(As I’d mentioned, it’s time to move on from the previous discussion. I admit, I probably wouldn’t have reacted as badly if the debate hadn’t touched on something that was freshly raw for me personally, but as it is still a raw nerve, we’ll leave the HBS thing be. I thought I’d go with something far less controversial. Politics is being overdone right now, what with all the stuff on the primaries, so I thought I’d take on Religion. — Mercedes)

Modern churches do an excellent job of creating an equation between the questioning of fallible teachers, preachers, copyists and translators, and the questioning of God Himself. You can do one without necessarily doing another. But “all scripture is given by inspiration of God…” (2 Timothy 3:16) is usually used to rebuff any inquiries about the many interpretations of those scriptures.

Assuming that all scripture was given by inspiration of God, it should also be kept in mind that all scripture was also interpreted and worded by a myriad of authors, then recopied by hand for thousands of generations, passing through different translators and copyists, each with differing biases. All New Testament scripture was additionally collected at the Council of Nicaea, where it was decided which books (and which specific versions of them) to keep and which ones to ignore or destroy. This was done under the guidance of an appointee (Eusebius Pamphilus) of the first actual Pope (although they later retroscribed themselves back to the apostle Peter), the Emperor Constantine I, who wished to forge a new religion that was a synthesis of Mithraism, fledgling Christianity, and Constantine’s own worship of the sun god, Sol. He also intended to set himself up to be portrayed as the returned Christ (although it did not quite end up working out that way), which was understood at that time to mean an earthly King-level saviour.

And in addition to the hands that scripture passed through being imperfect, so too are those of the preachers who deliver it on Sunday. Religious leaders have repeatedly abused and misused scripture for their own ends, right into modern times — sometimes innocently but other times specifically for the acquisition of money, political power and fiercely loyal masses. 150 years ago, the church used scripture to justify slavery, alleging among other things that Black people had no souls. 100 years ago, scripture was used to resist emancipation, re-establishing womens’ role as a subservient one and portraying them as not worthy or intelligent enough to be able to vote. Even today, scripture is twisted to assert the subordinance of women. Can we question the church’s teaching while relying on our heart to sort the truth from the centuries of spin-mongering that has tainted it? I’d think we’d have to.

Alice Dreger Destroys Academic Freedom in Order to Save It

It is an old adage that “crime, once exposed, has no refuge but in audacity.” This appears to be the thinking behind Alice Dreger’s latest attempt to stifle criticism of J. Michael Bailey’s pseudoscience in the name of “academic freedom”.

Joelle Ruby Ryan recently issued a Call for Proposals for a proposed panel of the National Women’s Studies Association entitled The Bailey Brouhaha: Community Members Speak Out on Resisting Transphobia in Academia in Beyond. In it, she accurately summarises the history of the “controversy” around Bailey’s The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science [!] of Gender Bending and Transsexualism, as follows:

While Bailey’s book The Man Who Would be Queen was released in 2003 to overwhelmingly negative reviews, the book caused a stir for its assertion that trans women can be split into two groupings: “homosexual transsexuals” and “autogynephilics.” Trans activists and allies mobilized and took Bailey to task for his bogus claims and helped to document a compelling case against him. Many considered it an open-and-shut case until the 2007 appearance of an article by Bailey colleague and intersex researcher Alice Dreger, who published a lengthy apologia for Bailey in the Archives of Sexual Behavior and castigated trans women activists for their attempts at “ruining” Bailey.

In response, Dreger declared that the CFP was “laden with factual errors and misrepresentations about the history of the Bailey controversy and my work”, of which she could identify none, and points to her own dubious “scholarly history” (to be published by a journal controlled by Bailey, Blanchard, and Lawrence) and a breathtakingly inaccurate New York Times article that I have discussed previously as reliable sources of information. Dreger repeats her unsupported and unspecified claims of misrepresentations (in one case “profound” misrepresentations”) and factual errors throughout her correspondence on the subject with Emi Koyama on the Women’s Studies listserv WMST-L, and falsely claims that Bailey’s critics attempted to censor him. She does not enlighten interested readers about the scientific status of Bailey’s claims or his defamatory responses to criticism. She closes the e-mail exchange by endorsing a veiled threat directed at Ryan by Emi Koyama(1):

What is the “academic freedom” that Dreger defends so fiercely as to resort to threats and blatant misrepresentations? Is it the freedom to publish scientific findings and engage in scholarly discussion without state or institutional censorship? Clearly not. That right has not been impinged upon. No one is calling for censorship of Bailey’s work, nor has any censorship occurred. The book remains in print, for all to see. Bailey’s right to fetishise “controversy” over science remains inviolate.

Give ’em an act with lots of flash in it

And the reaction will be passionate

Give ’em the old hocus pocus ….

