TRANSCRIPT: The Anti-Trans Hate Machine Episode 2, ‘A Coordinated Attack on Trans Youth’

Trace Trice: Okay, okay, I’m ready. I’m ready. Okay. Okay. I’m so excited. Okay, wait. Okay, can I look? 

Imara Jones: Phineas Fleming-Smith is getting ready for his first prom. His mom Trace and his stepdad Bunny are helping him. But Trace can barely contain her excitement. In fact, she might even be more excited than Phin.

Trace Trice: Oh my god, you look so handsome. Look at you! 

Bunny: Do you want me to retie your tie?

Trace Trice: Oh, look at you. You need to turn around, let Bunny tie your tie? Awwwww. Phin, how do you feel? I mean, aside from the fact that you look like you’re being strangled a little bit having your tie tied. 

Phineas Fleming-Smith: Um… I’m excited, nervous. 

Bunny: I thought I got it. I did not got it.

Imara Jones: Trace is really doing the most here. She’s bought snacks for Phin’s friends as they get ready at the house. They’re ordering pizza, too. She’s decorated the front porch with rainbow hearts and flags. And she has big plans for their prom photos. On top of all of that, Trace is going above and beyond to celebrate her son and to make this moment special. That’s because it’s been a really hard year for Phin. Phin’s home state of Alabama is targeting him and trans kids like him. But he’s speaking up. And he’s found himself in the middle of a nationwide battle over whether he and other trans young people can get what they need to be themselves.

Hello, I’m Imara Jones. Welcome back to The Anti-Trans Hate Machine: A Plot Against Equality. This series explores the explosion in anti-trans bills that’s happened throughout the country in just the last two years. And what I’ve learned since plunging into this topic is that it’s all part of a larger plan by the far right.

This last episode, we investigated the part of the machine behind the anti-trans sports bills, specifically a group called Alliance Defending Freedom. But there’s another even more ominous type of bill, and it should have us worried. These target life-saving medical care for trans teens. So where are these bills coming from? Alabama has been one of the battlegrounds for this dangerous legislation. So let’s turn back to Phin. 

Phin has been waiting to go on hormones for years. And the plan was to start once he turned 16. But I didn’t happen.

Phineas Fleming-Smith: It was one thing I wanted for my birthday. 

Trace Trice: I know. 

Phineas Fleming-Smith: Testosterone. 

Trace Trice: I know. 

Phineas Fleming-Smith: Yeah, the one the one thing I asked for I didn’t, didn’t want anything else.

Imara Jones: Why do you think it’s so important to make you–what, why is it, why is it so important to you? 

Phineas Fleming-Smith: I’m not comfortable on my own skin. 

Imara Jones: Now, Phin, his parents, stepdad, and doctors all agreed that going on testosterone was the next right move for him. And he was at the age where he could. But right before Phin turned 16, Alabama lawmakers made banning trans kids from getting the medical care they need a priority. When Trace first noticed that coming up in the Alabama State House in late 2020, she got a pit in her stomach.

Trace Trice: And then I looked, too, and saw on the Senate side of the prefiled bills and saw Senate Bill 10. And I knew that they were identical. And that means trouble. If, if they–you know, if they want to fast track something, they’re going to drop it at the same time. And that’s when we knew that that we were in for a bad fight.

Imara Jones: At the time when these bills were introduced, kids in Alabama could start getting gender affirming medical care at puberty. Gender affirming care for kids means the ability to go on puberty blockers and later, if it’s right for them, hormone therapy. But these new bills would make providing gender affirming care to trans kids, a felony, those who violate the law would face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. And Trace couldn’t imagine starting Phin on the care that he needed and then stopping. So they opted to hold off. But trace wasn’t going to sit idly by. She decided to fight against this law. And from her past advocacy work, she knew exactly how to push for change.

Trace Trice: I’ve been in the hallways of the State House and have knocked on doors and have done all the things you’re supposed to do to push positive important legislation. And this is different than everything else. The outrage is so much deeper, of: how dare you? How dare you do this to my child, my child who has done nothing, nothing but just want to be a kid.

Imara Jones: State Senator Shay Shelnutt introduced the legislation to his colleagues at the beginning of this year. And to put it charitably, his rationale was misleading. 

Shay Shelnutt: This bill protects children. 

Imara Jones: But it gets even worse. He decided to turn trans teens into a locker room joke.

