Responding to Transgender Ideology—and censorship


I previously posted this review of Ryan Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally three years ago, not long after it was first published. I am republishing it again now, because three days ago it appeared that Amazon had delisted it on all its sites around the world. At first I wondered whether there had been a problem with the publisher, or the book had gone out of stock—but in those cases the book page remains with a note ‘Currently unavailable’. In fact, the Amazon page that carried it has been deleted, along with all other links. The book’s publisher comments:

Encounter Books is committed to publishing authors with differing views on a wide range of issues of public concern. We do this because a free society requires robust debate and spaces where dissenting opinions can be expressed unimpeded.

If Amazon, which controls most of the book sales in America, has decided to delist a book with which some of its functionaries disagree, that is an unconscionable assault on free speech. It will have a chilling effect on the publishing industry and the free circulation of ideas. It must not be left to stand unchallenged.

And in a reflection on this, Anderson himself comments:

Amazon never informed me or my publisher that it was removing my book. And Amazon’s representatives haven’t responded to our inquiries about it. Perhaps they’re citing a religious objection to selling my book? Or maybe they only sell books with which they agree? (If so, they have a lot of explaining to do about why they carry Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.) If there’s a religious or speech objection, let’s hear it. But if it’s just an attempt to skew the conversation in the public square with an attempt to discredit one of the Equality Act’s most prominent critics, that’s a different matter.

We all believe in censorship; there are things we agree with, things we disagree with—find offensive even—but believe people should be allowed to say; and there are things that we believe should not be allowed the oxygen of publicity. But the key question is where the line is drawn between these last two categories. Amazon’s guidelines say:

We don’t sell certain content including content that we determine is hate speech, promotes the abuse or sexual exploitation of children, contains pornography, glorifies rape or pedophilia, advocates terrorism, or other material we deem inappropriate or offensive.

The question is: on what basis does Amazon ‘deem’ material to be ‘offensive’? And to whom are they accountable? Some would now say this is another good reason to boycott Amazon, but this will not actually be effective, and it avoids the central question around the tech giants: why are they not subject to national laws, on this and other issues? For Christians in the US, there is a wider question: will Biden’s Equality Law suppress the kind of fair and factual critique that Anderson offers here?

You can buy Anderson’s book at W H Smith online, [update: the title has also been removed from W H Smith] at Blackwell’s, and at other online bookshops. The previous edition of this review also included some interesting discussion in the comments.


When it comes to the issue of transgenderism, there appears to be one thing everyone is agreed on: it is complex and challenging! The claims of transgender ideology appear to have rushed on us in a moment; the issues involved touch everyone very deeply; there are bizarre contradictions between advocates of transgender ideology and the other elements of the LGBT+ community, and even within the transgender ‘community’ itself; and philosophical questions seem to blur into some real and personal issues of deep pain which demand a pastoral response.

These issues are what makes a book like Ryan T Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally both so important and so helpful. There are several things that are immediately helpful about Anderson’s approach (quite apart from the brilliant title!). The first is that it is rooted in primary research, and gives (in chapter endnotes) references to published papers. The second is its careful analysis of the evidence—indeed, a focus on evidence which is not pushed out of shaped by Anderson’s own theological agenda (Ryan is Roman Catholic). In fact, one of the striking things about the book is that it contains almost no theological reflection at all in its mapping out of the issues, a phenomenon to which I will return. Although there is a lot of detail about what is happening in North America in terms of legislation and ideology, the book is much less technical than Mark Yarhouse’s exploration of transgenderism and the intersex condition, and though Anderson is acutely aware of the pastoral response required, he does not offer anything comparable to Yarhouse’s threefold ethical paradigm. Instead, Anderson looks at the big picture of what is happening and why we have reached this ‘moment’—and this idea is also important. He cites clear evidence that this is not a linear trend in culture, but a particular moment on which we will likely look back in amazement.


The Introduction and short first chapter ‘Our Transgender Moment’ offers a brief sketch of the current situation in culture regarding the transgender question. Like some other sections of the book, this has a focus in North America and particularly in the United States, since this is where Anderson is writing from—but some of the issues can be evident in the UK already. But he anticipates some of the themes which will be explored in more detail later in the book. National Geographic‘s special issue on ‘The Gender Revolution’ featured

eight people on its combined covers, [including] three boys or men who identify as girls or women, a girl who identifies as a boy, individuals who identity as “bi-gender”, “intersex non binary”, and “androgynous”, and even someone who is just “male”—but not one girl who is comfortable being female. (p 12)

Anderson notes the shifts in medical terminology based on ideology rather than evidence, and observes the way that big business in the States has also jumped on the sexual identity bandwagon—but rather selectively. Whilst Paypal cancelled a major contract in protest at a North Carolina law decreeing that public toilets should be separated based on biological sex (male/female), the company

never explained why its international headquarters are in Singapore, where people who engage in private, consensual, homosexual acts can face two years in jail. (p 15)


Chapter Two focuses on ‘What the Activists Say’, and forms the first part of the vital distinction that Anderson makes between transgender activists and individuals who identify as transgender or as having gender dysphoria. For most of the chapter, Anderson simply quotes documented statements by activists without too much evaluation, but the issues become evident as the chapter progresses. For example, in one context an activist claims that transgender identity

‘is fixed, cannot be changed by others, and is not undermined or altered by the existence of other sex-related characteristics that do not align with it’

Yet in another context, it is claimed that gender identity and expression ‘can change every day or even every few hours’ and that this fluidity ‘can be displayed in how we dress, express and describe ourselves’. Anderson highlights the way in which (for activists) ‘transgender policies follow on from transgender ontology’ (p 39), that is, the claims that are made about the ‘reality’ of sexual identity—but also how the claims about reality actually have no basis in science or research. He also notes the, sometimes subtle, ways in which language has been tweaked and changed to support this agenda, the most notable being the idea that sex is ‘assigned’ at birth, rather than being recognised from the evidence. The last three pages of this chapter includes a long list of the questions and contradictions of transgender ideology—though Anderson again emphasises that these are questions for activists speaking in the public realm (mostly but not exclusively in the States), and that we need to respond to individuals in a different way.

Is there a gender binary or not? Somehow, it both does and does not exist, according to transgender activists. If the categories of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are objective enough that people can identify as, and be, mane and women, how can gender also be a spectrum, where people can identify as, and be, both or neither or somewhere in between?

What does it even mean to have an internal sense of gender? What does gender feel like? What meaning can we give to the concept of sex or gender, and thus what internal ‘sense’ can we have of gender, apart from having a body of a particular sex?…The challenge for the transgender activist is to explain what these feelings are like, and how someone could know if he or she ‘feels like’ the opposite sex, or neither, or both. (p 46)


Chapter Three is perhaps the most important, and certainly the most uncomfortable for anyone to read. Anderson here tells the story of ‘detransitioners’—those who have undergone the process of sex reassignment, and then regretted their decision and tried to change back. The chapter begins with a story from the Daily Mail in 2012,  ‘I was born a boy, became a girl, and now I want to be a boy again’: Britain’s youngest sex swap patient to reverse her sex change treatment.’

Ria Cooper made headlines last year when she became Britain’s youngest sex change patient aged 17, after years of begging her family and the NHS to turn her in to a girl. But now, having lived as a women for less than a year the 18-year has decided to change back in to a man after suffering huge mental anguish as a woman.

She has cancelled the full sex change operation that was scheduled for January and ceased the female hormone therapy that has seen her develop breasts saying that she has found the changes overwhelming and that they have made her deeply unhappy.

The stories are painful at every level, and are mostly recounted in the words of the individuals themselves. But the pain is compounded by the fact that the narratives told do not fit with the transgender ideology of the activists in the previous chapter, and so these people are often shunned by the activists themselves. But several consistent themes emerge from the stories as the people affected tell them. The first is that the unhappiness with sex identity was often rooted in other issues, often related to childhood experiences of violence and bullying.

When I was a child I started to have this fantasy of being a girl, because it meant I could be safe and not suffer from this violence due to being at the bottom of the male hierarchy. (p 63)

The second is that the unhappiness was fuelled by the negative perception of sex identity within society for the individual’s sex—particularly in the case of girls and women. And there was a deep perception of the need to conform to gender stereotypes in order to succeed in life.

The truth is that a lot of women don’t feel like they have options. There isn’t a whole lot of place in society for women who look like this, women who don’t fit, women who don’t comply. (p 53)

And many of those regretting their transition felt as though the medical profession, in adopting transgender ideology in their decisions, rather than looking carefully at deeper causes, were treating their bodies as subjects of experimentation. Anderson is careful to treat these stories in their own terms, regardless of whether the views of the individuals concerned would fit with his own confession ‘socially conservative stance’—and many of these stories are in the public domain online.


Chapter Four asks the question ‘What Makes us a Man or a Woman?’ and is shorter than you might expect—and where we might expect some theology, Anderson focusses exclusively on science. Anderson sets out, clearly and carefully, what scientific research says about chromosomal sex identity, how that is understood, the ways in which it affects human development, and the very well established sex differences between men and women. Sex differentiation begins from the moment of conception; it is expressed in both primary and secondary biological characteristics; and recognition of biological sex difference is vital in all sorts of ways for medicine, since men and women respond to pain differently, and are susceptible to different diseases and respond to treatments in different ways. Anderson is careful to note that cohort differences need to be interpreted carefully. If you gave someone a brain scan they could not tell whether it was male or female on its own—but the differences between male and female brains are well established in research. (The same is true of height, and every other variable: it is true that men are taller than women, but because height is distributed on overlapping bell curves for each cohort, you cannot tell someone’s sex by knowing their height.) Again, and most importantly for this chapter, all Anderson’s observations are support with reference to primary sources.

