‘The Anti-Trans Hate Machine: A Plot Against Equality’ Season 2, Episode 3 transcript and replay.
Denise told them that she was the parent of a kid who claimed to be trans. Denise was convinced that her kid had been brainwashed.
Denise wanted to know how. And she thought the detranstioners might say something that established doctors wouldn’t because a small number of detransitioners see themselves as being ex-trans.
So, Denise and the detransitioners exchanged a few messages, but for whatever reason, Denise wasn’t satisfied. To vent her frustration about the very existence of trans kids, she started a WordPress blog and hoped that others would listen. They did.
Denise named her blog 4th Wave Now. And it became a pivotal engine of the Anti-Trans Hate Machine.
I’m Imara Jones, and this is The Anti-Trans Hate Machine: A Plot Against Equality.
Today, we’re going to tell you the story of 4th Wave Now. Although not a household name, it’s been a critical force in the anti-trans movement, specifically the sweeping attacks on trans kids.
It’s where parents who are hostile to their trans children gather to find ways to support each other in undermining them. Now, this sounds far-fetched but sadly, it’s true.
Perhaps even more profoundly, however, 4th Wave Now is where the idea of transness as a social contagion originated. The parents there believed that their kids were being brainwashed by YouTube, or social media, or their friends. “Trans social contagion” has become one of the most potent ideas out there. It has spread far and wide, even to mainstream and supposedly non-biased platforms.
But this is about more than flawed intellectualism. The idea of social contagion has become a vital piece of right-wing propaganda.
Organizations that are part of the Anti-Trans Hate Machine ran focus groups to see the best way to attack the idea of trans people overall. And their research concluded, “first make people uncomfortable with the idea of trans youth.”
And so they did. 4th Wave Now now serves as a go-to resource for Christian Nationalists, anti-trans feminists, and ideological detransitioners searching for like-minded parents to advance their anti-trans cause.
And they’re not just influencing conservatives. What we’re seeing again and again is that parents who consider themselves to be “liberal”, who even say that they believe in trans rights, are falling for these ideas and preventing their children from getting the care that they need.
Parents like Jeanne Ogden. Her relationship with her daughter Cam was changed forever by contact with this blog.
Jeanne and Cam Ogden live in a quiet suburb just outside of Columbus, Ohio. It’s full of big brick houses with yards and two-car garages, wide, well-paved roads and lots of trees. Cam Ogden is 22, a college student, and the youngest of three girls. Jeanne Ogden is her mom. She’s an environmental engineer and writer.
Cam’s dad is also an engineer. And Cam’s grandfather, Jeanne’s dad, was a physicist at NASA for 35 years.
All that to say: They’re a curious, analytical, and deeply rational group of people. You might even use the word nerdy.
Jeanne Ogden: Yes. My, my husband’s ringtone, I believe, is the Star Trek, you know.
I can call them nerds, because I’m a nerd too.
Jeanne Ogden: It’s like the Star Trek, their little whatever they call them, that they carry around in their hands. So, yes, we’re very nerdy, all of us.
Imara Jones: Yeah, I think they call them communicators.
So I got along with Jeanne and Cam right away.
Like most queer people, Cam was always a little different from her peers, but not in a bad way.
Jeanne Ogden: Well, Cam was full of energy. That’s the first thing. And Cam loved to make people laugh. She was extremely smart and ready to go from the moment she was born. Always walking the line over what was allowed and what wasn’t.
When Cam was young, she started to realize that there was something different about her. That the way that the world saw her really didn’t fit with the way that she saw herself.
Cam Ogden: I didn’t have the language yet, but when I was four or five or six years old, I stole a bunch of my older sisters’ jewelry. But I didn’t know what to do with it because I knew if I was seen wearing it around, that wouldn’t go over well. So I just hid it underneath like my dresser. And I didn’t know what else to do with it. And I knew that I didn’t necessarily actually like jewelry specifically or like their jewelry. I just didn’t like that separation. And I didn’t like the fact that like, Oh, that’s a girl thing. You’re a boy. You can’t do that.
Eventually, Jeanne found the stolen jewelry. Neither her, nor Cam’s dad, thought much of it. But for Cam, it was incredibly meaningful.
Cam Ogden: What struck me the most and what I remember the most isn’t actually the desire. It’s the shame that I felt because I knew in some ways that I was kind of being told that the way that I was feeling or the things that I was doing were wrong.
