An article ran in the National Review this week laying out dire predictions resulting from the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against North Carolina. The National Review is a major conservative news magazine, so predictably the move doesn’t receive a ringing endorsement.
Among the “dangerous” consequences author David French warns against is that, ”…the very act of teaching biology and human physiology will be hate speech unless it’s modified to conform to the new transgender ‘facts.’ Teachers will have to take great pains to note that chromosomes, reproductive organs, hormonal systems, and any other physical marker of sex is irrelevant to this thing called ‘gender,’ which, ‘factually,’ is a mere state of mind.” This sounds ominous. No one wants teachers accused of hate speech simply for teaching their subject.
But lying about transgender people in ways that encourage oppression is hate speech.
If a biology teacher were to teach as scientific fact that a particular race has been shown to be intellectually inferior to others, I hope we all agree that is hate speech. It would be promoting a lie that can lead to discrimination and marginalization.
If a social studies teacher were to teach as historical fact that members of one mainstream religion were incapable of living harmoniously with members of other religions, that would be hate speech.
If a psychology teacher were to tell students that gay people can choose to become straight, that would go against all scientific and clinical experience about sexual orientation. That would be hate speech.
Likewise, if a teacher were to claim that gender cannot be contrary to genetic and physiological markers of sex, that would be hate speech. It would be a fabricated lie, running contrary to all the knowledge of the scientific and therapeutic communities.
That sort of teaching would go beyond just promulgating a falsehood. The resultant misunderstandings would have implications on public acceptance of transgender identities, medical care, legal protections, and yes, bathroom use. “I don’t care what you say your gender is, your chromosomes and sex characteristics say you’re a man,” is a rejection of who we are.
In short, it is hate speech.
Yes, labeling such identity policing as hate speech would be inconvenient for those who want to justify discrimination against transgender people. They’re running out of people to scapegoat, and we’re one of the only remaining groups against which it is socially acceptable to fan the flames of hatred. It’s easier to get your followers, readers, and supporters to fear us when you can tell them “transgender people chose to be that way.” Conservatives hoping to oppress the transgender minority find their job much harder unless they succeed in suppressing accepted facts. And yes, the existence of gender separate from physical sex is accepted fact. Surrounding the word “facts” and “factually” in skeptical quotes as French does in the article might be an effective backhanded way to create doubt, but it doesn’t change the medical and psychological communities’ consensus on how gender works. It’s the best he can do, since the only research that contradicts the current state of scientific understanding on gender has been discredited for decades.
The widespread misconception that gender is inseparable from physical sex has become a source of oppression, most notably in the form of North Carolina’s recent law. Fortunately the transgender community seems to have picked up an ally in the struggle to educate the public. The Department of Justice is now on our side.
Those motivated to spread lies about us are clearly not happy about that.