Give ’em the old three ring circus”

— Richard Gere as Billy Flynn in the song “Razzle Dazzle” from the movie “Chicago”

What the hell is up with being trans?

Seriously, why is it such a heinous scandal to have someone attached to anything hinting of crossdressing or transsexualism? One would think that in 2007 we’ve progressed beyond that stage, but clearly that’s not so.

A couple of items jumped out at me this week prompting this rant. One was a tabloid (Star or Enquirer, can’t remember which) with a blaring headline replete with photos showing a sad looking Cher, and an alternate photo of daughter Chastity Bono in what appears to be a man’s suit. The headline was: Cher’s Heartbreak Over Chastity’s Sex Change Decision.

The other item concerns photos released of Oscar DeLaHoya and trumpeted as lead story on Entertainment Tonight for multiple nights in a row, even bleeding over into the nightly six o’clock local news at one point. The photos have what appears to be the boxing champ in a fishnet bodysuit, spike-heeled pumps and even wearing a wig with a jaunty fedora in one photo.

I’m getting rather tired of posting about this, but J. Michael Bailey is at it again. He posted “Transsexual Smokescreen: Ignoring Science In “The Man Who Would Be Queen” at Scientific Blogging.com.

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The post is a microcosm of the disingenuous nature of this man. He’s said in multiple forums:

(from the KQED Forum interview)

I wrote what is commonly understood to be a popular science book, in which I reviewed serious academic work by myself and other scholars.”

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So the book is science?

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By Élise Hendrick (reprinted with permission)

Autogynaephiles, Homosexuals, and Fabricators:

The Blanchard-Bailey-Lawrence Taxonomy of Trans Women

I. A Hypothetical

Let us suppose that someone claimed to have found that rape is primarily a function of the sexuality and presentation of the victim, and proposed a binary taxonomy of rape victims:

(1) The provoker: Provoker-type rape victims are heterosexual women no older than their mid-to-late twenties at the time of the incident. They are generally sexually active, and are characterized by general attractiveness and a preference for attractive, even provocative modes of dress and behavior. In these women, the rape is the subconsciously desired result of their behavior and presentation.

(2) The confabulator: The confabulator, like the provoker, is heterosexual, but homely and unattractive, and at least in her late twenties or thirties. She is not sexually active, nor does she dress in a particularly attractive or provocative manner. She is most likely to have convinced herself that she was raped in order to deceive herself into believing that she is sexually desirable despite her age and appearance.

Let us further suppose that the person who has “discovered” these categories also claims that there are no categories outside of the two above, and that any woman who claims not to fit within these categories in any particular is either lying or delusional. In dealing with these claims, rational people will likely do as suggested by Noam Chomsky in The Case Against B.F. Skinner[1], and ask: ”What is the scientific status of the claims? What social or ideological needs do they serve? The questions are logically independent, but the second type of question naturally comes to the fore as scientific pretensions are undermined.”

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From the Evangelical Bible:

I Fundamentalists: 1 And Christ said “if you’re a transsexual, you’re doomed. 2You deserve to be raped or sexually assaulted.”

Or so it would seem from the Jesus blogosphere :

If I may put this delicately, will these bathrooms make any concessions to that biological reality formerly known as “sexuality?” You know, body parts; will men be able to use the facilities in a manly way, or must we sit?

One of the more painful memories of my life was visiting my brothers, David and Nathan, at Macalester College and having to use their coed dorm bathroom. Icky yuck-yuck. Gross. Cooties were caught.” – Bayly Blog

Apparently these “men of God” have an issue with gender neutral bathrooms that are safe places for transgender people.

tsmenace.gifIn KQED’s recent interview of J Michael Bailey and Alice Dreger, Bailey said:

 

Again I reject the assertion that it’s all transgendered people are offended by my book. Many transgendered people are actually very happy that people are finally talking about this phenomenon called autogynophelia, which they feel captures their motivation.” I actually think that Bailey is wrong and that a majority of transgender people see Bailey’s work as a direct attack on their lives. If you do too, I’d ask that you please sign a petition I made at:

 

http://www.petitiononline.com/trans4us/

 

Please spread the word about this petition to as many people you can think of.

Alice Dreger’s dredging up of this old controversy has inflamed the right wing blogosphere with such wonderful posts as:

I’ve been over at Feministing all day, writing responses to “You learn something new every day.” The post is a response to The BBC’s recent coverage of a debate with Julie Bindel. Julie believes that sex reassignment surgery is a “mutilation.”

The debate over there is one of the best I’ve ever encountered. There’s a whole lot of cross talk and listening, and very few personal attacks. This is the first time I’ve ever posted about this in a forum where I didn’t feel like I was talking to a wall.

I’ve included some of the comments, and my responses, under the cut.