In late July, longtime Harvard medical lecturer Carole Hooven appeared on Fox & Friends where she had some choice words for professors who avoid use of gendered terms and pronouns to avoid being branded as “transphobic.”
Hooven’s own condemnation of this denial of what she calls “biological reality” ultimately resulted in her being branded as “transphobic” by the Director of the Diversity and Inclusion task force at Harvard’s Department of Human Evolutionary Biology.
As a longtime human evolutionary biologist, Hooven confronts the biology of sex and gender head-on and has for years, which is why she believes it is unrealistic to deny that sex differences exist completely and that there’s no need to completely avoid the topic in order to be considerate of trans or intersex people.
“This kind of ideology has been infiltrating science,” Hooven told the Fox & Friends hosts of a recently published report detailing how medical professors are avoiding using the terms “male” and “female.”
“Part of that science is teaching the facts, and the facts are there are in fact two sexes,” the academic explained. “There are male and female,” she noted, explaining that there is no reason that lessons addressing this topic can’t still be done respectfully.
The report that Hooven and the Fox News hosts were discussing was from journalist Katie Herzog and profiled how “biological sex is being denied by professors fearful of being smeared by their students as transphobic.”
Yet it appears that members of Harvard faculty also share views consistent with this social pressure being placed on professors.
After Hooven’s appearance on Fox News, she was slammed as “transphobic” by colleague Laura Simone Lewis.
“As the Director of the Diversity and Inclusion Task force for my dept @HarvardHEB, I am appalled and frustrated by the transphobic and harmful remarks made by a member of my dept in this interview with Fox and Friends,” Lewis tweeted.
Let’s be clear: if you respect diverse gender identities & aim to use correct pronouns, then you would know that people with diverse genders/sexes can be pregnant incl Trans men, intersex people & gender nonconforming people. That isn't too hard for medical students to understand
— Laura Simone Lewis (@LauraSimoneLew) July 30, 2021
“Let’s be clear: If you respect diverse gender identities & aim to use correct pronouns, then you would know that people with diverse genders/sexes can be pregnant incl Trans men, intersex people & gender nonconforming people. That isn’t too hard for medical students to understand.”
Hooven did not take this nuance-free attack on her views sitting down. She doubled-down on her insistence that one can address what she calls “biological reality” with full consideration of the feelings and best interest of trans and intersex students.
“What I teach about has special appeal for students who are in the minority in terms of gender expression, identification, and sexual orientation, and the facts can feel quite personal,” she told The College Fix. “I do my best to set a tone of trust and respect. I expect my students to sometimes disagree with me, and I expect that some people will feel offended or even hurt as they encounter and struggle with new ideas and information.”
“I do not patronize my students or tell them what to think about controversial social issues,” she explained. “Instead, I try to create an environment in which students are motivated to seriously engage with the evidence and arguments I present. In my long experience, this usually works.”
She told the outlet that she has had to learn to put her feelings aside to honestly address subjects that are viewed as culturally controversial, and that this has made her a better scientist.
“As a graduate student, I was at times deeply offended and upset when encountering new ideas, especially ones with strong personal relevance; for example, hypotheses about the evolutionary origins of sexual assault. So I know how it feels,” she explained.
“But I had to learn how to put my emotions aside and dispassionately analyze evidence. This wasn’t easy but learning how to do it ultimately empowered me, and helped me to become a clearer thinker and a better scientist. I learned to think this way because of caring professors who treated me as a rational adult.”
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