I Went on Fox News and It Was Kind of a Disaster But at Least My Hair Looked Great
My attempt at depolarization only revealed my liberalism
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Political polarization fuels the gender culture war. The fact that there are scripts liberals and conservatives (I don’t know what those words mean anymore) or left- and right-wingers must follow, lest they be booted from their bases, means we can’t admit and discuss the complexities of this issue. Instead, we must try to silence those on our own side who disagree with us.
So when a producer from the Jesse Watters show on Fox News came calling, I saw it, or wanted to see it, as an opportunity to model bipartisanship. But I wondered why they would want me to come on. Had they heard my general talking points—that some kids are helped by these interventions but nobody knows if they have the capacity to consent? That there’s no way to determine who will grow out of their dysphoria and who will prefer to permanently medicalize and be satisfied and healthy in the long-term? I am not following either script, hence my heretic status.
The producer promised me that Watters wanted to have a nuanced conversation. But they had gotten to me because my piece for Common Sense on the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s new Standards of Care had been reprinted in the New York Post, which perhaps tinted their impression of me; the Post caters to a particular political contingent, and Common Sense caters to a variety of contingents. Maybe they thought I wasn’t a liberal anymore.
I asked many friends’ advice about whether or not to go on. Would it deepen the moral stain imposed upon me by way of speaking up? Force me to resign my liberal bonafides? No, they said. Go and spread your message that both sides are missing important points, that gender nonconformity is normal and doesn’t need medicating or fixing, that we need a debate instead of a culture war. Plus, people I admire and who are committed to depolarization, like Batya Ungar-Sargon, go on Fox. Liberals like Kara Dansky have been on. I wouldn’t be alone in crossing this political media divide.
They had scheduled me for last week, but postponed at the last minute. The producer told me that Watters wanted to read my book, which is 97 percent agnostic on pediatric psychological and adolescent medical sex changes (for reasons I explain here), and I assumed they would cancel after that because of my lack of gender medicine condemnation. They never confirmed but I checked with them again Monday and hoped they would say they didn’t want me. I was nervous about live TV and about appearing to endorse Fox, which, my liberal media tells me, spreads lies and hate (but I don’t watch it so I don’t actually know). I was happy that I had agreed to do it, but didn’t actually want to. (Is this a lesson about listening to my instincts? I don’t know! I can’t hear my instincts about my instincts.)
Yes, they said, you’re scheduled for tomorrow. So I went on, full of ambivalence. Watters’ intro included Planned Parenthood’s animated video marketing puberty blockers to children; the video of a Vanderbilt University doctor explaining how lucrative gender surgeries are; and a video of a doctor saying a young male whose puberty had been paused was sterile, so why bother waiting until he was 18 to remove his non-functional gonads?
Watters turned to me and asked something like, Why is this happening? And what came out of my mouth was an answer that I don’t think is incorrect, but is just a tiny, tiny piece of how we got the point where Planned Parenthood directly markets drugs to kids that may lead to them never being able to become parents, and doctors say, “Let’s get rid of those gonads while they’re still under age.” I said that adult trans people who wish they had been allowed to transition earlier wanted to spare kids the pain they had gone through.