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Alex Byrne vs. transgender people

Alex Byrne is an American philosopher and anti-transgender activist. Trolling and attacking the trans community for money and attention is a family business; Byrne’s spouse Carole Hooven is an anti-transgender anthropologist.


Alexander “Alex” Byrne was born on January 25, 1960. Byrne earned a bachelor’s degree from Birkbeck College London at age 28 in 1988 and a master’s degree from King’s College London in 1989. Byrne earned a doctorate from Princeton University in 1994. After teaching at Caltech during a postdoc in 1993, Byrne joined MIT in 1994.

Byrne’s work focuses on philosophy of mind (especially perception), metaphysics (especially color) and epistemology (especially self-knowledge).

Byrne married anti-trans anthropologist Carole Hooven (born 1966) and has one child, Griffin.

Anti-transgender activism

Byrne “began to take a serious interest in the philosophy of sex and gender in 2018.” Hooven’s work is largely a defense of sex segregationism through promoting the concept of sexual dimorphism, and Byrne’s work builds on that.

Byrne started with the standard “just asking questions” style beloved by transphobes:

  • Is Sex Binary?
  • Is Sex Socially Constructed?
  • What Is Gender Identity?
  • Are Women Adult Human Females?

Byrne has also published in the Journal of Controversial Ideas, a publication designed to allow academics to publish using fake names, thus relieving them of responsibility and accountability that are foundational to academic freedom.

Byrne has also published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, the “academic” platform of choice for transphobes for over 50 years.

Trouble with Gender (2023)

Byrne was invited to contribute a chapter on pronouns for the Oxford Handbook of Applied Philosophy of Language. That was dropped after Byrne posted a draft to Twitter, prompting colleagues and the lay public to criticize the chapter and the author.

Byrne had contracted with Oxford University Press to publish Trouble with Gender: Sex Facts, Gender Fictions. Byrne even got fellow anti-trans activist Nina Paley to make a cover. After peer review, the editors decided not to proceed, saying “the book does not treat the subject in a sufficiently serious and respectful way.”

Oxford University Press philosophy editor Peter Momtchiloff added in response:

The decision not to proceed with Alex’s book manuscript was editorial in nature. By way of clarification, let me assure you that the manuscript underwent peer review, and Alex was given comments on the manuscript from me and from four expert readers. On the basis of these assessments, my judgement was indeed that the work was not appropriate for publication by OUP. And Alex’s submission for the Handbook also went through a process of review by expert readers.

Byrne took to anti-trans publication Quillette to complain.

Polity then agreed to publish Byrne’s book, which has been blurbed by all the usual anti-trans suspects, including Steven Pinker, Christina Hoff Sommers, Kathleen Stock, Janet Radcliffe Richards, and Nina Power.


Byrne, Alex (November 2, 2018). Is Sex Binary? Arc Digital

Byrne, Alex (December 1, 2018). Is Sex Socially Constructed? Arc Digital

Byrne, Alex (January 9, 2019). What Is Gender Identity? Arc Digital

Byrne A (2020). Are Women Adult Human Females? Philosophical Studies 177, 3783–803.

Bogardus T (2020). Evaluating Arguments for the Sex/Gender Distinction. Philosophia 48 (3):873-892.

Dembroff R (2021). Escaping the natural attitude about gender. Philosophical Studies 178, 983–1003

Byrne A (2021). Gender Muddle: Reply to Dembroff. Journal of Controversial Ideas 1(1): 1-24.

Byrne A (2022). The Female of the Species: Reply to Heartsilver, Journal of Controversial Ideas 2(1), 11;

Byrne, Alex (April 17, 2023). Philosophy’s No-Go Zone. Quillette

Weinberg, Justin (April 18, 2023). What It’s Like to Be a Philosopher with Unpopular Views on a Controversial Subject (multiple updates). Daily Nous

Byrne A (2023). The Origin of “Gender Identity.” Archives of Sexual Behavior

van Anders SM (2013). Beyond masculinity: Testosterone, gender/sex, and human social behavior in a comparative context. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 34, 198-210.

van Anders SM (2015). Beyond sexual orientation: Integrating gender/sex and diverse sexualities in Sexual Configurations Theory. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44, 1177-1213.

Gambotto-Burke, Antonella (September 22, 2023). Can you really demand to become a woman? The Australian [archive]

Fausto-Sterling A (2019). Gender/Sex, Sexual Orientation, and Identity Are in the Body: How Did They Get There? The Journal of Sex Research 56;4-5, 529-555


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