Beware the sex police

A group of people is sinking a bunch of money and time into this bus tour.


An orange bus rolled onto the streets of Manhattan Wednesday to make its first stop on an East Coast tour, during which a load of activist passengers will evangelize that transgender people don’t exist and citizens must rise up to complain about their growing acceptance.

Another version was even worse.


For a change, I’m not going to say a word about their superficial perception of biology. Instead, I want to ask…


I don’t understand at all why putting all people into two, and only two, categories is so important. I’ve met many people in my life, and the least interesting way to categorize them is by sex — I’m not ace, but still, I have no plans or interest in having sex with any of them, so no, I don’t care what chromosomes they have (and the funny thing is, most of these people have no idea what their chromosome complement is, anyway), I don’t care what kind of genitals they have (and honestly, most of us don’t see the genitals of 99.9% of the people we interact with), and I definitely don’t want to know what kind of gametes they produce.

The organizers of this bus tour aren’t at all helpful. There seems to be a vague dislike of any kind of diversity in sexual behavior, but they don’t articulate why.

On Wednesday, they parked outside the United Nations headquarters, where ambassadors are considering a sex education resolution that a spokesperson for the bus argued promotes an ideology that gender is fluid.

We are trying to strike back against that, said Joseph Grabowski, a spokesperson for the National Organization for Marriage, one of the three conservative groups behind the project. They hope parading the bus through major cities will unleash a silent majority that they believe is frustrated by shifting norms about gender and families.

OK, but why are they unhappy and frustrated by someone with a different sexuality than they have? Why do they need to “strike back”? I mean, I might personally think that brussels sprouts are icky, but if you like ’em, go ahead. I’m not going to lease a big bus and put a giant decal on it that says “I HATE BRUSSELS SPROUTS” and drive around the country, trying to spark a mass uprising.

I know that gender identity is a far bigger concern than a food preference, which means that I’m even less likely to try to force my perspective on someone else. These guys apparently realize that it’s a major issue in someone’s life, too, yet that motivates them to try to spread misery even more.

One of the purposes of the bus tour is to have people speak up if they feel uncomfortable and let the business owner know, Grabowski said. This can’t be considered transphobic or bigoted.

Joe. Really. Feeling free to express bigotry doesn’t change the fact that it’s still bigotry. You are definitely transphobic. Why? Can you please try to examine your feelings and explain why you’re bothered by other people’s perception of themselves?

They are a small segment of the population, with a disorder, that has quite a big megaphone for the demographic it represents, he said. This is not about live-and-let-live, he added, saying transgender people pose an threat to norms of sex and procreation. This is about what is best for the common welfare of society.

It’s not a disorder, and even if it were classified that way, it wouldn’t change the fact that you are talking about people. I could argue that being so obsessed with other people’s sexuality that you sink a significant sum of money into a bus, and then drive around in what is essentially a giant orange megaphone, is also a disorder — it’s certainly damaging your life.

I’m also troubled by This is not about live-and-let-live. Do you think transgender people should not be allowed to live?

Saying that they are a threat to norms of sex and procreation is actually a little bit revealing. Do you feel threatened if your preferred sexuality is not regarded as normal? Does it bother you when you think other people might disapprove of your preferences? Is it very important to you that other members of society do not try to police your sexuality? I can sympathize with that, and even agree that other people do not get to monitor my sexual behavior and pressure me in any way to control what I do in private with another consenting adult.

Now if only Joe could empathize enough to realize that transgender people have exactly the same views.


  1. AndrewD says

    Well, PZ you appear to be secure in your identity, and i feel secure in mine so we do not feel threatened by people with differing gender or racial identities. I always suspect those who object to other identities of insecurity in their own. this may be facile and I am ready to be proven wrong.

  2. numerobis says

    Transgender people don’t exist, so we must fight against this imaginary thing!

    Great slogan.