Shay Shelnutt: Last I checked puberty is not a disease. I think we all went through that at one time. Some of us it was probably rougher than others. Right? I mean, but last checked it’s not a disease, it can be a confusing time. But hopefully most of us don’t think the same way we did when we were 14. I know, I don’t.

Imara Jones: I didn’t think that I could be surprised by how callous all of this is anymore. But he’s making jokes about pushing his legislation that the American Medical Association suggested would likely increase the risk of suicides and hurt trans kids. Other leading medical organizations have come out against this kind of legislation too, including the American Academy for Pediatrics, the American society, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, and more, many more. But none of that matters to Senator Shelnutt and his colleagues, they’re hell-bent on going all the way.

Phineas Fleming-Smith: It’s really frustrating. It’s really upsetting. 

Imara Jones: That’s Phin again. 

Phineas Fleming-Smith: I’m just trying to exist. I’ve got, I’ve got so many other things going on, that I don’t want to have to have this be a main focus when it’s no one else’s business.

Imara Jones: But Phin couldn’t be silent about what was happening to him. So he chose to speak out. 

Trace Trice: Do you want to go over your speech? 

Imara Jones: It’s April 2021. Phin’s getting ready to speak at a Zoom press conference with the Human Rights Campaign. The internet’s not working well at their home. Yeah, you know, we all know how that goes. So they had to drive to Trace’s office. 

Trace Trice: Are you okay? Are you okay? You were looking real green around the gills. I’m sorry. We’ll get some caffeine in you. 

Imara Jones: Phin’s barely responding here. He’s almost catatonic when they get to Trace’s workspace at the college. And the press conference starts. 

Human Rights Campaign: Good afternoon, everybody. And thanks for joining us. This afternoon, we’re here to discuss SB10, the anti-transgender medical care ban bill that’s moving its way through the Alabama legislature. 

Imara Jones: Then it’s Phin’s turn. Now to be honest, it’s a bit of a shaky start. And then the video cuts out. But he pulls it together and speaks with a moral clarity that only kids can:

Phineas Fleming-Smith: I do not want to be a pawn in a political agenda in which I was never consulted about. Representative Allen, Senator–Senator Shelnutt: My parents taught me that real men admit their mistakes. And I like to think that as legislators you know this too. There’s nothing shameful about–in making a mistake. There’s shame in not stopping a mistake that you know is hurting people. Step back from this. It’s the right thing to do. 

Imara Jones: Trace is on camera next to Phin. She’s nodding along as he’s talking, but she’s looking down. She’s still not sure if it’s right for her son to be out here like this.

Trace Trice: I’m nervous. I’m really nervous. I don’t know why, I don’t know. I guess it’s because… Am I pressuring Phin into doing this? I’m second guessing. I guess that’s a mom thing, but… Am I asking too much of him? Speaking up against injustice is the right thing to do. But when it’s your kid… It’s, it’s one thing when it’s me out, been in the press before, me speaking out, and it’s another thing when it’s your kid, your 16-year-old kid who just wants to be a kid.

Imara Jones: My heart goes out to Trace’s dilemma here. She’s seen the toll that speaking out has taken on Phin, but she has even bigger concerns if the law passes.

Trace Trice: If they win, which, again, let’s be realistic, they probably will, then we’ll keep doing what we have to do in order to get him the medicine that he needs for the treatment that he needs. And if that’s going to a different state, then that’s what we’ll do. And if that’s moving forward and pushing to, to sue the state of Alabama. Sure. I mean, nobody wakes up and goes, “Yeah, I can’t wait to sue Alabama today.” But you know, I mean, but that’s, that’s exactly what we’ll do. 

Phineas Fleming-Smith: I’ve never been in a courthouse. I don’t particularly want to be in one because I’m suing Alabama. 

Trace Trice: I don’t particularly want us to either, so I hope they choose right.

Imara Jones: These are their choices: to go through a gut-wrenching lawsuit, or leave the only state that Phin’s ever called home. 

Phineas Fleming-Smith: It’s weird and scary. I’m not supposed to be the spokesperson, representative of you know, trans people of my age group. I’m just trying to be a kid. And it’s not working. I really would love it if I could just not exist on the radar for a while. And it’s nerve-wracking. 

Trace Trice: But why did we decide that you should do it? 

Phineas Fleming-Smith: Because no one else is gonna? Not here, at least. I am the token trans person.

