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EXPLODING LISTSERV — AKA I’ve been cancelled!: COMPARISON — Industrial agriculture vs. farmers, the gender identity industry vs. women

Well, the listserv didn’t actually explode, not even metaphorically. The moderator ended the public discussion after four emails. From the archives and from the responses I got, I know there were at least three other people who (a) didn’t read my email clearly, and/or (b) don’t know (or won’t acknowledge) what’s going on with the gender industry and gender ideology:
— males in women’s prisons
— increase in sexual assaults in Target washrooms since they went unisex
— shutting down free speech in all sorts of venues
— males on lesbian websites
— ramping up transphobia-phobia
— increase in pornography, child abuse
— erasure of women’s authority in law, policies, and daily life, etc.
— etc., etc., etc.

The headlines of my cancellation could have read: 

Long-time advocate of food policy councils (FPCs) cancelled by national FPC group

Compares farmers being “administratively redefined” by agri-business with women being administratively redefined by the gender identity industry

Cancelled: No discussion, no warning, no announcement, no personal note

Below is an email chain that took place on the Food Policy Networks listserv yesterday (Nov. 4, 2021), following the announcement about Maine passing a “food as a human right” constitutional amendment. I have removed all personal email addresses and personal names except for first initials.

BACKGROUND: The Food Policy Networks listserv

UPDATE: Dec. 16, 2021
Many of us Americans are getting a crash course on what this “transgender” and “gender identity” craze is all about, why men are being allowed to play on women’s sports teams, why boys and men are being allowed in women’s washrooms, changing rooms, etc., and why male desires are being prioritized over the rights and realities of females.

In that context, I would like to offer a more precise version of my original statement that caused me to get cancelled. The original statement, sent to the FPN listserv on Nov. 4, 2021 (including the part in brackets) is this (italics added):
The 25-minute podcast from August 2021 is really good, especially the part about how farmers are being “administratively redefined” (just as women are being redefined by the transgender industry). [Note: The transgender industry is different than transgender individuals, just as agri-business and agri-lobbyists are different from individual farmers and individual eaters.]

Now that I’ve done a good deal of reading, thinking, and listening and have no problem saying that (a) “transgender” is a logical fiction, (b) humans cannot change our sex, and (c) all humans are either male or female, a more accurate expression of my original intention is this (changes indicated in boldface):
The 25-minute podcast from August 2021 is really good, especially the part about how farmers are being “administratively redefined” (just as women are being redefined by the gender identity industry). [Note: The gender identity industry is different than individuals who are questioning their sexual orientation or modes of gender expression, just as agri-business and the agri-lobby are different from individual farmers and individual eaters.]

UPDATE: Dec. 10, 2021
For the past month (as time allowed), I’ve been reflecting on my relationship to the FoodPolicyNetworks listserv and program in the larger context of (a) the immutable truth of human biological sex (dimorphism), (b) my 70 years (lifelong) experience of living in a female body, (c) #WomensPublicAuthority, (d) my 16-year activism on behalf of food policy councils (FPCs) and the U.S. food & farm movement, and (e) my lifelong activism on behalf of  democratic dialogue and other democratic structures. I have come to a conclusion, a decision, and an action.

1. I should have realized much earlier (e.g., years ago?) that neither FPN nor its parent hierarchy (Center for a Livable Future, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University) is knowledgeable about, skilled in, or supportive of real democracy (as outlined on my Real Democracy webpage).

2. I need to look elsewhere for food & farm colleagues who are committed (above all and as a path to food & farm justice and climate resiliency) to real participatory, peer-to-peer democracy.

3. I have unsubscribed from the FoodPolicyNetworks listserv.

UPDATE: Nov. 10, 2021
It looks as if I have been reinstated to the Food Policy Networks listserv as of 10:30 AM this morning. This means that I was not on the listserv for 5 days (according to the listserv archives, it looks like I missed 4-5 emails on various other topics). 

For the record, I did not ask to be reinstated nor did I privately object to the cancellation. My only response, once I discovered that I’d been cancelled, was to write a blog, Tweet about it, and email friends and colleagues about it.

Also for the record, my original response to the first objection has still not been posted. Nor have I heard from the moderator or anyone else at FPN directly. I am currently weighing my interests. 

BACKGROUND: The Food Policy Networks listserv

The FPN listserv serves North American folks who are working on “food policy councils” (FPCs) and all manner of food & farm policy, especially at the local and state levels. It is a wonderful resource, based at Johns Hopkins U. (Center for a Livable Future). For 10+ years, I have been one of the most enthusiastic promoters in the U.S. of FPN, including FPCs, the FPN listserv, FPN events, and active support for other listserv members as the occasion arises.

