My goal was relatively modest: I wanted to diversify the mainstream media narrative. I wanted reporters to talk to those who’d been hurt, and not just those who’d been helped, by what is euphemistically called gender-affirming care. I wanted to report those nuanced stories myself in the major outlets I worked for. I wanted families, educators, and clinicians to have all the information so that, together, they could make the best possible decisions for their kids. And most of all, I wanted people to understand that childhood or adolescent gender nonconformity isn’t predictive of any one outcome, and that gender roles affect all children, and that we can work together to de-emphasize gender in children’s material and psychic worlds.
I decided that I was willing to risk certain things—my reputation, my career—to move the needle on this subject. But I had no idea how many doors would slam shut in my face—doors I’d spent years wedging open. I had no idea how few people would believe me—not just editors, but friends and family. I had no idea how isolating it would be.
Like many people alienated by the narrow reporting in liberal media, I came here, to Substack, to share information and to ease my conscience, because I felt the way I’d been reporting for both major media outlets and in my own book rendered me a colluder in some respects. I was part of the problem.
I’m very glad to have reached 4,000 subscribers a little less than 18 months later. If you upgrade to paid here (which I hope you will!) you’ll get 20% off and help me figure out how to make a living without those outlets that once helped me pay the rent—though I hope they allow me to work for them again someday, too.
I’m even more glad to see some mainstream outlets finally doing the right thing and reporting this story with the complexity it deserves. The last Reuter’s piece on detransition was very strong, and it marks an auspicious end of the year, after several other pieces in recent weeks.
But there’s still so far to go, especially at The New York Times, which is arguably the most important media outlet we have, and which communicates to other outlets what’s acceptable to say—Reuters’ bravery, aside. They’ve published pieces in the opinion section lately that contribute to polarization around and misunderstandings of this issue, including a piece asserting that Louisa May Alcott, patron saint of tomboys everywhere, was really a transgender man, and another piece, conflating the horrifying ways that Proud Boys have been terrorizing people at Pride events and Drag Queen Story Hours with objecting to gender indoctrination in school.
I for one don’t think it’s important to have a child read to by a drag queen, and wouldn’t want to devote resources to defending the practice itself, but if other parents are into it, I wouldn’t want to stop them. However, that’s very different that teaching young children in school that boy and girl are social, not biological categories—something I do think we need to be able to discuss and debate. (I recommend this piece about Drag Queen Story Hour by Robert Jensen, on Julie Bindel’s Substack.)
What I didn’t know was that, by speaking up, by attempting to discuss and debate this issue, I’d eventually find myself in good company. I didn’t know that heretics make wonderful company. That the isolation is temporary. That truth hurts. That it would be challenging to stay wading in the nuance pool and not fall prey to the kind of didactic rhetoric that repels me from both the right and the left. That no matter what stance I took, someone would be pissed. That it would become painful at times to commune with old friends and beloved family, because we simply do not share a common reality—and when it wasn’t painful, it was sometimes just not that fun. That at this advanced age, I’d have to summon more strength and authority than I ever had before. And that, in doing so, I would have one of the most rewarding years of my life.
I feel bad saying that, because I know that parents of kids with gender issues, and those kids themselves, are in a world of pain, no matter what version of gender beliefs they subscribe to. What has for me been an amazing year has come partly through bearing witness to that pain, and I know that’s unfair, though it has been a profound experience to do so. I want to thank the hundreds of people who’ve shared their stories with me, who’ve let me into their worlds. I am doing all I can to share these stories with a wider audience, and I have high hopes for 2023 in that regard. I want to thank those who’ve respectfully disagreed with me, who’ve challenged and informed me and help me craft better arguments. I have high hopes for 2023 in that regard, too. I hope it’s the year of both peace and truth, if it’s at all possible for those things to co-exist.
Wishing my readers a very happy new year.
Thank you so much for all your work. You have been a role model for nuanced thinking and reporting.
Thank you, Lisa, for your courage, decency and good writing skills. We really need your voice, as well as the voices of many others writing on Substack about a range of other issues that “mainstream media” is censoring.
Last week I was shocked to have my comment in the Wall Street Journal deleted for cause. It was a mild, side comment, but I made the mistake of using the word “trans” and the was enough for it to be censored. In the WSJ. Unbelievable.
Keep up the good work.