CNN removes claim that 'there's no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth'

A CNN camera operator waits by his camera as the network prepares for the first democratic presidential candidate debate at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada October 13, 2015. | REUTERS/Mike Blake

CNN has removed a controversial claim made in a recent news article that previously alleged that “there is no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth.” 

The article, which was written by CNN breaking news reporter Devan Cole, addressed South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s executive orders banning biological males who identify as females from competing in women’s sports at the K-12 and collegiate levels. 

When it was originally published Tuesday, the article asserted that “it’s not possible to know a person’s gender identity at birth, and there is no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth.”

Additionally, the article characterized the idea that “transgender women are not women” as “transphobic." The article described the term “biological sex” as “a disputed term that refers to the sex as listed on students’ original birth certificates.” 

As it currently appears online, the article contains a clarification at the bottom announcing that “This story has been updated to provide additional explanation as to the distinctions between gender and sex.” 

The declaration that “there is no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth” was not included in the updated story. 

“It’s not possible to know a person’s gender identity at birth, and for some people, the sex listed on their original birth certificate is a misleading way of describing the body they have,” the revised version of the article states. “While sex is a category that refers broadly to physiology, a person’s gender is an innate sense of identity. The factors that go into determining the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate may include anatomy, genetics and hormones, and there is broad natural variation in each of these categories.” 

The article’s original claim that “there is no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth” was met with mockery and criticism from conservatives. 

On “Tucker Carlson Tonight” Wednesday, the eponymous host scoffed at the idea.

“For literally hundreds of thousands of years, human beings have been reproducing in caves, huts, hospitals,” he said. “This little screaming human comes out butt naked, and no one has been able to determine whether this kid was a boy or a girl. No one has known because there’s just no way to know because biology’s not real.”

“Is there some way to tell? If you were to have a baby … how would you know if that child was a boy or a girl?” Carlson added, before inviting Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., on to make “some sense of how to designate biological sex at birth.” 

Kennedy opined that “the person who wrote that is entitled to his opinion.”

“But in my opinion, I think he’s been in lockdown too long,” Kennedy joked.

“Sex is the language we use to describe reproduction. In humans, there are only two sexes: male and female,” the senator continued. “Males have the potential to produce sperm; females have the potential to produce ova.” 

Kennedy added that there are “observable physical characteristics.”

“Sex is not a spectrum. It’s… binary,” Kennedy added. “You’re either male or female.”

Kennedy also discussed the concept of “gender dysphoria,” where a person has an “internal feeling” that they identify with a gender other than their biological sex. People with gender dysphoria often prefer to be addressed by pronouns that match their “gender identity” instead of their biological sex. 

“Gender dysphoria is not an observable physical characteristic,” he maintained.

In addition to Carlson, other political commentators quickly joined in the criticism of Cole’s article. 

Tim Carney of The Washington Examiner accused the news website of “lying to you,” arguing that “the writer and editor know the difference between a baby boy and a baby girl” and are practicing “rank dishonesty in service of culture war.”

Ryan Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, agreed with Carney while pushing back on the idea that people “assign” sex at birth.

“We don’t ‘assign’ sex--we recognize and acknowledge a natural reality,” he tweeted. “I recognized my son is a boy--I didn’t assign it. ‘Assign’ implies convention/choice.” 

According to Anderson, “The gender activists use ‘sex assigned at birth’ to create conceptual space for sex to be ‘re-assigned’ by hormones and surgery.”

Cole’s article comes almost two months after the American Civil Liberties Union declared that the idea that “sex is binary, apparent at birth, and identifiable through singular biological characteristics” is a myth.

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