variety shitty or nuclear-level shitty?
posted by listen, lady at 11:45 AM on January 1, 2016


There's s famous 1910 poem by Christian Morgenstern called "Die Unmögliche Tatsache" (The Impossible Fact), which ends:

Weil, so schließt er messerscharf
Nicht sein kann, was nicht sein darf.

(For, he reasons pointedly
That which must not, can not be.)

I believe that left-wing dogma is every bit as vulnerable to this fallacy as right-wing dogma, and as a politically left-wing scientist, I guess I should just remember that science and dogma don't mix well... Y'all are safe though, clearly.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 11:45 AM on January 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


Anyway, I agree that these are not really great examples of "liberal" attacks on science. Trans issues have not generally found support among liberals (who seem to wish trans people would go away, as opposed to the conservative reaction of direct violence), and the Chagnon affair seems to me (after some admittedly confused internet reading) more an issue of personal dislike than a concerted "liberal" attack. The AAA seems to have (correctly) investigated the allegations of ethical misconduct, although they don't seem to have done a very good job of it -- suggesting to me more political wrangling withing the association than a firm yes or no on the actual charges.

GMO and nuclear power are probably the main liberal scientific stalking horses today; indigenous peoples' rights (or anthropological ethics, if you prefer) and poor treatment of trans people hardly register, sadly.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:46 AM on January 1, 2016 [12 favorites]


I think James a) acted badly and b) hurt her own cause through this particular approach, but it's not quite the same thing as just attacking Bailey's daughter.

Didn’t say that his daughter was a "cock-starved exhibitionist", just asked if they might be.
posted by bongo_x at 11:53 AM on January 1, 2016


Maybe we're done talking about whether this other person did something garden-variety shitty or nuclear-level shitty?

Why, if it's integral to the original post?
posted by huguini at 11:53 AM on January 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Absurdly self-refuting comment by Pseudonymous Cognomen:

It's not an ad hominem (I've criticised her ideas as expressed in the book, and given references for my criticisms) nor is it unjustified. Dreger is a nasty and unpleasant transphobe whose regular Twitter comments ....

The cognitive dissonance?!
posted by mary8nne at 11:57 AM on January 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


Why, if it's integral to the original post?

Because every time someone suggests that it was the former and not the latter & that the context matters, we're willfully misread and I'm pretty sure there's not much of a possibility of a useful agreement?

"It's not as awful as it seems because it came from justified anger" strikes me as a pretty solid endorsement of the Montague and Capulet (or Hatfield/McCoy if you prefer) sort of social condition.

Not the argument.

If you can't see how "James attempting to turn Bailey's rhetoric on his own family" is different AT ALL from "denouncing Bailey's daughter (as a child) as 'A cock-starved exhibitionist'" (i.e. making some sort of slanderous claim completely out of the blue), I'm not sure there's much to talk about, because it must all be Greek Tragedy and I must be a sociopath.
posted by listen, lady at 11:58 AM on January 1, 2016 [10 favorites]


Maybe if you try to stop justifying an horrible thing someone did with the "context", we can move on from that specific point.
posted by huguini at 12:00 PM on January 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


The cognitive dissonance?!

Whether or not someone is a transphobe is of course relevant to their opinions on transgender people. Unless your point is that "transphobe" is a contentless insult like "arsehole" and not a description of an ideological position.
posted by these are science wands at 12:02 PM on January 1, 2016 [18 favorites]


Maybe if you try to stop justifying an horrible thing someone did with the "context", we can move on from that specific point.

Thank you for illustrating that willful misreading once again!

Saying that an act might MEAN SOMETHING DIFFERENT than you think it does doesn't mean JUSTIFYING it. Let me rent a blink-tag billboard to make clear that I don't think she should have done that.

Glad to see everyone woke up smarter this morning.
posted by listen, lady at 12:02 PM on January 1, 2016 [10 favorites]


There's s famous 1910 poem by Christian Morgenstern called "Die Unmögliche Tatsache" (The Impossible Fact)

Love this poem. It's about a guy who gets hit by a car in an intersection, and decides (posthumously) that he can't possibly be dead because the law requires all cars to be driven at a safe speed. ("Isn't there a prohibition/barring motorized transmission/of the living to the dead?")

That said, I don't think most of the bad folk science out there has this character. It's not that some conclusions are barred, but that we live in social contexts that tend to emphasize evidence in favor of certain conclusions and ignore others. The cultural cognition folks like to emphasize nuclear power and gun control when they study liberal political biases in the evaluation of scientific evidence. The scientific consensus paper is particularly interesting: lots of people on both sides of the issue believe that the scientific consensus supports their views even when there is no relevant consensus.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:04 PM on January 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


I guess I missed the part where Einstein totally destroyed Newtonoan theory by showing that Newton was a cynical academic operator born on the wrong side of the tracks and with an unhealthy interest in the anti-Semitic Book of Revelation. That was some great science, sure enough!
posted by homerica at 12:06 PM on January 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


it's very common in a few high status, high income leftist enclaves

I'm resistant to the idea that this can be characterized as leftist - the 'crystal headband' folks cited upthread may be associated with the American counterculture via various means but that counterculture can by no means be characterized as exclusively or even primarily leftist, specifically because systematic economic critique and analysis is not the primary basis for the construction of that cultural identity.

I mean I guess that you and I have different definitions of the left. We may have a roughly congruent definition of the right, which I do not see as primarily concerned with economic critique and analysis. So perhaps your definition is more internally consistent than mine. But I don't see Hells Angels, Taos hippies, or patchouli as leftist, and that American counterculture is the heritage from which antivaxxers spring.
posted by mwhybark at 12:07 PM on January 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


So nasty and stunty, but not quite the same as denouncing Bailey's daughter (as a child) as "A cock-starved exhibitionist." I think James a) acted badly and b) hurt her own cause through this particular approach, but it's not quite the same thing as just attacking Bailey's daughter.

