The Friendly Atheist is not so friendly, damns Richard Dawkins as “transphobic” for comparing transexualism with transracialism

April 13, 2021 • 10:45 am

The Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta, isn’t being very friendly, nor charitable, to Richard Dawkins. This is based on a tweet that Dawkins made comparing “trans-racialism”—as in the case of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who pretended she was black—with transsexualism. Hemant has thus deemed Richard “transphobic” and implicitly demanded that he be removed from the board of directors of the Center For Inquiry (CFI; the Richard Dawkins Foundation is now part of CFI).

Hemant’s headline is misleading and clickbaity, and, more important, he doesn’t reproduce or correct Dawkins’s own explanation issued yesterday. Click on the screenshot below.

Hemant is greatly exercised by Dawkins’s first tweet below.

Now nobody ever claimed that Richard was great in getting his points across in a tweet, which is why he often has to issue subsequent tweets, like the second one above.

Let’s “unpack” the first tweet.  First, many of us know the story of Rachel Dolezal, who pretended for several years that she was black, rising to positions of authority in the Spokane, Washington NAACP. She had felt she was black for many years, attended a historically black college, and then simply told people she was black, adopted a black persona as well as darkening her skin, and was an activist in antiracist causes. Her parents (who had adopted several black children) eventually “outed” Dolezal, and she was fired from her position and has been widely shamed.

I’ve always felt some sympathy for Dolezal because her narrative, at least, does parallel that of transsexual people. I don’t think she was lying to gain anything (indeed, if you assume a black identity, Critical Race Theory tells you that you’re losing your privilege and will be oppressed). Rather, as best I can see, she actually felt that she was more black than white. That’s confirmed by an article in the Guardian, which says this:

As she wipes away the tears, it’s hard not to think that she deserved a little of the humanity she has shown to others. Yet behind the pain is a determination not to be forced from the identity she has embraced.

“I really feel it hasn’t affected it at all because I wasn’t identifying as black in order to make people happy or make people upset or whatever. I wasn’t seeking fame. I was being me,” she says. “Of course, it’s affected me in really practical ways of not having a job. It’s really difficult to navigate public spaces. It’s been incredibly hard for my kids. There have been some real experiences, but one of them is not how I identify changing.”

Far from it. Her answer to her critics is to name her unborn son after Langston Hughes, the African American poet and leader of the Harlem Renaissance.

Yes, race is not sex, but there are parallels between Dolezal’s “race dysphoria” and the “gender dysphoria” of transexual people. In both cases you have a cognitive dissonance that causes psychological pain. In both cases you don’t have a choice about how you feel. The source of the dysphoria may have different origins, like hormonal causes for transsexuals and cultural dissonance in transracialism, but in both cases it manifests itself (if you believe Dolezal, which I do) as profound dissatisfaction with your persona and a desire to assume another identity. To do that when you’re white, you have to lie about being black, for you can’t get surgery or hormone treatment to assume another racial identity. But have some charity: it’s not “pretense” or a “lie” in the usual sense: you’re dong what you must to resolve the psychological pain you feel for feeling a identity different from what biology has vouchsafed you.

The parallel between transgenderism and transracialism was the subject of a big fracas a while back, when in 2017 feminist philosopher Rebecca Tuvel from Rhodes College published an article in Hypatia (“a journal of feminist philosophy”) called “In defense of transracialism“, noting the parallels between transracialists like Dolezal and transsexuals.  Tuvel was excoriated, just as Mehta has excoriated Dawkins, for being transphobic.  But Tuvel’s article was a philosophical one, as she wasn’t even sure that Dolezal’s “transition” was genuine. And Tuvel did say this:

You can read about the article and the upshot here and here. Tuvel was immediately demonized, the journal apologized, vowed to tighten up its review standards, and then the journal’s editor and eight associate editors resigned. But the article is still up, and that is excellent. Such discussion is valuable and should not be suppressed.

What irked people about Tuvel’s piece is that it seemed to them that, despite the parallels, it’s fine to want to change your gender but not at all okay to want to change your race. To me this is a distinction without much of a difference, and the reasons people want to make it a difference speaks powerfully about the hegemony of race above all traits. It’s simply not okay to assume the identity of a black person when you’re born white, even though you’re giving up “privilege”. (It is, however, apparently okay to make the opposite racial transition: the familiar “passing for white”, even though that isn’t based on dysphoria but an attempt to gain social and economic advantage).  Many of us have defended Tuvel’s article, including Russell Blackford and other philosophers.

Hemant, however, doesn’t even mention Tuvel’s article. Instead, he vilifies Dolezal for lying and calls Dawkins a “transphobe”:

In 2015, Dolezal became the subject of controversy when it became public knowledge that her parents were both white. That alone wouldn’t be an issue except that, until that point, she had flat-out lied in public about having a Black parent. She passed herself off, on paper, as Black. She already benefitted from the privilege of being white, but decided it wasn’t enough. When confronted about it, she said she self-identified as Black… and it’s that comment that has made her infamous.

She wasn’t simply vilified for identifying as Black (whatever that means) so much as lying about it to gain some kind of edge in her professional career.

Trans people, on the other hand, aren’t changing genders just for the hell of it. They sure aren’t doing it because it gives them some kind of advantage in society. More to the point: They don’t “choose to identify” as the other gender as if it’s some kind of light switch; they are the other gender. If they undergo surgery or take hormones or request a change on their driver’s license, it’s to correct a mistake, not because they wanted to be another gender on a whim.

So back to Dawkins. He’s comparing a liar, whose lie he passes off as genuine, to trans people, whose truths he dismisses. He’s comparing race to gender, as if they’re the same thing, in a way that allows bigots (including right-wing Christians) to use his words as a weapon against trans people. He also defines trans women as “men [who] choose to identify as women” (and vice versa) when that’s not the case at all.

It’s not merely a question. There’s nothing to “discuss.” It’s transphobic rhetoric — red meat for conservatives — that someone who supposedly values reason should know better than to promote. It’s as if he watched the whole J.K. Rowling debacle and thought I want to get in on that.

This is uncharacteristically unempathic of Hemant, toward both Dawkins and Dolezal.  I don’t think Dolezal was changing racial identity “for the hell of it”; I think she felt she was born in the wrong race and wanted to do something about it. It was not a “whim” or a “light switch.”

And Dawkins did not, as Hemant claims, “deny the basic humanity of transgender people”. Granted, Richard could have used some better language when he said that “some men choose to identify as women”. Though that’s literally true, the word “choice” implies a frivolous decision rather than a psychological imperative. (We have no “free choice” in such matters anyway.) And Richard could have been a tad more sensitive when saying “you will be vilified if you deny that [transexual people] are literally are what they identify as.”  Yes, he’s correct in that statement, but there are nuances here, as we’ve discussed several times on this website. In most ways transssexual people can be regarded as members of the gender they assume, but not in every single way.

At any rate, the idea that Dawkins is denying the humanity of trans people is defused by his “clarifying” tweet, and even without that I don’t see where anyone’s “humanity” was denied. I see a bit of an awkward tweet and a wokeish overreaction by Hemant.

Indeed, Hemant gets so worked up in his post that he almost demands that CFI get rid of Dawkins as a board member (his emphasis):

Here’s a more pressing question: What is the Center for Inquiry going to do about this?

When Donald Trump banned trans people from the military, CFI’s president denounced it by saying “We stand proudly with the transgender community as an ally in the fight for equal treatment.”

