Connect with us

News Analysis

Conservatives are now blaming science for low trans regret rates

Medical journal JAMA found that the regret rate for trans chest masculinization, commonly referred to as “top surgery” is extremely low

Published

on

Landon Richie, Texas University student and trans activist (Left) & Noah Finn Adams, a British singer-songwriter, trans activist & YouTuber have both had documented successful gender affirming top surgery and serve as social media role models for younger trans-males.

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – A study published last Wednesday in the prestigious medical journal JAMA Surgery found that the regret rate for transgender chest masculinization, commonly referred to as “top surgery,” is extremely low.

Almost none of the participants expressed regret following their procedures. The research is in line with many other studies which indicate low regret rates for transgender individuals — rates notably lower than many other prevalent medical procedures. This contradicts the accounts of political detransitioners who have testified in U.S. hearings, claiming that gender-affirming care leads to “regret and irreversible damage.”

In response, conservative anti-trans influencers and thought leaders erupted at the findings, offering wild and incredulous explanations, and some even challenged the validity of scientific medical journals themselves.

The study itself is titled, “Long-Term Regret and Satisfaction With Decision Following Gender-Affirming Mastectomy,” and sought to study the rate of regret and satisfaction after 2 years or more following gender affirming top surgery. The study’s results were stunning – in 139 surgery patients, the median regret score was 0/100 and the median satisfaction score was 5/5 with similar means as well. In other words… regret was virtually nonexistent in the study among post-op transgender people.

In fact, the regret was so low that many statistical techniques would not even work due to the uniformity of the numbers:

In this cross-sectional survey study of participants who underwent gender-affirming mastectomy 2.0 to 23.6 years ago, respondents had a high level of satisfaction with their decision and low rates of decisional regret. The median Satisfaction With Decision score was 5 on a 5-point scale, and the median decisional regret score was 0 on a 100-point scale. This extremely low level of regret and dissatisfaction and lack of variance in scores impeded the ability to determine meaningful associations among these results, clinical outcomes, and demographic information.

The numbers are in line with many other studies on satisfaction among transgender people. Detransition rates, for instance, have been pegged at somewhere between 1-3%, with transgender youth seeing very low detransition rates. Surgery regret is in line with at least 27 other studies that show a pooled regret rate of around 1% – compare this to regret rates from things like knee surgery, which can be as high as 30%. Gender affirming care appears to be extremely well tolerated with very low instances of regret when compared to other medically necessary care.

Unsurprisingly, the study provoked a significant reaction from conservative circles. Nearly every conservative figure associated with endorsing anti-trans legislation throughout the U.S. offered their perspective on the research. Leor Sapir of the Manhattan Institute, known for advocating against gender-affirming care, seemed to suggest that individuals discontented with their surgeries might not participate in surveys inquiring about potential regrets.

Chloe Cole, a political detransitioner, appeared to hint at a similar stance. On Twitter, these reactions were met with widespread jest, with many drawing humorous parallels to how these people might treat Yelp reviews and customer service feedback:

A variety of tweets mocking conservative responses to study showing low transition regret rates.

When initial arguments fell short, these figures began to scrutinize the scientific process itself. SEGM, a known anti-trans group, issued a non-peer-reviewed “response” arguing that esteemed medical journals serve as “platforms for propagating politically-driven research.” Leor Sapir criticized the peer-review system in gender medicine studies, labeling it as “a broken chain of trust.”

Perhaps most amusingly, Matt Walsh circulated a video asserting that scientific research holds little value, suggesting the low regret rates in the study are because “transgender people are just not admitting their regret” and are “lying to themselves.”

Leor Sapir calling scientific medical journals a “broken chain of trust”

The intense conservative backlash, to the point of disputing reputable scientific journals, likely stems from the fact that reduced regret rates weaken a central narrative these figures have championed in legal and legislative spaces.

Over the past three years, anti-trans entities have showcased political detransitioners, reminiscent of the ex-gay campaigns from the 1990s and 2000s, to argue that regrets over gender transition and detransition are widespread. Some have even asserted detransition rates of up to 80%, a claim that has been broadly debunked.

Yet, research consistently struggles to find substantial evidence supporting this narrative. The rarity of detransition and regret is underscored by Florida’s inability to enlist a single resident to bear witness against a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on gender-affirming care.

As we progress, courts will continue scrutinize evidence surrounding gender-affirming care in lawsuits aimed at repealing oppressive transgender care bans. Time and again, Republicans have failed in these legal battles, largely due to the absence of robust medical expertise and scientifically credible arguments.

A case in point is Arkansas, where a full review of the facts by a Judge underscored the overwhelming scientific support for gender-affirming care. Should anti-trans groups and Republicans defending these statutes choose to dismiss respected scientific journals outright, their chances of prevailing in court will only diminish further.

****************************************************************************

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/

******************************************************************************************

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

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Research/Study

The Daily Wire: New vitamins will boost sperm & fight “wokeness”

Marketing for The Daily Wire’s venture tries to cash in on fear of trans people & drag queens promoting an alternative to “woke” companies

Published

on

Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Mia Gingerich | WASHINGTON – The Daily Wire announced the launch of a new “men’s lifestyle” company named Responsible Man on May 1, promoting its only current product — a men’s dietary supplement that it says is “designed to help … sharpen brain cognition” and that it suggests will help address what the outlet calls the “increasing health risk” of declining “sperm concentration.”

On April 30, The Daily Wire’s parent company Bentkey Ventures registered the assumed name “Daily Wire Ventures.” The next day, on May 1, it debuted Responsible Man, a new company for men’s health products

The Daily Wire is promoting Responsible Man as an alternative to “woke” companies and by fearmongering about some of the outlet’s frequent targets, namely gender-affirming care and drag queens, asking its readers, “Do you want to buy your men’s health products from a company that partners with drag queens and supports radical organizations that push gender procedures on children?” Responsible Man’s website uses similar language, promising its customers that “together, we can reclaim masculinity” and claiming that “Emerson’s Vitamins are a simple step towards improving yourself, creating order, and building the future.”

Ad from Responsible Man’s website:

The Daily Wire’s promotion suggests Responsible Man’s products can help address various health issues, including the purported “increasing health risk” of declining “sperm concentration” worldwide, promising to help men stay healthy “for the survival of the human race.” 

The company’s only product, a men’s multivitamin, is marketed as being “professionally engineered by medical doctors” to “support your immune system, maintain energy production, sharpen brain cognition, and support the health of your heart and muscles.” 

Claims made by The Daily Wire’s new company are not FDA-approved

According to disclaimers on Responsible Man’s website, the claims made to promote the company’s vitamins “have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.” Multivitamins do not need to go through an evaluation process prior to entering the marketplace, and have generally proved ineffective in reducing the risk of heart disease and mental decline. 

In the past, The Daily Wire has targeted certain medications used in gender-affirming care for trans youth for their use off-label without FDA approval, even though this is a common practice in prescribing pediatric medications. The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh has been particularly fervent in wielding this point to target gender-affirming care. 

The Daily Wire is promoting the new company by targeting Men’s Health magazine

The Daily Wire’s previous ventures into consumer goods have been framed in opposition to specific companies it deemed too “woke,” such as Harry’s Razors and Hershey’s Chocolate, for refusing to advertise with The Daily Wire and featuring a trans woman in an advertisement, respectively. (Jeremy’s Razors and Jeremy’s Chocolate, The Daily Wire’s answers to Harry’s and Hershey’s going “woke,” have received poor feedback from customers.)

The Daily Wire’s promotion of Responsible Man singles out for criticism Men’s Health, the largest men’s lifestyle magazine in the United States. Claiming that Men’s Health was “afraid of manhood itself,” The Daily Wire has declared itself “here to give you a better option.” The lone source of outrage cited by the outlet is a Men’s Health article from November 2021 on “LGBTQ+ Language and Media Literacy.” 

******************************************************************************************

Mia Gingerich is a researcher at Media Matters. She has a bachelor’s degree in politics and government from Northern Arizona University and has previously worked in rural organizing and local media.

