Last week I wrote about the ongoing effort to cancel reporter Jesse Singal because his writing about trans issues is a bit more nuanced then some activists would like. Today he discovered that GLAAD had added him to a list of anti-LGBT bigots.
The GLAAD Accountability Project catalogs anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and discriminatory actions of politicians, commentators, organization heads, religious leaders, and legal figures who have used their platforms, influence and power to spread misinformation and harm LGBTQ people.
And here’s their list of problems with Singal in particular.
—Cites unproven research in a cover story for The Atlantic, that “Trauma, particularly sexual trauma, can contribute to or exacerbate [gender] dysphoria in some patients.”
—Admitted to wildly misinterpreting a study on trans kids that he relied on for the article. Singal had wrongly claimed that adolescent patients who did not return to a clinic for gender dysphoria had “desisted” and no longer desired to change genders. There was never any evidence that any of the adolescents actually desisted. Singal says he “goofed” but clung to his belief that trans children can and do desist.
—Amplifies the unproven theory of “social contagion” that kids are being “influenced by the gender-identity exploration they’re seeing online and perhaps at school or in other social settings, rather than experiencing gender dysphoria.”
Singal was not pleased because all of these complaints are bogus:
1/ More on this soon, but GLAAD has added me to an "accountability list" of anti-LGBT figures. They took misleading Twitter scuttlebutt and treated it as true. They also used a professional headshot even I'm only allowed to use in certain contexts.https://t.co/tWEQIsEZhL
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) March 22, 2021
.@glaad needs to fix this immediately. It's totally inexcusable and discredits the organization.
GLAAD Took False, Previously Disproven Internet Scuttlebutt And Used It To Justify Putting Me On A List Of Anti-LGBT Bigotshttps://t.co/eJbbJIMEv1
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) March 22, 2021
Singal has now published his response to the three points on GLAAD’s list above. In response to the first point, he notes that one of the leading “youth-gender clinicians” in the world has written that Trauma can contribute to gender dysphoria in some cases. Here’s an expert from a 2011 book by the clinician. You can read a longer excerpt here:
Studies have shown that children have been known to insist on a change in gender or become gender-confused after a trauma or major disruption in their attachments. For example, a three-year-old boy survived a serious car accident that his mother did not. Afterward, he started insisting he was a girl. Before that, he never indicated any gender-nonconforming behavior. Now, to reclaim his dead mother, he became her. There is no doubt that children like this little boy did not just roll into the world as gender non-conforming, like those in parents’ reports of their children who “just show up” that way, but were responding to intense emotional issues in or outside the family through their expression of gender.
She goes on to say that this represents a “tiny minority” of cases but it does exist. The second claim, that Singal “admitted to wildly misinterpreting a study on trans kids” is also misleading. Singal did admit to a mistake but as he explains at length, correcting it actually led to him believing the evidence for what is called desistance was even stronger than he’d previously believed:
As I write (if you actually read the post), my error was overestimating the number of kids truly “lost to followup” in an influential study of gender-dysphoric youth in the Netherlands that seemed to show a high rate of desistance, or kids feeling gender dysphoric at one point no longer feeling that way at a later point. The more kids lost to followup, the weaker the study (because how can we be sure their gender dysphoria actually desisted if the clinicians were no longer in touch with them?). Once you acknowledge that fewer kids were lost to followup than some people, myself included, initially misreported, the evidence for desistance provided by this study becomes stronger.
Because Twitter is a psychotic hall of funhouse mirrors, a bunch of people online instantly took what I wrote, which boiled down to “Because of this error I made, I think the evidence for genuine desistance from gender dysphoria is stronger than I did previously,” and literally flipped it around to “Ah-ha! He is admitting that desistance study is bunk and therefore so is desistance! For all these years he pushed a false study supporting this bogus desistance claim!” The confusion entailed in this error is so extreme I don’t even have an analogy. It’s just astonishing. Literally all you have to do is read the thing I posted to understand that the error I made points in the exact opposite direction.
But, journalistic standards being what they are, The Daily Dot published a confused piece mangling the issue that was a big vector for this false meme:
You may have noticed that GLAAD’s source for this 2nd claim is the Daily Dot story. Singal has complained about that misleading story for more than two years:
Daily Dot's severe fuckup of a very, very basic correction that I explained at great length both in a blog post and a DM conversation with the reporter has spread far and wide. It's unethical for outlets to get stuff wrong and then refuse to correct it. https://t.co/125NX9MmYJ
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) January 17, 2019
I won’t go over the third claim about social contagion. Suffice it to say there are real people whose kids have announced they were trans at a time when others in their social circle were talking about it only to later step back. Singal writes, “these stories of social influence absolutely exist. If GLAAD wants to talk to the kids or families who have gone through this experience, I can connect them directly.”
Anyway, this is what passes for evidence of wrong-think these days. GLAAD appears to be jumping on the cancel culture bandwagon without doing much of anything to verify the claims they are helping to spread.
Finally, here’s Glenn Greenwald’s take on the group:
It's so important to understand two things about advocacy groups like GLAAD:
1) They're run by professional activists who have completely different perspectives & incentives than those they purport to represent;
2) They need to constantly manufacture enemies to raise money. https://t.co/BAsyPMxCO8
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 22, 2021
Update: Wow, if Dan Savage thinks you’re going too far, you’re really going too far.
This is kind of crazy to me
Savage is the guy who started the "Lets intentionally misdirect Google so that Santorum voters get pointed to an obscene Urban Dictionary entry that bears his name"
And he's saying that the left is going too far https://t.co/jNySM3ffJ8
— PoliMath (@politicalmath) March 22, 2021