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On the gender clinic beat
The New York Times and UK Guardian are the latest progressive institutions to scrutinize the safety of so-called ‘gender-affirming’ medical interventions.
The rise of youth gender clinics in Western nations has presented a case study in the dysfunction of mainstream media. Famous mastheads and broadcasters, especially those regarded as progressive, have failed to cover major stories in this area, bungled those they have covered, and ignored scientific evidence that conflicts with the demand that self-identified gender must trump biological sex in all areas of policy-making (a system of beliefs often described as gender ideology). Interested news consumers have been left to sift through the uneven reporting on this subject that takes place on social media, where gold nuggets of truth intermingle freely with misinformation.
Yet many people still believe that it’s worthwhile to critique journalists who cover (or, more commonly, fail to cover) this topic, in the hope that they will ultimately choose to do their job properly. And there are good practical reasons for doing so. As with other specialized issues, if the mass media doesn’t cover it, only a small minority of (typically web-savvy) people will make it their business to educate themselves. And while New York Times coverage alone won’t dissuade a non-binary girl from a double mastectomy or other irreversible medical steps, Times reporting can get the attention of those elite policymakers—in politics, health care, and academia—who’ve legitimized and facilitated the medicalised transition of a fast-expanding group of minors.
And so it’s significant that the Times and, on the other side of the Atlantic, the Guardian, have each shown signs of correcting their journalistic lapses. Last month, the Times reported “growing concerns” about the potential harms of puberty-blocker drugs that are prescribed to interrupt natural adolescent development—concerns that activists have, for many years, dismissed as right-wing propaganda. Ten days later, the Guardian allowed one of its award-winning reporters to publish her investigation of the “huge rise in the number of adolescent biological girls seeking referrals to gender clinics.”
This is an excerpt from my article published on December 6 by Quillette, thanks to editor-in-chief Claire Lehmann.
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