Science has taken many hits in 2023. Anti-environmentalism continues to spread; anti-vaxxers loudly deny COVID-19; some physicians have made themselves comfortable spreading medical misinformation and even urging others to resist public health mandates. An anti-trans paper promoting the many-times-over–discredited theory of “rapid onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD) was published without obtaining ethics approval in a peer-reviewed journal; an anti-vaxx paper was published in a fake journal made to appear legitimate, replete with an editorial board of antivaxxers. Both papers, when retracted, spun a narrative blaming an ideological suppression of science and lamenting about cancellation when the truth is simple: flawed and incorrect science should not be disseminated. Evolutionary biologists Jerry Coyne and Luana Maroja were heavily featured in the Skeptical Inquirer and CSI scaremongering about “the ideological subversion of biology.” At least one-third-33% or more-of trans youth now live in states with unscientific bans on gender-affirming care due to ignorance and the spread of false narratives. At the end of September, Dr. Gorski lamented the likely permanent pause in funding a program designed to counter scientific misinformation and warned of the ongoing war on science-based regulation and public health.
The latest example was announced in October, when Irish journalist Helen Joyce was shortlisted for The John Maddox Prize, an initiative of UK charity Sense About Science and the international scientific journal Nature. The eponymous prize is named for the editor of Nature from 1966-73 and 1980-95; according to his obituary, science writer and scientist Sir John Maddox argued for objectivity and rationality in science and once worked alongside my personal favorite James Randi to debunk Jacques Benveniste’s claims about homeopathy and water memory. Sir John Maddox was knighted and worked on the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, and Richard Dawkins called him “the last great scientific polymath.” Thus, the John Maddox Prize carries quite a legacy and considerable prestige.
Unfortunately, Helen Joyce was shortlisted for The John Maddox Prize for…
…her courage in highlighting the need for further research and evidence to be brought into discourse and policy discussion related to gender identity, and raising the importance of acknowledging biological sex differences.
A Closer Look at Nature and Sense About Science’s Decision
Let me put this statement by the board behind the Maddox prize into context:
- Joyce is a prominent member of the UK “gender critical” movement and author of a “deeply anti-transgender” book. “Courage” is not a word I would ever associate with her.
- Joyce did not “highlight the need for further research and evidence,” at least not in any sort of productive way. Physicians practicing gender-affirming care and scientists involved in transgender studies generally agree that there is a need for more research. However, we neither need nor want a gender-critical trans-exclusionist to highlight the areas of need and thus continue the pattern of stigma and research about us without us. We’re on it. What we need are resources and funding, regular and consistent data collection on gender identity, notably absent from prior research, and involvement of the trans community, along with overlooked intersectional minorities previously excluded or underrepresented due to issues such as systemic racism, not lectures from people who deny existing science.
- Trans health and research-all medicine and research-belongs in the realm of science. It is the ignorant meddling of policymakers that harms our work. Gender-affirming healthcare should be between the health professional and the patient (and the patient’s parents or medical guardians, as applicable). Though politics are inextricably linked to trans healthcare—as is the case for all healthcare, actually—that does not mean that politicians should be able to dictate the standard of care in medicine, any more than politicians should be able to force a woman to carry a nonviable fetus to term when there is no chance of the fetus surviving and continuing the pregnancy risks the mother’s health.
- Here, we have on display two scientific organizations espousing the “importance of acknowledging biological sex differences,” an essentialist trope that serves to criminalize, dehumanize, and pathologize trans and intersex people. Their reasoning is also scientifically unsound. The science of biological sex does not mesh with Sense About Science’s comments. Trans people are very aware of biology and how our bodies work, sometimes painfully so. This is not about human biology and its supposed denial; it is about advancing a hostile agenda toward trans people and bad science. Updating gender markers to match one’s identity—which, naturally, Joyce is vehemently opposed to—has nothing to do with denying biology and everything to do with personal dignity, respect, equality, autonomy, and safety. Having the wrong marker on documents means being constantly exposed as trans in a cruel and sometimes violent society and being regularly undermined and questioned about gender. Gender is determined by one’s gender identity, which in turn should determine one’s legal sex designation. As for Nature, it has published multiple articles about the spectrum of sex and the fallacy of biological sex differences. So what gives?
Before I move on to discuss Helen Joyce, let me just say here that, fortunately, the actual 2023 winner well deserves the prize: Nancy Olivieri, the Maddox Prize Winner, is a Scientist at SickKids Hospital who defied the drug lobby and raised concerns about a trial drug, championing the importance of patient safety. The other awardees are equally accomplished, so Joyce’s shortlisting stands out like the proverbial sore thumb and is unconscionable. Upon further review, however it is no longer baffling, as you will soon see.
So What Gives? The Answer Lies in a Budding GC Bias
In 2008, Dr. Steven Novella wrote favorably about Sense About Science as a budding science-based group, a decade before they shortlisted another virulent GC player. Stephanie Davies-Arai, the founder of anti-gender transition lobby and pressure group Transgender Trend and advisor to well-known anti-trans group Genspect, was shortlisted for The John Maddox Prize in 2018. Davies-Arai was involved in the Tavistock case, expressing her “concerns about the lack of evidence as to the impacts and effectiveness of PBs (puberty blockers) and in relation to which patients it is most likely to help.” She has aligned herself with those who promote conversion therapy. Davies-Arai also wrote a chapter in a book entitled “Inventing Transgender Children and Young People.”
