Should the government determine the ‘truth’ about transgenderism?

A debate between Michael Knowles and Brad Polumbo demonstrates the danger of conservatives being eager to use state power.

Christian philosopher G.K. Chesterton once said, “Democracy is like blowing your nose. You may not do it well, but it’s something you ought to do yourself.” That’s wrong, insists conservative pundit Michael Knowles.

On Tuesday, The Daily Wire’s Knowles tussled with BASEDPolitics’ own Brad Polumbo at the University of Pittsburgh in a debate sponsored by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. The question: Should transgenderism be regulated by law?

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Knowles’ position broadly was that transgenderism is a “mental illness” and therefore should be banned even for consenting adults. According to him, this is an unwavering truth and Americans should be compelled to bend to this truth, as defined by Knowles.

Polumbo’s position broadly was that while biological men who have decided to identify as women should not be able to compete in women’s sports and other activities where their birth gender disqualifies them, the government should generally not step in and tell adults what to do with their own bodies, fashion, and lives. Polumbo posited that in a truly free society, no central authority should be able to implement their version of the truth on all.

Knowles appeared to think this was a cop-out, saying in his closing statement, “We will live according to one standard or another. The only question is whether we live in accordance with truth or falsehood.”

Knowles also said the government enforcing this truth was fine because, “In the U.S., we are the government.”

There are some who agree with Knowles. 

When it was announced that the Biden administration would be creating a Disinformation Governance Board last year, then-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended it, saying “It sounds like the objective of the board is to prevent disinformation and misinformation from traveling around the country in a range of communities.” 

“I’m not sure who opposes that effort,” Psaki added.

Psaki has a point. Who would oppose preventing disinformation? Who would stand in the way of truth? I mean, Biden was elected by the people and in the U.S. “the people are the government,” apparently.

Yet, and this may shock some, many of the government’s unassailable truths in recent times have been questionable. Not that I’m questioning the government, heaven forbid, the holy central authority on truth, but some of the political establishment’s talking points don’t seem to add up.

To me, at least. Not that individuals should always be allowed to decide for themselves.

Yet, in May of last year, Reason’s Robby Soave covered some of the government’s recent track record regarding truth including the history of Nina Jancowizc, who was supposed to head the Disinformation Governance Board (an idea that was thankfully nixed). 

Soave wrote, “Government disinformation cops are no better; time and time again, public health officials circulated false information about COVID-19, and suppressed perfectly legitimate discussion of the theory that the virus originated from a lab leak. And when The New York Post reported on the salacious contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop just weeks before the election, the story was widely dismissed by so-called disinformation experts and government security experts on grounds that they presumed it to be Russian malfeasance. ‘Hunter Biden Story Is Russian Disinfo, Dozens of Former Intel Officials Say,’ reported Politico back in October 2020.”

On the would-be Disinformation Czar directly, Soave noted, “Jankowicz repeatedly made public statements indicating that she held this view, too. She shared national security officials’ ‘high confidence’ that the Hunter Biden story was part of a Russian influence campaign. She described the idea that the laptop had been left behind at a repair shop as ‘a fairy tale.’ This was a critical test of whether disinformation experts could check their innate tendency to ascribe everything unfavorable to the Democratic Party as Russian nefariousness, and they utterly failed. Jankowicz failed as well.”

Wait, but these were the government experts. They should determine what’s true and not, not just mere citizens, yes?  If we’re going to “live according to one standard or another.” If not the government, then who gets to define “truth or falsehood?”

Psaki was certain that it should be the Biden administration that gets to decide. Knowles seems to agree in principle, if not on these particular topics.

But transgenderism is a “mental illness” and should (would?) be handled differently by the government than COVID and Hunter Biden’s laptop story, right?

“Mental illness” is a whole other story, yes?

Robert Sapolsky is a neuroendocrinologist and professor at Stanford University, whose work and expert opinion has been featured in the New York Times and even on the Joe Rogan Experience.

Sapolsky believes religion is a “mental illness,” in much the same way Knowles believes transgenderism is a mental illness, Sapolsky has an extensive range of rationalizations and observations as to why devout people are kooky. For one, he believes people of faith suffer from schizophrenia. 

The Independent’s Indy100 reports that Sapolsky has “argued that the behaviours exhibited by ‘prophets’ in religious texts are diagnosable acts. He’s also reasoned that the parables and teachings of these men – such as stories of the construction of the world in seven days, virgin births and burning bushes – are stories constructed by ‘extremely formative, extremely schizotypals throughout history.”

Knowles notes that transgenderism is something that touches us all, using bathrooms as a prime example and desiring laws to regulate their use. Similarly, religion can be an extensively public phenomenon: atheist activists have argued for years that they are being imposed upon by Christian-inspired cultural facets of the public square.

Maybe Robert Sapolsky should become an expert executive on a future Disinformation Governance Board to help protect the millions of “mentally ill” Americans who attend church? There are many atheists in America who might agree with Sapolsky’s assessment. Catholic Knowles might not like it, but it’s a truth he’s just going to have to accept. 

In all seriousness: Who the hell is Michael Knowles to determine what’s true? Or Jen Psaki? Or Nina Jancowicz? It’s not moral relativism to ask this very practical question.

Especially when there is the threat of force. Transgenderism is a complicated issue with serious ramifications for society and individuals on all sides.

Being tyrannized by just one side is not the answer. Not in America.

You can watch the full debate between Michael Knowles and Brad Polumbo here: 

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Jack Hunter
Jack Hunter
Jack Hunter is a freelance writer, the co-author of Sen. Rand Paul’s 2011 book ‘The Tea Party Goes to Washington’ and the former politics editor for