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Episode 22: Senator Travis Cross-Examines President Buchmann
Senator Travis rose. “‘Women can have penises,’ you say,” he quoted his witness. “‘Men can have vaginas.’ So then, what IS a woman?”
“It’s a matter of self-definition,” Professor Buchmann proclaimed, “of granting individuals autonomy to make up their own minds and live their own truth. Gender is a process – not an absolute. It’s a journey.”
“A journey?” Senator Travis asked. “From what specific origin, to what specific destination?”
“That’s a matter of personal choice,” they explained.
“You defined yourself as ‘nonbinary.’ Is that correct?”
“Yes,” they confirmed.
“By ‘nonbinary’ you mean you define yourself as neither male nor female, but rather somewhere in between those… ‘extremes?’”
“The binary model of sex as being either male or female is a late eighteenth-century creation,” Professor Buchmann lectured. “Before then, only men and the male sex were truly recognized, and females were considered an inferior version of the male archetype. The ‘two-sex’ model was created to associate social status with sex and reinforce gender and racial differences.”
“Wait,” Senator Travis frowned. “Men invented the concept of women as the opposite sex the better to oppress them?”
“That’s exactly correct,” President Buchmann affirmed, “but gender is not a simply linear scale. It’s a multi-dimensional topology that defies simple explanation.”
“Well, somewhere in this multi-dimensional topology of yours is a place called, ‘woman.’ Would you please give me a definition?”
“A ‘woman’ is anyone who identifies as a woman,” Professor Buchmann explained.
“That’s a circular definition.” Senator Travis shook his head. “If a woman identifies as a woman, what IS IT she identifies as?”
“I’ve already explained that to you,” Professor Buchmann pointed out. “It’s a journey. It’s a personal choice. You’re demanding some markers or characteristics that depend upon a certain cultural or ideological context, and you want to assume those characteristics are independent of their context. That’s what we would call an essentialist definition of the term. It simply doesn’t work that way.”
“At this point, I don’t care what KIND of definition you give me,” Senator Travis sat on the corner of the defense table. “You are supposed to be a scholar of gender studies. You have a Ph.D. in WOMEN’S Studies, for goodness sake,” Senator Travis pointed out. “I’m just asking, what is it that you study? Would you please define the term for me?” Senator Travis refused to let her off the hook. “What is a woman? I just want a definition.”
“I already gave you one,” Professor Buchmann explained.
“Can you give me a definition for ‘woman,’” Senator Travis tried yet again, “that we might actually be able to verify with respect to observable evidence, instead of just taking someone’s word for it?”
“You can listen to what someone says,” President Buchmann pointed out. “You see how they live their life and how they present themselves to other people. That’s good enough for me.”
“So, if I understand your view,” Senator Travis was shaking his head in disbelief, “a woman is anyone who says she’s a woman and acts like a woman, but it’s impossible for you as the holder of a Ph.D. in Women’s Studies and as a leading scholar of so-called gender studies to tell the rest of us exactly what a woman is. It’s impossible for the rest of us to independently check out your claims or those of people who claim to be women. Do I have that right?”
“You’re not listening to me,” President Buchmann shook their head at Senator Travis’s inability to comprehend the most basic facts of Gender Studies. “You’re insisting upon an essentialist definition, instead of one based on lived experience.”
“So, there are no objective biological facts to which one can refer in determining whether or not someone is a woman?”
“No,” President Buchmann agreed. “There are potentially mutually conflicting biological factors involved, like external genitalia, internal reproductive structure, hormonal and secondary sex characteristics, gonadal sex, and chromosomal sex. No one biological factor can be isolated to force anyone into the narrow little definitional box you’re trying to inflict on us.”
“But, if that’s the case,” Senator Travis continued, “how is it possible for Dr. Andrews’s biological and scientific teachings to call into question gender identity?”
“They can’t,” President Buchmann agreed, “but in ATTEMPTING to do so, without offering a modicum of affirmation, Dr. Andrews and those like him who try to use their supposed biological facts in oppressive and heartless ways to deny the very existence of trans people… those gender identity non-affirmation microaggressions make transgender people more depressed and suicidal. They inflict emotional harm and trauma on vulnerable students who are trying to figure out what gender means to them and how they identify.”
