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Meta is profiting off ads slandering LGBTQ people as “groomers”

Meta has earned at least $12,700 in revenue from over 130 ads that push the anti-LGBTQ “groomer” slur Media Matters has found

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Camden Carter | WASHINGTON – Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is profiting off of ads that accuse LGBTQ people of sexually “grooming children,” even though the company has confirmed that using the slur against LGBTQ people violates its hate speech policy.

Media Matters has identified at least 134 ads that have run on Meta’s platforms in 2022 and use “groomer” rhetoric. These ads, most of which are from right-wing organizations and politicians, have at least 913,000 impressions and have earned Meta at least $12,700 in revenue.

In July, Meta confirmed to the Daily Dot’s Claire Goforth that content baselessly referring to LGBTQ people as “groomers” violates the company’s hate speech policies.

Right-wing media, political figures, and organizations have pushed the longdebunked myth that LGBTQ people pose a threat to minors and seek to “groom” them to attack teachers and progressive figures more broadly. This rhetoric has coincided with a conservative push to create legislation that strips away the rights of LGBTQ people, especially transgender people. 

Media Matters has previously reported on how Facebook and Instagram — both platforms that are owned by Meta — have facilitated the spread of anti-LGBTQ and “groomer” rhetoric online. Now, we have found that the company is directly profiting from the rhetoric, as there are over 100 ads that earned Meta at least $12,700. 

Right-wing organizations have run ads on Meta accusing LGBTQ people of “grooming children”

Right-wing organizations have run ads on Meta’s platforms to push an anti-LGBTQ and anti-teacher agenda. Some of these include:

  • The conservative youth organization Turning Point USA earned at least 45,000 impressions (the number of times the ad appeared on users’ screens) on 1 ad claiming that “Big Tech has decided to take their stand against the ones pushing back on those that are grooming children.” 
A screenshot of an ad from TPUSA
  • The conservative Christian groups Truth & Liberty Coalition and Illinois Family Institute ran ads either accusing LGBTQ people of “grooming” kids or linking to articles that made such accusations. The linked articles attacked queer and trans teachers who had been targeted by the influential anti-LGBTQ propaganda account Libs of TikTok.
A screenshot of an ad from Truth & Liberty Coalition
A screenshot of an ad from the Truth & Liberty Coalition
A screenshot of an ad from the Illinois Family Institute
  • Anti-LGBTQ organization American Principles Project ran 22 ads thanking Florida Republican Gov. Ron Desantis for his work to ensure that “kids in Florida will no longer face grooming by sick, perverted teachers that want to teach gross topics like abortion, BDSM and masturbation to TODDLERS.”
A screenshot of an ad from the American Principles Project

Right-wing politicians have also run ads to stoke fear that “sexual groomers are coming for our children”

Several right-wing politicians have suggested that any mention of sexual orientation or gender identity around a child equates to an attempt at perverse grooming. Some of these figures include: 

  • Sandy Smith, a Republican candidate running in North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, has spent at least $4,900 on 8 ads that have earned at least 213,000 impressions total, the most out of all of the advertisers identified by Media Matters. These ads features videos in which Smith falsely claims that “sexual groomers … are coming for our children” and that the 2020 election was stolen. 

  • Jake Hoffman is a Republican candidate for state house in Florida whose 1 ad includes a video featuring David Leatherwood, who has promoted the Gays Against Groomers coalition and is an employee of conservative media group Arsenal Media. In the ad, Leatherwood portrays a kindergarten teacher dressed in a Pride-themed Mickey Mouse shirt — a nod to the right-wing attacks on Disney — as he approaches a mother and her 5-year-old daughter, asking, “Have you begun educating your daughter in the joys of the rainbow?”
  • Joe Kent, Republican congressional candidate in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, has 6 ads featuring the same video in which he claims that Planned Parenthood is “driving the comprehensive sex ed, which is basically the groomer transgender agenda.” 

Other ads from candidates that promote the “groomer” slur include 5 from Shiry Sapir, who is running for superintendent of public instruction in Arizona; 1 from Paola Tulliani Zen, a candidate for governor in Arizona; 8 from Carolina Amesty, a candidate for state representative in Florida; 1 from Dean Clouse, a Republican running for Congress in Tennessee; and 1 from Eric Bleicken and Vickie Shane, two candidates running for school board positions in Maine. 

A screenshot of an ad from Dean Clouse
A screenshot of an ad from Eric Bleicken and Vickie Shane

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Camden Carter is a researcher at Media Matters.

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The preceding article was first published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.

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Research/Study

Over 90,000 satisfied responses in trans survey

Narratives of trans regret have been prevalent in anti-trans media. A recent survey of trans people shows most are satisfied with transition

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Los Angeles Blade file graphic

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – The early results of the 2022 U.S. Transgender Survey are in, and they are stunning: For transgender individuals who have transitioned and are living as another gender, only 3% report lower satisfaction rates, with 79% stating they are “a lot more satisfied” after transitioning.

