ANDREW SULLIVAN: The Greatest Scandal In Gay Rights History? How journalists – yes, journalists – want to shut down reporting on child transition.
Five years ago when I wrote “We All Live On Campus Now,” I noted how illiberal practices that originated in elite colleges — bullying, ostracism, public condemnation, speech shutdowns, purges of dissenters — were becoming common in every sphere of life, super-charged by social media. From 2020 on, that dynamic has intensified, especially in journalism, with the media purges of 2020 lifted straight from the campus woke playbook.
And this week, we saw another campus maneuver: an open letter from a thousand or so New York Times contributors, accusing the NYT of “follow[ing] the lead of far-right hate groups” in its coverage of transgender issues. Other campus tactics: a loud demo outside; alliance between insiders and outsider activists; public shaming of named journalists; accusations that the NYT is a “workplace made hostile by bias” (the now-familiar HR gambit); and non-negotiable demands for even more hiring solely on the basis of identity and ideology.
It’s an echo of Evergreen and Yale and Middlebury and Reed. The ploys are repeated because they work and there’s no downside. And almost all the university presidents caved. They held meetings and meetings; they apologized; they appeased; they conceded core liberal principles of free speech and dissent; they terminated dissident faculty; they equivocated and collaborated in the pursuit of “diversity” and then “equity.” In a word, they were pathetic.
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And in the summer of 2020, when campus tactics invaded newsrooms, and writers and editors were purged for committing journalism that violated the orthodoxies of social justice, we saw a similar collapse of nerve.
But this time was different. Check this out, from the executive editor of the NYT. It’s the response we always needed from the leadership of besieged liberal institutions before and never got.
The letter has no factual criticisms. It has three quibbles: that Grace Lidinsky-Smith was presented as “an individual person speaking about a personal choice to detransition, rather than the President of GCCAN, an activist organization that pushes junk science and partners with explicitly anti-trans hate groups.” Yes, Lidinsky-Smith became an activist after a traumatizing de-transitioning, but GCCAN is an organization designed for “gender-affirming care” patients.
Another NYT piece “failed to make clear that court cases brought by parents who want schools to out their trans children are part of a legal strategy pursued by anti-trans hate groups.” But the piece has several paragraphs highlighting the acute discomfort many liberal parents had when allying with conservative groups, which they otherwise opposed. The third complaint: that Bazelon used the term “Patient Zero” as a slur to describe the first minor patient to undergo the new affirmation-and-medicalization experiment in Holland. Please.
And that’s it. Seriously, it’s all they’ve got. The point of the letter is not that the pieces had errors, but that they were published at all. They shouldn’t have run because opposition to affirmation-only transition for gender dysphoric children is entirely illegitimate, and the task of journalists who already know this is to suppress rather than describe the argument. As the sign at the protest outside the NYT blared: “The Science Is Settled,” as if science is ever “settled,” and as if journalism is about ignoring and censoring controversy, not reporting and airing it.
One historical analogy does seem salient to me, though: the drugs they now give to gender-dysphoric teens are very closely related to the drugs they used to “cure” Alan Turing of his gayness. Every time I think of that I shudder.
And this attempt to suppress reporting on the subject comes at a very strange time. Next week, a new book will be published about the Tavistock Centre, the place responsible for the medical and psychological treatment of children with gender dysphoria in Britain. It’s written by a liberal female journalist, Hannah Barnes, of a flagship British documentary show, Newsnight.
Her book exposes a huge medical scandal, in which countless children were put on puberty blockers with almost no psychological evaluation, and with rates of autism and domestic abuse that were already through the roof. It shows what happened when the new affirmation-only puberty-blocker experiment, only begun in the late 1990s, was left to run its course, with no opposition and no dissent allowed. Check out an extract here. . . . More than a third of the kids pushed onto the trans track had autism, sometimes severe. Others were victims of domestic abuse: “[A natal girl] who’s being abused by a male, I think a question to ask is whether there’s some relationship between identifying as male and feeling safe,” one clinician at the center said. No questions about other aspects of a child’s mental health were considered if the kid was identifying as the opposite sex. And this took place in a socialized system, with constant oversight, and no massive financial incentives to treat children. Just imagine what could be happening in the US private system where trans patients are among the most lucrative to have in your care, and are under treatment their entire life.
Actually, don’t imagine — check out the affidavit of Jamie Reed, a lefty progressive whistleblower who worked at a similar clinic in the US.
Read the whole thing.