In this month’s The History of Science Society | Newsletter, historian Alice Dreger writes about the kind of an encounter at the National Women’s Studes Association meeting that they don’t prepare you for in graduate school (although maybe on the middle school playground). For those unfamiliar with Dreger’s work, she is best known for her book Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex, which I gave a hearty thumbs up in the NWSA Journal when it first came out, and which I used in my graduate seminar last spring to great success. This book and her tireless work for the Intersex Society of North America (which she ran out of her home for several years), firmly established her reputation as a queer rights activist, all this desepite being a cis-gender, married, heterosexual woman.
How ironic, then, that Dreger should find herself being bullied by a transwoman whom she refers to as “Madame X.” On her website, Madame X refers to Dreger’s son as a ” precious womb turd” and mocks both Dreger’s work and Dreger’s appearance — how very unfeminist, right? After the NWSA session, Madame X went up to Dreger and said, “Alice, honey, I am not done with you. In fact, I haven’t even started with you. I am going to ruin you.” Fortunately, another transwoman, Rosa Lee Klaneski from Trinity College in Hartford, came to the rescue, inserting herself between and Dreger and Madame X and telling the latter to get lost. Unfortunately, the bullying did not end with the conference session: Madame X rallied others via her website, leading to complaints filed with the administration at Northwestern, threats against Dreger and her family, and appropriation of Dreger’s internet identity.
I already knew about some of this conflict from this article, and a protracted exchange on the WMST-L listserv two years ago. I access most of my lists through web archives, so by the time I started following the discussion, the list manager had already shut down the discussion. So, here I am on my blog defending Dreger and her work two years later.
Added later: for another perspective on this issue, see this post at eminism.org