Imara Jones: Who did you feel was telling you that?
Cam Ogden: I guess it would be whoever dragged the jewelry out from underneath my dresser, which would have been one of my parents. And I remember being like, Okay yeah, I took their jewelry, like, that’s bad. But why is it bad that I took their jewelry? Because when my sisters take each other’s jewelry, it’s not this big of a deal.
So Cam continued, in her own quiet, but defiant way to express her gender. She liked to wear her sister’s running shoes because they had “I run like a girl” written on the soles.
And when she was feeling particularly safe, she’d wear dresses in the theater troupe that she was a part of.
Cam Ogden: I got involved in musical theater at a pretty young age, like nine or ten years old. And I would be an extra as a little kid, right? And or like a part of the chorus. And when I knew people who didn’t know me were watching the show, I would wear dresses and no one cared. And so I just got to sort of do my own thing.
Cam hadn’t yet labeled herself as ‘trans.’ She had no idea what that even meant. She just wanted to express who she was. And so theater became a kind of refuge for her. A place where she could play roles as a girl and feel more like herself. But then puberty hit. And Cam’s safe space, being on stage, suddenly flipped upside down.
Cam Ogden: The first real super physical reaction of puberty was my voice. And so I started to get cast in leading male roles like Robin Hood in the production Robin Hood or like the lead actor in a Western that I remember doing. Or I was the king in Sleeping Beauty. And I just absolutely hated it. And so I noticed the changes and I just fled from it because I just immediately quit theater and I quit doing really anything that was emotionally cognizant.
Cam dropped out of theater, and threw herself into activities where she wouldn’t have to think so much about her body.
Cam Ogden: And I got into robotics, which is something I had already sort of been doing for a bit, but I kind of like threw my whole soul into it. And I sort of buried myself in a super analytical, super logical world that didn’t have to deal with the real world or my body or anything like that.
Cam was throwing herself into whatever she could to distract herself from the growing dysphoria that she felt. For a few years, ignoring her body worked well enough. But then, when she was 15 years old, Cam got a really serious concussion. And being forced to sit with her own thoughts in recovery made it impossible to ignore what was happening.
Cam Ogden: For the first time in my teenage life, I wasn’t able to distract myself anymore. I wasn’t doing robotics anymore. I wasn’t on my phone anymore. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t watch TV. I always laugh when people talk about like the effect of social media on transing your kids, like I was radio silent, you know what I mean? In fact, it was the fact that I was alone with myself for the first time, truly alone with myself, with no distractions that I was able to actually parse through these feelings that I had already sort of come to but had avoided.
Cam had always known that there was something different about her. But it wasn’t until she was forced to sit quietly with herself that she could accept that she was trans.
One day, while she was still recovering from the concussion, she decided to tell her mom. It was late, but Cam knew her mom was downstairs, so she went down to the kitchen and started to make a BLT.
Cam Ogden: I put it all together and I sat down. I took like three huge bites of it.
This was the first time that Cam was ever going to tell anyone that she was trans. The first time that those life-changing words would actually leave her mouth.
Jeanne Ogden: Then she came over and she looked at me and she says, Mom, I have something to tell you. And when your child says that, your antenna goes up, a little worried.
Jeanne watched Cam closely. She had no idea what was coming.
Cam Ogden: And then I took more bites and she sat down and she was looking at me, like expectantly.
Jeanne Ogden: She said, I’m a girl. And at first I thought she was teasing me because she’s Cam. And she said, No. She’s like, I’m trans. And it was, it was a shock to me. I had never considered that or thought that was on my radar at all.
Cam wasn’t sure how her mother was going to react to hearing that she was trans.
Imara Jones: What was the look on her face?
Cam Ogden: I’ll just say I’ve seen the same look on a lot of people when they’re looking at like a puzzle or like a new sort of, like, intersection in their town. Right? Of alertness and a little bit of trepidation.
Despite Jeanne’s initial shock, Cam thought that her plan has worked because of how their conversation ended.
Jeanne Ogden: But I said, You know, we love you and we’ll be here for you. You know, we’ll figure this out together and, you know, she put her little arms around me. And she said, Mom, I love you. You’re the best mom in the world.
