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The Magical Thinking of Daniel Radcliffe

Daniel Radcliffe, the former child star who played Harry Potter, has written a statement to express his disagreement with J. K. Rowling, the creator of the series, who maintained her belief in biological sex earlier this week. “Transgender women are women,” he said on the website of an LGBT charity that aims to help prevent suicides. “Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.”
Unsurprisingly, Radcliffe did not provide any supporting evidence to back up his absolutist claims. This is unsurprising given that the statement “transgender women are women” is a political dogma not — as he falsely asserts — a scientific truth. As two biologists recently explained for the Wall Street Journal:

In humans, as in most animals or plants, an organism’s biological sex corresponds to one of two distinct types of reproductive anatomy that develop for the production of small or large sex cells — sperm and eggs, respectively — and associated biological functions in sexual reproduction. In humans, reproductive anatomy is unambiguously male or female at birth more than 99.98% of the time. The evolutionary function of these two anatomies is to aid in reproduction via the fusion of sperm and ova. No third type of sex cell exists in humans, and therefore there is no sex “spectrum” or additional sexes beyond male and female. Sex is binary.

There is a difference, however, between the statements that there are only two sexes (true) and that everyone can be neatly categorized as either male or female (false). The existence of only two sexes does not mean sex is never ambiguous. But intersex individuals are extremely rare, and they are neither a third sex nor proof that sex is a “spectrum” or a “social construct.” Not everyone needs to be discretely assignable to one or the other sex in order for biological sex to be functionally binary. To assume otherwise — to confuse secondary sexual traits with biological sex itself — is a category error.

Radcliffe also said he was “deeply sorry” to those who felt they could no longer enjoy the Harry Potter stories: “If you believe that a particular character is trans, nonbinary, or gender fluid, or that they are gay or bisexual . . . then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred.” Sacred? Since when was fantasy sacred? I guess since people began conflating it with reality.


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