A Viral Twitter Thread Gets Sex Wrong
How scientific language is used as a smokescreen to obscure an underlying ideological agenda.
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“Falsehood will fly, as it were, on the wings of the wind, and carry its tales to every corner of the earth; whilst truth lags behind; her steps, though sure, are slow and solemn…” – Thomas Francklin, 1787
In the era of social media, it seems as though the internet is overrun with posts, articles, and threads claiming to debunk outdated notions of sex and gender. Last week, a particularly viral Twitter thread caught the attention of millions, which purported to debunk “transphobic” notions about the biology of sex. As of this writing, the thread has garnered over 7000 retweets, reaching the screens of nearly two million users.
However, as with many viral threads of this nature, the content is not new or original. The thread credits someone named Margaret Mosberger-Kijonka for the content, though a 2017 article in The Observer credits a biology teacher at Arlington High School in Lagrangeville, New York, named Grace Pokela as the source. Despite its mysterious origins, viral threads can be powerful vectors for spreading misinformation about biology, and so its claims should be addressed.
To the layperson, threads like this appear to deftly do away with archaic and oppressive beliefs that have somehow managed to persist well beyond their expiration date. In reality, however, they only demonstrate that twisting the strands of fact into knots is far easier than untangling them.
Misunderstandings about the fundamental nature of biological sex are widespread among all parties involved in the debate. It often happens that someone will point out another person’s misunderstanding and attempt to disprove it with yet another misconception. This is precisely what is occurring in this thread, where a self-proclaimed “science teacher” is presenting an excessively simplified depiction of the connection between sex chromosomes and sex, only to proceed on to reveal their own ignorance on the subject.
Below, I will address each claim made in the thread. My goal is to provide deeper insight into the issue at hand and to help readers recognize and address these and similar arguments when they arise in the future.
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