Jesse Singal (left), Katelyn Burns (right)
[Alternative title: Sucks when both academic research details, and email records, catch out trans activist lies. Maybe deploying misogynistic manipulations is the way to go.]
Jesse Singal is an accomplished Brooklyn-based journalist whose work you can read about here. He speaks politely to and with trans activists, sometimes going out of his way to highlight their perspectives in their own words.
His approach of investigation-based reporting, rather than simply reciting the moment’s trans narrative, has clearly ruffled feathers.
Well-known trans activist Julia Serano also blogs on this:
One of these (actually) serious articles was about the trans movement getting sex and gender-identity research, Dr Kenneth Zucker, fired.
Since late last year, Singal has put effort into investigating and rebutting the trans movement’s campaign against a respected and sizeable 2013 Dutch study which points to a high rate of ‘desistance’ over time, in children who initially presented with gender dysphoria. The trans movement’s response to this study tends to vary from vague but unsubstantiated warnings about the politics and methods of the study (eg Serano here), to Zack Ford’s 2017 ThinkProgress claim that:
Singal points out that at first he uncritically repeated that narrative as well – assuming that the Steensma-led team had not checked on those children who stopped returning to the clinic. But then he looked harder. On March 28, 2018, he published a Medium article entitled ‘A Lot of People, Myself Included, Have Been Misreading the Single Biggest Published Study on Childhood Gender Dysphoria Desistance and Persistence’.
As he notes there:
The problem is, Angello, Bowman, Keo-Meier, Ford, and, unfortunately, myself… we’re all wrong. Completely wrong. Steensma and his colleagues never simply assumed those 80 kids had desisted — they got in touch with most of them, and, true to that ‘assumption,’ they weren’t dysphoric.
…. But if you read the study closely — always read the study closely! — it’s clear this isn’t what happened…. So what they’re saying here is that they were able to get in touch with 52 of the adolescents or their parents and get followup data from them — including, quite usefully for our purposes, measures of their gender dysphoria. Plus, four others didn’t want to participate but did say that their or their kids’ dysphoria had “remitted” — or desisted, if you like.
Now, it’s important to note that this group was less dysphoric at intake. Of the total 80 kids in the sample who stopped coming, 39.3% of boys and 58.3% of girls met the criteria for what used to be called Gender Identity Disorder, or GID. That’s way lower than the corresponding percentages for the kids who stayed in touch with the clinic as they grew up — 91.3% and 95.% percent, respectively. This shouldn’t surprise us! It makes perfect sense that the more gender dysphoric a kid is, the more likely they are to maintain regular contact with a gender identity clinic and to seek out its services. The kids who are there because Dad freaked out and overreacted when little — [does a Google search for the most common Dutch boys’ names] — Daan put on Mom’s dress once, but is a happy and healthy and non-dysphoric kid, aren’t going to keep coming.
Read all Jesse’s useful March 28 article at Medium. It is generous, in framing the issue as a mistake made by many. However, Jesse has been under sustained attack by some trans individuals who employ typical abuser tactics such as reversals and manipulations.
On March 29, Singal broke silence to write on the claims against him by New England trans activist Katelyn Burns. Singal narrates his experiences, and combats Burns’ suggestion that he illicitly obtained Burns’ email address with email records of Burns contacting him via that address.
One of Singal’s observations is that:
Late last year months ago I asked the trans writer Katelyn Burns, who has written for Vice and other outlets, to stop DMing me, cutting off a long-running off-and-on correspondence we’d had. This sounds petty and childish, and I never anticipated I’d be writing about it publicly, but I was upset about the way she had, in my view, misrepresented a lunch we had when she was passing through Boston (where I lived for the summer and the fall before moving back to Brooklyn yesterday) in a piece she had written for Medium. In that piece, in which she didn’t name me but referred to me as a “well known critic of trans health care” — I am of course not a “critic of trans health care” — she claimed I had loudly asked her unprofessional and embarrassing personal questions about her transition process. This simply didn’t happen.
Singal subsequently ‘direct messaged’ (or ‘DM’d’) Burns about this on Twitter. Although Burns seems to have deleted both their Medium article which accused Singal and their twitter account, an archived version of this message thread strongly suggests that Burns is tacitly owning up to substantially misrepresenting who it was who was pushing this discussion of their private details. It also reveals that Singal is feeling violated. But he assures Burns: “I’m genuinely pissed and hurt by this. I’d like you to not DM me any more. It’s a boundary issue at this point…. I’m not gonna block you or say ANYTHING public and I legitimately wish you the best”.
What it also shows is that Burns took this private conversation and posted it on Burns’ twitter account, in order for Burns to ‘get in first’ in framing what happened: a common response by abusers when their victim names (if only to them) their behaviour as abusive, or when their victim attempts to set boundaries limiting their further contact. Complete with references to female socialization geared to spark sympathy, however misleadingly:
It’s also worth commenting on how Burns’ claims tie in with common transactivist bully tactics used to portray female boundaries as offences against male-born people: they jeer at women organising female-only events, for instance, with “how are you going to implement this participation policy – do panty-checks??”. Asking this of female people who had merely been asking that the male-born stay away from them is, of course, sexual harassment, but this tactic has become too normalised.
And so now, even a quiet objection to behaviour viewed by the target as a violation and a reversal of what occurred, is used to publicly humiliate the male-socialised as well.
Burns was possibly inspired in some of this by Julia Serano, who in 2017 mounted a closely argued and yet somehow unconvincing argument in defence of their 2016 claim that Singal was “slut-shaming” them by signal-boosting their article on dating while trans. Again, Singal was treating a trans-identifying male like a woman (according to them) and hence sexist, geddit?
Later in that 2017 article, Serano claims they were the target of an online pile-on by people angry that Serano denied the existence of detransitioners. According to Serano. We are supplied with no screencap evidence of this pile-on so we don’t know exactly what these critics claimed, and nor do we know that Singal is responsible for it (Serano explains that since Singal deleted his twitter account, the evidence is unavailable). All we know is that, as noted earlier in this article, Serano has been dismissive of the 2013 Dutch Clinic study on childhood gender dysphoria persistence and its implications.
Serano then continues to accumulate ‘evidence’ on Singal, including the complaint that no trans activists have ever declared that lesbians are transphobic if they don’t consider transwomen as sexual partners:
As most of us know, this is far from the case. Trans activists are increasingly stating that same-sex attraction is cissexist or transphobic, and that failing to be ‘trans-inclusionary’ in one’s sex life is likewise. Some examples of trans activists and popular memes illustrating this:
So this exposé on Singal’s alleged disrespect for boundaries and lying ends up functioning more as evidence of Serano’s adoption of these approaches.
We do not know that Jesse Singal has never said or done a wrong thing, and he is probably not claiming that. What we can see is how desperate some trans activists appear to be to undermine his writing, given the uneven balance of their fervour and the decidedly lacking evidence against him. And how typified their tactics are in response to his investigative work. Gender-critical feminists find these manoeuvres only too familiar, as they have been used against us by misogynists of all ‘identifications’ for a long time.
Further reading on the ‘cotton ceiling’, the concept that trans-identifying males denied sexual access to women are discriminated against: