Gail Heriot is a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and a law professor at the University of San Diego. Some of her work may be familiar to Power Line readers. For example, although Stuart Taylor and Richard Sander popularized “mismatch theory” with their 2012 book, Heriot had been writing about the problem for many years (as had Sander).
Earlier this week, Heriot testified in her capacity as as an individual member of the Civil Rights Commission before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on executive overreach by the Obama administration’s Department of Education. Part of her testimony dealt with the Obama administration’s controversial guidance letter on transgender bathrooms. It appears at pages 11-18 of her written remarks.
Most of Heriot’s testimony on the subject is technical — a discussion of administrative law principles and legal precedent. Her “overriding point” that the administration “is not enforcing Title IX and that it is instead enforcing its own concept of what the law should be.”
Heriot also said this:
We are teaching young people a terrible lesson. If I believe that I am a Russian princess, that doesn’t make me a Russian princess, even if my friends and acquaintances are willing to indulge my fantasy.
Nor am I a Great Horned Owl just because—as I have been told—I happen to share some personality traits with those feathered creatures.
I should add that very few actual transgender individuals are confused in this way. They understand perfectly that their sex and their gender do not align. Some choose surgery to make their bodies better align with their gender. Most choose not to.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren read the first two paragraphs of this statement and pronounced them “rather offensive.” Lundgren opined that Heriot must not have ever met a transgender child going through the difficult experience of finding himself or herself.
But Lofgren declined to read the very next sentence of Heriot’s testimony, which acknowledges the phenomenon the congresswoman describes, while saying that it’s rare. Nor, of course, did Lofgren present any evidence to dispute the rarity of the phenomenon. Being offended means never having to present evidence or analysis.
Lofgren also ignored this statement in the preceding paragraph of Heriot’s statement:
Don’t get me wrong. There is no reason in the world that any federal, state, or local government should be telling anyone that he or she needs to conform to the expectations of others regarding members of his or her sex. That’s what freedom is all about.
Heriot also said:
Note that I agree with OCR that Price Waterhouse is valid precedent for its conclusion that transgender students cannot be penalized for their gender non-conforming personality traits and actions.
Had Heriot been given the opportunity to respond to Lundgren, she might well have pointed to these passages or concepts. But Heriot never got the opportunity.
When she attempted to respond, Lofgren lost it. Rather than let Heriot speak, she shouted, “I think you are a bigot, lady. I think you are an ignorant bigot.”
Lofgren added, “I don’t want to get into a debate about it.” Of course she doesn’t. Leftists rarely do.
Rather than engage on the issue, Lofgren retreated to her “safe space” — a perch where she can insult someone (in this case a scholar and a public official) who says things she’d rather not hear and then shout the “offender” down when she tries to respond.
If Lofgren doesn’t like Heriot’s edgy comparisons to Russian princesses and great horned owls, that’s fine. But Heriot is no bigot. This is clear from her statements (ignored by Lofgren) that “transgender students cannot be penalized for their gender non-conforming personality traits and actions” and that “there is no reason in the world that any federal, state, or local government should be telling anyone that he or she needs to conform to the expectations of others regarding members of his or her sex.”
Stanley Kurtz reports that the left is thrilled with Lofgren’s treatment of Heriot. Naturally.
Lofgren has captured the essence of leftist discourse. Take offense; call your opponent names; refuse to let her speak; decline to debate.
This is becoming the norm on some college campuses — the very place where debate should be most robust. It is the shape of things to come.
In fact, the left is trying to bring it to Heriot’s campus — the University of San Diego. According to Kurtz:
Since Lofgren’s attack, Heriot has been deluged with hate tweets and hate mail, and her law school has been flooded with angry letters, many of which presumably demand her firing or some sort of punishment. This is how the left tries to choke off real debate: false accusations of bigotry and retaliatory attacks designed to scare other critics from following in the target’s footsteps.
Those in the mainstream media who claim to be bothered by what they see as Donald Trump’s authoritarian tendencies (which I think are real) might be taken more seriously if they acknowledged the obvious authoritarian tendencies of the American left.