Anderson then turns to the whole question of sex ‘reassignment’, exploring three important issues. Does research show good mental health outcomes for those who undergo transition? On the whole, the evidence is poor, with the little research that has been done demonstrating ambiguous outcomes. Does the idea of ‘sex reassignment’ make sense medically? Not when a proper medical understanding of biological sex is taken into account. Does this idea make sense philosophically? Only if one accepts a mind/body duality which most medicine now rejects based on the evidence from research and experience.

Anderson then looks carefully at the most contested question in this whole debate: that of childhood dysphoria and desistance. He has, earlier in the book, introduced us to the research evidence that between 80 and 95% of children who experience dissonance between their biological sex and their felt gender resolve these issues over time if not pressed into transitioning—which should make us sit up and think about some of the stories that we see hitting the headlines. Anderson makes a plea for a responsible and informed approach to this difficult question, and is happy to draw on the research evidence of those who do not, in other regards, suit his agenda.

Children need our protection and guidance as they navigate the challenges of growing into adulthood. We need medical professionals who will help them mature in harmony with their bodies, rather than deploy experimental treatments to refashion their bodies. And we need a culture that cultivates a sound understanding of gender and how it is rooted in biology, a culture that respects our differences without imposing restrictive stereotypes. (p 144)


Chapter Seven steps back from the specific issue of transgender, and looks at questions of gender and culture. Anderson does an excellent job of looking at the wider debates about gender, and against them develops a case for seeing (socially constructed) gender as connected with (though not always determined in form by) biological sex.

Gender is socially shaped, but it is not a mere social construct. It originates in biology, but in turn it directs our bodily nature to higher human goods. A sound understanding of gender clarifies the important differences between the sexes, and guides our distinctly male or female qualities toward our well-being (p 149).

This seems to me to be a much more robust and persuasive position, with much wider appeal, than the idea that we are male and female for the theological reasons that the Bible tells us this is the way God made us. We actually know we are male and female because that is what science tells us—and Scripture gives a theological significance to this physical reality.

The final main chapter looks at policy question in the United States, and his conclusion notes that the public are not all persuaded by the claims of transgender activists, so this ‘transgender moment’ might pass—though it will need courage for all sorts of people in public life to make a stand for the truth and the evidence that we have.

If you want a comprehensive, readable, evidence-based case for questioning the assumptions of this transgender moment, then Anderson’s book is for you. I think it must be essential reading for anyone engaging in the sexuality debate, in the Church of England and elsewhere.


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143 thoughts on “Responding to Transgender Ideology—and censorship”

  1. Another case I think, for the argument that Amazon, Google, Facebook and other big Tech companies need to be broken up. They are undemocratic and have too much power.

    Nothing so illiberal as a threatened liberal.

    Reply
  2. Money dictating the agenda is thought policing. 21st century book burning.

    Interesting that a search on Amazon brings up the countering book (Let Harry become Sally) which isn’t available but one can be notified if that changes….

    The few reviews of the latter almost entirely pan it…

    Reply
  3. If ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are defined by self-proclamation (based perhaps on feelings), not by physiology and genes, what definition is in use by someone with XY genotype and a penis and testes from birth who claims to be a woman? To say “A woman is anybody who claims to be a woman” still doesn’t answer what such a person thinks she is, still doesn’t answer what a woman is.

    Reply
    • Define woman in terms purely of physical characteristics in a way that includes everyone who has female or girl written on their birth certificate and excludes all those who have male or boy written on their birth certificate.

      Reply
      • Define woman in terms purely of physical characteristics in a way that includes everyone who has female or girl written on their birth certificate and excludes all those who have male or boy written on their birth certificate.

        Why would we need to do that? Some people’s birth certificates are, due to disorders of sexual development that weren’t spotted in time, wrong.

        Reply
      • Please don’t think that I am disagreeing with traditional definitions! I am making a point of basic logic or rhetoric that a lot of trans people don’t seem to have grasped. It is a question that one can ask them in good faith, moreover.

        Reply
        • Anton, there are multiple factors that go into gender identity. These include (but I may have missed others out):
          Chromosomes (eg XY or XX. But also XXY, XXX etc).
          Endocrine system
          Physical appearance of body
          Sense of identity (calling it ‘feelings’ suggests something more ephemeral and subject to change, when in fact it is at least partly genetic).
          Some might add to this brain structure (though that’s more open to debate).
          Sometimes all of these line up together. But not always. So the question is, when they don’t get to line up together, who gets to decide the gender identity?
          In other words, your question fails to take into account the complexity of gender.

          Reply
          • So the question is, when they don’t get to line up together, who gets to decide the gender identity?

            No, the question is, ‘then given that gender identity is such an ill-defined concept, why should anyone other than the individual concerned about something as fuzzy and subjective as gender identity at all; shouldn’t everything else (especially things like philosophy, medicine and the law) be based on something properly ontologically objective like sex?’

          • Why should we accept the integrity of the concept ‘gender identity’? You seem to be trying to force us to accept it on the flimsy grounds that it is in common usage.

            People can feel disaffected or estranged not for any intrinsic reason but because their society or family has taken the action of providing them with a damaged family structure and every action provokes a reaction.

            ‘Gender identity’ lumps together honest claimed identity, mendacious claimed identity (and there is no way of checking which is which because this ‘reality’ leaves no traces or signs that it is actually there – a doctor would not find ‘it’ upon examination, so its level of reality is not at all a high level), actual physical alterations, chromosomal reality – all of which are completely different. We should listen to people who distinguish these as 4 separate phenomena, since those people are tolerably clear thinkers. Whereas those who try to lump or fudge the four together are playing the same game as the politicians who try to smuggle completely unrelated things through under the heading of an umbrella bill.

          • Like Penny, you seem to be bringing in intersex issues. These are very rare. This concept of ‘gender’ (other than its use in grammar) is a very recent one and it seems that even its proponents do not agree. Exactly how many genders do you think there are? How are they objectively defined? For they surely must require some definition outside of the feelings of individuals.

            Sex (the attribute) is reasonably clear. It is the role the body could play in reproduction (sexual reproduction, and for us humans better described as procreation). A body equipped with ovaries (and a uterus for uterine mammals) is female, and one with testes is male.

            If you have fathered a child, you are a man. If you have given birth to a child, you are a woman. If you have done neither (and no-one has done both) then it is understood that a man is one whose body seems directed towards being a father, and a woman is one whose body is directed towards being a mother. This directedness cannot be changed by surgery or hormone treatment. The changes produced by these mechanisms are, basically, superficial.

            The whole trans agenda seems to be seeking to change this physically rooted objective definition with a very subjective one. At best, it is seeking to define ‘man’ and ‘woman’ with characteristics which are only secondary sexual characteristics, rather than primary.

          • I am asking a question. It it not a premised question. Therefore it makes no sense to say that the question fails to take something into account.

            To repesat: If somebody with genotype XY and a penis and testes from birth says “I am a woman”, what definition of woman are they using?

            Nor is this a hypothetical question today.

          • Chaps

            My question was not about people with VSCs nor about gender. It asks about sex – the categories men and women.
            Look at it again. No one has attempted an an answer.

          • S
            Not silly. Define woman. In terms of physical characteristics. Christopher has tried. But not succeeded.

      • Penny, please don’t muddy the waters with the intersex issue, which is significantly different.

        I note that Anton has been careful to describe someone in whom the main markers of sex [q.v.] – chromosomes, gamtes and external genitalia, are not in conflict.

        Is there any data on the proportion of those who undergo a gender transition having a condition which might be classed as intersex?

        Reply
      • It would be impossible (which I think is your point?).

        Some women have ovaries, some don’t (whether removed or never developed).
        Some women have breasts, but so do some men. And some women don’t.
        Some women have XX chromosomes, some don’t (but most don’t realize this unless they get tested usually as a result of fertility issues).

        There are plenty more examples but I think I’ve illustrated some of the issues with sex classification that you are raising.

        Reply
        • Some women have XX chromosomes, some don’t (but most don’t realize this unless they get tested usually as a result of fertility issues).

          No, all women have XX chromosomes (actually technically, all women lack a Y chromosome).

          Some men, with a disorder such as androgen insensitivity syndrome, can be mistaken for women (even on their birth certificate) because their bodies don’t develop properly and their external genitals look female. But they are men, not women (as well as the Y chromosome, they don’t have wombs or ovaries, and do have testes).

          So it is not true that ‘ Some women have XX chromosomes, some don’t’.

          Reply
          • The survivable variations in chromosomal composition are as follows:
            X (single chromosome generally regarded as female)
            XX
            XY
            XXY
            XYY
            XXX
            XXXY
            XXXX
            XXYY
            XXXXX
            XXXXY

            Some of these variations provide obvious external cues but not all. This also doesn’t account for chimerism which may mean some body cells are one chromosomal makeup whereas others are a different one. Now, sure these are not the most common, but they do demonstrate both female and male persons exist with something other than the XX or XY pattern. And that illustrates Penelope’s point.

            Note that I am not denying the existence of biological sexes altogether. But it is a lot more complex than any shallow definition like testes vs ovaries can account for.

          • Now, sure these are not the most common, but they do demonstrate both female and male persons exist with something other than the XX or XY pattern.

