Heated debates have erupted across the West, triggered by the sudden rise of an ideology that seeks to remove the significance of biological sex in society and replace it with the vague and scientifically vacuous concept of “gender identity.”

This shift is often justified by highlighting the existence of so-called “intersex” conditions, more accurately termed disorders/differences of sexual development (DSDs). Proponents argue that because approximately one in every 5,500 individuals (0.018 percent) is born with sexual anatomy that may appear sexually ambiguous or opposite to their sex at birth, this means that biological sex is a “spectrum” and that male and female classifications are arbitrary social constructs. As such, recording a person’s sex as male or female at birth is an act of oppression.

The impact of this radical pivot away from objective biology to subjective identity cannot be overstated. Perhaps the most glaringly obvious consequence is in the realm of sports, where male athletes who “identify” as women are being allowed to compete in female sports, stealing scholarships and titles from female athletes. This ideology has also permeated medicine, where sex—despite multiple large-scale reviews concluding its central importance as a medical variable—is now frequently ignored. The most disturbing consequence of this ideology is the promotion of pediatric sex-trait-modification procedures, euphemistically termed “gender-affirming care.” These procedures, which aim to align a child’s physical features with his or her subjective “gender identity” through irreversible and often sterilizing hormones and surgeries, lack evidence of benefit.

The good news is that opposition to this ideology is growing. Numerous national and international sports organizations have begun to ban males from competing in female sports, and many Western nations have started to restrict “gender-affirming care,” especially in the wake of the U.K.’s recent Cass Review. This review, based on the findings of seven new systematic evidence reviews, found “remarkably weak evidence” supporting these procedures.

The United States, however, still lags far behind the rest of the world in addressing these issues, with U.S. medical institutions either ignoring the Cass Review or actively condemning it without substantive critique.

This ideological monoculture cannot be allowed to stand in the U.S. Progress on issues of sex and gender require facilitating meaningful discourse between multiple viewpoints so that policymakers, scientists, medical professionals, and the public are adequately informed. This approach helps prevent the unchecked spread of ideologically motivated ideas, ensuring that medical guidelines are based on the best available evidence.

This, however, is currently the opposite approach being taken by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

On May 19, the NHGRI announced a two-day symposium to be held in July, titled “Exploring the many dimensions of sex and gender in the genomics era.” The stated purpose of the symposium is to gather “experts from the biological and social sciences to clarify and contextualize—but not resolve—the complexities around sex, gender, and genomics by considering them in their scientific, ethical, and historical contexts,” with the ultimate goal of “aid[ing] scientists, policymakers, and the public in understanding the many dimensions of sex and sex characteristics and their relationships with gender.”

Though billed as an interdisciplinary meeting of the minds, the event’s list of presenters is ideologically homogeneous, consisting entirely of activist scientists and radical gender ideologues. Here’s a comprehensive list:

Julia Serano is a male who identifies as a woman and a self-described activist who blogs about sex. Serano believes that sex is “a collection of sexually dimorphic traits” that, with the exception of chromosomes, can be modified with hormones and surgery to change a person’s sex. Serano has described the claim that “trans women are biological males” as “a myth.”

Beans Velocci, who lists “they/them” pronouns, is an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania who studies “knowledge production in the realm of sex, gender, and sexuality.” In a recent article in Cell, Velocci stated that “sex is an incoherent category, one that has perhaps outlived its use.” Belief in the reality of sex categories, she says, “fuels ongoing arguments about the purportedly biological reasons that transgender (and especially nonbinary) people are not deserving of rights or do not even exist.”

Anne Fausto-Sterling is the Nancy Duke Lewis Professor Emerita of Biology and Gender Studies at Brown University. She is responsible for the pseudoscientific assertion that there are “five sexes” and is the originator of the widely debunked 1.7 percent statistic for so-called “intersex” conditions. She believes that biological sex is a multilevel/variate spectrum. Or a social construct. Or both. Or neither. It’s unclear.

Patrick Grzanka is an associate professor of psychology and chair of the Women, Gender & Sexuality Interdisciplinary Program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. You might remember Grzanka from Matt Walsh’s documentary, What Is a Woman? He was the guy who refused to say that a “trans woman” is a “male” and stated that “invoking the word ‘truth’” was “condescending and rude.”

