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Jim Marks vs. transgender people

Jim Marks and J. Michael Bailey

Jim Marks oversaw Lambda Literary Foundation‘s nomination and eventual revocation of The Man Who Would Be Queen for consideration of their book award in 2004. His direct involvement is detailed below.

For an overview of the controversy in a larger context, please see the main Lambda Literary Foundation page.



Jim Marks was the Executive Director of the Lambda Literary Foundation (LLF) when they announced on 2 February 2004 that The Man Who Would Be Queen by J. Michael Baileyhad been chosen by their finalist committee as a nominee for an award in the transgender/genderqueer category (LLF 2004a).

After voting to uphold the nomination on 24 February, LLF announced on 12 March 2004 that they were rescinding the nomination, an unprecedented step in the history of the awards. Marks said of the decision:

“The specific issue was whether the book was transphobic. The judges looked at the book more closely and decided it was.” (Letellier 2004)

In 2005, LLF accepted Marks’ resignation in June (Smith 2005) and closed their website in September, removing all materials about the controversy in the process (LLF 2005a). LLF eventually opened a new site at a new web address that makes no mention of the debacle (LLF 2005b).

Jim Marks GenderTalk interview, 9 February 2004

Below are excerpts from Marks’ comments during his interview with Gordene MacKenzie and Nancy Nangeroni on GenderTalk. (Nangeroni 2004a)

“This is the first time an issue like this has come up because people generally don’t nominate or suggest titles that are not sympathetic to our point of view.”

“We are definitely an activist organization that believes in equal rights for gay people, lesbians, transgender people, so we don’t get nominations from Focus on the Family kind of books.”

“We have a nominating period in which books are nominated, mostly by publishers. We submit a whole list of titles to a finalist committee… They don’t caucus with each other. They vote individually, and we compile the results, and that’s how a book is selected as a finalist.”

“Most of them are bookstore owners or people who have a very broad awareness of the GLBT publishing world… so they do have a big overview. They’re almost all in the book business, which means that they’re all overworked with much too much work and much too little time.”

“It was pretty dramatic. We got an outpouring of emails when I came into the office on Tuesday February 3.”

Marks identified two issues that needed to be paramount: the “integrity of the [selection] process and our mission.”

“We’re trying to get a cross-section of the community and make sure the awards are representative of what the community in a larger sense than one person sitting at a desk here in Washington thinks… If the awards are going to be representative of that then what the community tells us, we have to say that’s OK… We don’t want to do something that going to interfere with the process and violate the process. But our mission is important to us as well.”

“We’re going back to the whole finalist committee. I have been distributing emails as they come in, and we’re going to ask if we should keep this book on the finalist list or not… I’ve been distributing them to the finalist committee, asking if they should keep the book on the list or not.”

They want to take no more than two weeks from Friday, February 6 to reach a decision.

“If the committee says ‘You’re rushing us,’ we’ll take a little more time and let everybody talk about the issues… It needs to be something we’re happy with, that the process is fair and considered… The new members of our board of trustees are getting a close look at this… We are planning to give the whole process a step back and look at it and see what other ways we can do this.”

“There is a pretty wide range [on the committee]. There are former winners and authors involved… One possibility is to set up some committees [for different categories] and start working much sooner.”

“The other step in the process is that once the finalists are selected, they go to a separate set of panels. So the trans committee, there would be four people who are voting on the finalists in that category. We never say who was on one committee, but we do release the judges at the end of that process.”

Marks ended the interview by pointing out:

“It’s not just the trans community that I’ve heard from. I mean, there are more than transactivists who have said things to us and written.”

Jim Marks response of 13 February 2004

Below is the text of an “open letter” that I am publishing in the issue of Lambda Book Report that went to press today. I plan on posting this letter on our website on Monday.

Thanks to everyone for their input.


One thing about living in the Internet Age: When you hit a raw nerve, you learn about it quickly.

Late Monday, February 2, we posted the 16th annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists on our web site and sent out a press release announcing the finalists. Tuesday, February 3, when I opened my e-mail, I found my inbox stuffed with messages about one finalist. It was The Man Who Would Be Queen by Michael J. Bailey, chair of the department of psychology at Northwestern University, and published by Joseph Henry Press, an imprint of the National Academy of Sciences. The correspondents were alternately anguished and outraged by the book’s selection as a finalist.