            Yes; so? Nobody’s ever claimed the opposite. All that’s been claimed is that people are either male or female, and that is true: either they have at least one Y chromosome, in which case they are male (but due to disorders of development may appeal externally female) or they don’t have any Y chromosomes, in which case they are female.

            It’s more complicated than just XX-or-XY, but it is still essentially binary, not a spectrum.

          • There is only one gene on the Y chromosome which really matters to sex. It is the SRY gene. During human embryonic development the SRY protein turns on male associated genes. Having an SRY gene makes you ‘genetically male’, but is this ‘biological sex’?
            Sometimes the SRY gene pops off the Y chromosome and over to the X chromosome.
            So now you have an X with an SRY and a Y without an SRY. What does this mean?
            A Y with no SRY means physically you’re female, chromosomally you’re male and genetically you’re female. An X with an SRY means you’re physically male, chromosomally female, and genetically male.
            Sex related genes turn on hormones in specific areas on the body and reception of these hormones in cells throughout the body. Is this the root of biological sex?
            Hormonally male means you produce the ‘normal’ level of male associated hormones, except some females will have higher levels of ‘male’ hormones and vice versa.
            If you are developing your body may not produce enough hormones for your genetic sex. Leading you to be genetically male or female, chromosomally male or female, hormonally non binary, and physically non binary.
            You may be genetically male or female, chromosomally male or female, hormonally female/male/non binary, with cells that may not hear the female/male/non binary call. All this leading to a body that may be female/non binary/male.
            Biological sex is complicated. Have you seen your chromosomes, your genes, your hormones, the state of your cells?

            H/T Rebecca Helm.

          • @S
            You are changing your argument. My response was to:
            “No, all women have XX chromosomes (actually technically, all women lack a Y chromosome).”
            and
            “So it is not true that ‘ Some women have XX chromosomes, some don’t’.”
            If you define maleness strictly by the presence of the Y chromosome, then some women have X, XXX, or XXXX. As well, some men have the XX combo, such as the XXY, XXXY, XXYY, or XXXXY examples. All of which is consistent with my statement that there are women who do not have XX.

            And, I will add, there isn’t a consistent agreement in the medical and scientific fields in regard to some of the extra chromosome cases’ gender status. That is, for example, is someone whose body is industinguishable from any other female-coded body but for the presence of vestigial testes instead of ovaries and who understands themself to be female, actually male?

            As I think Penelope would agree, any good argument needs to account for the exceptions and the ontological definition for gender is problematic for that reason.

          • You are changing your argument. My response was to:
            “No, all women have XX chromosomes (actually technically, all women lack a Y chromosome).”
            and
            “So it is not true that ‘ Some women have XX chromosomes, some don’t’.”
            If you define maleness strictly by the presence of the Y chromosome, then some women have X, XXX, or XXXX. As well, some men have the XX combo, such as the XXY, XXXY, XXYY, or XXXXY examples. All of which is consistent with my statement that there are women who do not have XX.

            I don’t see how any of that is inconsistent with ‘actually technically, all women lack a Y chromosome’. So no, I’m not changing my stance.

            And, I will add, there isn’t a consistent agreement in the medical and scientific fields in regard to some of the extra chromosome cases’ gender status. That is, for example, is someone whose body is industinguishable from any other female-coded body but for the presence of vestigial testes instead of ovaries and who understands themself to be female, actually male?

            Yes. They don’t have ovaries or a womb; they have testes; they are male.

            As I think Penelope would agree, any good argument needs to account for the exceptions and the ontological definition for gender is problematic for that reason.

            The important point of accounting for the exceptions, though, is understanding that they are exceptions: they are instances when something has gone wrong with the proper natural processes. There’s an extra chromosome that wasn’t meant to be there, or a missing one that was; or hormones are not released or responded to properly.

            An ontology which centres the exceptional and treated abnormalities as if they were normal, or disorders as if they were properly ordered, is bound to fail.

        • Yes. We don’t, on the whole, know what other people’s genitals look like, let alone their internal organs, chromosomes, genes and hormones.

          Reply
          • We don’t, on the whole, know what other people’s genitals look like, let alone their internal organs, chromosomes, genes and hormones.

            This is true but has no relevance.

          • The relevance, S, is that you have no idea which people of your acquaintance are male and which female, cf my comment above: you can be physically female, chromosomally male, and genetically female.
            Just remember ‘male and female created he them’ is a merism, not a binary.

          • The relevance, S, is that you have no idea which people of your acquaintance are male and which female, cf my comment above:

            So? You seem to be confusing epistemology and ontology here.

            you can be physically female, chromosomally male, and genetically female.

            I think you need to be more specific here about what you mean by ‘physically female’. Someone with androgen insensitivity syndrome, for example, is apparently externally female due to their genitalia not developing properly, but they are physically male (they don’t have a womb or ovaries, they have testes).

            Just remember ‘male and female created he them’ is a merism, not a binary.

            It’s both, in fact.

          • S
            As in my comment above if a person with a Y chromosome does not have an SRY gene, then they are physically and genetically female and chromosomally male.

          • As in my comment above if a person with a Y chromosome does not have an SRY gene, then they are physically and genetically female and chromosomally male.

            Ah yes, I see there is such a disorder of sexual development; I assume you’re referring to what is called Swyer syndrome?

    • What definition of woman are they using? Presumably an “inclusive” definition, i.e. one which includes each of the following categories:

      (1) an actual woman
      (2) a man who wishes that he were a woman
      (3) a man who has the delusion that he is “really” a woman
      (4) a man who for some reason or other is masquerading as a woman

      Reply
  4. As we’ve seen before with Lady Chatterly’s Lover and Spycatcher, Amazon’s attempt to erase this book by removing it from its website will only draw attention to it (I don’t recall having heard of it before this week) and multiply its sales exponentially. When Big Brother starts banning books, because he doesn’t think you should read what they say, it is all but guaranteed to backfire.

    With each passing week, life in the progressive West feels more and more like it must have been like to live in 1960s East Germany.

    Reply
  5. For more than a decade I have been observing that liberal ideologues seem incapable of debate. Or else they are too high and mighty to condescend to debate like the rest of us do. Maybe they prefer a walkover. Wouldn’t we all.

    Secondly I have observed that anyone who never enters the debate in the first place does/ranks worse than the one who enters and loses the debate.

    Thirdly, it is not clear in the present case what actually needs debating. This emperor has no clothes situation is precisely why they are running shy of their house of cards being exposed.

    Fourthly, of all the things to ban (and few things are banned – but think of all the prior candidates for banning there would be) a book that follows evidence and commonsense and is written by an intelligent person would seem to be low on the list, not at the top!

    There is clearly something fishy going on. Liberal ideologues, we are far from being too dumb to spot what your game is.

    Reply
  6. You mention that “the differences between male and female brains are well established in research” but I have yet to run into anything other than pseudo scientific claims from the same folks who brought us the ridiculous “men must eat meat and be promiscuous because evolution”. I have not found any studies demonstrating a clear cut difference in brains based on biological sex and that account for cultural(nurture) factors in brain development. If you are familiar with any could you suggest links/resources?

    Also, it seems odd to describe a private company not wanting to carry a particular product as censorship or book burning or “Big Brother”. That’s just the free market economy. It isn’t infringing on anybody’s rights because nobody has the right to make a store sell their product. Amazon isn’t part of some liberal conspiracy; they are just doing what makes them money.

    Reply
    • See the links cited in the other article here from Andrew Wilson on male-female complementarity. Differences in the Big Five psychological traits are very well established and are cross cultural. Just search for ‘Big Five differences men and women’ and you will find plenty of primary research evidence.

      Reply
      • Thanks for your reply, Ian. I searched and found Andrew’s article (titled Beautiful Difference) which makes numerous statements of differences based on male/female sex. Most are not related to brain structure but are statements about behavioural stereotypes- some of which are quite absurd (claiming that toddlers are not affected by gender stereotyping?). The link claiming gendered differences increase in more equal societies just goes to a Psychology Today opinion piece which is talking about another opinion piece with no actual studies referenced. In all of the links I clicked on in his article I’m still not seeing any actual neuroscientific or even published peer approved psychological studies to validate claims that human brains are qualitatively different based on biological sex (when nurture is accounted for).

        Regarding the Big 5 there do appear to be “subtle gender differences” in a couple personality traits (and the word subtle was in several of the source articles). However the Big 5 studies make explicit note of the fact that they are not determining the cause of these differences- and, in fact, clarify that the cause is under much debate (nature vs nurture or in other words biology vs socialisation being the primary disagreement). Given that it is unclear whether psychological differences are a result of social pressures or are innate, and an apparent lack of neurobiological evidence for innate structural differences, it seems premature to say that differences in male and female brains are well established.

        You might be wondering why I focus on this aspect on your article about a transgender book; I think that it is relevant because of the question it poses regarding gender identity. That is, if male and female brains are so distinct, are the brains of people who identify as transgender also different from their presumed biological sex? Or if male and female brains are basically the same (barring socialisation) did nurture have an effect on a person’s sense of gender? And if there are physiological differences that can be linked to gender identity, is this part of God’s original design (along a continuum of maleandfemale) or is this a design malfunction? If a design malfunction, which part is wrong? The brain or the body? Then is changing the body to match the brain an appropriate and God honouring course? I’m certainly not claiming to have answers! But I do think the questions are worth raising in any Christian discussion of transgender issues.

        Reply
    • Also, it seems odd to describe a private company not wanting to carry a particular product as censorship or book burning or “Big Brother”. That’s just the free market economy.

