New ‘New Atheist’ Cry: There Is No Trans
Richard Dawkins, a biologist famous for his book The Selfish Gene (1976) and for his later collaboration with the New Atheists, made a transphobic tweet in April 2021. Consequently, the American Humanist Association revoked an award it had given him 25 years earlier. One might imagine there were other reasons; in any case, this bad tweet was the last straw.
As Dawkins has a large following of admirers, this event generated debate over whether what he’d said was actually transphobic, and if so, why.
This Was Exhausting
I was personally affected by this.
No, not because I’m a snowflake and the tweet made me melt. There are millions of transphobic tweets every day, and I rarely take them to heart.
The reason this particular incident hit home for me is that I had, a couple years earlier, made a large effort to network in-person with an international group of humanists and atheists. I had assumed that a secular group would be trans-inclusive or at least not outright transphobic. It hadn’t occurred to me to gauge the community sentiment.
Upon Dawkins’s tweet and the subsequent debate over the revocation of his award, I was sorely disappointed that some of my new acquaintances and colleagues explicitly defended his overtly transphobic comment.
To be clear, I wasn’t any more annoyed by Dawkins’s transphobic tweet itself than I am by any other of the millions of transphobic tweets that are made every day. I didn’t care whether Dawkins lost an award or not; I didn’t care which atheist organizations did or didn’t cut ties with him over what I believed was a single comment. I wasn’t upset merely because a famous atheist showed his ass.
What I cared about very much was whether my new colleagues were capable of identifying an obviously transphobic comment as transphobic. I was concerned about my relations with them. Atheists’ inclination to revere Richard Dawkins was not, in my view, a valid excuse for falling in line with his (or anyone’s) transphobia. For the record, our organization did formally support LGBTQ people and our concerns, but a lot of the…