Trans Professor Backs Out of Debate with Conservative Commentator

Transgender rights protesters / Getty Images
April 12, 2023

Transgender professor Deirdre McCloskey backed out of a debate at the University of Pittsburgh with conservative commentator Michael Knowles, despite expressing confidence in winning the debate in the weeks prior.

McCloskey, who identifies as a transgender woman, said the debate with Knowles, originally scheduled for April 18 at the University of Pittsburgh, "would not be a rational debate but a fascist rally," Campus Reform reported. Knowles announced the change on Tuesday.

"I've just learned that Prof. McCloskey has dropped out of our debate scheduled for next week," Knowles tweeted Tuesday. "For weeks, he's baselessly smeared me as a 'fascist' but nonetheless insisted upon the importance of debating ideas rather than running from them. Apparently he's changed his mind."

"It’s telling that even a distinguished scholar with three Harvard degrees and half a dozen honorary doctorates cannot defend transgenderism," Knowles added. "Of course: The ideology is indefensible."

McCloskey explained his decision to back out of the debate, saying, "I decided not to participate in giving him a platform" and claiming Knowles is "utterly uninterested in finding the truth."

The Harvard-educated professor expressed confidence leading up to the event, boasting about not having "to prepare for this debate."

McCloskey tweeted in March supporting the debate under the principle of free speech.

"A thousand people have signed a petition against Michael Knowles 'debating' me on transgender matters on April 18 at Pittsburgh," McCloskey said. "They should be ashamed. True, Knowles is an anti-Jesus Catholic, a fascist advocating state power over ideas. But we live in a free country."

After McCloskey’s withdrawal, the debate hosts reached out to Charlotte Clymer, a transgender activist, offering $10,000 to take McCloskey’s place. Clymer declined, saying that the existence of transgender people "should not be a topic of debate."

The University of Pittsburgh did not return a request for comment.

The canceled debate reflects a growing trend of suppressing conservative speech at universities. Last month, a Pennsylvania state representative issued an implied threat to withhold funding from the University of Pittsburgh for hosting conservative speakers like Michael Knowles.