      If it’s a private company, then that’s right. If it’s all private companies (and apparently W.H. Smith has followed suit?) then that’s what we call acting as a cartel and there are laws against it.

      It isn’t infringing on anybody’s rights because nobody has the right to make a store sell their product. Amazon isn’t part of some liberal conspiracy; they are just doing what makes them money.

      It’s hard to see how not selling a book can make a bookshop money, but perhaps you could explain?

      Reply
      • There are a number of ways in which not selling books can make a bookshop money. For example:
        1. There are legal claims over the book. The bookshop may become entangled in legal disputes which will need the involvement of lawyers. Irrespective of the outcome, the bookshop decides not to get involved.
        2. Some people think the book is so bad that the bookseller shouldn’t stock it. If the bookseller does, they lose sales from these other potential customers.
        3. Some people think the book is bad. If the bookseller doesn’t stock it, they improve their reputation amongst these people who become new customers.

        These are off the top of my head. Other potential reasons could be multiplied. All part of normal capitalist behaviour.

        The critique I would agree with in all this (and it has nothing to do with this book in particular) is that any market dominated by one supplier is skewed. Amazon takes (apparently – haven’t double-checked these figures) about 50% of print sales and nearly 90% of online sales. Normally, any share of a market over 25% would be considered a monopoly.

        Reply
        • There are a number of ways in which not selling books can make a bookshop money. For example:
          1. There are legal claims over the book. The bookshop may become entangled in legal disputes which will need the involvement of lawyers. Irrespective of the outcome, the bookshop decides not to get involved.
          2. Some people think the book is so bad that the bookseller shouldn’t stock it. If the bookseller does, they lose sales from these other potential customers.
          3. Some people think the book is bad. If the bookseller doesn’t stock it, they improve their reputation amongst these people who become new customers.

          Those are indeed reasons. None of which apply in this case. (If there were legal issues about the book they would have to go to the publisher / author first, and the publisher hasn’t mentioned any; and Amazon is so big and so monopolistic it neither needs new customers, nor would notice a boycott by a tiny number of obsessives; see how it doesn’t change any other of its practices over boycott threats, for example, the constant bubbling threats to boycott it over working conditions at its distribution centres).

          Are there any reasons you might be able to think of which do apply in this case?

          Reply
          • 4. Amazon think that “liberal” governments will regulate them less, or tax them less, if they refuse to stock a “conservative” book. If that’s what Amazon think, they may well be correct – Jeff Bezos is intelligent.

    • “That’s just the free market economy. It isn’t infringing on anybody’s rights because nobody has the right to make a store sell their product.”

      So is it OK to open, say, a bakery but refuse to ice wording on cakes that you don’t agree with?

      I’m not arguing” it’s a conspiracy “as that implies co-ordination. It’s not necessarily organised but reflects the power of wealthy organisations and individuals to manipulate the agenda, to present what they believe as acceptable or the public voice.

      Reply
      • “So is it OK to open, say, a bakery but refuse to ice wording on cakes that you don’t agree with?”

        More like opening a bakery but refusing to make/stock any cakes with nut products to appeal to the nut allergy crowd. And yes, it would be “OK” in the sense that it isn’t violating anyone’s rights. And it would still be okay, in the sense of not-violating-rights, even if you were the only bakery in town and JoeBob really wanted a peanut almond pecan cake for his birthday.

        If you really think powerful wealthy unnamed people/organisations are forcing or manipulating an agenda, how does that differ from conspiracy thinking? Manipulating an agenda is an organized effort. People- even wealthy ones- who happen to agree with whatever view and who are “talking with their money” just like we all do are not de facto promoting an agenda; They are just buying and supporting businesses that match their values.

        Honestly I see the term “agenda” thrown around so much in western Christian (usually evangelical) circles and it makes me facepalm every time. It’s the gay agenda, the feminist agenda, etc. I don’t know why people disagreeing with your* worldview always means there must be an agenda.
        *your in the generic sense. Not saying it’s all specifically on you, Ian.

        Reply
        • Agendas are everywhere. Your worldview or ideology is the one thing above all teh millions of other things that you want to emphasise.

          Are you saying that this one thing above all others is something that you do not even slightly want to proselytise about or to universalise.

          That means that out of all the millions of things in the world you are enthusiastic about none of them.

          Doesn’t sound at all likely to me.

          Reply
  7. Maybe Amazon and others are removing the book for legal reasons. I note that other books about transgender from a more conservative standpoint (eg by Vaughan Roberts) are still available and advertised on Amazon.
    And perhaps it is because some of the detransitioners objected to being included, having not been consulted beforehand, and believed their stories to be misrepresented (see https://thinkprogress.org/detransitioner-ryan-anderson-transgender-25fad9803c2e/). To me a legal challenge from someone named in the book seems the most likely cause, rather than Amazon deciding to censor one book out of many on the topic and leaving the rest unchanged.
    And the usual reminder that detransitioning is a small minority (less than 2%, and more recent studies suggest under 1%. See also this survey of surgeons https://dx.doi.org/10.1097%2F01.GOX.0000547077.23299.00) – you can compare that to around 14% (1 in 7) across a range of surgery (see https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28243695/). Focus on detransitioning is always a red herring.

    Reply
    • If there has been a legal challenge, why haven’t Amazon simply said so?

      Trying to sideline the issue of detransitioning seems to me to be avoiding something very important in the debate. And with the numbers of young people being pushed into transitioning prematurely, this issue is sure to grow in importance.

      Reply
      • If there has been a legal challenge, why haven’t Amazon simply said so?

        More to the point, a legal challenge would have to be made to the author or the publisher, not a bookshop. You can’t sue a bookshop for simply selling a book which is not (for example) defamatory, and if you think a book is defamatory you have to sue the publisher or author, not the bookshop (and if you succeed in that all bookshops would have to stop selling it, not just Amazon and W.H. Smith).

        Reply
      • Do you have any evidence that young people are being pushed into transitioning prematurely? The evidence I have seen (eg excessively long waiting times) suggests the opposite.

        Reply
        • According to what I have read gender confusion in children in the majority of cases resolves itself without transitioning. Therefore, it seems to me that any programme of offering transitioning which acts on the body, for instance, by the use of puberty blockers, is doing something premature.

          Reply
          • Gender ‘confusion’ or being gender non conforming often does. Being trans doesn’t.

            And how do you tell whether someone who presents saying ‘I am not actually the sex of my biological body’ is confused, non-conforming, or ‘trans’?

            You can’t just say, ‘if it resolves itself then they weren’t trans’: that’s a circular definition, and also hardly useful for the practitioner who has to make a diagnosis in order to ensure correct treatment.

            So how does one tell the difference? Are there physical symptoms to look out for? Are there tests that can be done? How?

        • Funny. I was about to order a book that argued against the evidence you’ve seen Jonathan, but it seems it’s no longer available in the shop for some reason. Ah well…

          Reply
        • For more evidence (rather than anecdote) a study published in 2020 looked at the use of puberty blockers as part of treatment for adolescents with gender dysphoria (this approach sometimes called the Dutch model). Despite a sharp increase in referrals over this period, the demographic and psychological characteristics remained pretty much constant. Recent referrals were diagnosed at the same rate as back in 2000, and started just as often with medical treatment. The average age at intake also didn’t change. There were no changes in IQ, parental marital status or educational level. The only shift was in the sex ratio of those applying. One of the study’s conclusions is that ‘we suggest that GD might be more common than previously thought and the exponential increase in referrals is just a reflection thereof. The increased publicity and visibility may have helped more young people and their parents to recognize and come out for their transgender feelings, and they seem more likely to dare to seek assessment and treatment.’ (p810).
          Arnoldussen et al (2020) Re-evaluation of the Dutch approach: are recently referred transgender youth different compared to earlier referrals?.
          Available from https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-019-01394-6

          Reply
          • Thank you for the direct question. No, I am not in favour of banning any book that can legally be published, even ones that I strongly suspect (to be fair, I am going off the reports of others) are full of pseudo-science.

            But I am not convinced this book has been banned. Amazon are too big to care about one book amongst many controversial ones. I still think the simplest explanation is that Amazon received a letter informing them there were legal difficulties with the book, and so delisted it.

            Usual caveats – I am not a lawyer, and I am not accusing the book of containing legally problematic material, only that it seems to me that someone may have accused the book of this.

            Potential legal issues could be accusations of:
            libel
            invasion of privacy
            copyright issues.

          • I still think the simplest explanation is that Amazon received a letter informing them there were legal difficulties with the book, and so delisted it.

            But there aren’t any legal difficulties with the book, are there? If there were the publishers would know, as they would be directly involved with the legal case.

            So what you’re positing is that anyone can get any book they like pulled form Amazon by sending a letter claiming, entirely spuriously, that there are ‘legal difficulties’ with it, and that Amazon will immediately remove that book from sale without checking whether you’re telling the truth or not.

            Do you really think that sounds plausible? If it was really that easy to get Amazon to de-list a book, do you not think that books on all sides of controversial issues would be constantly popping in and out of existence on Amazon?

            Your ‘simplest explanation’ simply doesn’t hold up to a quarter of a second’s thought.

      • Why is the issue of detransitioning important? It is not possible to medically transition in the UK until you are an adult, so it’s not about ‘protecting’ children.

        Are you saying that, because a small minority (less than 2%, possibly less than 1%) of people regret surgery, that it should determine possibilities for the others? And would a similar logic apply to all surgeries?