Caitlyn Antrim, for instance, wrote: “I believe this must have been a mishap because the content of [The Man Who Would Be Queen] represents the worst of stereotyping, outdated scientific opinion and misrepresentation. Even its appearance on your list of nominees contributes to harm of modern studies of transsexualism and femininity in boys.

“This is a book of anecdotes, not science. Its stories were obtained by stealth and misrepresentation. It engages in the worst of stereotyping of both transgender and gay and lesbian people. Prof. Bailey has admitted to falsifying, to the point of reversal of the truth, a key story of a young boy who he claimed to have been turned away from his transgender feelings by parental guidance. He has now admitted that he created that ending because it illustrated the point he wanted to make and that it Never Happened.”

Lynn Conway wrote, “I suspect that this must have been either an incredible oversight, or else by intrigue on the inside by transphobic members of Lambda.

“Whatever the case, I hereby alert you to the fact that Bailey’s book has generated perhaps the greatest crisis transsexual women have ever faced, for the book proclaims as ‘science’ that transsexual women are either (i) gay men who have sex changes so as to have many sex partners, and who are ‘especially suited to prostitution,’ or they are (ii) sexual paraphilics who change sex for autosexual reasons, in a severe paraphilia related to pedophilia…”

Conway added, “… the prestigious Southern Poverty Law Center has just published an exposé of Bailey’s ‘Queer Science’ in which they link him directly with an elite clique of right-wing racist, white-superiorist and homophobic academics, journalists and ‘pundits’ — making a link with work like his with the escalating wave of violence against trans women.”

Perhaps most succinctly, Professor Deirdre McCloskey, whose book Crossing: A Memoir was a 1999 Finalist in this category, wrote: “Whoever made this decision needs to do a better job. A much better job. It would be like nominating Mein Kampf for a literary prize in Jewish studies.”

Many of these letters came with extensive documentation. McCloskey, a well-known economics professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago, sent in a lengthy critical review of The Man … and two letters to the editor of another publication concerning the inaccuracies of another review of the book.

On the other hand, as we go to press we are receiving comments such as this from Bradley University Associate Professor of Psychology David P. Schmitt, Ph.D.: ” I would like to express my opinion, as a sex researcher and scientist, that Mike Bailey’s book is based on sound scholarly evidence and reasoning, and certainly deserves recognition as a solid contribution to sexual science.”

This outpouring of concern raised the question, Should the book be taken off the list of finalists? As I examined that question, I came up with four different considerations:

1) The integrity of the process. The selection of The Man… was made not by Lambda Literary Foundation staff but by a finalists committee made up of a baker’s dozen of the most knowledgeable GLBT book industry professionals. It would fly in the face of that process to summarily replace their decision with the judgment of a single administrator.

2) Censorship. The Lambda Literary Foundation believes in the free expression of ideas. It is not uncommon for us to publish reviews in Book Report that the editors might disagree with, but we respect the author’s viewpoint and the honesty of their discussion. Similarly, it seems inappropriate for us to remove a book from consideration for a Lambda Literary Award because it doesn’t meet some arbitrary standard of political correctness.

3) Mission. Here’s where it gets complicated. Our mission is furthering GLBT literacy and understanding. A book that was frankly opposed to the rights of GLBT people would be in conflict with our mission, and we would be under no obligation to highlight with a Lambda Literary Awards finalist selection a book that is contrary to our reason for existence.

4) Ethics. As many of our correspondents noted, charges have been filed against Professor Bailey with his institution, Northwestern University. One person who has a leading role in Bailey’s book, Anjelica Kieltyka, called our office and spoke with us about how the book used her as a subject without her consent. It is at the least troubling to think that an ethically challenged work could be a Lammy finalist.

Whatever the ethical concerns, the LLF is not the appropriate forum for making a judgment: This must be done by a body of Professor Bailey’s peers. Similarly, censorship is not a key consideration: We’re not preventing a book from appearing in the marketplace of ideas if we choose not to highlight it. Therefore, out of the concerns about the process and the LLF’s mission, we will further extend the process. In choosing the finalists to begin with, the procedures we have set up call for the finalist committee members to vote for their preferred titles in each category independently of each other. In any one category, there may be many books nominated, and our procedures are designed to highlight consensus, not have the equivalent of a runoff vote from the top contenders.

