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Man accused of threatening Merriam-Webster over 'woman' definition arrested

The DOJ said Jeremy David Hanson, 34, told the dictionary publisher it should be "shot up and bombed."


It's clear the Republican Party has embraced a transphobic agenda, as laws targeting transgender kids, gender identity lesson plans and gender-affirming care proliferate across the country. 

Critics of this bigoted movement have warned that right-wing rhetoric condemning trans people invites violence, and the Department of Justice last week offered a glaring example of it. 

In a statement Friday, the DOJ said officials arrested a California man in connection with making threats against Merriam-Webster Inc., a publishing company best known for its dictionaries, over the way it defines the words “female,” “girl” and “woman.”

The man — 34-year-old Jeremy David Hanson — sent multiple threatening messages through Merriam-Webster’s website, according to the DOJ. One of the alleged messages expressed anger over Merriam-Webster's definition of "female." The company defines the word in several ways, including as "a gender identity that is the opposite of male."

"There is no such thing as 'gender identity,'" Hanson allegedly wrote. "The imbecile who wrote this entry should be hunted down and shot."

Republican senators trotted out similar suggestions about gender identity during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who rejected the GOP’s attempts to narrowly define the word “woman” in a way that excludes trans people. Even Republican senators who tried to mock Jackson’s response struggled to define the word themselves. 

The DOJ said Hanson sent multiple messages saying Merriam-Webster’s offices should be bombed, including this one: 

“You [sic] headquarters should be shot up and bombed. It is sickening that you have caved to the cultural Marxist, anti-science tranny [sic] agenda and altered the definition of ‘female’ as part of the Left’s efforts to corrupt and degrade the English language and deny reality,” he claimed in his message. “You evil Marxists should all be killed. It would be poetic justice to have someone storm your offices and shoot up the place, leaving none of you commies alive.”

Hanson has been charged with one count of interstate communication of threats to commit violence. As of Tuesday morning, he had not publicly commented on the charge. According to an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Hanson has admitted to making online threats in the past and expressed regret over doing so during a 2015 interview with federal investigators.

Contrary to claims from right-wing circles, gender identity and the trans experience are undeniable realities backed by science. But Hanson’s alleged threats affirm a truth trans people and their allies have long known about their oppressors: Efforts to marginalize trans people aren’t just about erasing them from school lessons, athletics and even dictionaries; they’re about erasing these people from life altogether.