Professor in Maine demonized for teaching that humans have two sexes; students walk out and demand her suspension

October 1, 2022 • 11:15 am

Several readers alerted me to this tweet, which contains a link to a story in the Bangor (Maine) Daily News (“USM” is the University of Southern Maine).

I thought at first that the students were conflating gender with sex, but no, they apparently see both sex and gender as interchangeable terms that both comprise a spectrum of different types.  Christy Hammer, the professor who was attacked, was teaching a graduate course called “Creating a Positive Learning Environment” in the Extended Teacher Education Program (!). The class is required in the graduate program, and the program must be completed for a student to be certified as a teacher in Maine.

So, for uttering a biological truth that seems unpalatable in today’s climate, the students have accused Hammer of being transphobic and purveying “hate”. A bit of the article:

Nearly two dozen graduate students at the University of Southern Maine are demanding their education professor be replaced after the professor allegedly said only two biological sexes exist.

The students said professor Christy Hammer’s remarks were inaccurate and transphobic.

After all but one student walked out of Hammer’s class on Sept. 14 in protest, they demanded a facilitated restorative justice meeting between the 22 students and their professor.

They got it, but, according to students, Hammer maintained her position saying non-binary biological sex designations are merely variations on male and female. Now they want Hammer gone.

Biologists believe there is a larger spectrum to sex than just the male-female binary

No we don’t, not in most animals. And check the link: it goes, of course, to a Scientific American article that argues, because of the rare existence of people with disorders of sex development, clinically defined intersex, or chromosome loss, that “sex is a spectrum.” But none of these individuals aren’t considered members of a different sex—not as biologists define it in animal species, where it’s based on whether your gametes are big and immobile (eggs) or small and motile (sperm). Certainly in humans there are just two sexes, though a variety of genders.

But the students insist, along with Scientific American, that “sex is a spectrum”.  One student who particularly objected identifies as “non-binary”, but that’s not a sex. The student is either biologically male or female and has a gender identity of “nonbinary”. The student is mentioned in the article:

I want her to do some diversity training at least — or just retire,” said student Elizabeth Leibiger, who plans to become a high school English teacher.

According to several students, the situation began Sept. 7 while Hammer was teaching a graduate course in the Extended Teacher Education Program titled “Creating a Positive Learning Environment.”

The class is required to complete the graduate program and become a certified teacher in Maine.

During the session at Bailey Hall on the Gorham campus, a free-for-all discussion erupted over both social gender and biological sex identifications, with one student and Hammer saying they believed only male and female biological sexes exist.

The rest of the class maintained both biological sexes and social genders are on a spectrum.

The heated discussion was not resolved before the end of the class period.

Leibiger, who is non-binary, was absent from class that week but learned about the incident from classmates. When Leibiger arrived for the next class, on Sept. 14, they immediately brought up the discussion again.

“I asked [Hammer] how many sexes there were,” Leibiger said. “She said, ‘Two.’ I felt under personal attack.”

Leibiger then gathered their things and walked out of class because they no longer felt respected.

The students, in other words, are trying to rewrite biology to fit their ideology.

The students have reported Hammer’s remarks to the administration, and if anyone knew any biology here, this would just blow over. But it didn’t, and Provost Adam Tuchinsky says “it’s taking steps to provide students with the support needed.”  This is fragility taken to its maximum.  Anyway, there was a meeting, and some “resolution” was worked out (see below):

The students then drafted a letter to the school of Education and Human Development, asking for a facilitated restorative justice meeting with their professor and the single student who agreed with her.

“We thought she was just speaking from a place of ignorance, not hate,” Leibiger said.

The meeting took place Wednesday, and the sole student who had disagreed reportedly apologized to classmates. But Hammer maintained her position on the binary nature of sex.

“I went in very optimistic, but at the end of the three hour session it felt like we weren’t listened to,” said [student Michael] Lombardi, who plans to teach high school science.

I hope Lombardi doesn’t plan to teach biology! I don’t think I need to harp agaub on the way that scientific facts deemed politically inconvenient are being rejected, or scientific definitions rewritten so they comport with the au courant ideology. This article shows what we’ve come to: students demand “restorative justice” and even resignation of a teacher who simply says what is universally accepted by biologists about humans.