Read down on that page a little further, G&P:
Bailey creates a false dilemma by assuming the only possible motivation for transition is “male sexuality,” either homosexual or autogynephilic.

To show how wrongheaded this is, let's say I have created a classification system to categorize Bailey’s children. There are two types of children in the Bailey household:

Type 1, who have been sodomized by their father,

or

Type 2, who have not.

My essentialist theory is airtight and all-encompassing. I am absolutely certain Bailey's children fall into one of the two categories, and no one can refute that. It is a complete theory in and of itself. I cannot comprehend them falling outside these two categories.

Further, I believe the subjects of this theory are prone to lying about whether their dad is cornholing them or not, so if they claim to be Type 2, I’m not that inclined to believe them. They’re not reliable self-reporters. And if one of the Bailey kids took issue with my findings or called me a sick fuck for categorizing them solely through the lens of incest, I could say “Hmm, thou doth protest too much,” and say their strong reaction goes to prove that I’m right to categorize them this way. After all, they wouldn’t react so vehemently if this taxonomy weren’t hitting on some deeper truth, right?

Of course, making incest the only axis along which Bailey’s children are categorized is a demeaning and limiting way to think of them, yet that is exactly what Bailey has done to us by ascribing "male sexuality" as our sole motivating factor. To claim this is demeaning and limiting.
I think Bailey's theory of "autogynephilia" is absurd on its face (relatively effeminate men cannot attract women? What planet is that on?), and given its patent absurdity is likely to be rooted in some form of active malice toward transwomen -- but "Further, I believe the subjects of this theory are prone to lying about whether their dad is cornholing them or not ..." in reference to Bailey and his children is not acceptable discourse, even framed as a hypothetical.
posted by jamjam at 12:07 PM on January 1, 2016 [9 favorites]


I think Bailey's theory of "autogynephilia" is absurd on its face (relatively effeminate men cannot attract women? What planet is that on?), and given its patent absurdity is likely to be rooted in some form of active malice toward transwomen -- but "Further, I believe the subjects of this theory are prone to lying about whether their dad is cornholing them or not ..." in reference to Bailey and his children is not acceptable discourse, even framed as a hypothetical.

Is it the specific that matters here? Because I specifically know trans people whose lives have been negatively impacted by the theory. The THEORY ITSELF is not acceptable discourse. Why are this man's children more important to defend than people in this room with us right now? Frankly, I think that's just as fucked. A dog whistle.
posted by listen, lady at 12:10 PM on January 1, 2016 [23 favorites]


My brother had the great misfortune of going to Dr. Maria New for possible treatment as a child. Alice Dreger had the courage to publicly challenge Dr. New's inhuman research, and for that I will always consider her a hero.
posted by alms at 12:10 PM on January 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


As far as I can tell, to the extent I've had the stomach to follow Dreger's work, her argument about liberal, activist, ad hominem attacks on researchers is entirely an effort to shore up the transphobic and discredited autogynephilia theory she believes in. Her motives are about as impure as can be imagined, akin to researchers who go out looking for evidence to support racist or sexist beliefs they already hold. There is no legitimate reason to be discussing these theories. To the extent that people in this thread are saying, "She's right! People ought not to have been so mean to her and Bailey!" her strategy is working. She has effectively shifted the discussion from the merits of the theory—which has none—and her and/or Bailey's motives—which are vile—to an argument about what is and is not an ad hominem attack, and to convincing people that any argument, no matter how valid, that contains in any part any language that might be construed as an ad hominem attack is thereby completely discredited.
posted by not that girl at 12:13 PM on January 1, 2016 [37 favorites]


Is it the specific that matters here? Because I specifically know trans people whose lives have been negatively impacted by the theory. The THEORY ITSELF is not acceptable discourse. Why are this man's children more important to defend than people in this room with us right now? Frankly, I think that's just as fucked. A dog whistle.

I agree with you that the theory is not acceptable and should be exposed for what is, but taking Bailey's tactics and ratcheting them up and personalizing them in an obvious attempt get back at Bailey is wrong, and will do nothing to discredit his theory.
posted by jamjam at 12:17 PM on January 1, 2016 [5 favorites]


Read down on that page a little further, G&P:

I did read that, and it's pretty much just an amplification of what James was doing with the photographs -- showing that Bailey's approach is a no-win situation for trans women.

However, my intention is not to defend James, who I think descends to nasty rhetorical depths in that post and hurts her own position doing it, but to point out that Draeger (or, at least Singal describing Draeger's book) presents that post as a simple attack on Bailey through his child rather than a more complex attack on Bailey's ideas by applying those theories to his child. They aren't the same thing, and (assuming that characterization was Draeger and not Singal), makes me less likely to trust anything else Draeger has to say about the situation.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:28 PM on January 1, 2016 [8 favorites]


I mean I guess that you and I have different definitions of the left.

For the purposes of studying partisan cognitive biases I think you either have to use partisan identification or at least include both cultural and economic sorts of leftist. (I was using Democrats, because that's what we have polling on.) If you want to have a highly restrictive account of the left--as socialists and communists, say--that's fine. We don't have data for that group, which is in any case quite small.

That said, I think there's a real risk of "No True Scotsman" ad hoc fallacy here: if you define bias out of your partisan identify, you've kind of cheated, and you may well be missing something important about the actually existing people who share that more limited identity. (I'd say this is the primary problem with so-called rationalists and skeptics.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:50 PM on January 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


We don't have data for that group, which is in any case quite small.