So far, it had all gone better than expected. With her mom seemingly on her side, Cam felt that everything would eventually be ok. But a lingering worry that Cam had was telling her dad. Telling him felt more emotionally risky because Cam was actually closer to her dad. So she hoped that her mom would somehow help prepare him for the news.
But what Cam didn’t know as she went upstairs is that Jeanne had deep reservations. Jeanne stayed downstairs, trying to process what Cam had just told her.
Jeanne Ogden: And I thought, I don’t know how I’m going to do this.
it was more than just doubt though.
Jeanne Ogden: I’ve never considered myself homophobic or transphobic or any of those things, you know. But when it’s your own child, things, things complicate themselves in your head. And, you know, I was afraid and they call it transphobia for a reason. And whether, you know, you do it in an outright hateful way toward other people or whether, you’re afraid for your own child, it’s the same thing.
Jeanne’s transphobia, though unnamed, would color every parenting decision moving forward.
And that would make the next few years of Cam’s life very difficult and very confusing.
Jeanne didn’t believe that Cam was actually trans. So she began throwing up a series of roadblocks to prevent dealing with Cam’s gender identity.
First, she said that Cam needed to fully heal from her concussion before seeing a doctor. So Cam waited. Then, after a while, Jeanne said Cam needed to work on her self-esteem. So, Cam waited some more.
But in a spark of hope, Jeanne and Cam finally went to see a pediatrician.
Jeanne Ogden: So the pediatrician at the time talked to Cam for maybe 10 minutes and then said, Well, I think Cam knows what she needs and let’s get her an appointment with an endocrinologist to move forward with treatment. Which took me by surprise and also concerned me at the time because of my own attitude toward what it would mean to be trans.
To be clear: What this pediatrician did was consistent with current medical advice. The consensus among clinical associations and experts — like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and many, many others — is to evaluate and listen to a young person when they come out as trans. That’s because the evidence shows that trusting trans kids is the right thing to do. But Jeanne rejected that.
Jeanne Ogden: I had convinced myself that this was a phase, that Cam was looking for a way to understand herself better, but that it would pass.
Jeanne doubled down on her strategy to keep Cam from transitioning. Not only by seeing doctor after doctor and therapist after therapist. But there were also medical professionals who she resisted seeing.
Jeanne Ogden: I chose not to pursue an appointment with the endocrinologist or a gender therapist or clinic that would have known how to best care for her.
And on top of this, Jeanne came up with yet another delay. She told Cam that before medically transitioning, she had to come out to her dad.
Now to be clear, involving Cam’s father was not something that Jeanne had wanted to do originally. But she knew that Cam and her dad were close, and that adding this hurdle would stall the process further.
Just the thought of revealing her gender identity to her father was terrifying to Cam.
Cam Ogden: I knew that my relationship with my dad was so at the time tied to the fact that I was his quote unquote son. And I was terrified of losing that without having any other support.
After months, she worked up the courage to tell her dad who she truly was. But given her strong connection with him, the response was a gut punch.
Cam Ogden: And he kind of said something along the lines of like, Well, you know, everyone kind of goes through phases of this sort of thing. And I think he said at one point, like, You know, I didn’t have a girlfriend for a long time and so like I didn’t really know what was going on. I just remember feeling very sad. I remember just feeling very, very defeated because I was hoping, I don’t know why I was hoping, but I was hoping that he would be like, Oh, okay, yeah, this is a problem to solve. All right, let’s, let’s work on, like, how we can help you be trans.
Her dad’s response, her mom’s delays, and the numerous medical appointments which went nowhere took their toll.
As the days and months went by, Cam’s gender dysphoria was causing more and more pain. She began to hate her body, that her body hair was getting thicker, her voice deeper.
So after all the stalling by those who were supposed to look after her, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
Cam Ogden: I started using Nair for extremely long periods of time in order to get rid of my chest hair, because I thought that if I used it for a really long time, I wouldn’t, it wouldn’t grow back.
But of course it did and led to even more damage.
Cam Ogden: I got like serious chemical burns that left like scarring for a while and I had to treat like a weird sort of infected chemical burn sort of wound like secretly.
Like many people who engage in self-harm, Cam told no one including her own parents. With all that had happened, she no longer trusted them.