Imara Jones: It is easy to see yourself as that. But it’s also the case that you’re standing up for yourself. And you’re having to do that far sooner than you should. But it is also the case that standing up for yourself is something that you’ve always done. That by telling your parents, by telling your school, by having the bravery to be yourself, that you’ve always stood up for yourself. And so in some ways, what you’re doing is that, but it’s just very public. And so I think that you have more bravery, than you’re giving yourself credit for.

Trace Trice: Oh. Aww, honey, I have to say, I really agree. You’re a really brave kid. 

Imara Jones: But Phin shouldn’t have to be brave. Adults are forcing him and trans kids in every corner of the country to be grown-ups faster than they ever should. That’s because around 30 bills have been proposed banning young trans people from getting the medical care that they need. And in Oklahoma, there’s a bill that’s even worse, it bans this kind of care into adulthood. It was introduced by Oklahoma State Senator Warren Hamilton. Under his proposal, anyone involved in helping a trans person under 21 years old gain access to gender-affirming care would face three years to life in prison and face up to $20,000 in fines. Yep, you heard that right. Anyone younger than 21. It’s pretty draconian.

Local News Anchor: Senator Hamilton, saying in a press release: “If a person is not mature enough to make the decision to use alcohol and tobacco responsibly, they are certainly not mature enough to make the decision to undergo irrepairable and irreversible chemical or surgical procedures.”

Imara Jones: This bill feels especially personal to Oklahoma Representative Jacob Rosecrants: his 13-year-old son is trans. 

Jacob Rosecrants: I try to see both sides. and in this situation, I just don’t think I can see–it’s just born out of ignorance, once again. 

Imara Jones: This interview is the first time Jacob and Spencer are speaking up publicly. What was clear to me is that Spencer knows who he is. He came out pretty recently, just last year at the age of 12. But he’s been thinking about and researching his gender identity since he was even younger.

Spencer Rosecrants: Well, I started digging into like, um, like, trans, FTM, female-to-male, like, stuff, and I kept watching it and I’m like, “Oh! Oh, I relate with this.” 

Imara Jones: Like many kids, Spencer struggles with gender dysphoria.

Spencer Rosecrants: I guess I finally realized instead of just being like, uncomfortable in my body and just like, like…I am a boy. I want these things off my chest, please.

Imara Jones: He’s had to be this clear all along. When Spencer first came out, it was a mess. His dad actually showed him videos of gender reassignment surgeries to try to dissuade him. 

Jacob Rosecrants: I know how horrible that is. But that’s what happened. 

Imara Jones: So your dad goes into your room and sits down and starts showing you videos. What did you think when that was happening, Spencer? 

Spencer Rosecrants: I didn’t really feel much. I was like, “Okay, cool.” It was kind of my whole mindset. “Okay, awesome.” 

Jacob Rosecrants: Yeah, that’s the way he’s been this whole entire time. “Alright, thanks. Appreciate it.” That’s what really helped me understand, is that Spencer was just like, “Okay, I know. All right. I’m a boy.” So I was like, “Okay. All right.” 

Imara Jones: And after that, Jacob started seeking resources to support his trans son. He’s come a long, long way. 

Jacob Rosecrants: If you want to have medical help to transition, make yourself feel more acceptable to your body in your mind, then I want you to have the wherewithal to do that. 

Imara Jones: Like with most families, these conversations about transition don’t happen overnight.

Where are you on decisions or conversations about anything medical? Where in your mind is the consideration of puberty blockers? They just are a pause button, so that your body doesn’t change in any way until you get to the point of deciding what you want to do. 

Spencer Rosecrants: I can actually start that?

Imara Jones: Uh-huh.

Spencer Rosecrants: That’s cool. 

Jacob Rosecrants: We haven’t crossed that bridge yet. This is our next big thing that we’re going to dig into, try to figure it out. 

Imara Jones: That’s why Jacob is worried. Because all of this will get even more complicated if his colleagues in the Oklahoma State Legislature do what they want to do, and take options away from his family. 

Jacob Rosecrants: This just shouldn’t be legislated at all, like period, like, you can feel how you want to feel, free country, but don’t legislate this, this shouldn’t be a frickin law. 

That just blows me away, blows me away. 

Imara Jones: It blows me away, too. That’s because transitioning as a teen, or at any age for that matter, is a very intricate, very involved process. Trust me. It varies person by person. And there’s no one size fits all. 

Dr. Shauna Lawlis: It’s a really individualized decision. 

Imara Jones: That’s Dr. Shauna Lawlis. She works in Oklahoma with young trans people under the age of 25.