That number is even higher for transgender people receiving gender-affirming care – 98% of transgender individuals taking hormones are more satisfied with their lives. These numbers challenge prevailing narratives in anti-trans media that transgender people experience significant degrees of regret or resentment towards their transition, including those published in The New York Times last weekend.

The survey managed to get responses from over 90,000 transgender people – more than 3 times the responses of the 2015 survey. This number represents a significant fraction of the estimated 1.6 million transgender people in the United States, and immediately becomes the largest dataset on transgender people in history. The vast majority of these transgender people report increased satisfaction, despite an increasing number of anti-trans laws passed in recent years.

These figures contradict recent media narratives, such as those published by Pamela Paul in The New York Times, suggesting that transgender individuals regret transitioning and that transition does not enhance the lives of trans people. For instance, Paul references a detransitioner under the subhead, “The Process of Transition Didn’t Make Me Feel Better.” While it is undisputed that transition does not improve outcomes for a small number of individuals, the release of this survey following The New York Times story highlights the skewed coverage, showcasing 4,500 words of regret without so much as mentioning the words “joy” or “satisfaction” experienced by most transgender individuals.

It should be clear, following the release of this data, that detransition and regret is rare and do not represent the normal transgender experience. Even the largest of the studies by Lisa Littman, Pamela Paul’s favorite “rapid onset gender dysphoria” and detransition researcher, only could recruit 100 responses from detransitioners after medical transition, excluding a slightly larger 239-response study that also included desistance and non-medical transition. This is despite a similar sample collection method, utilizing convenience sampling in common detransition forums. If detransitioners are so common, why do they seem to be so incredibly hard to find? If regret is the prevailing narrative, why has there never been a study showing high levels of regret among transgender people?

This year, over 370 bills have targeted transgender individuals in the United States, and many of the debates surrounding these bills focus on the fear of transgender regret. Proponents of these bills use this rationale to justify banning care and show no sign of halting their efforts. In released audio of Republican legislators in Ohio and Michigan, they state that the “endgame” of this legislation is to “ban this care for everyone.” 

Related

Anti-trans documentaries, regularly published by both right-wing media outlets and mainstream journalists, often highlight trans regret. These documentaries invariably feature the same dozen detransitioners to justify these bans. The consequences of such bans on care would be severe, directly resulting in a decline in life satisfaction for the transgender individuals responding to this survey.

The release of this survey’s early results should be a clear signal that fact checkers need to interrogate claims of high regret that are not justified through the sources anti-trans journalists and columnists often cite. Publishing stories that center on transgender regret and portraying them as a common narrative distorts the reality around gender affirming care that has been found by over 50 studies and every major medical organization: that gender affirming care improves saves lives for transgender people.

Despite this, anti-trans columnists cannot seem to stop covering the stories of the 100 found in Littman’s studies while discrediting or ignoring the stories of the other 90,000.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Research/Study

James O’Keefe is using Grindr to find targets for undercover videos

O’Keefe is using dating apps to find targets for undercover videos and recruiting followers to sell it as “journalism”

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Graphic by Melissa Joskow for Media Matters

By Audrey McCabe | WASHINGTON – James O’Keefe, the ousted founder of Project Veritas who is now trying to build up O’Keefe Media Group as a new outlet for his right-wing sting operations, has been targeting Democratic officials and high-level corporate employees through dating apps, luring them to meet up, and secretly recording them speaking about their jobs.

O’Keefe is also trying to recruit followers to employ the same tactics, promoting a $20 webinar and claiming that he will pay $5,000 for usable footage from fake dates with targets.

