Open expression of gender critical views

The National Post tells us:

In Canada, professors can face discipline for openly claiming to believe in biological sex.

Not really the right wording. Not “claiming” and not “believe.” For openly saying that biological sex is real, would be more accurate.

That’s ultimately what anthropology professor Kathleen Lowrey discovered years into her battle with the University of Alberta, over her 2020 dismissal from an administrative position that she undertook on top of her teaching and research. Lowrey’s great sin: the display of print-outs outside her office door that asserted males could not be female, and her open expression of gender critical views.

There, that’s better wording.

Her punishment: removal from her position as associate chair of the anthropology department (and the loss of future stipends and potential career advancement that would have come with the position). Lowrey and her union fought her removal by taking the university to a labour arbitrator — but in May, they lost.

So…not worthy of respect in a democratic society if that democratic society is Canada?

Lowrey’s union doesn’t appear to be appealing the decision, either (the union didn’t give a clear “yes” or “no” to my inquiry, but a “we are not able to respond at this time as we are following internal processes”). Her ordeal sends a dark message to professors: academic freedom can be trampled on by university administration, dismissed in arbitration, and even shrugged off by the very unions that should be fighting to the bitter end to protect it. Even with the protection of tenure, Lowrey isn’t safe to believe that men are male and women are female.

She probably is safe to “believe” it (and know it), but not to say it. At universities in 2023 academics can’t say that men cannot be women.

It’s important to note here that Lowrey is respectful in what she says and does. She’s not harassing trans-identified students; she’s merely public with her beliefs on gender, which she came to in the mid-2010s.

But they’re not beliefs. They’re knowledge, or awareness, or understanding. Belief and disbelief are irrelevant. I can disbelieve in gravity, but gravity continues to do its thing whether I believe in it or not.

Writing for Quillette in 2020, Lowrey explained her position in a nuanced, rational manner.

“Contemporary gender ideology requires active affirmation of the proposition that men can become women and that women can become men,” Lowrey wrote. “It further asserts that to refuse to assent to this proposition is to do active ‘harm’ to trans-identified individuals. The doctrine requires uncritical reverence for retrograde gender constructs, such as the idea that a little boy who likes tea parties and pretty dresses can be deemed to have been ‘born in the wrong body’ (and so is actually, in fact, a little girl).”

It’s fair to say there are some beliefs in that passage, but the mere knowledge that men are not women should never be labeled a “belief.”

The labour arbitrator in May decided that Lowrey’s dismissal was not an act of discipline and did not violate her academic freedom because, in his view, it was simply a matter of making the department run smoothly. To his credit, he ruled that union protection should apply to professors carrying out administrative roles like that of associate chair (arbitrators of the past haven’t been so generous, so the decision on this front was a win for labour). Lowrey’s expression of gender critical views wasn’t worthy of punishment, he wrote, but it did render her “unable to carry out the job in a way that served … the department’s needs.”

“The associate chair’s role requires a person who can act and be seen to act as a supportive student advisor, a committee chair able to move the business of the faculty forward and so on,” explained the arbitrator in his decision.

Ok, accepting that claim for the sake of argument, what about the need for a supportive student advisor to students who know that men can’t be women? Why does the arbitrator assume that it’s only trans students who need a supportive advisor?

“The disputes over the treatment of transgender students within the university were live and controversial. It would be difficult for anyone to act as a chair or assistant chair that, of necessity, had to deal with such issues, not just as they arise, but in this case once they had clearly arisen.”

But what about all the students who don’t subscribe to the trans ideology? What about their side of that live controversy?

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