Um, Europe?
posted by polymodus at 12:57 PM on January 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


European socialists have more in common with American Democrats than the smaller group of activists I took mwhybark to be describing. But if Europe is the model, then we have to remember that the European left is both anti-GMO and anti-vaccine. In both cases the concern seems to be that the science is co-opted by corporate interests, which makes sense in those countries where big corporations so have stronger bonds with the state than even the US.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:07 PM on January 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, just looking at the excerpt of "that page" suddenly makes a lot more sense. The rhetoric has a subtext making a couple of philosophical and political points. This isn't the harassment that the review article is making it seem. It was portrayed inaccurately.
posted by polymodus at 1:09 PM on January 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


Mod note: Couple comments removed; this thread has already been a weird mess, it's not gonna get better if we wrap in some kind of reverse-subtweeting side argument or whatever that was shaping up to be.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:26 PM on January 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think you either have to use partisan identification or at least include both cultural and economic sorts of leftist.

There's just no way I can see the American counterculture as leftist. It includes leftists, sure. A commitment to permanent or transitory pursuit of a non-conformist lifestyle may be mistaken for a pursuit of a non or anti-capitalist lifestyle even by the practitioner. But it's in no way inherently tied to attitudes and ideals that are expressive of non-capitalist economics. Additionally, radical self-definition including the ideal of minimizing interdependence on a social group is a key feature of much of American counterculture, and this directly informs the social irresponsibility of antivaxxer viewpoints.

I think we must agree to disagree. I also disagree with the 'quite small' remark upthread, but will grant the European left's integration of the viewpoint at least as far as GMO is concerned. From that basis feel I do understand your rhetorical position, which, as previously noted, appears to have a greater degree of internal consistency than mine.
posted by mwhybark at 2:34 PM on January 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


To be clear, I like your account of the left better than the one I'm using. I'd call it aspirational: what the left *ought* to be. I just don't think it helps us analyze the kinds of questions at the heart of this book.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:38 PM on January 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


after reading around, this seems to be something of a clusterfuck.
  • the science being defended is pretty weak: it's not generally accepted, and seems like it would have died a natural death in time
  • the politicisation of sexuality meant that the science was popularised to support a certain agenda
  • the politicisation of doctors meant that some patients then felt threatened
  • that exploded into ad-hominen attacks against the researcher
  • the book in the main post doesn't attempt to explain all the above in a "neutral" manner
unsurprisingly, perhaps, no-one comes out of this looking great.

(i realise some posts above are going into more detail and different directions and are from people who know more than me; i just thought a simple summary might be useful for some others).
posted by andrewcooke at 3:46 PM on January 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


"If anything, all the incentives have gotten worse; if anything, the ranks of dedicated, safely employed critical thinkers in a position to be the voice of reason have thinned. In all likelihood, the coverage today would be far uglier and more prejudicial than it was when the scandal actually broke."

I see this pretty much all the time, because I have learned to look for it, especially since Bush became president. It was an era that really pointed out not only the failings of the ideological left and the ideological right, but also of journalism and experts of all stripes, including those progressive groups whose core beliefs I most closely hewed to.

What I learned, in a nutshell, was that everyone lies. Intentionally or out of error or due to misinformation. Because of the need for brevity, or the need to make the strongest case. They lie out of fear, out of the desire to maintain their relevance and power, or out of the desire to maintain orthodoxy. In order to make a buck, or most effectively incite their target market. They lie like prosecutors, and they lie like attorneys defending their clients, balancing their lies on a precarious, narrow, usually misleading interpretation of the words they say... but they most assuredly lie.

They rarely ever qualify their statements to most accurately represent reality, and how it works. This is true, even in journalism, where you'd think they would be able to take the time to do so. Sometimes, rather than being as precise as possible, they tell one lie, and find a biased individual on the other side of the argument to tell another lie, in the failed argument that two lies will more accurately tell the truth. But no... they're just lies. Often they'll make it easier for others to lie, by giving them blanket anonymity, too.

And attempting to combat this trend is extremely difficult, when you face angry people who personally resent your insinuations that reality is more complex than their simplistic, largely ideologically-based arguments. So many of the lies of oversimplification are just accepted in many circles as an agreed-upon shorthand... an orthodoxy that is oftentimes unexamined and self-defeating.

All of this contributes to a lack of reality-based decision making, oftentimes resulting in increased human suffering and a more troubled world. And yet, sometimes, the lies are told as ways of combating more dangerous lies... so in that sense, they can be useful, and maybe even necessary or justified, in some circumstances. But that can easily become self-defeating and damaging over time.

"When conservatives attack science it is usually in support of either corporate profits or established power structures. When liberals attack science it is usually in opposition to corporate profits and established power structures."

Isn't the implication here very similar to say that it's better to punch up, than punch down... as opposed to saying that under most circumstances, it's better and more civil not to punch?

"Dreger is a nasty and unpleasant transphobe whose... outright making things up..."

It seems to me that Dreger is a thoughtful person who generally wants to minimize human suffering. Presumably, that also describes her critics. It sounds to me that they can both be ideologues, resorting to aggressive, offensive levels of criticism and self-justification, under some circumstances, with varying degrees of rationale at any given moment.

My partner is trans, but doesn't feel compelled to get surgery... and some of what Dreger said regarding acceptance and the complexity of gender made complete sense to them. However, I can absolutely see how her arguments could hurt those who feel the need to transition, ASAP, in order to begin to live their lives, and the danger of others using Drager's arguments as a way of preventing this from happening.

It's entirely possible for Drager to be correct on some levels, and still suggest the wrong advice for others. Obviously, there needs to be room for a supportive environment for my partner so they can choose not to transition -- or at least not until they want to do so -- and also for those who wanted to not just transition, but be taken seriously, even as a kid.