As far as I know, this is the first time a Lammy finalist book has been challenged as completely inconsistent with our mission. Therefore, in this new situation we will follow the suggestion of one finalists committee member and submit the question to the whole committee for reevaluation. They will consider all the issues and evidence presented, and then vote to keep or remove the book from the list. We’ll announce the results in the March issue of Lambda Book Report, and online as soon as they arrive at their decision.

—Jim Marks

Jim Marks announces LLF’s decision to uphold nomination

Below is a letter sent on 24 February 2004.

Dear all,

Below is the text that has been posted on the Lambda Literary web site concerning The Man Who Would Be Queen. I know that you may be disappointed with the results of the finalists committee deliberations. The committee was aware of the depth of feeling about this book, and wrestled seriously with the issues that have been raised. We welcome comment and dialogue on this and other issues of importance to the glbt community.


Man Who Would Be Queen to Remain on Lambda Literary Awards Finalists List

After two weeks of discussion, the Finalists Committee for the Lambda Literary Awards voted to retain The Man Who Would Be Queen as a finalist for the 2003 Transgender Award.”This was a very difficult decision, and I appreciate the seriousness and integrity with which the committee considered the issues raised by the opponents and supporters of The Man Who Would Be Queen,” said Jim Marks, Executive Director of the Lambda Literary Foundation, which organizes the annual Lambda Literary Awards (Lammys). “They have been very sensitive about the depth of feeling on this matter.”

When the 2003 Lambda Literary Award finalists were announced, the selection of The Man Who Would Be Queen touched off a firestorm of protest that the book was transphobic, poor science and that the author, J. Michael Bailey, was the subject of ethics charges at Northwestern University, where he chairs the Department of Psychology.

The book also drew equally strong expressions of support from other transgender activists and from colleagues in the field of study.

Given the range of opinions heard by the Finalists Committee, it agreed to focus on whether the content of the book was at odds with the Lambda Literary Foundation’s mission of supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people through cultural literacy. The viewpoint that received the majority vote was that “Bailey has not set out to intentionally do harm to gay men and transsexuals. He doesn’t get it on some fundamental levels but he genuinely thinks he does.”

With the Finalists Committee decision made, now a panel of judges will consider which of the five books in this category will be selected for the 2003 Lambda Literary Award. The five finalists in the transgender category are: She’s Not There, by Jennifer Finney Boylan (Broadway Books); The Drag King Anthology, Donna Troka, Kathleen Lebesco, Jean Noble, eds. (Harrington Park Press); The Man Who Would Be Queen, by J. Michael Bailey (Joseph Henry Press); Trans-gendered, by Justin Tanis (The Pilgrim Press); and Transgender Journeys, by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and Vanessa Sheridan (The Pilgrim Press). The same judging process will be followed for the books in the other 19 categories.The results of the judges’ decisions will be announced at a gala banquet to be held June 3, 2004 at the Chicago Mart Plaza Hotel.

Tickets are $125 for the dinner, $175 for the dinner and gala reception, with discounts for tickets purchased before March 31, 2004.

For more information or to order online, go to or call 202-682-0952.

Additional information:

How was the book selected in the first place?

The finalists for the Lambda Literary Awards were nominated by their publishers and other authorized agents in the fall of 2003; the nomination period closed December 15, 2003. The finalists in each category were chosen by an ad hoc committee of LGBT book professionals. Committee members voted independently of each other and their votes were not shared with other committee members. Choices were ranked on a scale of 5 to 1 (five being the highest score) and the five books with the highest totals were selected as finalists.

Did every member of the finalist committee vote for the books selected as finalists?

No. Because of the ranking system, the fact that categories could have many entrants and that there is no runoff, it is quite possible for a book to become a Lammy finalist without all the Finalists Committee members voting for it.

What about the questions raised on the book’s scientific merit?

In an Open Letter published in the February 2004 Lambda Book Report, Lambda Literary Foundation executive director Jim Marks discussed the ethical and censorship issues raised by the call to remove the book from the list. As the committee discussed the points being raised, and we continued receiving comments from the public, it became clear that opinion on the scientific merit of the book was divided. For instance, we received comments from two members of the editorial board of the Journal of Sex Research, one speaking on behalf of the book, the other questioning it. Given such a division of expert opinion, it was beyond the competence of a literary review panel to make a judgment on scientific merit.