“Let’s talk about this ‘affirmation’ you mention.” Senator Travis flipped the pages of his legal pad. “Affirmation means ‘declaring something to be true.’ But you insist there is no such thing as an objective gender to be affirmed? Is there no objective test, no standard, no way for us to know whether someone’s self-declared gender is correct?”
“Gender is a matter of self-determination,” President Buchmann declared. “Not a matter to be imposed upon an individual by third parties or so-called objective tests.”
“Then,” Senator Travis shook his head, “how is ‘gender affirmation’ any different from delusion affirmation?”
“Personal autonomy is no delusion,” President Buchmann frowned, “and by denying a person’s autonomy you expose them to trauma and harm.”
“All this trauma you mention…” Senator Travis smiled, clearly not taking her seriously, “a pat on the back and a new pronoun make it all better, do they?”
“Affirming a transgendered person by respecting and using their pronouns is the least you can do to support them,” President Buchmann glared at his flippancy.
“That’s it?” Senator Travis asked, sarcastically. “Nothing else is required? Not even a pat on the back? Just pronouns?”
“Fully affirming a young person in their choice of sexual identity is a job for a trained specialist,” President Buchmann explained, “someone with expertise in counseling, psychology, social work, and most importantly, a background in gender studies.”
“What do these specialists do to ‘affirm’ our children, in the sense intended by the GAIA Act?” Senator Travis asked.
“They encourage young people to get in touch with their sexuality,” President Buchmann made clear. “They listen. They advise.”
“That’s it?” Senator Travis pressed. “Listening and advising? No other forms of affirmation are needed for a young person who’s been convinced to transition to passing themselves off as other than their original birth sex?”
“We don’t ‘convince’ young people,” Professor Buchmann corrected him. “We listen and advise. If appropriate,” President Buchmann clarified, “they might propose a social transition, like using a different name and different pronouns, like changing a haircut, or make-up, or style of dress.”
“Social transition?” Senator Travis appeared confused. “Name, pronouns, haircut, make-up, clothing? That’s it? There aren’t any other steps in transition?”
“If the social transition is working,” President Buchmann acknowledged, we might recommend progressing to a medical transition.”
“A medical transition?” Senator Travis finally got the answer he was seeking. “What kind of medical transition?”
“Typical medical interventions include puberty-blocking hormones.” President Buchmann acknowledged.
“What do these hormones do to our children?”
“They merely pause the onset of puberty,” President Buchmann explained, “to give young people time to figure out their identity before making any further steps toward a transition.”
“Certainly,” President Buchmann confirmed.
“You’re a ‘Doctor of Philosophy in Women’s Studies,’” Senator Travis pointed out, “not a Doctor of Medicine. How can you tell the court these hormones you advocate pumping into confused boys and girls are safe?”
“Objection!” Senator Castillo rose. “Argumentative!”
“Sustained!” the judge declared. “You will refrain from badgering the witness.”
“I’m sorry your honor,” Senator Travis humbled himself. “I’ll try to do a better job keeping my feelings under control.”
“You’ll not just try,” Judge Connor admonished him, “you’ll succeed, or I’ll hold you in contempt of court. Is that understood?”
“Yes, your honor,” Senator Travis acknowledged.
“President Buchmann,” Senator Travis resumed his questioning, “you aren’t a Doctor of Medicine. What is the basis for your claim that these hormone treatments you describe are safe?”
“I may not have an MD,” President Buchmann acknowledged, “and I do not myself prescribe those treatments. However, I have thoroughly reviewed the results of clinical studies, and as a consulting member of many gender transition boards of review, I can attest to the safety of the treatments we prescribe.”
Senator Travis looked skeptical. “Do you even know the name of the drug you use as a puberty blocker?”
“Lupron,” President Buchmann demonstrated her expertise.
“Oh,” Senator Travis looked surprised she knew the answer. “Lupron.”