It's kind of wonderful that gender and identity can be a complex thing... and perhaps encouraging more accepting environments -- or encouraging trans kids and their families to move to more accepting environments -- is a good, if not always realistic first step. But it seems to me that if you are arguing that gender is a complex mess of nature, nurture, and identity, then you also have to accept that there might be something to decisions made by young people who want to change their gender.

Seems to me that no matter how young they are, or how complex gender can be, their choice is more likely to be one that they feel they can live with.... and it's also something that has the merit of being THEIR CHOICE.
posted by markkraft at 4:16 PM on January 1, 2016 [7 favorites]


It seems to me that Dreger is a thoughtful person who generally wants to minimize human suffering.

No, she really isn't. She wrote a defence of gender conversion therapy (which actually kills people; see Leelah Alcorn for a prominent example) based on the enormous straw-man idea that "outlawing gender conversion therapy is bad because clinicians might pressure children into transitioning rather than growing up to be happy, well-adjusted gay people". And in a particularly egregious bit of nastiness Dreger actually has the chutzpah to use Leelah Alcorn as an example of "why outlawing conversion therapy is bad" :

Even more concerning is what the Ontario’s bill’s approach could do to a young adult like Leelah Alcorn, the born-male transgender teenager who killed herself because her parents wouldn’t accept her identity. Imagine if Leelah had responded to parental pressure by insisting to a clinician trying to help her that she was not transgender. Under Bill 77, the clinician would have to accept the patient’s professed self-identity, even if the clinician believed that gender transition might save this patient’s psyche and her life.


Which is awfully disingenuous considering that elsewhere she portrays "well-adjusted gay man" as a better outcome than "trans woman".
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 5:20 PM on January 1, 2016 [17 favorites]


But if Europe is the model, then we have to remember that the European left is both anti-GMO and anti-vaccine.

Your anti-vaccine link doesn't seem to offer much to support the claim that it is the common position of the European left.
posted by biffa at 5:27 PM on January 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, sorry. I don't think we have data on European vaccine hesitancy that establishes a partisan link. I meant to just say that about Europe, not the European left. Like the US it appears to be a bipartisan fear.

Ironically higher educational attainment is also correlated with vaccine hesitancy in both the US and UK. And of course Andrew Wakefield was British so in some ways the anti ax movement was very mainstream for a while there.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:14 PM on January 1, 2016


Just because I say that Dreger seems to want to minimize people's suffering, that doesn't mean that they are right on the issue, or even that the article fully, accurately represents their intent.

She absolutely did not defend the kind of gender conversion therapy that killed Leelah Alcorn. In fact, she said that she viewed it an important goal of the legislation to not allow clinicians to seek "to change or direct the sexual orientation or gender identity of a patient under 18 years of age". By definition, that is not defending gender conversion therapy.

Rather, she opposed specific wording that would force legitimate therapists to automatically accept that when a very young child says they feel like a given gender or orientation, they are, definitively, that gender or orientation, rather than allowing them the ability to provide information about what various types of gender identieis and orientations are, allowing them information and time, as needed, to make up their own mind. That certainly doesn't mean that it would be acceptable for a clinician to act in ways that would make it impossible for someone transgender from transitioning before puberty sets in.

Note: She absolutely did not criticize the California legislation Senate Bill 1172, which says:
"Sexual orientation change efforts” does not include psychotherapies that: (A) provide acceptance, support, and understanding of clients or the facilitation of clients’ coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices; and (B) do not seek to change sexual orientation."

Basically, that seems to be the crux of what she would want in the Canadian legislation. She feels it potentially causes a chilling effect for therapists, while possibly denying very young children from both learning more about gender and identity, and making educated decisions, ideally before puberty. In other writings, she has specifically cited the positive benefits of transitioning before puberty sets in.

Saying someone "really isn't" interested in minimizing the suffering of others, just because they have differences with some of the wording of legislation seems like an unnecessarily cruel and divisive thing to say, under the circumstances.
posted by markkraft at 7:55 PM on January 1, 2016 [10 favorites]


Saying someone "really isn't" interested in minimizing the suffering of others, just because they have differences with some of the wording of legislation seems like an unnecessarily cruel and divisive thing to say, under the circumstances.

tbh if she was actually interested in minimising the suffering of trans and gender-variant children she'd close her damn mouth and start listening to trans people of all stripes, not just the ones who flatter her pre-existing opinions.
posted by these are science wands at 8:06 PM on January 1, 2016 [15 favorites]


Saying someone "really isn't" interested in minimizing the suffering of others, just because they have differences with some of the wording of legislation seems like an unnecessarily cruel and divisive thing to say, under the circumstances.

It's true none of us have an inking of what is really going on in her head, but we can probably ascribe that motivation when she is repeatedly promoting policies and theories that directly lead to the murders and suicide of trans women, while being willfully ignorant of and actively antagonistic to trans women constantly pointing out that her rhetoric is doing this to them.

Similarly, boiling all of the shitty, shitty things she has done to trans women down to minor quibblings in wording of legislation is a really underhanded way of calling what trans women are saying about what she is doing to them, in her position of power and authority, hysterical and "divisive".
posted by Conspire at 8:10 PM on January 1, 2016 [13 favorites]


"awfully disingenuous considering that elsewhere she portrays "well-adjusted gay man" as a better outcome than "trans woman"."

If you are talking about the section I think you are talking about, I didn't read it this way. Especially the word "better". Rather, it seemed primarily about making sure that young kids have a limited chance before puberty kicks in to decide these things for themselves.

Elsewhere, she has said:
" these interventions are not trivial, and many are not easily reversible. This is particularly true for females who undergo male hormonal puberties by taking testosterone. So you want to make sure you get right your calculation of who will benefit."