Well, the foundation that Dawkins began is now a division of CFI. Dawkins is on CFI’s Board of Directors. In the past, when one of CFI’s affiliates posted a transphobic comment online, the organization acted quickly to take it down and reiterate its support for the trans community.

So what will they do now? Do they stand with Dawkins, who mischaracterizes trans people and suggests that those who reject trans identities are unfairly maligned, or do they stand with trans people?

At this point, they don’t have the luxury of choosing both.

The next-to-last paragraph is a gross mischaracterization of Dawkins’s argument, I think. It is true that people who raise arguments against the acceptance of say, transsexual women as completely identical to biological women are unfairly maligned (viz., J. K. Rowling), and the “unfortunate” word “choice”, which is technically accurate, should be interpreted charitably, not as an attempt to denigrate transsexual people.

These days, a more charitable attitude is needed by many of us, but especially by the censorious Left, which seems gleefully eager to pounce on awkward tweets or even purely innocuous statements and deeds (i.e., wearing Hawaiian shirts!), and then damning the transgressors for good. This kind of reaction will not produce social progress. And it’s sad to see that Hemant, at least in this case, has joined the ranks of the Unempathic Offended.

h/t: Barry

The Skeptic magazine is skeptical about two sexes in humans; a clear thinker sets them straight

April 11, 2021 • 1:15 pm

It seems to be a dirty little secret in biology that most animals, including humans, have two and only two biological sexes. Gender (one’s assumed identity) may fall along a spectrum, but not sex. There are two. Only two. In animals, males make little wriggly little gametes—the sperm. Females make the large immobile gametes—the eggs. It is the capacity to produce one type of gamete or the other that is the biological definition of sex.

But this is a “dirty little secret” because is seems to contravene the view that if gender can take many forms, so can biological sex. In other words, denying the reality of what’s real is seen as politically expedient. And so we see scientific journals, science writers, and scientists themselves deny that there are just two sexes in humans—denying that sex is bimodal. (Yes, there are developmental aberrations and intermediate conditions, but they are vanishingly rare and are not “sexes” in the biological sense: they are the developmental derailing of the two sexes that have been favored by evolution.)

The denial of discrete sexes in humans is an ideological rather than a scientific position. It’s an embarrassment that the Society for the Study of Evolution took this position in an official statement, an embarrassment I highlighted in 2018. Conflating gender and sex, their statement said this:

We, the Council of the Society for the Study of Evolution, strongly oppose attempts by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to claim that there is a biological basis to defining gender as a strictly binary trait (male/female) determined by genitalia at birth. Variation in biological sex and in gendered expression has been well documented in many species, including humans, through hundreds of scientific articles. Such variation is observed at both the genetic level and at the individual level (including hormone levels, secondary sexual characteristics, as well as genital morphology). Moreover, models predict that variation should exist within the categories that HHS proposes as “male” and “female”, indicating that sex should be more accurately viewed as a continuum. Indeed, experiments in other organisms have confirmed that variation in traits associated with sex is more extensive than for many other traits. Beyond the false claim that science backs up a simple binary definition of sex or gender, the lived experience of people clearly demonstrates that the genitalia one is born with do not define one’s identity. Diversity is a hallmark of biological species, including humans.  As a Society, we welcome this diversity and commit to serving and protecting members regardless of their biological sex, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation.

Notice the conflation of “sex” with “gendered expression of sex”, the claim that “sex should be more accurately viewed as a continuum”, and the “false claim that science backs up a simple binary definition of sex”. To a sentient biologist, that statement is “not even wrong” except in a very few species of animal.  The ideological motivation for the statement becomes clear in the last sentence above.

Another scientist, Sarah Hearne, writing in the British magazine The Skeptic (motto: “reason with compassion”), makes the same conflation, and also for ideological rather than scientific reasons. You can read her piece by clicking on the screnshot below.  Fortunately, Hearne’s errors about sex have been corrected by a piece at The Quackometer (see further down).


Hearne, a graduate student in marine ecology, writes popular science well, and she gets off to a good start by showing that the concept of “species” is a bit slippery. There are intermediate cases, cases where we can’t determine whether two populations are species, and asexual groups in which determining “species” is pretty much subjective. (Allen Orr and I discuss this in our technical book Speciation.)

Hearne then goes on to show that the concept of an “individual” also breaks down in some groups, though is pretty easily definable in humans (of course there are rare exceptions, like conjoined twins). But these two episodes are just the prelude for her big point: that biological sex, like species, is an indefinable concept. Her main point is although we can define sex by gamete type, recognizing sex by other characteristics, like presence of breasts, hairiness, and on so, is much more difficult.  Ergo “nature abhors the clean division” of two sexes.

That her argument is political becomes clear at the end of her piece: one’s sex is a social construct, ergo can be declared at will by anyone. And women are oppressed:

One thing nobody is disputing is that recognising women as a group is important. Women face problems that men do not, and men face problems that women do not. Identifying these problems, identifying their causes, and fixing them is key to making the world a better place.

But we should also bear in mind that women aren’t discriminated against because they have vaginas, or breasts, or even because they have babies. Having babies makes it easier to discriminate against us, but the pay gap still exists for childfree women. It goes back to gender – the “socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities” that have led women to be less valued than men in society.

Those social constructions may have had biological roots long ago, but that’s no reason to continue perpetuating them unquestioningly. If someone says they are a woman and are seen by society as a woman then they experience the same socially constructed barriers and stigmas that all women experience to varying degrees.

Yes, but biological males declaring themselves as women become “trans” in the gender sense but not in the biological sense. (I always wonder, if sexes are not discrete, why there are “trans males” and “trans females.”  What is being transited?) A transgender woman is a “gender woman” but not a “biological woman”. This is clarified by Andy Lewis in the Quackometer piece below, which pinpoints Hearne’s fundamental error (the title gives a clue). Click on the screenshot to read it:

Hearne’s mistake, in Lewis’s words:

But Hearne is making a fundamental error here: she is conflating the ontology and epistemology of sex. That is, she is confusing two different sets of questions…

  1. What is a sex? How many sexes are there? And how do we characterise a sex? (the ontology of sex – what exists?)
  2. How do we recognise the sex of an individual? What features indicate sex? (the epistemology of sex – what can we know?)

Hearne starts off well by explaining the universally accepted biological definition of a female as the sex that produces ova. This is where she could have stopped. There is no disagreement here in the peer reviewed biology. But that would have meant her article failed, as unlike the terms “species” and “individual” in biology, the definition of what a sex is is clear cut and defined by reproductive role associated with a gamete type. The sexes are not like species where evolution has produced a myriad of variants over millions of years. The sexes of male and female appear to be a well conserved and stable reproductive strategy that has existed unchanged for between about 500 million and 1.3 billion years. Sex is a stable biological phenomenon, across vast evolutionary time, that we can easily define.

So, to give the impression that “female” is not clear-cut, Hearne switches from ontology to epistemology. We are not supposed to notice this switch. And to be fair, I doubt she realises she is doing it.

Hearne is trying to convince us that although biologists might have a definition of each sex, our knowledge of an individual’s sex may well be unknown because we cannot use the biologists definition in any practicable way in ordinary circumstance. Therefore – tada – “woman” is an unreliable concept.

