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Benedict Carey vs. transgender people

Benedict Carey is an American author and writer who played a key role in laundering anti-LGBTQ propaganda into the New York Times. Carey’s uncritical puff pieces about the work of J. Michael Bailey, Richard Green, Robert Spitzer, and Alice Dreger caused years of delays in debunking that work.

In 2022 I began a campaign to extract an apology from the New York Times and get corrections, updates, or retractions on Carey’s pieces. Because Carey claims part of his job is “exposing BS” and as a professional courtesy, I am giving Carey the first opportunity to revisit these stories. Stay tuned for updates.


Benedict James “Ben” Carey was born March 3, 1960 in San Francisco and grew up mostly in Evanston, Illinois. Carey earned a bachelor’s degree in math from the University of Colorado in 1983. Carey then earned a master’s degree in journalism at Northwestern University in 1985. Carey wrote for trade magazine American Shipper before becoming a staff writer for consumer health and medical magazine Hippocrates (published 1987–2001, renamed Health).

Starting in 1997, Carey began freelancing. In 1998 Carey married writer and publishing executive Victoria Margaret von Biel (born March 2, 1960), who also earned a master’s degree in journalism at Northwestern. Their two children were born soon after. Carey covered health and wellness for the Los Angeles Times from 2000 to 2004. In 2004 Carey moved to the New York Times with returning science journalist Richard “Rick” Flaste. Carey covered science there until 2021.

The Times was notorious for diligently reporting unethical and irresponsible research about sex and gender minorities, almost all of which emanated from the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Their coverage of Robert Spitzer’s poorly supported claims that gay people can change their sexualities was particularly egregious.

Carey and colleague Nicholas Wade were also heavily involved in using the Times science section to promote questionable science that supported their hereditarian viewpoints about scientific controversies, like race and intelligence or sexuality. Carey is a strong believer in disease models of human traits and behaviors, especially mental illness.

2005 anti-bisexual piece

Carey’s piece “Straight, Gay or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited” presented J. Michael Bailey’s claims that “true bisexuality” does not exist in males. GLAAD and FAIR condemned the piece. In 2011, a different Times reporter followed up with Bailey’s new claim of suddenly discovering male bisexuality after getting payments from the American Institute of Bisexuality.

2007 anti-transgender piece

Carey delivered a major media coup to Kenneth Zucker and allies who support conversion therapy on gender diverse youth. Carey was given an advance copy of Alice Dreger’s cover-up of J. Michael Bailey’s Danny Ryan “trans cure” fabrication. Carey reported that Dreger’s research into Bailey “concluded that he is essentially blameless.” Carey uncritically repeated Dreger’s strawman claims that trans people believe they are “victims of a biological mistake — in essence, women trapped in men’s bodies.” Carey also glossed over Bailey’s sexual misconduct reported by the woman known as “Juanita” in the book: “she stood by the accusation but did not want to talk about it.”

Worst of all, Carey completely glossed over Bailey’s vulgar misuse of the images of gender diverse children for laughs in front of future clinicians, presenting Dreger’s version almost verbatim:

The site also included a link to the Web page of another critic of Dr. Bailey’s book, Andrea James, a Los Angeles-based transgender advocate and consultant. Ms. James downloaded images from Dr. Bailey’s Web site of his children, taken when they were in middle and elementary school, and posted them on her own site, with sexually explicit captions that she provided. (Dr. Bailey is a divorced father of two.) Ms. James said in an e-mail message that Dr. Bailey’s work exploited vulnerable people, especially children, and that her response echoed his disrespect.

Carey did not note that I was quoting and paraphrasing Bailey’s book, and that I had apologized in 2003 (Bailey’s son, who was an adult in 2003, did not accept the apology and Bailey’s daughter did not respond). Carey reiterated Dreger’s conclusion: “the accusations against the psychologist were essentially groundless.”

I had insisted to Carey’s editors that I be interviewed, so Carey asked me just one question. When my answer was “too long,” Carey said there was only room for 13 words.

Subsequent developments

In addition to a host of other ethics issues, Bailey hosted a live “fucksaw” class demonstration for students that led to Bailey’s signature human sexuality class being permanently canceled by Northwestern. The “fucksaw” incident was not covered by Carey.


