". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Media Constructs Straw Man to Distract from SAFE Act Triumphs

February 16, 2024

A new scare campaign among legacy media outlets is claiming lawmakers pushing back against transgender ideology have plans to “broaden [their] focus beyond children” and “are increasingly turning their focus to adults,” as a 2,800-word hit piece in The Washington Post alleged Thursday. That simply isn’t true.

The media’s herculean attempts at constructing a narrative to spite the facts is really a “coordinated effort to intimidate and silence policymakers, to stir up fear among those who want to protect children,” argued Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on “Washington Watch.” “They’re trying to blur the lines and say, ‘Oh, everybody that’s trying to protect children wants to stop everyone from having a right to do what they want to do.’”

As if to confirm this characterization, The Post quoted a transgender activist with Movement Advancement Project (could they think of a more aggressive name?), “We’re under attack across virtually every aspect of our lives, and each new day is bringing with it some new escalation.” If that sentence gives you déjà vu, it’s probably because transgender activists made the same claims in response to states passing laws to protect minors from experimental, harmful, and irreversible gender transition procedures.

It wasn’t just The Washington Post. USA Today ran a similarly slanted, elongated story, referencing a piece from Michigan Live, which got its information from a trans activist’s blog. “Those pushing the LGBTQ agenda have not retreated, and they won’t,” Perkins warned. “They are relentless. They are going to force public affirmation of what they’re doing, even when it is damaging to children and even to themselves.”

This is a sign that “we’re making … tremendous progress in protecting kids from terrible procedures that will cause physical and psychological and spiritual damage for the rest of their lives,” said Dr. Jennifer Bauwens, director of FRC’s Center for Family Studies and a clinical psychologist. “The Left is getting threatened by the move that we’re seeing for children … so the latest move is [to say], ‘You want to take this away from adults, too.’”

Perkins agreed. “We continue to see ongoing progress and momentum at the state level for protecting children from harmful experimental gender procedures,” so transgender activists are “afraid that their whole house of cards could come tumbling down.” As of last month, 23 state legislatures have enacted measures aimed at protecting minors from the harmful effects of gender transition procedures, with most of those provisions becoming law in the past year.

That momentum only applies to minors, however; there is no conservative consensus for banning gender transition procedures on adults, as even the scare pieces were forced to admit. “So far, no legislature has outright prohibited adults from transitioning,” The Washington Post admitted. And when they asked one conservative strategist (American Principles Project Executive Director Terry Schilling), he told them that “adult bans seem so far-fetched, his group hasn’t even poll-tested them.” They quoted Missouri State Rep. Mark Matthiesen (R), sponsor of a bathroom bill, who remarked, “Even the conservatives want to give the liberals their ability to run their own lives.”

These admissions so damage the insinuation narrative that an unbiased editor would probably have scrapped the whole story. Hence, Perkins’s conclusion that the real objective of this narrative is intimidating state legislators into silence.

The Washington Post article amassed plenty of circumstantial evidence, but very little actually fit their narrative. They listed laws to protect women’s bathrooms from male intrusion (which they called “bans on transgender people using bathrooms”), laws defining male and female and restricting official documents to those categories (which they claimed “will leave trans people misgendered on official documents”), and laws protecting conscience rights (which they alleged “would allow doctors to refuse to treat trans patients”). These types of laws aren’t new (in fact, they mention North Carolina’s 2016 bathroom bill), debunking their “first children, now adults” narrative.

The single nugget of information that triggered the whole campaign was a Twitter Spaces conversation in which Republican lawmakers in Michigan were brainstorming ways to bring forward a SAFE Act, in consultation with the sponsor of the Ohio SAFE Act, State Rep. Gary Click (R).

Whatever Michigan Republicans decide among themselves, they have very little say over what becomes law at the moment. Democrats currently control both chambers of the Michigan legislature and the governor’s mansion. Even if the legislature did consider and pass a potential SAFE Act, it would need to earn the support of two-thirds of both chambers to override the inevitable veto.

Regardless of these mooting factors, trans activist Erin Reed (who, coincidentally, is engaged to trans-identifying Montana lawmaker Zooey Zephyr (D), who was censured for breaking decorum rules during debate on that state’s SAFE Act-style bill) took comments from that conversation. Reed then used them out of context to give the impression that the Republican “endgame” was banning gender transition procedures for adults, and that protecting children from these procedures was just the first step.

“The basis of trans radical activists is misinformation, period. They’re lying about what they want to do, and they’re lying about what we want to do,” Pastor Click told The Washington Stand. He explained, as a guest on the call, he was trying to help Michigan lawmakers limit their expectations of what was possible without being too critical. “Anyone who listened to the full conversation would understand I was not advocating for that.”

“I’ve always consistently said that adults should be freer [than children] to make their own decisions,” Click continued. “Adults have more fully developed brains to make better decisions.” So, while he disagreed with adults obtaining gender transition procedures, he said, he wouldn’t stop them from doing so.