That’s really all you need to say to refute her claim (remember, we’re dealing with biological sex, not gender). But Lewis has a few more points to make as well. First, what about the “intermediate” conditions that supposedly efface the binary nature of biological sex in humans? Lewis:

A common objection that crops up here are congenital development conditions. The existence of so-called intersex conditions is often seen as an ontological threat to our understanding of sex rather than an epistemological problem. That is, there is a claim that such congenital conditions lead to a need to redefine what a sex is and its characterisation (often expressed as “sex is a spectrum”). Instead it is a medical/biological problem of knowing what sex someone (or a butterfly) is when the usual secondary sex characteristics may be ambiguously formed. No peer reviewed biology paper has ever attempted to characterise sex as some sort of spectrum of possibilities despite absolute convictions about the matter from ideological positions.

That’s true. The non-binary nature of sex in humans appears only in ideological arguments, like that of the Society for the Study of Evolution. The ideological arguments are, as Lewis notes, the main point of Hearne’s piece:

The purpose of such arguments presented here in The Skeptic magazine is for us to be convinced that sex is arbitrary and not objectively knowable and to abandon objective attempts to define terms like male, female, man and woman. It is a textbook example of postmodernist denialism of science, reason and objectivity, using sleight of hand to undermine understanding. Such arguments are now so common and fashionable, even among those educated in medicine and biology, that recently the Endocrine Society in the US felt it needed to publish a position statement on the fact that sex is real, binary and immutable, and that recording sex accurately was vital in healthcare and research as we should not conflate sex and gender.

The rest of the argument presented in the Skeptic article then goes off on the predictable route of defending gender ideology that the only meaningful expression of sex (or gender) is through self-declaration – that you can be a man or woman only meaningfully though “identifying” as either. We are supposed to ignore the inherent incoherence and circularity here as otherwise we would would not be “kind” or, even worse, horrible bigots. We just have to accept that one can be a woman when the word “woman” has been denied any sort of objective meaning.

The denial of binary sex in humans (and many other animals, like my beloved Drosophila), is as irksome to me as it would be for a chemist to hear that the chemical elements are not discrete but form a continuum from hydrogen up to heavy elements: a continuum between copper, silver, and gold so that you can’t identify an atom as one or the other. That’s nonsense, of course, but no more nonsensical than denying the discreteness of biological males and females. The only difference is that there are no ideological implications of recognizing discrete chemical elements.

Gender studies professor has freedom of speech chilled for “transphobia”

March 26, 2021 • 10:15 am

This instance of free-speech suppression has a twist, as the victim is an endowed professor of gender and women’s studies at a public university. She’s Donna M. Hughes, who holds the Eleanor M. and Oscar M. Endowed Chair of Gender and Women’s studies at the University of Rhode Island (URI).  She’s known for her work on human trafficking and sex work, but has now ventured into the minefield of transgender analysis. As Inside Higher Ed (IHE) reports, her university has, while grudgingly affirming her freedom of speech (always guaranteed at state schools), nevertheless done everything it can to demonize her and distance itself from her. Why? Because she feels—as do I—that there are some limits to the rights and privileges of transgender women considered as “women”. That makes Hughes, of course, a “transphobe”.

Click the screenshot to read the piece by Coleen Flaherty.

Hughes was somewhat out of mainstream feminist ideology when she wrote in the past that “there’s a fine line between sex work and sex trafficking and that legalizing prostitution helps only pimps and johns, not sex workers.” But that didn’t get her in nearly as much trouble as her February essay in 4W (a “fourth wave feminist” site), in which she not only called out QAnon, but made an analogy with that group and some of the proponents of the “transsexual women are fully women” view:

The political left is quick to denounce the campaign of disinformation that led to the Capitol riot on January 6. But fake news and harmful politicized beliefs leading to real harm are not solely a right-wing phenomenon. The American political left is increasingly diving headfirst into their own world of lies and fantasy and, unlike in the imaginary world of QAnon, real children are becoming actual victims.

The trans-sex fantasy, the belief that a person can change his or her sex, either from male to female or from female to male, is spreading largely unquestioned among the political left.

The trans-sex fantasy returns us to the question: “What is a woman?”. . .

. . .The trans-sex/“gender identity” ideology challenges same-sex rights, particularly those of women and girls. Interestingly, men and boys have had no attack on their rights. The biological category of sex, particularly women’s sex, is being smashed. Women and girls are expected to give up their places of privacy such as restrooms, locker rooms, and even prison cells. When biological males identify as trans-women, they can compete in women’s and girls’ sports. There are now cases of women being injured, some severely, by biologically larger and stronger biological men competing as “transwomen.” In the most well-known case in 2014, a transgender competitor broke the skull (linked video is graphic) of a female during a mixed martial arts (MMA) competition. In Fall 2020, World Rugby banned the participation of transwomen (biological males) in rugby citing the high risk of injury. Even Title IX, which granted women equal access to educational opportunities, such as those provided by sports and scholarships, are being taken away. It used to be when someone took unfair advantage, we’d call it cheating, but that is no longer recognized in this fantasy world.

The dystopian trans-sex/“gender identity” world claims that female mammalian characteristics should be redefined and disappeared from the female body to satisfy the feelings of biological males who identify as women. Basic biological words like breast and vagina are replaced by misogynistic, trans-sex/trans-gender language so that a female has a “front hole” instead of a vagina; females “chest feed” instead of breastfeed. All references to women disappear into terms such: “people who menstruate,” “people with uteruses,” “a pregnant person,” or “a birthing parent.” No such changes in terms are proposed for men’s bodies and anatomy. These redefinitions are hatred targeted at women’s bodies and their rights.

Strong stuff, but not irrational or hateful stuff. Nevertheless, that can’t be allowed to stand in a liberal university! And so, as IHE reports, the University of Rhode Island has issued the usual statement that criticizes the views of a faculty member while at the same time saying that it “honors and respects” her right of freedom of speech. That’s a form of hypocrisy. A good free-speech university, like the University of Chicago is at present, affirms that it will make no official statement supporting political, ideological, or moral views, and in response to the mob that’s descending on Hughes, would have said something like “Professor Hughes has the right to say whatever she wants, and the University supports that right.”

But URI has to flaunt its virtue, and so issued the statement below:

I find this statement weaselly to the extreme. While it’s entirely proper for the URI to have a page of resources and policies for supporting transgender students, faculty, or staff, it should not issue statements criticizing individual faculty members’ political views. (They even name Hughes!). What that does, as Hughes claims in the article, is to chill the speech of those who hold similar views, and it’s not at all “transphobic” to want a rational discussion about the extent to which transgender women (or men) are identical to biological women (or men). In other words, URI’s statement acts to squelch the speech of others—and they are many—who want a public discussion of the issue, and a discussion without being demonized as a “transphobe.”  This is why the University of Chicago enshrined in the Kalven Report the principle of not officially endorsing political/ideological/moral views. (Faculty members and others, of course, are free to issue their own personal statements on the issue.) Imagine how brave you’d have to be to risk being named as a public enemy by your own university!

It’s no wonder that Hughes takes this as an affront. It’s a blatant attempt to stifle the speech of URI members who have views different from those of extreme pro-trans-rights people.  The statement below says, in effect, that “Hughes can say what she wants, but she really shouldn’t have said this stuff”:

A faculty member’s First Amendment and academic freedom rights are not boundless, however, and should be exercised responsibly with due regard for the faculty member’s other obligations, including their obligations to the University’s students and the University community. As stated in the above referenced documents, faculty have a special obligation to show due respect for the opinions of others and to “exercise critical self-discipline and judgment” and “appropriate restraint” in transmitting their personal opinions.