  • O’Keefe is building a new media company to release undercover footage obtained from fake dates, including targets lured on dating apps:
    • After being ousted from Project Veritas last year, O’Keefe is trying to build up O’Keefe Media Group through sting operations targeting political opponents and videotaping them on fake dates. O’Keefe has released videos of at least four sting operations that were based on footage obtained under the cover of dates. [NPR, 2/21/23; Twitter/X, 1/25/23; YouTube, 6/22/231/24/241/31/24]
    • O’Keefe has introduced a “D.C. Swamp Exposed” series, releasing two videos on January 24 and 31 that purport to expose political corruption. Both videos — the first with a Capitol Hill intern and the second with a White House cybersecurity official — were captured on fake dates, at least one of which was set up using Tinder. [YouTube, 1/24/241/31/24]
    • O’Keefe claimed, “Tinder has just gotten rid of my profile, ladies and gentlemen. Tinder has shut down James O’Keefe’s dating profile.” He then said, “I guess I’m going to use Grindr from now on.” [Twitter/X, 1/31/24
    • O’Keefe claimed that O’Keefe Media Group plans to release a new investigation every Wednesday. He also said he intends to expand the program by recruiting followers to set up their own stings. [Real America’s Voice, War Room2/1/24; Twitter/X, 10/30/23]
  • O’Keefe has been recruiting followers to pay for his “American Swiper” program, encouraging them to use dating apps for sting operations
    • In addition to his $497 “Citizen Journalism MasterClass,” O’Keefe created an “American Swiper” workshop in November for people to learn how to spot progressives and Democratic government officials on dating apps. The workshop was accompanied by a number of promotional social media posts showcasing two earlier stings that allegedly used this tactic. [O’Keefe Media Group, accessed 2/2/24; Twitter/X, 10/30/23, 10/31/23, 11/29/23]
    • O’Keefe is charging $19.95 for access to the workshop and selling “covert camera” equipment. The description for the event reads, “As the landscape of information gathering evolves, so do the tools of the trade. Swipe right into the heart of investigative reporting with this one-of-a-kind training session, crafted to equip you with the skills to covertly extract information using popular social platforms. Without the constraints of a live event, you can now delve into the art of undercover investigations at your own pace, learning how to leverage dating apps like Tinder and Bumble to unearth compelling stories.” [O’Keefe Media Group, accessed 2/2/24
    • O’Keefe has also stated that he would pay $5,000 for usable footage of dates with targets that end up getting published. He told Patriot.TV host Kristi Leigh, “I’d like to have you as an American Swiper. … We’ll pay you 5,000 bucks to go do one of these stories if we publish it.” [Twitter/X, 1/31/24]
  • O’Keefe has openly admitted to using fake dates for sting operations and said he uses dating apps to find his targets:
    • O’Keefe has promoted the American Swipers program with footage of him confronting a Pfizer employee at the end of a fake date with a member of Project Veritas. The target confirmed that they thought they were on a date, admitting, “I was trying to impress a person on a date by lying.” The video was taken while O’Keefe was still at Project Veritas, but he has since used it to promote his new outlet. [YouTube, 1/26/23; Twitter/X, 10/30/23]
    • O’Keefe seemingly had a woman target a BlackRock recruiter and later used the footage in a promotion for American Swipers, saying “some of our biggest and most impactful, hard-hitting journalism has come from undercover reporters meeting subjects this way.” The target appears to go on multiple dates with the “undercover reporter” before her identity is revealed. [Twitter/X, 6/20/2310/30/23]
    • O’Keefe went on a fake date with a Capitol Hill intern as the first installment of his “D.C. Swamp Exposed” series, and said in a Twitter/X Space, “I’ve never actually done one of these so-called guy-to-guy date meeting recordings, but I did it myself … because I want to inspire you guys to go do it yourselves.” O’Keefe wrote in a post about the date, “Sign up to be an undercover journalist with The American Swiper Program at this link.” [Twitter/X, 1/24/241/24/24]
    • For the second part of his “D.C. Swamp Exposed” video series, O’Keefe admitted to creating a Tinder profile, telling right-wing influencer and “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec: “The most extraordinary thing about the tape with the executive office of the White House guy for the executive office is that I actually used my actual name, James, on Tinder.” He also posted screenshots of the target’s Tinder profile. [Twitter/X, 1/31/241/31/24]
  • Right-wing figures are praising O’Keefe’s deceptive tactics and promoting his videos on social media:
    • Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon celebrated O’Keefe’s fake date with the White House cybersecurity official, saying, “Your investigative techniques are amazing.” He also said, “This is the most important tape, in my mind, that you’ve ever done.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room2/1/24]
    • Infowars’ Alex Jones praised O’Keefe, saying that he “needs to get an Academy Award for best actor.” Jones continued, “He dresses up as a blonde-haired, gay, trendy dude and is able to get the head White House liaison who’s over all the intelligence agencies, and cybersecurity, and the Pentagon, that gives policy advice to the president, to openly brag and say, ‘Biden has dementia, he’s an idiot, he’s our puppet.’” [Twitter/X, 1/31/24]
    • The Babylon Bee’s Ashley St. Clair celebrated O’Keefe’s January 31 video on X, posting, “Pro tip: If you are a gay man who works for the White House + your date just cant hear enough about Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, you are being James O’Keefe’d.” She went on to say, “It always amazes me how willing these suckers are to talk. You work for the WHITE HOUSE Cyber team & are just spilling it all?! A cheap vault too… just dinner and drinks!” [Twitter/X, 1/31/24]
    • Conspiracy theorist Lara Logan also shared the video and posted, “James O’Keefe does it again. Unbelievable.” [Twitter/X, 2/1/24]
    • Right-wing influencers the Hodgetwins shared O’Keefe’s January 31 video and celebrated his sting against a White House official. [Twitter/X, 1/31/24]
  • The Daily Wire’s Brent Scher posted, “The James O’Keefe gay date costume is the funniest thing to happen this year.” [Twitter/X, 1/31/24]

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.

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Research/Study

Unstable housing for LGBTQ+ youth cited most for food insecurity

Half of the LGBTQ+ youth programs surveyed reported that over 20% of the young people did not have enough food to eat in the past week

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Typical streetside homeless encampment in the greater Los Angeles region. (Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

LOS ANGELES – A new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that 85% of LGBTQ+ youth programs surveyed said unstable housing was the main reason LGBTQ+ youth had inadequate access to food.

