CHRIS HAYES (HOST) Amidst a barrage of legislation being introduced and passed in states to restrict or outright ban gender-affirming care for teens and in some cases adults, there was a bombshell story published earlier this month that accused of pediatric gender clinic in Missouri of mistreating minors. The story was published in The Free Press, it's a news website founded by a performatively contrarian former New York Times op-ed writer. The op-ed itself, it wasn't a reported piece, it was first person, it was authored by women named Jamie Reed, a self-described queer woman who says she is married to a trans man and who worked for years at Washington University's Transgender Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital. What Reed said is that the center pushed children into puberty blockers, hormone therapies without proper mental health assessment, without providing patients adequate counseling or information about side effects. Reed also sent a 23-page sworn affidavit full of explosive accusations to Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey. The story had an immediate impact. Attorney General Bailey launched a multi-agency investigation into the center, Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley announced his office would be investigating as well. I read the piece when it was published. Two things immediately came to mind. First, that this was not an anonymous allegation, this person is named, they’re on the record, sworn affidavit, so that counts for something. And that it is entirely possible that there are clinics or doctors in this country who are doing a bad job of administering gender-affirming care, they are not doing it properly. Now, if that's the case, and it likely is somewhere in this country, it's not an argument itself for banning that care, right? We can all concede there are public school teachers, for instance, in this country who are not doing a great job, even doing a bad job, and we are not going to outlaw public school. The second thought I had, as I read this account, which was unnerving, right, is that if this is true, if what this person is saying is true, then other people know about it, right? It is likely that there will be several, if not many other people who are going to come forward and corroborate it with some additional reporting. Okay. Now we have this speech piece from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This piece is based on interviews with almost two dozen parents of children who were seen at the clinic, not just one person, who say their experiences were essentially the opposite of what Reed described. Contrary to Reed’s claims that the children were rushed into irreversible treatments, 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, testing out 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. None of them described the kind of shocking sort of drive-by treatment that was painted in Reed's op-ed of the center. Right now, as Missouri lawmakers are considering a proposed legislation that would ban gender-affirming care for minors, all of it, right? In a debate which has intensified following Reed's op-ed, here's how one St. Louis teenager, Chloe Clark, described their experience at the Transgender Center.
CHLOE CLARK (PREVIOUSLY A PATIENT AT THE TRANSGENDER CENTER): In middle school, I was presenting male mostly, but I recognized towards the end that I was a trans female or, that's what I thought at the time. Now I recognize that I’m nonbinary. I think that the center is incredibly…like, an incredibly good center. All the people who I talked to, they were both incredibly kind and incredibly helpful throughout this process. They gave me support. They talked about all these different options. It was really helpful. I do think that the Missouri State Legislature is acting like it's just the kids making these decisions without any input from the parents. I had to negotiate with my parents. I had to talk with them. And it took some convincing, despite the fact that they are incredibly accepting people.
HAYES: I would urge everyone, everyone, please, whether it’s this piece, or the next one that stokes panic about kids supposedly being pressured into being transgender or put on medication too early, just take a beat, consider it carefully before accepting it as gospel.