By Rebecca Juro and Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com June 03 2014 1:34 PM ET
Trans people and allies are expressing outrage at the publication of an op-ed in the conservative magazine National Review, titled “Laverne Cox Is Not a Woman,” which was also picked up by the Chicago Sun-Times, although the latter publication has now removed the story from its website and issued an apology.
National Review correspondent Kevin D. Williamson, using the Orange Is the New Black star's appearance on the cover of Time magazine as a jumping-off point, writes that transgender people are delusional and that gender confirmation surgery amounts to “genital amputation” and “surgical mutilation.”
He goes on to write, “Regardless of the question of whether he has had his genitals amputated, Cox is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman. Sex is a biological reality, and it is not subordinate to subjective impressions, no matter how intense those impressions are, how sincerely they are held, or how painful they make facing the biological facts of life. No hormone injection or surgical mutilation is sufficient to change that.” The piece was published Friday on the National Review's website and ran over the weekend in the Sun-Times.
Transgender activists and their supporters are decrying Williamson’s assertions as specious, unsupported, and inaccurate. In the Daily Dot, Jen Richards compares Williamson to those who questioned scientific findings that the earth revolves around the sun. “Williamson’s grasp of 'the biological facts of life' is no different than pointing to the rising and setting of the sun as as clear evidence that the earth is the center of the universe,” writes Richards, creator of the trans-positive website WeHappyTrans.com. “Transgender people aren't lies in the face of facts; we're facts that widen the truth. Williamson's audacity to determine what Cox's body means is a worse sin, and the consequences of an attitude so thoroughly rooted in self-serving prejudice are far darker. His essay eerily echoes centuries of white men telling black women what they are. All who value human agency and self-determination should be deeply disturbed by such ideas.”
In a letter that appeared Monday in the Sun-Times, Chicagoan Delia Coleman writes that it “boggles the mind” that “someone’s identity is left to the opinion of others” and that “the Sun-Times reprinted a piece of ignorant bigotry like this.” In a Slate blog post, Mark Joseph Stern writes that Williamson uses “time-honored smear tactics to stoke transphobia.”
“We try to present a range of views on an issue, not only those views we may agree with, but also those we don’t agree with,” he said. “A recent op-ed piece we ran online that was produced by another publication initially struck as provocative. Upon further consideration, we concluded the essay did not include some key facts and its overall tone was not consistent with what we seek to publish. The column failed to acknowledge that the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have deemed transgender-related care medically necessary for transgender people. It failed as well to acknowledge the real and undeniable pain and discrimination felt by transgender people, who suffer from notably higher rates of depression and suicide. We have taken the post down and we apologize for the oversight.”
Shortly afterward, Williamson posted a less-than-concilatory statement on the National Review site, headlined “Speaking of Men Who Have Had Their Testicles Removed.” He said he did acknowledge Cox's suicide attempt, and he attacked the Sun-Times for “gutlessness” and more. He concluded the post by saying, “Tom McNamee et al. are a disgrace to a proud newspaper tradition, and an unhappy reminder that post-operative transsexuals are not the only men who have had their characteristic equipment removed.”