The programs highlighted other common causes of food insecurity among LGBTQ+ youth, including a lack of access to jobs that pay a livable wage, family food insecurity, a lack of family support, and transportation barriers.

Using data gathered from 73 LGBTQ+ youth programs affiliated with the CenterLink network or identified through a targeted internet search, researchers examined the programs’ experiences and perspectives on addressing food insecurity among LGBTQ+ youth.

Half of the LGBTQ+ youth programs surveyed reported that over 20% of the young people they serve often did not have enough food to eat in the past week. The most successful support strategies aligned with the multi-faceted needs of LGBTQ+ youth. These included providing meals or snacks directly, offering a food pantry, and giving gift cards to grocery stores or restaurants. However, strategies that required time and travel (such as referrals to off-site food pantries) or administrative hurdles (such as SNAP enrollment) were less successful.

“Community-based LGBTQ+ youth programs are feeding youth. With additional support, these organizations could grow their capacity and expand food access for LGBTQ+ youth.” said lead author Kerith J. Conron, Research Director at the Williams Institute. “While initiatives like the National School Lunch and National School Breakfast Program are reliable sources of food for millions of U.S. students, LGBTQ+ youth may not have the same opportunities to participate in them due to stigma and harassment.”

ADDITIONAL FINDINGS

  • The most frequently cited sources of food for LGBTQ+ youth were food pantries or kitchens (92%), chosen family or friends (82%), and school meals (73%).
  • Only 60% of programs identified family of origin as a food source for the youth they serve, just slightly more than the percentage (56%) who identified obtaining food through street economies, such as sex work, the drug trade, and other nontraditional exchanges.
  • Among the programs that reported providing food directly to LGBTQ+ youth, less than half (42%) offered access to food daily, and over one-third offered food less than once a week or only on a case-by-case basis.
  • When LGBTQ+ youth programs were asked about broader changes for improving youth access to food, the majority prioritized access to transitional housing (77%), affordable housing (58%), and housing vouchers for youth ages 18 to 25 (55%).
  • Programs also recommended the following broader changes:
    • Increasing the minimum wage (51%)
    • Changing SNAP eligibility criteria (43%)
    • Free or discounted transit passes (41%)
    • Changing identity document laws (30%)

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Research/Study

New CDC report finds transwomen at higher risk for HIV

The demographics of HIV & AIDS have been disproportionally high, especially among Black and Latina trans women

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An exterior view of the “Tom Harkin Global Comms Center” located on the CDC's Edward R. Roybal Campus in Atlanta. (Photo Credit: CDC/GSA)

ATLANTA, Ga. – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new study report this week that revealed that restricted by employment and housing discrimination and lack of access to needed gender-affirming healthcare for transgender women increased the risk of contracting HIV. 

Researchers reviewed data from a 2019-2020 survey, the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance Among Transgender Women, which found that the demographics of HIV and AIDS have been disproportionally high, especially among Black and Latina trans women, who had experienced employment and housing discrimination coupled with lack of access to gender-affirming healthcare.

The January 25, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, was based on data studies of over 1,600 trans women in seven major urban locales. Participants from Atlanta, GA; Los Angeles, CA; New Orleans, LA; New York City, NY; Philadelphia, PA; San Francisco, CA; and Seattle, WA. were chosen by referrals from persons and community-based organizations who knew or were part of the local population of transgender women.

The study’s researchers noted: “Employment discrimination occurs at the overlapping nexus of poverty, homelessness, incarceration, health insurance, disability, food insecurity, and survival sex work. These issues are interconnected.”

The study stated that trans women’s inability to access quality healthcare, including gender-affirming treatment or access to PrEP, and can expose them to potential incarceration as many turn to “survival sex work” and violence, which increases the risk of contracting HIV. 

The study’s author’s pointed out: “When economically marginalized transgender women are refused employment, this refusal cyclically contributes to economic hardships. This analysis…demonstrates the importance of transgender women working and living with dignity and without fear of unfair treatment.”

 

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Research/Study

41,000 transgender immigrants live in California

Half (50%) of transgender immigrants are ages 50 and up, compared to 14% of U.S.-born transgender people the study found

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TransLatina Coalition President Bamby Salcedo speaking at a rally in front of LA City Hall in Oct. 2023. (Photo Credit: TransLatin@ Coalition)

LOS ANGELES – A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that there are 174,200 transgender immigrants in the United States and 41,000 transgender immigrants in California, comprising over one-quarter (27%) of the state’s adult transgender population.

Most (83%) of California’s transgender immigrants have lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years. They are more likely than U.S.-born transgender people to be older, people of color, married, and have children.

Using data from the California Health Interview Survey, researchers examined the demographic, socioeconomic, and health characteristics of transgender adult immigrants in California. Results show that approximately one-quarter of transgender immigrants live in poverty (27%), and two-thirds (68%) rent rather than own their homes.

While transgender immigrants are similar in many ways to their cisgender counterparts, more than twice as many transgender immigrants reported psychological distress in the last month compared to cisgender immigrants (12% vs. 5%, respectively).