“So, that’s it?” he continued. “Listening, advising, and hitting the ‘pause button’ on puberty by administering puberty-blocking hormones like this Lupron. Or, are there further steps involved in this affirmation process as envisioned by the GAIA Act?”
“Objection!” Senator Castillo rose again. “Relevance?”
“Your honor,” Senator Travis preempted an immediate ruling from the judge. “If the law my client is accused of violating requires that Dr. Andrews and his colleagues refer their students to President Buchmann’s professional counselors as part of this affirmation,” he pointed out, “I think we all need to better understand the process better. Your honor will recall that my client is arguing a defense of necessity – that the consequences of obeying the law’s requirement to ‘affirm’ his students could have such negative consequences as to leave Dr. Andrews morally and legally justified to ignore the law. A failure to fully examine this question might leave any outcome liable to being overturned on appeal.”
The judge pondered a moment before ruling. “Very well. Overruled, but keep it strictly relevant.”
“President Buchmann,” Senator Travis resumed his questioning, “what other steps are involved in affirmation?”
“The GAIA Act does not envision our educators becoming involved in gender transitions,” President Buchmann scoffed at the implications of Senator Travis’s question. “We only expect high-school educators to be supportive, to affirm their students’ gender identity by properly using their pronouns, to listen and advise to the best of their ability, and to have the wisdom to refer a student to a professional counselor or treatment for specialized attention as necessary.”
“That specialized attention consists only of listening, advising, and administering puberty-blocking hormones like this Lupron?” Senator Travis counted to three on his fingers.
“In some cases,” President Buchmann acknowledged, “additional gender-affirming hormones might be prescribed to aid in feminizing or masculinizing a young person to align more closely physically with their gender identity.”
“Just hormones?” Senator Travis asked. “What about surgeries?”
“In some cases,” President Buchmann admitted, “surgical interventions are needed for young people to affirm their true gender identities. In other cases, more modest interventions like genital tucking or packing or chest binding suffice.”
Senator Travis paused a moment, thought better than to ask the follow-up question he had in mind, and instead referred back to his yellow legal pad. “You mentioned clinical studies. What is the scientific basis for these medical interventions?”
“Dutch researchers demonstrated that the progression from social intervention to medical intervention for young transgendered adolescents left them feeling more comfortable with themselves and their bodies,” President Buchmann claimed. “The Dutch Protocol is scientifically proven to help transgendered youth.”
“So, affirming youth who present as transsexual involves hormone treatments and surgeries?” Senator Travis asked.
“While current best practices in the health of transgender people still use the word transsexual,” President Buchmann acknowledged, “you should recognize that it’s no longer the most inclusive and affirmative term.”
“Affirming them,” Senator Travis repeated, “whatever you call them, involves hormone treatments and surgeries?”
“Yes,” President Buchmann confirmed. “That’s part of the protocol.”
“Hormones and surgeries.” Senator Travis paused, looking at the witness and then at the jury. “Sounds to me as though the truths of biological and medical science aren’t just compatible with this so-called ‘affirmation’… it sounds as though they’re down-right essential.” He turned back toward the witness. “Isn’t that true, President Buchmann?”
“So long as those truths don’t deny the lived truths of a transgender person, I suppose so,” President Buchmann acknowledged.
“Now, you said earlier, ‘Biology denies the lived truths’ of Dr. Andrews’s student?’ Do you mean that those so-called lived truths are at odds with biological science?”
“Truth is relative,” President Buchmann clarified. “My truth could be different from your truth or different from the truth of a biological scientist, but when your truth – whatever it is – is denied, it can be harmful to you.”
“But, you’re denying Dr. Andrews’s truth, aren’t you? If my truth is different from your truth is different from someone else’s ‘lived truth’ is different from the truths of biological science,” Senator Travis asked with a puzzled look, “how then can we ask these ladies and gentlemen on the jury to sort out whose truth is right and whose supposed truth is wrong?”
“You’re still not listening to me,” President Buchmann shook her head at the stupidity of her student. “As I already explained, truth… is… relative. Truth is in the eye of the beholder.”
