Every day, anti-trans rhetoric is spreading and becoming more virulent. Conservative forces in statehouses across America are pushing bills that would strip trans people of rights, including access to vital medical care. In some places, these laws have already passed. This is all part of a concerted, coordinated effort, as Madison Pauly’s reporting shows. Pauly gained access to a trove of emails exchanged by a group of anti-trans advocates who workshop legislative bills, public messaging, and other aspects of their crusade:

They brainstormed responses to the argument that gender-affirming care reduces suicide — an assertion that is backed up by research. Peer-reviewed studies have repeatedly found that trans and nonbinary youth with access to gender-affirming care are significantly less like to seriously consider suicide than those who did not receive such care. A larger analysis, using online survey data from over 11,000 trans and nonbinary youth, found using gender-affirming hormonal therapy was associated with lower rates of both depression and suicidality. Yet one team member called the argument that gender-affirming care reduces suicide “abusive”; another argued it was a way for doctors to coerce parents to consent to gender-affirming care for their child. 

Van Mol, the doctor, suggested Deutsch reply to the suicide prevention argument with a rebuttal published on a defunct anti-trans blog: “Why weren’t the 1950s a total blood bath for suicides if non-affirmation of everything is the fast train to offing one’s self?” Van Mol asked, paraphrasing the blog post. 

Another doctor in the working group, California endocrinologist Michael Laidlaw, had gained attention for his writing against gender-affirming care after parents at a charter school in his region raised complaints that they hadn’t been notified before kindergarteners were read a children’s book, I Am Jazz, about trans teenager Jazz Jennings. Last fall, when the state of Florida called on Laidlaw as an expert witness in a lawsuit over its anti-trans Medicaid policy, a federal judge concluded that he was “far off from the accepted view” on how to treat gender dysphoria, in part because Laidlaw had said he would refuse to use patients’ preferred pronouns. In his South Dakota testimony, Laidlaw compared gender-affirming care to Nazi experimentation and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. In emails to Deutsch and the group, he railed against doctors who prescribe puberty blockers — which are used to delay unwanted physical changes in gender-diverse kids and give them more time to explore whether or how to transition — accusing them of “willfully harming” children, even if kids and their parents consent to treatment. “The physician is the criminal in these scenarios and must be prosecuted by the law,” he argued.