  3. erichoug says

    An interesting thought experiment. Let’s say a trans woman meets and falls in love with a trans man. Neither has had gender re-assignment surgery. So, according to opponents of gay marriage, they could get married. And, according to opponents of adoption by gay couples, they could also adopt children. So, lets say that they adopt 2 kids and have one of their own. Aside from being trans, they otherwise conform to conservative gender norms. The woman stays home, the man works and does all the “Manly” stuff and they are otherwise a regular, suburban middle class couple.

    So, the question is, what exactly would be the problem with that? Why would the loonies on the bus care?

  4. Knabb says

    @AndrewD, 1.

    Your argument is basically “All those homophobes are secretly gay” repackaged for trans* people. “Those minorities just keep oppressing themselves” is a really convenient state of affairs for majority culture, and when a hypothesis just so happens to be perfectly convenient when operating off no data that makes it less than trustworthy. So I have an alternate hypothesis: The vast majority of these people are cis assholes who are pissed off that they aren’t being told that they’re better than everyone else and that everyone has to be like them.

  5. Dunc says

    Some people get very uncomfortable if they can’t instantly fit everything and everybody into their mental schema of how the world is supposed to be organised.

  6. cartomancer says

    Strikes me as a form of sympathetic magic. The more noise you make the more likely it is to impress your views on the fabric of reality. Like a Roman curse tablet, but with wheels.

    Though if you do decide to commission the Pharyngula Sprout Bus, do let me know. If I have any time left over once I’ve walked the length of the British Isles wearing my “down with unimaginative perfume advertising” sandwich board then it’s a cause I can definitely get behind.

  7. lumipuna says

    I don’t believe in transit. Point A and Point B will always be separate. Things like buses don’t change that.

  8. Morgan says

    What Dunc said. For a lot of people, it’s really important that The Rules be acknowledged. They might not be followed, but they have to be acknowledged. The structure they try to impose on the messy jumble of reality is too simple to apply well, which makes it brittle, which means avoiding the stress of dealing with its flaws requires denying reality in order to fit the data to the model. “It’s more complicated than that” isn’t just a pedantic annoyance, it’s an attack on the entire shaky edifice of their view of the world.

  9. Ogvorbis: A bear of very little brains. says

    We have the same type of people ensconced in atheism:

    Atheism is only a disbelief in gods, that is the only possible correct way of being an atheist, and if you bring any other ideas or ideals into atheism you are threatening the natural order of atheism!


    . . . the event should solely promote science itself: funding, evidence-based policies, and international partnerships.

    The absolutist binarism espoused by those afraid of change, afraid of losing their privileged position within the body politic, afraid of any paradigmatic shift, is common to all groups. It ain’t just gender fluidity. It ain’t just economic justice. It ain’t just health care. The world is filled with people who believe that they, and only they, have the only possible correct answer to life, the universe, and how everyone else should live their life and seek to anathematize change.

    Not that I know what to do about it, how to speed change and make change acceptable, except lobbying, writing, speaking out. Sorry.

  10. says

    saying transgender people pose an threat to norms of sex and procreation. “This is about what is best for the common welfare of society.”

    Won’t somebody please think of the norms! I’m so curious what he thinks will happen that will be so bad for society. And how he thinks it (or something similar, or worse) won’t continue to happen if we accept his slogans and ideology.

    I’m also guessing he would really like to “free speech” about teh gays (and sex before marriage?) … but that’s too unpopular these days, better pick on the trans people. Coward.

  11. says

    *because I’m pretty sure the exact same vague “uh, norms! society!” kind of stuff has been used against gay people, too. Plus, you have to wonder if by “norms of sex and procreation”, he actually means (or includes) who is supposed to be attracted to who. He wants you to either be a man who is attracted to women or a woman who is attracted to men. That’s what this could be.

