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MIT, Harvard Professors Condemn Use of 'Sex Assigned at Birth'

Milton Quintanilla | Crosswalk Headlines Contributor | Updated: Apr 10, 2024
MIT, Harvard Professors Condemn Use of 'Sex Assigned at Birth'

MIT, Harvard Professors Condemn Use of 'Sex Assigned at Birth'

Professors from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University recently condemned the use of the phrase “sex assigned at birth” in an op-ed published in the New York Times

“Sex is a fundamental biological feature with significant consequences for our species, so there are costs to misconceptions about it,” MIT professor of philosophy Alex Byrne and Harvard University psychology professor Carole Hooven said in the Times op-ed tilted “The Problem With Saying ‘Sex Assigned at Birth.’”

According to The Christian Post, the professors noted how the phrase “sex assigned at birth” became more prominent in the last decade as “‘sex’ is now often seen as a biased or insensitive word because it may fail to reflect how people identify themselves.” According to Byrne and Hooven, “One reason for the adoption of ‘assigned sex,’ therefore, is that it supplies respectful euphemisms, softening to what some nonbinary and transgender people, among others, can feel like a harsh biological reality.”

“Sex assigned at birth” is an example of “an increasing emphasis in society on emotional comfort and insulation from offense — what some have called ‘safetyism,’” Byrne and Hooven said, adding that, “saying that someone was ‘assigned female at birth’ is taken to be an indirect and more polite way of communicating that a person is biologically female.”

The professors also pointed out that “this terminology can also function to signal solidarity with trans and nonbinary people.”

“The shift to ‘sex assigned at birth’ may be well intentioned, but it is not progress,” they insisted. “We are not against politeness or expressions of solidarity, but ‘sex assigned at birth’ can confuse people and creates doubt about a biological fact when there shouldn’t be any. Nor is the phrase called for because our traditional understanding of sex needs correcting — it doesn’t. This matters because sex matters.”

The op-ed also noted the impact the term “sex assigned at birth” had after having been adopted by the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the Cleveland Clinic as well as efforts to suppress “the linguistic tools necessary to discuss” sex: “The Associated Press cautions journalists that describing women as ‘female’ may be objectionable because it can be seen as ‘emphasizing biology,’ but sometimes biology is highly relevant.”

“The heated debate about transgender women participating in female sports is an example; whatever view one takes on the matter, biologically driven athletic differences between the sexes are real,” Byrne and Hooven wrote. Additionally, the traditional understanding of sex “matters for health, safety and social policy” include the facts that “women are nearly twice as likely as men to experience harmful side effects from drugs” while “men are more likely to die from COVID-19 and cancer.”

Both Byrne and Hooven have previously spoken out against LGBT ideology. Last year, a panel discussion with Hooven on “why biological sex remains a necessary analytic category in anthropology” was canceled out of concerns that it would offend the LGBT community.

Meanwhile, Byrne signed a letter in 2018 denouncing the “suppression” of analysis, raising questions about LGBT ideology.

Image credit: © Getty Images/Larisa Rudenko


Milton QuintanillaMilton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for CrosswalkHeadlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.



MIT, Harvard Professors Condemn Use of 'Sex Assigned at Birth'