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Lizards, orangutans and 'bigots': Gender identity boosters block biological sex challenges

Kansas City LGBTQ Commission chair brags about getting debate canceled by pulling out at last minute. Sponsor says it's considering "alternate format" like Heterodox Academy rescuing canceled anthropology event.

Published: October 10, 2023 11:06pm

Proponents of the importance of biological sex to sports, science and law want to explain to critics and undecideds why gender identity is not a substitute. Some of their critics are working to ensure they can't get a hearing.

It's not just former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines, now in a spat with Pennsylvania State University over whether she was ever approved to speak on campus for "Real Women's Day" on Oct. 10, a date chosen for its Roman numerals that mirror women's XX chromosomes.

The American Anthropological Association doubled down on its decision with the Canadian Anthropology Society to cancel a presentation on sex as a "necessary analytic category in anthropology" at their North American conference next month.

Supplementing their claim that the five female presenters' argument was tantamount to "race science," the two groups posted a "letter of support" from three anthropologists who claim the sexual binary is disproven by orangutans and lizards.

"People who are non-binary, trans, or queer, and/or those who occupy sex categories other than 'male' or 'female,' have existed across all human societies and throughout all of human evolution," according to Princeton's Agustin Fuentes, University of Illinois's Kathryn Clancy and Arizona State's Robin Nelson, "who work in biological anthropology and human biology."

"The integrated approach of gender/sex entanglement is a more realistic, albeit more complicated, view from which to ask and answer evolutionary questions for humans," they said. 

The Sept. 29 letter has no other signatures as of Oct. 10. It drew a puzzled response from University of Chicago evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, a strong defender of the sexual binary previously known for spats with skeptics of Darwinian evolution

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression organized a competing public letter that includes 14 anthropologists from the University of Washington, University of Florida, Boston University and other schools.

They questioned the "belated" basis for the cancellation — the supposed scientific weakness of the presentation — given that AAA and CAS approved the panel, then repeatedly invoked the "harm" of letting five women present their ideas on sex. It sends a "chilling message to all social scientists that scholarly debate on complex issues of sex and gender is no longer free," the anthropologists also wrote.

Viewpoint diversity group Heterodox Academy announced Oct. 5 it would virtually host the anthropology discussion Nov. 8, a week before the AAA-CAS annual meeting, with the same speakers, including San José State University anthropologist Elizabeth Weiss and testosterone researcher Carole Hooven, a Harvard affiliate through psychologist Steven Pinker.

“De-platforming distinguished scholars for having 'harmful' ideas about their own fields of expertise is a political action, not one of an academic society,” HxA President John Tomasi said.

American Public Square, which organizes "respectful dialogue on important topics" at Missouri's William Jewell College, "postponed" its Sept. 26 debate on gender identity — to be moderated and aired by Kansas City PBS — because the two representatives for the transgender perspective dropped out the week before.

One of them, Kansas City LGBTQ Commission Chair Justice Horn, claimed a transgender child convinced him to "not give a platform to people who are TERFs [trans-exclusionary radical feminists] and traitors to our community."

Horn, who is gay, singled out his opponent, St. Louis pediatric gender clinic whistleblower Jamie Reed, who is married to a transgender man.

Horn gloated on X, formerly Twitter, that "I helped sink" the event with "bigots" like Reed. "You also validate their argument when you engage with them through formal programs like this," he said. APS was founded by President Obama's second-term ambassador to Portugal, Allan Katz.

In an email Monday night, APS Executive Director Claire Bishop told "Just the News" that "it is concerning to us anytime someone celebrates the ‘cancellation’ of an open dialogue that represents multiple diverse perspectives. It contradicts our very purpose and undermines our mission as an organization."

APS views the "last-minute withdrawal" — the first time it has faced the prospect of cancellation — "as a missed opportunity for the community to come together to explore aspects of the topic," a hot legislative issue in Kansas and Missouri, she said.

Women's Declaration International USA, whose president, Kara Dansky, was slated to debate on Reed's side along with Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism Executive Director Monica Harris, blasted the "cowards" for dropping out after months of preparation by APS.

"We think they were simply scared to go up against a woman who blew the whistle on 'child gender affirmation' [Reed]; a Black lesbian who knows that men can’t be lesbians [Harris]; and a radical feminist TERF [Dansky]," WDI USA said. 

The gender-critical group agreed to participate despite APS circulating a "fact sheet" that WDI USA called "very one-sided" in favor of Horn's side. It said Dansky had "several phone calls with the executive producer" over months of discussions.

Horn publicly announced his pullout at 6 p.m. on Sept. 20, saying the transgender child called him at 4 p.m. He was on a "prep call" earlier that day with the panelists and producers and nothing seemed amiss, WDI USA said.

Until Tuesday afternoon, within hours of the "Just the News" queries to Horn and his LGBTQ Commission, Horn's LinkedIn profile said he was a current member of the APS advisory board.

That suggests "he blew off his own colleagues and squandered their time and money in order to avoid having a rational conversation with women who stand for the sex-based rights of women and girls," WDI USA said.

Bishop told "Just the News" that Horn has not served on that board for two years, when it formally disbanded, and has not been "officially affiliated" with APS since.

It also had to correct Horn last month when he claimed to have served on its "board," implying board of directors, "then their advisory board." As a former adviser, he "represent[ed] the transgender community for other events and conversations," APS wrote on X. "Ironically, he has also participated on a cancel culture panel for us."

The community has demonstrated a "resounding desire to see this conversation happen," and APS is "currently exploring options for holding the conversation in alternate formats, perhaps similar to what is happening with Heterodox and the anthropology conference," Bishop said.

Dansky told Just the News hours earlier that she hadn't heard from APS on how the debate might proceed, but she believes "they sincerely aspire to hold events that host multiple sides of any issue." The problem is "I think there is no one who is happy to debate me," Harris and Reed.

Kansas City PBS spokesperson Kynala Phillips said it was "prepared to move forward with the taping and airing of the show" but APS is handling "future plans for the discussion." 

The Johnson County Library, the event site, supported postponement "given that the panel was no longer balanced" but "did not participate in prep calls nor prepare the cancellation statement," spokesperson Elissa Andre said. 

The library "look[s] forward to partnering again should scheduling align with our roster of upcoming programs," she wrote in an email. "Our community showed great interest in the original event as evidenced by registration numbers."

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