At times, it seemed as if I was a more enthusiastic supporter of FPCs and FPN than the paid staff. In Feb. 2021, I facilitated the appearance by an FPN staffperson on a food panel for a new organization seeking to create a “women’s economy” (An Economy of our Own). The FPN staffperson did not talk about FPCs or the specific details of the organization, listserv, or membership or the brilliance of the FPC model to manifest real democracy or a woman’s economy. She spoke only about “coalitions”. I see now that, while she is a very accomplished professional, she may be old enough to see the FPC’s true genius. But I was old enough, and still am.

It was not unusual to receive private thanks for my support and postings, which I mostly took as a function of (a) my age, (b) my passion for real democracy, and (c) my passion for clear language. Two days before I was cancelled, I received these thanks:

“Thank you all so much for these resources. I have been incredibly frustrated with the lack of opportunity and look forward to advocating myself into a job (LOL).” From A

“Debbie, thank you so much for your appreciation of Erika’s research and our paper.  And thanks for all your good work in Illinois; I appreciate your posts to our list.  Best wishes, N”

As I’ve learned from other women’s cancellations over gender identity ideology (as promoted by the gender identity industry), it was not at all surprising that one of those notes (from A) came from someone who, two days later, participated in the stone-throwing “mob” (seven that I know about) that led to my cancellation.


The email chain starts with my congratulatory response to a colleague’s announcement about the good news about the State of Maine. We are both active participants on the listserv. My colleague sent two links, a current news story plus an August 2021 interview with the bill’s sponsor and a Maine farmer. 

Listening to the interview before I wrote my email, I was struck with the phrasing that the farmer used to describe the co-optation by agri-business (industrial agriculture) to disenfranchise small, independent farmers:

At the 7:30 mark of the video the farmer describes how she discovered that “farmers were being administratively redefined” by agri-business (in conjunction with state and/or federal officials). Paraphrasing Heather Retberg, she said, “By losing the ability to control and have access to the language & how we were defined, small farmers could very easily disappear from the landscape.”

Having learned a lot about the gender identity industry (differentiated from issues that individual transgender people deal with) and coming to my own conclusions, I was struck at the similarity of existential erasure between the language about farmers being “administratively redefined” and “women” being removed from laws, official statements, etc., that pertain only to women’s lives, bodies, powers, etc. (e.g., birthing, menstruating, women’s experiences).

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of including that observation at (a) a bad place in the email, and (b) without crystal clear indication that the observation was my opinion, not the farmer’s. The actual “offending” statement from my email was this sentence followed by the [Note]:

The 25-minute podcast from August 2021 is really good, especially the part about how farmers are being “administratively redefined” (just as women are being redefined by the transgender industry). [Note: The transgender industry is different than transgender individuals, just as agri-business and agri-lobbyists are different from individual farmers and individual eaters.]

Even so, despite my inelegant writing, I don’t believe anyone would actually think that the opinion was the farmer’s. But I take that as a fair criticism of my email. It’s the only fair criticism of my email, as the other responses make clear.

To read my statement in its original context, see my original email below.


The pushback was immediate. Three of the responses were posted on the moderated listserv. The next three were not, presumably because the moderator had decided to unplug the conversation. (I received the last three because I was copied on those responses.)

Neither was my reply to the first pushback email posted, which consisted of:
— a friendly tone
— support for my position that there is a “transgender industry” (links to a highly relevant contemporaneous and “local” Oregon resource)
— invitation for discussion

This morning (Nov. 5, 2021), I discovered that I have probably been removed from the listserv, without so much as a warning or a personal email. I discovered this because I did not receive the last email in the email chain, posted this morning by the moderator. (I was able to discern this because the FPN listserv is publicly archived.)

Like so many cancellations of women vis-a-vis straight talk about the gender identity industry, my reputation and contributions to the food & farm movement (since 2005, nationally since 2010) were completely ignored and evicerated.


So, this is the U.S. food & farm justice movement, the same movement that in 2020 went through a combination racist + MeToo moment, involving one of our “legacy” organizations Food First (co-founded by Frances Moore Lappe, author of the 50-year old Diet for a Small Planet). Food First was 45 years old when the organizational blow-up occurred.

I mention the Food First fiasco because it also happened publicly on a semi-public listserv (COMFOOD) and involved a lot of knee-jerk laudatory reactions following the COVID death of the sexual predator involved. Finally, an amazing contribution from a relatively unknown colleague made it clear that the women should have been prioritized in any aftermath discussions. Her email is included in my Dec. 2020 blog #MeToo in the U.S. Food & Farm Movement. The listserv immediately calmed down and seemed to have its head on straight vis-a-vis sexual harassment.

No such opportunity to talk things out was afforded by the Food Policy Networks listserv, which means it will take a while before people in the food & farm policy world really start learning the truth about women’s experiences with the gender industry. Unfortunately, policy is where the damage is being done. One might think that an organization that promotes food policy councils in a democracy might support good faith discussion and attention to language. I was always leery about a moderated listserv for democratic policy and now I know why.