“Organizations serving immigrant communities in California should ensure that services are inclusive of transgender people, and transgender-serving organizations must think about the unique needs of transgender immigrants,” said lead author Elana Redfield, Federal Policy Director at the Williams Institute. “Interventions that address economic insecurity, housing instability, and mental health are particularly needed for the state’s transgender immigrant community.”

KEY FINDINGS


Demographics

  • Half (50%) of transgender immigrants are ages 50 and up, compared to 14% of U.S.-born transgender people.
  • A little over half (53%) of transgender immigrants identify as heterosexual, 25% identify as bisexual, 10% as gay or lesbian, and 13% identify in some other way.
  • Fewer transgender immigrants are married than cisgender immigrants (31% vs. 61%); however, more are married than U.S.-born transgender people (13%).
  • Nearly three-quarters (72%) of transgender immigrants are people of color compared to just over half (52%) of U.S.-born transgender people.
    • Over one-third of transgender immigrants are Latinx (38%), one-third are non-Hispanic Asian (33%), and nearly one-third are white (29%).
  • Most transgender immigrants live in the Greater Bay Area (42%) or Southern California, other than Los Angeles (32%).
    • Transgender immigrants are less likely than cisgender immigrants to live in Los Angeles (13% vs. 33%).

Economic Well-Being and Health

  • Among people living below 200% of the federal poverty level, transgender immigrants are three times more likely to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) than cisgender immigrants (30% vs. 10%).
  • Fewer transgender than cisgender immigrants own their own homes (26% vs. 48%).
  • About one-third (33%) of transgender immigrants report poor or fair health.

“More research on transgender immigrants in California and across the U.S. is needed, including research with large enough samples to access to examine access to identity documents, experiences with immigration officials and detention facilities, as well as violence and discrimination,” said co-author Kerith J. Conron, Research Director at the Williams Institute. “Research that explores differences in health and economic security of transgender immigrants by legal status would also be valuable.”

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Research/Study

Libs of TikTok anti-trans conspiracy theory accuses innocent person

Libs of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik shared a meme on X suggesting that multiple recent school shooters have been transgender

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Ari Drennen | WASHINGTON – On the afternoon of January 4, Libs of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik shared a meme on X suggesting that multiple recent school shooters have been transgender.

Raichik added the claim — spreading rapidly among anti-trans accounts — that the alleged perpetrator of a shooting in an Iowa school that day identified as “genderfluid,” adding, “What’s going on?”

But one of the photos in the meme Raichik shared — supposedly of the shooter in the 2022 Uvalde, Texas, school shooting — was of an innocent woman. 

Far-right 4chan trolls had originally shared photos of an unrelated trans woman, identified by NBC News only as “Sam,” to claim that she had perpetrated the massacre. The actual shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed on the scene by police. 

This is not the first time Libs of TikTok has spread demonstrably false anti-LGBTQ hoaxes. The account previously shared doctored footage to suggest that a drag performer exposed themself inappropriately to minors as well as a debunked hoax about schools providing kitty litter to students identifying as animals. And Media Matters has documented at least 35 instances where the targets of Libs of TikTok posts, including teachers, medical providers, and librarians, later received threats or harassment online. 

When the false Uvalde photo first circulated, Daily Wire personality Candace Owens, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones were among those who shared or referenced the claim.

Jones was previously sued for defamation for inaccurately accusing Massachusetts resident Marcel Fontaine of committing the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In the suit, Fontaine argued that Jones’ publication InfoWars had published a since-deleted article linking Fontaine with the shooting, which led to threats and online ridicule. Although Fontaine has since died, the lawsuit remains ongoing.  

Trans people are no more likely than any other group to commit mass shootings, based on a review of more than 2,830 shootings with four or more victims between 2018 and 2023. The UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute estimates that just 0.6% of Americans over the age of 13 are transgender, and it reports that they are four times more likely to experience violent crimes than their cisgender peers.

More than 30 killings of trans people were documented in the U.S. in the past year. The victims include Meghan Riley Lewis, 57, of Bel Air, Maryland, who reports say was killed outside her home on December 27 by a delivery driver who shouted anti-trans comments at her before fatally shooting her. 

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.

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No “Social Contagion” – Gender transition rates reach equilibrium

Despite claims of “exploding rates of being trans” & “rapid social contagion,” a new Swedish study shows an equilibrium of gender transitions

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Erin Reed | MISSOULA, MT. – In recent years, anti-trans lobbyists and politicians have claimed that there is an “explosion” in transgender identification, claiming that identification as transgender was due to an ongoing “social contagion.”

New York Times article reported on a “sharp rise” in transgender young people in the United States. In Montana, Senator Tom McGillvray stood and argued for a gender affirming care ban, citing the “explosion” in young trans people.

Even in the United States Congress, Dr. Jennifer Bauwens, representing the right-wing Christian Family Research Council, cited a “steep increase” in trans people, blaming the “increase” on social media. Now, a new study in Sweden appears to show gender transition rates appear to have leveled off among all age cohorts.