In this author’s opinion, stores should move this book into the Fiction section, especially noting the other authors, including Gender Critical Dad and SEGM/Genspecters Michael “admits in SB 254 deposition that being trans is real and transitioning helps” Biggs (also a director of Sex Matters, and exposed author of formerly anonymous transphobic tweets), Lisa “trans people are a psychic epidemic” Marchiano, and Roberto “conversion therapy only applies to LGB people” D’Angelo. Who’s going to tell them that trans people, young and old, have always existed?
Fast forward five years to Helen Joyce’s shortlisting. Joyce is currently the Director of Advocacy at Sex Matters, which she describes as a “human-rights organization.” The organization is anti-trans, often virulently so, with efforts to change the Equality Act to exclude trans people, a vile statement released questioning and trivializing the suicide rates of trans youth, campaigning against trans women’s inclusion in women’s sports, and endorsement of the Women’s Declaration Internation (WDI) Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights, which would essentially remove all healthcare, protection, and legal recognition for all trans people globally. On Nov 9, 2023, Sex Matters sent a letter to the Prime Minister to
And yet, astonishingly, Sense About Science describes Sex Matters as a “campaigning group” where Joyce “continues to stand for open dialogue on these topics, despite a polarised and at times hostile background.” I question how anyone, let alone a group of science experts, could describe the organization so benignly—favorably even. It is depressing indeed to see gender-critical ideology infiltrate science, as patterns of transphobic ideology and rhetoric, anti-trans legislation, and fatal violence against trans people in the U.S. have increased over the last several years; these actions are correlated.
The Panel Behind the John Maddox Prize
A dive into the John Maddox Prize judging panel unveils some possible clues to the GC overtones. Most current and past judges for the John Maddox Prize, the Sense about Science team, and the Sense about Science Board of Trustees have little to no digital track record on trans issues and generally admirable science backgrounds. For example, Sense about Science Team member Helen Wilson has been researching access to trans-affirmative mental health care. According to Sense about Science team member Rebecca Asher’s book, Man Up, we are obsessed with the “biological differences between sexes,” and not in a good way—take note, Sense about Science!—and the concepts of masculinity and femininity are “poisonous.” Patron and creator of Sense about Science Lord Taverne undersigned a petition (alongside Stephen Fry, Dr. Michael Irwin, and other amazing humans) to keep Pope Ratzinger from visiting his country, citing, among other things, his policy of “opposing equal rights for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”
In an article about a transgender physics teacher who wore a shirt that said “Trans women are men. Get over it!” to a Fair Play for Women event, one of Sense about Science’s Board of Trustees members is quoted:
Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, head of the laboratory of stem cell biology and developmental genetics at the Francis Crick Institute, who discovered the gene that determines sex in mammals, said: “In the UK, I think most [people] would use ‘sex’ to refer to anatomical appearance and ‘gender’ to ways of behaviour. To a scientist, he said, anatomy could appear male, female or somewhere in between, but a man who transitioned could be said to change sex.”
All good stuff there. So how does Sense about Science and Nature end up shortlisting a gender-critical person not once but twice and worse in 2023, release a statement full of dog-whistles to the trans-exclusionary crowd? The answer, I’ve come to suspect, lies with the relationship that Sense About Science has cultivated with Mumsnet, “the UK’s most popular website for parents.”
Sense about Science Chummy With Mumsnet
Sense about Science has been interacting with Mumsnet, described by Gina Gwenffrewi—accurately in my opinion—as a “major location of online radicalization against trans people, with one of the UK’s most high-profile anti-trans-rights campaigners, Maya Forstater, tweeting, ‘Mumsnet is the think-tank, campaign hub and archive of thinking about why #sexmatters,'” for over a decade. Mumsnet has been listed as involved in the Sense about Science Ask for Evidence campaign since the campaign launch in 2011. They ran a Q&A on allergies together in 2015. In 2020, Sense about Science Director Tracey Brown discussed COVID-19 and communicating with the public and noted,
“At the start of the UK lockdown, Ask for Evidence was Mumsnet’s campaign of the week and people all over the country were downloading material to discuss with their kids on how we have confidence in what we read.”
On review, Mumsnet’s Ask for Evidence materials seem sound and benign (i.e., GC-free). Still, Mumsnet is not only powerful politically, it has repeated accusations of transphobia. It is troubling that they were the hub people all over were downloading from, as it is challenging to steer clear of the transphobic materials on the site. John Maddox Prize shortlister Stephanie Davies-Arai has written blog posts for Mumsnet. Shortlister Helen Joyce is frequently featured on the site and, tellingly, characterizes Mumsnet as “a site of resistance to all this (gender ideology).”
Team member Munkhbayar Elkins reached out to Mumsnet as recently as May 2023, inviting their members “interested in air pollution, climate change, health and drives for leisure or for business to take part in a workshop to discuss how the evidence behind policy is best communicated to the public.” It turns out that Sense about Science has been chummy with Mumsnet for years.
Civil Rights Attorney Alejandra L. Caraballo mentioned Mumsnet in testimony of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties House Committee on Oversight and Reform last December (bolding mine):
“However, anti-trans efforts were renewed as part of a broader rise in transphobia in the United Kingdom (UK) among “gender critical feminists”, who opposed the legal recognition of trans people and accompanying protections. These anti-trans organizing efforts were mainly spurred among upper middle-class white women on Mumsnet, a forum for mothers in the UK, and subsequently sparked contemporary interest in opposing trans rights that was not rooted in religion. This interest in gender critical “feminism” in the UK cross-pollinated with that of radical feminist groups in the United States (US) like the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF). Such groups began to form coalitions with more traditional religious organizations that opposed LGBTQ+ rights such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, Heritage Foundation, Focus on the Family, and the Family Resource Council.”
