In state after state this year, Republican legislators have proposed—and at times successfully pushed through—discriminatory, hateful bills targeting trans kids, often relying on misinformation to justify their bigotry. It is, as many trans activists have repeatedly stated, the most sustained legislative attack on trans rights they have ever witnessed. In Arkansas, the bill that criminalizes gender-affirming care has even forced families to move to a different state so that their kids can continue to receive the care they depend upon.
This is not an issue that needs both-sidesing. But on Sunday, CBS’s 60 Minutes did something even worse—the primetime show decided to air a segment that, while ostensibly addressing the Republican-led assault on trans young people’s health care, ended up focusing heavily on the favorite topic of conservatives who would like nothing more than for trans people to not exist, and who wish to paint transition as a painful, regret-suffused process—people who have detransitioned.
Less than halfway through the almost 14-minute segment, Lesley Stahl pivoted to an interview with Grace Lidinsky-Smith, who allegedly transitioned because, as she put it, “being a woman just isn’t working for me anymore,” and then detransitioned after she had top surgery when she “started to have a really disturbing sense that like a part of my body was missing.” Neither Stahl nor 60 Minutes disclosed that Lidinsky-Smith is the president of GCCAN, a group that formed in 2019 whose ostensible goal is to, as their website puts it, “empower consumers of gender-transition related care to get the best health care possible” but which includes in their writing some of the right’s favored talking points about trans youth. In a post by GCCAN explaining why the group opposes bans on medical care, the group also writes that “surgeries have been marketed on social media like cigarette companies used to market tobacco to children,” that “the affirmative-only model is correctly perceived as rushing children onto the irreversible track of gender transition,” and that “too many children are being ushered into transition without there being adequate discovery and treatment of other mental health concerns, unhealthy environmental factors (like bullying or sexual abuse), or concomitant traumas.”
“I can’t believe that I transitioned and detransitioned, including hormones and surgery, in the course of, like, less than one year. It’s completely crazy,” Lidinsky-Smith told Stahl, which to an uninformed audience may make it seem that the process of receiving gender-affirming care is an easy and quick one for young people under the age of 18, when the opposite is in fact the case.
But the obsessive focus on detransitioning didn’t stop with the interview with Lidinsky-Smith. According to Stahl, 60 Minutes interviewed more than 30 people who had detransitioned, and then featured an additional four people who had detransitioned as adults on Sunday’s segment. “All four tell us they learned about transitioning on the internet where there are transformation videos on YouTube, trans influencers and forums,” Stahl intoned, giving credence to the idea pushed by anti-trans activists that trans young people are identifying as trans due to so-called “social contagion.”
The rest of the segment then focused on... LGBT advocates responding to questions from Stahl and 60 Minutes about detransitioners. In fact, what was initially a story about legislative attacks on trans young people ultimately became a story about detransition, featuring people who weren’t under the age of 18 when they transitioned. There were no interviews with young people living in states where their rights and basic humanity are being attacked, no interviews with parents of kids whose health care is being taken away or who can no longer play on the sports team they belong to, no interviews with organizers living in states where these bills are being proposed, no discussion of why the right is pushing these bills at this particular moment. Nope, instead, America got a segment that gives the misleading impression that gender-affirming care is readily available for young people, and framed the process of transition as one ultimately of pain and regret. Congrats to 60 Minutes for majorly fucking it up. But I suspect that’s the story they ultimately wanted to tell and the message they wanted to send, despite it being the same story that we’ve heard over and over again.