A transgender teen is correcting the record after a reporter allegedly mischaracterized their story in an article defaming a Missouri gender clinic for a right-wing news outlet.
The Free Press, which was founded by Bari Weiss, recently published a story written by the publication’s senior editor, Emily Yoffe, alleging that the mother of a trans child was “bullied” into allowing doctors to provide her child with gender-affirming care. That mother, Caroline Miller, claimed that the Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital pressured her into putting her 14-year-old on puberty blockers.
The child at the center of the story, Alex, who uses they/she pronouns, reinstalled their Twitter this week to refute Yoffe’s reporting and debunk their mother’s allegations.
According to Yoffe’s story, Alex’s mother later revoked her consent for the treatment, demanding that the puberty blocker be removed. After doctors declined because they still had the consent of Alex and their father, who Alex lives with, Miller contacted an attorney regarding legal options to force doctors to remove the implant, at which point she was contacted by The Free Press, LGBTQ Nation reports.
Alex has alleged that the story was published without their consent, and that Yoffe was fully aware that her reporting about the clinic was inaccurate. Notably, Yoffee misgenders Alex throughout the entirety of the story.
“When I read the draft I was disgusted with what the reporter and my mom had made my experience out to be,” Alex said on Twitter. “I was told that I had no say in whether or not the article was published. I asked if my consent was required to publish the article and the reporter told me, ‘that’s not how these things work.’”
After Alex refuted The Free Press’s reporting on their experience at the trans clinic, their mother responded in the thread, saying: “This is actually my story about how I was treated as a parent at this center. Alex has a story too, but this article wasn’t it. Don’t confuse the two.”
The Transgender Center is currently being investigated by Missouri’s Attorney General, Andrew Bailey, who has launched numerous attacks on trans health care in the state. Yoffe’s story about Alex, which went viral, has only added fuel to the fire, further empowering the legislature’s attack on transgender Missourians.
Yoffe has been criticized for questionable reporting and an alleged lack of journalistic integrity in the past. In 2019, reporter Anna Merlan wrote for Jezebel that Yoffe “has a tendency to write pieces about sexual assault that ‘tend to conclude that the accuser was wrong, lying, or drunk,” accusing the reporter of consciously omitting sexual assault survivors’ testimonies.
In February, The Free Press published an op-ed by a former employee of the Missouri clinic, Jamie Reed, alleging that the clinic had committed ethics violations. The article, in addition to an affidavit signed by Reed, provoked the attorney general’s investigation into the clinic. Bailey has recommended that the clinic stop providing gender-affirming care while the investigation is ongoing.
According to The Advocate, however, “there has been widespread debunking of Reed’s assertions by parents and patients who said their experiences did not match her assertions.” The claims being investigated by the attorney general have been contradicted by nearly two dozen parents whose children have been treated by the center, in addition to Miller’s claims being publicly refuted by her own child.
Transgender activists and journalists have condemned Yoffe for not including Alex’s experience in the piece and for publishing the story without their consent.
“Honestly you could have no better example of how ‘journalists’ try to pass off transphobia as clear-eyed question asking,” said trans activist and attorney Lyra Foster. “Don’t listen to the trans kid, don’t listen to the supportive dad the trans kid lives with, skip straight to the transphobe mom.”
American University philosophy lecturer Dr. Johnathan Flowers similarly slammed Yoffe’s reporting, denouncing it as “transphobic journalism” intended to fuel the far right’s attempts to eradicate trans people.
“They’re not ‘following the facts where they lead,’ they’re not ‘challenging the status quo,’ they’re not even doing good or brave reporting,” Flowers said. “They’re interested in trans genocide and they’re perfectly happy to use the press to get what they want.”
Author Brynn Tannehill called Alex’s response to Yoffe’s ideologically-motivated reporting a “rare example, and one of the few in public, where an unsupportive parent speaks to the media, and their child pops up and tells their side of the story.”
Tannehill noted that it is common for reporters to misreport the stories of trans kids by platforming parents who are unsupportive of their trans children.
Gillian Branstetter, communications strategist at the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project and LGBTQ & HIV Project, called for reporters to stop relying solely on parents for stories about gender-affirming health care for trans youth. “The reason trans youth are overrepresented in homeless shelters, juvenile detention, and foster care,” Branstetter said, “is because they are more frequently abused and rejected by their parents.”
Them reports that Alex is expecting their mother to find a way to force doctors to remove their implant and end their access to gender affirming-care.
In the meantime, Alex asked their supporters to donate to trans advocacy groups, saying that while it was terrifying to tell their story, they were glad they were able to correct the narrative.
“I won’t let anyone talk over me ever,” they said on Twitter.
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