Channel 23 (a Fox) channel in Maine adds two items. First, quotes from two other students:

“I believe that everyone should be accepted based on their identity,” Petersen said. “And I think the professor was in the wrong for invalidating her own students.”

Invalidating? How?

“It’s just not something you say out loud, especially with the current environment and stuff like that,” USM student Jalen Charles said. “It’s something you should really keep to yourself.”

That is, keep the truth to yourself. It’s this kind of stuff that we call “chilling of speech” or, to franker, “censorhip.”

The Channel 23 piece also implies that something has been done to placate the students:

Two students in the class say they’ve reached a solution with USM that all the students are satisfied with, though they’re not releasing details.

I don’t know what that solution is, but it’s not one that I think biologists (or true liberals) would like. It has to involve penalizing the professor in some way: either through making her apology, allowing the students to avoid her class but still get credit, or something else.

If the students really object to what Professor Hammer said, they should go over to Wikipedia and look up “Gonochorism“. There they’ll find this. Bolding is mine:

In biology, gonochorism is a sexual system where there are only two sexes and each individual organism is either male or female. The term gonochorism is usually applied in animal species, the vast majority of which are gonochoric.

Humans are one member of that “vast majority” of animal species.

Now I’m wondering if my posting this will instigate a big fight on Wikipedia that will change the definition, so I’ll put a screenshot below, just in case (click to enlarge).

The next paragraph of the Wikipedia article (below) mentions hermaphrodites, many of which also can come in two sexes (like the famous and oft-cited clownfish—which, as a sequential hermaphrodite, can change from male to female—but there are still only two sexes. Simultaneous hermaphrodites can be considered as a species that has only one sex incorporating both male and female functions. These are of course rare in animals, but more common in plants. But remember, all the debate is about Homo sapiens.

The next paragraph:

Gonochorism contrasts with simultaneous hermaphroditism but it may be hard to tell if a species is gonochoric or sequentially hermaphroditic. (e.g. Patella ferruginea). However, in gonochoric species individuals remain either male or female throughout their lives. Species that reproduce by thelytokous parthenogenesis and do not have males can still be classified as gonochoric.

Punishing Professor Hammer would be the same thing as saying that Wikipedia—and biologists—are wrong.

75 thoughts on “Professor in Maine demonized for teaching that humans have two sexes; students walk out and demand her suspension

  1. But none of these individuals aren’t considered members of a different sex—not as biologists define it in animal species, where it’s based on whether your gametes are big and immobile (eggs) or small and motile (sperm).

    Do 100% of humans have gametes? Would an individual without gametes be considered a non-person or a non-human?

    1. Or the equipment to make the gametes, which may be too young too old, or have a defect that renders that equipment unable to do what it’s supposed to do. Look, young boys without sperm and postmenopausal women are considered to be male and female respectively.

      I’ve answered this question before and I have a feeling that you’re baiting me.

      1. There was someone here who tried to claim that Klinefelter people were a third sex because they were XXY and infertile, lacking seminiferous tubules. But they are phenotypically male and have fathered children through artificial insemination. So the third sex claim was nonsense.

        This example also shows that phenotype should count except when it is ambiguous and defies immediate resolution at birth. These would be the kids withh ambiguous genitalia. Practically none of these children should be labelled as hermaphrodites—the term is no longer used except for the truly rare mosaics—and even calling them intersex is misleading. All affected individuals are entirely one sex or the other, as you and other biologists correctly define it. For lay purposes, one can say that the individual is either an incompletely masculinized XY boy or an excessively masculinized XX girl.

        My plea for respecting externally visible phenotype is that that is how sex is ascertained for most people. Few of us have had karyotypes done or have had formal examination to verify we have testes or ovaries. If a baby looks like a girl and starts to look like a woman through puberty, she is entitled to be called a female, no matter what might be discovered about her genotype if she needs a diagnosis for, say, infertility.

        The trans activists in this Maine case seem to be saying that a typical boy who grows into a typical man might not really be of the male sex, which is nonsense. Even more nonsensical is that they would hold to this belief even if the man in question had an XY karyotype and produced sperm with flagella, both of which could be demonstrated with simple lab techniques not requiring “faith” in science. (Incomprehensible numbers coming out of scary machines.)

