‘Should Transgenderism Be Regulated By Law?’: Michael Knowles Debates Trans Issues At Pitt
NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 11: Michael Knowles appears as a guest during a taping of "Candace" hosted by Candace Owens on January 11, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Daily Wire host Michael Knowles faced off Tuesday night against libertarian journalist Brad Polumbo at the University of Pittsburgh in a debate about the proper extent of the state’s power to regulate transgenderism.

Polumbo was a last-minute substitute — Knowles’ previously scheduled opponent, Deirdre McCloskey, a professor of economics at the University of Illinois-Chicago who identifies as transgender, dropped out of the debate roughly a week before it was set to occur. Polumbo volunteered to replace McCloskey, and the topic was changed from a general discussion on “Transgenderism and Womanhood” to a more policy-oriented debate to better reflect the differences between the speakers.

The planned event faced considerable backlash — a petition with over 11,000 signatures was submitted to the university demanding that the event be canceled, and Knowles was interrupted by chants of “trans rights are human rights” during his opening remarks.

Outside the lecture hall, a device described by police as a “combination of a firework and a smoke bomb” was detonated on Pitt’s campus around 7:30 p.m. local time, when the debate was scheduled to begin. No injuries were reported, and although police declared a “public safety emergency,” within a few hours they had determined that whoever set off the explosive did not pose an “ongoing threat.” The incident did not interrupt the debate.

Knowles and Polumbo did find some common ground — both men oppose gender surgeries on minors, albeit for slightly different reasons. Polumbo argued that while he supports social transition for children experiencing gender dysphoria, people under the age of 18 were “too young” to take on the “life-altering possibilities” brought on by hormone therapies and invasive surgeries. 

Polumbo also pointed out that before childhood transition was normalized, the onset of puberty often alleviated gender dysphoria as gender-confused kids overwhelmingly became comfortable with their sex, often growing up to be gay adults.

Knowles, however, favors restrictions on such practices even for adults and argues that there can be no coherent middle ground on this position.

“It would seem to me that what transgenderism is proposing is an anthropology — it’s an idea about what human nature is,” Knowles said. “So, if it is true, then it is true for children … if it’s true then it would seem to be very cruel to prevent a child from transitioning, especially before puberty.”


The logic of the position, Knowles argued, was that by preventing the natural process of puberty from stimulating the development of secondary sex characteristics, the gender dysphoric child could much more easily “pass” as the opposite sex at a glance.

“If transgenderism is true, then I think we have to trans the kids,” Knowles said. “It so happens that transgenderism is not true … just as I think it would be wrong to lead children who are behaving in an irrational way down this path, I think it would be quite wrong to do that to adults as well.”

Knowles pointed out that Polumbo agreed that patients suffering from anorexia could be force-fed in order to save their lives, and asked what the limiting principle was in protecting people from the consequences of mental illness.

“[The transgender position] is a consistent position and it’s consistently wrong,” Knowles. “If we’re going to be right here, we have to be consistently right.”

Polumbo argued that relying on the coercive power of the state was not appropriate to regulate the behavior of mature and consenting adults.

“Michael keeps saying that ‘transgenderism is false, and if it is false, it should be banned,’” Polumbo said. “I don’t believe government should be in the business of banning false ideas.”

Polumbo also argued that empowering the government to adjudicate ideological disputes is short-sighted for traditional conservatives such as Knowles, because “the average federal bureaucrat has the politics of Elizabeth Warren … the truth is, we have a bloated bureaucracy that does not represent the American people.”

“In the United States, we are the government,” Knowles said. “Even with all the corruption, we are the government, and if we surrender our capacity for reason and moral conscience, if we really say that we can’t know the difference between true and false and right and wrong, then we are surrendering self-government.”



Create a free account to join the conversation!

Already have an account?

Log in

Got a tip worth investigating?

Your information could be the missing piece to an important story. Submit your tip today and make a difference.

Submit Tip
Download Daily Wire Plus

Don't miss anything

Download our App

Stay up-to-date on the latest
news, podcasts, and more.

Download on the app storeGet it on Google Play
The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  ‘Should Transgenderism Be Regulated By Law?’: Michael Knowles Debates Trans Issues At Pitt