        Should all plastic surgery be banned because of the regret rates?

        Breast reconstruction – 12% dissatisfaction
        Breast reduction – 5% dissatisfaction
        Breast augmentation – 10% dissatisfaction
        Jaw surgery – 8% dissatisfaction

        Gender reassignment surgery is one of the most successful forms of surgery in terms of whether or not people regret their decision. So why should detransitioning be an important part of this debate?

        Reply
        • It is not possible to medically transition in the UK until you are an adult, so it’s not about ‘protecting’ children.

          It is possible to be prescribed puberty blockers for gender dysphoria as a child, and that intervention for that reason was proved in court to be the start of a conveyor belt of treatment that inevitably ended in medical transition. So your claim here is simply wrong: it is possible in the UK to get on a care pathway, the inevitable destination of which is medical transition, as a child.

          Should all plastic surgery be banned because of the regret rates?

          If plastic surgery resulted, 100% of the time, in sterility, then I think there would be a strong case for that, yes. As it is, ‘possibly being dissatisfied with how your nose job came out’ is an entire different kettle of fish to ‘definitely losing the ability to ever bear children’.

          Reply
          • What you said about puberty blockers was almost exactly what I was going to say, but you’ve said it much better. I’d add that it is also possible in the UK for children over 16 to be prescribed cross-sex hormones, the effects of which, if they are taken for any significant period of time, are irreversible. The following is a verbatim quote from a BBC “Today” podcast a few years ago, in which the presenter John Humphrys gave the following information:

            “The NHS agrees that the effects of puberty blocking drugs are fully reversible. [That unproven claim has latterly disappeared from the NHS website, however. – WF] But – and this is a big but – the next stage in the transgender journey means taking different drugs – testosterone or oestrogen – designed to change the body. How many children actually do it? Well, we asked the Tavistock for their figures, and they told us that, of the over-16s who have been given puberty blockers, 97% went on to receive what are called cross-sex hormones.”
            (“Today at 60: Gender Identity” – BBC Radio 4, 18 October 2017)

          • The dissatisfaction rates for knee replacement are much higher!

            Which is why nobody is offered a knee replacement unless their old knee is pretty far gone. Certainly nobody would consider if ethical to replace a perfectly functional knee.

            How then can it be ethical to do surgery on a perfectly functional female body to turn in into a non-functional facsimile of a male body?

          • @S
            “How then can it be ethical to do surgery on a perfectly functional female body to turn in into a non-functional facsimile of a male body?”

            Given that this basically describes a good portion of plastic surgeries performed on women* to make them better match up to a sexist male fantasy ideal (which I have seen exactly 0 male theologians arguing against), this argument doesn’t hold up too well.

            *Aesthetic plastic surgery frequently makes body parts less functional. Nerve damage, loss of sensation, risk of cancer & implant leakage side effects, etc. And it has very few safeguards regarding the mental health effects of drastically altering bodies, unlike gender transition surgeries which frequently have multiple levels of permissions, counselling, etc, to go through before approval.

          • Given that this basically describes a good portion of plastic surgeries performed on women* to make them better match up to a sexist male fantasy ideal (which I have seen exactly 0 male theologians arguing against), this argument doesn’t hold up too well.

            Which you may well be right that aesthetic plastic surgery should be regulated more tightly, and more discouraged, than it is, there is a huge difference in degree of damage between possible loss of nerve function or slightly increased cancer risk, and the absolute certainty (indeed, intended consequence) of complete loss of reproductive function.

            So actually the argument does hold up.

          • What is a perfectly functional female body?

            One that can perform the essential defining function of a female body, it, bear children. Similarly a perfectly functional male body is one that can perform the essential defining function of a male body, ie, father children.

          • So actually the argument does hold up.

            Consider it this way: there exist people who experience body dysmorphia because they think they ought to be amputees, even though they have four perfectly working limbs.

            Would it be ethical for a surgeon to remove a limb from such a person to make their physical body more closely resemble their mental image of themselves?

          • S

            That is utter nonsense. A female body which does not produce live offspring is not dysfunctional. Likewise, a male body which does not produce viable and mobile sperm is not dysfunctional.

          • That is utter nonsense. A female body which does not produce live offspring is not dysfunctional. Likewise, a male body which does not produce viable and mobile sperm is not dysfunctional.

            Of course they are dysfunctional. Their body does not work the way it is supposed to. It doesn’t function properly. Hence, ‘dysfunctional’.

            All our bodies are dysfunctional in some way. Some of us have asthma. Some of us are blind or deaf or have immune systems that attack our own cells or nervous systems that flare up in phantom pain. Your body is dysfunctional. My body is dysfunctional. That’s part of what it means to be composed of the matter of a fallen world. Our resurrection bodies will be fully functional, but until then, each of us is dysfunctional, and for some that dysfunction takes the form of their bodies not being able to fulfil their proper role in sexual reproduction.

          • S

            I think your idea that the telos of the human body is having large or small gametes which produce offspring owes more to the instrumental Darwinism of Richard Dawkins than it does to classic Christian theological anthropology.
            It certainly owes nothing to the God of the Hebrew Bible and the NT.

          • I think your idea that the telos of the human body is having large or small gametes which produce offspring owes more to the instrumental Darwinism of Richard Dawkins than it does to classic Christian theological anthropology.

            If you think that you are wrong.

            It certainly owes nothing to the God of the Hebrew Bible and the NT.

            You missed the start of the book of Genesis then.

          • S
            Be fruitful and multiply is a command to reproduce, though whether everyone is intended to be fertile is not stated.
            In Genesis 2 there is no mention of procreation which does not occur until after the Fall.
            In the NT, of course, procreation has ceased to be the good (it might still be a good). The Jesus of the gospels valourises eunuchs, the barren and children; blood ties are to be ‘hated’.
            Paul recommends marriage as a remedy against lust, but, given the shortness of the time, celibacy is to be preferred. He never mentions procreation as a good.
            Even if reproduction was once an unalloyed good, that has been relativised in the new eschatological age. Religious men and women and celibate clergy are no less human because they do not have ‘biological’ offspring.

          • Be fruitful and multiply is a command to reproduce, though whether everyone is intended to be fertile is not stated.

            Neither is whether everyone is intended to have two arms and two legs, or whether everyone is intended to have a working immune system, or functional eyes or lungs. That these things are not stated doesn’t mean they’re not true, it just means there’s limited room on a scroll.

            In the NT, of course, procreation has ceased to be the good (it might still be a good).

            It is still a good.

            Paul recommends marriage as a remedy against lust, but, given the shortness of the time, celibacy is to be preferred. He never mentions procreation as a good.

            Why would he need to? Everyone around him already knew it was. And there’s even less room in a letter than on a scroll. Why waste space restating things everyone already knows?

            Even if reproduction was once an unalloyed good, that has been relativised in the new eschatological age.

            No it hasn’t. Reproduction is still an unalloyed good.

            Religious men and women and celibate clergy are no less human because they do not have ‘biological’ offspring.

            Nobody said they were. Procreation is a good; it is not the only good available to humans. Indeed there are more good ends available to us than could be achieved in one lifetime, so we all must choose to pursue some goods and not others. No one would say that those who pursue one good rather than another, provided the choice is made for the right, and not selfish, reasons, is ‘less human’ thereby.

          • I think the more important issue, rather than perfectly functional man, or perfectly functional woman, is whether for some people transitioning makes them more functional human beings, more psychologically at ease with themselves, and more able to lead productive lives.

            To boil everything down to ‘making babies’, as if that’s the only thing a woman does, risks missing the point.

            You can be a functioning woman and yet not bear, or not be able to bear, children.

            The testimony of many trans people is that they are much more functional *after* transition. That surely is desirable.

            Functionality is about far more than sex and genitals, and involves the brain, the psychology, the openness to love, the skills and abilities a woman may have, and that broader test of functionality is what persuades many people of goodwill that transitioning is a helpful process for some individuals.

            Many people today have the magnanimity and kindness to recognise that, and afford people the respect of treating them supportively, as who they understand themselves to be, not who ‘the gender police’ tell them they must be.

            Nobody has to agree with the concept of transition (although many do). It would be good though, if Christians could work really hard at ways they can welcome, support, and respect trans people who come to church, affording them time and space, and the opportunity to serve, to offer gifts, and to belong.

          • I think the more important issue, rather than perfectly functional man, or perfectly functional woman, is whether for some people transitioning makes them more functional human beings, more psychologically at ease with themselves, and more able to lead productive lives.

            No, the important thing is to get to the truth. All else flows from that. Some people may not be psychologically at ease with the truth, in many areas of life — some people may, for example, not be psychologically ready to discover their spouse is having an affair. Nevertheless, the truth is what’s important, not psychology.

            To boil everything down to ‘making babies’, as if that’s the only thing a woman does, risks missing the point.

            It is not the only thing a women does but it is the distinctive thing a woman does, the one which makes a woman a woman. Anything else a women does can also be done by a man; but having a baby cannot be done by a man, and only women can have babies.

            You can be a functioning woman and yet not bear, or not be able to bear, children.

            You can be a functioning woman and not bear children. But you can’t be a functioning woman qua woman and not be able to bear children, just like you can’t be a functioning man qua man and not be able to father children. You might be able to function in lots of other ways, like you might be a functional teacher, or scientist, or athlete, but you won’t be able to fulfil the distinctive end of your sex.

            The testimony of many trans people is that they are much more functional *after* transition. That surely is desirable.

