Response to The Stranger’s “Detransition” article

I am furious at the local alternative newspaper The Stranger for their recent article on “Detransition” which I refuse to link to here. If you want to read it, you can find it linked in this excellent response from trans author Julia Serano – Stop pitting detransitioners against happily transitioned people. But venting about it on Facebook alone isn’t helpful so I wrote the editors this letter:

Hello editors,

I am a loyal fan of The Stranger and it has been my go-to local news source for almost a decade now. I’m writing to you because I genuinely want to see you continue to grow in your understanding and treatment of transgender issues. You’ve written a lot of great content during Pride but I was extremely disappointed to see the “Detransition” article you published, particularly this month. I want to be able to continue sharing and recommending your articles and resources but I can’t in good conscience do that until you publish a follow up to that article apologizing for the impact it had on my trans community.
I recognize that these are important stories that need to be told. I am not trying to invalidate the experiences of these anonymous sources. But the timing, tone, and lack of nuance in Katie Herzog’s article is highly problematic and hurtful. It shows a lack of compassion for the issues we are facing in this state right now and the complexity of the diversity of trans experience. Not to mention the poor journalistic choice of citing the widely discredited Dutch “research.”
My biggest beef is with the timing. Washington is on the tipping point of taking away many of the rights that trans activists have worked hard to put in place. As you acknowledge in your article, I-1552 is threatening our safety and is actively looking for fuel to gain the last signatures they need. If you had waited just 10 more days to see if their initiative failed, it would be slightly less of an issue. Our healthcare under Apple Health is also on the table and we are fighting hard to prove why it is necessary. To undermine our fights, particularly during Pride month, is not only insensitive but downright harmful.
You acknowledge that the right wing and TERFs are looking for these stories but then you hand them to them on a silver platter right at the moment they need them. It is like you are trying to play Devil’s Advocate at a time when the devil doesn’t need any help.
I know Dan Savage would never let you publish a story on “ex gay convert success” stories if there was legislation on the table to legalize conversion therapy again. Not because those people don’t have valid experiences but because the timing is harmful. I know there are people who thought they were gay and later realized that they were bi (even if they won’t admit such) or choose to live as a straight person again because of social pressure or changing attractions. Those are very real stories that deserve to be told in the right time and place with the appropriate level of nuance.
But that is not how you approached this story. You erased the nuance of the various levels of social and medical transition and largely treated it as a binary problem. You cite concerns about trans youth but don’t mention hormone blockers until almost the end or really discuss why having the option to postpone that decision is so helpful. You also don’t treat gender as a journey but rather a yes or no decision. As a genderqueer blogger who writes on the topic (https://beardedgenderqueer.wordpress.com/) I know that that kind of nuance is possible and if you had a trans person authentically consulting on this article, or better yet, as the writer, you would know that.
Your treatment of the “other side” of transition as this huge problem is on the same level of tone-deafness as treating anti-vaxxers or climate change deniers like they are on equal footing as science in the name of “neutral journalism.” Just because there are dissenters doesn’t mean they hold the same footing as widely proven facts. And you gloss over the fact that it is the discrimination that we face that prompts most of this reversion.

For you to publish this article during Pride Month is also particularly hurtful. These are objectively people who are not proud of their identity, or if they are it is essentially a “cisgender pride” story which I hope you know is unacceptable during June. You are amplifying the concerns of cis people who want more gatekeeping over the voices of trans people during our own month. Plus your ending makes it sound like everyone could solve dysphoria by being more connected to their body.

I know that you know better than to do this. Katie and others on your team spoke with Danni Askini at Gender Justice League [local trans leader and professional activist] before you published the article and she expressed concern about the tone and timing but yet you still chose to publish it this month and it sounds like you lied to her about it as well. Your lack of journalistic ethics this month is appalling.

I want to quote Julia Serano who you used in your own article in response:

Trans people are a marginalized group. People who detransition are also a marginalized group. Here is my advice to all journalists who may want to write about this subject in the future: STOP PITTING MARGINALIZED GROUPS AGAINST ONE ANOTHER!

I could say more but I will stop now and leave you with this. I expect you to follow up as soon as possible with an apology to the trans community and to the readers you mislead through your poor reporting and lack of nuance and authentic trans voices. If you want to keep this loyal reader, that is what is required.

Thank you for taking the time to read this,
[Name redacted]
Nonbinary King County native
I will follow up here if they respond.
ETA 7/3/17: Katie Herzog’s response just solidifies for me that she is a heartless and careless human being who has no regard for the impact of her work. Instead of listening to any of the multitude of critiques from advocates, colleagues, and the trans community she just wasted an entire long post on “defending” herself by flinging accusations at the people telling the background of her poor research. Definitely not interested in reading anything else she has her hands in.
What you should read instead are these responses:
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