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Transgender row at Science Museum over claims reworked exhibit is ‘even more insidious’

The Boy or Girl? exhibit at the Science Museum in London continues to cause controversy
The Boy or Girl? exhibit at the Science Museum in London continues to cause controversy

The Science Museum has reinstated a transgender exhibit initially removed following complaints it was ignoring biology.

A controversial cabinet featuring a fake penis and chest-binding equipment was taken down after accusations it was pushing gender-ideological “propaganda”, but an updated exhibit has now been installed.

However, gender-critical campaigners said the reworked version was “more insidious” and pushes a “sexist view of the world”.

With its original title of “Boy or Girl?” removed, the display cabinet explains why some people transition to their preferred gender, and how puberty blockers are sometimes used to achieve this.

A sign on the display in the museum’s Who Am I? gallery, which covers various aspects of biology from DNA to ageing, states “some people’s gender doesn’t match the sex they were born into”.

It adds that “they may make changes to live their life in a way that better aligns to that identity. This is sometimes called transition.”

The cabinet includes personal testimony from a transgender man and woman, who state respectively that they have “experience living as both male and female” and that transition was “liberating”.

The updated display also includes the testimony of a non-binary person, who describes the “relief” at “learning living outside the gender binary was possible”.

Displays state that puberty blockers are sometimes used to arrest the onset of adult development for children unsure of their gender identity, adding that such intervention is “complex and has raised debate”.

The current iteration of the “Boy or Girl?” display comes after a series of rows over the exhibit, which the Science Museum vowed to change in 2021 following complaints about a “lack of mention of transgender”.

‘Pushing propaganda’

The museum said it would work with the Museum of Transology to make the display more inclusive, but the end result caused concern as the cabinet contained fake penises used to mimic male appearance, as well as a compression vest to flatten the female chest.

The contents of the cabinet were accused of pushing “propaganda” rather than biology, and the display was taken down in 2022 following these complaints.

However, the reworked display continues to cause concern. Helen Joyce, author and director of advocacy at the campaign group Sex Matters, said: “They have made it less in your face but in some ways that’s more insidious.

“The fake penises and chest-binding equipment may be out of sight, but so are the obvious warning signs for parents.”

She added: “The display continues to push a sexist view of the world, which suggests that some behaviours are inherently feminine, and that anyone who does them is a woman. This is simply trading on stereotypes.

“Likewise with the non-binary testimony: this identity is just not fitting into stereotypes, but it relies on a very stereotypical view of the world based on ‘men’s things’ and ‘women’s things’.”

The display states that X and Y chromosomes, which govern human sex differences, are “not universal” and cites other species with different mechanisms in relation to this point.

Ms Joyce has raised concerns that the exceptions to immutable sex differences being governed by X and Y are highlighted, while the normal mechanism is explained.

A Science Museum spokesman said: “We would encourage everyone to visit the Who Am I? Gallery, which has benefited from several updates since it first opened in 2000.”

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