Rates of gender transition seem to have leveled off. (Kolk, Martin and Tilley, J. Lucas and von Essen, Emma and Moberg, Ylva and Burn, Ian, The Demography of Sweden’s Transgender Population – Patterns, Changes, and Sociodemographics (August 22, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4427508)

Social contagion theory claims that there is a “massive increase” in people identifying as transgender, and that this increase is due to “social contagion,” or people essentially “catching” being transgender from one another.

While the social contagion theory does not have evidence when it comes to transgender identification—for instance, most trans people experience gender dysphoria years before coming out—it is accurate that more transgender individuals are coming out now than in previous decades.

However, this new study suggests that the rates may now be stabilizing. The study, released as a preprint in the Social Science Research Network, looked at over 7,500 legal gender changes and dysphoria diagnoses in Sweden and determined that the rates “peaked in 2018, with no evidence of further increases” and have since stabilized.

This is also reflected in the Youth Risk Behavior Social Survey showing a modest decrease in trans identification after 2018 in the United States. The rates of transgender identification no longer see to be “exploding exponentially,” despite what anti-trans activists claim.

The leveling off is significant because it closely mirrors another major event where another once-discouraged trait became slowly accepted by society: left-handedness. In the early 1900s, the rates of left-handedness hovered between 3-4%. Left-handedness rates then “skyrocketed” to 12% where it has leveled off ever since.

This was, of course, not caused by a “massive social contagion” of left-handedness. Rather, increases in acceptance led to people feeling comfortable using their left hand. In the 1940s, anti-left-handedness researcher Abram Blau decried the “cultural influences” of left-handedness and the “progressive campaigns” of allowing the child “to be free to choose the side for himself.”

In an article released in 1979, Dr. Bernard McKenna said of the growth of left-handedness, “We used to call everybody a deviant who didn’t conform. We just eventually learned better. There was recognition by medical authorities that left-handedness was normal and that tying the hand up in a child often caused stuttering.”

Sound familiar?

You can see the growth in left-handedness here:

Many have hypothesized a similar trend with the prevalence of transgender individuals. In past decades, being identified as transgender was viewed extremely negatively. Young trans individuals often faced conversion therapy or institutionalization, while adults encountered substantial gatekeeping around care.

However, in the last decade, research highlighting the importance of allowing transgender individuals to transition has grown, alongside a significant increase in social acceptance. The apparent “increase” in transgender individuals can likely be largely attributed to the removal of many of these negative barriers. If this trend continues, we can anticipate a peak in gender transition rates as individuals previously barred from care gain access.

These rates should then stabilize, reflecting the actual proportion of transgender individuals in society. This study shows we may be seeing that stabilization now.

There are several key caveats to consider regarding this study. Firstly, it focuses solely on legal gender marker changes and diagnoses of dysphoria. Many transgender individuals do not receive a dysphoria diagnosis, and obtaining legal gender marker changes can be challenging.

Secondly, the study examines Sweden, where the barriers to accessing care differ from those in the United States. Consequently, the stabilization rates in both countries may vary as their populations respond to these different barriers.

Additionally, some people under the transgender umbrella may not pursue medical transition, struggle to obtain a dysphoria diagnosis, choose not to seek a diagnosis, or may not opt for legal gender marker changes. The “rate of transition” could vary among these groups. Finally, the increasing discrimination against transgender individuals likely influences the leveling off; the true prevalence rate might not have been reached yet.

With those caveats, this new study provides an important rebuttal to the idea that transgender identities are “spreading explosively” through “rapid onset gender dysphoria and social contagion.” Instead, transgender people appear to be able to come out more now than ever before, and the growth in transgender people coming out is something celebrate, not fear.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Meta earned $1.6 million from The Daily Wire’s anti-trans movie

The Daily Wire has spent at least $1.6 million on 183 ads promoting Lady Ballers on Facebook and Instagram

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Camden Carter | WASHINGTON – Since November 27, Meta has earned over $1.6 million from ads The Daily Wire has run to promote its first feature-length “comedy,” Lady Ballers, a movie pushing anti-trans rhetoric about women’s sports.

Meta has a record of failing to adequately moderate anti-LGBTQ content and has profited from anti-trans Daily Wire ads in the past, earning over $5 million on such ads from June 2018 to March 2023. 

Lady Ballers was written, produced, and largely headlined by personalities from the right-wing media company The Daily Wire, and it features cameos from former college swimmer turned anti-trans activist Riley Gaines and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Advertising for the film claims that it “mocks the recent and controversial phenomenon of men competing in women’s sports” — a “phenomenon” that the company’s co-founder Ben Shaprio has admitted is not real. 

The fictional movie centers on a has-been men’s basketball coach who convinces his former team to pose as trans women in order to participate in a women’s basketball league, which they then dominate.

While Lady Ballers attempts to mock trans women athletes, it’s been noted that the film ends up promoting misogyny toward cis women as well and is “focused on belittling women in sports and women in general.” 

