Two major anthropological associations have canceled a panel discussion on the importance of biological sex, citing harm to the “Trans and LGBTQI” communities and their collective “dignity.”
On September 25, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and the Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA) wrote a letter canceling the upcoming conference panel, “Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: Why biological sex remains a necessary analytic category in anthropology,” which they had previously accepted.
“The reason the session deserved further scrutiny was that the ideas were advanced in such a way as to cause harm to members represented by the Trans and LGBTQI of the anthropological community as well as the community at large,” the rejection letter declared.
The panel proposed and initially accepted for the annual AAA/CASCA fall meeting noted that “there are multiple domains of research in which biological sex remains irreplaceably relevant to anthropological analysis” and therefore cannot simply be substituted with “gender.”
“Contesting the transition from sex to gender in anthropological scholarship deserves much more critical consideration than it has hitherto received in major disciplinary fora,” the proposal read.
In their rejection letter, AAA/CASCA said their decision came “at the request of numerous members the respective executive boards of AAA and CASCA.”
“This decision was based on extensive consultation and was reached in the spirit of respect for our values, the safety and dignity of our members, and the scientific integrity of the program(me),” the letter said.
In their response to the letter, the six panelists — all serious scholars — note their puzzlement “at the AAA/CASCA adopting as its own official stance that to support the continued use of biological sex categories (e.g., male and female; man and woman) is to imperil the safety of the LGBTQI community.”
The panel “included a group of diverse women, one of whom is a lesbian,” the response observes. “In addition to having three fields of anthropology presented in our panel, our panel also included anthropologists from four countries with three languages – an international panel concerned about the erasure of women.”
The decision to cancel the panel “looks very much like an anti-science response to a politicized lobbying campaign,” the scholars declare.
Anthropologists around the world “will quite rightly find chilling this declaration of war on dissent and on scholarly controversy,” they conclude. “It is a profound betrayal of the AAA’s principle of ‘advancing human understanding and applying this understanding to the world’s most pressing problems.’”