A Report on the Pittsburgh Trans Debate

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Tuesday night I attended the anxiously awaited Michael Knowles event on transgenderism at the University of Pittsburgh, my alma mater. There I observed two completely different Americas: the free society inside the O’Hara Student Center and the brave new world outside. Only one of those is good for the Jews.

Running the gauntlet of protesters on O’Hara Street, I quickly became acquainted with the conformity, ritual, and fanaticism of transgender ideology. The pounding drums, cultish chanting, and effigy burning resembled a religious revival more than a rally. As security methodically admitted us into the building, activists indiscriminately called attendees Nazis.

I dangled my Star of David necklace provocatively in front of one such protester. I knew it was a futile gesture, but I wanted to hold a mirror up to his derangement anyway. As expected, he assured me that my being Jewish did not shield me from this now meaningless charge. One particularly vile group carrying a banner appropriating Holocaust imagery – on Yom HaShoah no less – went berserk at the mere sight of my visible discomfort.

Seated in the ballroom, around 250 guests eagerly awaited Knowles and his opponent, Brad Polumbo, a conservative political commentator filling in for the transgender scholar Deidre McCloskey, who withdrew the week prior. Outside the venue, an equal number of protesters descended into violence and detonated smoke bombs, exacerbating the unease already clouding the event due to recent incidents of trans terrorism. 

Tensions heightened when a young woman sitting in front of me started behaving erratically. Her identity concealed behind a tossel cap, sunglasses, and surgical mask, the young woman turned around in her chair à la criss-cross applesauce, staring coldly as she took pictures of me. She anxiously fidgeted her arms as if she was restraining herself from attacking someone, which alerted the security guards. In a recent Newsweek piece, Polumbo chillingly explains what happened next and why he feared for his life.

“At one point in the event, a completely masked young woman carrying a backpack stood up and ran from the back toward the stage,” Polumbo said. “Security raced to intercept her before she could reach us, and she stopped abruptly and took a seat in the second-to-front row.”

As the protest outside escalated into a public safety emergency forcing campus buildings into lockdown, inside a thoughtful and respectful debate ensued. Knowles argued for government regulation of transgenderism while Polumbo countered with a libertarian approach. Though opponents on stage, Knowles and Polumbo are both defenders of free inquiry and biological reality, and thus find themselves functionally on the same side of the broader debate. The side promoting gender ideology, on the other hand, governs by violent intimidation and fantastical delusions.

Recent efforts by progressive Jews to reimagine Judaism as inherently compatible with transgenderism has backfired, underscoring the lack of consensus among our community on this issue. Rabbi Yaakov Menken, managing director of Coalition for Jewish Values, which represents a network of over 2,000 American rabbis, responded to this trend saying “It doesn’t take a whole lot of Jewish education to recognize in the book of Genesis, it says ‘Male and female, he created them.’ There are two genders, period. Full stop.”

Christians are being attacked for the same belief that Judaism has held for thousands of years. Are we really that naive to think that an already anti-Israel movement will spare gender refuseniks here in America? Notice the similarities in how the media romanticizes Palestinian terrorists and transgender assailants. Recall the recent Nashville mass shooter who claimed the lives of three Christian children. The left lamented the loss of the killer’s potential, and celebrated the ideology that motivated the killing. We see this phenomenon occur everytime violence erupts in Israel.

It’s obvious to anyone who witnessed the bedlam on O’Hara Street which group is really under attack. The rioters crying genocide are backed by the regime and its apparatchiks in big business and media, and they face zero criminal consequences for their actions. But those who simply want to hear an alternative perspective have to be shuffled out the backdoor to ensure our physical safety. 

So water down Judaism as much as you want, but the brave new world of gender ideology requires absolute submission. Those who dare break ranks become Nazis. Even those who remain sympathetic to the trans question. Even the ones wearing a Star of David. 

About the Author
Aidan Segal is an award-winning freelance writer. He holds a bachelor's degree in English Writing and a certificate in Jewish Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. He intends on making Aliyah later this year.
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