Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fact Checking Alice Dreger

A fact check to the fact checker
by Curtis E. Hinkle

Response to: http://alicedreger.com/informed_dissent.html
(Italics are quotes from Alice Dreger's blog)

Well, I see Alice Dreger is up to her usual: distorting the facts and creating a smokescreen so that those with power who are not being held accountable for their unethical behavior appear to be justified in further victimizing marginalized communities. As usual, she is telling us what to do and being deceptive as she talks down to us – vintage Dreger – while deflecting the attention away from those who are harming people and making it look like those harmed are the real problem.

I’ve been watching the same sort of thing happen over the debate regarding Zucker and the DSM. Lots of errors about basic facts.

She should know about errors about basic facts. Her recent article in defense of J. Michael Bailey was full of errors. Click here

Some of these errors have been noted in an open letter from Marshall Forstein, M.D., of Harvard Medical School. Forstein pointed out that in his letter that, contrary to claims made in petitions and frantic emails, “sexual orientation is NOT even an issue for the DSM committee to consider.”

Once again. This appears accurate but it is not factually correct to accuse those of us who are discussing SEXUAL ORIENTATION as having our facts wrong. We are discussing sexual orientation, and she understands why because she wrote an article about this same topic herself defending J. Michael Bailey, because the people named to the DSM committee are discussing homosexuality. That is the issue and it is deceptive to put this on her blog and mischaracterize why we are discussing sexual orientation. The problem is not with the intersex or trans community. It is with Blanchard, Zucker, and Dreger. They have been writing papers and elaborating theories which conflate sexual orientation with transsexuality. So, let’s be accurate and check our facts, Alice Dreger. We are talking about this because they, the proposed members of the DSM committee write many articles about homosexuality and see it as one of only two causes of transsexuality.

And the DSM “is a guide to diagnosis and NOT to treatment.”

Once again, we know that. It is inaccurate to act as if we do not. The fact that one or two people might not know that is not necessarily the case for most of us. Why didn’t Dreger write to the people who don’t know this if she really wants to help out instead of making all of us look like uniformed troublemakers? Well, she has an agenda – to protect Zucker, Blanchard and Bailey. That’s why.

The tone of Forstein’s letter reminded me of my own tone as I lectured my well-meaning neighbors on my porch yesterday. Basically: “Geez, people! You don’t have the most basic facts right! How do you expect to gain and keep allies if you can’t get the facts straight?!”

Once again, she paints all of us with one stroke (pretending that she is addressing her neighbors but this is not written to her neighbors, is it?). This is outright propaganda. Many of us are quite informed, articulate people capable of exposing the facts. She would be well advised to get informed and stop generalizing about a whole community.

The errors Forstein chronicled are important, but arguably not as important as the erroneous claims that Zucker does “conversion therapy,” i.e., that he tries to change children’s sexual orientation from gay to straight, and that he thinks a patient turning out to be transsexual represents a “bad outcome.”

Fact check. I thought that Alice Dreger had read J. Michael Bailey’s book. In his “Queen” book, Bailey wrote:

“….Zucker believes that most boys who play with girls’ things often enough to earn a diagnosis of GID would become girls if they could. Failure to intervene increases the chances of transsexualism in adulthood, which Zucker considers a bad outcome.” (Page 31 in book)

“Zucker thinks that an important goal of treatment is to help the children accept their birth sex and to avoid becoming transsexual. His experience has convinced him that if a boy with GID becomes an adolescent with GID, the chances that he will become an adult with GID and seek a sex change are much higher. And he thinks the kind of therapy he practices helps reduce this risk” (Page 30 in book)

“…Zucker’s therapy seems kinder and more consistent, and thus more likely to be effective. Zucker believes that it is, although he is the first to ackowledge that no scientific studies currently support the effectiveness of what he does.” (Page 34 in book).

Now. One final fact check. Here is why Zucker and Blanchard are talking about homosexuality. Let’s get that fact straight. And therefore we who are opposed to their being part of the DSM committee are discussing this same topic because:

The DSM is concerned with diagnoses, not treatments per se. We know that, Alice Dreger. However, that is why people that are ideologically motivated with very little, if any, empirical data to support their theories (and Bailey himself admitted that) should not be placed in charge of the definitions or diagnoses. Here is the problem. Drucker will have input into the DIAGNOSES, not the treatments but the treatments are not the issue for Zucker and many of these people that have been influenced by him. In my opinion, they want NO TREATMENTS. I am convinced that the motivation is to tie the hands of those who would desire to provide treatments and they might be able to do that by controlling the definitions, i.e. the diagnoses. In other words, if the members of this committee, some of which I know have been influenced by the views of Zucker which are that gender identity, as opposed to gender role, is extremely malleable, even more malleable than sexual orientation, then reassignment may eventually become almost impossible, if not outright impossible in the years to come.

The theory that Blanchard et al. are expounding has two key elements which will have enormous impact on redefining transsexuality in such a way that

1) it is NOT really a GENDER identity disorder at all and
2) with ONLY TWO categories possible for all people with "gender confusion" which appears to be the word that is becoming more and more common.

Now, if GID is not about gender but SEX, and there are only two diagnoses, one of which is based on HOMOSEXUALITY, what treatments can be ethically justified by therapists if homosexuality is NOT also reintroduced as a TREATABLE disorder? If you include autogynephilia, then you have to include homosexuality because the theory that Blanchard and others are propagating posits that there must also be "trans" people motivated by homosexual orientation (and ONLY those two categories). This erases intersex and trans experience and the essential definitions that we often use to give meaning to our own sense of being – our own definitions of ourselves and if we are not allowed to define ourselves within the system to the best of our ability, then I don't see anyway to improve our well-being within that system – only further marginalization and stigma.

If Zucker is treating homosexuality in childhood and he admits that these boys grow up to be homosexuals and according to Bailey he is treating them in the hopes of preventing transsexuality, then why not treat homosexuality in adulthood to prevent transsexuality? That is why we are discussing this issue.

Professionals? It is time to act – PROFESSIONALLY

Writing to a whole community instead of addressing the people whose behavior Alice Dreger and others associated with her are denouncing is not professional. When I write about Dreger, for example, I don't generalize and characterize her behavior, writings and ideology as characteristic of the whole intersex community. Why does she include me and thousands of others who have nothing to do with the non-factual allegations she is writing about?

This is political spin. This is part of the ongoing assault against the intersex and trans communities. I and hundreds of others in the IS and Trans communities have NEVER written anything similar to this deceptive blog entry by Alice Dreger.

The documentation about Alice Dreger that I have published is based on verifiable sources, not generalizations, not innuendo, not rumors, which is more characteristic of her writings lately.

I have not claimed anything to be true about these people that I cannot back up with reliable sources. It would be advisable that she and other "experts" defending Zucker and Blanchard make the same effort when speaking about us in generalized terms. Don't include me in those generalizations without informed opinions that are reality-based, not agenda-driven spin. It is very offensive to include my work in these generalizations about the trans and intersex communities.

I would never write a blog that gave the impression that all mental health professionals were acting the same way as Zucker, Dreger and Blanchard are because I know otherwise.

What advice like this does is discredit all the well researched articles that many of us in the trans and intersex communities have written about this topic.

It is time that some of the professionals act responsibly (notably those in charge of the APA and those who are enabling Zucker and Blanchard) and inform themselves and stop giving advice until they do know the facts. It is time to demand accountability of those who provide care and who speak as ethicists about our care. The professionals in this debate have much more responsibility. Part of being a professional is that one takes the time to inform oneself of the facts. Many of us have. These factual articles are published. Read them.