Ironically, as I’ve been noting since 2007, women make up 70-80% of the entire food & farm movement — farmers, academics, food policy councils, farmers markets, dietitians, composting businesses, etc. See my 2018 blog Food-and-Farm Policy: Manifesting Feminism in Illinois.  The food & farm movement has a great opportunity to provide women’s leadership and authority on women’s issues, but not if they’re not paying attention.

Another mistake I made in my email is using the term “transgender industry” when a better term is probably “gender Identity Industry”. Note to self.

The final email, from the listserv moderator, recommends a resource for “people who want to learn more about the movement for trans inclusion, safety, and rights Transgender Law Center.” [Note: link does not work because copied from listserv archives.]

I don’t know which Transgender Law Center is being referred to as there are a number listed  when I do a search (I could not access the link). But of course my point was not about the inclusion, safety, and rights of individual trans people. It was about the gender industry.

The food & farm movement knows that the American Farm Bureau, the grocery lobby, and the dairy lobby are not the best places to learn about the rights of farmers and eaters vis-a-vis the agri-business industry.

It seems as if the Food Policy Networks, part of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University (the school funded by a billionaire), may not be the best place to learn about democracy.


My question is, what’s the best place for people to learn about the rights of women and girls vis-a-vis the gender identity industry? An informal list of activists, journalists, websites, etc., is included in the second section (Section B) of my August 2021 blog IS CONFUSION THE DEFAULT SETTING of the 21st century American mind?  Since things are moving so quickly re women finally waking up to their own erasure (especially in the U.S.), probably this is a good place to start: Genspect (based in the UK), their new site Stats for Gender, and 11th Hour Blog.

Apart from any industry, here are three places to learn about women’s sex-based rights:

— The Women’s Human Rights Campaign has drafted a Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights. Here is their “shortest summary”:

We re-affirm the sex-based rights of women and girls.

  • We reaffirm motherhood as an exclusively female status.
  • We reaffirm women’s and girls rights to physical and reproductive integrity and oppose their exploitation through surrogacy and related practices.
  • We reaffirm women’s rights to freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, and political participation.
  • We reaffirm women’s rights to fair play in sports.
  • We reaffirm the need to end violence against women and girls, and to protect rights of children.

We oppose all forms of discrimination against women and girls that result from replacing “sex” with “gender identity” in law, policy, and social practice.

— The Canadian Women’s Sex-based Rights organization has identified the following sex-based rights and protections as “currently at risk in Canadian public policy due to confusion between sex and ‘gender identity or expression.'”

1. Washrooms, change rooms, hospital rooms
2. Rape and domestic violence shelters
3. Sporting competitions
4. Programs, resources, awards
5. Prisons and law enforcement
6. Crime statistics
7. Same-sex attracted women

— Many other countries have their own WHRC websites, including the U.S., Women’s Human Rights Campaign USA.

THE EMAIL CHAIN (Nov. 4-5, 2021)


From: Debbie Hillman 
Subject: Re: [fpn-clf] Food as a human right
Date: November 4, 2021 at 10:38:30 AM CDT
To: E
Cc: FPN Food Policy Networks <>

Hi, E —
Congrats to Mainers and thanks for letting us know.
Two things:
1.  Reposting the links you sent.

Podcast from Aug. 2021 about the details of the referendumInterview by Alison Cohen (WhyHunger)Guests–State Sen. Craig Hickman–Farmer Heather Retberg

The 25-minute podcast from August 2021 is really good, especially the part about how farmers are being “administratively redefined” (just as women are being redefined by the transgender industry). [Note: The transgender industry is different than transgender individuals, just as agri-business and agri-lobbyists are different from individual farmers and individual eaters.]

Section of podcast defining farmers is at the 7:30 mark.

2.  Illinois recently passed a “right to garden” law (the Vegetable Protection Act).  Below is the email I posted to COMFOOD a couple weeks ago about the Illinois law (in the context of a discussion about the Maine referendum).

There are two sections to the email:
— a general description
— Background & history 

— Debbie

[NOTE: The second part of this email, about the Illinois right to garden law, has not been included in this blog because it is immaterial to the issue at hand — my comment about the gender identity industry and the erasure of women.]


From: S
Hi All, 
Great news from Maine. 
I did want to call out that the idea that there is a transgender industry and lobby is false and promotes misinformation about the lived experience of trangender and gender non-conforming people.  As a community who experiences the highest rates of violence, food insecurity and poverty, the trans and gender non-coming community deserves better.  At Oregon Food Bank we are grateful and appreciative of the growing leadership of the trans and gender non-conforming people in combatting the systemic and sustained transphobia in all aspects of our communities and systems.