Natasha Loder was a judge both this year and in 2018 and, like Joyce, works for The Economist. According to her Twitter, Loder believes that campaigning for women’s rights means restricting trans rights, that the European consensus on treating trans youth is shifting due to weak evidence, and that gender-affirming care is experimental (false on all counts). She’s tweeted about the now-debunked, unsubstantiated, not even partially confirmed, and easily disputed whistleblower story of Jamie Reed and the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, adding that it has “so many parallels with the medical scandal that happened at the Tavistock. Shocking stuff.” I mean, she’s correct about the parallels with the lies, manufactured controversy, and anti-trans bent.
The only other judges present in both 2023 and 2018 were Tracey Brown, OBE, and Magdalena Skipper, Editor-in-Chief of Nature. Skipper, Nature’s first female editor-in-chief, is significantly invested in making science more inclusive. According to the rag The Daily Mail UK, the involvement of Skipper means “Nature goes woke!” I consider that a win for science.
2018 vs. 2023: Evidence of Further GC Infiltration
Still, Sense about Science/Nature‘s 2018 statement about trans research and The John Maddox Prize was far less incendiary:
“The judges noted the emergence of ‘toxic debates’ in new areas of research, such as the evidence for transgender medical interventions, and called for employers, government agencies, funders and professional bodies to do more to support researchers, to ensure the public continue to have access to all discussions about evidence.”
Who is Helen Joyce, Anyway?
Helen Joyce, a PhD in geometric measure theory, transitioned—pun intended, because if she see this post she will hate that—her career to journalism around 2005, when she started working for The Economist. Joyce claims to have had a “fateful lunchtime conversation” in 2017 that led her to become involved in transgender issues. As she recalls,
“I had absolutely no idea any of this was happening. I was asked by my editor [at The Economist] in, I think, 2017, if I had any idea why so many kids were identifying as trans or non-binary, and I had no idea, so I said I’d look into it. I wrote a piece that, looking back, I think is 70 or 80% successful. I knew something was really weird. But I still believed, in some way that I now can’t understand, that it was possible that somebody could be in the wrong body.”
Joyce has also opined that some people get into “trans issues” because they find out that there are “blokes getting into their local changing room.” She has it twisted around. Trans people are the ones frequently terrorized by cis people in bathrooms, especially trans women (linked is an incredible takedown of the entire issue by historian/writer/activist Julia Serano), and about 60% of all trans people avoid public restrooms due to the very real threat of violence and assault. Trans people are more than four times as likely as cis people to be victims of violence. 1 in 4 trans adults report they’ve been physically attacked. A review of the evidence of the safety of public restrooms, changing rooms, and locker rooms that have trans-inclusive policies concludes that fears of increased safety and privacy violation as a result of nondiscrimination laws are just not empirically grounded.
Joyce’s arguments often contain imaginary scenarios that could happen and her getting upset about them or news-inflated anecdotes that she uses to apply to all trans people:
“the definition of sex changes what it means to have a single sex space for example or it changes what is means if a woman who has been raped asks for another woman to carry out the forensic exam. Well what she probably means is another female person that she can see as female but what if it’s somebody who feels they’re female but isn’t actually female objectively”
“And it has by now come to significantly embed the assumptions of what we would call gender identity ideology–that it’s bigotry to use someone’s sex pronouns if they don’t want you to, that non-binary identities are real, that some people are gender-fluid, that there can be a woman’s penis and that a woman might rape somebody with her penis–and so on and so forth.”
“But we’re not even starting to think about that because we’re denying what it is to be a woman. We’re thinking that a woman is a man who can pop out a baby every now and then. And that’s convenient if you’re trying to run a business because it’s hard to fit people who are mothers and the very needy nature of human babies into the modern corporation. But as long as we do that, we’re not creating a world that’s fit for women, but we’re not even talking about it properly. We’re talking about a sort of a choice feminism that sees women as being men in pretty much every respect, except that every now and then, they choose to drop out for a bit and pop out a baby whom they’re going to give to somebody else to mind.”
Helen Joyce’s Anti-Trans Origins and Prior Work
Joyce’s anti-trans origin story is not original (unoriginality is her ongoing theme). Like Abigail “I made the term ‘irreversible’ popular to use in trans medicine even though it’s nonsense” Shrier—Joyce wrote her book a favorable blurb, prominent on the back cover—and Lisa “I created a new Satanic panic with rapid-onset gender dysphoria, which despite all efforts, still doesn’t exist” Littman, Joyce became randomly aware of transgender issues with no prior knowledge of our community and became concerned about it/this/that, whatever that means. As a result of her writing, she has encouraged panics around care that is scientifically sound, medically supported, and life-saving, and now under attack like never before due to misinformation and bigotry.
In 2018, Joyce curated a two-week series of articles in The Economist about trans issues. While this series included trans-supportive writers, they were countered by transantagonistic op-eds–naturally, including Kathleen Stock. Joyce pivoted from this alleged both-sideism to writing for the far-right blog Quillette and became active on Twitter in gender-critical groups. Her views have largely influenced The Economist’s reporting on trans issues. In 2019, as Joyce “went right down the rabbit hole,” she attended the launch of the Detransition Advocacy Network (which is now defunct and whose founder Charlie Evans lied to Sky News about the numbers of existing detransitioners), which she found “profoundly upsetting” because she “hadn’t really concretely understood that they were [surgically removing] girls’ insides.” This motivated her to write a book. As she described it to The Radical Notion,
I wanted to leave the quote alone and get to all this nonsense later, but it’s so wrong that it makes me itch.
- No one is sterilizing kids.
- Sexual orientation is not gender identity; being gay and being trans are not the same thing.
