Sunday, October 23, 2016
University Threatens to ‘Silence’ Professor Protesting Genderless Pronouns
A psychology professor at the University of Toronto who is protesting a law that would force him to use certain pronouns for transgender and other gender nonconforming individuals says the school is trying to “silence” him.
“The university, yesterday, basically told me to silence myself,” Jordan Peterson told The Daily Signal. “That’s the second warning letter.”
Peterson has been a vocal opponent of a measure before Canada’s Parliament known as C-16, which would amend the nation’s human rights and criminal codes to make it illegal to discriminate based on gender identity and gender expression.
If passed, failure to refer to a person by the preferred pronoun or refusing to hire someone based on gender identity could qualify as discrimination and be punishable by law.
In a phone interview with The Daily Signal, Peterson said he has no problem with addressing people “as whatever gender they appear to be presenting themselves as.”
Peterson, a clinical psychologist, is a tenured professor.
“If Caitlyn Jenner wants to be called ‘she,’ I don’t give a damn,” he said. “If someone’s going through a fair bit of work to manifest themselves as a female or manifest themselves as a male, I’m not going to make an issue of it.”
What Peterson takes issue with, however, is the Canadian government potentially forcing him to speak in a manner that reflects a particular ideology, such as using the genderless pronouns “zie” or “hir.”
“The law should be very careful when it mandates what people have to say,” Peterson said, adding:
That’s the fundamental issue here. The mistake of this legislation is, it’s an attempt to force people to utter certain words that are not of their choosing. There’s a big difference between being required to not say something, and being required to say something. It’s a different category of law. One is closing your mouth. The other one is putting a hand inside you and forcing you to be a puppet.
Some students and other members of the University of Toronto community took immediate offense to Peterson’s remarks, telling school leaders they found his comments “unacceptable, emotionally disturbing, and painful.”
The university first warned Peterson to stop making “discriminatory” remarks in an Oct. 3 letter from Susanne Ferber, chairwoman of the Department of Psychology
The letter signed by Cameron and Nelson, dated Oct. 18, informs Peterson:
The impact of your behavior runs the risk of undermining your ability to conduct essential components of your job as a faculty member and we urge you to consider your obligations as a faculty member to act in a manner that is consistent with the law and with university policy.
Peterson’s tenure status provides “some protection” from being fired, he said, “but the limits of that can always be tested.”
The university officials object to what they call Peterson’s “discriminatory intentions”—that, as a matter of principle, he has said he’d refuse to comply with rules or laws dictating pronoun usage.
Peterson said he doesn’t intend to stop speaking out on the issue, and warned that political correctness is spiraling out of control, particularly in the U.S.
I think the university will send me a third warning letter, because I think they’re getting the documentation in order, and then I think there’s a reasonable probability that they’ll take action against me. And I think there’s a nontrivial possibility that I’ll be held up in front of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. I’m obviously prognosticating with regards to something I can’t predict, but the university did yesterday tell me to silence myself, and I didn’t expect them to do that.