Catherine Clune-Taylor is an assistant professor of gender and sexuality studies at Princeton. Her dissertation is titled “From Intersex to DSD: A Foucauldian Analysis of the Science, Ethics and Politics of the Medical Production of Cisgendered Lives.” In a book chapter for The Routledge Handbook of Feminist Philosophy of Science titled “Is Sex Socially Constructed?”, Clune-Taylor argues that “our understanding of biological sex and its multiple material components—is shaped by socio-culturally and temporally specific meanings, and material arrangements.” She also contends that what we typically refer to as “sex differences” are “better characterized as material effects of development within a gendered environment than evidence of naturally binary sex.”

Melissa Wilson, an evolutionary and computational biologist at Arizona State, does not necessarily fit the typical activist profile. However, based on her posts on X, she appears to believe that sex is a nonbinary “spectrum.”

Sam Sharpe (they/them), a Ph.D. candidate at Kansas State University, self-describes as “a trans and intersex person” who has “been involved in trans and intersex activism since 2016.” Sharpe calls for a “more inclusive understanding of sex diversity” and believes Lia Thomas (the male swimmer who won an NCAA Division I title in the women’s category) is being discriminated against for “failing to conform to expectations of cisnormative white femininity.” Sharpe says that “biological sex is complex, variable, not fully understood, and definitely not a binary,” and blames the binary view of sex on “capitalism.”

Cassius Adair, who is moderating a session, holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Michigan. According to his website, he provides “queer and trans storytelling consulting for popular podcasts and public radio programs” and serves as a “transgender sensitivity reader.”

Paisley Currah is a professor of political science and women’s and gender studies at Brooklyn College, a transgender man, and an author and trans rights activist. Currah published a book in 2022 titled Sex Is as Sex Does, which argues against sex classification laws.

Ross Brooks, another presenter, is a Ph.D. student from Oxford Brookes University, where he studied the “queer history of science.” He has published an academic paper titled “Darwin’s Closet: The Queer Sides of The Descent of Man,” and another on “Queer Birds.” He also served as a contributing editor for a queer-themed edition of Viewpoint: The Magazine of the British Society for the History of Science, with the goal of “Queering the Museum.”

Christopher Donohue is a historian of science at the National Human Genome Research Institute. His research “uses the history and present manifestations of eugenics, scientific racism, ableism, heteronormativity and their complex connections to contemporary genomics and medicine to facilitate meaningful and difficult conversations that promote equity and confront past and present wrongs.” His specific views on the biology of sex are unclear, but the activist language saturating his work is indicative.

Os Keys (they/them) is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington and describes himself as a “genderfucky nightmare goth.” An LGBTQ+ activist, Keys has blocked me on X, though we have never interacted.

Liz Dietz (they/them) works at the NIH and researches “bioethics as it pertains to disability rights and LGBTQ issues” designed to “let us reckon with the past.” It’s unclear what her views on the biology of sex are, but the activist language in her research is suggestive.

Kellan Baker, a health services researcher at the Whitman-Walker Institute, identifies as a trans man and LGBTQ+ activist. Baker claims to “have been every letter in the LGBTQ acronym.” Baker’s research focuses on “data equity,” and Baker has argued against binary sex classification forms.

Isabel Goldman is a trans-identifying male and an inclusion and diversity officer at Cell Press. Goldman has approvingly shared the quote “Science’s rigid commitment to binary sex and gender quashes creativity and limits progress.” Goldman has also claimed that “the categorization of people into binary, immutable sexes at birth is as much of a social construct as gender is.”

Lastly, Nikki Stevens (they/them), is a postdoctoral researcher at MIT writing a book about “abolition(ist) tech and white supremacy.” Stevens works in a “Data + Feminism Lab” that studies “data activism practices of trans-led groups in the United States.” Stevens has given talks titled “Breaking the Binary.”

That’s everyone.

This list of speakers makes clear that the symposium is not a serious forum concerned with deepening our understanding of sex and gender in genomics. It’s a gender activism strategy session.

It is completely inexcusable that no representatives who acknowledge biological sex as binary and immutable are present at this symposium. At a time when the rest of the world is beginning to come to its senses on sex and gender and the harms of institutional bias, we need to let our public health institutions know that such behavior is unacceptable.

It is imperative that the NHGRI extend an invitation to people such as Carole Hooven, Emma Hilton, Heather Heying, Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, or me. We can provide a different and scientifically accurate perspective on biological sex and “gender identity.” A taxpayer-funded institution, the NHGRI has a responsibility to foster robust discourse from multiple viewpoints to serve the public’s interest.

The NHGRI needs to rectify its error immediately.

Photo: marrio31 / iStock / Getty Images Plus


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