- Many trans people identify as queer. The idea that we transition because we want to be in “normal heterosexual relationships” was entirely fabricated by those researching us and carries with it some nasty medicalization history for another time. Most of us are proudly queer.
- NO ONE IS STERILIZING KIDS*
(*unless they are intersex. Most GC activists don’t care about intersex children being coercively surgically sexed at or shortly after birth.)
In the same interview, Joyce qualifies trans ideas and research as “the most pathetically weak, appalling, stupid body of work I’ve ever seen.” She states, “it actually intellectually offended me.”
Oh, the Irony (and More About Joyce’s Book)
A fitting segue to Joyce’s 2021 book Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality, which describes gender-affirming care as a “medical scandal,” and became a top-ten bestseller on UK Amazon. There has been quite a storm of anti-trans books released in the last few years: Joyce’s book came out one year after Shrier’s Irreversible Damage, Soh’s The End of Gender, and the same year as Keffler’s Desist, Detrans, & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult, Stock’s Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism, Susan Evan’s Gender Dysphoria: A Therapeutic Model, and Raymond’s Doublethink: A Feminist Challenge to Transgenderism.
This is not a book review (cue sighs of relief from those who survived my Shrier two-parter) if only because Joyce’s writing is such mind-numbing, biased double-speak. Joyce qualifies her writing process as dedicating “two years of my life to something that’s mad.” She did it, though, because someone must stop the madness. Joyce’s ideas are remedial, faded photocopies of others’ work and ideas.
Trans was favorably reviewed by Jesse “just asking questions” Singal in The New York Times; hardly a surprise, given the concern troll’s pedigree and the popular paper’s long history of conservative views and anti-LGBTQ sentiment published under the guise of liberalism. Unsurprisingly, Stella O’Malley, Kathleen Stock, Lionel Shriver, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali praised Joyce’s book. Richard Dawkins’ pull quote, “Frighteningly necessary, thoroughly researched, passionate, and very brave,” appears on the front cover. (Now now, Dawkins: thoroughly researched? Really?) Stock wrote a 5/5 star review of Joyce’s book. Amusingly, Singal does note that the book is “thin on citations,” which he deems a minor shortcoming of a compelling, intelligent book.
Outside the GC echo chamber, Law Professor Alex Sharpe notes that Joyce’s book is poorly referenced with few citations, primarily anecdotal, and supports the debunked “theories” of ROGD, trans kids being harmed by health care, and autogynephilia (a vile, Blanchard-created idea in 1989 with recent resurgence, stating that trans women are sexual fetishists. Blanchard’s findings have not been replicated.) Joyce fails to weigh evidence properly, includes fallacious information, ignores counterevidence, and comes to poorly drawn conclusions. Writer Tucker Lieberman didn’t have to read past the dustjacket (yet he did) to understand that the book is deeply transphobic.
As advocate McArdle has aptly noticed, after reviewing several of these recent books, including Joyce’s:
“Straight people believed all these things about “the homosexuals” because they only allowed straight people to write about the topic. They built on each others ignorance to create a foe that only existed in their imagination. History is repeating as cis people grant each other publishing opportunities and pat themselves on the back for cultivating these fictions about who trans people are. As long as the publishing world denies trans people the same freedom to write about themselves, so long as they continue to shut out trans people from decision-making positions, they will continue to produce the comedy material of future generations.”
Joyce’s book proposes that a few wealthy individuals have shaped the trans agenda. At least two of those she mentions are Jewish; she mentions George Soros, an antisemitic dogwhistle in itself. Her claim is not original; Stephanie Davies-Arai made allegations that a powerful Jewish lobby has invested in trans health, and transmisist writer Jennifer Bilek claimed in a 2018 piece for The Federalist that there is a transhumanist Big Pharma luring people into its web. Her idea that “transgenderism” is a “manufactured new medical and lifestyle issue” funded by big corporations has been widely shared and cited, even though her references come from explicit Nazi Keith Woods. Joyce is often complimentary of Bilek and cites her in her book. In turn, Bilek has accused Joyce of stealing her research and disparaging her.
The Venn Diagram between anti-trans sentiment, antisemitism, transhumanism, and anti-vaxxers has an enormous overlap. These conspiracy theories are especially ironic in light of the recently exposed massive global funding of the anti-gender movement by the Catholic Church, the Christian Right, powerful far-right conservative lobbies, and QAnon.
“The group’s creation has sparked vitriol, not from the traditionalist Christians or social conservatives who might have opposed such groups in the 1980s or 1990s, but from the self-described progressive left. The answer is that, in acknowledging the reality of same-sex attraction, you are indirectly acknowledging the reality and importance of biological sex as a driver of attraction. You are also indirectly acknowledging that members of the opposite sex are not members of your dating pool—even if they tell you that they share your gender identity. Which means you have effectively pled guilty to that grave modern thoughtcrime, transphobia. In this make-believe world, to be gay—in the way gay people actually experience being gay—is to be a transphobe. As gay-rights groups pivoted to become “trans-inclusive” in recent years, this de facto homophobia has emerged in plain sight.
Of course, doctrinaire trans-rights activists might attack straights with equal vigour—since straight men and straight women are just as focused on the reality of biological sex as gay men and lesbians. But all bullies seek out the weak and vulnerable, which is why they now rail against the LGB Alliance with more fury than they direct at society as a whole. That’s why the LGB Alliance’s launch meeting was an invitation-only affair, held at a secret location—the sort of security precaution that one might implement when moderate Muslims break away jihadists. “This is an historic moment for the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual movement,” tweeted Allison Bailey, the criminal-defence barrister who chaired the event. “LGB Alliance launched in London tonight, and we mean business. Spread the word, gender extremism is about to meet its match.”