  12. rietpluim says

    The “Respect all” and the rest of what’s on the bus are pretty contradictory.
    Also, freedom of speech, what the fuck? Why are bigots always whining about freedom of speech?
    Rhetoric question, I know why. I just wonder if they know why.

  13. mudpuddles says

    Isn’t the idea that “XX is female and XY is male” just empirically false? Whether you’re speaking in terms of biology or physiology or zoology or psychology or sociology? Maybe its true if you’re talking bollocksology, but isn’t it otherwise just a completely anti-scientific notion?

  14. says

    Also, it’s kind of funny that he’s basically like a ranting apocalyptic street preacher, just with more money to afford a bigger sign with wheels! lol

  15. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    When presented with “Gay sex threatens conventional marriage”, I always respond, “how?” How does gay sex between those 2 people over THERE affect your marriage over HERE? Why do you care what THEY do? Marriage is between 2 people, everybody else is excluded. When they attack you, you may defend yourself. You seem to be defensive over NOT being attacked”.

  16. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    So whart if that person considers himself a woman? (s)he’s not trying to defraud you, just feels comfortable as a woman. why do you care? She’s always a woman, not using it as a disguise to pull crimes. Leave her be. What is she doing TO you? Why do you care. You dress yourself how you like, why can’t she?

  17. kantalope says

    I am afraid like PZ, I just don’t care. I don’t care what others do, with their genitals, or without. It would take me all day to care even a little. Why do other people care?

  18. ck, the Irate Lump says

    A “free speech” bus is telling people what they may not say, and that demands that people “respect all” even as it disrespects others? Yeah, fuck NOM. They can’t go broke fast enough as far as I’m concerned..

  19. Dunc says

    I guess there’s probably also a pretty big element of NOM desperately trying to find a way to stay relevant (and keep those sweet, sweet donations rolling in) now that they’ve conclusively lost the fight against gay marriage.

  20. says

    #14: “XX is female and XY is male” is statistically true. Most people with two X chromosomes develop vaginas and breasts and adopt the socially standard behaviors of stereotypical “femininity” (in quotes simply because it’s such a broad suite of behaviors that I’m uncomfortable pinning it down to one word). People are plastic and will tend to respond in a conventional way to conditioning.

    The issue is, what about the minority of people who don’t fit neatly into the stereotype? Do we force them to? Do we shun them? Or do we accept them?

    I suspect, though, that these conservatives really see that minority as the leading edge of a wedge of general change in sexual mores that will affect them, or their children. And to that I just have to say…study some history. Sexual mores have always changed over time, and from culture to culture. If you’re afraid of cultural change, you’re afraid of life.

  21. chigau (違う) says

    Boys have penises. Girls have vaginas.
    Do they think those are equivalent?
    Can someone give them a basic anatomy textbook?

  22. congenital cynic says

    Well, trans people certainly exist. One of my children is a living breathing example, and their best friend is also trans. No amount of painted and slogan plastered busses are going to change that. I have no idea why it would matter to anyone where they go to the toilet, or what kind of clothing they wear. Thinking they may be predators in the bathroom is laughable. They are, in fact, the ones more likely to be victims of violence.

    Just another example of how religion poisons the mind. I despair over the state of the world.

  23. says

    They are a small segment of the population, with a disorder, that has quite a big megaphone for the demographic it represents, he said. This is not about live-and-let-live, he added, saying transgender people pose an threat to norms of sex and procreation.

    One of the arguments I’ve been seeing against trans rights lately is how small a proportion of the population trans people are (as if somehow that makes crushing their rights okay), yet apparently they pose this HUGE “threat to norms of sex and procreation”.

    If you’re going to make this argument, you have to explain how. How will the existence of a trans woman or trans man threaten the norms of sex and procreation? What is it about letting them live their lives will prevent cis hetero folk from further over-populating the planet? You can’t just say certain people are a threat, you have to explain how they are.

