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Lambda Literary and transgender people

Lambda Literary is an American nonprofit that “nurtures and advocates for LGBTQ writers, elevating the impact of their words to create community, preserve our legacies, and affirm the value of our stories and our lives.”

Over the years they have supported many trans and gender diverse writers through several programs:

  • Lambda Literary Awards
  • Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices
  • Lambda Literary Review
  • LGBTQ Writers in School Program
  • Lambda LitFest


Lambda Rising was an LGBT bookstore that operated from 1974 to 2010 in Washington, D.C. In 1987, founder L. Page “Deacon” Maccubbin published the first Lambda Book Report, highlighting notable LGBTQ books. In 1989, Maccubbin announced the first annual Lambda Literary Awards, later nicknamed The Lammys. In 1997, Lambda Literary Foundation was incorporated as a nonprofit organization, and Jim Marks was named as first Executive Director.

The Lambda Literary Awards have been involved in significant controversies around transgender issues, most notably their nominations and subsequent withdrawals of two transphobic books:

The Man Who Would Be Queen (2004)

A 2003 Lambda Literary event in Provincetown listed J. Michael Bailey as a scheduled participant:

Gail Leondar Wright, Moderator; Toni Amato, J. Michael Bailey, Kate Bornstein, Leslie Feinberg, Gordene McKenzie, Nancy Nangeroni, Riki Wilchins

I contacted Gail Leondar-Wright, who stated this was cleared up and Bailey was disinvited.

The following year, Bailey’s book was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award on February 2, 2004 in the transgender/genderqueer category (LLF 2004a). Executive Director Jim Marks defended the decision for several weeks (Nangeroni 2004a), until LLF judges took the unprecedented step of withdrawing the nomination on 12 March (Seely 2004). 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 2004a)

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 made no mention of the matter (LLF 2005b).

Key dates

  • February 2: Nomination announcement and immediate criticism (Grubb 2004)
  • February 9: Marks defends the decision on GenderTalk. (Nangeroni 2004a)
  • February 13: Marks announces that LLF is revisiting the nomination.
  • February 24: LLF announced the committee would keep it on their list: “Bailey has not set out to intentionally do harm to gay men and transsexuals.” (Marks 2004b)
  • February 29: A protest petition passed 1,000 signatures in its first few days, ending at over 1,400. (Burns 2004).
  • March 12: Selection committee withdrew nomination (see full text below).

Revocation announcement

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. (LLF 2004c)

People involved

The key official and the 2003 selection committee are listed below. Many were not involved in the selection process. (MacCubbin 2004) Jim Marks said The Man Who Would Be Queen “was added to the list by a member of the finalist committee and after the finalist committee had selected it, we went back to the publisher, who paid the nominating fee.” (Marks 2006)

Jane Troxell later responded that “Robert Starner, my co-worker, and I did not vote for Bailey and we even suggested Mariette Pathy Allen’s book instead.” However, Troxell voted not to rescind the nomination, thinking that “would be even worse in the long run.” (Troxell 2004)

Lambda Literary Foundation Executive Director

  • Jim Marks

Selection Committee

  • Larry Bailey (
  • Victoria A. Brownworth (
  • Michelle DiMeo (
  • Pam Harcourt (
  • Richard Labonte (
  • Kris Kleindienst (
  • Sara Look (
  • Retha Powers (
  • Philip Rafshoon (
  • David Rosen (
  • Richard Schneider, Jr. (
  • Robert Starner (
  • Martha Stone (
  • Jane Troxell (
  • Kurt Weber (

Victoria Brownworth was a key figure in the nomination and defense: “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.”

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.

In July 2004, Kris Kleindienst wrote with this addendum:

For the record, the whole Lammy thing was a terrible ordeal, one which took up a month of my time, aside from normal judging duties, in intense engagement with some members of the finalist committee and Jim Marks. I am not paid for this pleasure, in fact I have to pay for the privilege of attending the awards ceremony. (I did not attend this year.) I could have easily chosen not to deal with it, there are no real consequences for simply not responding to an email from the Lambda Literary Foundation. But in fact, I was sickened by the thought that this book could have gotten this far –more by inattention and ignorance than for any malicious reason–I was unaware it was even being considered until the finalists were made public. My FtM partner and I had some very hard conversations about what to do. Hopefully, the final outcome has started a process that is long overdue at the Lammies, one of really putting the T in LGBT.

Flaws in the process

The entire process is in the service of commerce, much like the same problem with the review process at Books are nominated by the publishers and chosen by a group of booksellers in a symbiotic marketing relationship. Books are chosen more by buzz than by literary merit, which works to the benefit of a book like Bailey’s which uses controversy as a marketing tool.