            Only if it accords with the truth. Truth is foremost. Everything else — including functioning — is secondary.

            Many people today have the magnanimity and kindness to recognise that, and afford people the respect of treating them supportively, as who they understand themselves to be, not who ‘the gender police’ tell them they must be.

            I think the best way to respect someone is to tell them (or help them find) the truth and not mollycoddle them. Certainly I would always want people to tell me the truth, however uncomfortable I may find it, even if knowing the truth destroys me. If people were to keep the truth from me because they thought the truth might harm me and they were being ‘supportive’, I would certainly not find that very respectful.

          • S
            Everyone around Jesus knew that procreation was a good which is why his anti family, pro barreness teachings were so shocking. So shocking that the church still largely ignores them.
            Paul, given the shortness of time thought marriage was a distraction, let alone the production of offspring.
            Christians will continue to have children because creating a family is a desirable end – for many people (and they are taught that it is a good). It is as selfish/unselfish as the decision not to have children.

      • There is absolutely no evidence that ‘numbers’ of young people are being ‘pushed’ into transitioning ‘prematurely’.
        The numbers of young people on puberty blockers or cross sex hormones is nugatory. The waiting lists for GIDS are years.
        This is simply a transphobic dog whistle.

        Reply
        • There is absolutely no evidence that ‘numbers’ of young people are being ‘pushed’ into transitioning ‘prematurely’.

          I wouldn’t say ‘pushed’. What’s happening is that they are not being stopped by adults who should be protecting them from themselves.

          Reply
          • Precisely. In other words, they are being encouraged by adults in the delusional beliefs that their biological sex is the “wrong” one; that it is possible to “transition” from one sex to the other; and that this can be achieved through cross-sex hormones, which irreversibly distort their physical development, and through mutilating surgery.

          • No children in the UK are having mutilating surgery.

            Some are, however, being put on a care pathway which starts with them being given drugs intended to interfere with their body’s natural development and almost inevitably ends up with them having mutilating surgery.

            Or at least they were before the Bell ruling.

          • Penelope:

            No-one under 18, no. But some are being put on puberty blockers, which turns out in all but a few cases to be a pathway to cross-gender hormones, which distort their physical development, from the age of 16, and they are being encouraged to believe that it is possible to “transition” from one sex to the other through mutilating surgery.

          • Very, very few children are prescribed puberty blockers and cross sex hormones. In order to ‘enter’ this pathway, they may have to wait several years. Those who have waited years for a medical intervention which assauges their suffering are likely to want surgery when they reach their majority. Desistance and de-transitioning is extremely rare, and often because society is still so hostile to trans people. Seeking to withdraw medical interventions for others, because you regret your decisions is cruel to say the least.

          • Penelope:

            Puberty at a normal age is not a disease or a disorder, so there is no justification for blocking it. Nor is there any justification for giving children cross-sex hormones, which distort their physical development – irreversibly if taken for any appreciable length of time. That is why NO children should be prescribed puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones.

          • William,

            Puberty is not itself a disorder or disease, but for a trans person it can cause huge psychological distress and harm. It in some ways irreversibly embeds physical gender features that accentuate the suffering and incongruence experienced by a trans person. To take a trans woman, she then has to cope with chest hair, facial hair that can only later be removed by maybe 100 hours of electrolysis, a broken voice that then gives away her gender past in later life (and alerts idiots to that fact, for example on the street). And above all, of course, it accentuates the conflicting genitalia, and the accompanying testosterone rush.

            If I could time-travel back in time, I (with my now adult judgment and experience) would have opted for puberty blockers again and again and again.

            Today I function better, I am happier, I am more productive as a human being (I re-trained as a nurse and simply flourished) BECAUSE I transitioned. But things would have been much easier if I hadn’t been impacted by puberty.

            I agree that there are very careful issues involved with young people, and that’s why, as Penelope has pointed out, the process of assessment takes place normally over many years. And no, the puberty blocker route may not be right for every person. It’s not easy. But where the evidence is strong, I very much believe that puberty blockers are hugely benevolent for teens in some cases. It should at least be a legal option.

            Having worked as a school nurse with 1200 teenage students, I know first hand the gender exploration that goes on. Young people should be given time, space, and respect. Exploration is fine. In reality it probably leads to only 1 or 2 students out of 1200 actually going on to transition fully, and even fewer who go ahead with puberty blockers.

            I concede that it is a really tricky area to navigate. It is essential that no student is ‘pushed’ or ‘encouraged’. Mature teaching staff know that they must simply afford students the dignity to explore, and show respect, and give them time and space. I’m proud of the school I have mentioned, whose ethos was caring, responsible, and respectful.

            All I can do is speak from experience. Transition really works in many cases. I respect that you may have a different view. Differing religious views are a reality today, though the NHS, the Law, the Colleges of Psychology, etc, recognise that less harm is done by allowing transition than preventing it. And in many cases, flourishing, happier, lives. We just need to disagree, and respect differing conscientious views. What else can we do?

          • Susannah:

            “It is essential that no student is ‘pushed’ or ‘encouraged’”, you say. Yes, and it is essential that no student be encouraged to believe that it is possible for him or her to “transition” from one sex to the other, since it is not. If some mature adults still cannot come to terms with their immutable biological sex and insist on having their bodies mutilated so that they can pass more convincingly as members of the other sex, well, that is up to them, but no young person should be already set on that course as he or she embarks on adult life. With regard to puberty blockers, I agree with Dr Ray Blanchard:

            “I think that the original rationale was spurious. The rationale was to give the kid time to think before they made a decision about which gender they wanted to live as. They talked as if this was some kind of reversible, benign condition that would just postpone a decision. But it’s not that, because life goes on, and what the data look like is that giving puberty-blocking hormones locks kids into a transsexual trajectory.”

          • William:

            As I said, I don’t think it’s an easy or straightforward issue. There demonstrably IS such a thing as transition, and as with gay and lesbian sexual orientation, society believes that our school students (and future citizens) should be taught that gay or lesbian sexuality, or transition from living in one gender mode to living in another gender mode, along with medical support, IS a possibility. Because it is.

            I’m having a really helpful in-depth discourse at the moment with someone who has different theological views to my own, and it helps me recognise that trans issues (and how to welcome trans people in church life) is sincerely challenging for churches that are more conservatively evangelical. There are many issues involved, and I think it’s good if churches can pray and sincerely work through how they can show welcome, support, respect to trans people (and indeed support for their families, which is also a huge issue).

            I think we all know that the Church of England (my own tradition) has some widely divergent views on many LGBT+ issues. That’s unlikely to change. I strongly believe that these are issues of conscience, and for example, though I affirm gay and lesbian sexual practice, I respect that someone who doesn’t may hold their position, in conscience and fidelity.

            What else can we do, but agree to disagree, and try to maintain love for one another? We remain one in Christ, because unity is not based on uniformity, but on faith and devotion to Jesus Christ.

            My disagreement with your comment, which does not mean I should disrespect it, held in fidelity, is that I believe that students in school should grow in awareness of the real world – that there are gay and lesbian relationships and people who transition – without moral insinuations being made. That’s the situation up and down the land right now, and all these orientations and processes are legal and part of modern life, whether everyone likes them or not.

            With regard to Raymond Blanchard, his views are not mainstream as his work has majored on ‘autogynephilia’ which is not the standard diagnosis for most trans people. The comment you quote mirrors concerns I have myself, but the fact remains that for a good number of trans people, puberty blockers are hugely beneficial. You don’t stop kids going on planes because a few planes will crash irreversibly. The issue with puberty blockers is much trickier than that, but the option should be allowed in my opinion, very very carefully explored.

            What a blanket ban does not factor in is the cruelty of putting some trans people through puberty, and the immense harm that can do in various cases. This by no means implies I think the blockers should be dished out willy-nilly. You raise fair points of concern – my view is just not so absolutist as yours.

          • Susannah:

            You say “There demonstrably IS such a thing as transition”. If by “transition” you mean a boy/man becoming a girl/woman or vice versa, then no, there is not. Your comparison with gay and lesbian sexual orientation is an inept one. Unlike gay/lesbian sexuality (and no matter what anyone’s view of it), transition from male to female or vice versa is not even a possibility, so our school students (and future citizens) should not be told that it is. That is not a matter of making moral insinuations; it is a simple, objective fact.

            Ray Blanchard’s comment on puberty blockers is valid in its own right, whether it is considered “mainstream” or not, and quite independently of his work or his views on autogynephilia.

            You speak of “the cruelty of putting some trans people through puberty”, but puberty is not something that we put people through, any more than we put people through childhood or adulthood. Those are simply normal stages of the human life span through which people pass automatically; they are not the result of any intervention or tampering. And if you are seriously telling me that going through natural puberty – which, as you have conceded, is not a disease or a disorder – can cause some people “immense harm”, while at the same time inviting me to accept that it is justifiable not only to retard their development with hormone blockers, but later permanently to distort it with cross-sex hormones, and eventually to mutilate/excise functional, non-diseased organs, turning them into/replacing them with artificial ones, then I can only say, “You must be joking.”

