In their Winter 2016 issue, the Antioch Review published Daniel Harris’ “The Sacred Androgen: The Transgender Debate,” an essay that Antioch College’s press release notes “should stir controversy and lead to discussion.” However, as the essay has made its way around literary circles, the response has been an overwhelming condemnation of its transphobic views.
At the time of this writing, AR has released two statements, one on its blog, and one on its website. The latter, written by editor Bob Fogarty, asks writers for “responses, critiques, and letters to the editor regarding the Daniel Harris piece,” as if no such pieces have been written.
Of course, there have been many responses, critiques, and letters to the editor. This, however, isn’t one of them. Instead, I’ve opted to present several by trans writers—their thoughts, their words.
1. Oliver Bendorf’s “Antioch Review: No More Transphobia in the Literary Community”
Framing the existence and realities of trans people in this way — as up for debate — is far from innocently provocative. It’s dangerous, specious, and complicit in the spectrum of violence that trans people face every day in this political climate. Among the many troubles with this piece, we consider this one of the most harmful.
2. Tom Léger’s “Antioch Review transphobia scandal”
This essay takes the reader to “a new level” on the topic of “transgenders” the way Virgil took Dante to a new level of hell.
3. Liz Lilly’s “Annotated Harris”
Someone who has never talked to a trans person might think that. But we’re very open about accepting ourselves as we are.
They will hem and haw about whether Harris’s article actually constitutes “transphobia” – I mean, what does that word even mean? It’s not like Harris was literally beating up trans people or firing them from their jobs while he was writing it!
5. Rachel Williams’ “Daniel Harris’ ‘The Sacred Androgen: The Transgender Debate’ – A Rebuttal”
Harris is basically just regurgitating classic TERF ideology: the idea that if only society was more liberal about gender expression then trans people wouldn’t feel the need to transition and take hormones/get surgery. Harris assumes that if only men were allowed to wear dresses then trans people wouldn’t exist. This is incredibly naive and has been debunked by trans scholars time and time again.
6. Gabrielle Belot’s “On The Antioch Review, Daniel Harris, and Transphobia”
Harris’ essay, in fact, takes the template of an angry member of the majority class railing against the slow successes of a minority group, a template that has appeared many times throughout history. […] As I read through it — itself a struggle, given the impressive arrogance and ignorance Harris has worked into nearly every line — I found myself disturbed by how easily I could imagine my other identity — my being a multiracial woman — under attack in an essay that could read very similarly to his own.
As a transgender author and active member of the literary community, my skin is always being dragged into the game Harris wants to deny he is even playing. My conception of transgender experiences is constantly being informed and re-formed. And I can’t write about the experience of transgender people objectively. The facts hurt me too much.
And for those who are looking for alternatives to AR, try THEM: A Trans Lit Journal, Vetch: A Magazine of Trans Poetry and Poetics, and The Offing’s Trans Issue. And trans writers looking for outlets for their work should check out this list of Opportunities for Trans Writers by Topside Press, as well as their submissions page, which includes a great inventory of LGBT and LGBT-friendly presses.
T.A. Noonan is the author of several books and chapbooks, most recently The Midway Iterations (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2015), Fall (Lucky Bastard Press, 2016), and The Ep[is]odes: a reformulation of Horace (Noctuary Press, 2016). Her work has appeared in LIT, Menacing Hedge, Ninth Letter, Phoebe, Reunion: The Dallas Review, West Wind Review, and others. A weightlifter, artist, and priestess, she is an Associate Editor of Sundress Publications and the Development Director for the Sundress Academy for the Arts.