Bari Weiss Is Full of Shit
Her big trans panic story turned out to be nonsense, just like everything else she does.
Recently, Bari Weiss’ blog published an account from a “whistleblower” who used to work at a transgender healthcare clinic associated with Washington University’s children’s hospital. Unsurprisingly, the story depicted the clinic as a house of horrors.
Equally unsurprisingly, when some actual reporters examined the deeply alarmist, one-sided story Weiss was pushing, they found it to be total nonsense. It’s just the latest in a long pattern that proves one incontrovertible fact: Bari Weiss is completely full of shit, and you shouldn’t trust a thing she publishes.
The original first-person story, written by Jamie Reed, a former case manager whom Weiss pointed out is a “progressive” and “a queer woman married to a transman,” was published earlier this month by the Free Press, a site founded by the disgraced ex-New York Times opinion writer.
Reed portrayed the trans clinic as unrelentingly barbaric: “mentally ill” children misguidedly looking to transition rather than treat the root causes of their issues, a trans kid’s gender transition weaponized as part of a custody dispute between parents, children being prescribed hormone blockers and other medications willy-nilly and with little regard for side effects, both long and short term, and much more.
Reed wrote: “I left the clinic in November of last year because I could no longer participate in what was happening there. By the time I departed, I was certain that the way the American medical system is treating these patients is the opposite of the promise we make to ‘do no harm.’ Instead, we are permanently harming the vulnerable patients in our care.”
But a deeply reported story published on Monday by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch—which involved interviews with some two dozen parents whose children sought treatment at the center—painted a starkly different picture, one that runs completely counter to Reed’s account.
Here are just a few highlights from the reporting (emphasis mine throughout):
Explosive allegations made public last month about a St. Louis clinic that treats transgender children have flung parents into a vortex of emotions: shock, confusion, anger, fear.
Kim Hutton, among those confused by the reports, views the treatment her son, now 19, received from Washington University’s Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital as vital to making him the outgoing college freshman he is today.
“The idea that nobody got information, that everybody was pushed toward treatment, is just not true. It’s devastating,” Hutton said. “I’m baffled by it.”
Patients recounted that the staff explained procedures using both medical and everyday vocabulary.
“The doctor reached out to me after hours to answer my questions and make sure I understood what my treatment plan was,” said a 16-year-old from the St. Louis area.
Rather than the “rapid medicalization” and “poor assessment of mental health concerns” that Reed cited in a complaint sent to Bailey in January, parents reported a well-defined, step-by-step approach that could be halted at any time.
Slow, methodical adjustments began at home, long before medications were used: testing out new names, using different pronouns, cutting hair short or growing it long. The social transitions ran concurrently with mental health care, sometimes lasting years. Only then, parents said, was medication considered.
A St. Louis County mother recounts a different experience. Her daughter’s mental health crisis escalated when she started middle school and began cutting herself. The girl’s depression spiraled. By freshman year, she could barely crawl out of bed, her mother said. The family met with the team at the Transgender Center.
“Everyone was in agreement that we needed to get her depression under control before we talked about hormones,” said the mother. “The focus was getting her healthy.”
Her ex-husband had a lot of questions, and “the clinic was adamant we be in agreement” before moving forward, the mother said. Their daughter, now 18, was ultimately the one who convinced him.
Their daughter’s depression didn’t disappear, but its symptoms abated. The teen finally felt comfortable in her body.
Surgery is what Christine Hyman’s 17-year-old son wanted from his very first appointment at the Transgender Center, when he was just 12. He brought a blue Post-it with him, with three questions written: When can I start testosterone? When can I have top surgery? How can I get my dad on board quicker?
The answer he received for all three, said Hyman, was to give it time.
“Put it out of your mind. We don’t do that here,” Hyman, of St. Charles, recalled the nurse telling her son about surgery. “You don’t walk in Tuesday morning as a girl and walk out Tuesday afternoon as a boy. That’s not a thing.”
Hyman’s son saw a therapist for more than a year — 89 times, Hyman said — before he started testosterone…The center helped with nonmedical issues, too, Hyman said. It recommended barbers, clothing stores and legal aid agencies.
Surprise, surprise: it turns out that if you actually do that work of talking to trans people and their families—rather than cherry-picking from the handful of people who harbor regret about transitioning to stoke maximum panic—you get a much more accurate picture. But the people fanning the “save the children” flames don’t care about the vast majority of trans people’s experiences, and falsely conflating one person’s experience as representative of widespread social ills has long been Weiss’ bread and butter.
It’s also worth noting that, again, there is a very real-world cost to trans people with all of this constant, panic-inducing commentary. The Post-Dispatch noted that most of the parents spoke with the paper under the condition of anonymity to protect their children, as at least 27 bills attacking the rights of LGBTQ people have been introduced in the Missouri legislature just in the last session, including several bills targeted gender-affirming care.
Still, Reed, Weiss, and their ilk have gotten their wish. After the post was published, Missouri’s attorney general announced that he was launching an investigation into the clinic. Sen. Josh Hawley also jumped on the bandwagon, calling the story “a sickening account of forced sterilization and child abuse” and saying he too would launch an investigation.
There are two ways to swim against this evil current. The first is for people to fight back with all their might, and to continue to do the kind of reporting the Post-Dispatch did—reporting that elevates trans people and their families rather than relying on fear and bigotry. The second is to remember that the Bari Weisses of the world are lying to you, repeatedly, and to treat their work like the garbage it is.
Thank you Katherine for:
a) standing in solidarity with trans people (it means a lot!)
b) destroying the idea of 'oh I call myself a progressive, so I can't be bigoted, QED'
Your and Jack's work has been really helpful to maintain sanity in this clusterfuffle of 'responsible journalism'.
Absolutely one of the most cynical dullards out there