One of America’s leading college faculty unions is decrying attempts to define gender as “binary,” and claims that the Trump administration and the “religious fundamentalists” who support such a definition are moved by ideology, not fact.
The American Association of University Professors, which has 500 chapters and 39 state associations, released a statement last month titled “The Assault on Gender and Gender Studies.”
The statement, which was created by AAUP’s subcommittee of Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure and the Committee on Women in the Academic Profession, railed against the Trump administration for considering a plan to define gender as a “biological, immutable condition” defined by a person’s sex at birth.
The plan stoked fears that the word “transgender” could be “defined out of existence.”
The AAUP statement also condemned Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for issuing a decree prohibiting gender studies courses from being taught in universities throughout the country.
The statement also went after administrations in Poland, Brazil and Bulgaria for “attempts to refute the scholarly consensus that gender identity is variable and mutable.”
“Biologists, anthropologists, historians, and psychologists have repeatedly shown that definitions of sex and sexuality have varied over time and across cultures and political regimes,” the AAUP statement reads. “Some of their work suggests that state-enforced preservation of traditional gender roles is associated with authoritarian attempts to control social life and to promise security in troubled times by pledging to protect patriarchal family structures.”
AAUP claims that those “authoritarian efforts” lead to a justification of “racial, class, and sexual policing that disciplines forms of kinship and homemaking.”
“Politicians and religious fundamentalists are neither scientists nor scholars,” the AAUP statement asserts. “Their motives are ideological. It is they who are offering ‘gender ideology’ by attempting to override the insights of serious scholars. By substituting their ideology for years of assiduous research, they impose their will in the name of a ‘science’ that is without factual support. This is a cynical invocation of science for purely political ends.”
The statement also asserts that defining gender as binary and immutable not only hurts transgender individuals and other nonbinary and gender nonconforming individuals but that it will also “disproportionately” impact “poor people and poor people of color.”
“There is also a potential threat to academic freedom: like attacks on climate science, the effort to establish a legal definition of gender as binary could lead to denying research funding to scholars and to impugning the value and validity of their scholarly work,” the statement warns. “Fixing the meaning of gender in this way may undermine the open-ended forms of inquiry that define research and teaching in a democracy.”
Despite accusing politicians and religious fundamentalists of having ideological motives with no “factual support,” AAUP failed in its statement to provide any sort of citation to the “biologists, anthropologists, historians, and psychologists” it relies on to form its own argument.
Although the AAUP statement wants to present politicians and religious fundamentalists as the main purveyor of the argument against beliefs in mutable gender, doctors and academics are also calling on the Trump administration to define gender as a “biological, immutable condition.”
Leaders from the conservative American College of Pediatricians signed onto a petition sent last week to Trump administration officials to praise the administration for its intent to “uphold the scientific definition of sex in federal law and policy.”
“The norm for human design is to be conceived either male or female. Human sexuality is binary by design for the obvious purpose of the reproduction of our species,” the petition reads. “This principle is self-evident. ‘XY’ and ‘XX’ are genetic markers of male and female, respectively, and are found in every cell of the human body including the brain. Sex is established at conception, declares itself in utero, and is acknowledged at birth.”
The petition declares that sex differences are “real and consequential.”
“The Institute of Medicine recognized the singular importance of sex to health and the field of medicine nearly two decades ago,” the petition explains. “Sex chromosomes impart innate differences between men and women in literally every cell of our bodies. There are over 6,500 shared genes that are expressed differently in human males and females. These differences impact our brains, organ systems, propensity for developing certain diseases, differential responses to drugs, toxins and pain, differential cognitive and emotional processes, behavior and more.”
Along with ACP’s Dr. Michelle Cretella and pediatric endocrinologist Quinton Van Meter, the petition was signed by professors and academics from institutions like the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Northwestern University, University of Notre Dame, the University of San Diego and Johns Hopkins Medical School.
The petition was also signed by social conservative activists such as the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, and Alliance Defending Freedom’s Michael Farris.
Michael Brown, a conservative radio host and prominent Messianic Jewish author, questioned in an op-ed what the AAUP thinks of the doctors and academics who signed onto the petition.
“They are obviously bigots, and bigots cannot be taken seriously,” Brown sarcastically joked.
“In other words, we know better. We are educated. We are scientists. We are free of bias. We have no agenda, no ideology, no underlying worldview. We only utter the truth.”
Brown said that the AAUP’s argument “breaks down” when you look at some of the initial signatories of the statement, which includes professor J. Michael Bailey of Northwestern University, who is “celebrated in LGBT circles” for his book The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism.
“Of course, this argument breaks down immediately, based on verifiable facts,” Brown wrote.
Evolutionary psychology professor Geoffry Miller at the University of New Mexico also criticized the AAUP statement.
“Disgraceful that the leading union for American faculty, @AAUP, has sided with gender feminism ('serious scholars doing years of assiduous research') over evolutionary science in defining sex & gender,” he wrote in a tweet. “Why take such a blatantly partisan & biased position?”