“Dr. Andrews has HIS truths, too,” Senator Travis pointed out, “truths about biological science that have been worked out by brilliant scientists and naturalists over the centuries, truths that heal the sick, truths that put food on our tables, truths that correspond with the FACTS of reality.” The senator pounded his fist on the table for emphasis. “Why should this court and this jury decide to override Dr. Andrews’s truths and the truths of biological science and instead support the so-called ‘lived truth’ of one of the girls in his class who woke up one morning and decided she feels like a boy?”
“The jury will simply have to find their OWN truth,” President Buchmann said slowly, as if explaining a particularly simple subject to a particularly dull student.
“If you, or the jury for that matter, disagree with Dr. Andrews’s truth,” Senator Travis asked, “why isn’t he the one that’s harmed? By the denial of HIS truth?”
“When your truth is denied by someone in power,” President Buchmann lectured, “that’s where the harm and oppression reside. Morality demands that we must act to uphold, cherish, and protect the most weak and vulnerable among us, against those who would seek to oppress or dominate. Dr. Andrews held a position of authority over his student. He was entrusted with that power with the intent that he be supportive and affirming of his vulnerable students. He failed to do so, and thus violated the GAIA Act.”
“This court and the state legislature hold a position of power over Dr. Andrews, now,” Senator Travis nodded his head sagely. “So, in your view, the jury should rule in favor of my client who for the past week has been imprisoned and denied his liberty by a cruel, heartless, and powerful state that seeks to oppress and dominate Dr. Andrews for the supposed crime of teaching biology and sharing his truths?”
“You are confusing STATE action with SOCIAL action,” President Buchmann’s reply dripped with condescension. “Dr. Andrews held the SOCIAL power over his class and students. He used that SOCIAL power to oppress potentially vulnerable students by teaching them supposed biological ideas without supporting them, without affirming their gender identities. We, as a people, as a state, have come together to pass the GAIA Act. We have joined together as one to tell Dr. Andrews and all the other professionals we entrust with the education of our children that no longer can they use that power in an oppressive or abusive way. We WILL use the power of the state and its legal muscle to enforce moral action and correct social wrongs in the social realm. Teachers like Dr. Andrews have to learn to affirm their weak and vulnerable students, or they WILL face consequences from the state.”
“Hard for me to see how Dr. Andrews’s students are the oppressed and ‘weak and vulnerable’ parties here,” Senator Travis replied, “when they nevertheless have the power to have their teachers thrown in jail if their teachers hurt their feelings.”
President Buchmann shifted in her chair, turning away from Senator Travis to address the jury directly.
“I know it may be difficult to understand,” they said, “but the only reason Dr. Andrews sits in jail is because he failed to affirm a weak and vulnerable student, and he has refused to apologize for it. Dr. Andrews isn’t in jail because his student put him there or because I put him there or because the state put him there.
“He put himself there.
“Dr. Andrews is only in jail because of his own wrong-headed stubbornness. I can’t speak for the state, but as far as I’m concerned, if only he will acknowledge that what he did is wrong and apologize for it, he should be free to go.”
“He should apologize for teaching biology?” Senator Travis asked. “For hurting a student’s feelings? For being thrown in jail? Dr. Andrews is the one who should apologize for all that?”
Professor Buchmann began to reply, but Senator Travis cut her off. “We’ll have to leave THAT for the jury to sort out.”
“No further questions,” Senator Travis took his seat.
“Profesora?” the judge asked.
“No questions,” she rose to address the court.
“You may step down,” the judge told President Buchmann, who reclaimed their seat next to Acey. “Any further witnesses?”
“No your honor,” the district attorney rose to confirm. “The state rests its case.”
“Is the defense ready to present its case?” the judge asked.
Senator Travis rose. “Our lead witness has been delayed,” he explained. “If it please the court, the defense would like to recess for lunch early today and begin presenting our case after lunch.”
“Very well,” the judge consented. “This court stands adjourned until 1 pm.”
“All rise!” the bailiff proclaimed. The crowd remained standing until the judge left the courtroom.
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