  24. congenital cynic says

    @PZ 21
    I think your last paragraph is on to something. The religious mind is very concerned with “purity” (in a sexual sense), and if they perceive this as you have stated, they would definitely be opposed to recognition of this statistical minority. But they really don’t understand statistics either.

  25. Who Him says

    Pose a threat to procreation? Is there evidence of any group, society, etc., that was wiped out, or nearly so, due to acceptance of nonbinary gender or sexuality?

  26. rietpluim says

    It’s Reality:
    Trans people are trans people… and always will be.
    Bigots are bigots… but they don’t have to be.
    You can’t change chromosomes, but you can change your attitude. Respect all.

  27. raven says

    Saying that they are a threat to norms of sex and procreation is actually a little bit revealing.

    Saying they are threats to norms of sex and procreation is also simply wrong.
    Last I heard, we were still having sex and still reproducing.

    Most likely this is yet again, another xian conperson trying to shake some dollars from the faithful.

    And BTW, he is wrong. Intersexes of one type or another make up around 1.7% of babies born.

  28. says

    Hmm. I don’t exist? Funny that. Anybody got any rotten fruit? I got an idea for a rebuttal. Our pain means nothing to these people. They lost the Gay marriage fight, now they are coming after us. Welcome to Trumps America. Land of the stupid. Face palm. Sad.

  29. whheydt says

    Backed by the National Organization for (some limited forms of) Marriage is certainly no surprise.

    Put me down as another person who wonders just how a small minority is a “threat” to the majority. Is this yahoo afraid that he’ll hit on a trans woman who hasn’t had reassignment surgery, get her into bed and find out the “equipment” isn’t what he expected? (That last assumes that I’ve gotten the pronouns correct…my apologies to all if I have failed to do so. At 68, these issues aren’t what I grew up with, but I’m doing my best to adjust.)

  30. carolw says

    De-lurking to comment. Everyone has great points, and I’m not sure what I can add. But. I’m tired of the “persecuted majority” b.s. that seems to be endemic lately. Cis, white Christians have such a need to keep climbing up on that cross, they can’t help themselves. This bus thing is only going to rile up the true believers, and change no minds at all. If it comes to my city, I damn sure will be there protesting.

  31. raven says

    Saying that they are a threat to norms of sex and procreation is actually a little bit revealing.

    There are no norms of sex and procreation.
    This is the Steve King/Western Iowa culture fallacy.

    We are a very diverse society.
    I’m sure my norms of sex and procreation are nothing like these fundie clowns.

    Of course what he means is his norms. Which I have no reason to care about one bit.

  32. Zmidponk says

    It’s not a disorder

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong here, but my understanding is that it actually is a disorder, but the most effective, and therefore recommended treatment is therapy and surgeries to change the affected person’s body, not their mind.

  33. says

    @31 whheydt

    “Eggs are nature’s hand grenade.”
    -Red Forman, That 70’s Show.

    I think they are going to go through a lot of tires. Just sayin’.

  34. mudpuddles says

    @PZ, #21
    Thanks PZ. I see your point and I agree. I guess I was thinking that it is not absolutely true, in the way that these conservatives mean it, as in “If you have two X chromosomes, you’re a girl, no ifs, ands or buts, and minorities be damned”.

  35. jrkrideau says

    We have real problems in the world. Pity these fools waste their time on non-issues.

  36. says

    This can’t be considered transphobic or bigoted

    Yeah, you claim that trans people don’t exist and that trans people, especially trans children should be forced into the biologistic binary, but heavens forbid you should call those people transphobic! Then you’re worse than Hitler.

    threat to norms of sex and procreation

    Pro rape
    Pro forced pregnancies
    Pro forced births
    Pro forced parenthood

    No, gender dysphoria is a disorder, which is something not all trans people experience and not to the same degree. Of course many countries require that you jump through diagnostic hurdles before you’re allowed to change your first name

  37. Patrick Fleury says

    Relevant comment, I think….