        1. You make good points, but I’d like to draw the distinction between DEFINING sex and RECOGNIZING sex. It’s the same issue with my own field, speciation. We define species as reproductively isolated groups of populations, but we often recognize that isolation by phenotypic differences between populations.

      2. “Would an individual without gametes be considered a non-person or a non-human?”

        That’s the bait. The very rare individuals who have no gonads could be considered neither male nor female but that says nothing about whether those individuals are persons or humans (of course they are both persons & humans).

        Questions like this are an invitation to defend against an accusation of dehumanizing the non-binary student in that story (“I felt under personal attack”). We shouldn’t take the bait.

        I’m in an active group chat with a bunch of other university instructors who teach evolution, genetics, and human history. This is the kind of question from students that we are debating how to stick-handle. Teaching these topics will become fraught if students are willing to throw this kind of bad-faith accusation into a classroom conversation. That’s sad and dangerous for anyone who really cares about this kind of teaching. It’s why I’m over-commenting here (and will stop now).

        1. And people with DSD conditions are sick of being used as some kind of supposed “gotcha” in arguments about whether sex is binary or not.

          They rightly point out that the existence of DSDs is irrelevant to transgender issues since the very vast majority of people who identify as trans do not have them.

        2. The various points here about intersex, Klinefelter, etc. is commonly exploited as an “A-ha! Gotcha!” moment. So in any discussion on the issue of biological sex, it would be good strategy to be to deflate that by being the first bring them up as a way to frame the discussion from the get-go.

        3. Hi Mike — wonder if I can join your chat? I am concerned about this too, once university instructors can be condemned for stating basic scientific facts, it’s all over. I know several other scientists who feel similarly. nickmatzke.ncse@gmail.com

          PS: I signed the petition protesting the Univ. Southern Maine thing: https://www.change.org/p/the-university-of-southern-maine-must-support-professor-christy-hammer-and-biological-fact?recruiter=1193705342&recruited_by_id=7cd63f10-9d8c-11eb-92a3-f9a22f69beda&utm_source=share_petition&utm_campaign=share_for_starters_page&utm_medium=copylink

        4. The liberals have created the environment, you cannot debate topics, and the avoidance of conversation is widespread, coming from family of educators we wanted to talk about everything. Painful at times but discussion was a must.

      3. I really don’t understand why are statements like “sex is a spectrum” not being considered what they are, an utter ignorance, and why are these students, future educators, not being sent back to the books? We are educating not only ignorant, but also dangerous “intellectuals” who are supposed to lead the nation. Why are we so lenient and ready to accept someone’s lack of skill, knowledge and understanding of basic scientific principles as their right to opinion? Just look at the madness that gender ideology is creating: healthy kids sterilized, butchered and made into lifelong patients, women’s rights being neglected and women sports, private spaces, awards, prisons taken over by unscrupulous men.

        Just when I thought it could not get any worse, I read recently in “The Conversation” how women who take testosterone should not have to stop it during pregnancy in order to have a healthy baby, because it would be eugenics to discriminate against children with disabilities due in-utero exposure to testosterone. Imagine if we would tell women to drink during pregnancy because we don’t want to discriminate against babies with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome…

        https://theconversation.com/transgender-men-and-nonbinary-people-are-asked-to-stop-testosterone-therapy-during-pregnancy-but-the-evidence-for-this-guidance-is-still-murky-187672

    2. If the definition of “male/female” is taken as: “having a body plan that is, in evolutionary terms, built around the production of the smaller/larger type of gamete”, then that also covers individuals who are too old or young or whatever to actually produce gametes.

      1. This IS the definition of male and female. Which is why a person with a disorder of sexual development is necessarily still either male or female.

    3. Not sure what your baiting for, but being human has a pretty clear biological definition. Also, those of us who teach this stuff convey that there are three components of sex determination – chromosomal, defined at fertilization; gonadal, defined when the primordial germ cells show up in the genital ridges; and phenotypic, which is dependent on chromosomal and gonadal sex. There are precious few outliers to this clearly binary biological phenomenon. And they are all human.

    4. No, they are simply outside of the binary system of gametes… there is no sex that can partake in sexual reproduction besides male and female.
      If you would define people with these anomalies, you’d say they are humans without the ability to reproduce. In Germany – where I am from – they are able to write in their passport “D” for diverse instead of “M” for male or “W” for female (weiblich). They are biologically outside of the male-female system.

