The social media company did not respond to further inquiry from Catholic World Report.
In its expanded section on hateful conduct, Twitter policy says “We prohibit targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.”
“Misgendering” is the gender-based description of someone that the person would not himself use, while “deadnaming” is using the name of a person before he or she underwent a purported gender transition.
For Olson, the “gender ideology” he sees in Twitter’s actions has links to critical theory. A key component of this is “to fixate on supposed abuses of power taking place through language, often to a point of absurdity.”
This “obsession with victimhood and systems of power and privilege (whether actual or not),” Olson told CNA, has led to “an Orwellian approach to language.” Citing Josef Pieper’s Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power, Olson said “those who control language, or are able to change language according to ideological ends, are really working to have power over others.”
“So, a key issue is truth and how best to describe and express reality within the limits of language,” said Olson. The standards of language are also “continually shifting,” he said. “A few years ago, the tweet in question would probably have been praised for identifying Dr. Levine in such a way; more recently, it would par for the course. Now it is considered offensive or hateful.”
Olson said the description of Levine is accurate, even if it does not provide “a comprehensive explanation of Catholic teaching.” Such descriptions are necessary for Catholic publications to serve their readers, he said.
“While those who are in the middle of these battles are quite familiar with the terrain and language, there are many readers who aren’t,” he added. “Not everyone understands what a ‘transgender woman’ is. I’ve talked with more than a few folks who don’t really know what ‘transgender’ means, or maybe wonder, ‘Is a “transgender woman” a man who has become a woman or a woman who has become a man?’ It’s necessary and legitimate to communicate as clearly as possible about such things, mindful of the particular intent of the piece in question.”
The Daily Citizen, a publication of the Colorado-based evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family, was also suspended on Twitter for several days after a Jan. 19 post that said in part “Dr. Levine is a transgender woman, that is, a man who believes he is a woman.” The post is no longer viewable on Twitter, and appears to be described as “no longer available.”
While the Daily Citizen’s Twitter account was available for viewing as of Feb. 1, it had not posted anything since Jan. 22. Supporters of the organization protested using the hashtag “#AreWeNext”.
Olson said that if his publication had deleted the tweet, it would have been equivalent to saying “Well, it’s not worth the fight” or even “Okay, maybe it really is hateful and offensive in nature.”
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“And that would be a capitulation of both language and truth,” Olson told CNA.
For Olson, the conflict over what is really offensive is based in the conflict of “what is really real.”
“Dr. Levine was indeed born a biological male; he remains a biological man. He insists on being called a woman, but this is a falsehood, rooted in the continually evolving term ‘gender’, which insists that what a person really is is distinct from his biological and physical nature,” he said.
He criticized this “neo-gnostic” tendency “in which who I am is torn apart from what I am.”
“And that, again, is part of ideology that Pope Francis and others have rightly criticized and warned against.”
In a June 2019 document titled “Male and Female He Created Them,” the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education criticized gender theories that hold “that one’s gender ends up being viewed as more important than being of male or female sex.” It saw “a need to reaffirm the metaphysical roots of sexual difference” and criticized trends which see a “radical separation” between gender and biological sex, wrongly prioritizing the former.