Finalists Committee:

Larry Bailey, The Open Book, Sacramento, CA
Victoria A. Brownworth, author and critic, Philadelphia, PA
Michelle DiMeo and Pam Harcourt, Women and Children First, Chicago, IL
Richard Labonte, Books to Watch Out For
Kris Kleindienst, Owner, Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO
Sara Look, Charis Books, Atlanta, GA
Retha Powers, Bookspan
Philip Rafshoon, owner, OutWrite Books, Atlanta, GA
David Rosen, Insight Out Books
Richard Schneider, Editor, The Gay & Lesbian Review
Martha Stone, Literary Editor, The Gay & Lesbian Review
Jane Troxell & Robert Starner, Lambda Rising Bookstore, Washington, DC
Kurt Weber, A Different Light Books, Los Angeles, CA

Jim Marks, Executive Director, Lambda Literary Foundation
LLF Programs: Lambda Book Report, The James White Review, Lambda 
Literary Awards and Lambda Literary Festival
Online at
202-682-0952; 202-682-0955 fax; PO Box 73910, Washington, DC 20056-3910
shipping address: 1217 Eleventh St. NW, Suite 1, Washington, DC 20001

Lambda Literary Foundation revokes nomination

Below is an announcement that we are posting on our web site today. I would like to thank everyone for their comments and e-mails. We welcome additional comments or discussion, although our limited staff and resources preclude answering everyone personally.


March 12, 2004.

The Lambda Literary Foundation announced that “The Man Who Would Be Queen” has been removed as a 16th Annual Lambda Literary Award finalist.

The change was prompted by a request from the panel of judges that is reading all the finalists in the transgender category, which said the book was not appropriate for the category. The Foundation does not identify the judges to the public or each other until the Awards banquet, which this year will be held June 3, in Chicago, IL. Upon receiving the request, executive director Jim Marks went back to the Finalist Committee, which had selected the book originally. A majority of the committee agreed to honor the request.

Because the action was unprecedented, it provoked heated discussion within the Finalist Committee. Finalist Committee member Kris Kleindienst said, “Removing the book from the list is not censorship. The book is widely available, has been widely reviewed and is not about to be denied to the public. What we are doing is behaving in a responsible manner to make sure the list of finalists is compatible with the Foundation’s mission. Having looked at the book closely, I am sure it is not.” Several committee members echoed Kleindienst’s views.

Finalist Committee member Victoria Brownworth, along with several others, disagreed on the censorship issue. “Banning a book and censoring a book are two different things. While I hate to be the titular voice of the ACLU here, especially since I personally disagree with many aspects of Bailey’s book, if we take the book off the list we are indeed censoring it. It doesn’t matter what our reasons are.”

“This has been a difficult and humbling experience for the Foundation,” said Executive Director Jim Marks. “We’ve never before had a case in which a book, whose author and publisher both affirm their support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual rights, has at the same time been opposed by those who say its content in fact is antithetical to those rights.”

“Throughout the controversy that has raged over the book’s selection as a finalist, we have struggled to maintain the integrity of the process.” Marks said. “Since the impetus for the change came from the within the category’s judges, and was reviewed and voted on by the Finalist Committee, we feel that the decision is consistent with our process.”

The recipients of the 16th Lambda Literary Awards will be announced at a gala banquet to be held June 3, 2004 at the Chicago Mart Plaza Hotel.

Tickets are $125 for the dinner, $175 for the dinner and gala reception, with discounts for tickets purchased before March 31, 2004.

For more information or to order online, go to or call 202-682-0952.

Jim Marks GenderTalk interview 15 March 2004

Excerpts from an interview immediately after the announcement (Nangeroni 2004b).

Jim Marks:

We have a three-tiered process: books are nominated by the publisher, then the finalists are selected from a list of books that are nominated by a Finalists Committee. Then the five finalists are sent to a panel of judges in each category

We heard from one of the judges in the transgender category asking that the book be removed. So I went back to the Finalists Committee and asked them if they would honor that request. And they agreed to do that.

We list the judges in the program– know who the other judges are. It’s done independently, it’s not done in consultation with other judges. It’s all individuals reading the books and making decisions based on their reading.

My understanding is that the judge objected to the content, that it just was not supportive of transgender and gay issues.