      That is completely different form people that claim to be nonbinary for example.

      The correct definition of woman would also say, “humans that at some time in their life are able to produce large, immobile gametes”, as women only do so after the start of menstruation and until the meno-pause.
      Respectively the same goes for the male definition.

  2. An instructor should be able to present a true idea like “there are only two sexes” and trust her students to respond with open-minded interest. Even if the new idea contradicts the students’ own biases (“sex is a spectrum because clownfish”). If students are likely to respond to a new idea with appeals to authority to get the instructor fired, then instructors will stop offering new ideas to students and will only offer ideas that students already know and that have been pre-approved as orthodox. That’s not an education, it’s just credentialing.

    1. Exactly. If a proposition is demonstrably wrong, then it’s easy to refute with evidence of it being wrong. Censorship happens when people simply don’t like an idea regardless of its veracity, and that’s what’s happening in Maine.

    2. What is breath-takingly shocking here is that firing an instructor would be for things like having an inappropriate relationship with a student. So now I guess that sort of accusation must now be met by jail time.

  3. All we can hope for is that these morons join up in non-binary mating pairs and their so-called “progressive” acts of coitus results in exactly what biology would predict.

  4. You know me, I usually examine the language for this :

    Bicuspid – consisting of two cusps
    Bivalve – consisting of two valves
    Binary – consisting of two numbers, which consist of digits or numerals
    Bisex – consisting of two sexes

    I also found this :

    “In biology, gonochorism is a sexual system where there are only two sexes and each individual organism is either male or female.[1] ”

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonochorism

    … so, I figure we are all bisex.

    Bisexual, I guess is different, sort of.

  5. Let me put in a word for my own group, that of trans-species activists. We demand restorative justice to prevent professors from suggesting that species characteristics are distinct, discrete, and biologically determined. On the contrary, we expect students from now on to be taught that species are fluid, exist in a continuous spectrum, and depend only on self-identification—which can vary with an individual’s inner journey. Today, for example, I identify as a bat-eared fox, but tomorrow I might decide to be a hydrangea bush. If a professor were to belittle either of my claims, I would demand that the professor be subjected to diversity training, as a remedy for that microaggression.

  6. How do we support this prof and others who are attacked by dogmatists, I will go so far as to say bullies. I have been an educator for decades. I have always strongly supported boys and girls who do not fit the destructive steryotypes. But yes, while sex is more complex that we used to think, a lot of the new findings are more hypotheses than theories – interesting but not unquestionably facts. Ideology is not science.

    1. Possibly if members of prestigious academies sent a letter in support of the professor, but what would likely happen is that the students would accuse the academies of being offensive. Ideology won’t be defeated by facts.

      1. I believe the professor under attack would appreciate support from any corner, including those not members of a prestigious academy. As would the general public, who are going to have these ideologues indoctrinating their children. While I disagree with the students anti-science viewpoint, it is their tactics which they will bring into the classroom which I find abhorrent. Any voice speaking up for free speech should be welcomed.

        1. I’ve just sent a brief message to Dr Hammer via her university email address.

          I see from her USM page that she was the recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr., NH state award for anti-racism in schools (2000) and the Bahai Fellowship in NH, Award for prejudice reduction in schools (1997). I doubt that the students calling for her dismissal can claim similar credentials.

          1. Good to hear. I am going to do the same in a week or two when the initial furor dies down. I am certain she is getting hate mail, so plan on letting her know my support. I saw those anti-racism accolades, too.

        2. There is a petition on change.org, google “The University of Southern Maine Must Support Professor Christy Hammer and Biological Fact”

  7. It was bound to happen, given the conceptual starting points. Here’s my own take on it, which of course may not be accurate.

    At first, those who endorsed the existence and primary importance of Gender Identity accepted the sex binary of male and female, but argued that gender (“Often expressed in terms of masculinity and femininity, gender is largely culturally determined and is assumed from the sex assigned at birth.”(Stonewall)) was a spectrum. “Man” and “women” were gender terms. A Gender Identity was a person’s deep internal sense of being a man, woman, both, somewhere in the middle, or neither. Thus, a transwoman was a male who identified as a woman.