The film is overtly anti-trans, as shown in moments like one toward the end in which a player attempts to come out as trans to his coach. In response to the revelation, Daily Wire CEO Jeremy Boreing’s character tells him he is not a woman but “a lost man in a lost world with shitty parents and a real shitty coach who’ve all gone along with this lie instead of just hurting your feelings and telling you the truth” before hitting the player in the crotch.

From The Daily Wire’s Lady Ballers, released December 1, 2023:

What’s more, The Daily Wire reportedly used deceptive recruitment tactics to try to trick people into participating in the anti-trans film, as it has also done for past projects like Matt Walsh’s film What Is A Woman?

Meta has earned over $1.6 million since November 27 on ads for anti-trans film Lady Ballers

Since November 27, The Daily Wire has spent over $1.6 million on 183 ads promoting Lady Ballers on Facebook and Instagram, according to a Media Matters analysis of Meta’s ad library. These ads, which have been run from the Daily Wire and DailyWire+ accounts, have garnered at least 55.4 million impressions. 

At least 150 of the 183 ads included clips of the movie, including some of the characters posing as trans women and violently harming cis women and girls while participating in sports.

Ad paid for by The Daily Wire that ran on Meta’s platforms December 1 through 2, 2023:

Ads with these clips appear to be a violation of Meta’s policies against hate speech, which prohibit “mocking people on the basis of their Protected Characteristics” including “gender identity,” and its advertising standards, which ban ads attacking “people on the basis of what we call protected characteristics.” However, the social media company has historically struggled with enforcement of these policies around anti-LGBTQ content.

Lady Ballers is just the latest installment in The Daily Wire’s extreme anti-trans crusade

This film is just the latest in a series of anti-trans projects and rhetoric from The Daily Wire in the last few years. Media Matters previously reported that the outlet spent over $5.7 million on Meta ads amplifying anti-trans content and rhetoric between June 2018 and March 2023.

In March, Daily Wire host Michael Knowles stated at the 2023 Conservative Political Action Conference that “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely — the whole preposterous ideology at every level.” He has also claimed that “transgenderism” is “a fraud,” that “you have no right to fraud,” and that trans people just “need to be normal.” 

Others at The Daily Wire also have a history of bigotry against LGBTQ people. Candace Owens has referred to the “trans agenda” as “demonic” and blamed “homosexual men” for pedophilia in the Catholic Church. Matt Walsh has said he would “rather be dead” than have a trans child and has blamed trans murder victims, saying that they engage in “high-risk activities more than average.”

The Daily Wire’s anti-trans crusade has been part of an increase in anti-trans rhetoric from right-wing media and Republican politicians, while right-wing legislators have simultaneously targeted trans rights.

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The preceding article & research study was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.

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Christian LGBTQ people reported more internalized homophobia

Transgender people who were never Christian experienced discrimination less often than transgender people who were raised Christian

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Brandan Robertson is an openly gay minister, and TikTok religious influencer. Robertson serves as the Pastor of Sunnyside Reformed Church in Queens, New York. (Photo Credit: Brandan Robertson)

LOS ANGELES – A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law and Utah State University finds that among LGBTQ people who were raised Christian, those who are older, Black, cisgender men, and/or live in the South are more likely to continue to identify as Christian as adults. 
 
LGBTQ people who were never Christian reported coming out to family and friends at younger ages than those who were raised Christian. More people who stayed Christian had a history of conversion therapy than those who left Christianity or who were never Christian.
 
Using data from the nationally representative Generations and TransPop studies, researchers examined Christian religious identification and de-identification among LGBTQ adults and how it correlates with psychological distress in adulthood.
 
Almost two-thirds of LGBTQ people who were raised Christian no longer identify as Christian. Results show that LGBTQ people who left Christianity were bullied in childhood more frequently than people who stayed Christian. People who identified as Christian as adults reported more internalized homophobia/transphobia.  
 
Black LGBTQ people were more likely than White LGBTQ people to be raised Christian and less likely to leave Christianity. Of the 87% of Black LGBTQ people who were raised Christian, over half (54%) stayed Christian. 
 
“Some LGBTQ people, for example, Black LGBTQ people, maintain their connection to Christianity despite minority stressors because the social, cultural, and religious support outweighs the negative experiences,” said co-author Ilan Meyer, Distinguished Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “For other LGBTQ people, the heightened experience of minority stressors within Christian environments may contribute more to stigma than support, leading them to distance themselves from their religious faith and communities, sometimes seeking LGBTQ-affirming religious or spiritual environments.”
 
As adults, people who stayed Christian and those who left Christianity or never were Christian did not differ in health indicators, including psychological distress or social well-being. The groups also had similar degrees of resilience, measured as outness to family and friends, a sense of connectedness to the LGBT community, and levels of social support.
 
However, when LGB and transgender people were assessed separately, LGB people who were never Christian experienced higher psychological distress than LGB people who stayed Christian, suggesting that religiosity may have a protective effect. Transgender people who were never Christian experienced discrimination less often than transgender people who were raised Christian.
 