I know people who have had serious medical issues as a result of transitioning. There is *absolutely* the argument that you shouldn't harm patients by not listening to them, or denying them the ability to transition. There is also absolutely an argument that you shouldn't harm patients by denying them the ability to make informed decisions, and that you should be as certain as possible about the need for serious medical interventions. It seems to me that Drager is making the kind of argument that many others would make when counterbalancing potential risks.

Obviously, it's very easy for those who are trans who chose to transition to come down very strongly on the one side of the argument that would've been best for them, but there are other people and other voices within the LGBTQ community who support Drager, most likely because of what would've been best for them.

Ultimately, though, I think fewer judgments and more understanding of positions and the complexities of drafting this kind of legislation in the first place would be beneficial.
posted by markkraft at 8:15 PM on January 1, 2016 [5 favorites]


In light of Dreger's prior history with transmisogynist policies, it really feels like her call for an "informed decision" is a dogwhistle, much like the way Republicans in the United States call for pregnant women to have "more information" regarding abortion. I really doubt that many trans people are going to the doctor entirely uninformed about the gravity of their decision, including potential side effects. Medical professionals already frequently pose tremendous barriers in access of this vital health service: they'll openly espouse theories of autogynephilia, coercing trans women who access their practices into acting in "traditionally feminine" ways to even be considered; they'll demand comprehensive psychological evaluations; they'll attribute every ailment and minor cold to hormones; they'll rattle on about the mortal dangers of transitioning; and they'll delay and delay and delay on potentially life-saving services so the "patient can be absolutely sure."

Can trans people exploring the option of transitioning use more resources and information? Absolutely. But leaving it up to the doctors, especially in today's climate of unchecked and normalized medical hostility towards trans people, would simply lead to scare tactics couched in language of "concern for the patient".
posted by Conspire at 8:37 PM on January 1, 2016 [19 favorites]


It seems to me that Drager is making the kind of argument that many others would make when counterbalancing potential risks.

No, she's making a dishonest straw-man argument about something that pretty much never happens by presenting a false narrative (gender-nonconforming child "forced into transition"); the actual standards of care in such cases involve the use of puberty blockers, but not of HRT (not without substantial psychological counselling and ensuring that the child has a full understanding of the ramifications, consequences, and potential complications of HRT and gender transition). See for instance here. The most prominent case of "child forced into gender transition against their will" I can think of is that of David Reimer, whose penis was burnt off in a circumcision gone awry and was raised as a girl, with the intervention and support of the infamous Dr John Money; Reimer as an adult transitioned from female to male and ultimately committed suicide. The case is, if anything, a pretty strong argument against the kind of "conversion therapies" that Dreger is advocating for as sometimes effective.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 8:49 PM on January 1, 2016 [12 favorites]


Elsewhere, she has said:
" these interventions are not trivial, and many are not easily reversible. This is particularly true for females who undergo male hormonal puberties by taking testosterone. So you want to make sure you get right your calculation of who will benefit."


Is there a reliabe large body of evidence that people regret that they began the transition? From what I have read, the hurdles are numerous and lenghty. Why is this woman so concerned with policing other people's lives?
posted by futz at 8:52 PM on January 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not that this thread really needs to come back to this point, but I am really having trouble with the phrase "unjustified ad hominem attacks." Bailey wrote a book classifying a whole group of people as sexual deviants - is that not in itself an "unjustified ad hominem attack"? Just because he's got an academic position doesn't mean that isn't doing exactly what his critics are being accused of.

Sure, we shouldn't attack someone personally if there is a disagreement over bird flight patterns, protein interactions, quantum computing, etc. etc. But this isn't that (not that I agree that "hard" sciences aren't deeply embedded in human issues). This is one person shaming and hurting a whole group of people.

He's a good scientists so it's okay that he (fill in whatever bad thing you want here, sexual harassment, abuse of grad students, dishonesty, etc.) occurs all the time in the hard sciences. To try to use that argument here to make a distinction between Bailey's critics and his own work is ivory tower dysfunction at it's worst.
posted by lab.beetle at 8:54 PM on January 1, 2016 [8 favorites]


Is there a reliable large body of evidence that people regret that they began the transition?

Nope. There have been various surveys of the satisfaction of transgender people with outcomes which report satisfaction rates, longterm, of c. 90+% (there are cases of people "detransitioning"; many of those cases are people who find that they can't cope with not being able to "pass" successfully or with the psychological fallout of changed relationships/social status; this usually happens with late transitioners, a notable case of someone who detransitioned because of this was Christine Daniels (nee Mike Penner) who committed suicide in 2009:

De-transitioning is so unusual that there are no solid data about it. Psychiatrists who treat transgender people say it happens in less than 5 percent of cases.

Transgender activists say "going back" is inaccurate. People who choose to abandon transition are simply giving in to overwhelming stress and grief over what they lost from their previous life.

(snip)

Late in 2008, Penner went back to Metropolitan Community Church. It was the last time the Rev. Thomas saw him. The two stole away for a brief, private chat after the service, and Penner surprised the pastor.

"He looked at me and he said, 'Don't you ever believe that I've given up being Christine,' " Thomas recalls. "I knew exactly what he meant. Everything about his body, everything about his fabric, everything that made him human was still screaming, that had been screaming for 40 years, that got to the point of Mike transitioning to Christine.