Nancy Nangeroni:

Would we be inaccurate in saying that it’s Transphobic… Did the judge agree with those of us who are saying that?

Jim Marks:

Certainly the judge did, and the finalist committee agreed to remove the book. The vote, because it was a majority vote, agreed with that.

People read the book a little more closely, I think, once it became brought to their attention. Some people who had read the book four or five months earlier, so I think it was given a closer reading. Because mostly the finalist committee is made up of booksellers and people who have a very broad knowledge of the gay and lesbian book community so that they’re able to say, “Oh these are the books that have really popped up over the course of the year, books that people are talking about, books that we know have really been significant one way or another,” but then the judges are the ones who are entrusted to read the books very closely.

This is the first time we have ever done this.

My whole focus from the beginning was to make sure that opinions were heard, but that the decision-making was not in response to anything that would be like pressure, but simply out of the basic processes that we have set up already. The response that people got from the community certainly alerted people to the issues that were at hand, and I think some people went back and looked at the book more closely because of that. We would not have re-examined this issue if the judge hadn’t come back to us and said, “I just don’t think this is right for a Lambda Literary Award finalist.”

There are two things: it was not a clear-cut one way or another in terms of how the finalist committee voted. It was a majority of the votes, so only a couple of people changing their opinion, their views, made a difference there.

It was only a couple of people… the people who voted to keep it on the list were not necessarily supportive of the book in that they agreed with the content, but they thought that this was obviously a controversial book. They thought it raised scientific and… They thought it raised important questions. They also thought that having gone through the process that we ought to respect the process and not change it.

There were a lot of reasons for the original decisions that were not based on “We believe in this book” but because of people believing that the book had raised significant issues or that the process was one that we ought to be respecting and maintaining.

One good part of this is that we have been in touch with a number of people, and I really hope to get a… And I know our board, Katherine Forrest is on our board, and she is definitely talking about expanding our board and including a trans person on that.


In June 2005, Marks was ousted as Executive Director, a position he’d held almost continuously since 1996. On 7 June, a majority of Lambda Literary Foundation Board of Trustees voted to accept the resignation.

Trustees accepting:

  • Jim Duggins, retired academic who lives in Palm Springs, Calif.
  • Katherine V. Forrest, an author based in San Francisco
  • Karla Jay, an author who lives in New York
  • Don Wiese, a New York editor at Carroll & Graf

Trustees not accepting

  • Jim Marks, ousted director
  • Nick Apostol, Jim Marks’ domestic partner (Smith 2005)

LLF also sold their building on 16 June and suspended publication of the James White Review and the Lambda Book Report.

Founder Deacon Maccubbin noted “issues were skipped or late getting on newsstands,” which “hurt its credibility.” Trustee Katherine Forrest said “Both of the publications have been operating chronically in the red, really, since they left the umbrella of the Lambda Rising bookstore. We’re talking about nine or 10 years that it’s just been sputtering along.” Forrest said there has been an “ongoing, chronic problem” with the Lambda Book Report’s ability to publish in a timely manner. It was supposed to be available monthly, but often was late coming out. (Smith 2005) Marks has since claimed his resignation had nothing to do with the financial difficulties cited by LLF’s founder and trustees, nor anything to do with the mishandling of the Bailey fiasco. (Marks 2006)

Their website went offline after the announcement, eventually reappearing in 2006 as a text-only site consisting of three pages. A new site at went live at the end of 1995, announcing “Welcome to the New Lambda Literary Foundation.” Any mention of the Bailey debacle was gone from the new site.


Lambda Literary Foundation (2004a). 16th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists. 2 February.

Lambda Literary Foundation (2005a). Resources for the debate over The Man Who Would Be Queen [offline as of September 2005]

Lambda Literary Foundation (2005b) Welcome to the New Lambda Literary Foundation.

Note: former website stripped down to three pages in 2006.

Letellier P (2004). Group rescinds honor for disputed / Network, 16 March.

Marks J (2006). Letter to Alice Dreger. July 22.

Nangeroni N, MacKenzie G (2004a). Jim Marks discusses the LLF nominationGenderTalk, 9 February.

Nangeroni N, MacKenzie G (2004b). Jim Marks discusses the LLF nomination withdrawalGenderTalk, 15 March.

Smith R (2005). Lambda Literary loses leader, closes publicationNew York Blade, 17 June.