Women's Studies Professor Compares Transgender People to QAnon

Sunday March 28, 2021
Originally published on March 26, 2021

A gender studies professor at University of Rhode Island is facing backlash for comparing transgender people with far-right conspiracy theory-driven website QAnon, according to the Daily Mail.

Professor Donna M. Hughes wrote an essay for a feminist website 4W — a self-described radical feminist site that "gives a platform to today's feminists who are stepping outside of the liberal mainstream. We are fourth-wave, for women" — saying that people who think they can change their gender are suffering from a "trans-sex fantasy." Hughes also said that transgender people, just like QAnon with the right, has radicalized the left. Going further, Hughes said the left is using transgender issues to further an agenda that harms children.

"The American political left is increasingly diving headfirst into their own world of lies and fantasy and, unlike in the imaginary world of QAnon, real children are becoming actual victims," she wrote.

Hughes taps into the prevailing anti-trans, dog-whistling rhetoric of the right, warning, "The biological category of sex, particularly women's sex, is being smashed. Women and girls are expected to give up their places of privacy such as restrooms, locker rooms, and even prison cells. When biological males identify as trans-women, they can compete in women's and girls' sports..."

Elsewhere, Hughes adds, "Young people are guided into hormonal and surgical horrors that de-sex them. There are treatments and surgical procedures on women and girls, beginning with puberty-blocking hormones or testosterone administration, that can progress to double mastectomies...and hysterectomies...Girls' female bodies are permanently scarred and destroyed."

Annie Russell, director of the university's Gender and Sexuality Center, said Hughes' comments are "beyond the pale." Russell told The Providence Journal, "trans people are people, period." Furthermore, she added, students at the university are upset by Hughes' comments, which are "not only outdated, it's never been a part of the gender and women's studies movement." Russell said transgender students might fear for their safety because of the ways in which anti-trans rhetoric can manifest in violence.

University of Rhode Island issued a statement, saying, "The University does not support statements and publications by Professor Donna Hughes that espouse anti-transgender perspectives and recognize that such discourse can cause pain and discomfort for many transgender individuals.

"The University is committed to transgender rights and the need to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence aimed at transgender individuals and the LGBTQIA+ community."

Hughes, of course, is not happy about the backlash, problematically claiming her right to free speech is being trampled upon. She told The Providence Journal, "A person cannot change their sex. That is a fact. I have a PhD in genetics so I think I am qualified to write about the basics of sex. And even for those who might question that, I have the right of free speech to say that sex is immutable. In fact, I think I have a civic responsibility to speak out on false claims and harm I see happening to young people who are being told they can change their sex."

Hughes' lawyer, Samantha Harris, echoed such sentiments, saying that her client has been targeted for expressing a view that is "out of step with the prevailing orthodoxy on campus."