A while back I was invited to go on a video podcast to talk about evolution. I agreed and was fully prepared to talk only about evolution, as requested. Then the host, whom I won’t name, had a family emergency and had to cancel the podcast. There was no mention about rescheduling the show for a later date.
After a few weeks, a reader asked me about the podcast, which I’d mentioned before, so I wrote the host inquiring about it, asking whether we could reschedule. In the reply was this, which shocked me down to my soles:
Since our last message, I have been advised that our Q&A would unfortunately not likely remain focused on evolution so much as on recent comments from yourself regarding the trans community. This being a live show, that would be unavoidable. I am not comfortable speaking for groups to which I do not belong, especially not on a topic where I, like you, have no formal education or experience. Though I do have close relatives on both sides of my family, as well as dear friends who are trans. I will support them (like the activist I have always been) against our State legislators who have begun targeting their own constituents. ‘Muricah!I have always admired your voice as an advocate of evolution, but other fields of science overlap human rights issues where you and I disagree, and this would inevitably come up. That is not the show that I had hoped to have.
I responded politely, pointing out that I have never been a transphobe but have questioned the “rights” of trans women to occupy “female spaces,” most particularly women’s athletics. As you know, this view is based on scientific grounds: data showing convincingly that biological men who transition to women during or after puberty retain a significant level of male physiological and morphological traits (greater muscle mass, grip strength, bone strength and density, etc.) that would give them an athletic advantage over biological women. To me that is unfair, which is a moral conclusion drawn from the data. If there were no such advantages, I wouldn’t be at all opposed to trans women competing against biological women.
As you also know if you read here regularly, my only other objection to trans women occupying women’s spaces are places like women’s prisons, shelters for battered women, and rape-counseling centers. That’s as far as I go. And I’ve said a gazillion times, in all other respects I think that trans people, whether they identify as men or women, should have all the rights, respect, and equal treatment by others. I also have no issue with calling people whatever pronouns they like.
If I sound defensive here, I’m really not: I want to point out that this person has clearly no idea of what my views on trans people are, or, if the host does, then we have an honest disagreement which isn’t “transphobic.” And there is some scientific support for my position on sports, at least. Although I wrote a polite response, upon thinking it over I think that what the host wrote is ignorant, offensive, and absurd.
In my response I also reiterated that I wanted to talk only about evolution, not gender issues, and I would certainly not have brought the latter up. I’m not sure whether this podcast takes questions from viewers, but even so the gender issue could easily have been avoided by simply announcing that we’re talking only about evolution. I have no idea why talking about trans issues would have been “unavoidable.”
I’m curious who “advised” this host, but the host should have done their own research. The “advice” was simply bad.
Finally, I am not speaking “for” trans people, but about them, and I know enough, I think, to have an opinion about athletics and other moral issues. This is like saying that we can have no opinion on any issue involving minorities or oppressed people unless we are one of them. It behooves us to listen, of course, but it doesn’t behoove us to turn off our brains.
In the end, I am appalled that this mentality exists. It’s one thing to damn someone as a hater of trans people, but another completely to punish someone—yes, that’s what this person is trying to do—for discussing the athletic and ethical implications of a limited set of trans “rights.”
As for the host, it’s their loss. The result is that people don’t get to hear about evolution simply because I have “wrongthink” on an issue that wouldn’t even have arisen. What a world!
Oh, I should add that I use the word “canceled” above as a bit of hyperbole. A host has the right to boot a guest off their private podcast, even if it’s for things not connected with the topic at hand. But it might as well have been cancelation, because I’m banned for. . . . well, it’s really not clear!