Dr. Shauna Lawlis: And so we work with the patient and the families, plus or minus a mental health provider that may be involved, to decide what is the best time for the patient.

Imara Jones: Dr. Lawlis cannot say enough about the impact of this medical care has on young people.

Dr. Shauna Lawlis: I had one kid who was super, super anxious, and had a hard time interacting with others. And his family was lovely and super supportive. Once we started him on testosterone, they came back for a visit a few months later, and they were like he’s a different person. Like he’s able to interact, just, it’s transformational for these kids. And they are just so excited. This is like the only teenage population that’s actually excited to come to the doctor. I mean, most teenagers are like, “Yeah, okay,” but like they come and they know that they’re getting what they need.

Imara Jones: But these trans teens and their families have had their lives upended, just by the introduction of these bills. They don’t even have to pass to do damage.

Dr. Shauna Lawlis: I have multiple patients, where the parents were crying in my office, worried that their kids who had already started transition weren’t going to get the care they needed, weren’t going to be able to see us any longer. And that we would refuse to prescribe them hormones after this or puberty blockers or whatever, and that they would be back to square one with a very distressed kid on their hands. That’s just not safe.

Imara Jones: And then how did you go about trying to respond or comfort those families who were reacting to the fear of this even being a possibility?

Dr. Shauna Lawlis: I mean, so I told them, I wasn’t gonna stop doing what I do, that I took a hippocratic oath, that I will do no harm to my patients, and I feel that it would be harmful to stop treating these patients.

Imara Jones: Fortunately, the trans medical care legislation didn’t even make it out of committee in Oklahoma. But it didn’t matter. It wreaked havoc nonetheless, and it will likely come up again in the next session. Carrie Davis of the Trevor Project says that these debates place trans youth in danger.

Carrie Davis: Some people call our young people “high-risk youth.” I find that very unproductive. I like to think of them as young people that have been placed at risk. So these pieces of legislation are actually increasing their risk. These have the power to destabilize young people, to place them in crisis, and to make them more likely to attempt and complete suicide. 

Imara Jones: Who would want to unleash this pain and anguish? My producer Annie called Senator Warren Hamilton to find out. He’s the sponsor of the Oklahoma anti-trans medical bill. After she’d left over a dozen messages, his assistant called her back.

Office of Senator Warren Hamilton: This is Elaine with Senator Hamilton’s office, how may I help you? 

Annie Ning: Hi, did you just call me? This is Annie. 

Office of Senator Warren Hamilton: I did. Annie, I can’t, um, I can’t speak 100% for Senator Hamilton, but I looked up your website and probably guarantee that he will not be interested in doing this podcast. 

Annie Ning: This is not a gotcha interview. That’s not the kind of journalism we do we really just want to get– 

Office of Senator Warren Hamilton: I appreciate that. And I’m not saying that you’re lying to me, because I don’t know you personally. But I, I know that in the past we’ve had that experience. And you know, Senator Hamilton is not here to get his name out. He is God-fearing man. That is here that he feels that he’s on a mission from God. God bless you and you have an awesome day, okay? 

Annie Ning: Okay. Thank you. Bye. 

Office of Senator Warren Hamilton: Bye-bye.

Imara Jones: You can’t say we didn’t try. Eventually, we traced the language in the draconian Oklahoma bill to a proposal in South Carolina. Representative Garry Smith is one of the co-sponsors of that bill. He agreed to an interview. 

Good morning, Representative Smith, thank you so much. 

Representative Garry Smith: You’re welcome. 

Imara Jones: I’m wondering if you’ve ever spoken to any of the youth that you proposed legislation with impact? Have you ever spoken to transgender teenagers? Have you ever spoken to the doctors that treat them? Have you had in-depth conversations with their parents? Has that been a part of your process?

Representative Garry Smith: Well, for one thing, I don’t live in a cave. I do get out in society. I am a professor and talk to people in the community. 

Imara Jones: Yes, sir, of course. But the question is, have you done that specifically, with transgender teens, their parents and their medical professionals. 

Representative Garry Smith: I make myself available to everyone. 

Imara Jones: I’m seeing a pattern. None of these lawmakers are even talking to trans people. And when I asked Garry, if he had read the guidance from the American Medical Association, or any of the other groups for that matter, who had researched this, he wouldn’t answer. But somehow Garry is convinced that supporting trans kids is dangerous.

Representative Garry Smith: Not really, particularly when you see that, those sorts of things, those sorts of major sorts of…removing body parts and other things like that are being pursued for children younger than 18.