    I’m retired now but, several years ago, I worked for a company that made software for hospitals and I was a programmer. One day I got a call from a hospital that wanted some changes in their system. (This was not unusual.)

    I ended up speaking with an ObGyn who wanted me to change some of the choices on the infants page. The page currently allowed three choices for gender: Male, Female, Unknown. They wanted a fourth choice – “Unable to determine.” Out of curiosity, I asked how that was different from “Unknown.” The doctor said that ‘Unknown’ connotes that they just have not had an opportunity to determine gender. “Unable to determine” connotes that that they have looked and are still not sure.

    When I was making the change, all I could think was “Paddy, the world is a lot more complicated than you thought.”

  38. anat says

    For a long time I wondered how homosexuality or marriage between people of the same sex (or the same gender) was supposed to be a threat to marriage as an institution or anyone’s particular marriage, until I ran into a conservative commenter who was convinced the only reason men want to marry women and have sex with them was because they haven’t yet discovered how much more enjoyable sex with other men was. That was what the whole ‘gay men recruiting boys’ was supposed to be about. Not enough heads, not enough desks. I still don’t see how this thinking extends to transgender people. I suppose it is the ‘trap’ view of trans women? They are men who are tricking cis-het men into addiction to gay sex? What a miserable way to live, with all those imaginary threats everywhere.

  39. EveryZig says

    In a sense trans people do challenge “norms of sex and procreation”; its just that the specific norms they challenge are shitty ones involving immutable gender roles. You can’t have a patriarchy with men having unquestionable authoritarian power over women if the distinction between “man” and “women” is not itself unquestionable.

  40. hotspurphd says

    I think many fundamentalist Christians believe that since the Bible says that Man And Woman were created that’s all there is. There is more than this, which I think I read on this blog. I’ve been waiting for someone here who usually know so much more than I do to explain this. I think Ken Ham was quoted here speaking to this. So trans people choose their transness. Also they don’t want their girls exposed to a penis in the girls bathroom. Horrors. U derstandable? They believe sexuality is chosen. Really. I’d like to hear them explain how they chose to be heterosexual.

  41. emergence says

    That’s the thing here; even if you adhere to a strict technical definition of gender where you ignore all other biological and psychological aspects of it to focus on chromosomes and genitalia, it still doesn’t make sense to discriminate against trans people. We identify each others’ gender in day-to-day life by secondary and tertiary sexual characteristics (which are mutable, by the way). We don’t concern ourselves with other peoples’ chromosome compliments, and I certainly hope not their genitals. Trans people don’t actually harm anyone else by presenting as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth. It is harmful, however, to force trans people into a gender role that doesn’t match their personal identity. That means these transphobic asshats are sacrificing trans people’s well-being in favor of religious adherence to strict technical definitions.

  42. anbheal says

    Jayzus Fucking Nailholes, it’s the same with African-Americans and Latinos. I know some filthy-rich boys in the leafy enclaves of Boston suburbs, and some squarely middle class guys in Metro Denver, who are always complaining about blacks and Mexicans. “But you’ve never met one in your entire life!”, I protest. I was having cocktails with an old heir to a great fortune in his mansion a couple of years back, and told him a funny joke I had heard at the last bris I attended. Of course I needed to explain what a bris was. And it’s a good joke, that the altekachers tell. His reply: “I’ve used them as lawyers and accountants, but I’ve never met one socially”. Yet he’s virulently anti-Semitic. So tell me that a single one of the people on these buses has ever brought their daughter into a ladies’ room and seen a bearded guy in a skirt hanging their dick out over the sink to pee. Nobody has ever seen that. It’s a phantasm of their own perversion that drives them.

  43. Pierce R. Butler says

    Boys have penises. Girls have vaginas.

    When and where I was a kid, any public display of either the p-word or the v-word would have been shut down on first sight by mass spontaneous citizens’ arrests.

    Why do these people hate Traditional Values™?

