Sen. Hawley Conversation with Gender Identity Professor

A law professor accused a U.S. senator of “opening up trans people to violence” by denying that men can get pregnant during a hearing in the Capitol on Tuesday. Critics say transgender activists increasingly equate rejecting extremist gender ideology with assault, or they suppress debate altogether, in order to foist controversial ideas of gender fluidity on the public.

The exchange began shortly after Khiara Bridges, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, used the phrase “people with the capacity for pregnancy” four times during a one-minute exchange with Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), and another six times in her written testimony.

Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) then asked her about the stilted phrase, which some believe reduce women to biological functions or body parts. “You’ve referred to ‘people with the capacity for pregnancy.’ Would that be women?” he asked.

Bridges replied that “cis women have the capacity for pregnancy,” but “there are also trans men who are capable of pregnancy, as well as non-binary people.”

“So, this isn’t really a women’s rights issue?” asked Hawley. The question highlighted the tension between Bridges’s testimony and that of Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton (D), who boasted of her “commitment to protect and preserve women’s rights — namely the right to an abortion.”

Bridges said pregnancy “impacts women,” and “other groups,” as well. “Those things are not mutually exclusive, Sen. Hawley,” she claimed, condescendingly.

“Oh. So, your view is that the core of this right [to abortion], then, is about what?” Hawley asked.

“So, I want to recognize that your line of questioning is transphobic,” said Bridges, laughing and evading the question, as she had when Senator Cornyn asked if an unborn children had value. “And it opens up trans people to violence by not recognizing them.”

"Wow, so you’re saying that I’m opening up people to violence by asking whether or not women are the only folks who can have pregnancies?" asked Hawley in disbelief.

“I want to note that one out of five transgender persons have attempted suicide,” Bridges stated.

“Because of my line of questioning? So, we can’t talk about it?” Hawley asked as part of a Senate Judiciary Committee session dedicated to “A Post-Roe America: The Legal Consequences of the Dobbs Decision” — one of five congressional committee hearings discussing abortion Democrats have scheduled over the next seven days.

Bridges then accused Hawley of “denying that trans people exist” when he stated, “I don’t think men can get pregnant.”

Hawley underlined her habit of cutting off discussion by impugning the other side. “Is this how you run your classroom? Are students allowed to question you, or are they also treated like this, where they’re told that they’re opening up people to violence by questioning?” he asked Bridges.

Bridges insisted her students were “absolutely” allowed to question her in the classroom, implying under oath that she affords greater freedom of speech to students subject entirely to her authority than she does to one of 100 sitting U.S. senators. 

Yet critics say the decision to strangle debate over transgender issues extends through every level of society.

For instance in 2018, the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) “openly embraced the unsound medical practices like so-called ‘gender affirming’ surgery for children suffering from gender dysphoria,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on Tuesday. But that policy expires at the end of this calendar year, triggering a new debate over whether the guidelines still serve young, vulnerable people.

Many AAP members have introduced Resolution 27, which asks AAP to “conduct an extensive review of the medical literature, the medical evidence,” explained Jeff Barrows, senior vice president for ethics and public policy at the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA). Before AAP returns to the older policy, it should make a fresh inquiry into “the best science in regard to using medicine and puberty blockers [and] cross-sex hormones in these children suffering from gender dysphoria,” Barrows told “Washington Watch” on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, the AAP is suppressing these efforts by very concerned members to conduct these investigations.”

AAP members have the opportunity to vote on nearly four dozen resolutions — but, Barrows noted, Resolution 27 is not open to public comment while Resolution 28, which would keep the current policy in place, is.

Conducting a review might benefit AAP and Bridges alike. A recent study commissioned in Florida found no clear mental health benefit from transgender procedures alone, and a 2011 study from Sweden found that people who responded to gender dysphoria with hormones and/or surgeries experienced “considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour [sic], and psychiatric morbidity than the general population.”

While people struggling with their gender identity have a higher-than-average suicide rate, a new study by Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) concluded that both suicidal ideation and transgender identity issues may spring from other underlying psychological problems. “[O]ther mental health issues, such as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), cause suicidality and unstable identities, including gender identity confusion,” the report stated.

Facts that do not fit the dominant gender identity narrative increasingly get squeezed out of public discourse through suppression of comment or accusations that they hurt underserved populations. “There is a lot of secrecy and, frankly, a lot of fear around this [topic], which is totally unwarranted for a medical society that is looking out for what is best for their patients,” Barrows concluded. “It’s disturbing on a number of levels.”

Tarring one’s political opponents as inherently violent, racist, sexist, or malevolent has marked left-wing politics for multiple election cycles. Hawley has suffered the same accusation on other fronts.

When the AAP adopted its 2018 policy, it ignored a letter from 1,100 parents of transgender children that “AAP’s Policy Statement will continue, and possibly worsen, the harm brought to many children by the recent radical changes to treatment guidelines for transgender-identifying youth.”

“This is crazy,” added Perkins. “Science has been hijacked by politics, and what’s at stake here is the well-being of what could be an entire generation if we don’t stop this madness.”

Tactics designed to stifle debate by equating intellectual dissent with physical harm seem designed to throttle just that possibility. “For today’s [L]eft, disagreement with them [equals] violence. So you must not disagree,” explained Hawley on Twitter. 

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Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.

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