This adult-child distinction is already widely established in American law. “We don’t let them drive. We don’t let them get tattoos. We don’t let them buy a gun,” listed Perkins. “But yet we’re going to allow them to chop off body parts?”

The preexisting consensus that children may not do certain things until they become adults is one reason that state legislatures so quickly adopted the idea. “In a very short period of time, we have nearly half the states that have adopted the SAFE Acts, which prohibit, on minors, experimental drugs and surgery. That shows that it’s a compelling, compelling position,” noted Perkins.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out kids can’t make decisions about what they’re going to wear tomorrow to school, let alone a gender identity,” quipped Bauwens. “That’s why we have to work even harder to protect children first when it comes to these types of procedures, because they’re the most vulnerable.”

USA Today quoted transgender activist Alaina Kupec, who said, “We want to find that movable middle and appeal to their values and not have them see us as the enemy or the woke left. People have tried to portray these issues as partisan, and they’re not.” I don’t know if Kupec noticed the irony. Social conservatives are the ones who have successfully appealed to the values of the “movable middle” and have convincingly argued that protecting children from irreversible, harmful procedures should not be a partisan issue.

By contrast, protecting adults from the harmful effects of gender transition procedures is a harder sell. “Protecting children — Republicans and Democrats get that,” said Click. “But when we start talking about adults, the challenge gets harder, because most people believe adults are capable of making their own decisions.” Thus, purchases of tobacco and alcoholic beverages are age-restricted but not prohibited. “We don’t legislate everything we think is harmful,” Click continued. “At some point, people have to start taking responsibility. Most people believe adulthood is when they should do that.”

“It was hard enough to protect children. That’s a chore by itself,” Click said, recalling the year-long process, replete with hearings, debates, opposition from the medical lobby, media slander, and a veto override attempt. Attempting to ban gender transition procedures for adults is “not a challenge I want to take on,” he concluded.

In the hyperventilating rhetoric of the transgender wars, it’s easy to overlook the distinction between reasonable regulation and an outright ban. “I think there should be safeguards” on all gender transition procedures, said Click. “There should be safety factors, just like any other medical procedure. We should be collecting data, just like any other medical procedure.” He criticized Planned Parenthood’s strategy of approving people for gender transition hormones after a short consultation. “Three hours of review is not sufficient” to ensure the patient’s safety, he said. That’s quite different than an all-out ban.

“What kind of ‘health care’ is that, when you go to a clinic and within a half hour or an hour, you get a prescription for something that is going to utterly transform your body and brain chemistry?” asked Bauwens. “That is not how you do health care. You [should] give proper assessments. You [should] look at underlying conditions.”

Bauwens recalled reading a recent report from a transgender activist organization, the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH), in which a pro-trans surgeon said, “There’s these gender clinics popping up all over the place, and … some of these surgeons aren’t trained well. … But some care is better than no care.” Actually, a poorly trained surgeon could be more dangerous than no surgeon at all. Such a cavalier attitude toward patient safety demonstrates the need for the commonsense regulations Click would support.

In lieu of any actual evidence that Republican lawmakers are imminently planning to ban all gender transition procedures, about all these major news organizations could dig up to support their narrative was that the transgender activists who fed it to them seem to believe it. “For years, transgender people have warned of radical anti-LGBTQ+ forces’ true aim: to abuse governmental power to take away our freedoms and drive trans people out of public society,” insisted Human Rights Campaign president Kelley Robinson in USA Today. “They want to humiliate, harass, and use policy to eliminate transgender people from public life.” (Wow, talk about an effort to intimidate legislators!)

All this really proves is that transgender activists project their own intentions onto their opponents. They are the ones continually pushing the envelope. They are the ones demanding society-wide affirmation of their lifestyle. They are the ones demanding that the laws of nature be rewritten according to their whims. They are the ones threatening and intimidating their opponents for trying to have a debate. The trans lobby and their media allies pretend to discover a recent explosion in “anti-trans” legislation driven by a cabal of opportunistic haters, but in every battle social conservatives are merely fighting to defend a position that would have been considered unquestionable 10 years earlier.

“We’re all about protecting people, loving people well, promoting practices that are going to bring healing and life and wholeness to them and also to communities,” said Bauwens. “So, it’s actually a very loving position that we’re taking, to say, ‘This isn’t the way. Gender dysphoria is but a mere symptom of some other issues that are going on. And if you go down this path, it’s not going to lead to wholeness or happiness.’”

Ironically, the media’s new intimidation campaign implicitly undermines the incendiary rhetoric against SAFE Acts. In pretending that conservatives might attempt to prevent adults from accessing gender transition procedures, the media accidentally demonstrated that laws that only limit access for minors are not extreme but reasonable. As I summarized in a 2023 year-end roundup, conservatives still have a lot of work to do: improve weak SAFE Acts, protect children in the other 27 states from gender transition procedures, and successfully defend these laws in court. The media is worried that social conservatives have chosen reasonable ground to fight upon, and it shows.

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.