Fox News host Tucker Carlson and anti-trans author Abigail Shrier misinformed about best practice medical care for transgender people, despite Carlson admitting that he has “very little idea of what it means, medically,” to be trans.
Notably, neither Carlson nor Shrier have medical degrees or have ever practiced medicine, but both do have histories of fearmongering about medical care for trans youth. Shrier, who has equated being trans to having anorexia, engaging in self-harm, being involved with witchcraft and “demonic possession,” wrote an entire book misinforming about best practice medical care for trans youth.
During the February 9 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Shrier claimed that “these teenagers who come in at 18 and, yes, far below 18 depending on the state ... very often they never see a doctor.” She later fearmongered about “permanent” effects of best practice medical care like drugs used to delay puberty, which are viewed as safe, effective, and lifesaving.
In reality, best practice health care for trans youth is widely supported by medical professionals and yields long-term mental health benefits. Furthermore, young trans and gender-diverse children are not undergoing treatments or surgery until they are older -- rather, as social work professor Katherine Kuvalanka told The Washington Post, “The only interventions for young children is affirmation and acceptance for who they are.”
Moreover, research shows that affirming families and communities can be lifesaving for young trans people. According to Reuters, a 2016 study in the journal LGBT Health found: “For transgender or gender non-conforming individuals, as rejection from family members increases, so does their likelihood of suicide attempts or substance abuse.”
Shrier’s misleading rhetoric came as Carlson himself admitted that “most people, including me, have very little idea of what it means, medically” to transition, and he suggested that doing so “is a long-term commitment between the patient and the health care provider.”
Right-wing media regularly misinform about best practice medical care for trans youth
Carlson and Shrier’s claims do not exist in a vacuum; right-wing media and anti-LGBTQ figures obsessively fearmonger and spread disinformation about best practice medical care for trans youth, and they have recently amplified this harmful rhetoric to attack the Equality Act.
Moreover, right-wing content about trans kids’ health care often earns high engagement and skews the public's understanding of the issue. A Media Matters study of Facebook content about trans topics earning at least 100,000 interactions (likes, comments, and shares) during a one-year time period found that content about trans issues from right-leaning sources “earned nearly two times the engagement of all other sources combined” on Facebook. Overall, 12% of that content was from right-leaning sources writing about medical care for trans youth, receiving a total of 8.31 million Facebook interactions.
Carlson and Shrier’s claims add fuel to attacks against trans kids from state legislatures
State legislatures around the country are advancing measures to ban and criminalize best practice care for transgender youth; in at least two states, parents could be reported to child welfare agencies for facilitating access to lifesaving care for their children. Similar efforts in the past were fueled by the anti-transgender misinformation spread by anti-LGBTQ media and groups.
Trans advocate and ACLU lawyer Chase Strangio has described such measures as “forcing young people already receiving treatment off of it and removing them from care that has allowed them to manage distress and embrace their own, individual processes of learning about and celebrating their bodies and identities.”
As states consider the fate of trans youth, and with their physical and mental well-being on the line, the public must not fall for Carlson and Shrier’s -- and the greater right-wing media’s -- misinformation about best practice medical care.