In other words, her own University is calling Hughes irresponsible and disrespectful of the opinions of others, lacking “critical self-discipline and judgment” and “appropriate restraint”. If that’s not an attempt to stifle speech that’s not ideologically approved, I don’t know what is.

I could go on, but you can read the articles for yourself. Let me just add that Hughes has a lawyer, which means that a free-speech/academic freedom lawsuit may be in the offing. While the University may have had the right to publicly criticize Hughes’s views, and even name her, any respectable institution wouldn’t have done that, nor implied in the statement that there are limitations to freedom of speech and academic freedom. I have no respect for what URI has done to Hughes.

And here’s a statement she gave to IHE:

Via email, Hughes said it’s “just sad that we have reached a point in society where difficult issues cannot be freely and openly discussed without resort to personal attacks and calls for censorship.”

The marketplace of ideas, she added, “has broken down and increasingly, university faculty are terrified to speak out on a wide range of important issues for fear that — as seems to be happening here — they will draw criticism from their students and their institution will throw them under the bus.”

Bingo. No academic institution should make its members afraid to express views on political issues, nor try to enforce a political orthodoxy, no matter what it is. They can affirm that they won’t discriminate against various targeted groups (after all, that creates a climate for free discussion), but that’s as far as it should go.

h/t: William

How hormones are sold to children

March 15, 2021 • 9:30 am

A friend sent me this tweet, and it horrified me. I’m assuming it’s real, and the site they link to in another tweet certainly seems real.

Yes, the box uses Japanese anime characters to sell female hormones to young boys with gender dysphoria so they can transition to being transsexual females.

My own view on this is that although I have no objections to people who want medical therapy to change genders, it should be off limits to children and teenagers until they are at least 18 years old.  But in many places in the U.S. and Britain, you can get hormones, puberty blockers, and the like well before you’re 18, so long as you have permission from your parents and medical supervision. In fact, many children (mostly females) start hormone therapy (and “gender affirmation therapy”) at about 13.  Others who can’t decide take hormone blockers to halt the onset of puberty, but those can cause irreversible changes in your morphology and physiology as well, despite claims that the blockers are completely reversible.

At least according to Abigail Shrier, a not insignificant proportion of females who start transitioning early may change their minds, but transitioning is not reversible and there is strong social pressure to keep on that path. This makes it critically important to ensure that someone making this decision is doing so in full light of the consequences, and I certainly wouldn’t think that adolescents as young as 13 could make that decision. The recent huge increase in the frequency of female-to-male transitions may be due in part to social factors (some think, for instance, that these people might be gay but that being a transsexual marks you as much “cooler”), mandating even more caution.

Well, you may disagree with my views on age, but surely you’ll be horrified at how these hormones (shipped from Brazil) are marketed to kids. The sides of the box are shown below:

This is injectable estrogen. “Keep out of reach of parents”. Oy!

“Don’t look at my giant Girldick.” Double Oy!

More anime:

The site that sells this stuff is called Otokonoko Pharmaceuticals, which has a Japanese name but apparently is in Brazil, judging from the country code of their phone number as well as their ad (below).

Note that you have to use PayPal or cryptocurrency (Bitcoin) to buy this stuff. I don’t know if kids can use Bitcoin, but if you have a bank account you can use Paypal. Some of these drugs are injectable, so the kids will have to inject themselves or have a friend do it, as this is clearly being done on the sly. (Even reputable clinics, though, sometimes send the patients home with the hormones and syringes.)

More from the website:

You can access the shopping page here. Whatever you want, they have: estradiol (injectable or pills), progesterone, testosterone, and puberty blockers.

How many teenagers avail themselves of this offer? It’s certainly not safe: would you inject yourself with estrogen from Brazil when you know nothing about its concentration, purity, or safety? They need to shut down sites like this pronto.

California may combine boys’ and girls’ clothing/toy sections into one gender-neutral section

March 11, 2021 • 9:30 am

Because of the increasing prevalence of people who don’t identify as male or female, are transgender, or don’t think that children should be socialized towards the “stereotypes” one sex or another, the inevitable has happened. According to WHSV in California, two state lawmakers there have introduced a bill that will eliminate separate “boys” and “girls” sections in stores. This includes toys and clothes, the two biggies. The law is now in a preliminary stage, if passed and signed by the governor, the bill would take effect on January 1, 2024.

Click on the screenshot, which also has a short news video.

An excerpt:

California Assembly Members Evan Low and Cristina Garcia are making a push for gender-neutral retail departments to encourage more tolerance and open-mindedness in parents and children. If big box stores don’t comply, they could face a $1,000 fine.

The bill would apply to departments that sell childcare items, children’s clothing or toys.

“There’s girls who like to play with boy things and boys who like to play with girl things and people who are nonbinary, so why not combine it all?” shopper Carol Schwartz said.

“Let kids play with whatever they want to, and it would also just be easier to find everything if it’s combined into one,” shopper Edith Ismail said.

Low says the bill was inspired by an 8-year-old named Britten who wanted to know why store departments were separated by gender.

“Her bill will help children express themselves freely and without bias. We need to let kids be kids,” he said.

Not having kids, I don’t have much of a dog in this fight.  I just wonder whether, if you have a boy who likes dolls and a girl who likes trucks, you can’t just shop in the other section. I don’t really care.  But what about adult sections? For the very same reasons—with the exception of socialization—you could combine men and women’s clothing into one gender-neutral gemisch. That would be confusing, because women’s sizes are different from men’s, as are the cuts of things like jeans.  I wouldn’t favor that, but the same rationale might hold: a transgender woman who wants to still dress as a man, or someone who identifies as “nonbinary”, might be offended by the separation of clothing sections by sex.

But I wonder if a bill like this could pass anywhere.

h/t: Ben

Biden administration withdraws from lawsuit banning transsexual males from competing in women’s sports

February 26, 2021 • 11:00 am

Here is the obligatory disclaimer: I approve of the Biden administration’s attempt to undo many of the changes or executive orders handed down by the Trump administration: immigration, Covid relief, the damn border wall, equality for people of all genders, and so on. But, relative to the last issue, there’s one thing that the Biden administration just did that deserves criticism.

As reported by NBC News, Biden’s Justice Department, as well as its Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, have withdrawn their support of a federal lawsuit in the state of Connecticut seeking to overturn a state law requiring any high school student who identifies as a women to be allowed to compete in women’s sports. Click on the screenshot to read.

Now we’ve discussed at length the problems with allowing transgender women to compete against biological women, for their strength, muscle, and bone advantage is already largely set right after puberty, and persists even with hormone treatment and surgery. How we deal with medically or surgically treated transgender women is a contentious issue bearing on biology and ethics, and will have to be resolved subjectively.

But that’s not the most debatable part of Connecticut’s law.. The law “requires that all high school students be treated according to their gender identity.” That means that if you identify as a woman, you are a woman and can compete against women, even if you have never undergone medical treatment for “transitioning.” And, as the article reports,

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in school sports and elsewhere. Former president Donald Trump had rolled back protections for transgender people while in office.