In response to echo chamber member Ryan T. Anderson’s review of her “important book,” Joyce responds, “I ardently support gay marriage, but don’t think opponents are thereby homophobes (that’s self-evidently ridiculous, since many gay people opposed it too.)”
Helen Joyce’s Favorite GC Greatest Hits
To sum up at least most of Joyce’s conspiracy theories, Joyce believes that the trans agenda is “sterilizing gay kids,” and she’s taken to characterizing transition as “modern conversion therapy.” She thinks men are infiltrating female spaces, both in restrooms and in sports, and that this is a vast and dangerous issue despite a lack of evidence and a predominance of evidence that sports participation on the correct team is vital to both mental and physical health, especially for trans youth. Joyce believes that there are now mass numbers of trans people out of nowhere, and a mass influx of trans youth happened due to the internet and ROGD. A group of primarily Jewish billionaires backs the entire trans agenda. Using GnRHa (which Joyce considers “a horror”) to pause puberty in trans youth “locks” them into being trans, according to Joyce (and Zucker, the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine SEGM, etc.) Actually, she thinks that social affirmation alone locks in “transness”:
“…like taking a child of that age (3 or 4)’s words seriously enough to say all right then I’ll change your name I’ll change your pronouns I’ll tell people you’re really a girl like people think that that’s not irreversible so it’s fine but it’s actually a very major psychological intervention because a child of that age doesn’t actually know what a boy or a girl is like at age three or four children think it is about your name and your hair and your clothes…”
“My younger son identified as a train for most of his waking hours between age two and age four. I put it down to a vivid imagination, read and watched Thomas the Tank Engine on repeat, and waited for him to move on.”
Firstly, the “kids think a lot of wild things” is a tired play and unrelated to someone’s gender identity. But why, in Joyce’s child’s case, was it ok to encourage his train fantasy, but if a child says they’re trans, it’s indoctrination to support them?
Joyce believes youth suicide rates are fabricated and overexaggerated-this is a claim I find especially evil given existing statistics. A secondary analysis of National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) found that 24% of 12–14 year-olds who died by suicide were LGBT. 52% of young trans people in the U.S. contemplated suicide in 2020. The suicide rate among trans teens is almost six times higher than that of cis teens. With the onslaught of anti-trans legislation, there has been a 150% increase in trans youth calling The Trevor Project’s suicide hotline. The widespread far-right debunking of trans youth suicide rates is a fave of Bailey and Blanchard, along with their other harebrained ideas Joyce subscribes to (autogynephilia. I’m talking about autogynephilia.)
“But referring to autogynephilia for any reason other than to deny its existence provokes even greater rage than other sins against “wokeness.” Blanchard thinks one reason is that it complicates the task of “selling” transsexualism. If a guy decides he’s coming to work as a woman from now on, it’s one thing for him to say: “I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’ve always been a woman inside,” and quite another to say: “I’ve moved on from just masturbating in women’s clothes to wearing them all the time.”
This explains why such rage is mostly directed at women, even though it is men who commit almost all anti-trans harassment and violence. Blanchard’s observations of extremist trans activism in recent years have led him to believe that the leaders are mostly autogynephiles. Their anger results from “envy of women and resentment at not being accepted by women as one of them,” he has tweeted. “They direct their ire at women because it is women who frustrate their desires. Men are largely irrelevant.”” Sigh. There’s so much worse and more in the article; read at your own risk.
To Joyce, there are now more trans people because “more people are really ignorant of what their body is saying to them than ever before.” Wouldn’t it be the opposite? I would postulate that trans people tend to think about their bodies quite a lot. This belies an ignorance about gender modalities and gender incongruence. According to Joyce, we are encouraging children to dissociate from their bodies, which means more of them are likely to become trans. It’s that familiar ditty: “funny little boy(s)” and “tomboyish little girl(s)” are now being transed instead of being allowed to experiment with their identities naturally. At least we’re not taking little boys’ Barbies away, I guess. Joyce is okay with kids exploring because her theory is that they end up gay, not trans. They could become trans if the idea is put in their head. No, really: Joyce believes even thinking about gender identity is enough to go trans, and she finds the idea of this “absolutely dreadful”:
“And on top of that is this recent social contagion…and these kids are taught gender dysphoria online. They are told to contemplate their genders. They make themselves ill by thinking about it all the time.”
“There’s been a general pattern globally of seeing only the trans-identified person and thinking that what you do for them affects nobody else, and forgetting that when you allow a man into what’s meant to be a female-only space, you destroy the female-only space for all females. And when you tell children that one child in the class is a special type of child, “Yes, he looks like a boy, but actually he’s really a girl,” you are lying to and indoctrinating all children.”
I would love to see how Joyce explains the fact that indoctrination by cishet people of children happens all the time. Cishet is considered the default mode, and we are bombarded by it daily. Not enough, according to Joyce.
Joyce also sees the trans agenda as the new patriarchy:
“The largest oppressed group that has ever lived is female people. So 52% of the world is female, and that’s a group that has been systematically oppressed and exploited by male people right through history…and that has not stopped.”
In fact, the trans rights movement is just like the MRA or incel movement:
“But they know very well that if they say, “Oh, yeah, the trans rights stuff is even more stupid,” that they will get cast out. And so their brain power manages to work without them consciously noticing it to come up with what are obviously laughably stupid and superficial reasons for why they believe what they believe because it’s backfilling, it’s desperate backfilling. And they then have to conceal the fact that that’s what it is from themselves, which is why they get so angry when you attack them about it, because it’s fragile. It’s a sensitive place in the worldview that they have created and in their social acceptance in their tribe, so they go on the attack to try to get you to move away from the sensitive place.
