It has often been said, sometimes jokingly, that we are living in a post-reality world. This is suddenly not that funny anymore.
The issue itself boils down to two American rights that are often at odds with one another: The right of free speech, and our constitutional guarantee to a pursuit of happiness.
Here’s an example: In order pursue their happiness, there are people in this nation who would like to adjust their gender, the outward appearance of their gender, and the way in which others refer to their gender. These folks fall into a number of categories, from medically-recognized issues such as gender dysphoria, to attention seekers who may grow out of this phase of their lives.
In either case, they are pursuing happiness, and that is something that the Constitution guarantees us.
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Herein lies the problem: The scientific study of gender cannot recognize the wild diversity inherent in this phenomenon from a medical perspective without offending someone. This is where free speech issues arise, and are particularly thorny situations to untangle.
For instance, Twitter this week has suspended a world-renowned gender expert, (who literally contributed to the writing of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), after he stated his professional conclusions via the platform.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, an expert Ph.D. psychologist who helped write the official psychological position on transgender identity was blocked on Twitter for expressing his opinion informed by clinical experience. His well-reasoned position was flagged for “hateful conduct.”
On Saturday, Ray Blanchard — the Ph.D. psychologist and adjunct professor at the University of Toronto who served on the working group for gender dysphoria (the persistent condition of identifying with the gender opposite your biological sex) for the DSM V, the gold standard of definitions helping psychologists diagnose disorders for patients — tweeted out his clinically-informed opinion on transgender identity.
He still affirmed the controversial idea that sex-change surgery is the “best treatment” for “carefully screened, adult patients, whose gender dysphoria has proven resistant to other forms of treatment,” but he opposed “treating” children who may change their minds. (Even this position is debatable, as people who have undergone sex-change surgery after persistent gender dysphoria have later rejected their transgender identity and lamented the mutilation of their bodies.)
Interpreting science as hate speech seems to indicate far more about the offended than the offender, and Twitter reinstated Dr. Blanchard with a brief apology just 24 hours later.
Twitter has unlocked my account and graciously apologized for their error. My sincere thanks to the people who expressed their concern during the past 24 hours. pic.twitter.com/fblijhdi5k
— Ray Blanchard (@BlanchardPhD) May 13, 2019
However complicated the intersection of Free Speech and The Pursuit of Happiness becomes, we mustn’t allow Twitter or any other social media gatekeepers to refute well-educated, well-informed, well-respected, and clinically experienced figures for the sake of appeasing those who disagree.
This would be the equivalent of Twitter deciding to target medical doctors who prescribe anti-depressants because they offend the holistic gurus who are hocking snake oil on the platform.
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