Imara Jones: And Garry can’t even name an example of this happening, or a place in his district or state, or even a neighboring state where it’s an issue.

Representative Garry Smith: But it is certainly important for us to take a look at in the considering this discussion. 

Imara Jones: You’re saying that, you know, from what you know that this exists, but you’re not, you can’t remember a specific case that you can point to where that’s the case. 

Garry said a lot of outrageous things during our conversation. But then he went a step even further. 

Representative Garry Smith: And this is, again, a conversation that we need to be having. And I look forward to having that robust exchange of ideas. And as Frederick Douglass said, use our freedom of speech to get those issues out there on the table.

Imara Jones: Well, of course, he was doing that in the context of slavery, which is very different. But I take your point on that. 

Now, Garry is just one lawmaker in one state, but all across the country, there are hundreds of Garry’s. So how do they all get the same idea at the same time? Well, it all started with a right-wing conference in October 2019, called “The Summit on Protecting Children from Sexualization.”

Summit Speaker 1: Today’s event is for everyone who cares about children. Transgender ideology is hastening children who are uncomfortable with their bodies down the path of sex reassignment, even though they may be too young to drive a car or to get a tattoo.

Imara Jones: And there was a panel specifically on trans health care. Lawmakers from all over the country were in the audience.

Summit Speaker 2: So what can be done about this? Well, I will say there’s a little bit of conversation that I think is worthwhile having around, “Do we ban the drugs do, we actually go full-out, we tried to prohibit these procedures?” And I can see that, the merit in wanting to do that. There’s some difficulties that go along with that. Again, I think that these these hormone therapies are, are…is child abuse when you when you truly look at them.

Imara Jones: Fred Deutsch was there. He’s a state representative from South Dakota, and he saw the merit. Deutsch introduced the first viable anti-trans medical bill ever. And afterwards, bills started to proliferate all across the country. Now, The Summit on Protecting Children from Sexualization was organized by the Family Policy Alliance.

Family Policy Alliance: We promote Biblical citizenship by educating the electorate, advocating for pro-family legislation, engaging churches and mobilizing voters and working to elect and train statesmen.

Imara Jones: The Family Policy Alliance is just one spin-off of an organization called Focus on the Family. You’ll notice that these two groups, and so many others with the word “family” in their name, are the ones leading the push against equal access to medical care for trans kids. It’s because they all come from one man, James Dobson. He’s the one who created Focus on the Family, the parent organization, in 1977.

Anne Nelson: James Dobson presents himself as the benevolent uncle of fundamentalist Americans.

Imara Jones: That’s Anne Nelson. She’s an expert on the far-right and wrote the book Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right.

Anne Nelson: What people don’t realize is that Dobson and his organizations and their, their array of affiliates have this massive presence in American culture.

Imara Jones: Dobson was actually a psychologist. He gained notoriety as the host of a conservative radio advice program. It got to be so popular that he turned it into an actual organization, Focus on the Family. And it grew to be a massive machine promoting a religious view of the world. So despite the innocuous name, Focus on the Family has a very rigid idea of what family should be, grounded in Christian fundamentalist ideology. For Dobson, this means the ratio of LGBTQ folks from public life. In fact, in the 1980s, his organization was one of the leading proponents of the idea that gays and lesbians were recruiting young people. And he became the godfather of the ex-gay movement, pumping money that groups of people who were declaring that they had left “the lifestyle.”

James Dobson: Colorado Springs has kind of been ground zero, as they call it, a focal point for this struggle against homosexual activists. But it’s coming to every city, every little town, every city council, every school, this is something that’s going to be fought out really all across the nation, and people just gonna have to decide what they think about it.

Imara Jones: Dobson’s doing so much advocacy, that he starts to worry about the tax exempt status of Focus on the Family, his baby. So in a stroke of organizational genius, he comes up with the idea to create breakaway policy groups, which can lobby governments at all levels, pushing lawmakers to remake society in his image. And that’s when he starts to clone Focus on the Family into groups like the Family Policy Alliance and the Family Research Council, and then dozens of affiliates in states all across the country.

Anne Nelson: They’re able to operate as stealth because the professional news media treats them as independent grassroots organizations, and they’re actually cogs in a machine.

Imara Jones: Their efforts seem organic, but there’s nothing natural about them. We called a bunch of these organizations, and none of them would talk to us. Dobson was the dominant force behind this movement for decades. But in 2003, something starts to happen. The center of gravity begins to move to his protege, Tony Perkins. Perkins takes over the Family Research Council. 