And so she crosses her fingers behind her back and says, “Okay, trans women are women,” I call these hostage statements and hope that it won’t come to anything, but then that’s the fact. That’s what they’ve said. People who can’t cope with that leave. People who think have been indoctrinated, young women come in, and they work for it. And now, suddenly, this organization has become … Genuinely believes that men can become women. And it must tell the women who come into the center if they ever say anything like, “I’m sure she’s a lovely woman, but I actually find her traumatizing because I find male voices traumatizing,” they have to silence that woman and call her a bigot and kick her out. And before you know it, that’s an organization that is actively working against women. It’s like a men’s rights activism movement. It’s an incel movement.”
She dismisses all cultures with third gender and other gender labels, claiming they were actually labeling gay men. In fact, our culture is creating gender dysphoria. Joyce asserts that all trans-inclusive organizations like ACLU, Stonewall, HRC, GLAAD, and many others are intellectually and morally corrupt.
In Demystifying Gender Dysphoria with Helen Joyce, she states:
“…having gender dysphoria is real, it feels terrible, even if we created it culturally. Smoking is a cultural disease, too. Some of it’s definitely created, especially for people who start in their teen years.”
She explains the origins of trans people:
“You know, a small but non-zero number of people who are very uncomfortable with their sex and that’s a phenomenon that has always existed but very, very, very, very, very rare, and it’s mostly been boys who are, you know, so gender non-conforming that other men treat them so badly like in, you know, in societies that are very homophobic little boys or men who were very effeminate get treated extremely badly and some of those boys and men will come to the conclusion they where meant to be women.”
Helen Joyce is Not A Scientist, People
Joyce is no scientist. Joyce’s Twitter bio includes the line “show me the 3rd gamete & we can talk.” Joyce considers the term “TERF” a slur. It is evident throughout the painstaking reading of her online footprint and book that she labors under confusion, ignorance, and lack of scientific knowledge. And, of course, Joyce believes that trans activists are suppressing research. According to Joyce,
It’s the other way around, Joyce. Research is retracted for inaccuracies, misstatements, and misquotes, and journals are finally purging racist and sexist papers built on false premises. Still, conservatives often blame censorship, virtue-signaling, and cancel culture. Joyce is likely referring to Littman and Bailey’s shoddy work. High-quality research casting doubt on gender affirmation does not exist; science increasingly supports gender-affirming care, and the evidence base is growing. Science is evolving and malleable; were there high-quality research casting the current scientific model in doubt, we would adjust and pivot. But Joyce’s claim echoes many GCs, such as SEGM’s D’Angelo, whose stakes lie in validating conversion therapy for trans people. Claiming that conversion therapy can only be applied to LGB people is not an idea supported by any major medical organization.
To Joyce, it constantly comes back to protecting future gay kids:
“As far as we know and all of the studies that were done before the very recent turn to gender affirming treatment for children suggest that most children with gender dysphoria grow out of it and most of them are gay.”
“I don’t accept this notion that gender dysphoria is a naturally occurring phenomenon with a base rate.”
Ah, yes. That’s how science works. Follow the biased studies from the 80s and 90s to fit your conclusions. I’m sure trans research has not evolved since then. It’s incredible that she blatantly admits to ignoring large bodies of research to serve her ideology.
Joyce is obsessed with the idea that knowing someone’s REAL SEX is vitally important. In a YouTube interview about her book, she states,
“My book is about an idea, and that is an idea that affects 100% of us, which is that what matter is what you state about your gender identity rather than the sex that you actually are, and since we are actually mammals and we are a male or female, every one of us has a sex, and if you change what it means to have a sex or to be male or female you’re actually changing what it means to be human and that’s something that affects all of us, so it’s not something that has to be left to trans-identified people to talk about.”
“We need to know what sex people are in order to reproduce but also to keep us safe.”
Joyce Claims Of Cancellation (But Of Course)
Joyce, like so many of her compatriots, believes she has been “canceled,” an absolutely ridiculous claim that’s even been denied by the BBC. She has a large platform, and her book is found everywhere. Meanwhile, we have libraries in the U.S. removing LGBTQ-themed books en masse, book bans, and violence against trans people continues to rise.
She also claims to have been bullied, allegedly. She’s persecuted by the “priestly caste of a joyless, godless, neo-religion that preaches against whiteness, cisness and heteronormativity-original sins for which there is no absolution, only eternal self-flagellation.” Gender-critical people love to play the victim, even as they are generously platformed and disproportionately represented in the mainstream media. As Joyce laments,
“My refusal to agree that men who identify as women thereby become women means that when I’m invited to speak, there’s usually trouble.”
The GCs expend rally cries for free speech while rejecting the consequences for their speech or the moral implications of incendiary speech, which may violate others’ rights. Any argument against their rhetoric is deemed silencing. If you’re offended by their offensive and transphobic views, you are offended by free speech expression. And some of these people-including Joyce-are spreading truly dangerous ideas. Additionally, it is quite ok for them to censor others-as long as they remain unaffected. Never mind that hate crimes against trans people have been massively increasing. As Journalist Nesrine Malik observes:
Joyce’s Core Agenda: Trans People Shouldn’t Exist (And We Need To Do Something About It)
Joyce doesn’t understand why she’s seen as transphobic; in one interview, she claims,
No, Helen. That’s not why you’re transphobic. Asserting two sexes is just incorrect. You’re transphobic because you claim that individuals cannot ever change biological sex, and anyone who disagrees with that statement is just frightened of activists. Your analogy is:
“The first impulse is definitely middle-aged men whose desire for validation as women is greater than anything else; that’s the ‘zero equals one.’ They’re the people who insist that you say they’re women. And once you say that lie, everything else follows.”
