Dear editor:

Dennis Rodkin [“Sex and Transsexuals,” December 12] is a mouthpiece for a homophobic and transphobic academic desperately trying to defend himself from a huge wave of criticism caused by his bizarre publications and actions.

J. Michael Bailey of Northwestern University is widely known for defaming any transsexual woman who dares question his opinions by calling her a “homosexual transsexual man,” a “prostitute,” or a “paraphilic” sexual fetishist. In his Reader article Mr. Rodkin continues these defamations by quoting another Bailey spokesperson as follows: “These trannies are older when they transition,” she says. “They’re not the young, beautiful ones who were living as women from an early age. They had maybe 50 years of being males and being forceful and aggressive and shouting to get what they want as men….I know that’s the worst insult I can aim at a fellow tranny, but look, these people like McCloskey and Conway are used to being powerful in their respective occupations, and they demand to be listened to.”

The facts are that I was amongst the pioneer transsexual women back in the 1960s. I started on estrogen at age 20 and completed my transition by undergoing sex-reassignment surgery at age 30, way back in 1968.

After my transition I started my career in computer science in stealth mode and at the bottom of the ladder as a young contract programmer. An attractive and spirited woman, I worked my way up into a successful research career and became widely known for innovations in microelectronic chip design, for which I was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. I am married to a wonderful man, and we’ve been together for 16 years now. Mr. Rodkin knew these facts. Yet he claims I worked for 50 years as a “man.”

In a further journalistic lapse, Rodkin ignored important news about Bailey’s misconduct that was breaking all around him. Just as the Reader article appeared, charges were reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education and in the Chicago Free Press that Professor Bailey had engaged in sexual relations with a trans woman who was a research subject at the time. Mr. Rodkin knew all this too.

Furthermore, Rodkin supports Bailey’s ridiculous assertion that he is under attack by conservative Republicans because he is a true friend of gays. Rodkin must know that Bailey has been under attack in the gay and trans media for many months, as reported in Diverse City magazine, July 2003; the Chicago Free Press, July 23, 2003; the Journal of the International Foundation for Gender Education, Fall 2003; and the Transgender Community News (TCN), October 2003. People from all across the political spectrum are now attacking Bailey’s wacko science, not just “right-wingers.”

There is another deeper story that Rodkin completely missed. Many successful, socially assimilated trans women are mentors to young transsexuals in transition. Unable to have children of our own, the girls whom we mentor become like children to us.

These young women depend on us for guidance during their difficult period of gender transition and then on through their adventures afterwards–dating, careers, marriages, and sometimes the adoption of their own children. As a result, many of us have large extended families and are blessed by these relationships.

Through our extended families we’ve learned how Bailey’s junk science is hurting young trans women everywhere as they struggle to transition in the face of officially sanctioned stereotypes and defamations projected onto them by such “scientists.”

Had Rodkin gotten that story he would see why Bailey does not understand the nemesis that has arisen against him. Blinded by his Silly Theory (ST), Bailey misperceives successful trans women as “men.” He then lashes out at those who are criticizing him, thinking that we are a mere handful of “deviants” he can dismiss, when in fact we are hundreds of loving moms whose kids he is tormenting!

And woe it is to the man who torments the children of hundreds of moms!

Lynn Conway

Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Emerita

University of Michigan

Dennis Rodkin replies:

I didn’t catch the mistake when I quoted Willow Arune saying Professor Conway had grown powerful in her field as a man. I regret the error.