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

Continue Reading

Research/Study

Half of LGBTQ+ college faculty considered moving to another state

Half of LGBTQ+ college faculty surveyed have considered moving to another state because of anti-DEI laws the Williams Institute found

Published

on

Los Angeles Blade graphic

LOS ANGELES – Anti-diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) laws have negatively impacted the teaching, research, and health of LGBTQ+ college faculty, according to a new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

As a result of anti-DEI laws, about half of the LGBTQ+ faculty surveyed (48%) have explored moving to another state, and 20% have actively taken steps to do so. One-third (36%) have considered leaving academia altogether.

Nine states have passed anti-DEI legislation related to higher education, and many others are considering similar legislation.

Using data gathered from 84 LGBTQ+ faculty, most of whom work at public universities, this study examined how the anti-DEI and anti-LGBTQ+ climate has affected their teaching, lives outside the classroom, emotional and physical health, coping strategies, and desire to move.

Many faculty reported that anti-DEI laws have negatively impacted what they teach, how they interact with students, their research on LGBTQ+-related issues, and how out they are on campus and in their communities. More than one in ten faculty surveyed have faced requests for their DEI-related activities from campus administrators (14%), course enrollment declines (12%), and student threats to report them for violating anti-DEI laws (10%).

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of the LGBTQ+ faculty said the current environment has taken a toll on their mental health, and over one-quarter (27%) said it has affected their physical health.

Some LGBTQ+ faculty, particularly those who were tenured, part of a union, or well-respected on campus, have responded to anti-DEI policies by becoming more involved in advocacy and activism on (33%) and off campus (26%). Some made positive changes to their teaching, such as adding readings that provide context for LGBTQ+ content and expanding the amount of discussion during class.

“These findings suggest that anti-DEI laws could lead to significantly fewer out LGBTQ+ faculty, less course coverage of LGBTQ+ topics, and a lack of academic research on LGBTQ+ issues,” said study author Abbie E. Goldberg, Affiliated Scholar at the Williams Institute and Professor of Psychology at Clark University. “This could create a generation of students with less exposure to LGBTQ+ issues and faculty mentorship and support.”

ADDITIONAL FINDINGS:

  • About 30% of participants said that their college/university communities were conservative or very conservative on LGBTQ+ issues.6% said that they had experienced harassment or been bothered by supervisors or colleagues due to their LGBTQ+ status, political affiliation, or perceived “wokeness” in the last six months.20% said that they were scared of this type of harassment.
  • Nearly 30% of participants said that their home communities were conservative or very conservative on LGBTQ+ issues.5% said that they had experienced harassment or been bothered by neighbors due to their LGBTQ+ status, political affiliation, or perceived “wokeness” in the last six months.37% said that they were scared of this type of harassment.
  • Over 60% of survey participants who were parents reported at least one adverse event or change had impacted their children in the past six months, including bullying and harassment (26%), removal of books from classrooms (18%), and curriculum changes (35%).

Continue Reading

Research/Study

Landmark systematic review of trans surgery

Landmark systematic review concluded regret rate for trans surgeries is “remarkably low,” compared to other surgeries & major life decisions

Published

on

Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – In recent years, anti-transgender activists have used fear of “regret” as justification to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth and restrict it for many adults. Now, a new systematic review published in The American Journal of Surgery has concluded that the rate of regret for transgender surgeries is “remarkably low.”

The review encompasses more than 55 individual studies on regret to support its conclusions and will likely be a powerful tool in challenging transgender bans in the coming weeks.

The study, conducted by experts from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, examines reported regret rates for dozens of surgeries as well as major life decisions and compares them to the regret rates for transgender surgeries.

It finds that “there is lower regret after [gender-affirming surgery], which is less than 1%, than after many other decisions, both surgical and otherwise.” It notes that surgeries such as tubal sterilization, assisted prostatectomy, body contouring, facial rejuvenation, and more all have regret rates more than 10 times as high as gender-affirming surgery.

You can see regret rates for many of the surgeries they examined in the review here:

The review also finds that regret rates for gender-affirming surgeries are lower than those for many life decisions. For instance, the survey found that marriage has a regret rate of 31%, having children has a regret rate of 13%, and at least 72% of sexually active students report regret after engaging in sexual activity at least once. All of these are notably magnitudes higher than gender affirming surgery.

Regret is commonly weaponized against transgender care. The recently released Cass Review, currently being used in an attempt to ban transgender care in England, mentions “regret” 20 times in the document. Pamela Paul’s story in The New York Times features stories of regret heavily and objects to reports of low regret rates. Legislators use the myth of high levels of regret to justify harsh crackdowns on transgender care.

Recently, though, anti-trans activists who have pushed the idea that regret may be high appear to be retreating from their claims. In the WPATH Files, a highly editorialized and error-filled document targeting the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, the authors state that the low levels of regret for transgender people obtaining surgery are actually cause for alarm, and that transgender people are “suspiciously” happy.

The idea that transgender people cannot be trusted to report their own happiness and regret has also been echoed by anti-transgender activists and influencers like Matt Walsh and Jesse Singal.

The review has sharp critiques for those who use claims of “regret” to justify bans on gender affirming care: “Unfortunately, some people seek to limit access to gender-affirming services, most vehemently gender-affirming surgery, and use postoperative regret as reason that care should be denied to all patients. This over-reaching approach erases patient autonomy and does not honor the careful consideration and multidisciplinary approach that goes into making the decision to pursue gender-affirming surgery… [other] operations, while associated with higher rates of post-operative regret, are not as restricted and policed like gender-affirming surgery.”

The review is in line with recent data supporting very low regret rates for transgender people. The 2022 U.S. Transgender Survey, the world’s largest survey of transgender individuals, which surveyed over 90,000 transgender people, found that for those receiving hormone therapy, regret rates are incredibly low: less than 1% report being a little or a lot less satisfied after beginning hormone therapy.

You can view a chart from the 2022 US Transgender Survey showing low rates of regret for hormone therapy here:

There is no evidence that transgender people experience high rates of regret for any transgender care, including transgender surgery. On the contrary, gender-affirming care saves lives.

Cornell review of more than 51 studies found that gender-affirming care significantly improves the well-being of transgender individuals and also concluded that regret is rare. Low rates of regret for transgender people are not “suspicious.” Rather, they are evidence that the care transgender people seek is important, carefully provided, and helps them live more fulfilled lives.

****************************************************************************

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.

******************************************************************************************

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

Continue Reading

Research/Study

90 percent of trans youth live in states restricting their rights

Slightly more than 75% of trans youth live in 40 states passed laws or had pending bills that restrict access to gender-affirming care

Published

on

March for Queer & Trans Youth Autonomy. (Michael Key/Washington Blade)

LOS ANGELES – According to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, 93% of transgender youth aged 13 to 17 in the U.S.—approximately 280,300 youth—live in states that have proposed or passed laws restricting their access to health care, sports, school bathrooms and facilities, or the use of gender-affirming pronouns.  

In some regions, a large percentage of transgender youth live in a state that has already enacted one of these laws. About 85% of transgender youth in the South and 40% of transgender youth in the Midwest live in one of these states.

An estimated 300,100 youth ages 13 to 17 in the U.S. identify as transgender. Nearly half of transgender youth live in 14 states and Washington D.C. that have laws that protect access to gender-affirming care and prohibit conversion therapy.

All transgender youth living in the Northeast reside in a state with either a gender-affirming care “shield” law or a conversion therapy ban, while almost all transgender youth in the West (97%) live in a state with one or both protective laws.

“For the second straight year, hundreds of bills impacting transgender youth were introduced in state legislatures,” said lead author Elana Redfield, Federal Policy Director at the Williams Institute. “The diverging legal landscape has created a deep divide in the rights and protections for transgender youth and their families across the country.”

KEY FINDINGS:

Restrictive Legislation

Bans on gender-affirming care

237,500 transgender youth—slightly more than three-quarters of transgender youth in the U.S.—live in 40 states that have passed laws or had pending bills that restrict access to gender-affirming care.113,900 transgender youth live in 24 states that have enacted gender-affirming care bans.123,600 youth live in 16 additional states that had a gender-affirming care ban pending in the 2024 legislative session.

