Professor of women’s studies sparks fury by comparing trans people to QAnon conspiracy theorists

A professor of gender studies at the University of Rhode Island is facing a fierce backlash for comparing transgender people to followers of the notorious conspiracy theory QAnon.

In a trenchant essay for the feminist website 4W, Donna M Hughes wrote that the ‘belief’ that a person could change their gender was a ‘trans-sex fantasy’.

She went on to equate followers of QAnon, a bizarre and complex web of lies that posits that a global cabal of baby-eating celebrities and ‘Deep State’ politicians secretly rule the world, to people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were given at birth. 

Hughes claimed that just as QAnon had been politized by right-wingers, the opposite side of the political spectrum was using transgender issues to further its political objectives and harm children. 

‘The American political left is increasingly diving headfirst into their own world of lies and fantasy and, unlike in the imaginary world of QAnon, real children are becoming actual victims,’ she wrote.

Her inflammatory comments were called ‘beyond the pale’ by Annie Russell, the director of the university’s Gender and Sexuality Center. 

Hughes's comments sparked outrage from her fellow University of Rhodes academic Annie Russell

Donna M Hughes, left, sparked outrage among her fellow University of Rhode Island academic Annie Russell, right, for comparing QAnon followers to transgender people

Russell told The Providence Journal that: ‘Trans people are people, period’, adding that Hughes’s comments had deeply upset the transgender community.

Russell said the diatribe had also angered students at the university, which was established in 1892 and costs an average of more than $30,000 per year in out of state tuition fees.

‘It’s not only outdated, it’s never been a part of the gender and women’s studies movement,’ Russell told the The Providence Journal.  

The University of Rhode Island put out a statement distancing itself from Hughes’s comments.

‘The University does not support statements and publications by Professor Donna Hughes that espouse anti-transgender perspectives and recognize that such discourse can cause pain and discomfort for many transgender individuals,’ it said in a statement released this week. 

In a statement, the University of Rhode Island said it 'does not support statements and publications by Professor Donna Hughes that espouse anti-transgender perspectives'

In a statement, the University of Rhode Island said it ‘does not support statements and publications by Professor Donna Hughes that espouse anti-transgender perspectives’

‘The University is committed to transgender rights and the need to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence aimed at transgender individuals and the LGBTQIA+ community.’

In response Hughes said her right to free speech was being trampled on. 

‘A person cannot change their sex. That is a fact.’ she said in response to a series of emailed questions from The Providence Journal

‘I have a PhD in genetics so I think I am qualified to write about the basics of sex.’   

Hughes, the Eleanor M. and Oscar M. Carlson Endowed Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at URI, has a long history of writing about controversial issues such as transgender people and prostitution.

Her lawyer Samantha Harris said like many in academia, Hughes had become the target of an online pressure campaign simply for expressing views that are ‘out of step with the prevailing orthodoxy on campus’. 

The far-right QAnon conspiracy began in 2017 when an anonymous person claiming to have ‘Q-level’ security clearance began posting on the 8Chan message board.

Among its many debunked prophecies is that Donald Trump would remain president despite losing the 2020 presidential election, that there would be mass arrests and public executions, and that John F Kennedy Jr was still alive. 

Many of those who stormed the US Capitol on January 6, invading the Senate floor and chanting ‘Hang Mike Pence’ were QAnon devotees.

In her essay, Hughes wrote that the radicalization of QAnon supporters was similar to those on the left who accepted transgender rights. 

She said young people were being ‘guided into hormonal and surgical horrors that de-sex them’. 

Hughes’ continued: ‘The biological category of sex, particularly women’s sex, is being smashed. Women and girls are expected to give up their places of privacy such as restrooms, locker rooms, and even prison cells.’ 

The 4W website describes itself as a ‘fourth-wave’ platform for ‘feminists who are stepping outside of the liberal mainstream’. 

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