Andrea James and transgender people

Andrea Jean James (born January 16, 1967) is an American filmmaker and consumer activist.

Background

James was born in Wisconsin. She and her brother Greg were adopted. Their mother Nancy worked at several nonprofits, and their father Warren (1934-2016) ran a small farm before taking several roles at a steel mill.

She grew up in Franklin, Indiana, earned a Bachelor’s degree in English, Latin, and Greek at Wabash College in 1989, then received a Master’s degree in English at University of Chicago in 1990. She then worked in advertising in Chicago at the Chicago Tribune and several ad agencies. During her gender transition, she developed several consumer resources for trans people, including tsroadmap.com, the predecessor to this website.

Media activism

James moved to Los Angeles and produced several popular instructional videos with Calpernia Addams, covering voice, makeup, facial feminization surgery, and coming out. They also produced and performed in the first all-transgender production of The Vagina Monologues in 2004. In 2008, they were in the first dating show with trans-attracted suitors, with Calpernia as the first out transgender star.

James served on the boards of several nonprofits and has consulted on and helped produce many film and television projects with trans themes.

The Man Who Would Be Queen (2003)

James was a key figure in the community response to the 2003 book The Man Who Would Be Queen by J. Michael Bailey. She and Lynn Conway began methodically documenting and examining the network of people engaged in the academic exploitation of sex and gender minorities, finding that a small group of “experts” were responsible for the majority of harmful beliefs and practices concerning the community.

James published the 2006 overview “A defining moment in our history.” The community response was described as “one of the most organized and unified examples of trans activism to date” (Surkan, 2007).

Academic backlash (2007)

Following a 2007 campaign of defamation led by the academics promoting disease models of gender identity and expression, James began working to close ringleader Kenneth Zucker‘s gender clinic at CAMH in Toronto. She gathered evidence for Zucker’s employer, presented a 2008 paper about the populist response called “Fair comment, foul play,” and began collecting information from former CAMH patients. Alice Dreger reprinted her piece from Zucker’s journal in the 2015 book Galileo’s Middle Finger, prompting James to respond with “Sexology’s war on transgender children.” Zucker was fired in 2015 and the clinic was closed.

Media backlash (2014)

The American trans rights movement entered a decadent phase following the election of Barack Obama. Following a series of political gains, complacency and infighting reached a peak in late 2014, and both media coverage and public opinion began to turn negative. The backlash accelerated following the election of Donald Trump, concentrated on several hot-button topics: military service, sports, prisoners, public accommodation, and gender diverse youth.

Following publication of an egregiously biased 2018 cover story on transgender “desistance” in The Atlantic, James began working on The Transphobia Project, a long-term effort to document the key media figures and platforms engaged in propagating biased content about gender identity and expression.

References

Surkan K (2007). Transsexuals protest academic exploitation. In Faderman, Lillian (ed). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Events, 1848-2006. Salem Press, 2007, pp. 700–702. ISBN9781587652653 (PDF)

James AJ (2006). A defining moment in our history: Examining disease models of gender identityGender Medicine, 2006(3;1) p. S56 https://doi.org/doi|10.1016/S1550-8579(06)80121-X

James AJ (June 11, 2015). Sexology’s war on transgender children. Boing Boing http://boingboing.net/2015/06/11/sexologys-war-on-transgender.html

Hiscott, Rebecca (June 26, 2019). This Is What Transphobia in the Media Looks Like. Kickstarter Magazine https://medium.com/kickstarter/this-is-what-transphobia-in-the-media-looks-like-3b9da535322e

When The Atlantic published its July/August 2018 cover story on transgender youth, Andrea James was among the chorus of trans writers and activists who excoriated it for being biased. “Editor Jeffrey Goldberg published it despite many warnings that it was likely to be a dog whistle, a kind of bias that most people won’t notice,” she says.

The article focused on the disputed concept of “desistance,” which views gender nonconforming children as having a disease to be cured, delegitimizing the experiences and struggles of the majority of trans youth. “It also came out that elite journalists” — including the author of the Atlantic piece — “were excluding transgender journalists from backchannels where they were discussing coverage,” James says.

Bolded sections removed after complaint by Jesse Singal

Resources

Andrea James (andreajames.com)