"But he hoped returning to Mike could possibly lead to reconciliation with Lisa. He loved Lisa, there was no doubt about it."

posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 9:20 PM on January 1, 2016 [7 favorites]


Mod note: One comment deleted. Generally, the posted link is really a sort of no-win framing for a discussion, which in retrospect would have been better deleted, but since we are here, let's try to avoid the most obvious pitfalls and not do the meta-commentary about how people are commenting, and especially realize that there's a vast difference between our fellow members and readers with skin in the game in the topic under discussion, and those for whom this is all a much more abstract exercise. In any case, there isn't any particular gotcha rule here that commenters may not criticize the book's author.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:56 AM on January 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


There have been various surveys of the satisfaction of transgender people with outcomes which report satisfaction rates, longterm, of c. 90+%

It's also worth emphasising that the correct question is something like "Do you regret transitioning? (always/often/occasionally/never)", and that that kind of satisfaction measure (IIRC) tends to be even higher. Left to someone looking (consciously or not) for reasons trans people shouldn't transition, a study that asks about satisfaction with outcomes of a particular surgery suddenly gets interpreted to be about people "regretting" the decision to transition--thinking your own surgical outcome is suboptimal is different than regretting the decision to have surgery (you made the decision knowing the potential complications, after all), never mind regretting the decision to transition. There's one study in the Netherlands that bizarrely counts people receiving state disability support as "unsuccessful transitioners". There's no real way to know if that's incredibly blinkered survey design or woefully unclear writing.

There's another complicated aspect to this where cis people demand that trans people have zero regrets and feel no loss about transitioning. But regret is a complicated thing. There are few people, if any, whose transitions don't involve some kind of loss, whether that's an obvious loss of a job, home or family or something more subtle like drifting away from some friends because you were suddenly having to expend huge amounts of energy on transitioning and couldn't keep up those relationships. I moved 1700 miles two years ago. Moving was absolutely the right choice, but I miss my friends and wish I could still hang out with them. No one would dream to tell me that I shouldn't have moved. But if someone says "transitioning was really hard and ate my life for a while", half the time someone will tell them they shouldn't have transitioned or decide the person regrets transitioning.
posted by hoyland at 7:50 AM on January 2, 2016 [14 favorites]


There are few people, if any, whose transitions don't involve some kind of loss,

Transition was absolutely the correct choice for me, and it saved my life. But I still mourn, sometimes, for the ease with which I could have lived if only I had not been transgender. Which is silly, really, because my first memories are of being a girl but being forced to try to be a boy -- it dominated my childhood and teenage years. But I still wonder what that boy could have become, if he'd ever really existed. I suppose, in the eyes of someone determined to find a reason why I shouldn't have transitioned, that could count, particularly if taken out of context.

It's worth pointing out that what dominated why childhood and teenage years wasn't that I was a girl, or that I was a trans girl, it was cis people -- mostly cis people who thought they had my best interests at heart -- forcing me to pretend to be a boy. Most of the trauma of being transgender is absolutely unnecessary.

Sometimes I also mourn for the person I could have become if my first twenty years hadn't been dominated by well-meaning abuse.
posted by these are science wands at 8:10 AM on January 2, 2016 [20 favorites]


Any wonder Singal thinks the book is wonderful, framed as liberals attacking?

This is the same columnist who refuted "gamergate" with the argument "why aren't there complaints about better known female developers?"

LINK
posted by surplus at 8:15 AM on January 2, 2016


Left to someone looking (consciously or not) for reasons trans people shouldn't transition, a study that asks about satisfaction with outcomes of a particular surgery suddenly gets interpreted to be about people "regretting" the decision to transition--thinking your own surgical outcome is suboptimal is different than regretting the decision to have surgery (you made the decision knowing the potential complications, after all), never mind regretting the decision to transition.

I find the focus on surgery outcomes to be weird and cisnormative, personally. Surgery is a goal for a lot of people who transition, but there are just as many people who choose not to have it for assorted reasons, which are perfectly valid; the requirement of surgery for legal gender recognition in some US jurisdictions seems rather backwards, and I don't really see surgery as a necessary or even very good option unless someone suffers such crippling dysphoria that they need it as much as they needed HRT. (And the focus on genital surgery outcomes as a means of gauging "satisfaction with transition" in the trans population leaves out an awful lot of people, for just that reason.)
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 8:21 AM on January 2, 2016 [13 favorites]


I find the focus on surgery outcomes to be weird and cisnormative, personally.

I think that's very true, since (cis) researchers never seem to be asking about surgery outcomes as surgery outcomes, but with this subtext of "we're really asking about your transition". It's kind of a lazy way to find a pool of subjects who are more likely unambiguously "done" transitioning. (You can't un-choose to have had an operation, but it's harder to parse "I'm not interested at this time" and I suspect people who say "I'm not interested" aren't believed and the "at this time" is taken as implied.)

It's almost like that US trans survey had the reverse problem, where a lot of questions assumed you either hadn't started or were in the midst of socially and/or medically transitioning, rather than having finished that really active stage.
posted by hoyland at 11:47 AM on January 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Not that this thread really needs to come back to this point, but I am really having trouble with the phrase "unjustified ad hominem attacks." Bailey wrote a book classifying a whole group of people as sexual deviants - is that not in itself an "unjustified ad hominem attack"? Just because he's got an academic position doesn't mean that isn't doing exactly what his critics are being accused of.

This, times 1000, and given that this is exactly what TFA is about, I don't think it's the least bit inappropriate to return to the point.

It's absolutely bizarre to me that people whose health, livelihoods, loved ones, and communities (not to mention their ability to access something as basic as appropriate medical care) are being damaged on a daily basis by particular forms of rhetoric are expected to be pleasant and collegial, and to and hold space for the people promulgating that rhetoric. That is precisely the opposite of how things should be.

The anger of those people should be read as direct evidence of how profoundly injurious the rhetoric is, not of how hard-done-by the speakers are. In this context, anger is essential. Anger is valuable. Anger is powerful, because anger cuts through the layers of social expectation, self-hatred, shame, depression, and anxiety that non-conforming people of all kinds are taught to feel from the earliest of ages.