Carey obituaries of anti-trans people

Thomas Szasz

Carey, Benedict (September 11, 2012). Dr. Thomas Szasz, Psychiatrist Who Led Movement Against His Field, Dies at 92. New York Times

Richard Green

Carey, Benedict (April 17, 2019). Dr. Richard Green, 82, Dies; Challenged Psychiatry’s View of Homosexuality. New York Times

Dr. Green, who was also a forceful advocate for gay and transgender rights in a series of landmark discrimination trials,

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association sided with Dr. Green and other influential figures, including Dr. Judd Marmor and Dr. Robert Spitzer, and decided to drop homosexuality from its diagnostic manual.

In his early work, Dr. Green found that many effeminate boys grow up to be gay. He reviewed that and other research in his 1987 book, “The ‘Sissy Boy Syndrome’ and the Development of Homosexuality.”

Robert Spitzer

Carey, Benedict (December 26, 2015). Robert Spitzer, 83, Dies; Psychiatrist Set Rigorous Standards for Diagnosis. New York Times

NYT Bailey anti-gay coverage

Associated Press (December 17, 1991). Gay Men in Twin Study. New York Times

Wade, Nicholas (April 10, 2007). Pas de Deux of Sexuality Is Written in the Genes. New York Times

“If you can’t make a male attracted to other males by cutting off his penis, how strong could any psychosocial effect be?” said J. Michael Bailey, an expert on sexual orientation at Northwestern University.

Dr. Bailey believes that the systems for sexual orientation and arousal make men go out and find people to have sex with, whereas women are more focused on accepting or rejecting those who seek sex with them.

But Dr. Bailey believes the effect, if real, would be more clear-cut. “Male homosexuality is evolutionarily maladaptive,” he said, noting that the phrase means only that genes favoring homosexuality cannot be favored by evolution if fewer such genes reach the next generation.

Carey sourcing Bailey on gay parenting

Carey, Benedict (January 29, 2005). Experts Dispute Bush on Gay-Adoption Issue. New York Times

“You can’t force families to participate, and there aren’t that many of them out there to start with,” said Dr. J. Michael Bailey, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University who has studied gay men raising boys.

“There is also a strong volunteer bias: the families who want to participate might be much more open about sexual orientation” and eager to report positive outcomes, Dr. Bailey said.

Carey covering Bailey’s anti-bisexual “science”

Carey, Benedict (July 5, 2005) Straight, Gay or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited. New York Times

Carey covering Bailey’s anti-trans “science”

Carey, Benedict (August 21, 2007). Criticism of a Gender Theory, and a Scientist Under Siege. New York Times

  • Letters: Debating a hypothesis
  • G. Eugene Pichler (2016) The Transsexual Delusion: “On August 21, 2007 Benedict Carey of the New York Times published a damning article into the behavior of Conway et al.”
  • Alice Dreger (2015) Galileo’s Middle Finger: “Finally, Carey’s piece was published in the New York Times, and he amazed me by his ability to sum up the salient points in a couple thousand words. More important, Carey’s report turned around the public story of what had really happened. Mike was elated. Mike’s family was elated. Ray Blanchard was elated. Scientists all over the world were elated.”
  • John Casey (2007) letter to NYT editors: “Benedict Carey casts this story as a matter of politically correct thugs trying to undermine Dr. J. Michael Bailey’s legitimate scientific research. But even Dr. Bailey’s defenders admit the research in question turned out to rest on shoddy anecdotal evidence. In light of that fact, the story can’t possibly concern ”the corrosive effects of political correctness on academic freedom,” as someone quoted in the article claims. The question was whether his book had any legitimate scientific basis. And it didn’t. But perhaps that doesn’t make for a very interesting story.”

Bailey “fucksaw” incident

Steinberg, Jacques (March 3, 2011). Extracurricular Sex Toy Lesson Draws Rebuke at Northwestern. New York Times

Staff report (May 21, 2012). Spitzer’s Apology Changes ‘Ex-Gay’ Debate. Talk of the Nation NPR

Media about Carey

Roderick, Kevin (May 11, 2004). LAT health writer to NYT. LA Observed

Leibach, Julie (2006). Backgrounder: Benedict Carey. The Bullpen / NYU Journalism Projects

Staff report (August 23, 2014). Interview: Benedict Carey, Author Of ‘How We Learn.’ All Things Considered NPR

Toppo, Greg (September 19, 2014). ‘How We Learn’ offers new look at how our brains work. USA Today

Chen, Ingfei (August 25, 2014) How Does the Brain Learn Best? Smart Studying Strategies KQED

Random House (2016)

91.7 (2016).


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Books by Carey

  • Island of the Unknowns (2009)
  • Poison Most Vial (2011)
  • How We Learn (2014)