Jennifer Finney Boylan, the eventual 2003 Lambda Literary Award winner in the trans category, was not even notified of being nominated, suggesting that the process is not about the awards and authors but about the sales. It also came out that the committees involved in the decision had no representation from the transgender community, which explains how they were unaware that the vast majority of the community found the book defamatory and irresponsible.

2005: Marks ousted, building sold, publications ceased, website deleted

In June 2005, Marks was ousted as Executive Director, a position Marks had 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 the 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 that lasted for a couple of years. A new site at went live at the end of 2005, announcing “Welcome to the New Lambda Literary Foundation.” Any mention of the Bailey debacle was gone from the new site. In January 2006, new LLF Executive Director Charles Flowers reportedly initiated a complete overhaul of Lambda’s process.

The 2004 incident has become a centerpiece of Bailey’s evidence that the book was well-received. After the New York TimesBenedict Carey wrote a piece citing Bailey’s version of the LLF incident and omitting the revocation (Carey 2007), Flowers moved to set the record straight (Flowers 2007):

To the New York Times,

In your recent article on J. Michael Bailey and his book, The Man Who Would Be Queen (“Criticism of a Gender Theory, and Scientist Under Siege” by Benedict Carey, August 21, 2007), your journalist reported, “The Lambda Literary Foundation, an organization that promotes gay, bisexual, and transgender literature, nominated the book for an award.”

Mr. Carey failed to disclose that the Foundation later withdrew the award nomination in response to our judges’ assessment of the book, which they ultimately considered transphobic and inappropriate for a Lambda Literary award.

Further, the Bailey incident revealed flaws in our awards nomination process, which I have completely overhauled since becoming the foundation’s executive director in January 2006. Any book with LGBT content may be nominated by its publisher or its author, but the selection of the book as a finalist for an award is in the hands of the category’s judges. Trans writers now serve as judges in our awards process (both in the Transgender category as well as other categories), so that a book such as Bailey’s could be nominated for an award by the author/publisher but not selected as a finalist or recipient by the judges. In addition, we have expanded many of our categories by dropping the “gay” and “lesbian” designation, in favor of “men’s” and “women’s,” to better represent and embrace the literature of bisexual and transgender writers.

Our judges spoke for the foundation in 2004 when they withdrew Bailey’s book from consideration of a Lambda Literary Award, and the foundation’s position remains the same. With the help of the transgender community, we have improved the integrity of our awards, by making them more inclusive and our methods more transparent.

Charles Flowers
Executive Director
Lambda Literary Foundation

Galileo’s Middle Finger (2016)

In 2006, after failing to stop me from speaking at Northwestern University, historian Alice Dreger published a lengthy revisionist history defending J. Michael Bailey in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Dreger sent a pre-publication draft to Benedict Carey at the New York Times, hoping to get coverage during a sexology convention. Carey had written several pieces presenting Bailey as a legitimate academic, and Carey’s piece left anti-trans activists “elated.”

Dreger’s article was republished in the 2015 book Galileo’s Middle Finger with some revisions, including Dreger’s further laundering of the Danny Ryan hoax that frames Bailey’s book.

The following year, Lambda Literary nominated Dreger’s book for a Lambda Literary Award. Dreger attempted to build a campaign of support. Unlike the previous controversy, leaders took the error very seriously and quickly rescinded the nomination.

On March 22, anti-trans activist Jesse Singal published the letter that Dreger received from Lambda Literary Executive Director Tony Valenzuela rescinding the nomination:

@LambdaLiterary has withdrawn @AliceDreger’s book from consideration for its nonfiction literary award. The (very strongly) implied message here is that you can’t simultaneously be an advocate for social justice and care about the principles of truth, accuracy, and fairness in argument. It was a message I heard loud and clear after my Zucker/GIC article, and one that will, in the long run, harm all of us greatly.

Singal (2016)

Dreger wrote an open letter to Valenzuela claiming Valenzuela’s letter was dated March 24 and expressing outrage over the recission:

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. […]

I’m writing in response to your March 24 email informing me that, “After reviewing Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science, the organization has concluded the book is inconsistent with its mission of affirming LGBTQ lives. As a result, the decision was made to rescind the nomination for a 2016 Lambda Literary Award in the LGBT Nonfiction category.” […]

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.

Brynn Tannhill wrote in The Advocate:

Dreger endorses and actively promotes the theories in Bailey’s book. She opposes the affirming model of therapy for transgender youth. She supports psychiatrists who use coercive behavior modification on children to prevent them from growing up to be transgender. She urges transgender people to simply accept or embrace living in a society in which they cannot transition, rather than building a more open and affirming society. Finally, Dreger has also publicly opposed laws banning reparative therapy if they include gender identity.