Bans on sports participation

222,500 transgender youth—nearly three-quarters of transgender youth in the U.S.—live in 41 states that have passed laws or had pending bills that restrict participation in school sports.120,200 transgender youth live in 27 states where access to sports participation is restricted or state policy encourages restriction.102,300 transgender youth live in 14 additional states that had a sports ban pending in the 2024 legislative session.

School bathroom bans

117,000 transgender youth live in 30 states that have passed laws or had pending bills that ban transgender students from using school bathrooms and other facilities that align with their gender identity.38,600 transgender youth live in 13 states that explicitly or implicitly ban bathroom access.78,400 transgender youth live in 17 additional states that had a bathroom ban pending in the 2024 legislative session.

Bans on pronoun use

121,100 transgender youth live in 31 states that have passed laws or had pending bills that restrict or prohibit the use of gender-affirming pronouns.49,100 transgender youth live in 14 states that have restricted or banned pronoun use, particularly in schools or state-run facilities.72,000 transgender youth live in 17 additional states that had a restriction or prohibition pending in the 2024 legislative session.

Gender-affirming care “shield” laws

163,800 transgender youth—over half of transgender youth in the U.S.—live in 18 states and D.C. that have passed gender-affirming care “shield” laws or had pending bills that protect access to care.146,700 transgender youth live in 14 states and D.C. that have passed these protections.17,100 transgender youth live in four additional states that had a “shield” law pending in the 2024 legislative session.

Conversion therapy bans

204,800 transgender youth live in 31 states and D.C. that ban conversion therapy or had pending bills that prohibit the practice for minors.198,000 transgender youth—about two-thirds of transgender youth in the U.S.—live in 27 states and D.C. that ban conversion therapy for minors.6,800 transgender youth live in four additional states that had a ban pending in the 2024 legislative session.
“A growing body of research shows that efforts to support transgender youth are associated with better mental health,” said co-author Kerith Conron, Research Director at the Williams Institute. “Restrictions on medically appropriate care and full participation at school exacerbate the stress experienced by these youth and their families.”

Read the report: (Here)

Continue Reading

Research/Study

Same-sex couples vulnerable to negative effects of climate change

Same-sex couple households disproportionately live in coastal areas, cities & areas with poorer infrastructure and less access to resources

Published

on

FEMA worker surveys flood damage in the Spring of 2024 in the northeastern United States. (Photo Credit: Federal Emergency Management Agency)

LOS ANGELES – A new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that same-sex couples are at greater risk of experiencing the adverse effects of climate change compared to different-sex couples.

LGBTQ people in same-sex couple households disproportionately live in coastal areas and cities and areas with poorer infrastructure and less access to resources, making them more vulnerable to climate hazards.

Using U.S. Census data and climate risk assessment data from NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), researchers conducted a geographic analysis to assess the climate risk impacting same-sex couples. NASA’s risk assessment focuses on changes to meteorological patterns, infrastructure and built environment, and the presence of at-risk populations. FEMA’s assessment focuses on changes in the occurrence of severe weather events, accounting for at-risk populations, the availability of services, and access to resources.

Results show counties with a higher proportion of same-sex couples are, on average, at increased risk from environmental, infrastructure, and social vulnerabilities due to climate change.

“Given the disparate impact of climate change on LGBTQ populations, climate change policies, including disaster preparedness, response, and recovery plans, must address the specific needs and vulnerabilities facing LGBTQ people,” said study co-author Ari Shaw, Senior Fellow and Director of International Programs at the Williams Institute. “Policies should focus on mitigating discriminatory housing and urban development practices, making shelters safe spaces for LGBT people, and ensuring that relief aid reaches displaced LGBTQ individuals and families.”

“Factors underlying the geographic vulnerability are crucial to understanding why same-sex couples are threatened by climate change and whether the findings in our study apply to the broader LGBTQ population,” said study co-author Lindsay Mahowald, Research Data Analyst at the Williams Institute. “More research is needed to examine how disparities in housing, employment, and health care among LGBT people compound the geographic vulnerabilities to climate change.”

Read the report

Continue Reading

Research/Study

Right-wing pastor & podcast host:  LGBTQ movement equals Hitler

Podcast host and Ohio county commissioner nominee has pushed baseless conspiracy theories and compared the LGBTQ movement to Hitler

Published

on

Graphic by Molly Butler for Media Matters

By Payton Armstrong | WASHINGTON – Right-wing pastor and podcast host Drenda Keesee, who is running uncontested in November for a Knox County, Ohio, commissioner seat, has spread unhinged conspiracy theories about climate change, abortion, “satanic hordes” causing people to identify as LGBTQ, and global elites working to bring about a “New World Order.” 

Notably, Keesee has claimed that solar farms are part of a plot to “create” food and energy shortages, said LGBTQ people “sentence themself to hell,” compared the LGBTQ movement to Adolf Hitler, and labeled the feminist movement an “occultic agenda” to “get women to fight to kill their children.” Keesee is also a proponent of the “Seven Mountain Mandate,” a theological approach that calls on Christians to impose fundamentalist values on all aspects of American life.

Keesee is running unopposed in November to be a Knox County commissioner after winning her primary on an anti-solar farm platform. Several local media reports have failed to document Keesee’s extreme rhetoric and views, including one from the local NPR affiliate covering her primary win. 

Below are several examples of Keesee spreading extreme conspiracy theories about LGBTQ people, a “New World Order,” climate change, and abortion.

Keesee has pushed bigotry and conspiracy theories about LGBTQ people, including that “satanic hordes” and “demonic spirits” cause people to be trans

  • Keesee claimed that “satanic hordes” and “demonic spirits” cause children to identify as trans and commit violence. Keesee warned that “children’s spirits” and souls are “at stake,” declaring that “demonic spirits are attacking them and satanic hordes are infiltrating them and even possessing their bodies, which is why we’re seeing more violence among youth, we’re seeing trans violence.” Keesee denied that people can be trans, saying that “you can change their hairstyle, you can do all kinds of surgeries on the outside, but it cannot change what God created a person.” [Drenda On Guard, 10/27/23]

From the October 27, 2023, edition of Drenda On Guard

  • Keesee suggested that LGBTQ people are following “Satan’s agenda” and will be in “eternal hell” and “the lake of fire” if they don’t “repent” before Jesus returns. In a Facebook livestream, Keesee called it “abominations” and “Satan’s plan” “when a man lies with a man” and when people “experiment with bodies and change them from what God designed them to create — be created male and female,” seemingly in reference to gay and transgender people. She emphasized that when they “reject God and receive Satan’s agenda … They actually sentence themself to hell.” [Facebook, 9/7/21]

From a September 7, 2021, Facebook Live video

  • Keesee called the LGBTQ movement “a cult” and gender-affirming care “hideous, occultic, satanic indoctrination.” During an episode of her podcast, Keesee recounted a story of a child questioning their sexual orientation and gender identity, claiming the child had been coached at school. Keesee claimed that one of the World Economic Forum’s “agendas” is to make children “question the most basic things of humanity,” including “whether they’re even male and female,” in order to “bring us into transhumanism.” [Drenda On Guard11/17/23]
  • Keesee compared the LGBTQ movement to Adolf Hitler and said the movement is trying to “turn” children “against God and parents.” Keesee claimed that the LGBTQ movement is pushing its agenda “into early ages because just like Hitler, they know if you’re gonna mold a child, you mold them at the youngest age you can.” Keesee added that “it makes [her] want to put on [her] boxing gloves” because children are being “bombarded constantly with messaging that makes them question whether they’re a male or female.” She claimed that schools pressure kids to identify as LGBTQ through “propaganda” that is “introduced in their classroom every day — the rainbow movement, teachers wearing, you know, rainbow, questioning their gender in everyday conversations in school.” [Drenda On Guard, 11/17/23]

From the November 17, 2023, edition of Drenda On Guard

  • Keesee claimed that Satan “is really the author” of LGBTQ inclusion and declared that support for LGBTQ people is a sign of “the last days.” Keesee lamented “this whole push of LGBTQ on our daughters and our sons,” and declared that it is “Satan who is really the author of this.” Keesee also said that she saw “a church with steps that were painted rainbow,” noting that, “Jesus said in the last days there would be great heresy, great apostasy … Satan is playing hard for the souls of men and women and especially children.” [Drenda On Guard12/15/23]

