New ‘New Atheist’ Cry: There Is No Trans

Yes, Dawkins did fall down the transphobia rabbit hole. QED.

Tucker Lieberman
11 min readNov 12

empty, hatched eggshell lying in the grass
Cracked egg by Mabel Amber from Pixabay

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…