“And trans women are biologically male: Human beings are, like all mammals, sexually dimorphic and incapable of changing sex. What motivates some males who declare themselves women isn’t relevant to women who must share their private spaces with them, or who may be coerced into handling their genitals, either. Nor does it change the form of those genitals.
You operate on the premise that trans people will never, ever “pass” as cis people and that doctors are lying to them, telling them otherwise. You are one of those people who believes they can always tell if someone is trans. Gross.
Joyce considers the idea of trans women in sports
“…funny, like, awful, but funny. I show people the pictures of Rachel McKinnon on the podium or Laurel Hubbard with the two Samoan women on either side. And I’ve never done it and not had the other person laugh.”
“I do think that people are going to start laughing more at the idiocy of this. Any time I ever show somebody a picture of one of these trans athletes on the podium, like some enormous, middle-aged, rather chubby bloke who’s just beaten some incredibly athletic women simply because he’s male, people do laugh. It’s the first thing they do. They are then absolutely destroyed about it, but they think it’s funny. And it is funny. And so…”
Helen Joyce’s goal is to reduce the number of trans people and keep down the number of those who transition. She opines,
“That’s for two reasons – one of them is that every one of those people is a person who’s been damaged. But the second one is every one of those people is basically, you know, a huge problem to a sane world.”
Joyce is following the pattern of pundits in 2023 who have taken the anti-trans campaign from “just asking questions” to “protecting children” to “trans eradication.” People are scared, and with good reason. And for those who still don’t believe this is Joyce’s goal, here she says in an interview:
“There are two versions of the future, and one of them is just clearly better than the other, which is to let these kids just be themselves and grow up to be gay.”
And here, in a YouTube interview about her book:
“…it would be better for as many people as possible who go through these feelings to find a way to accommodate themselves to reality and to understanding. That other people have perceptions and rights, but that’s not the way it’s been approached.”
And here, bolding mine:
“I was writing a book at The Economist, that I could just go back to ordinary life having, to my own satisfaction, established that sex is indeed binary and immutable, and that does indeed matter. But it turned out that this is a real, actually civilization-threatening movement…”
And here. It’s a lot. Joyce does not want us to exist…is it clear now?
“I think that we need to … Actually, and I think Louise Perry thinks the same, that this movement may actually help us to recenter on reality when we think about what it is to create a world that women can flourish in. And that’s what I hope will come out of all of this when we get through all the crying after hopefully abolishing the idiotic idea that sex is a spectrum or mutable or doesn’t exist–or whatever the hell it is this scavenger ideology of massive internal inconsistencies claims–that we can come back out the other side and say, “Well, right now, look, we do have two sexes. What does that mean for how we should organize society?”
“I often analogize it with bindweed or Japanese knotweed, depending on which analogy, how pessimistic I’m feeling on that day, because bindweed is hard, but Japanese knotweed is really hard. So this has spread while nobody was doing the weeding, but you could conceivably pull it all back out. And that’s what we’re trying to do. And once we turn the tide and each landmark legal case or each person who’s uncancellable as JK Rowling turned out to be, that’s a good strike in the right direction. But we have to keep pulling out the bindweed. The day that we finish pulling out the bindweed, I hope we pack up and go I hope we pack up and go, I didn’t intend to be doing this work, and I don’t think Maya did either. I know she didn’t in fact. I thought I was going to write a book to get this out of my system because it was driving me completely bonkers. It was going around my head, all the stupidity, all the idiotic arguments, all the dumbness at the center of it. I wanted to write it down to get it out of my head and then go back to editing six pages of the world’s best news magazine every week. But I mean, it turned out the madness has gone further than I had any idea of. And I will keep pulling it out until it’s gone, and then I’m stopping.”
So now we are characterized as weeds that need removing. Is anyone else still confused about Joyce and the far-right agenda? Here is a sentence from the dustjacket of Joyce’s book:
“And while compassion for transgender lives is essential, it is stifling much-needed inquiry into the significance of our bodies, especially with regard to women’s rights, fairness in sport, same-sex attraction and children’s development.”
What happens when we dispense with this “stifling compassion”? The trans hate doesn’t end; tolerance of trans people is framed as something that will end civilization as we know it, and the consequences of this group-think are dangerous. But don’t believe me; check Joyce’s prolific Twitter feed. Lately, she does not mince her words.
It is not that Joyce is just gender-critical; she is a particularly virulent strain of gender-critical.
My brain is numb from all the bigoted vitriol she spews, so let’s look at it together:
Trans people have “unrealistic ideas about what’s achievable.”.
“it is better upfront to be honest and to say, you know, people can’t change sex, and there really isn’t anything we can do to force everybody else to pretend that you’ve changed sex. You know some people really will never go along with that.”
Trans people have “an inherently fragile identity” that “sets you up to be in conflict with other people because it’s an identity that’s in conflict with reality.” Actually, it’s also stupid to encourage trans people:
“It’s a creation of a particularly fragile identity that requires other people’s validation and that strikes me as a very stupid thing to do, to actually encourage people to do something that makes them fragile. It’s so psychologically incongruent with what the research tells us.”
“At the heart of trans activism is a power play which seeks to impose trans-identified people’s inner feelings on the external world. Other people are expected to ignore the material fact of sexed bodies and “affirm” stated identities by the use of “preferred pronouns.”