Dreger uses scare tactics on LGB people to convince them that transgender people and affirming therapists are “forcing” innocent gay and lesbian children into being transgender. Anti-transgender splinter groups from the LGBT commnity use Dreger’s fear-mongering as a rationale for why LGB people should abandon transgender people to their fates.

Tannehill (2016)


Tannehill, Brynn (March 30, 2016). Lambda Literary Foundation Snuffs Out Anti-Trans Scandal. The Advocate

Beyer, Dana (March 22, 2016). The Lambda Literary Foundation Trips but Rights Itself Quickly and With Dignity. HuffPost

Dreger, Alice (March 24, 2016). An Open Letter to the Lambda Literary Foundation.

  • See also this letter from Bruce Henderson

Bailey JM (2003a). The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism. Joseph Henry Press. [Online version removed February 2006]

Bailey JM (2003b). Interview on KOOP-FM, Austin, TX, May 2003 Originally at [archive]

Burns C and ~ 1,400+ signatories (2004). J Michael Bailey Book Petition. [archive]

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

Chesnut, Saralyn (2003). Report on a J. Michael Bailey Lecture at Emory University8 April. [archive]

Conway, Lynn (2005). The gay and lesbian “Lambda Literary Foundation” disses all transsexual women by nominating Bailey’s book for a GLB’T’ literary award., revision dated 19 July.

Flowers C (2007). Letter to New York Times. 20 September.

Grubb RJ (2004). Lambda Literary awards come under fire: Organization criticized for controversial book finalist. Bay Windows, 12 February. [archive]

Lambda Literary Foundation (2003). LLF website logo and tagline. Retrieved 24 December 2003. [archive]

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

Lambda Literary Foundation (2004b) Man Who Would Be Queen to Remain on Lambda Literary Awards Finalists List. 24 February. [archive]

Lambda Literary Foundation (2004c) Man Who Would Be Queen Announcement. 12 March. [archive]

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

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

  • Note: former website [archive] went offline at the time they closed publications and sold their building, eventually reappearing in 2006 as a text-only site consisting of three pages.

Letellier P (2004a). Group rescinds honor for disputed book. / Network, 16 March. [archive]

Letellier P (2004b). Gay? Trans? Whatever. The Advocate, 27 April. [archive]

Maccubbin D (2004). Letter to Andrea James. 15 March.

Marks J (2004). 16th Annual Lambda Literary Awards Finalists named. Press release dated 2 February. [archive]

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

Nangeroni N,, MacKenzie G (2004a). Jim Marks discusses the LLF nomination. GenderTalk, 9 February. [archive]

  • See also transcript excerpts at

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

  • See also transcript excerpts at

Scanlon, Kyle (2004). Lost in trans-lation: Nomination revoked / How a book award went so wrong. Xtra!, 15 April. [archive]

Schlessinger L (1998). Dr. Laura’s Website, December 8, 1998 archived by [archive]

Schwartz N (2005). Lambda Literary Foundation Announces Major Changes. Bookselling This Week, 16 June. [archive]

Seely C (2004). Gay awards shun trans book: Critics say author propagated stereotypes. Southern Voice, 9 April. [archive]

Smith, Gwen (2004). Awarding transphobia. Bay Area Reporter, 4 March [archive]

Smith R (2005). Lambda Literary loses leader, closes publication. New York Blade, 17 June. [archive]

Szymanski Z (2004). Lambda awards finalist sparks anger. Bay Area Reporter, 4 March

  • Archived by Lynn Conway [archive]

Troxell J (2004). Letter to Andrea James. 19 March.


Lambda Literary Foundation ( [archive]

  • Bailey Action [archive]
  • Resources for the debate over The Man Who Would Be Queen [archive]
  • [includes materials by J. Michael Bailey, Stephen Mautner, Vernon Rosario, Lynn Conway, Andrea James, and Willow Arune]
    • Professor Bailey’s web site (includes text of The Man Who…) [archive]
    • Open Letter from the Joseph Henry Press [archive]
    • Review of The Man Who Would Be Queen by Vernon Rosario [archive]
    • Lynn Conway Investigation [archive]
    • TS Roadmap [archive]
    • Psychology of Gender Identity and Transgenderism [archive]
    • Autogynephilia Transgender Support Group [Willow Arune trolling group banned by Yahoo]
    • Transgender Essay on behalf of The Man who.. [archive] [Willow Arune’s “I AM ARUNE!”]

Lambda Literary (

Lambda Literary Review (

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