As Cam quietly grappled with her parent’s stonewalling, and outright dismissal, another obstacle to their acceptance was thrown in her way. It was a new and even stranger rationale than she had heard before.
Jeanne had learned that one of Cam’s friend’s was also trans, something Cam wasn’t even aware of at the time.
Cam Ogden: She was like, Yeah, I mean, now that you’ve come out to your dad, I talked to your dad. And like, he also thinks it’s a little bit like far-fetched that you and this other friend of yours want to be trans at the same time.
Cam’s parents seemed to believe that being trans was contagious. This didn’t make any sense. Her parents were deeply rational and scientific. How could they believe something like this? The idea had to come from somewhere. So Cam, like her researcher parents, started to dig.
Cam Ogden: I ended up like going online and I posted a Reddit question where I was like, Hey, like my mom’s like been saying this weird stuff about like thinking that I was trans because a friend of mine is trans. And then like I would say, ten or fifteen other people responded very quickly just like, Yeah, my parents do the exact same thing or did the exact same thing.
And everyone who answered pointed her to the same place: a website called 4th Wave Now. So that’s where Cam went next. When Cam opened the website, the comments she saw from parents shook her.
Cam Ogden: They were openly talking about how like they thought other trans people, but maybe not their kids, were like pedophilic and perverted and disgusting. And they need to protect them. And it was such a hateful mentality where you’re blaming other literal children for, quote unquote, making your kid trans when you don’t even realize that like, all the other parents are blaming your kid for making their kid trans. And it terrified me.
As Cam was looking through the website, she realized what fed Jeanne’s stalling. For all these years she had been coming to 4th Wave Now, and had been influenced by the ideas and conversations she had seen there.
Jeanne Ogden: I was looking for ways for Cam not to be trans because I was afraid of what that meant. So I found a website, which espouses this idea of kids being influenced by other kids or online activity and then they decide that they are trans too.
When you open 4th Wave Now, the first thing you see is a quote from a poem — beloved by anti-trans feminists — called “Diving into the Wreck.” The lines are superimposed over a pixelated image of a scuba diver discovering a shipwreck. Even at first glance, you can tell that 4th Wave Now has no apparent ties to any medical professionals, and that many of its members are opposed to their children’s transition.
Jeanne Ogden: There was information on there about feminism. And, you know, boys are boys, girls are girls. In my head at the time, I felt like some of their arguments were suspect. But, I also, you know, could relate to the idea that perhaps Cam was influenced.
Parents on 4th Wave Now were using the phrase ‘social contagion’ to describe what they thought was happening to their kids. It’s the idea that kids who identify as trans are only doing so because of influence from friends or the media or even the medical industry. And Jeanne bought what they were saying hook, line, and sinker.
Jeanne Ogden: This militant language made me believe that if I take her to a gender clinic, that they might make her trans and that if Cam were not trans, she would regret it in the long run.
After reading through the posts on 4th Wave Now, Cam worried that continuing to bring up transitioning would harden her parent’s opposition.
Cam Ogden: If I hadn’t known that the things that she was saying and the beliefs that she had, if I hadn’t known that they were backed up by this massive conspiratorially minded cult of chromosome worshipers, I would have felt more confident fighting back to advocate for myself to my mom specifically. And I think things could have turned out differently.
Eventually, Cam stopped bringing up transition altogether.
This website wasn’t just hurting Cam: 4th Wave Now was convincing parents around the US to, at a minimum, delay the healthcare that their trans kids needed or, even worse, be downright hostile to it.
The posts and comments warning about a trans social contagion came from disaffected parents, many of whom had been estranged from their children for years.
But unsuspecting parents like Jeanne didn’t know that, because 4th Wave Now successfully hides behind a veneer of parental concern, rather than overt transphobia. That’s why it’s still so effective at convincing people like Jeanne that being trans is a “social contagion,” that it spreads as an idea from one kid to the next like some disease.
Parents on 4th Wave Now had a theory: that their kids were being peer pressured to transition.
When Serano noticed this idea of social contagion creeping into the mainstream, she wanted to find out where it had come from.
Julia Serano: So I began just doing basic Google searches to try to find the first instances of this idea of transgender social contagion And what I found was that it originated on a blog called 4th Wave Now.
From the site’s earliest days, the parents there were coming up with all sorts of reasons to explain away their kids’ identities.