Keesee has promoted the “New World Order” conspiracy theory about a totalitarian world government, connecting it to LGBTQ inclusion and efforts to curb climate change

  • According to the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, “Proponents of the ‘New World Order’ conspiracy believe a cabal of powerful elite figures wielding great political and economic power is conspiring to implement a totalitarian one-world government.” Conspiracy theorists frequently attribute global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change to the “New World Order.” The conspiracy theory also often incorporates antisemitic narratives.
    • Keesee suggested that solar farms are part of a New World Order plot to “create” energy and food shortages. She claimed that solar farms “don’t produce crops” but “destroy the actual dirt and soil of the richest farmland in America,” declaring that “they do that because they’re trying to create a food shortage, so they can create an energy shortage.” Keesee assured her audience that “the globalists, in the end, will not get their way. A new world is coming, but it’s not going to be their great reset, their fourth industrial revolution, their New World Order. It’s going to be the king setting up his kingdom.” [Drenda On Guard, 3/29/24]

From the March 29, 2024, edition of Drenda On Guard

  • Keesee claimed that abortion, “LGBTQ agendas,” critical race theory, and “the climate emergency” are part of the plot to “bring us into the New World Order” and “destroy” America. In an episode titled “They Want To Enslave Humanity?!” Keesee said that through critical race theory, abortion, and “LGBTQ agendas,” global elites are trying to “destroy” the nation “like Hitler did with Germany.” She claimed that elites are attempting to “bring us into the New World Order” and that “it’s not a conspiracy theory.” Keesee also claimed that there’s an agenda “to make government God” and “remove parents,” to “weaponiz[e] the children then against our country.” [Drenda On Guard, 11/17/23]

From the November 17, 2023, edition of Drenda On Guard

  • Keesee said that the “climate agenda,” support for trans children, and porn addiction are part of an effort to “destroy the Republic of the United States of America in order to bring us into their New World Order, their great reset.” Keesee decried the affirmation of trans children, saying, “Transgendering, transitioning, gender-affirming, whatever — they keep changing the names and make it sound more and more beautiful and wonderful and affirming in love. It’s not love. It’s lust.” She claimed that “the climate agenda,” “the crisis of pornography,” and “transgendering” are “tied to how they bring about the New World Order” to “bring down free nations, and get them to give up their freedom, and their freedom over their children.” [Drenda On Guard, 10/27/23]

From the November 17, 2023, edition of Drenda On Guard

  • Keesee said that the “climate agenda,” support for trans children, and porn addiction are part of an effort to “destroy the Republic of the United States of America in order to bring us into their New World Order, their great reset.” Keesee decried the affirmation of trans children, saying, “Transgendering, transitioning, gender-affirming, whatever — they keep changing the names and make it sound more and more beautiful and wonderful and affirming in love. It’s not love. It’s lust.” She claimed that “the climate agenda,” “the crisis of pornography,” and “transgendering” are “tied to how they bring about the New World Order” to “bring down free nations, and get them to give up their freedom, and their freedom over their children.” [Drenda On Guard, 10/27/23]

Keesee is a proponent of the Christian nationalist “Seven Mountain Mandate”

  • The “Seven Mountain Mandate” is a “quasi-biblical blueprint for theocracy” that asserts that Christians must impose fundamentalist values on American society by conquering the “seven mountains” of cultural influence in U.S. life: government, education, media, religion, family, business, and entertainment. Several Republican public officials have come under scrutiny for their connections to the Seven Mountain Mandate, including House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker.
    • Keesee has made the Seven Mountain Mandate central to her commentary in right-wing media. Right Wing Watch reported that “Keesee’s main focus” is on “promoting Seven Mountains Dominionism,” and highlighted various instances in which Keesee has pushed the Seven Mountain Mandate. In a recent appearance on the Christian nationalist program FlashPoint, for example, Keesee claimed that the “hand of God” was responsible for her victory because Christians must take “our place in the [seven] mountains of influence and leadership” in order to save America. [Right Wing Watch, 3/26/24]
    • Keesee is the author of Fight Like Heaven!, which lays out the Seven Mountain Mandate and “shows you precisely how to fight like heaven, kick hell out, and take back these mountains for the Kingdom of God!,” per the book’s description on Amazon. The Amazon description notes that the book “identifies the Seven Mountains of Influence that the Antichrist spirit has invaded.” [Amazon, accessed 4/5/24]
    • Keesee has also repeatedly promoted the Seven Mountain Mandate on social media and encouraged followers to “take the mountains to influence others for Christ.” For example, last summer, Keesee wrote: “We have a choice: give control to God or the adversary. The seven mountains—government, economy, health, education, media, and family—can be influenced by either force. Let’s unite as a church, conquer each mountain with grace, and reclaim them for God’s Kingdom!” [Twitter/X, 6/26/226/13/23]

Keesee said the feminist movement is a “demonic, occultic agenda” to “get women to fight to kill their children”

  • Keesee said that feminism “shakes its fist in the face of God” and suggested women should come “under the covering of men.” Keesee said that feminism makes women selfish and invoked Satan, saying, “It is a selfishness that says, just like Satan said in Isaiah 9 … ‘I’ll make my throne above God’s throne,’ and it is us enthroning ourselves.” Keesee also expressed agreement with her guest that feminism is a “perversion of God’s word,” and went on to complain that “women don’t know how to be a woman of God that comes under the covering of men.” [Drenda On Guard5/12/23]
  • Keesee called the feminist movement and abortion a “hideous, demonic, occultic agenda” to “get women to fight to kill their children.” Keesee called feminism “demonic to the core” and asserted that “Satan wants to divide the male, the female, emasculate the men, remove them as the protector — the defender, the strong voice, to protect their kids — and get women to want to attack their own God-given right to bear children.” [Drenda On Guard, 11/17/23]

From the November 17, 2023, edition of Drenda On Guard

******************************************************************************************

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

Continue Reading

Research/Study

New GLAAD report details Meta’s failure to stop anti-trans hate

GLAAD reported these posts but Meta either deemed to be not in violation of its policies or did not take action on

Published

on

Entrance to Meta Headquarters Corporate campus in Menlo Park, California. (Los Angeles Blade file photo)

NEW YORK – GLAAD released a damning new report on Wednesday that showcases dozens of examples of extreme and disturbing anti-trans content targeting transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people across all of parent company Meta’s social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram, and Threads.

GLAAD reported these posts but Meta either deemed to be not in violation of its policies or did not take action on. The posts, most by high-follower anti-LGBTQ hate accounts, target trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people with slurs and false dehumanizing tropes (including describing trans people as “satanic,” “sexual predators,” “terrorists,” “mentally ill,” “perverts,” and “trannies”).

Other content features instances of violent speech; targeted harassment of individuals and violent incitement; targeted misgendering; content promoting so-called “conversion therapy;” and intentional coded, genocidal calls for “eradication.” All of these things are expressly prohibited in Meta’s Community Standards

The report is a follow up to a June 2023 LGBTQ Celebrities & Allies open letter facilitated by GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign, which called on social media platforms, including Meta, to address the epidemic of anti-trans hate on its platforms — citing harmful lies about transgender healthcare, malicious anti-LGBTQ “groomer” narratives, and relentless bullying and harassment of trans public figures. The 250+ signatories of the letter, which received extensive national media coverage, included such high-profile names as Elliot Page, Laverne Cox, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shawn Mendes, Janelle Monáe, Gabrielle Union, Judd Apatow, Ariana Grande, and Jonathan Van Ness.

“GLAAD, HRC, and 250+ LGBTQ celebrities and allies urged Meta nine months ago to create and share a plan to address the epidemic of anti-trans hate on their platforms,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “The company’s ongoing failure to enforce its own policies against anti-LGBTQ, and especially anti-trans hate is simply unacceptable. The ongoing inaction and silence is an active choice, showing that Meta is not living up to its company values and most importantly, is not protecting its trans and gender nonconforming users.”