“The finding that LGBTQ people are likely to have been raised in a religious background, regardless of their current identification, may be particularly helpful to therapists with LGBTQ clients,” said lead author Tyler Lefevor of Utah State University. “Therapists may want to encourage clients to articulate the pieces they find valuable about religion (e.g., believing, bonding, behaving, belonging) and either grieve or strive to maintain these aspects.”

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WSJ publishes false article, claims trans kids are “actually just gay”

The article uses a misleading study from 1989 to prove its point, & then claims gender affirming care is “actually conversion therapy”

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Screenshot/WSJ

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion column by Dr. Roy Eappen, a former Conservative Party of Quebec candidate and member of the anti-trans organization Do No Harm. The column made an audacious claim: most transgender kids are not actually trans, and that being transgender is somehow a form of “conversion therapy” to turn gay kids trans.

The article, which relies on disinformation about old studies and being transgender, peddles the widely debunked claim that “80% of transgender youth will desist from being trans” (the real number? 1-3%), and that allowing transgender people to transition “harms gay people.” It even claims that “homophobia” leads to people pushing transition, despite transgender people experiencing significantly lower social acceptance than gay people. For these reasons, the article must be labeled “false.”

The article is extremely light on facts. It asserts that transgender individuals are “transed,” a term that is not recognized in legitimate discourse. Transgender people are inherently transgender; they are not forced into their identity. Eappen then suggests that the supposed act of being “transed” stems from homophobia, proposing that transgender individuals are essentially “just gay.”

However, conversations with many transgender individuals often tell a different story. One of the most frequent questions they encounter upon coming out is, “couldn’t you have just been gay?” The societal pressure to conform to this notion is significant, as highlighted by numerous transgender individuals in a /r/asktransgender thread.

To support his claim, the author erroneously states:

Research shows that some 80% of children with “gender dysphoria” eventually come to terms with their sex without surgical or pharmaceutical intervention. Multiple studies have found that most kids who are confused or distressed about their sex end up realizing they’re gay—nearly two-thirds in a 2021 study of boys. This makes sense: Gay kids don’t conform to traditional sex roles. But gender ideology holds that feminine boys and masculine girls may be ‘born in the wrong body.”

However, these claims are not supported by truth. The research the author references likely stems from Zucker’s 1995 data. Ken Zucker’s clinic in Canada faced credible accusations of practicing conversion therapy and was closed in 2015 due to concerns about its methods. The Canadian GIC review, which led to the clinic’s closure, reported that Zucker’s clinic advised parents against allowing children access to toys or clothes associated with the opposite gender and followed parental goals of providing treatments designed to have the child identify as cisgender post-treatment.

Additionally, Zucker has been quoted as endorsing gay conversion therapy, stating, “a homosexual lifestyle in a basically unaccepting culture simply creates unnecessary social difficulties.” Similarly, the 2021 study that he references is likely a study by Devita Singh looking at trans kids in 1989-2001, a time when youth transition and even most adult transition was prohibitively difficult.

Both of these studies also suffer from another fatal flaw, which is why neither is referenced or used by any major medical organization anymore. These studies (both Zucker and Singh) use DSM IV criteria for gender identity diagnoses, not DSM-V, which is more stringent. Previously, criteria to diagnose “gender identity disorder” bafflingly did not require an “insistence that they are the other sex.”

This means that feminine boys and masculine girls with no desire to transition or identify as another gender could be coded as having a “gender identity disorder.” In many ways, Zucker’s research was more about trying to make feminine boys and masculine girls be more masculine and feminine in a time when both gender identity and sexuality were stigmatized.

See this comparison here:

A much more thorough debunking of the 80% desistance myth can be found here in an article dedicated exclusively to the topic.

The article proceeds to make several other erroneous claims about gender-affirming care without providing evidence. One assertion is that transgender people become “sexually dysfunctional for life,” contradicting most research that indicates no change or an improvement in sexual desire following hormone therapy, and significant enhancements in sexual desire and satisfaction after surgery.

The piece also incorrectly states that gender-affirming care is administered to children 8 years old or younger. In reality, no medical interventions are provided to transgender youth of this age group. Rather, non-judgmental social acceptance, expressed through hairstyles, clothing choices, and name changes, constitutes the standard care for young transgender individuals.

Puberty blockers are typically introduced at the onset of puberty. Importantly, if a child under 8 receives a puberty blocker, it is often due to precocious puberty, a treatment also available to cisgender children.

The notion that gay children are being “transed” to “cure” their homosexuality is unfounded. In fact, many transgender individuals identify as both gay and transgender, suggesting that if such an effort existed, it is entirely ineffective. Rather, transgender youth, like all members of the LGBTQ+ community, represent a natural aspect of human diversity.

Publications of this nature in prominent outlets like The Wall Street Journal, especially those backed by anti-trans organizations with billionaire support like Do No Harm, paradoxically inflict real harm by propagating falsehoods aimed at transgender youth.

Therefore, this article should be fact-checked as “false,” and its dissemination of disinformation should be acknowledged by the newspaper.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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