Pronouns are not the only words now regarded as powerful enough to change reality. Take the rewriting of literary classics to remove racial slurs, often imaginary, and workplace training that purports to root out “implicit bias.” Both are based on the notion that words, rather than describing the world, shape it so profoundly that censorship can be a route to social justice. What makes a word worthy of being erased is entirely subjective: that someone claims to find it harmful, no matter how tenuous or outlandish that claim.”
Oh, and this bonmot: “If you want me to use the correct pronouns, fuck off.”
“The spread of victimhood culture has helped popularise novel gender identities (non-binary, agender) and sexual orientations (aroace, pansexual) since they allow people to claim membership of oppressed groups without experiencing any actual hardship. It is also driving the self-diagnosis of mental illnesses, from quotidian conditions such as anxiety and depression, to boutique ones such as multiple-personality disorder or a novel form of Tourette’s transmitted by TikTok.”
“There is too much at stake, and no less so for radical feminists: when the embodied category of “woman” has been exchanged for the professed one, there’s no time to worry about being on the same side as the likes of Donald Trump and the Alliance Defending Freedom.”
The mask is fully off. We know all about the GC/far-right alliances, but seeing someone admit them so bluntly is refreshing.
Joyce is an anti-trans bigot who drinks wine over YouTube while calmly discussing the necessity of reducing the number of trans people and who wrote a book of fiction she passed off to the masses as scientific research. Joyce has proudly posed with the LGBTQ progress flag, where the pink and blue sections representing trans people were ripped out and trampled on. Here’s Helen Joyce smiling at a lunch with JK Rowling :
As captioned on this photo: “How perfect, then, that the lunch had been rearranged to take place on a sunny day when gender critical views are now becoming seen as the common sense they are.”
- Professor Kathleen Stock, philosophy don who quit Sussex University amid gender row. Author of Material Girls: Why Reality Matters For Feminism
- Maya Forstater, co-founder of the Sex Matters campaign group
- Alison Bailey, co-founder of the LGB Alliance
- Helen Joyce, journalist, author of Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality and activist with Sex Matters
- Liane Timmermann, activist with Get The L Out– Lesbian Not Queer campaign group
- Angela C Wild, businesswoman and creator of Wild Womyn
- JK Rowling
- Suzanne Moore
- Julie Bindel, journalist and women’s rights campaigner, author of Feminism for Women
This is Helen Joyce, the person short-listed for a prestigious science award.
The John Maddox Prize
- “Recognise individuals who stand up for sound science and evidence, advancing the public discussion of difficult topics despite challenges or hostility.
- Bring attention to the courage and effort shown by underappreciated researchers who take responsibility for helping society understand research evidence, and encourage others to do the same.
- Represent the fact that we don’t yet live in a world where it is safe for researchers to speak out openly and honestly about research findings.
- Advocate positive change towards an environment in which researchers can engage society in difficult conversations about scientific evidence without fear of professional or personal consequences.”
Queries for the Judges
I have several questions for the John Maddox Prize judges: What “sound science and evidence” does Joyce stand for? There is none in her book or numerous online screeds. What attention has Joyce brought to research evidence and underappreciated researchers? Joyce instead continues to elevate the loudest voices in science. What about Joyce’s rhetoric supports a safe environment for researchers to speak openly and honestly about research findings? Calling trans people damaged and a burden does not create such an environment. And finally, how has Joyce advocated for positive change?
It is important to have difficult conversations in science. As the John Maddox Prize writes, it is equally important to base these in “sound science and evidence.” And it is probably best not to believe a woman who recently took up a cause she was previously utterly ignorant of until a lunchtime conversation. Sense About Science and Nature have fallen for Joyce’s science denial conspiracy theory. This theory explains why so many experts (writer’s note: actual experts. Not the loud mainstream shills overwhelming the conversation) reject her views and the overwhelming scientific evidence emphatically does not support her beliefs: there is a vast conspiracy to suppress her, and we are all in on it. It couldn’t be that she is wrong…right?
A Somber Conclusion
Sense about Science has indeed spun Joyce’s story as one of “threats and intimidation faced by scientists for just doing their job,-finding evidence, defending the truth, protecting patients,” even comparing her to prize winner Nancy Olivieri. Nature and Sense About Science characterize Joyce as one of the brave and enlightened and an advocate for open and safe research; as Dr. Novella puts it, the grand conspiracy narrative relies on categorizing most people as “sheeple,” trans-supportive scientists as conspirators and Helen Joyce as a member “of the army of light who sees the conspiracy for what it is and [is] on a mission to save the world.” Joyce says it herself: “You’ve got to be a saint to do this work.”
This is not some mere case of confusion on the part of Nature and Sense about Science. Joyce is openly trans-exclusionist and antagonistic, repeats antisemitic rhetoric, decries DEI efforts, and has defended at least one Nazi (though, as Joyce says, “but all the good people are called Nazis now.” Calling Joyce “courageous” for her reporting is akin to hiring J.K. Rowling to play a trans person in a movie, giving her free reign of interpretation and then an Academy Award for her “brave” horrifying caricature. I’ve said this before, yet it bears repeating: we live in a time of escalating onslaught against trans people, with bad-faith actors creating a moral panic that has been telegraphed and explicitly detailed over the last several years. To stop this, we need to take trans people seriously. Depathologize trans identities. Stop dehumanizing trans people and criminalizing their bodies. LGBTQ rights are human rights.
The science of gender-affirming care continues to confirm its importance ,safety and necessity. Shame on Sense About Science and Nature for shortlisting Helen Joyce and, retrospectively, Stephanie Davies-Arai.