Screenshot of Instagram post that calls trans people “devils” and depicts mob violence against them (March 30, 2023)

Disturbing and Violent Posts Permitted 

Among the disturbing, and often violent, posts are memes depicting mob violence against trans people while referring to them as “devils;” right-wing media pundits saying trans people are “disgusting perverts;” posts selling services claiming to be able to change people’s sexual orientation and gender identity (“conversion therapy”); and targeted harassment of healthcare providers featuring their names and photos with the ominous prompt “What do you think should be done to doctors that perform ‘gender affirming care’ surgeries on minors?” 

Alongside the posts, the report also includes excerpts from the policies they appear to violate (including Meta’s hate speechviolence and incitementbullying and harassment, and suicide and self-injury policies). All posts were reported by GLAAD via Meta’s standard platform reporting systems from June 2023 – March 2024. Meta determined that none are in violation of its policies or did not take action on them. 

The report comes on the heels of the January 2024 Oversight Board ruling in the “Post in Polish Targeting Trans People” case (which involved an anti-trans Facebook post that Meta content moderators repeatedly determined was not in violation of its policies, despite multiple reports from users).

In its ruling, the Oversight Board (the body that makes non-binding but precedent-setting rulings about Meta content moderation cases) cited “Meta’s repeated failure to take the correct enforcement action” on the extreme anti-trans hate post, which clearly violated Meta’s own policies

Meta’s enforcement failures have prompted repeated rebukes and concern from the Oversight Board. As Axios and The Verge have documented, some users find that their reports on harmful content are not reviewed at all. 

GLAAD Reiterates Demands for Action

Calling for urgent action from Meta, the report notes that: “LGBTQ people and other targeted groups experience an increasing number of well-documented real-world harms stemming from these long-term anti-LGBTQ propaganda campaigns, driven by the anti-LGBTQ extremists that Meta allows to flourish on its platforms.

Meta itself acknowledges in its public statements and in its own policies that hate speech ‘creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion, and in some cases may promote offline violence.’ Such acknowledgements of its own culpability make Meta’s negligence and refusal to protect people from such hate (not only trans, nonbinary, and LGBTQ people — but countless other historically marginalized groups) all the more shocking.”

The report concludes by reiterating the demands of the June 2023 LGBTQ Celebrities & Allies open letter: Meta (and other platforms) must urgently create and share plans for addressing: Content that spreads malicious lies and disinformation about healthcare for transgender youth; accounts and postings that perpetuate anti-LGBTQ extremist hate and disinformation (including the anti-LGBTQ “groomer” trope), in violation of platform policies; dehumanizing, hateful attacks on prominent transgender public figures and influencers; and anti-transgender hate speech, including targeted misgendering, deadnaming, and hate-driven tropes.

As highlighted in GLAAD’s 2023 Social Media Safety Index (SMSI) report, Meta is largely failing to mitigate dangerous anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ hate and disinformation, despite such content violating their own policies. The SMSI also recommends to Meta and others that they must better train moderators on the needs of LGBTQ users, and enforce policies around anti-LGBTQ content across all languages, cultural contexts, and regions. The 2024 edition of the SMSI is forthcoming this summer.

Additional Background on the Oversight Board Case:

On March 15, 2024, in response to the Oversight Board ruling, Meta’s Transparency Center issued an update that the company is “assessing feasibility” of ensuring that “flag-based visual depictions of gender identity … are understood as representations of a group defined by the gender identity of its members.” Read GLAAD’s full statement here.

The post was an egregious example of anti-trans hate advocating for transgender people to commit suicide, featuring an image of a striped curtain in the blue, pink, and white colors of the transgender flag with a text overlay in Polish saying: ‘New technology. Curtains that hang themselves.’ The post was repeatedly flagged by users, but Meta’s content moderators allowed the post to remain. The post was only removed after the Oversight Board alerted Meta. The case illuminates systemic failures with the company’s moderation practices — including widespread failure to enforce their own policies, as noted by the Oversight Board and in GLAAD’s September 2023 public comment to the Oversight Board for the adjudication of the case. 

In 2023 GLAAD Social Media Safety Index All Major Social Media Platforms Fail on LGBTQ Safety

The third annual GLAAD Social Media Safety Index (SMSI) & Platform Scorecard was released in June 2023. After reviewing the platforms on 12 LGBTQ-specific indicators, all platforms received low and failing scores:

  • Instagram: 63%
  • Facebook: 61%
  • TikTok: 57%
  • YouTube: 54%
  • Twitter: 33%

Key findings of the 2023 SMSI included:

  • Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric on social media translates to real-world offline harms.
  • Social media platforms are largely failing to mitigate this dangerous hate and disinformation and inadequately enforce their own policies. 
  • There is a lack of true transparency reporting from the platforms.

The 2024 GLAAD Social Media Safety Index is forthcoming in Summer 2024.

Read the full report hereUnsafe: Meta Fails to Moderate Extreme Anti-trans Hate Across Facebook, Instagram, and Threads.

Continue Reading

Research/Study

NY Times: Trans voices in stories about anti-trans legislation left out

The Times continued to exclude perspectives of trans people from its stories about anti-trans legislation after criticism of its coverage

Published

on

Los Angeles Blade graphic

WASHINGTON – One year after The New York Times faced public criticism for its handling of coverage of transgender people and dismissed two separate open letters as merely “protests organized by advocacy groups,” a new study from Media Matters for America and GLAAD found that the newspaper failed to quote a trans person in 66% of its stories about anti-trans legislation from February 15, 2023, through February 15, 2024.

“The paper of record has an obligation to present its readers with the full human toll of the anti-trans legislative assault,” said Ari Drennen, LGBTQ Program Director at Media Matters. “Trans people are more than theoretical curiosities to be debated from afar. Each and every anti-trans bill affects living, breathing people whose voices deserve to be heard and whose stories deserve to be told.” 

18% of Times articles quoted anti-trans misinformation without pushback

In February 2023, The New York Times received two separate open letters: one from a coalition of 150+ organizations and leaders, including GLAAD, and a separate letter signed by hundreds of Times contributors that criticized the outlet’s contributions to a deadly anti-LGBTQ culture war. 

This study reviewed coverage for a full year starting on February 15, 2023, when both letters were separately delivered, until February 15, 2024, The New York Times published at least 65 articles that mentioned U.S. anti-trans legislation in either their headline or lead paragraphs.

“The New York Times did not quote any transgender people in a majority of their articles about anti-trans legislation in the past year,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President & CEO of GLAAD. “One of the first recommendations we make during the hundreds of LGBTQ education briefings we hold with national and local newsrooms is to include LGBTQ voices in LGBTQ stories: interview the people impacted by your coverage and include their perspectives. The New York Times failed that basic reporting lesson 101, and replaced it with a pattern of obfuscating sources’ anti-trans affiliations and allowing their misinformation to go unchecked. Our coalition of more than 150 organizations, community leaders, and notable LGBTQ people and allies remains steadfast in our calls for the Times to improve their coverage of transgender people.”

KEY FINDINGS:

  • Two-thirds – 66% — of the articles did not quote even one trans or gender-nonconforming person. 
    • Only 1 of 19 articles covering anti-trans legislation from July through September quoted a single member of the community.
  • 18% of the articles included anti-trans misinformation in quotes without adequate fact-checking or additional context.
    • One example of this comes from The New York Times’ coverage of a Florida law banning gender-affirming care for minors that repeatedly quoted DeSantis spreading anti-trans misinformation. In one instance, the Times quoted the governor’s false claim that  “gender-affirming care” is a euphemism for “sex-change operations.” Two other articles quoted DeSantis’ claim that offering gender-affirming care to children amounts to “sexualizing” them.
  • 6 of the articles identified obscured the anti-trans background of sources, erasing histories of extremist rhetoric or actions.
    • One example of this comes from an April 12 story about a North Dakota law banning trans girls and women from participating in women’s sports. In the story, The New York Times quoted a member of North Dakota Can, an organization that has called LGBTQ pride “predatory” and has ranted about “child predator apologists” in “Big Education.” Despite the organization’s radical record, The New York Times merely identified it merely as a “conservative advocacy group.” 

