In 2014 Kevin Williamson wrote a column in the Chicago Tribune titled “Laverne Cox Is Not A Woman.” The premise of the piece, focused on the actor, was that trans women are not women but rather individuals who believe they are women. In what was at the time one of the biggest victories of the trans advocacy movement the Tribune retracted the piece for misleading facts and a poor tone. The message had been sent. Saying trans women are not women was forbidden and style guides were changed across the country.
But in the past week or so events in a Connecticut courthouse have ushered in a dramatic change to this rule. Mainstream outlets like the New York Post and Newsweek published pieces explicitly advocating the position that got Williamson’s piece banned six years ago. Both are written by women and both make clear that the authors believe in a biological definition of sex. An article from February in the Wall Street Journal also took this stance even earlier. What is emerging is a more concerted effort to defend biological gender in the news media space.
This is really pretty remarkable. Progressives and trans advocates had every reason to believe that the arc of history could only move in their direction. After all, once defining gender based on biology became offensive, even a slur, how could it ever make its way back into polite society? But what they didn’t understand was just how massive the gap was between their beliefs about the nature of gender and those of the American people.
What was always bound to happen, and was predicted for years in these pages, was that public policy was going to intersect with the fiction that men can become women in entirely untenable ways. The first iteration of this was the bathroom and locker room wars. The left was successful in painting access to those spaces as trivial, the needle didn’t move. Then concerns were expressed about women’s shelters and prisons. Those were not so easily quieted.
Drag queens performing for young children became a flashpoint in the last year or so, bringing us closer to cultural confrontation. But what tipped the balance was three young women who refused to be treated unfairly by having to compete in track meets against biological males. Suddenly something that was already clear to many conservatives and feminists occurred to the public, people born as men were telling people born as women to just suck it up and take it when they decided what being a woman is.
The young women took their case to court in the Nutmeg state and this month the judge presiding over the case decided to take the farcical view of the Chicago Tribune in 2014 and forbid attorneys from referring to the trans female athletes competing against the young women as “male.” Which is to say, the judge decided on the case before it even started, since the very question at issue is whether athletes born as men are men or women.
This really sums up the entire debate in our country about the trans issue. The media, the academy, and the entertainment industry decided that men could be women. When conservatives and some feminists on the left said, “wait a minute, can we discuss this?” The answer was, “No, accept the premise right now or you are a bigot.” And that worked for a while.
In part, this is because people naturally want to be polite. It was also something that did not have much effect on most people’s lives. But that is changing, as it was always bound to. Beyond the issues of women’s sports and spaces, serious fears have been raised that the way in which the Left has embraced trans ideology without even investigating it created social contagion that is leading children to choose transition who otherwise would not.
Wherever one stands on these issues, the absurd idea that they cannot even be discussed, first professed by the Chicago Tribune, now by a Connecticut judge, was always abject nonsense. Of course, changing the definition of gender after thousands of years of clear understanding requires the consent of the people; it cannot be forced upon them by their betters in the newsrooms and courtrooms of the country.
In a just world the Chicago Tribune would take back its ridiculous retraction and apologize to Williamson. That’s likely not going to happen. But he and all of the others who have stood up for a biological definition of gender against a stiff wind of progressive identity politics are starting to mount a comeback. The nation’s editorial boards have finally woken up, heard our arguments, and come to the only sane conclusion. Trans ideology is not settled science and silencing its opponents will never make it so.