Local news outlets in St. Louis are investigating claims made by a former caseworker at a gender-affirming care clinic and raising alarm bells over connections to far-right organizations that backed her.
Through a formal complaint to Missouri’s attorney general and a February 9 article for Bari Weiss’ newsletter The Free Press, Jamie Reed, a former case worker at the Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, accused the center of pushing gender-affirming treatment on children without informed parental consent. Reed’s testimony, which she claims is based on her own eyewitness experiences while employed with the center, goes on to accuse the center’s doctors of ignoring children’s mental health concerns in treatment, glossing over the side effects of drugs they prescribed, and administering hormones or referrals for surgery “after just two 1-hour visits.”
Two days earlier, Reed submitted testimony through an affidavit to Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s office making the same allegations. That testimony was part of a multi-agency investigation, which was prompted by her allegations against her former employer. Missouri state Senate Republicans have pointed to Reed’s testimony to substantiate legislation that would ban healthcare providers from prescribing hormones or puberty blockers, performing surgeries, or giving referrals to minors seeking other forms of gender-affirming care.
After Reed published her story, right-wing media outlets were quick to take her claims at face value and broadcast them to a national audience as part of the ongoing crusade to fearmonger over LGBTQ-inclusive education and health care. New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait jumped on the story as well, citing Reed’s testimony as evidence of the “ghastly” treatment children receive and giving credence to her claims in mainstream circles.
But Reed’s testimony and the right-wing reaction fail to acknowledge that she has retained legal counsel from two attorneys, Vernadette Broyles and Ernie Trakas, who are affiliated with the anti-LGBTQ legal group the Child & Parental Rights Campaign. Through its website, the campaign describes itself as “defend[ing] parents’ right to secure their children against the social contagion and harms caused by gender identity ideology.”
Broyles, who serves as the campaign’s president, is also affiliated with the similarly anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom. Broyes worked with ADF to challenge gender-inclusive bathrooms in Georgia public schools and spoke at the organization’s annual summit. Ernie Trakas, while not affiliated with ADF, is a St. Louis County Council member, and his legal representation of Reed spurred him to recuse himself from a vote related to gender-affirming care.
In contrast to right-wing media’s blind embrace of Reed’s testimony, local St. Louis media have correctly placed Reed’s claims within the context of nationwide anti-trans movements and have interviewed dozens of current patients and parents who refute Reed’s depiction of the center — including emails from Reed that seem to contradict her account.
St. Louis-based outlets have investigated Reed’s claims and connections to anti-LGBTQ groups
- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a 3,000-word article pushing back on Reed’s claims after speaking to over 30 individuals, including parents, patients, doctors, and critics and supporters of the center. The piece states that “almost two dozen parents of children seen at the clinic … say their experiences sharply contradict the examples supplied by Jamie Reed,” and that these parents “cast doubt on Reed’s ability to know what happened inside exam rooms as an employee who did not have a medical or managerial role, and whom they rarely saw.”
- The Post-Dispatch also questioned the timing of Reed’s public accusations and her choice of attorneys. The article outlines Broyle’s history of anti-trans activism and notes that Reed’s “allegations have been used by Missouri Republican lawmakers to bolster arguments in favor of legislation to prohibit gender-affirming care, which has emerged as a Republican priority this legislative session in Missouri and across the country.”
- A third Post-Dispatch article reported that another family’s experience with the center was “the opposite” of what Reed described. The author spoke to families with transgender children who describe “feeling persecuted and attacked by lawmakers using their children as pawns in a culture war. They fear the state criminalizing them.”
- The Missouri Independent spoke to former patients and parents of former patients, as well as one of Reed’s former co-workers at the center. The outlet reported that “each person interviewed described a far different experience than Reed about how the Transgender Center operates and how minors seeking care are treated.”
- KSDK, a St. Louis-based TV station, spoke to Danielle Meert, a mother whose child was treated at the center, and who said that she was “absolutely stunned” to hear Reed’s accusations, as “her family’s interaction was nowhere near this” and that “it was about nine months before we had a puberty blocker.” The outlet also played testimony two of the center’s doctors gave at the Missouri Capitol last year.
- Another St. Louis TV station, KMOV, noted that “parents of transgender children in the St. Louis area question the timing of this, as numerous bills targeting transgender youth are being heard right now in the Missouri legislature.” Reporter Alexis Zotos also spoke to Rabbi Daniel Bogard, the parent of a transgender child, who said that Reed’s article “feels like a continuation” of the Missouri government being “at war” with transgender youth. Zotos added, “Multiple parents whose children have been patients at the transgender center say these experiences that she outlines in this affidavit were not their experiences.”
Right-wing media uncritically parrotted Reed’s claims
- The National Catholic Register reported without pushback that Reed “witnessed doctors … prescribing puberty-blocking drugs to minors without parental consent” and framed the piece around the hospital’s refusal “to halt operations” during the attorney general’s investigation.
- The New York Post published an editorial citing Reed’s testimony as evidence of the “horrors of the pediatric gender-industrial complex,” claiming that the hospital “violates the major tenet of the Hippocratic Oath: First do no harm.”
- The Daily Caller reported without pushback that Reed said the clinic“rushed children into irreversible cross-sex procedures with minimal psychiatric evaluations,” going on to note that she said the center was “dismissive of parents’ rights.”
- An article for Glenn Beck’s outlet, The Blaze, parroted the whistleblower’s claim that children were self-diagnosing as transgender because of “social contagion” and highlighted Reed’s claim that “teenagers are simply not capable of fully grasping what it means to make the decision to become infertile while still a minor.”
- On her show The Ingraham Angle, Fox News host Laura Ingraham encouraged her viewers to read Reed’s article, claiming it shows how a “so-called hospital” is “endangering” children.
- Fox News correspondent Mike Tobin, speaking on America Reports, said the whistleblower said the center “essentially is harming children with the treatment choices and parents are left out of the loop.” The segment did, however, mention that parents defended the center and included a brief statement from one such parent.