If Lenin Had Been Trans
Jesse Singal is an extremely fair-minded and diligent science journalist. He has become Public Enemy No. 1 to transgender activists because he questions their narrative. It’s not that he is opposed to transgenders — not in the least — but that in the course of his reporting, he keeps finding that science often does not back up their claims.
His latest triple-Hitler move was to publish a long piece in The Atlantic exploring how parents should respond if their children claim to be trans, given that the overwhelming majority of those children will eventually resolve their gender dysphoria in favor of their biological sex. Are hormones appropriate? Is surgery? If so, when? Singal, who identifies as a man of the left, writes about it sympathetically.
The one thing you cannot do is question the trans activist narrative. They will try to destroy you. In 2016, Singal told the deeply shocking story about how trans activists got Dr. Kenneth Zucker, one of the world’s leading sex researchers fired from his job in a Canadian clinic. Was this scientist against transgendered people? Not at all. Zucker guided some young people towards transition. His problem was that he didn’t think it was medically indicated for all young people who said they were trans. Trans activists lobbied hard with their fellow travelers in the Canadian health care system, and got this scientist canned.
For trans activists, truth is what serves the revolution. If a scientist gets in the way of the revolution, crush him. They’re deploying this Leninist dogma against the journalist Singal now.
Take a look at this extraordinary piece on the website Jezebel, written by someone named Harron Walker. It uses leaked e-mails from a private listserv in an attempt to reveal what a monster Jesse Singal is, and how bigoted he is against trans people. In fact, it does just the opposite: it reveals that Singal is a principled, responsible journalist who has been set upon by fanatics. (“Desistance” is detransitioning, by the way — that is, returning to your birth sex.) Excerpts:
These anxieties speak to an American public that cares more about what trans people are doing than how we are doing, and they must be deeply felt among cis people across the political spectrum, considering how widely read and respected Singal’s work is. This focus of his on desistance, risk, and regret is not only frustrating, but troubling. The vast majority of Americans say they don’t know any trans people in real life, so media representations play an outsize role in shaping how cis people think of us. If a journalist approaches transition, adolescent or otherwise, as a two-sided issue—as Singal generally does—that journalist affirms a reader’s inclination to side against trans people, recasting a reader’s bias against affirmative treatment as a rational position to hold. “[The article is] actually a very elaborate dog whistle for parents looking to justify any doubts they have about their own transgender children,” writes ThinkProgress LGBTQ Editor Zack Ford, noting its “lopsided perspectives and dearth of citations.”
To put it bluntly, he thinks he’s right and that everyone else is wrong. Private messages posted on a closed discussion forum and provided to Jezebel demonstrate that Singal is, in fact, aware of the criticism he has received for his Atlantic cover story and his coverage of trans issues more broadly. He’s just uninterested in hearing it, dismissing the bulk of it as an example of trans community “groupthink” and uninterrogated in-group bias, which prevents us from reporting on something like adolescent transition as fairly and accurately as he can. (Jezebel has repeatedly reached out to Singal for comment; he had not provided one as of our publication time, but we will update if he does.)
From one such exchange:
There should, of course, be more trans writers and artists. But…trans people, like members of any other group, have their own prevalent forms of groupthink. Time and time again my reporting and research has conflicted with what [the biggest-name trans activists have] told me[.] On other issues, of course, I would trust trans people more than anyone else—who better to talk about the humiliation of living in a state with a ‘bathroom’ bill, or the difficulty of getting hormones, or other stuff that only trans people have to deal with? But overall, no, I don’t think trans people are more qualified to write about the tricky science stuff going on here than I am. I’d just be lying if I said otherwise.
The monster! Seriously, the Jezebel article really thinks this is prima facie evidence that Singal is a bigot. What’s more, the Jezebel write quotes other members of this left-wing journalists listserv supporting Singal as evidence of an anti-trans conspiracy (the writer calls it “cis-journalist groupthink”) in the media:
Many of the listserv’s other members were similarly dismissive. “I see the Twitter reeducation process has begun, Jesse,” wrote the editor of a progressive news site. “I’m sorry you are dealing with the Twitter crowd once again,” wrote a Washington Post opinion writer. “Most people I know will not write about this subject any more because no matter how hard you try to represent the issues accurately and without bias against trans people, you will be accused of not doing so,” wrote a published author. Another member, an award-winning journalist and Washington Post editor, agreed: “Jesse is the most thoughtful person on this beat right now, pro-trans and pro-science at once. It’s very hard to write about this without being attacked by bludgeons.” One of the listserv’s most frequent posters, a Whiting Award-winning essayist and poet, wrote: “I value [J]esse’s reporting on this—and other—topics. He made me more empathetic and sympathetic to trans people… The attacks on him on twitter and in jezebel seem completely over the top to me.”
Most of the people who posted found the criticism baffling. Some offered theories to explain it. “It’s like there’s a permanent distributed ledger of people who have sinned against left orthodoxy, and he’s on it, no further explanation needed,” wrote a prominent education policy analyst. (Participants in an earlier forum discussion about a wave of similar criticism wondered whether Singal’s critics were right-wing trolls, Russian bots, or covert men’s rights activists.) An award-winning investigative journalist wondered whether Singal’s critics even understand how journalism works: “The idea that he’s ‘fixated’ is particularly bizarre. He’s a journalist with a beat!”
I strongly urge you to read the whole thing. There are extensive direct quotes from Singal’s e-mails to the group. In each one, he comes across as sympathetic to trans people, but determined not to allow those sympathies to compromise his coverage of the science of transgenderism. In fact, he notes that trans activists often misled him, proving themselves unreliable sources:
The unintended effect of the Jezebel piece is to reveal what anti-science, anti-journalism, intolerant, aggressive fanatics many trans activists are. And just think about the effect they have on mainstream journalists who uncritically accept their claims!
Why do so many journalists and others take these militants seriously? What is the cost of doing so to families dealing with gender-dysphoric children — and to society at large?