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I recently met a medical student who was beginning her rotation in internal medicine. A special morning session had been set aside to discuss proper protocols for interacting with patients. The person leading the discussion came from the hospital’s office of diversity and inclusion. She emphasized that even when a person looks male or female, “it’s more complex.” The group was instructed that individuals may “present as male or female” in a physical sense, but this presentation is not definitive, and it can be very hurtful to assume otherwise.

Many have had similar experiences in diversity seminars on other topics. Representatives of “justice” and “­equity” manifest a serene confidence that certitudes minted only yesterday are so self-evident that people should be “trained” in them rather than invited to discuss them. The atmosphere can be surreal, characterized by a dream-like disregard for reality and ever-changing lists of what we are prohibited from saying and what we are required to say. It can also be chilling, given the arrogant rectitude and the rush to punish dissenters. What is going on?

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