Julia Serano: This is just a way for parents to, quote unquote, quarantine their child. You know, take away their ability to access the internet, to interact with friends, as a way of essentially a form of gender conversion therapy, of not allowing the child to be trans in the hopes that it will make that go away.
But these ideas would have remained confined to an internet comment section on a relatively obscure blog, were it not for the work of one woman: Dr. Lisa Littman.
Dr. Littman would give this idea of social contagion the stamp of scientific credibility.
Lisa Littman: I found a couple of websites where parents were describing that their kids became gender dysphoric out of the blue in the context of friend groups, often after being immersed in social media.
That’s Dr. Littman on the podcast “Gender: A Wider Lens.”
Before 2016, Littman was a practicing obstetrician gynecologist, and a relatively unknown researcher at New York’s Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and Brown University. And according to her, she’d never had trans youth or their parents as patients.
But when she noticed that more and more trans kids were coming out on social media, Dr. Littman thought it was suspicious.
Lisa Littman: I started thinking, huh, this does not make sense based on what the world literature says on the prevalence of this, of this condition. And somewhere after the fifth and the fifth, sixth, or seventh one, I decided that I needed to research this.
However, there was a problem with her research. Rather than cast a wide net amongst all parents of trans kids, she decided to survey only the parents of 4th Wave Now and similar sites like Transgender Trend, and the now defunct Youth Trans Critical Professionals dot org.
Her study was called “Rapid-onset gender dysphoria in adolescents and young adults: A study of parental reports.” And not surprisingly it was deeply flawed. Not only did it have a biased sample of parents, but Littman had a pre-existing idea of how many trans kids should exist. She thought that anything above that number had to be driven by a social phenomenon.
Lisa Littman: I looked at the social media around this topic, and what I found was something, you know, was really some very unhealthy content in which individuals were asking whether certain things or certain experiences meant that they were trans. And the, and the answer was almost universally, yes, yes, it does. And there’s really a push to transition as soon as possible or you’ll regret it.
Littman labeled the social contagion expressed by the parents on 4th Wave Now as “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria or ROGD.” The name stuck and became the new “X factor” explanation for more trans kids coming out.
Essentially Littman knew where to shop for the answers that she wanted. And she got them.
The fact that Littman’s study was flawed ultimately led PLOS One, the scientific journal which had published it, to retract the piece and demand substantial revisions. Specifically, Littman was required to clarify that her study was only representative of the parents that she sampled, and couldn’t be generalized to trans kids overall.
Additionally, Brown University, based on the PLOS One takedown, disavowed an initial press release trumpeting Littman’s research.
But it was too late to undo the damage. Once Littman’s pseudoscientific study was out there, it spread like wildfire, because it sounded legit and provided a new catchphrase that people who are anti-trans could use to sell their ideas.
Here’s Julia Serano, again.
Julia Serano: It is kind of a genius move in a really bad way. It creates this opening for them to go back to using practices such as gender conversion therapies that have been proven to not just not work, but to actually cause harm to children.
Anti-trans groups with names like GenSpect and the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine push for a conversion therapy tactic called “watchful waiting.” Watchful waiting uses ROGD as a rationale to withhold care from trans kids. What they want is to prevent care in an attempt to squash out their transness.
Since Littman’s study, several other papers have been published debunking rapid onset gender dysphoria or ROGD as a concept. But the idea has stuck and even Littman herself has had staying power. She is now president of The Institute for Comprehensive Gender Dysphoria Research, a group that she founded.
A big reason that her discredited research endures is in no small part due to the writing of journalist Jesse Singal. In fact, because of Singal, Littman’s ideas would find their very first entree into a mainstream audience. Here he is on a podcast called “Keep Talking”:
Jesse Singal: I found the accounts of some detransitioners, which are young people, or usually young people, who transitioned and then regretted it. And it just seemed like, you know, trans kids were everywhere. And it would be good to have a big magazine article laying out what the process looks like for, for determining a kid is or isn’t ready to transition.
Singal published his article in a cover story for The Atlantic called “When Kids Say They’re Trans” in 2018 — the same year Littman published her study. In the magazine article, Signal spotlights the same idea of social contagion circulated by parents online, a clear nod to 4th Wave Now.
