The Atlantic has published some of America’s great literary geniuses. Founded in 1857 by esteemed writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Harriet Beecher Stowe, the monthly publication has published the work of Mark Twain, Henry James, and even Martin Luther King, whose “Letter From Birmingham Jail” ran in an 1963 edition.
To that esteemed list, we may now add some guy who called Laverne Cox a man.
National Review columnist Kevin D. Williamson announced on Thursday he would be stepping down to join The Atlantic’s just-announced “Ideas” section, joining writers like Ibram X. Kendi, Annie Lowrey, and Alex Wagner. Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg praised Williamson’s “force of intellect and acuity of insight” in a press release welcoming him to the staff.
“I am very much looking forward to raising a brand new kind of hell,” Williamson wrote in a cryptic farewell post at his now-former publication.
The conservative writernot to be confused with the Kevin Williamson who wrote Screamis most widely known not as a hellraiser but a conservative troll whose 2014 column on Cox was pulled by the Chicago Sun-Times four years ago following national outcry. He referred to the Orange Is the New Black actress as harboring a “delusion” of femaleness in an op-ed frequently misgendering her.
“Regardless of the question of whether he has had his genitals amputated, Cox is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman,” Williamson wrote.
“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,” he continued. “No hormone injection or surgical mutilation is sufficient to change that.”
Ross Murray, then senior director of the GLAAD Media Institute, wrote that Williamson’s editorial was “filled with falsehoods and inaccuracies about gender identity that ignore the expertise of credible medical and psychological health authorities,” calling for the piece to be removed from the Sun-Times’ website.
“His essay is more than an ugly opinion,” Murray claimed, citing current research validating the lived realities of trans people. “It’s factually inaccurate.”
The newspaper retracted the op-ed within days of its publication.
Williamson wrote an extremely similar column published in the National Review a year earlierbut instead singling out Chelsea Manning for ridicule. In a post which (again) misgendered its subject, the author claimed the famed whistleblower “is what he is, and no amount of pronoun play, psychotherapeutic doublespeak, or wishful thinking can make it otherwise.”
“A man who believes he is a woman trapped in a man’s body, no matter the intensity of his feeling, is no such thing,” Williamson continued. “The duty of the medical profession is not to encourage and enable delusions, but to help those who suffer from them to cope with them.
But transgender people aren’t the only individuals that have been targeted by Williamson’s inflammatory remarks.
The right-wing writer alleged in a 2014 Twitter post that abortion should be treated “like any other homicide,” advocating that women who have terminated a pregnancy be hanged for it. He also claimed that the epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuseswhich affect nearly 1 in 5 female university studentsis a “fiction.”
This isn’t the first time The Atlantic has received backlash for the perceived anti-LGBTQ politics of its columnists.
Gay writer Brandon Ambrosino, a Christian, wrote a defense of same-sex marriage opponents in a 2013 op-ed. To the chagrin of many in the queer and trans community, Ambrosinowho has controversially referred to his sexuality as a “choice”he claimed that people who oppose LGBTQ rights don’t necessarily hate LGBTQ people.
“Disagreement is not the same thing as discrimination,” Ambrosino wrote at the time. “Our language ought to reflect that distinction.”
The publication has not responded to criticism over Williamson’s hiring.