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John McWhorter vs. transgender people

John McWhorter is an American linguist and anti-transgender activist. McWhorter’s first public foray into discussing trans issues was banned by YouTube for violations of their hate speech policies.


John Hamilton McWhorter V was born on October 6, 1965 in Philadelphia. McWhorter’s parents were both educators. McWhorter earned a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University in 1985, a master’s degree from New York University, and a doctorate from Stanford University in 1993. McWhorter taught at Cornell University from 1993 to 1995 and at University of California, Berkeley from 1995 to 2003. McWhorter then joined the conservative Manhattan Institute. In 2008 McWhorter took a teaching position at Columbia University.

Views on trans issues

McWhorter has made a case for singular they as a gender neutral pronoun.

In 2023, McWhorter and Glenn Loury had anti-transgender activist Mark Goldblatt on to discuss Goldblatt’s transphobic book I Feel, Therefore I Am: The Triumph of Woke Subjectivism. YouTube removed the episode for violation of their terms of service.

McWhorter stated:

We are supposed to reform our sense of what a man and a woman are. And I think any idiot knows that there is a biological business with the chromosomes. Nobody’s going to deny that.

When Loury asked about transgender youth, McWhorter said:

My gut sense is that we’re allowing people to make decisions like that too early. I haven’t thought deeply about it because the topic is so disturbing and frightening and doesn’t apply to me just yet, but my sense is that we need to consider that people are not mentally mature until they’re about 25.

And of course the counter argument is that, “Yes, but by then certain things are already irreversible.” And I would say, “Well maybe that’s the way it has to be.” That’s my gut sense of it.

And in general, the recreational ease with which one can be called “transphobic” these days is something that I am radically opposed to, as one might predict.

Regarding evolving use of the terms man and woman, McWhorter differed from Goldblatt:

But I must admit, once again I’m the weird one here because I can’t… maybe it’s probably because I’m a linguist and I study language change… I can’t quite get what’s wrong with the fluidity of those terms in our modern times.

McWhorter later related a story about speaking with a trans woman:

About eight years ago, I was at a thing, and there was somebody who was talking to me at a certain length, knew some of my work. This was somebody who was certainly born with a Y chromosome, and needed a bit of a shave, and was speaking in a voice higher than what would be normal, and I’m sure this person was used to speaking that way, but that’s not how their voice would have come out if you woke them up in the middle of the night. And this person had long hair and was wearing a nice summer dress and high heels, and this person thought of themselves as a woman. And of course, a part of me, being somebody born in 1965, was thinking, “This is a man acting like a woman.” I can’t help thinking it. But this person thought of themselves as a woman. And I thought my job is to open my mind to the idea that this person is a woman, although this person shaves, this person– the past is clearly obvious, but this is a woman. You’re saying that I should’ve thought. “This person on that score needs help.”

Goldblatt made a case that trans people are deluded and mentally ill, and that refining and updating terms like man and woman involve forcing others to “deny reality.”

Loury reuploaded the episode to Substack after the hate speech violation.


McWhorter, John (April 30, 2013). The Royal They. The New Republic

McWhorter, John (September 4, 2018). Call Them What They Wants. The Atlantic

McWhorter, John (September 21, 2021). Gender Pronouns Are Changing. It’s Exhilarating. New York Times


Loury, Glenn (April 24, 2023) John McWhorter and Mark Goldblatt – I Feel, Therefore I Am. The Glenn Show

Editor’s Note: YouTube took down the video of the above conversation, claiming that it violates their community standards. 

Maher, Bill (October 22, 2021). Andrew Yang & John McWhorter on Dave Chappelle and “Transphobia.” Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO)


Wikipedia (