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Maja Heban trial. Do all views deserve respect? [OPINION]

Maja Heban on trial. Do all views deserve respect? [OPINION]

Image source: © @majaheban / Instagram
Marta Grzeszczuk,
11.01.2024 14:00

Criminologist Dr Magdalena Grzyb is suing transgender activist Maja Heban. She does not want to be called transphobic or a TERF.

The civil lawsuit that criminologist Dr Magdalena Grzyb has brought against activist Maja Heban has been leading the news recently. Dr Grzyb believes that the activist has violated her rights by, among other things, calling her transphobic and a TERF. The latter stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist.

Can Heban legally call Dr Grzyb such names?

Dr Grzyb expects the transgender activist to apologise, remove all posts about her from social media, and be banned from speaking about her in the context of transphobia, according to Heban’s statement on platform X. The second and final hearing in the case took place on January 10th in Krakow. Lukasz Sakowski, a blogger who is involved in trying to make life difficult for transgender people due to his own experiences, testified against the transgender activist, among others.

Untrue arguments supporting transphobia

On January 10th, Sakowski shared a drawing on X (formerly Twitter) that aimed to highlight the differences between the skulls of men and women. The drawing was uploaded without any accompanying comments, but it appears to be intended to support the notion that there are only two vastly different sexes. However, experts in the medical and archaeological fields have commented in the section below that the differences in the structure of human skulls are not so clear-cut as to conclusively determine gender based on them.

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Popular cartoonist using the handle @SmutneHistorie wrote: "As an archaeologist who has also excavated cemeteries, I can say that I have never seen a skull like the one on the left. The differences in the skulls found are mostly small, and it often takes comparative analysis of other bones to determine the presumed gender."

This case exemplifies how discriminatory views are often supported by "arguments" of questionable factual quality. Those who use such arguments should expect to be scrutinised and challenged. Meanwhile, they anticipate their views to be acknowledged as facts in a discussion rather than being identified by their proper name, in this case, transphobia, as seen in the case of Sakowski or Dr Grzyb.

In an article for Krytyka Polityczna, Dr Grzyb wrote that: "Replacing the category of biological sex with ‘perceived sex’ in the law can have negative consequences for women. This is because legal and social discrimination against women is often based on the idea of a ‘genital community of destiny’, as Stanisław Krawczyk ironically puts it."

Dr Grzyb’s statements contain several inaccuracies. Firstly, the term "biological sex" is not explicitly defined in Polish law. Instead, the term "sex" is commonly used in legislation. Secondly, the term "perceived sex" is neither a legal concept nor a scientific term. Instead, the concept of "gender identity" is used to describe an individual’s identification with either sex or lack thereof.

Contrary to popular belief, genital sex (also known as external sex) is not the sole determinant of biological sex. Other components that contribute to biological sex include chromosomal sex, hormonal sex, and gonadal sex. Like Sakowski, Dr Grzyb makes claims inconsistent with the current state of medical and psychological knowledge to support her discriminatory views.

Discriminatory views are hurtful

Discriminatory views, often supported by factually questionable arguments, should not be considered valid in discussions. This is especially true because they can be hurtful to the people against whom they are directed. This is well reflected in a statement of the Forensic Psychology Section of the Scientific Circle of Psychology Students at the Jagiellonian University explaining the cancellation of Dr Grzyb's lecture at a meeting of the Circle.

"We do not agree with the opinions that Dr Grzyb makes, and we do not condone any manifestations of transphobia in the university space. [...] At this point, we would also like to apologise for the situation that occurred, which may have made many people uncomfortable and disturbed their sense of security [...]," reads the statement.

Maja Heban put it more bluntly while commenting on a post published by Łukasz Sakowski, in which he described his involvement in a lawsuit brought against a transgender activist by Dr Grzyb. "Guy referring to my genitals as 'imitation', calling the procedure that saved my life 'mutilation' and suggesting that by 'shocking surgery' I tried to kill myself, testifies that I am destroying his life by telling him he is transphobic. They spit in my face and make me say it's raining," Heban wrote on X.

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The verdict in Dr Magdalena Grzyb's case against Maja Heban is expected to be delivered on 1 February by the Regional Court in Krakow.

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