Jesse Singal: Because to me, it’s pretty easy to see how like if you’re a struggling adolescent and you don’t know exactly what’s wrong with you or why you feel so crappy, you could go online and find a pretty pat storyline that all you need to do to feel better is transition and to get on some hormones. And you see a ton of kids who believe this, and some of them may be right, but there, there has to be a role for adults to sort of, to gatekeepe here. I mean, both morally and ethically, 14 and 15-year-olds cannot consent to their own treatment.
When Singal’s article came out, it was explosive, especially online. With their ideas now appearing in a mainstream, even liberal news source, the right-wing media didn’t hesitate to spread Singal’s work.
Without Singal and journalists like him, it’s unlikely that the idea of a trans social contagion would have spread beyond the confines of conversations amongst transphobic parents, pseudoscientific organizations, or Christian Nationalist think tanks.
Jules Gill-Peterson is a historian at John Hopkins who’s charted transgender history and science in the United States. She says that there was clearly a before and after Jesse Singal’s piece.
Jules Gill-Peterson: It was almost like a tipping point moment. Right? Where you have this person whose whole brand is, I’m not personally motivated here. Right? I’m just doing my job. And in fact, it’s my job to be dispassionate.
And the fact that Singal markets himself as an unbiased journalist who’s “just asking questions,” allows him to effectively peddle these discredited ideas.
To be clear, becoming a leading voice against gender affirming care for young people has been great for him professionally.
Jesse Singal: So, you know, and, and I cannot say the last three years since this article came out have been bad for me professionally. It’s been the opposite. I’ve been very fortunate.
If Singal was just engaging in thought experiments without any consequence, that would be one thing. But the point of the disinformation that he helps to disseminate is that it does have real-world consequences. This goes beyond cyberspace and intellectual cocktail parties.
Jesse Singal says that he is against anti-trans policies pursued by Christian Nationalist legislators, yet his Atlantic story was cited by a group of conservative state attorney generals seeking to roll back trans medical rights in 2019. And ROGD, the social contagion myth that he’s helped to spread, it’s cited by conservative legislators hoping to outlaw gender affirming care for trans youth all the time.
Speaker 1: Children should be free from either parental, peer, or cultural pressure.
Speaker 2: It is largely thought to be a social contagion phenomenon.
Speaker 3: Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria
Ultimately, though, all of this is about the harm that this disinformation wreaks on individuals and families.
Individuals like Cam Ogden.
More than five years after first coming out to her family, Cam decided that she was going to go on hormones. She was old enough that she didn’t need anyone’s permission anymore. The years of painful waiting were finally coming to an end. And immediately, she told her mom.
Cam Ogden: I remember her just kind of being like, Oh, okay. Like, and I was just like, That’s it?
Cam had expected more resistance, but there surprisingly wasn’t any. Jeanne had grown a lot over the years since Cam first came out and that growth helped her accept Cam’s decisions.
Cam Ogden: It was a complete tone shift from her because she kind of saw my being trans as no longer within her control. And she saw it as something that she was going to need to support me on and that was that. And ever since then, she’s been extremely supportive. And I think it’s hard to square that because, like, she was not supportive at all. She did not seek to help me with that at all when I was first came out to her and for years and years and years afterwards. But I think, just again, she has a lot of emotional maturity and she has the capacity to sort of come around and understand that, like, this isn’t going away. This is me. And unlike a lot of other people, she was able to accept that. So, yeah, I’m lucky that it didn’t tear apart my family.
If anything, Cam’s transition has strengthened her family. When she told her dad a few months later, he wrote her a letter telling her that he supported her. And her older sisters, all the way on the other side of the country, were fully supportive.
Cam Ogden: They collaborated behind my back and put together a charm necklace for me, and they mailed it to me. And I sent to them, I sent a picture of that necklace to them, not of me wearing it, though, of it underneath the dresser that I use to hide all their jewelry. And they said, You finally have something shiny of your own.
It was almost a Hallmark movie moment, and it’s miraculous that Cam’s mom and dad reacted the way that they did to the news, after they had been co-opted by the ideas on 4th Wave Now.
When Cam trusted her parents enough she talked how about how being made to wait to transition had hurt her, driving her to self-harm. And it was at that moment that Jeanne realized the depth of the mistake that she had made as a mom.
