The director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute and professor at the University of St. Michael’s College, Moria McQueen, pictured, says efforts to silence a University of Toronto professor for refusing to use transgender pronouns are unethical. Register file photo

Unethical to silence professor for refusing transgender pronouns, says ethicist

  • October 27, 2016

OTTAWA – Efforts to silence a University of Toronto professor for refusing to use transgender pronouns are unethical, said Catholic bioethicist Moira McQueen.

The director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute and professor at the University of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto defended psychology professor Jordan Peterson, who has been rebuked by university administration and transgender activists for his objections to transgender pronouns. The university has told him to comply with a policy to refer to students with the pronouns they prefer or face legal and professional consequences.

“Obviously, his job is threatened,” McQueen said.

McQueen said it is “dangerous” for those pushing the transgender bandwagon to be “operating confidently” in “shooting down other peoples’ opinions” when transgender theory remains scientifically unproven.

All gender theory is “relatively new,” she said. “Trying to shut down opinions at this stage, that’s why I call that unethical.”

When gender theory is examined scientifically, it is clear it has many problems based on “incomplete and inaccurate information,” she said. The kinds of methodological criteria that “should apply at the moment don’t apply.”

McQueen’s comments came in the wake of the House of Commons passing transgender Bill C-16 that would add gender identity and expression to the Criminal Code and Canadian Human Rights Act. Passed Oct. 18 by a 248-40 vote, the bill now moves to committee before returning to the House, possibly with amendments, for a third reading vote. If it passes, it will go to the Senate for final review.

Of big concern for McQueen are those children, some as young as five, who are being identified as transgender.

“We’re not allowed, according to them (activists), to say what we think, to give our opinion about these studies, to look at contradictory evidence,” she said.

McQueen said she is “not coming from a knee-jerk response of right and wrong. I do believe in seeing evidence-based studies.”

The long term data on the effects of medical treatment, hormones, psychological counselling based on observable and quantifiable studies is not yet available, she said. “Only after you have adequate answers in all those areas, then you can come to some conclusions.”

She called the pressure to silence Peterson about his opinions an “abandonment of common sense.”

“He is able to say: you can call yourself what you like, but I don’t have to call you that. That’s the dividing line. The element of compulsion is frightening.”

McQueen compared it to government forcing health professionals to act against their consciences when it comes to euthanasia and abortion, or in forcing people to use language that opposes their conscience and common sense.

“One never doubts one has to respect people and to be compassionate and kind,” said McQueen. But people can differ on what being compassionate means — on how one is “truly suffering with” someone.

McQueen pointed out gender dysphoria is still listed in the psychiatric manual as a condition, though she acknowledged that could change for political reasons.

“It’s not a physiological illness. It’s not genetic. It’s not anything that shows in the body at all.”

Gender dysphoria is also relatively rare, she said, though media accounts make it seem much more widespread.

“Much of it is propelled by activists.”

“There’s a huge political and social agenda behind it,” she said.

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