Now Trump was clearly catering to his base, and I’m in favor of Biden’s strengthening protections for people of all gender identities. But to me, that “protection” stops when pure biological men who take the identity of women are allowed to compete against biological women. You know what the results will be: the death of women’s sports. Here’s one example from Connecticut; as far as I know, neither Miller nor Yearwood had undergone any form of medical transition, at least when this competition took place:

(From NBC): Bloomfield High School transgender athlete Terry Miller, second from left, wins the final of the 55-meter dash over transgender athlete Andraya Yearwood, far left, and other runners in the Connecticut girls Class S indoor track meet at Hillhouse High School in New Haven on Feb. 7, 2019.Pat Eaton-Robb / AP file

Previously, William Barr had submitted a “statement of interest” in the Connecticut suit, a statement that supported the girls who brought the suit. and said that allowing such competition might violate Title IX’s provision that women should be given equal opportunity in all high-school endeavors. The matter is described this way by The Hill:

The Justice Department’s withdrawal came ahead of a Friday hearing in the case over the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The families of three high school girls sued Connecticut officials in 2020, arguing that allowing transgender athletes to compete in girls’ sports forced athletes “to compete against boys.”

“Forcing them to compete against boys isn’t fair, shatters their dreams, and destroys their athletic opportunities,” an attorney for the plaintiffs, Christiana Holcomb, said last year. “Having separate boys’ and girls’ sports has always been based on biological differences, not what people believe about their gender, because those differences matter for fair competition.”

Former Attorney General William Barr agreed, arguing in court documents at the time that the state’s current policy runs afoul of Title IX, which guarantees girls equal access to sports and other school activities.

Now the government has withdrawn its support, saying simply that “The government has reconsidered the matter.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), of course, is supporting the state, representing Miller and Yearwood, the two athletes shown above, and agreeing with Connecticut’s misguided law.

From NBC:

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said Tuesday he was pleased with the Justice Department’s decision to withdraw Barr’s statement.

“Transgender girls are girls and every woman and girl deserves protection against discrimination. Period,” he said in a statement.

Transgender girls are not girls for purposes of competing against biological girls, especially if they’ve had no medical treatment. Period.

Lest the Pecksniffs descend, I affirm again that the right of anybody to have their gender identity respected and supported by morality and law should hold in almost every area of human endeavor. But there are a few exceptions, and sports is one. Once again, there’s a reason why men’s and women’s sports are kept separate.

Once again, the question of transgender women competing in women’s sports

February 22, 2021 • 12:30 pm

The article in Quillette shown below (click on screenshot) is odd because the author is listed as “Quillette Magazine”, with no indication who did the research and writing. Claire Lehmann? Other people? If it’s a consortium of editors, they should really say so. Nothing is gained by completely anonymous publication.

Nevertheless, it’s an informative and fair piece that does three things: 1.) summarizes data showing that transgender female athletes who compete with biological women have an advantage not overcome by testosterone suppression, 2.) attacks, successfully, the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU’s) new campaign to make transgender females equal to biological females in every respect, including sports, and 3.) proposes one solution to the dilemma of “how do we allow transgender women to compete in sports?” (There is no issue with transgender men, which is part of the article’s solution to the dilemma.)

It also answers the complaint of transgender rights advocates that we shouldn’t be concentrating on women’s sports. I will respond, as I always do, by asserting that the moral and legal rights of every transgender person should be respected, and full equality mandated for all but a few areas. One of those is sports, and the reason why critics like me concentrate on it is not because we’re using sports as a way to denigrate transsexual people or deny them other rights, but simply because transgender activists often insist that the mere claim that one is a woman (or man) makes them so, regardless of whether they’ve had medical intervention. (This is the ACLU’s claim, for instance.) Ergo, anybody who wants to claim that they’re a woman, whether or not they’ve had surgery or hormonal intervention, is a woman and can compete in women’s sports.

And if the ACLU wants to die on that hill, and call people like me “transphobes,” let them, for their ideological insistence applied to all areas will eventually be the death of women’s sports—sports whose autonomy was fought for for years and now codified in Title IX. And if women’s sports die, or are taken over by transgender women, it will be the silence of biological women athletes that brings this about.


Let’s take the last complaint first. It’s expressed here by a social psychologist:

This sounds good at first, but doesn’t deal with the fundamental unfairness that many perceive of biological men (some with surgery or hormone treatments, some not) competing against women whose physiology and morphology make them less liable to win in any physical competition. Further, the Quillette article proposes a solution that sounds workable for refuting the “making you sit in a gender that doesn’t fit you” argument.

First, nobody denies sex differences in sports; if there weren’t any, we wouldn’t have separate women’s and men’s sports. Here’s the performance advantage of biological males over biological females, separated by sport (caption below from a paper I mention below). These are differences between cisgender men and women:

The male performance advantage over females across various selected sporting disciplines. The female level is set to 100%. In sport events with multiple disciplines, the male value has been averaged across disciplines, and the error bars represent the range of the advantage. The metrics were compiled from publicly available sports federation databases and/or tournament/competition records. MTB mountain bike

One solution to these differential shas been the Olympic solution: a biological male can compete in women’s Olympic sports if their serum testosterone levels have been below 10 nanomoles/liter for a year before the competition. This, however, is more or less arbitrary, as this Guardian article below suggests. It reports on a newish study (right below it) showing that testosterone suppression does not remove all the sports advantages of being a biological male.

Click on the screenshot:

The article is based on the paper below in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (free, and free pdf download):

The summary from the Guardian: two years of testosterone suppression didn’t eliminate all the advantages of biological maleness, though it did for pushups and situps (but see caveats below).

However the new study, based on the fitness test results and medical records of 29 trans men and 46 trans women who started gender affirming hormones while in the United States Air Force, appears to challenge the IOC’s scientific position.

The research, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that before starting their hormone treatment trans women performed 31% more push-ups and 15% more sit-ups in one minute on average than a biological women younger than 30 in the air force – and ran 1.5 miles 21% faster.

Yet after suppressing their testosterone for two years – a year longer than IOC guidelines – they were still 12% faster on average than biological females.

The trans women also retained a 10% advantage in push-ups and a 6% advantage in sit-ups for the first two years after taking hormones, before their advantage disappeared. But the researchers say they “may underestimate the advantage in strength that trans women have over cis women … because trans women will have a higher power output than cis women when performing an equivalent number of push-ups”.

On the other hand, trans men, who took testosterone supplements, became equivalent to biological men after two years, except that the trans men did more situps than biological men (this is why biological males aren’t allowed to take testosterone supplements, and highlights one possible difficulty with Quillette’s solution of allowing trans men to compete with biological men in an “open” category).

The paper below, published in Sports Medicine, concludes that even after three years of treatment, transgender women still retain advantages over biological women in nearly every physiological, morphological, and performance test reviewed, and sometimes those advantages were considerable.

We already know that the ACLU, while engaging in its admirable work on civil rights, including transgender rights, has gone off the rails with the latter, insisting that transgender women must be equal to biological women in every respect. This is largely due to the zealotry of the ACLU’s Deputy Director for Transgender Justice, Chase Strangio, who has done good work on trans rights but is a “trans fundamentalist” when it comes to sports.

Here are four claims that the ACLU has made and which Quillette critiques. Every claim is either misleading or wrong. I won’t discuss them (I’ve dealt with some before), as you can read the article:

Relevant to the last one about separate teams, here’s Quillette‘s solution:

One promising option, for instance, would be to preserve the traditionally defined female category while also rebranding the male category as an “open” category that’s available to anyone. This would allow a biologically male trans woman, or someone who is intersex, to test their speed, skill, and strength in a fair competition, while also not forcing them to submit to a designation they may find inaccurate or demeaning. Once overwrought ideological claims about the nature of gender identity are stripped away, in fact, open athletic categories may even provide a forum for real diversity and universal inclusivity, which is the ostensible goal of those demanding that women compete against male bodies.