    But this reliance on masculinity and femininity wasn’t going to be sufficient to replace sex with gender and allow people to choose which single-sex facilities they could use. Nor did it fit the analogy with homosexuality enough. Gay people didn’t become gay because of social pressures or stereotypes, nor do they merely “identify as” gay. The absolute certainty, significance, and urgency of being trans meant it had to be innate, fixed, and a fundamental aspect of being. You were born that way. And the category of sex had to become arbitrary, undefinable, and unknowable in practice. If gender was a “spectrum,” then sex was even more so.

    And so they were once again blurred together. “Gender” started out as a synonym for “sex.” Then it became a common term representing the cultural assumptions and expectations of masculinity and femininity. Now it flips: “sex” is, for all intents and purposes, a synonym for “gender.”

    When it gets right down to it, gender is personality. It’s an individual’s assessment of how they measure up to sex-related stereotypes and roles — including those which grew up around gender-nonconforming behavior, thereby allowing trans-identified females to identify with effeminate gay men and trans-identified males to consider themselves butch lesbians. This presumably breaks apart sexist stereotypes. Disagreeing with this comes from a desire to enforce them: it’s the hate-filled control of the oppressor.

    When the professor said that there are only two sexes, what the students heard was “there’s only two personalities you can have; if they don’t fit you, you have to change yourself or live your life as a lie.” They reacted accordingly. Wouldn’t you? In my opinion their ignorant, entitled behavior was likely in good part a product of a confused, ultimately toxic conceptual framework.

    1. Very good points, and I agree. The only way I can see to dismantle this framework, as a biologist, is to emphasize what biologists consider to be sex and distinguish it from gender. I’ve been trying to do that, but, judging by some of the nasty emails I get, it hasn’t worked very well.

      1. I think a science- based approach might also focus on dismantling gender and the idea that we “all have one” somewhere on the spectrum which goes from what-a-man-feels-like to what-a-woman-feels-like. That’s not just a different thing than sex; it’s also separated from making much sense.

      2. Imagine if this class was discussing, if the Earth is round, or flat. People are just entitled to believe, what they believe, these days!!! Science be damned!!!

    2. Yes, in the end it’s really about language and meaning. That’s why humanity has gone to great effort to codify word definitions, and education depends on everyone agreeing on those definitions.
      The problem here is that the activists are trying to change the definitions in a confusing manner, which garbles communication and makes dialog impossible.

      1. Language evolves, and there ain’t no stopping it. I don’t think we can win this one, and its a real bummer since we need clear terminology when talking about the biology of sex and reproduction in our species.
        Right now, I believe I can still teach about “male” and “female” and the two sexes in the traditional sense. And if I slant things to hint at political correctness (which I do from time to time to test the waters), I should still get mainly eye-rolls from my students. But I know I need to start thinking about framing the terminology very carefully for protection.

        1. As has been noted elsewhere, it’s not the “natural evolution of language” if you can get fired from your job for not using it.

        2. This is not language evolving. This is people trying to change others perception of reality by policing language and redefining terms and expressions to fit their own political beliefs.
          Even then, it is a tiny but very vocal minority pushing this on us.

          Words such as “male”, “female”, “man”, “woman”, “boy”, “girl”, “father” and “mother” were conceived simply as a means of describing existing categories of people. Differentiating between those categories has been important since the dawn of humanity, and will continue to be, even when we are conquered by damned dirty apes.

          The current fad cannot be sustained in the long term, because it is obvious that it is all based on fantasy, easily shown to be wrong by even casual examination. Volumes will be written on the long term goals of the key individuals pushing the nonsense. I think a lot of people go along because they want to be seen as in with the in crowd, especially since taking a stand against it has costs at present. When the momentum swings a little bit away from the current position, they will quickly drop all the pronouns and such.
          Some folks are just using this as an excuse to confront other people and exercise their existing antisocial tendencies. Those folks are going to drop it all as well, as soon as it stops allowing them to exercise their ugly impulses.
          Neither of those two groups have any actual investment in trans ideology, and will not defend it unless it is to their personal advantage to do so.

          There are medical and mental health professionals who have found a new revenue stream in promoting trans treatments. When the malpractice suits start popping up, they will evaporate as well. We will litigate them until they are penniless and insane, living behind a dumpster somewhere.