With more than 470 bills targeting LGBTQ people having already been introduced by state legislatures around the country in 2024, The New York Times has a responsibility to not feed a moral panic that is being seeded by right-wing media about trans identity and instead should focus on improving its coverage by centering the voices of those being impacted by these harmful bills. 

Media Matters looked at how often the paper quoted openly trans or gender-nonconforming sources, instances in which articles cited anti-trans misinformation or talking points without context or adequate fact-checking, and whether the paper accurately represented the records of anti-trans figures mentioned in its stories.

Continue Reading

Research/Study

Anti-Trans Legislative Risk Assessment Map: March 2024 

Updates come to both the transgender youth and transgender adult maps as we prepare for the 2024 election cycle

Published

on

Movement of anti-trans adult legislation in Idaho has led to an increase in its risk level towards adults. For transgender youth, Wyoming enters the “worst” category, Arizona improves, and a ballot initiative in Washington offers some level, though low, of risk.

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – I have tracked anti-transgender legislation for 5 years @erininthemorn on Twitter and TikTok. Every day, I’ve gotten messages from worried people wondering how they are supposed to assess their risk of staying in their home state.

The messages range from parents of trans youth wondering if their children will be taken from them to trans teachers wondering if their jobs will be safe in coming years. Sometimes people just want to know if there is a safer state they can move to nearby.

I created the legislative risk map specifically to help answer that question. Now more than ever, it is a question that needs answering for so many transgender people facing forced medical detransition, arrests for using the bathroom, bans on the use of our names, pronouns, and identification documents, and many other curtailments of our rights to exist in public life.

In previous iterations of the map, the focus was entirely on the risk to transgender youth. When the map was first developed, bills targeting transgender youth were far more common. Unfortunately over the last year, the transgender youth map has lost all granularity, largely reducing to just two colors: red and blue, a set of states criminalizing trans youth and a set of states protecting them. You can still find this map at the end of the document, and it will be continually updated. The primary map of focus, though, will be the transgender adult map, as bills targeting trans adults have become far more common.

Methodology

The methodology used is primarily qualitative, with a scoring-rubric element for the worst bills. Part of the methodology is my own expert assessment of laws, of which I am well equipped to do. I have read all 550 bills that target trans people in America in 2023 and 500 so far in 2024. I have watched hundreds of hours of hearings on anti-trans legislation and am fully aware of all of the players nationally as well as where they are making their pushes against trans rights. I have followed the vote count and talk to activists on the ground in each state. I am looking at how similar states are moving in their legislative cycles. Lastly, I watch for statements by governors and bill drafts to see if the Republican party in various states seems to be pushing anti-trans legislation heavily – you can see many examples of such legislation in this newsletter.

In terms of actual laws, I keep a rubric of the various types of laws that target transgender people. For transgender youth, the most concerning laws are those that prohibit gender-affirming care and mandate detransition. Additionally, bathroom bans, laws that rigidly define sex as binary, and restrictions on social transition are other key factors that negatively impact a state’s ranking. For transgender adults, the primary legislative concerns include adult gender affirming care bans, bathroom bans, prohibitions on drag specifically aimed at trans people and pride events, restrictions on changing birth certificates and drivers licenses, and laws that end legal recognition for trans people entirely. These factors play a significant role in how I assess and rank a state’s legislative risk.

The Adult Trans Legislative Risk Assessment Map

This updated map delineates the legislative risks concerning laws aimed at transgender adults in the United States. States like Florida have eliminated 80% of all trans adult care, adults can be thrown in jail for using the bathroom of their gender identity, and trans people with correct gender markers on their drivers licenses can be charged with fraud. Multiple states have passed laws ending all legal recognition for trans people. As such, starting this year, adult risk levels for trans people will be tracked on its own map.

Moves in this update: Idaho (Medium Risk → High Risk)

  • Summary of updates: There was only one major move this month for transgender adults: Idaho has moved from a medium risk level to a high risk level after the state passed a ban on state facilities for gender affirming care at any age. The bill has not been signed by Governor Little as of the time of making this map.

Nationwide Risk: Moderate. Although recent spending bills failed to include anti-trans provisions, the 2024 election cycle remains a great danger to transgender people nationwide.

Here are the categories:

  • Do Not Travel (FL): The only state earning a “Do Not Travel” advisory is Florida. Florida has a law that allows for the arrest of transgender people for using bathrooms according to their gender identity and another policy targets transgender people’s drivers licenses. Florida has also put into effect a policy that says trans people “misrepresenting” their gender on their drivers license could be guilty of fraud. Local LGBTQ+ orgs as well as HRC have issued travel advisories for the state. This analysis likewise concurs with such a rating.
  • The Worst States (KS, MT, OK, ND, TN, UT): These states have passed deeply troubling legislation targeting transgender adults in extremely harmful new ways. Kansas and Utah have bathroom bans for transgender adults, while Tennessee briefly enacted a law requiring signage to warn of the presence of transgender individuals in restrooms. Many, including Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, have gone so far as to legislatively erase transgender people, effectively removing any legal rights associated with their gender identities. Other states, such as Kansas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, prohibit any changes to birth certificates, forcing trans people to out themselves when showing their documents. In Kansas, this law could even force individuals who have updated their driver’s licenses and birth certificates to see their gender markers reverted. These states also could start targeting adult gender affirming care – Florida has already done so, banning 80% of such care.
  • High-Risk States (AL, AR, ID, IA, IN, LA, MO, MS, NE, OH, SC, TX, WV): All of these states have passed some anti-trans adult laws, but they haven’t reached the same level of severity as the worst states. Missouri and West Virginia, for example, prohibit gender-affirming care for incarcerated adults as well as transgender youth and have seen new laws proposed this cycle going even further. Nebraska’s governor has issued an executive order ending legal recognition of trans people. Additionally, some of these states, including Alabama and Arkansas, have laws that permit the refusal of medical care to LGBTQ+ individuals on religious grounds. Iowa may soon require trans people to have special markers on their birth certificates identifying them as trans. Although each of these states has laws targeting transgender adults, none have done so to the extent of the worst states.
  • Moderate-Risk States (AK, GA, KY, NC, NH, SD, WY): These states have either passed one or two laws aimed at transgender adults or have enacted multiple laws targeting transgender youth, or are advancing negative laws quickly. For states focusing on trans youth, history shows they are more likely to introduce anti-trans legislation for adults in subsequent years. All of these states are under Republican control, either through supermajorities in the legislature or Republican governorships. Many have enacted “Don’t Say Gay” provisions, which frequently result in the banning of transgender teachers – in Georgia, for instance, a teacher was fired for merely reading a book with a character that could vaguely be interpreted as transgender. Additionally, many have passed religious refusal rights bills. However, most of these states have either not yet ventured into anti-trans adult legislation or have only passed milder forms of such laws.
  • Low-Risk States (AZ, DE, ME, MI, NV, PA, RI, VA, WI): These states have largely refrained from targeting transgender adults, although they haven’t taken extraordinary steps to protect adult transgender rights either. For example, Arizona and Virginia have enacted anti-trans policies affecting youth but, due to state-specific factors, appear unlikely to extend such policies to adults. Conversely, MichiganMaine, and Nevada have enacted fairly robust non-discrimination policies but fall short in ensuring healthcare equity and providing protections for incarcerated transgender individuals. While these states generally offer a safer environment for transgender adults, they stop short of going the extra mile to make their jurisdictions unequivocally safe places to reside.
  • Most Protective States (CA, CO, CT, DC, HI, IL, MA, MD, MN, NJ, NM, NY, OR, VT, WA): These states have gone above and beyond in safeguarding the rights and well-being of transgender individuals, making them highly desirable places to live for those in search of security. States like ColoradoHawaiiMaryland, and Washington have enacted comprehensive health insurance laws that cover facial hair removal and an expanded range of medical procedures. Each of these states offers refugee protections for individuals fleeing more repressive states with anti-trans laws. Care is not only supported but also enjoys legal reinforcement from the state, ensuring accessibility as long as such treatments remain lawful at the national level. These states are the most likely to counteract federal anti-trans regulations if faced with a Republican presidency.Please support my independent reporting and advocacy on transgender legislation by subscribing. You help me keep this going and keep people informed.Subscribed

The Youth Trans Legislative Risk Assessment Map

Very few states now occupy the middle ground in the realm of anti-trans legislation for transgender youth. Those marked in dark red have enacted bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth, with many even mandating medical detransition for these young people. Conversely, states shown in dark blue have implemented refugee protection laws for trans youth seeking to escape the harsh legal environments of more restrictive states.