  44. Parse says

    We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.
    We’ve always been at war with trans people.
    We’ve always been at war with gay and lesbian people.
    We’ve always been at war with minorities.
    We’ve always been at war with women.
    We’ve always been at war with somebody, because without somebody to attack, we’ll realize the powerful have been attacking us.

  45. taraskan says

    Hahaha. A full east coast tour starting in Manhattan? They won’t make it to 110th street before that vehicle gets stopped and disassembled.

    This makes me think they’re really serious about their message. A sane person would start a hate train in Virginia or Louisiana, but these guys actually want to save the souls of poor liberal New Yorkers.

    Good luck assholes. P.S., Grabowski, you can pick up 54% of your once-bus at a dump on Staten Island.

  46. FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!) says

    Fuck me. These religious nutbags have been throwing disadvantaged minorities metaphorically under the bus for decades if not longer. I’m sure it’s all in my head, but them now having a real bus feels like an dire escalation, a real-world threat. Especially considering the terror attacks in Nice and now London.

  47. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    How dare they call that vandalism! That’s just Controversial Free Speech™!

  48. konservenknilch says


    That’s the most important question for me as well. I’ve been cis my whole life, don’t plan to change it, also no idea about my chromosome makeup.

    If someone else wants tro transition – great, all the power to them. I understand that some people don “get” it, but it gives more quality of life to trans people and absotely zero negatives to anyone else.

    So what’s the big deal, apart from ideology (which is the big deal, I know).

  49. konservenknilch says

    @Anat #41: Some years ago, I heard a similar argument from a far-right local politician: If two women can get married, what’s to keep my wife from running off? Talk about insecurity.

  50. rietpluim says

    I like my Brussels sprouts al dente, preferably steamed in stead of cooked, and served with basmati rice and spicy peanut sauce. That’s far from icky.

  51. malta says

    Well, clearly they’re worried that if trans* people exist that means God fucked up by putting the wrong brain in the wrong body. And we all know that God is perfect. So the existence of trans* people disproves God. QED.

    Also try calling brussels sprouts “baby cabbages” and see if they taste more delicious! :)

  52. cedrus says

    Y’all really don’t understand why these people are scared?

    These people believe that gender roles are a fundamental part of the world. Not just a fact, but a divinely ordained pillar of society. Men have their rights and responsibilities; women have complementary roles.

    It’s sufficiently horrifying that two persons of the same sex might go off and attempt to set up a household, without the benefit of this structure. But they can always pretend that one of them “wears the pants”, so it’s really just like a normal relationship (shame they’re going to hell though). But the idea that someone can just decide to be another gender, discarding their divinely ordained role and taking on the one they weren’t “meant” for, thoroughly melts their circuits.

    It’s not just the fundagelicals, either. You’ll see it on the feminist left…all sorts of wibble about feminine earth-goddess energy, giving a mystical connection to sacred intuitive ways of knowing that no male-bodied person could possibly understand. (Same shit, nicer packaging. Come back when your uterus cures cancer or proves P=NP, then we’ll talk.)

    Personally, I think gender essentialism needs to die, so I’m all for chewing away at it. I understand why mainstream feminism doesn’t want to touch this with a ten-foot pole – you can convince people that wife-beating is bad and family planning is good without having to destabilize their notions of gender – but it needs to happen eventually.

    But for the people for whom gender roles are the bedrock of their reality…yeah, they’re scared. Good. But they aren’t going to go away without a fight.

  53. ironflange says

    As the father of a trans daughter whom I love dearly, I have something I’d like to share.

    Fuck these wretched people.

  54. lucifersbike says

    Apart from why the fuck should I care about what other people wear, what they do with their bits, and who they fall in love with … do these sad, sad people really believe humans are an endangered species who need every encouragement to reproduce?
    Lies on buses sometimes work, as pro-European Brits know all too well. I hope the Great American Public has more sense.