My sister, an avid reader, brought the following excerpt from Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol to my attention. I felt compelled to add my sister’s letter to Dan Brown’s publicity department at the publishing company after the excerpt. It pretty much says it all.
I am continually grateful for the people in my life that have shared what they have learned about gender identity with the world and used their voice when they see an injustice. They may not even know it, but these allies outside of the transgender community are making the difference. If I were to write this letter to Doubleday or Random House perhaps it would not have as much impact. Would they simply see me as a mother of a trans person reacting? Would the words still carry weight? The message needs to reach society, but the reality is that we need more messengers.
Help us. Read the excerpt, share it with a friend or two (or twenty) and let me know what you think. While you are at it let Dan Brown, Doubleday and Random House know what you think. My first inclination was to email firstname.lastname@example.org, but this is what their website said about emails… ”Unfortunately, we cannot forward e-mail to authors, nor can we give out authors’ e-mail or postal addresses. However, you can always contact Random House, Inc. authors by mailing a letter to them in care of their publisher’s publicity department at: 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019 USA”.
The Lost Symbol
“The act of tattooing one’s skin was a transformative declaration of
power, an announcement to the world: I am in control of my own flesh.
The intoxicating feeling of control derived from physical
transformation had addicted millions to flesh-altering practices…
cosmetic surgery, body piercing, bodybuilding and steroids… even
bulimia and transgendering. The human spirit craves mastery over its
To Whom it May Concern;
I began reading The Lost Symbol yesterday. I am an avid Dan Brown fan,
especially due to his methodic research and attention to detail. I
cannot begin to tell you how shocked and disappointed I was to find a
statement at the beginning of Chapter 2 that was so ignorant and so
prejudicial that I had to put down the book and begin making phone
calls. Chapter 2 opens to a person getting a tattoo. As Mr. Brown
discusses the motivation to get the tattoo, he likens the motivation to
steroid use, body building, body piercing and bulimia. I understand
these comparisons and I agree with his supposition that this reflects a
person’s need to conquer and show strength over their body (both in
healthy and unhealthy ways). I was horrified when in that list he also
likened tattooing to “transgendering”. This was so wrong and ignorant
on so many levels that I don’t know where to begin.
To make that comparison one would have to believe that a transgender
person chose to be transgender. That they decided to show mastery
over their body through manipulating their gender. This is so untrue.
As the aunt of a six year old transgender child, I can assure you
there is no choice being made except the one to acknowledge and respect
my niece’s need to be who her brain tells her she is. I am certain that
she, like every other transgender person, did not wake up one day
with the need to master her body. She isn’t even aware of the angst
involved in that endeavor. She grew up always knowing, always in
turmoil, always feeling that we; her family who knew and loved her
best, had no idea who she truly was. She had to come to us and tell us
that she wasn’t a boy, that her name didn’t fit her, that the clothes
she wore and the very pronoun we used to describe her did not match the
person she knew she was. To compare this to the choice to alter your
body is a travesty and a disrespect so fundamental that it takes my
It may well be that Mr. Brown meant to point to the cross dressing or
“drag queen” population which might better fit into his comparison. Yet
for him to make the statement with no thought to his actual
understanding of the words he was using is indefensible. By making that
statement the mainstream population will take it as truth, especially
being that the statement was made by an author known for his meticulous
I have no idea at this point how Mr. Brown could make this right. Every
day, every hour, someone reads that sentence and an opinion is formed
that is prejudicial and uninformed. That person then enters the world
and forms opinions about the transgender population that are harmful,
and in some cases dangerous. My niece and others like her have to live
in this world. They have to tell their families who they are; they have
to face school, church, neighbors and people on the street. They have
to live knowing who they are and having others hate them or disregard
them for their very being. When a popular, well respected author
perpetuates these stereotypes the world feels justified in continuing
to abuse the transgender population. They are making a choice, right?
They could just as easily be “normal”, right? Tell that to my niece.
Tell that to her parents who agonize daily that she may be hurt by the
people who surround her in her daily life.
I hope that you and Mr. Brown take this seriously. I hope that he
understands that he has made a grave mistake and that he needs to find
a way to make it right. I hope that he can see the group of people that
he has hurt with this one small statement, because even though it was a
sentence buried within a long novel; it was a sentence that helps to
form opinions that then motivate people’s actions.
Thank you for your time and consideration in reading this. I hope to
have a response to what I have said, so that I know that serious
thought is being given to this and that some action will be taken.