Moves in this update: Washington (Safe → Low Risk), Arizona (Medium Risk → Low Risk), Wyoming (Medium Risk → “Worst”)

  • Summary of updates: A number of shifts have occurred on the recent iteration of the youth map. In Washington, a ballot initiative was passed by the legislature that could be used to target LGBTQ+ youth with forced outing of trans and LGBTQ+ youth who come out to their counselors. Though it is uncertain how this ballot initiative will actually impact things, with some LGBTQ+ leaders in Washington assuring it will have no major impact, the use of ballot initiatives remains a potential vector for anti-trans laws. Washington State will thus be given a “low risk” classification, a small downgrade to its status. California and Colorado currently have ballot initiatives moving or gathering signatures, although the risk levels for those two states will not increase unless they gather enough signatures to go on the ballot. Arizona, on the other hand, failed to pass a ballot initiative through the legislature, and therefore returns back to low risk. Meanwhile, Wyoming has entered the “worst” category after passing a trans care ban for trans youth.

Nationwide Risk: Moderate. The 2024 election cycle remains a great threat towards transgender youth.

****************************************************************************

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.

******************************************************************************************

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

Continue Reading

News Analysis

A.I., TikTok, big tech, & 2024 elections: Experts break down risks

Spread of misinformation through online platforms increasing as A.I. is now capable of generating “deepfake” audio & video content

Published

on

Chris Bronk and Barb McQuade (Photos courtesy of the subjects, composite image by Christopher Kane/Washington Blade)

WASHINGTON — On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could decide whether government actors can pressure social media companies to remove certain harmful content from their platforms. A ruling is expected to come in June, just a few months ahead of the 2024 elections.

Meanwhile, as America’s relationship with China has become more strained than ever, the U.S. Congress may force a divestiture of TikTok from Chinese parent ByteDance over concerns with how the platform’s use in the U.S. could imperil national security. The bill would ban TikTok’s use in the U.S. if a sale is not completed within six months.

At the same time, the spread of misinformation and disinformation through online platforms, while not a new phenomenon, is abetted by increasingly sophisticated A.I. technologies that are now capable of generating “deepfake” audio and video content. The associated risks to the information ecosystem could influence American elections in ways that were not possible in years past.

In conversations this week with the Washington Blade, two experts outlined the threat landscape with respect to Big Tech, identifying election-related risks that are both preexisting and new. They also shared ideas for regulatory solutions and thoughts about the advantages and disadvantages of various moves that have been undertaken by U.S. lawmakers and other officials.

Chris Bronk is an associate professor with tenure at the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs, having previously directed the university’s graduate cybersecurity program and served on the faculty of the College of Technology. He previously held high-profile positions, including a senior adviser role, at the U.S. Department of State. Bronk’s areas of expertise include internet censorship, online surveillance, border security, public diplomacy, organization information technology, and critical infrastructure protection. 

Barbara (“Barb”) McQuade is a lawyer who served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan from 2010 to 2017, becoming deputy chief of the National Security Unit and prosecuting high-profile cases from public corruption and bank fraud involving elected officials to the theft of trade secrets. She is a professor of practice at the University of Michigan Law School as well as a legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. McQuade’s areas of expertise include criminal law and procedure, national security, data privacy, and civil rights.

Is TikTok more dangerous than American tech platforms?


Some critics of the TikTok bill feel the platform has been unfairly singled out, especially since the major American-owned competitors in online social media or short-form video sharing platforms have themselves faced scrutiny over many of the same issues lawmakers have identified with TikTok, from risks associated with the improper collection and misuse of data to design features that knowingly amplify the spread of harmful content.

LA Blade graphic

The difference, McQuade said, is that when it comes to American tech platforms, the “U.S. government could impose laws that could control their bad behavior” whereas because foreign owned entities largely operate beyond the reach of U.S. regulations, “we have to be extra mindful when a social media platform that has so much power is outside of the control of American government.”

“There are a lot of things we just don’t have visibility into,” she said. “So it could be that [foreign actors are] engaging in influence campaigns by putting certain videos online,” and even though “we don’t know that that’s happening,” McQuade noted “it’s a possibility and we lack recourse.”

“With regard to scraping data, I mean, we know Facebook is doing this, scraping our data and giving it away to researchers or selling it, but we have some recourse if we choose to exercise it,” McQuade said. “If it is the government of China who is doing that, we don’t have visibility into what they’re doing with it.”

She added, “Maybe they’re only using [the data] for helpful purposes, like in the same way Netflix suggests content that we like and we look at it and say, ‘yes, in fact I do’ — or is it being used to build dossiers on [users] so that we can be recruited for and leveraged and extorted to engage in espionage?”

“People make a lot of, essentially, the intelligence and information gathering aspect of TikTok, and I don’t know if it’s a whole lot different than what people do on Facebook,” Bronk said, adding that there is probably “too little” concern about Facebook’s conduct and influence among U.S. lawmakers and government officials.

At the same time, he said, “the issue I have with TikTok is that it’s a social media tool from China, or a social media platform from China, and U.S. social media platforms are banned in China,” which has long enforced prohibitions against the use of products made by companies like Google, YouTube, X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook.

In the U.S., Bronk said, free speech and expression, including criticism of the U.S. government, are protected (so long as the conduct does not involve, say, leading an insurrection by storming the U.S. Capitol Building). By contrast, he said, “when we were doing our censorship research on China, you know, if you complain about pollution in China, on any given day, no big deal; if you do it for two days in a row, maybe not a problem; but on the third day, you’re gonna get censored because you’re complaining too much.”

Likewise, Bronk said, the information ecosystem in the U.S. is shaped, at least to some extent, by a free and independent press, while China’s is not — further complicating the role played by social media and online platforms in the dissemination of news. And the two countries also have very different records with respect to human rights, Bronk added, noting that LGBTQ Americans enjoy many freedoms and protections that are not available to their Chinese counterparts.

“We’re pretty tolerant and China is not,” Bronk said. “So the idea that China exports this social media platform that it attempts to control very vigorously at home, I think that’s the issue I have, that it’s not a level playing field. And as long as it’s not a level playing field, the question is why should we play at all?”

Part of the problem, Bronk said, stems from the worsening geopolitical relationship between the two countries. “We in diplomacy circles hear this term, ‘no guardrails; no bottom’ — so we don’t know how much worse it can get, and we don’t really have the guideposts that we would have on a relationship like that that we had during the Cold War, through summits and things like that.”

The tussle now unfolding over TikTok, he said, “is part of a much larger geopolitical contest between the West and China. And not even just the West and China, now, but with China and its friends, which means North Korea, which is the only country that has a pact with China, and Russia and Iran. And so the question really becomes, how much are we going to delink the United States from China?”

TikTok’s algorithmic recommendation engine is owned and controlled by ByteDance, and the company would have to obtain permission from the Chinese government to license or sell the technology, which is likely to complicate negotiations over a divestiture.

Should TikTok’s ownership change hands, Bronk said the company would still face an uncertain future — partly because the sale would cause a “forking of the algorithm,” with the underlying software being developed simultaneously by ByteDance in China and by a different firm in the U.S., and also partly because TikTok’s success relies on the scale of its user base and volume of content hosted on the platform.

“Even if the ownership changes, platforms die,” he said. “Facebook is decidedly uncool for a generation of Americans now. X’s usership has declined precipitously since its purchase. MySpace is dead and buried. So what’s to say that TikTok isn’t bought by American buyers who spend billions of dollars and then the train wrecks?”

Election interference, misinformation, disinformation, and A.I.


“This idea that that they have all the interest in the world to try to manipulate — the Chinese and the Russians — to manipulate electoral behavior in the United States to get the candidate they want, I find it very frightening,” Bronk said. “And I think we’re very poorly prepared to monitor the situation.”