As they note, this would be opposed by both conservatives and extreme Leftists, but my problem is different: the possibility, which I didn’t realize until I read the papers above, that testosterone supplements, which I think continue over life, may give an advantage to trans men over biological men in some areas.

What we know now is that arbitrary hormone limits, like the IOC’s, aren’t useful in light of data showing that even with testosterone reduction, trans women retain considerable strength, height, and muscle-mass advantages, acquired at puberty, over biological women. Dealing with that is a tough ethical and practical question.

As for transgender rights, all of us agree that with a few narrow exceptions like sports, incarceration, rape counseling, and the like, trans women should be considered the moral and legal equivalents of biological women. The rub is sports, and, as Quillette writes:

The most humane way to help and support transgender people isn’t to pretend that slogans and hashtags will magically transform them into something they’re not. It’s fine to say that “trans women are women,” full stop, as a matter of certain legal entitlements. But biology doesn’t care about what pronouns we use. And trans athletes shouldn’t be encouraged to inhabit a state of denial. There are creative strategies we can implement to invite, and even celebrate, the participation of trans athletes in all sports. But they can be implemented only once we admit the real differences that exist between the two—and only two—sexes.

I won’t go into why sex in humans is binary, as I’ve discussed that many times before. This article reiterates the data.

By the way, Quillette, could you please let us know who the authors of your articles are? Even the New York Times “editorial board” editors are known to the public. “Quillette Magazine” as an author tells us exactly nothing.

A new lexicon for midwives downgrades words involving “women” and “female”

February 11, 2021 • 11:45 am

The policing of language continues apace. This article was originally printed in the Torygraph, but that’s paywalled. Fortunately (?), it was reprinted in Yahoo! News, and you can read it by clicking on the screenshot below:


What has happened is that medical services directed at biological women are changing their lexicon, apparently—though this is not made very clear—because some biological women who identify as men still require the services of gynecologists and obstetricians. Therefore, because transgender men consider themselves men in all respects, any word that implies that these services are directed towards “women” must be changed.

According to the article, the changes, designed to be “gender inclusive”, are limited to Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH) NHS Trust, but believe me, they will spread widely and rapidly. Here are some of the changes (quotes from the article are indented):

First, the Maternity Services Department of Brightton and Sussex has been changed “perinatal services.”


Staff have been told to avoid using the word “mothers” on its own and have been given a list of alternative terms to use when addressing patients including “mothers or birthing parents”, “breast/chestfeeding” and “maternal and parental”.

Instead of saying “breastmilk”, they can choose from “human milk” or “breast/chestmilk” or “milk from the feeding mother or parent”.

I don’t get this at all. Even transmen who use maternity services are likely to have breasts, even if they’ve been reduced by surgery to nipples alone. And if they have no breasts because of removal, then (as far as I know), they couldn’t lactate much anyway, and “chestmilk” becomes superfluous. Or do transmen with breasts object to the simple use of the word “breasts”? I don’t get the “chestmilk” at all, even as an attempt to be more inclusive.

. . . . Other changes include replacing the use of the word “woman” with the phrase “woman or person”, and the term “father” with “parent”, “co-parent” or “second biological parent”, depending on the circumstances.

But women are persons, so why not just say “person”?

If people want to be called “fathers” if they’re transmen who have given birth, I have no objection and would be glad to accommodate them. I don’t know how I feel about those terms being incorporated into the literature, though, so that in every reference to “mother”, they have to say “mothers and fathers”.

The real question is whether an entire grammar should be changed to take care of a very small number of transsexual men who get women’s health care, for apparently about 1% of British adults identify as “transgender or non-binary”. But  I’d suspect that the percentage of transmen seeking ob-gyn services is substantially smaller, since most of the 1% would identify as “non-binary”.   Should the entire lexicon of a hospital be changed to accommodate the <1%? This is a different issue from calling people whatever they want to be called, something I’m in favor of.  It’s an issue of making everyone adhere to a terminology that might offend fewer than 1% of the population. And remember, language changes of this type are far less oppressive than actually discriminating against transsexual people.

There’s also this:

The guidance from BHSU follows a 2017 dictate from the British Medical Association which said pregnant women should not be called “expectant mothers” but “pregnant people” as it could offend intersex and transgender men.

But can’t expectant “mothers” be men, or when you become a transsexual man do you automatically must get offended if you give birth and are called a “mother”? To me, a “mother” is someone who gives birth, but that may not be a general view.

The ethical question here is what percentage of a population has to be offended (and I doubt that all transsexual men would be offended at the present language), before you change the language for everyone. Suppose only 0.1% of British adults were transgender or nonbinary. Would that be sufficient? How about only five or six people?

Clearly, some people like J. K. Rowling are already disturbed at language changes, while at the same time advocating equal rights and respectful use of pronouns for transgender people. From the article:

Telegraph columnist Suzanne Moore – who resigned from The Guardian last year after colleagues criticised the newspaper for publishing “transphobic content” following an article she wrote about sex being a biological classification “not a feeling” – said: “I’m worried that women will lose the capacity or ability to even name our own body parts or our own biology.

“Why must this language be applied to all women who clearly do have breasts and are mothers? Why must the average woman suddenly not be able to call herself a woman or call her breasts breasts? These are biological facts.

Now this is a fracas I don’t know about, but if Moore was really ostracized for saying that sex was a real biological classification—which it is—and not just a “feeling,” then that ostracism is reprehensible. Any biologist with experience of mammals knows that sex is indeed a real biological classification, and is used regularly in those who work with animals. It’s based on a binary of gamete size (it’s not just bimodal or a continuum, for there are no gametes in humans  intermediate between sperm and eggs). All of us need to push back against the idea that “sex” (as opposed to gender) is a biological construct. Gender, yes; sex, no.

As for how we react to expurgated and altered language like “chestmilk,” well, I just don’t know, and I’m not just saying that. It seems to me to depend on what percentage of a population has to be catered to linguistically because they might get offended. Weigh in below.


h/t: Ginger K.

Is “toxic femininity” a major cause of social justice warriorism?

February 2, 2021 • 11:15 am

That’s a provocative headline, but it’s not my view, since social justice warriors don’t seem to me especially slanted towards women. But it seems to be the view, published in Areo magazine (click on screenshot below) of one Freya India Ager, described as “recently graduated from King’s College London with a degree in Political Science. She is now an independent writer interested in politics, psychology and culture.”

The “toxic femininity” term stems, of course, from its opposite: “toxic masculinity”, often been held responsible for many of the world’s ills. I don’t particularly like the term since it implies that all male traits are “toxic,” and as a male I naturally bridle at this accusation.  Yet I can’t deny that there are evolved biological differences between the sexes, and that some evolved traits in males may be detrimental to society. Aggression and male-male competition may be two of them.  Those traits leads to fights, wars, and, in my own university classroom, a tendency of men to dominate discussions, often talking over women. Every woman has experienced that.

Another is a desire for promiscuous sexuality, which leads to higher rates of adultery in males as well as mistreatment of women.  And, in fact, as I write this, I can’t think of any obvious “masculine” traits that are good ones, save, perhaps, a prescriptivity when it comes to solving problems.

On the other hand, male prescriptivity can be detrimental. Every man knows that when a woman comes to you with a problem, often they want you to listen and sympathize rather than solve that problem. That I see as part of the feminine trait of having greater empathy. And I find that salubrious, which is why a large proportion of my best friends are women. Sometimes you just want to talk and experience human connection, for if the answer to a problem were obvious, you would have thought of it already.

