They wanted to kill the book

Alice Dreger has posted an open letter to Tony Valenzuela, ED of the Lambda Literary Foundation.

She thought a tweet telling her about the nomination was a joke at first, because this nominating for an award and then rescinding the nomination routine has happened before. Dreger wrote about it in her book.

In my book—as in the earlier article that led to the misery that led to me to doing that book—I had traced out what happened in 2003 to J. Michael Bailey’s book, The Man Who Would Be Queen, when it had been named a finalist for a “Lammy”: A group of transgender activists upset with Bailey for writing about autogynephilia—a sexual orientation that reasonably motivates some natal-male’s transition to women—had launched a campaign against the Lambda Literary Foundation.

Deirdre McCloskey objected to Bailey’s book, the then ED Jim Marks asked the committee to vote again and they voted to keep it on the finalist list.

McCloksey and her two chief collaborators in the smear campaign on Bailey, Lynn Conway and Andrea James, upped their efforts. As I and Dr. Anne Lawrence (a transgender woman) have explained, the real “problem” was that Bailey’s book put forth ideas about women like McCloskey, Conway, and James that they didn’t want disseminated. They wanted to kill the book to stifle the ideas and stories in it, presumably also to stop others from talking about autogynephilia.

At the time of this mess, writer Victoria Brownworth, who was on the committee, said she saw the withdrawal as akin to censorship. But facing increasing harassment, the committee voted a third time, one vote flipped, and Bailey’s book had its finalist status withdrawn.

Harassment works. Bullying works. People are harassing Alice on Twitter right now, such that she has stopped looking at notifications.

Naturally, given the shitstorms I’ve been in with Bailey’s detractors since I showed in excruciating detail what they did to try to shut him up with a host of patently false charges, I had been assuming my book would never be named a finalist for the same award. Why would the Lambda Literary Foundation take that risk, particularly given that Andrea James had relentlessly harassed Jim Marks online even long after it was all over?

But it was true: my book was named a finalist in the non-fiction category. Learning it was real, I felt enormously honored and happy. I thought this was a sign that perhaps the foundation had decided that there was no way to make everyone in the LGBT world happy, and I’d done good enough work that even if some were unhappy, my work—on the Bailey book controversy, on the abuse of intersex children, on attempts to medically prevent lesbianism with prenatal treatments—was well worth recognizing.

Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have reasonable disagreements? I’m not talking about unreasonable disagreements, I’m not talking about making common cause with people who think all Xs are scum – but reasonable disagreements.

When I wondered who might have advocated for the book to receive a Lammy, I am happy to say that so many people I respect came to mind: Jim Marks, Victoria Brownworth, Dan Savage, Anne Lawrence, and others. The more I thought about it, the more finalist status made sense to me. Why should the Foundation, thirteen years after it was harassed unjustly, do anything other than march on without cowardice?

So I joyfully answered the congratulatory email I received from Lambda and started making plans to attend the awards ceremony in New York. Not too surprisingly, Conway and James soon launched a campaign against my book’s finalist status, but I pretty much ignored this. I figured the Foundation knew this would happen and was prepared to weather the storm.

But no. You caved. And quickly—much more quickly than the Foundation did under Marks in 2003. In spite of all the LGBT people who have actively praised my book, who have thanked me for the work, you quickly caved to a small group of bullies who have proven time and time again that they will do anything they can to get attention and to force everyone to adhere to their singular account of transgenderism, even when it negates the reported childhoods of gay and lesbian people, even when it denies the reality of many transgender people and attempts to force them into closets because of their sexual orientations.

It’s tragic.

I wonder if Tony Valenzuela will even reply. I wonder what he can possibly say.

5 Responses to “They wanted to kill the book”