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Lambda Literary Award for Transphobe

seek reform, not just quick correction

Forum: TransectingTheAcademy list
Date: 02/16/2004

On 2/16/04 12:38 PM, "Emilia" wrote:

I am very disappointed in Lambda Literary's response below. To summarize, Lambda nominated a book (The Man Who Would Be Queen, by Michael Bailey) that has been identified by many academics and transsexual/transgender people to be unscientifically unsound and highly insulting to transsexual/transgender women.


The situation is equivalent to having a book from the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (a group that believes that homosexuality is a mental illness and supports reparative therapy) nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. The response from others and myself was to ask Lambda to remove the book from the list of nominees for best Transgender book. However, Lambda's response raises some concerns.

I am also appalled by the Lambda Literary Foundation's selection of _The Man Who Would Be Queen_ as a Lambda Literary Award finalist, but I feel that Mr. Marks' response is reasonable, within the bounds of what has already happened.

I would imagine that this is the same exact response he would have made even if it were an anti-gay book coming from NARTH instead of an anti-transsexual book that somehow fell through the cracks. That is, instead of singlehandedly disqualifying the offending book, he would have asked the committee to reconsider the selection, which is precisely what he is doing regarding this case. Yes, it would have been nice if Mr. Marks would directly acknowledge that the book is offensive and the committee had made a clear mistake, but I can understand his commitment to maintaining the integrity of the award selection process. Had I been in his position, I would have made the same decision (that is, to have the committee re-consider its picks with all the new inputs, rather than simply overruling the committee).

Of course, an anti-gay book has not and will never just "fall through the cracks" at the Lambda Literary Foundation, and that is where the problem lies: the selection committee is not competent in judging the merit of trans-themed books. This probably does reflect the internal culture of the Lambda Literary Foundation, which may not be transphobic in the sense of holding hatred or bigotry, but nonetheless ignorant about trans people's lives and indifferent to trans people's needs. That is what needs to change, not just the list of Lambda Literary Award finalists.

For this end, I think we should seek 1) a reform of the nomination and selection process for the next year's Lambda Literary Award to give trans individuals (in and out of the "book industry") leadership roles in judging trans-themed titles; 2) an increase in proportion of trans-identified judges in the selection committee; and 3) the formation of trans-specific task force within the Lambda Literary Foundation to increase and improve the coverage of trans literary scene in Lambda Book Report and in other activities.

It is unfortunate that Dr. Bailey's book received undeserved publicity, but even if it were not for this book, something similar to this was bound to happen. And it will happen again unless we make structural changes to how the Lambda Literary Foundation and its award committee operate. Simply removing the book from the list of finalists is not enough; we should take steps to make the Lambda Literary Foundation truly inclusive of trans issues and interests--or else ask it to stop selecting the Best Transgender Book(s) of the Year.

Emi K.

-- * Putting the Emi back in Feminism since 1975.