While right-wing pundits frame their anti-trans politics as broadly popular, several recent projects have attempted to recruit participants by obscuring their true nature, a revealing indicator of the difficulty in persuading Americans to reject their trans neighbors.
Recently, Nashville locals approached the digital news website Tennessee Holler on June 27 to allege that failed screenwriter Ben Shapiro and his Daily Wire were producing a movie, which they’d worked on, marketed as a “lighthearted sports comedy” rather than what it really was: a derogative film about cis men posing as trans women for an Olympic-style basketball team called the “Lady Ballers.”
Per reporting from Nashville Scene, the movie’s working title is Coach Miracle, and The Lady Ballers team is composed of eight young girls and four grown men, with several of them played by local college basketball players. Casting calls for both stand-ins for the lead and a server in drag list a preference for beards.
Transgender athletes have been able to compete in the Olympics since 2003, provided that they have undergone legal, hormonal, and surgical transition. An updated framework released in 2021 reaffirmed the International Olympic Committee’s openness to trans participation, but also explicitly bans “claiming a gender identity different from the one consistently and persistently used, with a view to entering a competition in a given category.” No Olympic event would allow grown men to compete alongside young girls.
The same casting call reveals that the movie is being produced by Bonfire Legend, which has produced other films in partnership with the Daily Wire, including What Is A Woman? and Run Hide Fight. Nashville Scene states that the right-wing outlet’s name was “buried in the contract.” An anonymous extra also told Nashville Scene that some props and costumes — from men in prosthetic breasts to “Baller Pride” signs with trans flags — had been hidden during filming in what appeared to be an attempt to obfuscate the film’s premise from disgruntled extras and avoid potential protests.
An on-set security guard didn’t mince any words about it to the outlet, though, calling it “a spoof on transgenders in sports.”
This wouldn’t be the first time the Daily Wire has employed deceptive methods to recruit people for anti-trans films. In 2022, it was revealed that the outlet had posed as a fake organization called the “Gender Unity Project” in order to solicit interviews from trans people as young as 14 for what would become Matt Walsh’s What Is A Woman? documentary, and had used unauthorized photos of a 15-year-old in order to promote the film.
And the Daily Wire isn’t the only filmmaker to employ deceit in such projects. In early June, Rolling Stone reported that Nebraska state Sen. Megan Hunt, who gained national attention this year for supporting a filibuster of anti-trans bills in the state, had been approached about participating in a film called It Takes a Village. She was told the documentary would cover “issues facing children and parents in the trans community and how it relates to our future as a society,” but days before her scheduled interview, she discovered the documentary was connected to failed anti-trans Republican politician Robby Starbuck.
Anti-trans documentaries that make it out of production are also not going unchallenged. In June, AMC quietly canceled nationwide screenings of the anti-trans documentary on detransitioning, No Way Back: The Reality of Gender Affirming Care following a petition from the Queer Trans Project.
One of that film’s participants, detransitioner Joel Koss, said he was deceived about the true intentions of No Way Back, and that his interview was “chopped up into little bits and sprinkled throughout the documentary, not fully reflecting my actual views and thoughts on transgender healthcare.”
Koss has clarified that he is an advocate for trans health care and “everything to do with basic equality,” and that his interview for the documentary emphasized “getting proper mental healthcare before informed consent.”