A world-renowned professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been dropped by a publisher because his book defines a “woman” as “an adult human female.”
Alex Byrne, a philosophy professor at MIT, warns that the “radioactive” issue of transgender identity is threatening to stifle debate after Oxford University Press canceled his book.
Byrne had signed a contract with the academic publisher for his book, “Trouble with Gender: Sex Facts, Gender Fictions.”
After he submitted a manuscript, however, the peer-reviewed publisher said it did not address the subject in “a sufficiently serious or respectful way.”
Byrne, who found another publisher, believes Oxford University Press (OUP) declined to print his book because it contained a critical analysis of “gender identity.”
He told The Times: “These days race and transgender issues are both like the third rail of public discourse.
“You can get in very serious trouble by saying the wrong things about either topic.
“But why the trans thing has become so radioactive, I absolutely do not know.”
Byrne, 63, originally from Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, became interested in gender in 2018, 24 years into his career at MIT.
He said he had been “absolutely horrified” by how Dr Kathleen Stock quit Sussex University in 2021 in the face of vociferous student protest against her views on gender.
Byrne said: “Disagreement is great – that’s what philosophy is all about.
“But ostracising, shaming, and insulting?”
In 2020 Byrne published a paper in the peer-reviewed journal Philosophical Studies called, “Are Women Adult Human Females?”
The book presented six different arguments for why they were this alone.
The “woke” Left believes that defining women as “adult human females,” a pillar of gender-critical thought, excludes transgenders.
Byrne said his paper caused a “storm,” but added: “If you read the paper, it is totally explicit that this has nothing to do with how transgender people should be treated.”
Having come up with the premise of a book to sort out the fundamental questions around sex and gender “once and for all,” he signed a contract with OUP, the largest university press in the world.
He began writing “Trouble with Gender” in 2021 and says he was told by one OUP editor that his book promised to be an “important one.”
Later he said he wrote to OUP asking if some claims — like “women are adult human females” — were likely to raise red flags with the publisher.
He said he received a cautious reply about sentences needing to be “judged in context.”
Byrne submitted more than 100,000 words of his first draft of the book in April last year.
“It conformed closely to the initial proposal in style and substance,” he said.
He told OUP in an email that he was “happy to revisit anything” and expected to revise the manuscript in the light of comments from anonymous reviewers, as is usual practice.
A few months later he was informed that OUP would not publish the book.
He was told that it did “not treat the subject in a sufficiently serious and respectful way.”
Byrne disputes this, pointing to his draft’s 16,000 words of endnotes and substantial bibliography.
But he accepted OUP’s decision after spotting a clause in his contract that said that work had to be “fit for publication.”
He added: “Resistance was futile.”
His book will now be published on October 27 by Polity, which says in marketing material that it “pushes back against the new gender revolution” and “exposes the flaws in the revolutionary manifesto.”
Last year OUP published “Sex Matters: Essays in Gender-Critical Philosophy” by the Australian-based academic Holly Lawford-Smith, defending it as an act of scholarship.
Signatories of a petition against Smith included those who claimed to be “members of the OUP USA Guild.”
Byrne said: “There is clearly a faction in OUP somewhere which disapproves greatly of publishing books by people who are on the gender critical side.
“I wouldn’t even say I’m gender-critical, but since I’m not a full-on transgender activist.
“I have some sympathy with Dr. Kathleen Stock: that is enough to mark me.”
A spokesman for OUP said: “As a scholarly publisher, OUP does not advocate through its publications for any particular views or beliefs.
“We publish rigorously peer-reviewed academic research, representing a wide range of disciplines and a broad spectrum of viewpoints, including different perspectives on complex and potentially sensitive topics.
“The peer review process depends, for its rigor, on anonymity, meaning that we are unable to discuss the review process of individual cases.”