Just a few years ago, advocates of so-called “gender identity” insisted that all they wanted was space to “live and let live” — to “be themselves.” Unfortunately, that was not true — they wanted much, much more. In the case of British academic Maya Forstater, we recently got a glimpse of the ominous end game of gender identity ideology: Nothing less than the total and complete social alienation of anyone who asserts the biological reality that men cannot be women and women cannot be men.
Until last March, Maya Forstater was a visiting fellow at the Centre for Global Development (CGD), working within her research area on the topic of taxes, inequality, and poverty. But she lost it all on Twitter.
Forstater’s tweets were anything but inflammatory. In a typical tweet, she said, “I share the concerns of @fairplaywomen that radically expanding the legal definition of ‘women’ so that it can include both males and females makes it a meaningless concept, and will undermine women’s rights & protections for vulnerable women & girls.”
Yet, tweets like that cost Forstater her fellowship at CGD. In mid-December, she then lost a lawsuit in which she contested CGD’s decision. In the ruling, the judge made this shocking statement:
[Forstater] is absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society. (Emphasis added.)
Not only, the ruling says, does gender identity deserve an equal place in the social conversation about sex and gender; it deserves a preeminent and uncontested place. Anyone who disagrees with it can, legally, lose their job.
It is amazing that this has to be clarified: no one should lose his or her job for believing that men and boys are male and that women and girls are female. This is a biological fact; all the surgeries and hormones in the world cannot change the reality that every single cell of a man’s body is encoded with an X and a Y chromosome, and every single cell in a woman’s body is encoded with two X chromosomes. Biological sex cannot be changed.
Asked about the possibility of changing one’s sex, Dr. Lawrence Mayer of Johns Hopkins has a straightforward answer: It can’t be done. “Scientifically speaking, transgender men are not biological men and transgender women are not biological women.”
Shutting down honest conversations about sex and gender is an extremely detrimental form of “cancel culture.” Just a few years ago, the statements made by Forstater were not controversial among feminists. Lesbian groups frequently took a clear stand on this issue, advocating for a biologically based understanding of sex.
Now, however, gender identity ideology has such a chokehold on discourse that anyone who disagrees with it faces personal and professional ruin. In a grimly ironic and patronizing tone, gender identity ideologues have the gall to claim that they are committed to defending women’s rights even as they systematically target and destroy women’s careers.
It is now not even necessary to defend biological sex to end up in hot water. All a person has to do today is defend someone else’s freedom to hold to biological sex in order to be cancelled, vilified, and silenced. The day after Forstater lost her case, “Harry Potter” series author J.K. Rowling tweeted out her support for Forstater’s right to believe that men are men and women are women.
Rowling’s tweet read: “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya.” Within hours people began hurling the epithet “TERF” (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) at Rowling and calling for her to apologize for her tweet.
Previously a darling of the progressive Left after saying that her famed character Albus Dumbledore was gay, Rowling’s vilification means that no one is safe from mudslinging and suppression when it comes to gender identity ideologues. These activists demand absolute acquiescence from everyone else in society — and they will not hesitate to turn on their own (former) allies at the first sign of dissent.
We all can agree that individuals with gender dysphoria deserve compassion, but no amount of self-perception can make a man a woman, nor change the reality of what being a woman is. That reality is made undeniable on the field of play, where an increasing amount of female athletes — including clients represented by Alliance Defending Freedom — are being cheated out of their chance to stand atop a winner’s podium.
Yet, according to at least one judge, it’s out of bounds to so much as notice that men and women are different. This ruling is a travesty. No one should lose their jobs for asserting this reality — but so as long as gender identity ideologues get their way, we are all at their mercy.
And, as we see with Forstater and Rowling as well as female athletes made spectators in their own sports, when it comes to gender identity ideology, it’s women who have the most to lose.
Kristen Waggoner is general counsel and senior vice president of U.S. legal division and communications at Alliance Defending Freedom. Follow her on Twitter @KWaggonerADF, and follow Alliance Defending Freedom @AllianceDefends.