A front-page story in Wednesday’s New York Times fiercely defended trans rights, reducing concerns that activists are leading children to make irrevocable surgical decisions, because they were “born in the wrong body,” to political cynicism: “G.O.P. Focuses On Testimonies Of Trans Regret.” (An earlier version really pressed the editorial thumb to the scale: “G.O.P. Focuses On Rare Stories Of Trans Regret.”)
This “news” attack on those who choose to detransition -- to stop identifying or to stop taking actions towards being transgender -- was reported by Maggie Astor, who stands out even among the paper’s woke staff for her devotion to the transgender cause. Previously she blamed Donald Trump for violence against transgenders, a story which opened with almost a parody of wokeness that had to be corrected later: “Transgender women of color led the uprising at the Stonewall Inn…”
In the campaign to ban gender therapies for minors, Republicans have amplified a group of activists who no longer identify as transgender, overriding objections from transgender people and medical experts.
(What would we do without experts?)
Astor criticized Chloe Cole, a girl who lived as a transgender male and tragically got a double mastectomy at the age of 15, before detransitioning. Astor defined Cole’s detransition as “returning to her female identity,” not as returning to “biological reality.”
She also decided to speak out. She has told her story in Florida, and in Idaho, Kansas, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah. Republican lawmakers typically listen attentively, sometimes in tears. In March, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida relayed Ms. Cole's story in his State of the State address, while she received a standing ovation.
Astor apparently doesn’t get the idea that “spokespeople” for a cause can be limited in number yet still represent a larger movement:
As Republican-controlled state legislatures have passed over a dozen bills banning transition care for minors this year and have moved to restrict care for adults, Ms. Cole and fewer than 10 activists like her -- people who transitioned and then changed course -- have become the faces of the cause, according to a New York Times review of news coverage and legislative testimony.
These activists are fixtures at legislative hearings and rallies. Their experiences have been splashed across conservative media as cautionary tales….
Most people who transition do not change course. And yet, the influence of these activists has been striking.
Their stories of regret and irreversible physical transformation have tapped into strong emotions about rapidly shifting gender norms -- from hardened prejudice to parental worry. Lawmakers have used these accounts to override objections from all major medical associations, which oppose bans on transition care, as well as testimony from the far larger number of transgender people who say transitioning improved their mental health.
Astor aggressively downplayed trans dissent:
Leaders in the conservative movement say it is important to amplify the voices of people who feel they have been misled by doctors and want to warn others….But many transgender-rights activists and others warn that the outsize emphasis on a minority is distorting the policy debate.
Chloe Cole herself responded with “We’re Not Going Away: My Response to the New York Times Hit Piece.”
Astor heaped skepticism on the detransitioner “minority,” something she doesn’t do for people who are convinced they were born in the wrong body. She also conveniently skipped how European medical associations are drawing back from easy surgical and chemical “transition.”
Astor made her opinion plain on Twitter, distorting the definition of “health care” to make Republicans into ogres:
NEW: Republican lawmakers and outside groups have made a few detransitioners the faces of a movement to restrict health care for trans people.— Maggie Astor (@MaggieAstor) May 16, 2023
This story has been in the works for a very long time, and I'm glad to finally be able to share it. 🧵 incoming: https://t.co/rpIk9CrzRq