If you think the transgender movement is confined to college campuses and social justice warriors on Twitter, I have bad news for you. A high school French teacher in Virginia was fired last week by the West Point Public School Board for refusing to use a transgender student’s new pronoun.
News of the firing comes nearly a month after a school district in Florida punished a male P.E. teacher for refusing to supervise a self-described transgender girl who was granted access to the boys’ locker room under a new transgender policy.
In the Virginia case, the school board took things a step further, firing a teacher who didn’t violate a specific policy but simply refused a demand from a transgender student. The teacher, Peter Vlaming, is a married father of four and by all accounts well-liked by his students. About 100 students staged a walkout last week to protest his firing from West Point High School, where he taught for the past seven years.
Far from being cruel and disrespectful to the student in question—a biological girl who is posing as male—Vlaming met with her and her parents and offered to use the girl’s new name in class and avoid feminine pronouns. But he was not willing to say “he” or “him” when referring to the student in conversations with others, citing his Christian faith as the reason.
The issue came to a head when the student was wearing virtual reality goggles in the hallway and was about to run into a wall. Vlaming, seeing what was about to happen, blurted out, “Don’t let her run into the wall!” The girl’s parents heard about the incident and decided it was unhealthy for their child to remain in Vlaming’s class. He was placed on administrative leave while the school board investigated, and eventually told he could return to work only if he started using male pronouns for the student and met with her parents to tell them so. Vlaming declined, and was fired.
Here is a situation where a man with sincere religious convictions, as well as a belief about biological reality that was nearly universal only a few years ago, was trying to compromise and be as respectful as his conscience would allow him to be. It wasn’t enough. School officials, likely terrified of what would happen to them if they didn’t deliver Vlaming’s head on a platter to this student and her family, were only too willing to ruin the man.
There Will Be Real-Life Consequences for Dissent
Setting aside the specifics of this case—including the rather on-the-nose symbolism of Vlaming trying to prevent a trans student wearing virtual reality goggles from running into a wall—what happened here should alarm every American, not just Christians or conservatives.
If there can be no dissent from transgender ideology, or even compromise with its adherents, then vast swaths of society are eventually going to be targeted by trans activists. It’s not just college professors and high school teachers who are at risk, but anyone who uses social media and dares express an opinion on whether a man can become a woman, or vice versa.
Recently, Twitter permanently banned Canadian feminist writer Meghan Murphy for making the unremarkable observation that “men aren’t women,” and asking, “How are transwomen not men? What is the difference between a man and a transwoman?” Writing last month in Quillette, Murphy described how women who object to what she calls “body/mind trans mysticism” have been targeted by trans activists. In some cases they’ve been publicly harassed at women’s rallies, and in other, less publicized cases they’ve been traumatized by being forced to share rooms and facilities in women’s shelters with men claiming to be women (that is, trans women).
Murphy, noting that what happens on Twitter sometimes really does affect what happens in “real life,” lost more than her Twitter account over all this. A Canadian publisher with whom she had been working on a manuscript for three years dropped her book over the affair. The owner of the publishing house explained to Murphy in an email, “I cannot and will not accept a manuscript for publication at Greystone which is hurtful to individuals or groups because of what they believe about their own gender.”
The Academy Is Caving to Transgenderism
The trend of aggressive trans activism is of course most pronounced in academia, where social justice mobs are becoming more frequent, while reason and objectivity are in precipitous decline. Recently, the notion that biological sex, like gender, is merely a social construct has gained traction on the editorial boards of magazines like Scientific American and prestigious academic journals like Nature, which published an editorial in October arguing against classifying sex “on the basis of anatomy or genetics,” and asserting that, “The idea that science can make definitive conclusions about a person’s sex or gender is fundamentally flawed.”
Thankfully, there are still some academics willing to point out that sex does not exist on a spectrum, that it is in fact so binary in humans as to be among the most statistically verifiable phenomena in nature.
For believing this, and daring to say so in public, academics are increasingly facing harassment and threats of violence. In Britain, a scholar on human rights law at the University of Reading who had the temerity to assert that sex is fixed at birth said she recently received an anonymous 3:30 a.m. phone call from someone who told her she “should be raped and killed.” The professor also reported that after a recent debate about changes to gender law, her office door was covered in urine and she was targeted online.
These kinds of reaction to dissent—harassment, threats, mobs calling for people to be fired—reflect the fundamentally political nature of the transgender project, which is not about science but power. Trans activists demand recognition and accommodation, and will accept no compromise. Just ask Peter Vlaming.
Our institutions, afraid of being labeled “transphobic,” which today is tantamount to being tarred as a racist or a Nazi, are buckling under pressure. In their rush to placate trans activists’ demands, those in positions of power have proven willing to affirm something that is obviously untrue, and punish anyone who refuses to do the same.
It can’t go on like this forever, with one part of society believing that men can become women and the other part believing that they can’t. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, society won’t collapse over this, but it will eventually cease to be divided on the question. It will become all one thing or all the other.