Jeanne Ogden: And I, I should have known because I’ve struggled with mental health issues myself and I know how bad and how dark it can get, you know, inside your head when you’re alone. And Cam was traumatized by that. Cam was terrified that, number one, her body was changing. They’ll call it watchful waiting. But watchful waiting is not a neutral decision. While you’re watchfully waiting your child to go through puberty, which for most children is a natural, healthy, wonderful, scary thing, for a trans child, it’s terrifying. We’re not just talking about a kid who doesn’t understand the changes in their body and is uncomfortable with them and may be anxious. Cam has talked about, it’s another whole level of discomfort. For those of us who try to say, well, this was hard for me, it’s 100 times harder for your child. 100 times.
Now Cam is using her story and experiences to make sure trans kids don’t have to go through what she did. Cam is working to fight back against anti-trans proposals in her state.
Here she is testifying in front of the Ohio State Board of Education and other agencies.
Cam Ogden: Trans kids aren’t new. They have been living in your communities for far longer than you realize and they aren’t going anywhere. If you think this is concerning, then you’ve likely fallen victim to the actual trend sweeping America and pervading this room today: an epidemic of panic and misinformation.
She’s shown up to committee meeting after committee meeting. But anti-trans parents also show up to these same meetings. And for Jeanne, those anti-trans parents and their testimony sounded exactly like the old posts she read on 4th Wave Now.
Jeanne Ogden: They are so entrenched in their belief that it’s all gender ideology and, you know, the media and the doctors are all conspiring to make our kids trans so that they can make more money. And so these parents show up and they say, my child was convinced to be trans. And these parents still do not have a relationship with their children, many of whom are approaching adulthood or who maybe are adults already. They would rather cling to this belief that their child is wrong and has been led astray than have a relationship with their children.
For her part, Jeanne is working to repair her own relationship with Cam.
Cam Ogden: This healing between us has been her rising to me and not me changing myself to fit with her. That’s a huge, huge reason that this has worked. I think everyone who’s listening to this should realize that like she has been rising and bettering herself to be able to be in my life. I have not changed myself at all to be better for her, to have a relationship with her. Because fundamentally, I just can’t do that. I can’t fit in that box for her and she doesn’t need me to anymore.
Ultimately, Jeanne was able to break away from the anti-trans propaganda which harmed her family and pushed Cam to the brink.
But sadly, Jeanne’s story is not a singular one. It has been replicated countless times. And the idea which drove it, that being trans as a kid is the result of a social contagion, is thriving in America right now.
It’s being sold as some sort of a snake oil by an entire infrastructure that’s bent on pushing pseudoscience in order to undermine the idea of trans people overall.
The fact that it’s finding so much traction right now shows that the contagion is not trans kids coming out. What’s infecting our culture, body politic, and the lives of families is the theory of Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria. That’s the actual pathogen here.
But Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said that “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” That’s why we have to expose these concepts for what they really are. It’s the only way to neutralize them and to protect kids all across the country who are just like Cam.
This episode ends Part 1 of Season Two of The Anti-Trans Hate Machine: A Plot Against Equality. Part Two will debut on June 2.
In Part 2, I’ll be delving into how the proponents of Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria have realized their anti-trans dreams by moving beyond the misinformation of a single journalist to occupying nearly the entire media landscape. This realization of their strategy to manipulate the public and contort the entire conversation about trans rights is frightening in its effect. And it has massive implications for media, journalism, and our democracy.
Visit www.translash.org/antitranshatemachine for additional content including videos, transcripts, and infographics to dive even deeper into how the Christian Nationalist movement is targeting transgender people. And follow us on social media @translashmedia for even more Anti-Trans Hate Machine content.
The Anti-Trans Hate Machine: A Plot Against Equality is hosted and executive produced by Imara Jones. Oliver Ash Kleine is our senior producer and Nicole Kelly is our editor. Our producers include Josephine Jaye McAuliffe, Ann Marie Awad, and Mara Lazer. Our associate producers are Vera B., Wren Farrell, R. Robinson, Nicole Richards, and Tiler Wilson. Fact-checking for this season comes from Steven Crighton. This series is sound designed by Xander Adams. Zak Lanius helped with audio production. Our social media team includes Daniela “Dani” Capistrano, head of Digital Strategy, as well as Brennen Beckwith, our social media producer.
Help spread the word about #AntiTransHateMachine by accessing our Season 2 social media toolkit.