Richard Dawkins is Still Denying the Basic Humanity of Trans People April 12, 2021

Richard Dawkins is Still Denying the Basic Humanity of Trans People

On Saturday, for some reason, Richard Dawkins randomly decided to question the humanity of transgender people — under the guise of I’m-just-asking-questions — while comparing their situation to that of Rachel Dolezal:

In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black. Some men choose to identify as women, and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as.

Discuss.

In case you need help translating that…

In 2015, Dolezal became the subject of controversy when it became public knowledge that her parents were both white. That alone wouldn’t be an issue except that, until that point, she had flat-out lied in public about having a Black parent. She passed herself off, on paper, as Black. She already benefitted from the privilege of being white, but decided it wasn’t enough. When confronted about it, she said she self-identified as Black… and it’s that comment that has made her infamous.

She wasn’t simply vilified for identifying as Black (whatever that means) so much as lying about it to gain some kind of edge in her professional career.

Trans people, on the other hand, aren’t changing genders just for the hell of it. They sure aren’t doing it because it gives them some kind of advantage in society. More to the point: They don’t “choose to identify” as the other gender as if it’s some kind of light switch; they are the other gender. If they undergo surgery or take hormones or request a change on their driver’s license, it’s to correct a mistake, not because they wanted to be another gender on a whim.

So back to Dawkins. He’s comparing a liar, whose lie he passes off as genuine, to trans people, whose truths he dismisses. He’s comparing race to gender, as if they’re the same thing, in a way that allows bigots (including right-wing Christians) to use his words as a weapon against trans people. He also defines trans women as “men [who] choose to identify as women” (and vice versa) when that’s not the case at all.

It’s not merely a question. There’s nothing to “discuss.” It’s transphobic rhetoric — red meat for conservatives — that someone who supposedly values reason should know better than to promote. It’s as if he watched the whole J.K. Rowling debacle and thought I want to get in on that.

It’s not the first time he’s done this:

No doubt there were plenty of conservatives and Libertarians and online trolls — and, yes, atheists — who celebrated the more recent tweet. But the criticism was also (deservedly) harsh:

How is it possible that one of the best longform science writers of all time is also one of the worst shortform writers?

Why is questioning someone’s humanity just a fun little hypothetical for him?

Does he realize he’s parroting arguments made by conservative Christian pastors who have long fought against LGBTQ rights?

Here’s a more pressing question: What is the Center for Inquiry going to do about this?

When Donald Trump banned trans people from the military, CFI’s president denounced it by saying “We stand proudly with the transgender community as an ally in the fight for equal treatment.”

Well, the foundation that Dawkins began is now a division of CFI. Dawkins is on CFI’s Board of Directors. In the past, when one of CFI’s affiliates posted a transphobic comment online, the organization acted quickly to take it down and reiterate its support for the trans community.

So what will they do now? Do they stand with Dawkins, who mischaracterizes trans people and suggests that those who reject trans identities are unfairly maligned, or do they stand with trans people?

At this point, they don’t have the luxury of choosing both.

You know who else agrees with that? The Dawkins Foundation, several years ago.


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