  8. What definition of woman are they using? Presumably an “inclusive” definition, i.e. one which includes each of the following categories:

    (1) an actual woman
    (2) a man who wishes that he were a woman
    (3) a man who has the delusion that he is “really” a woman
    (4) a man who for some reason or other is masquerading as a woman

    Reply
  9. For all the intellects at work, it is little short of obfuscation from those who seek to shunt and derail the purpose of the article: the removal of the availability of the book from something of a monolithic marketplace. Only some have speculated upon the reason. A legal reason appears to be somewhat misplaced, taking into account the length of time it has been on sale and a likely more publicised brouhaha that would ensue, with the publisher being notified. A quiet removal would appear to have been the strategy.
    Is it really to be taken as read (for that comes across by heavy implication) that all those who have commented in favour of arguments for trans. reckon the book should be taken off the shelves, that there are no counterpoints, counter-arguments to their position in the name of intellectual, scientific and philosophical and social rigour, in the name of disinterested peer review and quantitative and qualitative analysis, that their nano-second, Jonny -come -lately views brook no interference.
    It can be seen as amounting to Corporate bully-boy, toxic masculinity and passive aggression, deplatforming on an international scale, caustic communistic-capitalism, with a high-handed waft away of dismissal.
    I’m pleased the law reports are not vetted by Amazon, nor overruled by opinion of commentators here.

    Reply
    • You may want to re-read the comments if that was your conclusion.

      In regard to the matter of the book being removed from Amazon’s stock I’d make the following points (some of which I’ve touched on previously):
      -Amazon has the right to sell or not sell what they want, as long as they are breaking no laws.
      -Nobody has the right to demand their product be sold by a particular business.
      -Amazon being a large and powerful business diesn’t negate these facts.
      -A respectful and open discourse on new and unclear or disputed matters is often beneficial to society in general.
      -However, not all arguments are equal or deserve equal airspace.
      -Some specious arguments gain undeserved respectability or perceived validity by treating them as if they were equally valid (the antivaxx movement comes to mind).
      -There are studies that have shown that simply seeing, hearing, reading false claims/conspiracy theories makes people more likely to believe them or give them more benefit of the doubt- even if they did not agree with them originally (familiarity breeds trust).

      Now I haven’t read the book in question so I can’t speak for whether or not it is a beneficial part of open discourse or not. So I won’t make any assumptions on that front. But I will point out that those who often promote free speech on any topic without limit or without serious consideration of the effect on the subjects are people who belong to groups who are unlikely to be harmed in any significant way by those arguments. Food for thought.

      Reply
      • Food for thought indeed. However among other things, the book in question is making an argument that some groups particularly children are likely to be harmed by gender ideology which will have potentially negative consequences for them. That is why the book gives serious consideration to an examination of its detrimental effects and poor objective and scientific basis.

        Just because it may not be a personal issue for some groups, is no reason not to examine and speak out on this issue and to then remove critical analysis of it from a widely accessible distributor. As ‘S ‘ pointed out, the argument that that the book has been removed for legal reasons is implausible.

        Having said this, It would be illuminating to find out if Amazon and W.H. Smith has given any official reason for its removal -and if not -why not?

        Reply
        • So I tend to be leery of “But what about the children!” arguments because of the history of that concept being abused to justify -isms and maintain systems of inequality. But say there is harm being done to children by trans* positive messaging. Even in that case, this is literally one book by one author that is no longer being offered by two out of all the book distributors in the world. It isn’t like there is no other way to get that message out.

          I’m not really sure why so many people on here think there needs to be some special justification for removing a particular book from market on Amazon. Heck, half the time when I go through my fiction ebook wishlist on Amazon I find one or two books that are suddenly no longer available. It happens regularly and there has never been a reason given for their disappearance. Amazon doesn’t need a legal reason to remove a product because it isn’t an issue of legality; it’s just business as usual. It really seems like y’all are looking for nonexistent bogeymen.

          (If businesses needed legal justification for discontinuing products then I’d be down at the police station making sure Davids Tea would be getting charged for their cancellation of THREE of my favourite teas, just saying.)

          Reply
      • Weight of argument, evidence, weight of influence. They are not the same things. And who does the weighing?
        I am a former solicitor in the UK, who worked in and out of courts, familiar with the rules and laws of evidence, in particular the distinction in jury trials between law and fact and who decides
        The jury decide fact and as for evidence, in general opinion of experts is not admitted if it is within the competence of the court.
        I’m unsure how you can opine, if you have even read the book!
        I’ve also been employed in the NHS in senior management. A medical library was developed due to concerns over poor peer review and none disclosure.
        Let alone the recognised difficulties in qualitative social research. Add psychological care pathways to the mix, and pressure to minimise disphoria interventions and move into drug therapies and then surgical intervention.
        And any attempt to equate any of it to mere cosmetic surgery , is to not only an substantial error a category, but reveals a lack of insight and foresight into the shear weight of whole of life consequences and implications in comparison to likes and dislikes of bodily self image and self acceptance and confidence.
        In doesn’t take a great deal of discernment to recognise how different the
        comments and noise would be had Amazon removed a publication that came out in favour of trans. Or even a book that whole -heartedly promoted a one sided view in favour of trans without ever attempting to weigh in the balance that you appear to claim is necessary.
        Indeed the comments were of thin gruel when Court made a decision, judicial review, of the conveyer belt, unevidenced, care pathway, in Bell v Tavistock and quite rightly excluded intervention by activist groups.
        Even the written decision was misunderstood and misrepresented by activists.
        I think an appeal was scheduled for April, though the date may have altered due to covivid.

        Reply
  10. I don’t think you’re going to find agreement on these issues.

    More importantly, can I encourage individual church communities to *pray* for individuals (including the ones you may be talking about here) who come to church, or are known in your local communities: about what practical welcome, space, kindness, grace and respect you can offer the individual who may after all be isolated, or anxious, or suffering from profound social rejection?

    In other words, beyond the instinct to ‘police’, it would be constructive to reflect on practical ways of making the person feel safe, welcome, and loved if they come to your church.

    This isn’t an easy topic and we all need grace. Each one of us.

    Reply
    • Susannah,
      The main starting point of this discussion was one of censorship. Despite the disagreements on gender issues among various people here, I hope we can all agree that the deplatforming of publications that go against the grain of contemporary cultural mores using reasoned argument is illiberal, harms us all and is to be resisted.

      Reply
      • Thanks for response, Chris. I was typing a follow up comment on the book issue, while you were typing your reply. You can see it below. In quick summary, if Christian bookshops can (to use your term) ‘de-platform’ books supporting black magic, jihad or (legal) pornography, then other retailers also have a right to decide what they will or won’t sell. It can work both ways. What would be ‘illiberal’ would be if all retail outlets were forced to sell any book on demand. I can see the concern: there is the suspicion (or fact) that some retailers may bow to ‘contemporary’ views, in order to ‘protect’ their brand. I get that concern. But I really don’t see what you can do about that (apart from shop elsewhere).

        Reply
        • In quick summary, if Christian bookshops can (to use your term) ‘de-platform’ books supporting black magic, jihad or (legal) pornography, then other retailers also have a right to decide what they will or won’t sell.

          That’s absolutely true. And if Amazon were to be come out and be explicit that they are refusing to list the book because they disagree with the views it is promoting, in the same way that Christian bookshops are explicit that they don’t stock books on magic or pornography because they disagree with what they are promoting, then I don’t think anyone would have any basis to complain.

          Reply
  11. On the issue of selling books (or other products), that is a decision the retailer can make, unless police intervene about the content of a product they are selling. No retailer has to sell all the books in the world. If they want they can limit books for sale, because it’s their business and their choice.

    Or do you think Christian bookshops should be made to sell books advocating black magic, books endorsing ‘jihad’, and general but legal pornographic material?

    There is also the factor that a retailer may be influenced by people’s views and attitudes, if they think certain publications will damage their brand. That’s the world we live in.

    If you desperately want a book, bypass the retailer and try to go direct to the publisher. If it’s out of print, try ebay or other sources. You might not be lucky, but there’s a chance.

    If the book in question is in your opinion presenting a Christian viewpoint, why aren’t Christian bookshops selling it. The onus for obtaining one out of a billion publications is on the buyer, not the seller.

    Reply
    • Just saw your comment. Yes, but these are very powerful book distributors with world wide reach whose actions can influence the potential sales, reach and commercial viability of the book. Amazon and W.H.Smith sell all manner of publications some of very dubious value. So why pick on this one?

      If by drawing attention to their actions sales of the book increases through other more limited outlets then, I guess that is a silver lining.

      What we would all like to know are the reasons as to *why* they have removed this particular book. What do they see is wrong with it and not want to sell it?

      Reply
      • Thanks Chris, well I certainly don’t favour burning books, even those I don’t personally agree with. We can often learn from one another, even from people with different views to our own. I’m not sure you can legislate to ‘make’ retailers sell a book though. I’m reading a great book right now, by an author with a very different theological view to my own. I’m actually loving it. Not bought from Amazon either!

        Reply
      • Ah, yes, Christopher,
        That, kind of, belies the idea of removal for legal reasons.
        It’s marvellous how those who promote Trans have circled in effectual defence of the removal, first by critiquing the book (even without reading it!); justifying trans; then speculating on justified legal reasons; then free market; then a relaxed, chilled -out, feet- up, purely a matter of taste – how do you like your tea? Maybe it’s a confederacy of conspirators?
        Maybe the book sales will now increase – and free copies for all in the CoE.

        Reply
        • Geoff

          No-one has defended the removal of the book. Some have noted that it’s up to the bookseller to decide which books they stock. Christopher’s bookshop stocks this title despite the fact that many Christians would not agree with its premise. Many other books and pamphlets with an anti trans agenda are available. I have some on my bookshelves. No-one is conspiring to ban them.

          Reply
          • No-one has defended the removal of the book.

