ACLU staff attorney calls for censorship of Abigail Shrier’s book on gender dysphoria

November 14, 2020 • 12:15 pm

What’s happened to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a crying shame. And I say this even though I volunteered for them, have been a member on and off, and was the recipient of their largesse when, for no fee, they represented me and four other defendants in a class-action suit about illegal drafting in New York. I went to the ACLU, and their lawyers took the case, arguing successfully in Federal court that we were drafted illegally as conscientious objectors. This freed a couple of thousand men from forced civilian service. I’ve always been deeply grateful for the ACLU’s help.

Although the ACLU is still doing a lot of good legal work defending genuine civil liberties, they’re also getting woke in a way that, to me, deeply compromises their integrity. I’ve done a fair number of posts calling out their dubious stands over the last few years; these include posts bearing these titles (click to see them):

The ACLU backs off defending free speech in favor of promoting social justice

New improved standards proposed for adjudicating sexual misconduct in college; ACLU opposes them for “inappropriately favoring the accused”

The ACLU defends the right of biological men to compete in women’s sports

ACLU continues defending the right of medically untreated men who claim they’re women to compete in women’s sports

ACLU joins lawsuit allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports

What’s especially worrying is the ACLU’s backing off on free speech (the subject of today’s short post); its pushback against one good thing that the Trump administration did: making the Title IX proceedings adjudicating sexual misconduct fairer; and the organization’s big push to defend the “right” of medically untreated biological males to participate in women’s sports. Now of course the ACLU should be defending transgender rights, for every person, regardless of gender status, should enjoy equal rights under the law, and discrimination on the basis of gender is largely illegal. And they’ve done a good job of that (see below).

But the ACLU has also gone a bit off the rails on the transgender issue, arguing that even biological men who haven’t undergone hormone therapy should be allowed to compete in sports against biological women.  As I reported a while back, the ACLU defended two Connecticut people who were born male, identify as female, and, without any hormone therapy or surgery, decided to compete against biological women in track and field. In fact they did compete, and did very well, for Connecticut law mandates that self-identification as a woman is all you need to compete in women’s sports. The ACLU buys into the argument that you’re a woman simply if you claim to be a woman.

But the organization shouldn’t be defending something so manifestly unfair. They’re also making a big push to defend transgender athletes without reservation, despite the notoriously slippery issues involved in defining “men” and “women” for transgender athletes. The standards for competing, as in the Olympics, are subject to much dispute. The ACLU’s view is apparently that a claim itself is all that’s needed to deem you a man or a woman.

And now, to my great sorrow, an ACLU staff lawyer and champion of transgender rights, Chase Strangio, has come out full bore in favor of censorship.  I’m referring to his demanding, as shown in the tweets below, censorship of a book we discussed yesterday: Abigail Shrier’s treatise on gender dysphoria in adolescent and teenage girls, Irreversible Damage.

Although Strangio’s tweets are “protected”, I assume that the two below, reproduced by “Wokal Distance”, are accurate. In the second, he blatantly advocates censorship of Irreversible Damage, “stopping the circulation of the book and these ideas.” How else can that be interpreted as censorship? And “stopping ideas” should not be the business of the ACLU, which has always defended the First Amendment. They should be defending the right of Shrier to publish her book and circulate her ideas, not fight against them. This shows how low the ACLU, at least in the person of Strangio, has fallen. An organization dedicated to defending civil liberties is calling for their suspension when they offend people.

Now Strangio has done great stuff in areas that do comport with the ACLU’s mission. Wikipedia describes two cases:

In October 2019, Strangio was one of the lawyers representing Aimee Stephens, a trans woman who was fired from her job at a funeral home, in the U.S. Supreme Court case R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Strangio and his team won that case, with the conservative Supreme Court ruling 6-3 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protected transgender people from employment discrimination. (The plaintiff was a transgender woman fired from a funeral home.)

Strangio was also on the team that won a similar landmark case.

In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court decided 6–3 in favor of Gerald Bostock, a gay man terminated from his job due to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, in Bostock v. Clayton County. Strangio was one of the lawyers on the case. The case ruled that it is illegal to discriminate in employment on the basis of transgender identity or sexual orientation.

But Stangio’s tweet above isn’t even a case of his deciding between two conflicting rights. There is a right to promulgate your ideas; there is no “right” for the transgender community to be protected from criticism about gender dysphoria and medical intervention in adolescent girls.

Strangio is favoring censorship, pure and simple, and a watering down of First Amendment rights: “stopping circulation of this book.” Is Shrier’s argument so injurious to transgender people, and to society in general, that it cannot be read or heard? I don’t think so.

Remember that the ACLU defended the rights of the American Nazi Party to march through Skokie, Illinois: a Jewish community. Surely that’s more hurtful than Shrier’s book, for the Nazis call for the deportation and death of Jews, while Shrier is merely telling society to examine the cause of an epidemic of gender dyphoria in young girls.  The “unwavering commitment to principle” that the ACLU itself touts in the Skokie case is apparently not shared by Strangio.

