The American Anthropological Association (AAA) and the Canadian Society of Anthropology (CASCA) canceled a panel on the importance of biological sex in anthropological studies, arguing that it could be harmful to the LGBT community.
The presentation, called "Let’s Talk about Sex, Baby: Why biological sex remains a necessary analytic category in anthropology," was canceled after "extensive consultation and was reached in the spirit of respect for our values, the safety and dignity of our members and, the scientific integrity of the program," reads a statement signed by Ramona Pérez, president of the AAA; and Mónica Heller, president of CASCA.
🚨BREAKING: The American Anthropological Association the Canadian Anthropology Society have cancelled the panel "Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: Why biological sex remains a necessary analytic category in anthropology" scheduled to take place at their annual conference.
The reasons… pic.twitter.com/5G3I6Y1vqG
— Colin Wright (@SwipeWright) September 26, 2023
“The reason the session deserved further scrutiny was that the ideas were advanced in such a way as to cause harm to members represented by the Trans and LGBTQI of the anthropological community as well as the community at large,” the chairs of these organizations added.
The decision is causing significant controversy on social media and in the academic world, with the panelists of the presentation categorically rejecting the cancellation by the AAA and CASCA.
“We are puzzled at the AAA / CASCA adopting as its own official stance that to support the continued use of biological sex categories (e.g., male and female; man and woman) is to imperil the safety of the LGBTQI community,” it reads in a harsh response from the panelists.
The open letter in response to the cancellation of the event was signed by Kathleen Lowrey, associate professor at the University of Alberta; Elizabeth Weiss, professor at San Jose State University; Kathleen Richardson, Professor at De Montfort University Michèle Sirois, president of PDF Québec; Silvia Carrasco, Professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona; and Carole Hooven, from Harvard University.
The panelists argued that the AAA and CASCA decision looks like an anti-scientific response to pressure from political campaigns.
“Your suggestion that our panel would somehow compromise ‘... the scientific integrity of the programme’ seems to us particularly egregious, as the decision to anathematize our panel looks very much like an anti-science response to a politicized lobbying campaign,” responded the panelists. “Had our panel been allowed to go forward, we can assure you that lively contestation would have been welcomed by the panelists and may even have occurred between us, as our own political commitments are diverse.”
Finally, the professors denounced that the decision of the anthropological associations of Canada and the United States set a dangerous precedent that will be rejected by the scientific community.
“Anthropologists around the world will quite rightly find chilling this declaration of war on dissent and on scholarly controversy. It is a profound betrayal of the AAA's principle of ‘advancing human understanding and applying this understanding to the world's most pressing problems’," they said.