          Trans ideology is a house of cards being built outside on a breezy day. As soon as you ease up repairing and building it even a little, it falls apart.
          The Queer Theory cadre do not themselves believe much of what they preach. It is a revolutionary tactic for them.
          The only intelligent people I have encountered who actually believe trans theory are trans people themselves, and they have to put in a lot of mental work to maintain those beliefs, in addition to all the external affirmation they receive.

          1. >We will litigate them . . .

            As a practical hint, the docs may be developing guidelines and best practices to protect themselves from liability, claiming they were hewing to a recognized clinical standard of care. But take heart. Courts (in Canada at least) do not always defer to expert testimony about standard of care. There is nothing to stop the Court from substituting its own standard and finding a tort retrospectively in conduct that met the standard in use at the time. Particularly when children are involved and particularly where the standard seems to offend against common sense or is self-serving.

            You may yet trample out the vintage from the grapes of wrath. Wish you justice.

            1. Every trans parent I know has been carefully keeping records. New practice guidelines are not going to erase what has already been done.

              A key component of the trans/industrial complex is that great effort is taken to keep parents from knowing what is being done to their minor children.
              Admittedly, there are a small number of alternative lifestyle parents who seem to want their kids treated as trans. Most of us have never consented to any of this.
              Minor kids are being prescribed or just handed life changing medications without informing the parents or consulting with the family physician. That means that they are not considering the child’s medical history, or that of the family.
              There are certainly situations where treating kids without the consent of the parents is necessary. If a gravely injured child arrives at the emergency room, treatment should not be delayed while trying to reach the parents.
              The justification being used by the trans advocates is that informing the parents would put the children in imminent danger of abuse or rejection. Once again, there are specific instances where this could be justified. But they are using it without regard to the individual family circumstances.
              It will be hard for the medical professionals in our specific case to justify such a decision under oath, considering the number of LGB persons in our family who are treated just like anyone else, our lack of religion, and our total lack of any history of abuse.

              Also, detransitioning kids are shunned as apostates. Once that dynamic changes, many of the victims themselves will start pushing back.

  8. See Andrew Sullivan on Substack :

    The Gender Identity Of … Eunuchs
    Or dolphins. Looking at the nebulous nihilism of transgenderism.

  9. Please, it’s a tempest in a graduate class in an Education Department. They should all be abolished. The only decent course I took while going through a similar program was outside the department in Linguistics.

    1. Moreover, the institution doesn’t even have a graduate program on how to go about
      teaching education. It is shocking, really, that the Schools of Ed have not set up programs of teaching and research in this vital area of education education.

    2. Sorry I said I would stop overcommenting but could I please gently push back against this “nothing to see here” comment? Something analogous to this is happening to me now. I’m a faculty member in a good STEM department at a mid-tier research university. The details are different but the theme is the same: expression of anodyne statements of fact, denunciation by a student, claims of dehumanizing, and amplification of that person’s outrage by other well-meaning members of the university. These are not rare events, and they don’t just happen in the hothouse environment of Faculties of Education.

      1. First they came for the Lit profs, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Lit prof.
        Then they came for the artists, and I did not speak out—because I was not an artist.
        Then they came for the comedians, and I did not speak out—because I was not a comedian…etc etc
        (Apologize if I’m breaking Godwin’s Law)

      2. Yes, I think we should all be concerned about this trend, and not just on this particular topic. The notion that students can reject any piece of information they don’t like and label the instructor as offensive and causing harm is a great danger to education.

      3. Mike, I completely understand why you feel the need to contribute to these discussions. I don’t think you are commenting too much, we need perspectives from people who are at the coal face regarding these issues. You have my full support and sympathy in dealing with this nonsense, and I doubt very much I could cope in academia these days. It must be extremely stressful to be forced to comply with ideas you don’t, or can’t, believe in. I would find it impossible, and I applaud you for having the fortitude to deal with it all. I wish you the very best, and hope you can ride this out until the current obsession with sex, gender, and taking offense at everything starts to die down again.

    3. I’m sorry that you think this is a trivial issue. I happen to think it epitomizes what’s going on all over the US, and it has nothing to do with education departments. Calling for their abolition is completely irrelevant to the point of my post.