From: A
Thank you for that, S

From: B
I echo S, and thank him for speaking up. Transgender people are constantly under attack for solely existing, and I’m saddened to see the false and damaging notion of a “transgender industry” emerge in a coalition that purports to center issues of equity. 

From: J
Hello friends, Just want to support the points B and S made (thank you) :this concept of an “industry” is false, harmful. It’s a concept historically used to slur equity movements. Agribusiness is not a valid comparison to a human rights issue. Nor can this concept be discussed without harming individuals, as if individuals are safe from the implication of mischaracterizing transgender as an industry. The notion of redefining women was used historically against feminism then gay rights and now is used by the TERF anti-transgender movement. It isn’t fruitful or harmless. Regardless, this doesn’t seem appropriate for this listserv (or any).Thanks,

From: D
As a non-binary person who is simply here to do my job and advocate for food access, I find it appalling that the myth of the “transgender industry” has been presented here, and wish to echo the statements made by others – trans and non-binary people are just trying to live safely and inclusively in a world that constantly presents us with vitriol, violence, poverty, and food access issues, and we should expect spaces focused on equity to be better than this.

From: L
Hey there, I would like to echo the remarks of J, B and S. Also – if it wasn’t clear – that terrible analogy and remarks about an “industry” (!) did *not* come from the podcast that was mentioned in the same paragraph, nor from the organizers in Maine of the Right to Food Campaign. It looks like it was added as commentary in the listserv post itself. Thanks

From: E
Dear all, 
I totally agree that the notion “transgender industry “ seems indeed very hurtful and that kind of hurtful concepts should not be in this space. 

To be clear, the podcast on right to food in Maine I originally shared did not mention anything  like this, rather this point was shared as an opinion/added in by the person who reshared on the list. I only say this as a clarification because the way it was reshared, with a summary underneath, indicates that it was part of the discussion and it was not. Best 

This email was never posted to the listserv. I sent it twice, once with a correction.

From: Debbie Hillman 
Subject: CORRECTION Re: Food as a human right
Date: November 4, 2021 at 6:18:38 PM CDT
To: S
Cc: FPN Food Policy Networks <>

Hi, all —
I’m reposting this email because I neglected to mention (in my self-introduction) that I have received some generous help from neighbors, friends, and one family member during the last year. I’ve added this info. to my original email.

From: Debbie Hillman 
Hi, S, and all —
I think we’ve emailed in the past (many years ago, about some other topic). I think you have some connection to Evanston perhaps (my hometown)? Sorry if I don’t remember the connection.
You don’t say whether you identify as transgender.

By way of introduction (for anyone who is new to FPN), I am a 70-year woman, in one of the fastest growing demographics in terms of food insecurity (elders) and in the U.S. always one of the most precarious. Currently, in Nov. 2021, I am unable to pay my bills having had no income for ten years other than my savings, which are now gone, and Social Security since I turned 62; over the last year, friends, neighbors, and one family member also helped me out. I am possibly facing homelessness as we enter the winter months. (We just had our first frost in the Chicago area.) 

Here is some relevant and recent information from Oregon:
A new book by a rural Oregon woman named Max Robinson, who transitioned at about 16 years of age and has de-transitioned (now in her 20s ??).

Her new book and an interview were just recently published & posted by Spinifex Press (based in Australia, with a U.S. distributor in Chicago). Here’s the links:
— Book: Detransition: Beyond Before and After
— Interview: Julie Bindel in conversation with Detransition author Max Robinson
— In 2016, Max posted an article about her experience: Shrinking to Survive: A former trans man reports on life inside queer youth culture

It sounded to me like Max thinks there’s a transgender industry. If you have a chance to listen to it (or read her book or article), let us know what you think. I’ve only watched the interview. Perhaps you can do some “local” Oregon-based research. Max seems pretty genuine to me.
— Debbie

FINAL WORD: The Listserv Moderator

Nov. 5, 2021
Dear subscribers,
Yesterday, there were some comments about transgender and gender nonconforming people that were inaccurate. Several people expressed concern about the remarks and were hurt by them.  We apologize for any distress this caused our subscribers. While hurting people was likely not the intent of the post, people were impacted, which is what matters.  We were directed to a resource for people who want to learn more about the movement for trans inclusion, safety, and rights Transgender Law Center [Note: link will not work because copied from the listserv archives.]

Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts with us.


As anyone can see, I did not make inaccurate comments about “transgender and gender nonconforming people”. I clearly differentiated between a capitalistic industry and transgender people as individuals. Not one respondent answered in good faith (no one asked me to explain what I meant by “transgender industry”). 

For the record, no one has yet come to my defense, either publicly or privately.

I’m beginning to ask myself if women deserve equality (let alone authority). Never mind. I know that this woman does. I do. Thankfully, I now know of a lot of other women, around the world, who do, too — and who are working on behalf of all women and girls.