            Several people have offered baseless, spurious, totally ridiculous suggestions that the book might have been de-listed because of ‘legal issues’, which if not a defence is certainly defence-adjacent as it tries to make out that the removal of the book was not Amazon’s choice.

            Some have noted that it’s up to the bookseller to decide which books they stock.

            They have and this is true, but if Amazon is going to remove books that do not agree with the pro-trans lobby position do you not think that Amazon should be explicit that they are doing so? After all, when the comparison made is to Christian bookshops, those bookshops are explicitly that they are pushing a ideological particular agenda and don’t stock books which disagree with that.

            If Amazon is, as you suggest, pushing a particular ideological agenda, then that is of course Amazon’s right as a private company and no one has any legitimate basis for stopping them from doing so. But do you not think that Amazon should come out and admit it if that is what they are doing, just like Christian bookshops do?

          • Not really S, no.
            Amazon is a huge company with some questionable practices (disclaimer, I use it a lot). They can sell what they like, so long as it isn’t illegal. I don’t approve of stuff that many large companies do. It’s called capitalism.

          • Not really S, no.
            Amazon is a huge company with some questionable practices (disclaimer, I use it a lot). They can sell what they like, so long as it isn’t illegal. I don’t approve of stuff that many large companies do.

            But you don’t think that if they suddenly stop selling something that they were previously perfectly hapy to sell, maybe they should explain what changed?

            It’s called capitalism

            I’m not sure what it has to do with the private ownership of capital, but whatever.

          • No, S, I don’t. If they stop selling the dog food I buy, I assume they are having problems with supply, or there isn’t enough of a margin in it for them, or whatever.
            As I said, it’s capitalism.

          • What I was referring to Penelope, was not an unsupportable suggestion that there was a conspiracy to ban the book, but to those on here who seek to explain away or justify its removal (and yes, yes, it’s not really a conspiracy) those who support Trans.
            I’ll make the point again: if a trans supporting book had been removed, there would be such a song and dance. Equanimity would go missing.

          • Not really Geoff.
            Some Christian booksellers banned Harry Potter. There are other bookshops.
            More recently some booksellers banned Harry Potter when Rowling came out as a terf.
            There was mild consternation from some groups on both occasions but again, there are other bookshops.

          • No, S, I don’t. If they stop selling the dog food I buy, I assume they are having problems with supply, or there isn’t enough of a margin in it for them, or whatever.

            But in this case we know neither of those are true (the publishers haven’t said they are out of stock — which the opposite, they have expressed surprise at the decision) and Amazon’s whole business model is built on the fact that they can sell long-tail, low-margin items and still make a profit.

            So what is the real reason?

            As I said, it’s capitalism.

            And as I said I don’t know what it has to do with the private ownership of capital (as opposed to the public / national ownership of capital), which is what ‘capitalism’ is.

          • Some Christian booksellers banned Harry Potter. There are other bookshops.
            More recently some booksellers banned Harry Potter when Rowling came out as a terf.

            And in all those cases they explained why they had removed the books form sale. Is it not reasonable to expect the Amazon to do the same (and if they do not, to draw conclusions from that notable silence)?

          • S
            I don’t imagine that Amazon cares a great deal about your reaction to them not selling this book. If you believe you deserve an explanation I would suggest you are somewhat naive.

          • I don’t imagine that Amazon cares a great deal about your reaction to them not selling this book. If you believe you deserve an explanation I would suggest you are somewhat naive.

            Then we must draw conclusions from the silence, mustn’t we?

            What do you think the reasons for the de-listing are? It’s obviously not supply issues. It’s clearly not the margins. It’s not legal issues, as some have laughably tried to claim.

            Do you think they were threatened by a boycott if they continued to sell it? Maybe, but the Amazon has been threatened by boycotts before, over, for example, its working practices, and has never once changed anything in response to them. What’s different this time? Plus, where were the calls for this boycott? A secret boycott is pointless, but nowhere has anyone turned up any public calls for people to boycott the Amazon unless they stopped selling this particular book.

            So, what do you think the reasons are?

            And — the really curious thing — if this was just Amazon exercising their individual right to stock or not stock whatever titles they choose, why do you think all those other on-line booksellers coincidentally made the same book unavailable at the same time?

          • I have no idea and I care even less.

            You’ve devoted an astonishing amount of time to arguing the toss over something you don’t care about. Is lockdown getting to you?

          • S

            You may have noticed that most of my comments were not speculations on why Amazon de-listed this book. Only in replying to you and Geoff did I suggest that this was probably not part of some great conspiracy.

          • You may have noticed that most of my comments were not speculations on why Amazon de-listed this book. Only in replying to you and Geoff did I suggest that this was probably not part of some great conspiracy.

            Well, as nobody’s suggested it was part of some great conspiracy, and you claim you don’t care whether or not it was anyway, might I suggest those particular contributions not have advanced us materially towards the truth?

          • S

            Ian, Geoff, Chris and you suggest a liberal conspiracy.
            We have no idea what the ‘truth’ is in this case.
            And now, like Susannah, I must think of supper.

          • Ian, Geoff, Chris and you suggest a liberal conspiracy.

            I certainly haven’t, and (while I haven’t read every message on the page) I don’t think any of the others have either. Indeed some have specifically explained how the de-listing could have happened without a ‘liberal conspiracy’.

            So perhaps you would like to either back up that accusation or withdraw it.

        • I really don’t understand the point of this conversation.

          Who cares why Amazon decided to de-list a book?

          Just go and buy it somewhere else.

          It’s all a waste of breath anyway, because Amazon simply don’t care about this conversation.

          They’ve got enough other books to sell and make a profit.

          They are (literally) minding their own business.

          Any of us here, in specific conversations, are immaterial to them.

          Why does it matter, when there are so many more important and heart-rending things to attend to in our world?

          Not to mention, it’s very boring and there is supper waiting to be cooked, and at least that has an end product.

          Reply
          • Who cares why Amazon decided to de-list a book?

            Would you be saying that if it were a book you agreed with, I wonder.

            Just go and buy it somewhere else.

            Perhaps you could suggest from where? Physical bookshops are currently closed, and it is unavailable from the websites of Amazon, Waterstones, Blackwells and W.H Smith. So from which UK supplier can I buy it?

            Not to mention, it’s very boring and there is supper waiting to be cooked, and at least that has an end product.

            No one is making you read, or contribute to, this page. If you find it that boring I suggest you go and eat your dinner, let the rest of us converse, and wonder why you ever bothered to take part in a discussion that you have so little interest in.

          • S: “If you find it that boring I suggest you go and eat your dinner, let the rest of us converse, and wonder why you ever bothered to take part in a discussion that you have so little interest in.”

            That is the most sensible thing you have said.

            I’m halfway through chopping up onions and carrots, and even that is less tedious than the endless quibbling in this thread.

            Have a good evening and spend it well. Life is so short. God bless you.

  12. If the comparison is made with Christian bookshops not selling witchcraft or occult, is Amazon being likened to a Tans promoting marketplace not selling anti or even trans questioning material?
    Maybe it is really a facile and substantially erroneous and unexpressed categorisation as hate material.

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  13. I thought the book was alright. *Shrug*

    On the one hand I agree with large parts of the review above. My memory is that the book handles the statistics well and shows a fair hand to the relevant research, highlights concerns and asks some sincere and important questions. It’s also well written, and makes a clear structured argument. In this respect it deserves its place on my bookshelf, and in light of this news I think it’s fair to revisit it.

    On the other hand, I do seem to recall it was needlessly confrontational in places; never crossing the line into insult or mockery, but nevertheless clear what Anderson thinks of some of the activism. It is far from the objective analysis (as a whole) that some reviewers consider it to be.

    In any case, for me the main weakness of the book is it’s failure to see the real battlegrounds of this debate are not ones of science, statistics or reason at all, but ones of language, meaning and perception. As many of the comments above are illustrating, ‘how’ and ‘why’ someone wants to change/transition is really secondary to what that person thinks a ‘man’, or ‘woman’ actually IS. We don’t even have the common ground of language.

    I can’t imagine why it’s been pulled and singled out from the large amount written on the subject. As someone else pointed out; far more conservative and/or reactionary books are still available. Hopefully we’ll be given a reason in short order.

    Reply
  14. Rather than make any further comment on this topic, which has been discussed exhaustively, I would like to make one small observation. The fascinating and thoroughly missional ‘Did Christianity Make the West?’ post a few days ago, which discussed an absolutely key area for our commendation of the faith today, has received (I think) 13 responses. This one has received 100, (now 104 just since started to write this) many of them very lengthy and, I must say, quite assertive in tone. It is often the case that posts on sexuality on this blog provoke a massive response – 150 for the Beautiful Complementarity post. Are these issues ones we’re all encountering every day in ministry, are they hindering engagement with the gospel among our contemporaries in the way that the issues raised in ‘Did Christianity Make the West?’ do? Or is there something else going on here?

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  15. So I’ve tried to find a copy to buy and unless I’m willing to spend silly money there is no copy available. Kindle only has the book that debunks it whereas everywhere else, apart from eBay, is a dead end. Whatever one thinks about the concept it seems strange and disturbing that a book like this can no longer be accessed or bought. It feels like censorship or even a form of academic curtailment, or (using the words advisedly) cancel culture not to be able to read it. The same isn’t applied to other controversial subjects or ethical issues that stir up equally strong views, emotions or positions. As a student I’m left wondering why I can’t have equal access to all views and not just ones that are deemed to be the ones with merit.

    Reply

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