Like the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU is damaging its mission by buying into wokeness, and nobody is reining in either of these once-great organizations.  It’s a huge shame.

22 thoughts on “ACLU staff attorney calls for censorship of Abigail Shrier’s book on gender dysphoria

    1. To be fair, it is a tactic used by many who want to change organizations. I joined the Democratic Party of Wisconsin a couple decades ago because I wanted to help change it. Participation is the name of the game.

  1. Strangio’s top tweet is his personal opinion, which he’s got as much right as anyone else to express.

    His bottom tweet — calling for a halt to the circulation of Shrier’s book — is inimical to the very notion of freedom of expression. This is the last right that anyone associated with the ACLU should be attacking, since it is the first right from which all our other freedoms flow.

    1. Indeed. What is the ACLU policy on executives publicly disagreeing with core ACLU goals and principles? I noticed a tweet in the stream saying roughly “tweets represent views of the individual and not the organization” – was that another ACLU official responding?

  2. Very sad to hear about this. Amnesty International is going down a similar route – two of the women they mentioned as the target of Twitter abuse in their 2018 report Toxic Twitter: A Toxic Place for Women have just been tweeting abuse to JK Rowling but somehow Amnesty can’t seem to either defend Rowling’s free speech or condemn her abusers.

    1. According to Private Eye, other organisations formed to defend free speech but unwilling to publicly support JK Rowling include PEN (Rowling gave them a Harry Potter 1st edition in 2013 that sold at auction for £150,000), the Society of Authors (official policy: to oppose in the “strongest terms any attempts to stifle or control the author’s voice whether by censorship, imprisonment, execution, hate speech or inappropriate trolling”), and Index on Censorship.

  3. So, the ACLU in Connecticut defends the right of males who simply say they are female to enter women’s sports competitions. I trust the ACLU will also defend my assertion that I am the rightful Tsar of Russia, and therefore
    have the right to take over the Russian embassy in Washington. On the other hand, tomorrow I might decide that I am not really the Tsar after all, but maybe just Patriarch of the Моско́вский патриарха́т.

  4. As I noted in the previous post about this book, I ordered it as soon as I read the Quillette article. But there seems to be a larger issue that really must be addressed.

    I am a retired physician and have watched with horror as a currently practicing ER physician in my province was hauled up for a complaint about comments he made at the invitation of the CBC about the what he termed “the criminal element” amongst attendees in his ER. Just look at this in the judgement:
    “all physicians enjoy the right to freedom of expression, but that as a regulated health-care professional, physicians are not free to say anything they want in any matter they wish”
    and
    “It will be important for physicians to recognize that the right [to free speech] is not an unbridled one.”

    He had said he did not appreciate people brought into the ER by police doing things like spitting in his face. And now if he wishes to express his dislike he has to remember he has no “unbridled” free speech? I have thought the body that licenses physicians here has grown far too big for its boots, and this simply proves my point. It seems that a perfectly well qualified and competent physician, no matter how caring he or she might be, must refrain from uttering anything other than the party line if they would like to keep their license and livelihood.

  5. In light of this incident and to be consistent, it seems that Stangio is no less obligated to censor high school and university biology, genetics and biochemistry texts and other materials, whether in print or online.

  6. I agree with everything you’ve written here.

    You reminded me of the Connecticut case. The most recent status on it I can find is the Defendants Motion to Dismiss, dated August 21, 2020. If anyone knows the next hearing date, please share.

    Speaking of DeVos, though, the Department of Education ruled in May that the Connecticut policy violates Title IX: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2020/may/28/connecticut-transgender-federal-civil-rights-lawsuit That means that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference could lose federal funding. It’s possible that this ruling could influence the federal lawsuit.

  7. My understanding of how it works is that when an organization hires woke people in any position of authority, the woke will always prioritize their politics over anything else, especially in hiring. Once they get close to a majority, they shift the organization’s goals from whatever they were to primarily promoting wokeness and punishing those perceived to be unwoke.

  8. Oh, shame on them. I wrote them a few weeks ago when one their minions threatened to follow the young man who smirked at a Native American at a protest and said I was no longer a member (though I had not paid dues for some time). I don’t even know what to say here. It’s disgusting

  9. “Is Shrier’s argument so injurious to transgender people, and to society in general, that it cannot be read or heard?”

    It would make n difference if it were. If the right of free speech is not absolute then it isn’t a right and the republic falls.

    1. The right to free speech is not absolute, or at least, it is not absolute without consequences. Do you think an employee of the DoD can speak freely about all the top secret stuff they are doing?

    1. “That tweet didn’t say anything about any action of the ACLU!”

      I look forward to the ACLU formally and unambiguously declaring its position on the matter.

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