  10. So, here’s an issue. If sex is merely a spectrum, then why do people who feel that they’re assigned to the wrong sex wish to reassign — binary style — into the opposite one.

    1. Yes, there’s never a satisfactory answer to that illogical situation. But then logic is for dead white men… or something.

      1. And, if sex isn’t binary, then how can a person be “non-binary”? They must be just “on the spectrum” (perhaps more truth to that then they’d like to acknowledge).

    2. Because they are not always declaring themselves to be on the other side. Many say they are ‘non-binary’ — neither fully male or female in identity.

  11. These future teachers of children are narrow-minded, uninterested in debate, determined to destroy careers of those they disagree with. They will use whatever spineless administrative processes in the university to purge the academy of non-believers. By “restorative justice” they mean my way or the highway. They expect professors to be fired on demand when they commit blasphemy. Once they, in turn, are responsible for a classroom, they will not tolerate parents- or students- challenging their beliefs. When the public questions the viewpoints being pushed by these teachers, we are told there is nothing to see here, just right- wing talking points and hate talk. They are not fit for a classroom.

    1. Re: “restorative justice”: if someone hits and breaks my nose, does “restorative justice” somehow restore my nose to its former unbroken state? There’s no meaningful restoring. I figure my attacker ought to slap his own face several times to apprehend a feeble notion of his attack on me.

      “Once they, in turn, are responsible for a classroom, they will not tolerate parents- or students- challenging their beliefs.”

      Yeah, well, just let them try to ignore and not tolerate students and parents. (And other teachers for that matter.)

      1. Re: “restorative justice”: if someone hits and breaks my nose, does “restorative justice” somehow restore my nose to its former unbroken state?

        No, and nobody is suggesting that it does. But that’s not the point. The Stoic attitude is that harm only occurs with the victim’s participation. If your nose was broken by accident, you were “hurt”, but not “harmed” in the sense that you think someone did it deliberately. So Restorative Justice seeks to mitigate the harm. And if you don’t want that, then you don’t have to participate.

  12. The ideology claims that sex is at the whim of psychology.

    Yet, one wonders, in the ideology if race is similarly at the whim of paychology. (We remember Rachel Dolezal, I’m sure ).

    Can I claim I feel like a race? After all, we share more genes with the Inuit than bonobos.

    But we know this would not go over well. With race, each of us is required to be only one category in the rainbow flag, which is up to about 10 colors, last time I looked around town.

    /rant

      1. This student-as-customer is a real problem: USM’s slogan is “student focused everyday” when it should be “tuition focused everyday” with the collapse in funding from states. (80% to 30% on average over two generations?) It’s collapsing.

  13. I’ve heard Kathleen Stock on a few podcasts – she seems pretty bright and decent. Not the monster she’s painted as by extremists.
    D.A.
    NYC

    1. Yes, and her thoughtful book Material Girls is well worth a read. Of course, she knows all about cancel culture having been forced out of her professorial role at the University of Sussex.

      1. It’s particularly galling that she, a respected and popular feminist lesbian academic, had to leave the philosophy department because “debating” the issues surrounding trans identities was apparently impermissible.

  14. If you’re non-binary, you’re the first one in your ancestry lineage for at least the last 100 million years. That’s because exactly 50% of your ancestors had a penis, and the other 50% had a vagina.

  15. Wow. What a conversation. In my view, gender and sex are being conflated by the students. This is not surprising, given the muddled use of language by so many on the topic. Anything we can do to reinforce the importance of that fundamental distinction between sex and gender would be very helpful. The poor teacher was not in any way defaming or harming the students. She made the distinction correctly, but was blindsided by students who didn’t recognize it or hadn’t thought about it.

    I leave aside for now the claim by some that sex itself is on a spectrum. That needs to be rejected as well, but probably not at the same time or in the same paragraph where we make the distinction between sex and gender. There are a number of concepts that needs to be teased apart, which is where part of the problem lies.

  16. I tread carefully when teaching two concepts in an undergraduate introductory statistics course involving gender or sex examples.

    One concept is dichotomous (or binary or binomial) variable: a variable that can take on only two possible values when measured or recoded. I explain that a decade ago, it was common in questionnaires for gender to offer only two options, male and female, but today, other options are often presented. I explain that some people will be offended if gender is treated as a dichotomous variable. I ask students to accept that datasets used for assignments have gender coded as either male or female.