However, 2024 would not be the first time in which individuals and groups overseas, acting in the interest of foreign governments hostile to the U.S., have sought to influence American elections through social media and other channels.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election, which was released in 2019, “identified a lot of Russian influence actors,” McQuade said, pointing to the propaganda-peddling Internet Research Agency, a “troll farm” financed by an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin with ties to Russian intelligence that supported former President (then-candidate) Donald Trump’s bid for the White House.

She noted that the firm was known to publish fake posts on social media and build large online followings for fake accounts like “Blacktivist,” which posed “as a very reasonable, interesting, Black activist” and “then when it came close to the election said things like, ‘we should not vote for Hillary Clinton because she’s taken our vote for granted. Let’s send a message that we should not be ignored by not showing up at the polls and voting for her.'”

McQuade was quick to point out that these tactics to subvert American elections have been used by American actors, too. She noted, for example, a campaign in which U.S.-based political operatives sought to suppress the vote in Black communities during the 2016 presidential election by telling Black voters voters that they could cast their ballots via SMS text messages.

Drawing a distinction between the various different methods by which American elections might be manipulated, McQuade noted that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has declared election-related “hardware-software processes ‘critical infrastructure'” and is therefore “looking to anything that might intrude upon that or hack into that.”

“Equally important are influence campaigns that peddle in false information and use information as a weapon,” she said. “And I think that’s something that our Department of Homeland Security, our FBI, needs to be looking at” alongside the “private actors who look at disinformation at all of the social media companies.”

LA Blade file photo

Anti-LGBTQ misinformation is an example of how “the far right extreme portion of the Republican Party is trying to sow discord in society” with influence campaigns designed to exploit differences between different people and different groups for purposes of sowing discord, McQuade said.

“This false narrative that the LGBTQ community wants to groom your children for pedophilia,” she said, is evidence of the extent to which rhetoric that was once considered hyperbolic and out-of-bounds for political discourse is no longer taboo. “I used to joke,” McQuade said, that politicians would say to voters, “my opponent wants to eat your children.”

When online content is false or deceptive, McQuade said, “it’s really about flagging, and one hopes that the social media companies” will take steps like directing users “to accurate information rather than taking down information that [they] might find misleading.”

“The other brand, I think, is actual disinformation about the process of voting and I worry about that, which could cause people to become confused about the rules for voting or exhausted by trying to figure it out and discouraged from casting a ballot altogether,” she said.

McQuade said A.I. technologies might continue to play a role in this type of election interference, pointing to a scam in January, days before the 2024 New Hampshire primary elections, in which residents received robocalls in which an A.I.-generated clone of President Joe Biden’s voice urged them not to vote.

It can be difficult to convince people who have been duped by a convincing artificially generated deepfake, McQuade warned, which could show audio or video “evidence” of a candidate saying or doing something objectionable.

Bronk agreed, noting “every generation of those Nvidia chips that gets better, I mean, things look more and more real.” The company on Monday introduced its Blackwell B200 GPU, which according to The Verge is “the ‘world’s most powerful chip’ for AI” and according to Bronk is “30 times more powerful than the prior version.”

How can individuals defend themselves?


When asked how best to mitigate these attacks on elections, McQuade and Bronk agreed the American public must learn how to identify trusted and trustworthy sources of news and information and develop the skills to spot online content that might be false, misleading, manipulative, or artificially generated.

“What we need to do is push people in the direction of credible sources of information so that if and when this wave of disinformation comes around elections, people know their trusted sources online,” like the official government websites for the offices of secretaries of state or content published by nonprofit groups like the League of Women Voters, McQuade said.

“Some of this we’re doing to ourselves,” Bronk said, pointing to the fact that televised ads for political candidates are required to include disclaimers to indicate whether, for instance, the ad was authorized by the candidate or her campaign but funded by a political action committee (PAC), whereas political advertising on social media is regulated much more loosely.

Education is key, McQuade said, so that “when people are reading things online, they are able to be appropriately skeptical. They’re able to ask good questions, you know not just looking at the headline [but] looking for a second source, looking to a sizable data set if there’s a statistical study, understanding the difference between causation and correlation — there are a lot of things that we could all use to learn to build resilience against disinformation.”

She and Bronk both pointed to Finland as an example of a country that has sought to address the scourge of misinformation and disinformation spread by social media and online platforms by promoting digital and media literacy.

McQuade noted that, “in Finland, a country that has been affected by disinformation for a long time because of their proximity to Russia, they have introduced media literacy into their school curriculum to great success.”

The Supreme Court steps in


On Monday, The New York Times reported that the Supreme Court justices largely seemed receptive to arguments that U.S. government actors are free to contact social media companies over concerns about content on their platforms that may be harmful, so long as there is no coercion involved.

United States Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

McQuade said this analysis “strikes me as the correct outcome” because so long as the government is not urging the platforms to take action by “coercing” them or making demands “with repercussions and consequences and threats, then I think it does not amount to any sort of prior restraint where they’re telling them what they can and cannot publish.”

In many cases, she said, the government is simply flagging content that runs afoul of — or seems likely to violate — the companies’ own terms of service or community standards, which would include, for instance, materials for the recruitment of users into terrorist groups like ISIS or promoting “purported cures for Covid that are, in fact, fatal.”

“Sometimes,” McQuade said, “there are statements that have a grain of truth, and then are pitched in a misleading way to advance a political agenda, and that’s where it gets tricky, because I think the government doesn’t want to be in the business of suggesting any sort of message that would favor one political party over another or one political candidate over another.”

Ultimately, though, responsibility over how to handle content moderation decisions lies with the social media company or online platform, McQuade said. “I don’t think that the government should be telling social media platforms what to do really in any circumstance,” but instead should be “merely flagging things which can be problematic and then letting the social media companies decide for themselves how they want to deal with it.”

Stronger regulation is needed


“We can regulate social media without running afoul of our First Amendment rights,” McQuade said. She suggested, as a “first step,” regulating the algorithms used by the tech platforms, pointing to Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s 2021 testimony before Congress about how the platform’s software was deliberately designed to amplify content that drives outrage and, therefore, engagement.

“Why couldn’t we regulate the algorithms,” McQuade asked, “to either prevent them from stoking outrage or at least requiring them to disclose the way they’re stoking outrage so that people would know when they’re being manipulated and could choose to avoid it?”

“When you look at other industrial processes, like oil fracking, the federal government and state governments have a pretty accurate idea of how it works and what they’re doing with it, what chemicals they put in the fluids, all the processes — the oil companies have to explain all this stuff,” Bronk said.

By contrast, he said, “we don’t have transparency into any” of the algorithms used by large digital platforms. “We don’t know what the Facebook algorithms look like; we don’t know what the Google algorithms look like.”

Online platforms and social media companies “don’t want to be regulated,” Bronk said. “This is where we live now: We have all this technology that we don’t really understand how it works, we don’t know what the second and third-order effects of it are gonna be. And, you know, basically the companies are saying, ‘trust us, it’ll be fine,’ and I don’t think that’s necessarily the truth.”

The government could also establish stronger guardrails around how social media companies collect user data and sell it for purposes of micro-targeted advertising, whether for products or electoral candidates, McQuade said. “There are a number of things we can do without running afoul of the First Amendment.”

Additionally, while the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC established that “corporations and other organizations have a First Amendment right to unlimited spending on campaigns,” McQuade said “we could require disclosure of how they are spending that money.”

“All we see are these big ads with Super PACs, with names like The Red, White, and Blue Grandmothers of America, and we don’t know who they are,” she said. So, “bringing some transparency to campaign finance would be a really good first step to avoiding the influence of big money” from individual donors or special interest groups whose campaign funding apparatuses and lobbying efforts are often deliberately disguised to look like popular grassroots organizing efforts.

The practice is often called “astroturfing.” “The internet makes it so easy,” Bronk said.

***

Bronk is the author of “Cyber Threat: The Rise of Information Geopolitics in U.S. National Security.”

McQuade is the author of “Attack from Within: How Disinformation Is Sabotaging America.”

Continue Reading

Popular