And of course people with a normative agenda want to penalize the people they harm for expressing their anger: It's a great way to steal their power.

these are science wands said it so very well:

No shit it sparked an explosion. I understand it's upsetting when the lab rats speak up, but we can hear you and we can see what you're doing.

posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:27 PM on January 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


I don't think anyone here, at least, wants to say the anger is unjustified. If you want to extend that and said the anger that led to looping in someone's uninvolved child via a sexualized insult was understandable, eh, okay, they backpedaled off that at least; a subsequent edit isn't the same as a retraction much less not doing it in the first place, but whateve. There was at least some sense that it wasn't something that deserved to stand.

When someone wants, after time has passed, to write things that are not X wasn't okay but P's anger was understandably high but instead is justifying it by saying X wasn't okay but they were "just trying to drive this point," no, I'm never going to think that's cool. That's not what someone did in the heat of the moment. That's subsequent justification of awfulness towards someone who was uninvolved.
posted by phearlez at 7:46 PM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Huh. I smelt a certain self-serving stench coming off the book even in excerpt, and now I have a better idea why. Thanks mefi folks!
posted by tavella at 10:52 PM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


No-one thinks it was "cool". A lot of people think that hyper-focusing on an unwise thing a trans woman said in response to someone doing real damage to her entire community, and using that unwise thing as one of a few crutches on which precariously to wobble a thesis about the left's anti-science agenda is both a self-serving and deceptive reframing of the original unwise thing and a tremendously poor argument even if said unwise thing had come out of nowhere, which it didn't. People keep talking about the context not because it makes it okay but because it reveals the author's agenda and her dishonesty.
posted by these are science wands at 3:26 AM on January 3, 2016 [13 favorites]


On Alice Dreger's support for conversion therapy and CAMH. From her blog post:
A group of transgender activists has achieved a major victory—the shutting down of the Child Youth and Family Gender Identity Clinic at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). Even better from their point of view, they got the head of it, psychologist Ken Zucker, fired.

The activists didn’t like Zucker because he never did subscribe to the “true transgender” model of identity, wherein you simply accept what any child (no matter how young) says about his or her gender. The transgender activists who called for his ouster insisted that Zucker was doing “reparative therapy,” trying to talk children out of being transgender when they “really” were.
From The End of the Desistance Myth, regarding the closure of CAMH:
The investigation results were highly damning, finding:

• The methods being used were 30 years out of date

• The clinic assumed that all gender variant children need to be clinically "fixed" (i.e. they used coercive behavior modification on queer kids to make them act straight)

• Children were pressured into being photographed without clothing

• Dr. Zucker verbally abused children, calling one a "hairy little vermin"

• The clinic emphasized tests, treatment, methods with no scientific basis in evidence based medicine

• CAMH staff asked pre-pubescent children questions that were highly sexual in nature

• Former patients, parents, and therapists of former patients described the treatment as "disturbing" and "harmful"

• CAMH hid affirming community and medical resources from patients

• Dr. Zucker regarded being cisgender, heterosexual, and gender conforming as the "best" outcome

• Dr. Zucker and his team could not conclusively demonstrate that what they were doing was not reparative therapy

In a 2014 German study, 13 experts in treatment for gender identity were asked if CAMH's methods were ethical. 11 said no. The two who said yes were Dr. Zucker and another CAMH staffer.

But, the most outrageous piece of information coming out of CAMH was Dr. Zucker's claims that gender dysphoria desisted in 80 percent of cases. However, when investigators reviewed the files of children admitted to CAHM, 72 percent of them never met the clinical criteria for juvenile gender dysphoria in the first place.

In short, 90 percent of the kids Dr. Zucker claimed to "cure" were never transgender in the first place. He built his reputation convincing homophobic and transphobic parents that he could fix their kids. When someone actually got around to listening to the transgender community and pulled back the curtain, they found that the 80 percent desistance narrative was a fabrication of an attention seeking, creepy, reparative therapy promoting, snake-oil salesman.
posted by these are science wands at 5:37 PM on January 3, 2016 [12 favorites]


This sounds like a behind-the-times clinic and a leader who was ready to exit the stage. Good riddance. That said, on the subject of ethical stink, what that bullet list claims the report "findings" were is... questionable. It makes blanket statements like verbally abused when the subclause of that bullet was a single reported incident mentioned in the report, not part of their "findings." I'd be more blase about that if the author didn't pull a 20+ year old quote that seems to be a person with very different thinking than the one in the interviews around page 10.

Unfortunately the report PDF isn't copy/pastable but the HuffPo piece links it. I think it's worth a look, and the difference between how that report reads and how this article describes it would certainly explain why someone cozy with this doc would be inclined to perceive a vendetta.
posted by phearlez at 7:18 PM on January 3, 2016


Zucker led the DSM-V working group on Sexual & Gender Identity Disorders, which included the sub-group on Gender Identity (which was led by someone else). Zucker and CAMH had influence, so it wasn't just a matter of an isolated group being behind the times.

(I think you had to deal with CAMH to access surgery in Ontario and possibly hormones, too. I'm not sure what the current state of affairs is.)
posted by hoyland at 7:26 PM on January 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


(I think you had to deal with CAMH to access surgery in Ontario and possibly hormones, too. I'm not sure what the current state of affairs is.)

To be clear, I'm talking about adults here, trying to emphasise that CAMH is a big deal in trans issues in Canada, especially.
posted by hoyland at 7:34 PM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think it's worth a look, and the difference between how that report reads and how this article describes it would certainly explain why someone cozy with this doc would be inclined to perceive a vendetta.

It's pretty damning. Zucker appears to openly espouse reparative therapy. Unless I misread, he says he tells children that their parents want them to feel better about their assigned gender.