    The other concept is the probability of mutually exclusive outcomes. For this, I have used an example emphasizing pregnancy status as a dichotomous variable (either you’re pregnant or you aren’t) and biological sex as a dichotomous variable for reasons explained by Professor Ceiling Cat Emeritus. I talk about the reality of intersex conditions, but how they don’t invalidate treating sex as dichotomous. I then go on to give the example of the probability of randomly selecting a person who is both pregnant and biologically male is zero because being pregnant and being biologically male are mutually exclusive. I explained that, yes, transgender males can be pregnant, but they aren’t biologically male; they have changed their gender, not their biological sex.

    So far, my comments have not elicited any rebellion from my undergraduate students. But I can see how my careful approach could still be risky if I had taken it in graduate courses, where some of my students have had views similar to those of the offended USM graduate students.

  17. Over the last five years, so many of us have been written off as hyperbolic. However, at this point it should be clear to everyone who is not a zealous ideologue: we are in serious trouble.

    What we are seeing is a resurgent identitarian science denial which is in my opinion, far more of dangerous than the religious based identitarian science denial of the past (which had far less power and influence at every level). These people need to be met with the same caliber of organized intellectual resistance.

  18. Thank you for addressing this, Dr. Coyne. I live in Portland, Maine, where the professor is under attack by her students and I have a petition asking the university to support her: https://www.change.org/Support_Facts_and_ProfessorHammer_USM I hope you don’t mind, but the petition quotes you (I put it up before you wrote this piece, so it quotes something you wrote a while back).

    Unfortunately, USM announced today that although they are not firing her, they have created an identical class with a different instructor that students can attend instead, effectively leaving Dr. Hammer in an empty classroom (the one student who didn’t initially walk out has been pressured into apologizing for it).

    1. Thank you for bringing it out to people’s attention on Twitter, Jennifer!

      I don’t think that gender ideologists have thought this through very carefully, both claiming that sex is a spectrum and that one can be the opposite gender of the sex that they are assigned. There are no opposites on a spectrum, are there?

      This idea that sex is not fixed is quite troubling in its implications for the teaching of evolution, isn’t it? What are the antecedents in mammals that we can point to in showing the development of a gender identity that is independent of our body’s sex? Are humans the exceptions in how meiosis works to take the genes from two different types of gametes and make a single zygote? Is there a third gamete that biologists have never seen before?

      Lorenzo Worby has this to say on Helen Dale’s Substack:

      The Incompetent Falsity of Social Theory

      For, by combining genes from each parent, the genetic “die” is thrown again and again. This enables much quicker selection for successful strategies, permitting a much wider range of niches to be discovered, developed, and occupied. Hence the explosion in sexually reproducing species created a dramatic inflection point in our biosphere’s history.

      This is also why we are, reproductively, male and female and only male and female. Any more than two types of gametes would make reproduction too complicated to be sufficiently resilient. Two types of gametes mean two sexes.

      The gametes must meet to mate. So, one gamete must be the “sending” gamete, so self-moving (motile) and hence small. One gamete must be the “receiving” gamete, so not moving (sessile) and large.

      Thus, generally, the male takes less risks in reproduction, so can be more profligate. Conversely, the female is usually taking more risks in reproduction; so has to be more “coy”, more discerning, more choosy.

      Hence also roughly equal numbers of males and females (leaving aside eusocial neuters like worker ants that evolved to help their queen reproduce). For if one sex is much scarcer than the other, then it has a reproductive premium. So, expression of genes by sex will tend towards a 50:50 male-female equilibrium.

      There is no role for spectral sex in evolution, so Occam’s Razor would tend to cut it a multiplicity of sexes; and gender identity really doesn’t seem to be a thing in evolution due to the fact that gender determines social structure.

      Tying the hands of a professor to preclude the teaching of evolution in a way that discusses sex takes the wind out of the sails for teaching evolution at all, doesn’t it?

      1. Yes, it does. Very well said. USM has now responded to this mess by hosting a panel “on the contested concept of sex.” It’s titled “Beyond the Binary” and consists of two transgender activists from the Maine transgender lobby group and three “gender studies” students. No biologists. It’s all completely absurd.

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