Recently, The Antioch Review published an article titled " The Sacred Androgen." Besides being pedantic, pompous, and devoid of actual references, it is essentially a list of every anti-transgender stereotype and right-wing talking point out there. These tropes, lies, and concern-troll-"I'm just asking the question"-style suggestions include:
-Transgender women are caricatures of "real" women
-Reparative therapy is the best option for transgender people
-Trans women attracted to men are just self-hating gay men who want to sleep with heterosexual men.
-Bisexual and lesbian transgender women are sex obsessed fetishists
-All trans women are all completely driven by their uncontrollable sexual urges
-Trans women aren't women
-Affirming therapists are forcing children into becoming transgender
-Almost all transgender children will turn out gay
-Uses the 41% suicide attempt rate figure used as "proof" that transgender people should be discouraged from transitioning
-Claims transgender people generally regret transitioning
-Most trans women are "unconvincing" fakes
-Transgender identities are a delusion requiring psychotherapy to cure
-Transgender people are pathetic, ugly, disgusting, and loathsome
-"Normal" people shouldn't have to play along with the "delusion"
Most of the author's "insights" come from his experiences as a drag queen sleeping with straight men and interactions with people who may or may not have actually been transgender in a chat room almost 20 years ago.
The Antioch Review has rightly been called out for publishing such a offensive, poorly written, researched, and edited (it's Piers Morgan, not Pierce Morgan) piece by literally thousands of scholars and writers, including many faculty members at Antioch College. The Review's response could basically be summarized as, "academic freedom, bitches."
If the editorial staff, led by Robert Fogarty, had done their homework, they would have realized that just about every talking point in the article comes straight from the Family Research Council's manifesto on transgender people, which includes a five point plan to "morally" legislate transgender people out of existence. Essentially, the recipient of a 2010 National Endowment for the Arts grant re-stated and endorsed the positions of a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group.*
Apparently, "academic freedom" includes advocating for cultural genocide. What they published was no better than an article re-stating Stormfront's opinions on why the Holocaust was a hoax, or reiterating the Klan's positions on segregation.
No one looks back at atrocities and says, "at least we upheld academic freedom in the process." This isn't about academic freedom, unless "Academic freedom" then apparently includes debating the human dignity, worth, and right to exist of minorities, without them actually being present while their fate is decided.
Or, if that's not what academic freedom means, then this is about two deeply transphobic people deciding they wanted to do their part to ensure transgender people are morally and legally forced to self-deport back to the closet.
Which brings me to the personal consequences of transphobia, cloaked in academic freedom and mid-Western nice. I lived only five miles from Antioch College for the past decade. The town it is in (Yellow Springs, OH) is supposedly the most liberal in the state.
And yet, my time in Ohio as an out transgender person was a lonely, soul-crushing hell.
When I came out at work, they consulted their lawyers, determined they couldn't unilaterally yank my contract, and instead put me at window seat in a corner to rot for three years with nearly zero workload. I was either ignored, or looked at like something the cat vomited onto the rug. I spent those three years sending out literally hundreds of résumés, to no avail. People like those at the FRC, Mr. Harris and Fogarty have convinced employers in places like Ohio that transgender people are disgusting, disruptive, ugly, sex-addicted fakes.
There was no real queer community in the area to cushion the blow; the next closest transgender person to me was a 50-minute drive away. I was mostly ignored in the cisgender community, in that Midwestern-nice style. I came to believe that this is the best a transgender person could hope for, because the views of people like Fogarty and Harris prevailed.
I tried local and state LGBT activism, but was mostly tokenized, while organizations dominated by white gay men like Mr. Harris tried to use me to prove their organizations were transgender inclusive. Meanwhile, actual effort on trans issues was non-existent. When I resigned, it was a relief.
In 2013, my spouse declared she wasn't a lesbian, and our marriage became a platonic one. Messages promulgated by people like Mr. Harris that transgender women are vile caricatures too disgusting to be respected as human beings, much less loved by anyone or anything, were omnipresent.
That's why twice in that year I came close to suicide.
In 2014, I decided that getting out of Ohio was my only hope of surviving, both mentally and physically. I started applying for jobs in more queer friendly places. It didn't matter if the job paid a third of what I made and would financially destroy me and my family, it was still better than the isolated, hopeless, stagnant pseudo-existence found in Xenia, Ohio.
When I did find a job, it was someplace that's actually progressive and values people for what they can produce, rather than surrounded by people like Harris and Fogarty who can barely hide their disgust and disdain at my mere existence. It was a revelation to be somewhere with community, and co-workers who weren't just being "Midwestern nice."
If I ever considered returning to Ohio, it would mean I have lost both my self-respect, and my will to live. People like Messrs. Fogarty and Harris are cowards: instead of doing us in yourselves, you do everything you can make us self-deport to the closet or die by our own hands. I chose neither. I chose to leave, to get the hell away from people like you no matter the cost, and it saved me and my family.
So, Messrs. Fogarty and Harris, you want to know why transgender people have such startling suicide statistics?
It's because we live surrounded by people like you.
*NOTE: This post has been updated to clarify that the NEA has not given grant money to the Antioch Review since 2010. An NEA spokesperson confirmed that they have requested the removal of their logo from parts of the Antioch Review website not directly funded by the NEA.
Correction: An earlier version of this blog referenced Antioch University instead of Antioch College. This has been corrected.