This Christmas, my mother told me she felt guilty about not reading anything into the fact I was upset at the fact there were gendered lines coming in from recess in the fourth grade. At least she didn't have some asshole like Zucker telling her to try and hurt me.
posted by hoyland at 7:40 PM on January 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


This sounds like a behind-the-times clinic and a leader who was ready to exit the stage. Good riddance. That said

*reads report about actual young trans people being sexualized, harmed by awful theories*
"Hm, a simple case of a behind-the-times clinic."

*reads rhetorical example designed to demonstrate the visceral awfulness of it to cis people*
*climbing horse and donning armor* "THIS RHETORIC GOES TOO FAR."
posted by nom de poop at 2:14 AM on January 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


The rhetoric of gamergate doesn't really suit you. Or anyone.
posted by phearlez at 9:06 AM on January 4, 2016


This sounds like a behind-the-times clinic and a leader who was ready to exit the stage. Good riddance. That said, on the subject of ethical stink, what that bullet list claims the report "findings" were is... questionable. It makes blanket statements like verbally abused when the subclause of that bullet was a single reported incident mentioned in the report, not part of their "findings." I'd be more blase about that if the author didn't pull a 20+ year old quote that seems to be a person with very different thinking than the one in the interviews around page 10.

The way that you take the trans community's reportage of facts, and then as a cis observer, position yourself as a rational and unbiased arbiter, is very gross. By claiming that their perceptions are biased by proximity to the issues, you minimize the experiences and knowledge of the very trans people who have dealt with and experienced the injustices perpetuated at this and other similar clinics. And while this is something that is done to every minority group talking about their issues, it is particularly egregious when you do it to trans people because it reinforces stereotypes against them as liars and imposters. This is expert opinion that you're dealing with, from people with volumes more knowledge and experience than you - you can't just handwave it away by calling yourself more objective than them, and then smugly taking a middle-of-the-road stance that purportedly "sees both sides," but is really developed upon an ill-informed and cursory understanding of trans issues and context.

Rather than questioning the knowledge and bias of the author of the article, perhaps you should be questioning your own biases and lack of knowledge on these issues.
posted by Conspire at 11:57 AM on January 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


The way that you take the trans community's reportage of facts

You may as well have just stopped there. I'm not doubting the author's experience or knowledge. I addressed nothing else in that article but the section that leads the bullets with The investigation results were highly damning, finding:

And then what is listed is not the report's findings, and is in several places some sweeping statements based on lone recounted reports. The actual findings and recommendations are notably more milquetoast. Personally I am comfortable assuming that what was done was, as I called it, unethical from a reporting sense, but perhaps it wasn't. Perhaps the author is simply a shitty writer or has poor reading comprehension. But what was in that section was not portrayed as the experiences and knowledge of the very trans people.
posted by phearlez at 1:31 PM on January 4, 2016


I'm not doubting the author's experience or knowledge.

Every post you have made in this thread has been you admonishing a trans woman for what you perceive as one way or another overstepping rhetorical boundaries. In your previous comment, you call one an unethical reporter; in the one before it, you compare another to a GameGater. What is with your obsession with policing the expression of trans women under respectability politics? Seeing the number of times you've doubled down on the trans women in this very thread explaining from context and experience, it almost seems like you're insisting that they toss their peers under the bus. That seems like a pretty unreasonable demand, and I'm surprised at the sheer amount of energy that you're putting into trying to get people to decry a trans woman for doing something you personally find distasteful, rather than understanding the position and context they're coming from.
posted by Conspire at 2:34 PM on January 4, 2016 [10 favorites]


That's subsequent justification of awfulness towards someone who was uninvolved.

What struck me upon looking at the archive.org page is that (assuming the daughter originally depicted, before the photos were replaced, was a young child at the time) to construe the tsroadmap.com author as having directed something towards the daughter, you're implicitly faulting them for insufficient forethought—in the course of writing a few dozen paragraphs—about the impact their words might have at some future point when the daughter could read and might come across the web page.

Whereas Bailey engaged in woefully inadequate forethought about the future impact of promoting these "theories", explicitly to the general public, in a professional capacity as a scientist in the course of writing, editing, and publishing a 256-page book and subsequently responding to criticisms.

Apparently all the way up to the present day, too? The Wikipedia article on the book doesn't mention him recanting anything and the contemporary responses from him that archive.org contains sure as hell don't, they just get more and more fucked up as you read along.

He actually manages to present as a reason why the experiences of transwomen themselves can't be taken seriously enough even to qualify as evidence of the existence of more than two types of transwomen—much less as evidence that it's all bullshit—the example of a psychological experiment in which people inconsistently selected their favorite between two different pairs of stockings.
posted by XMLicious at 7:16 PM on January 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


The actual findings and recommendations are notably more milquetoast.

That's... an interesting interpretation of the report, as I tried to gently suggest earlier. The recommendations were so mild that the clinic closed. So either some people took their toys and went home or it was decided that starting over was the best course of action when it came to improving things.

You started by trying to tell us that CAMH and Zucker were irrelevant/of little import in trans medicine and now it's turned into "it's not so bad after all". Would you want you or your kid on the receiving end of those "isolated incidents" you're so keen to dismiss (never mind the espousal of reparative therapy)? Would that count as good medical care?
posted by hoyland at 4:33 AM on January 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


He actually manages to present as a reason why the experiences of transwomen themselves can't be taken seriously enough even to qualify as evidence of the existence of more than two types of transwomen—much less as evidence that it's all bullshit—the example of a psychological experiment in which people inconsistently selected their favorite between two different pairs of stockings.

It sure was convenient -- and scientific -- for him when his pathologising theory turned out to come complete with a built-in reason why the trans women who criticise it are liars! How lucky! And scientific!
posted by these are science wands at 8:03 AM on January 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


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