In the end, our shared “human” traits, which are present in both sexes to some degree (but not necessarily to the same degree), can be good ones: altruism, kindness, sociality, and so on. Maybe humor—if you believe Hitchens that men are funnier than women. But, truth be told, are there any typically “male” traits that you’d would want to see more of in women?

Ager, however, sees “feminine” traits—including empathy—as sometimes deleterious, especially when, as she sees it, they help ground “social justice culture”. And those traits she sees as the malign influence of “toxic femininity”.

Here’s Ager’s thesis:

But if we are going to describe toxic masculinity as the negative manifestation of male traits, some of our societal problems must be the negative expression of female traits.

Characteristics more common to one sex than the other certainly exist. Individuals vary, but men are predominately more aggressive, for example, and women are generally more empathetic. If a man or woman suffers from a psychopathology, these differences can manifest in distinct forms of antisocial behaviour.

We don’t speak of toxic femininity—and I don’t believe we should—but if we were to imagine the worst manifestation of typically female attributes, I think it would look a lot like today’s social justice culture.

. . .History bears testimony to the danger of demonising groups of people based on their immutable characteristics. Not only did this way of thinking lead to historical sexism against women (and continues to do so across the world), it also motivates anti-male attitudes today, giving rise to venomous trends like kill all men and men are trash.

I do not wish to argue that society is infected with toxic femininity, nor that all purveyors of social justice culture are female. Instead, I hope to add nuance to the discussion of toxic masculinity by showing that the line of reasoning many modern social justice leftists adopt and the methods they favour to bring about social progress correlate with typically female psychopathologies.

Looking at three key elements of social justice culture, I argue that our current zeitgeist—which normalises cancelling others, praises emotional reasoning and overvalues safety—aligns strongly with traits that are, in the aggregate, more predominant among women than among men.

And here are the aspects of SJW culture that she sees as more predominant in women than in men. That, of course, doesn’t mean that SJW culture itself comes from women; only that the aspects of SJW culture are, says Ager, found more often in the female than in male “nature”.  I’ve indented her own quotes; my comments are flush left.

Cancel Culture. I’ve heard from women many times that if I think men dissing other men is bad, well, I should hear how women talk about each other! I can’t speak to the truth of that, but this is what Ager says:

This is generally a female approach to antisocial behaviour. Rather than violent confrontation, women tend to engage in reputation destruction and social exclusion, seeking to destroy the status of their rivals rather than physically defeat them.

Several studies have suggested an evolutionary basis for this. In Stockley and Campbell’s interdisciplinary study of female competition and aggression, they suggest that females are wired to survive, compete for preferred mates and reproduce. They therefore target rivals through lower risk, indirect competitive strategies, such as:

refusal to cooperate with them, destruction of their reputation (so that others will also refuse cooperation) and, ultimately, exclusion from the group. Indirect aggression (the use of pejorative gossip and social exclusion) is women’s preferred aggressive tactic. Because harm is delivered circuitously and because it is executed simultaneously by several members of the community, it is a low-risk strategy.

Ager says that this happens in chimpanzees as well, with females “ousting newcomers or low-ranking community females.”

Lived experience. This refers to the SJW tendency to dwell on personal experience rather than data, leading to the denigration of objective truth. And this, says Ager, is an outgrowth of greater female empathy, which she sees as an evolved trait. She also argues that “women are more open to negative experiences,” which itself leads to higher degrees of neuroticism.  But I think she’s on shaky ground when she connects this with social justice culture:

Sex differences in neuroticism are actually larger in cultures with greater socio-political gender equity, not smaller as would be expected if sex differences were purely the result of socialisation into traditional gender roles.

A range of evolutionary theories could explain this, including the hypothesis that “Women may be more sensitive to all the emotions of others because of their need (more than men) to attach with their children, or women may be especially responsive to negative emotions only because of the need to react to fitness threats more than men do.”

This isn’t to say that all women are more emotional or neurotic than men, or that stability and rationality are distinctively male traits. But, as a whole, women tilt more toward negative emotional reasoning, a cognitive distortion endemic to the modern social justice movement.


Safetyism, the increasing desire to protect yourself and others of your tribe from emotional damage. We’ve encountered this before:

In their book The Coddling of the American Mind, social psychologists Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff sound the alarm about the rise of safetyism in the US, particularly on university campuses. Safetyism, as they describe it, is “the cult of safety—an obsession with eliminating threats (both real and imagined) to the point at which people become unwilling to make reasonable trade-offs demanded by other practical and moral concerns.”

Safetyism lies at the heart of social justice culture, giving rise to concepts like safe spaces, trigger warnings, hate speech and microaggressions. Haidt and Lukianoff argue that this ethos is leaving younger generations more fragile than ever, dramatically increasing their levels of anxiety, depression and suicide by positioning them as helpless victims.

Now Ager doesn’t want to demonize either sex, for that’s not productive—no more productive than talking about “toxic whiteness” or “toxic blackness.” As she says,

Healthy discourse should not pit the genders against each other or present women as morally superior, but recognise that we’re all fallible, and need to work together to eradicate all kinds of issues from sexual assault to safetyism.

Toxicity resides in individuals, not in groups. Certain traits may be more likely to exist in one sex than the other due to the average psychological differences between them, but what matters, ultimately, is how each individual behaves. In the end, all human virtues can become vices and the sooner we accept this, the sooner we can all progress.

And I agree: it’s much more useful—and less divisive—to work on problems as “social issues,” without worrying whether they’re “male” or “female” problems. So why did Ager write this piece? The only reason I can guess is because she’s fed up with men being tarred with the trait of “toxic masculinity”, and wrote this article as if to say, “See, we can also play this game with femininity.”

Like Bari Weiss, Andrew Sullivan is pro-Biden but worried

January 23, 2021 • 11:00 am

If you didn’t like Bari Weiss’s reservations about potential problems with the Biden administration, which include its truckling to the Woke, you’re really not going to like Andrew Sullivan’s latest piece at The Weekly Dish (click on screenshot below). For Sullivan has a take almost identical to Weiss’s, and yet I sympathize with some of his worries.

Click on screenshot to read it (you’ll probably need a subscription, but I’ll give a few quotes). One note: You are free to say what you want in the comments, including that you’re not worried about this stuff, but please don’t tell me that I’m not allowed to have concerns—that now I should be celebrating rather than nitpicking. I am in fact doing both!

Like Weiss, Sullivan begins (and ends) by expressing some fealty towards Biden and hopes that his administration will succeed. He notes that Biden’s Inaugural speech was uninspiring and in fact anodyne, and Sullivan’s right. But, as I’ve noted before, in those words we saw the real Joe: a decent and straightforward man with a vision, however unrealistic it is. He is not an orator. Sullivan:

But [Biden’s Inaugural speech] matched the occasion: it was conventional, banal even, and anodyne. And how much we’ve missed banality! Biden boldly asked us to be against “anger, resentment, hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness and hopelessness,” and to reaffirm the “history, faith and reason” that provides unity. Sure. Okay. At that level of pabulum, who indeed could differ? And a nation united in pabulum is better than one divided into two tribal camps waging an “uncivil war” against each other about everything.

And if Biden sticks to this kind of common ground, it will serve him well. He is lucky, in many ways, to succeed Trump. Any normal inauguration would feel transcendent after the sack of the capitol.

After praising Joe for his pandemic response, economic stimulus package, energy plan, and so on, Sullivan gets down to business. Here are his areas of concern (Sullivan’s quotes are indented, mine flush left).

1.) Immigration.  The Democrats really need to put together a sensible immigration policy that doesn’t say “open borders” to Americans. If they don’t do this, they’re shooting themselves in the foot, and risk big losses in the midterm elections.

But Biden has also shown this week that his other ambitions are much more radical. On immigration, Biden is way to Obama’s left, proposing a mass amnesty of millions of illegal immigrants, a complete moratorium on deportations, and immediate revocation of the bogus emergency order that allowed Trump to bypass Congress and spend money building his wall. Fine, I guess. But without very significant addition of border controls as a deterrent, this sends a signal to tens of millions in Central to South America to get here as soon as possible. Biden could find, very quickly, that the “unity” he preaches will not survive such an effectively open-borders policy, or another huge crisis at the border. He is doubling down on the very policies that made a Trump presidency possible. In every major democracy, mass immigration has empowered the far right. Instead of easing white panic about changing demographics, Biden just intensified it.

2.) Equity versus equality. It behooves all of us to understand the difference. I hope that Biden does! At present he seems to be bowing before Critical Theory in his executive orders:

Biden has also signaled (and by executive order, has already launched) a very sharp departure from liberalism in his approach to civil rights. The vast majority of Americans support laws that protect minorities from discrimination, so that every American can have equality of opportunity, without their own talents being held back by prejudice. But Biden’s speech and executive orders come from a very different place. They explicitly replace the idea of equality in favor of what anti-liberal critical theorists call “equity.” They junk equality of opportunity in favor of equality of outcomes. Most people won’t notice that this new concept has been introduced — equity, equality, it all sounds the same — but they’ll soon find out the difference.

In critical theory, as James Lindsay explains, “‘equality’ means that citizen A and citizen B are treated equally, while ‘equity’ means adjusting shares in order to make citizen A and B equal.” Here’s how Biden defines “equity”: “the consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities that have been denied such treatment, such as Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.”

In less tortured English, equity means giving the the named identity groups a specific advantage in treatment by the federal government over other groups — in order to make up for historic injustice and “systemic” oppression. Without “equity”, the argument runs, there can be no real “equality of opportunity.” Equity therefore comes first. Until equity is reached, equality is postponed — perhaps for ever.

I’m not sure that Biden’s definition adheres to the equity limned by Lindsay. All we can do is wait and see what Biden proposes. His executive order does seem to conflate “equity” and “equality of opportunity,” so someone should at least tell Joe the difference.

I think that for the near future the Democratic policy should be a combination of both equity and equality: some affirmative action but with the real work—and the hard work—being done on the level Sullivan notes in the paragraph just below. For the truth is that until equality is reached, equity won’t follow except though some kind of affirmative action. Like Sullivan, my goal is equality: equality of opportunity for all, which means removing the barriers to achievement that have impeded oppressed groups for decades. That takes a huge influx of effort and money into poor communities, and I’d hope we have the will and the funds to do that. But I’d throw some equity in there, too, for a government that at least doesn’t in part include representatives from all groups loses its credibility. Sullivan sees Biden adhering to the Ibram X. Kendi view of racial equity. I’m not yet sure of that, but Biden does seem to be going in that direction.

Sullivan saying, correct, what we really need to do:

Helping level up regions and populations that have experienced greater neglect or discrimination in the past is a good thing. But you could achieve this if you simply focused on relieving poverty in the relevant communities. You could invest in schools, reform policing, target environmental clean-ups, grow the economy, increase federal attention to the neglected, and thereby help the needy in precisely these groups. But that would not reflect critical theory’s insistence that race and identity trump class, and that America itself is inherently, from top to b

3.) Gay and gender issues. Like me (I think), Sullivan is in favor of equality based on sex and gender (including transgender people), but has some worries that the Biden administration will neglect those issues in which sex and gender issues mandate some inequality:

Biden’s executive order on “LGBTQ+” is also taken directly from critical gender and queer theory. Take the trans question. Most decent people support laws that protect transgender people from discrimination — which, after the Bostock decision, is already the law of the land. But this is not enough for Biden. He takes the view that the law should go further and insist that trans women are absolutely indistinguishable from biological women — which erases any means of enforcing laws that defend biological women as a class. If your sex is merely what you say it is, without any reference to biological reality, then it is no longer sex at all. It’s gender, period. It’s socially constructed all the way down.

Most of the time, you can ignore this insanity and celebrate greater visibility and protection for trans people. But in a few areas, biology matters. Some traumatized women who have been abused by men do not want to be around biological males in prison or shelters, even if they identify as women. I think these women should be accommodated. There are also places where we segregate by sex — like showers, locker rooms — for reasons of privacy. I think that allowing naked biological men and boys to be in the same showers as naked biological women and girls is asking for trouble — especially among teens. But for Biden, this is non-negotiable, and all objections are a function of bigotry.

And in sports, the difference between the physiology of men and women makes a big difference. That’s the entire point of having separate male and female sports, in the first place. Sure, you can suppress or enhance hormones. But you will never overcome the inherited, permanent effects of estrogen and testosterone in childhood and adolescence. Male and female bodies are radically different, because without that difference, our entire species would not exist. Replacing sex with gender threatens women’s sports for that simple reason.

Now people have said these are “quibbles” I’m less worried about locker rooms than about sports, prisons, rape counseling and women’s problems. Granted, these are not as pressing as are issues of inequality, climate change, and economics.) But they’re not quibbles, for a). they bear on issues of fundamental fairness, and those issues won’t go away; and b). the way Biden’s administration works this out will have consequences for the acceptance of the Democratic Party as a whole—for our continuing control of the House and Senate (the Supreme Court is already lost for several decades). And remember, Biden casts himself not as a messenger of Wokeness, but as a healer. If he’s to heal, he has to realize that most Americans want a sensible immigration policy, want equality but only a temporary remediation of inequity via affirmative action, and don’t want untreated biological men serving time in women’s prisons or participating in women’s sports. So far Biden’s policies seem to me way too conciliatory towards Critical Theory. That is to be expected if he’s clueless about Critical Theory and also keen to not be called a racist by more leftist Democrats.

Sullivan ends this way:

I wonder if Joe Biden even knows what critical theory is. But he doesn’t have to. It is the successor ideology to liberalism among elites, a now-mandatory ideology if you want to keep your job. But Biden’s emphatic backing of this illiberal, discriminatory project on his first day is relevant. He has decided to encourage “unity” by immediately pursuing policies that inflame Republicans and conservatives and normies more than any others.

And those policies are obviously unconstitutional. . .

. . . I want Biden to succeed. I want Republicans to moderate. I want to lower the temperature. I want to emphasize those policies that really do bring us closer together, even though many may still freely dissent. Biden says he wants to as well. But none of that can or will happen if the president fuels the culture war this aggressively, this crudely, and this soon. You don’t get to unite the country by dividing it along these deep and inflammatory issues of identity. And you don’t achieve equality of opportunity by enforcing its antithesis.

I’ve quoted too freely here, and you should pay the $50 per year to read Sullivan (and perhaps Bari Weiss), because they’re good writers, because they may have views that don’t exactly jibe with yours, and because you need to read something besides the New York Times and Washington Post, which have already caved to Critical Theory. Actually, I pay $4 per month to read the NYT, so I’m paying more to read Sullivan (and Weiss, if I subscribe) than to read whole newspapers. I’ll live.

Yes, we can and should celebrate the unexpected victory of the Democrats as well as their takeover of Congress. But remember too that Biden promised to heal, and you won’t heal America by imposing Critical Theory on it.