Anne Nelson: Tony Perkins fascinates me in a dark way. 

Imara Jones: That’s our Nelson again. Now, Tony Perkins was born in Oklahoma. He got his start as an anti-abortion activist and a local news commentator. And as a cop, go figure. But then he became a state lawmaker in Louisiana.

Anne Nelson: Dobson brought him in for the Family Research Council in the early 2000s. And I–they found him to be mediagenic and he’s almost been developed as their kind of anchor man.

Imara Jones: That’s not a surprise. Perkins had practice in front of the cameras.

Anne Nelson: He has kind of a boyish appearance and a kind of down-home “aw shucks” approach to issues and he makes it sound like these radical policies are, “Gosh darn it just a matter of common sense. Can you believe those crazy democrats?” Blah blah. And so I believe he must be fairly effective because they promote him quite energetically. And he’s the face of the movement.

Imara Jones: Perkins picks up Dobson’s anti-LGBTQ mission and puts it on steroids. He recognizes the Dobson’s approach wasn’t actually stopping gay people from moving more and more into the heart of American life. So Perkins doubles down on the issue that he thinks could roll all this progress back, same-sex marriage, and he has more money and more mobilization to this fight, confident that it’s the line of acceptance that Americans will not cross–a line in the sand. Perkins thought that the mere prospect of same-sex marriage would show that LGBTQ rights had gone too far and had to be halted.

Tony Perkins: I’m not going to be silent why they tried to redefine marriage in this country change policy, what my children are taught in schools and what religious organizations can do, I’m not going to be silent, nor are millions of other Christians across this country. Every time this has gone through the ballot box. Americans understand the definition of a marriage is what it’s been for 5000 years. It’s the union of a man and a woman.

Imara Jones: After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex-marriage in 2015, much to his surprise, Perkins needed a new plan. He needed a last ditch effort to stop LGBTQ rights. And it was something that he was sure that most of America would get behind: an anti-trans agenda. Perkins knows that most people in the country don’t know us, don’t know anybody who’s trans. That makes our community ripe for misinformation. And at the heart of his propaganda, are concerns about trans kids.

Tony Perkins: We don’t even know the long-term implications and health effects related to the usage as they’re currently being used in these children.

Imara Jones: That’s him on his nationally syndicated radio program, talking about the medical bans for trans youth. He’s spreading misinformation again.

Tony Perkins: This I think is a prudent measure that simply protects children from making a decision that is influenced by momentary feelings.

Imara Jones: On his show, Perkins announces that the Family Research Council is pushing these anti-trans medical bills nationally.

Tony Perkins: FRC has some model legislation as it pertains to this topic. Because it is a big issue.

Imara Jones: He’s firing on all cylinders with this issue. Under him, the Family Research Council has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Margaret Huang is the center’s president. She says Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council are deeply concerning because of the way that they deploy their hate.

Margaret Huang: When we talk about hate and extremist groups, people often think of groups who turn out on the streets carrying guns and threatening people. Family Research Council is a policy organization, they wear suits, they go to Capitol Hill and lobby. But their threat is so significant because they’re trying to transform policy based on the same hate and extremist views as the groups who are out, you know, marching in the streets.

Imara Jones: In the last year, all of these groups that we’ve been talking about, have come together under an even bigger umbrella: Promise to America’s Children. And it’s a new coalition of over 60 right-wing groups pushing the anti-trans agenda even further. And they’re obsessed. This obsession is why there’s no stopping these attacks on our very right to exist as trans people. There’s no end in sight. The Anti-Trans Hate Machine is actually learning from its past failures, and it has no intention of letting this go. In fact, it’s ramping up. And that’s why kids like Phin Fleming-Smith in Alabama have suffered.

Promise to America’s Children and its affiliates are the ones driving this hate in Alabama. Despite everything that they’re throwing to this though, there’s some good news for Phin: he can move forward with getting testosterone. That’s because the bill didn’t pass, but just barely. So Phin and his mom Trace are hoping to get his first prescription later this summer. His feelings about it although are more complicated than you might expect.

Phineas Fleming-Smith: The emotions are mixed and confusing. Um, I’m happy. I’m just…it’s a lot. I guess it does, kind of can mesh, the the feelings of, you know, just how I’ve felt because of the bill and how I’m going to feel when I do eventually start this and It’s just…I don’t know.

Trace Trice: I wonder how much this connects with you not being exuberant, they kind of robbed you of some of the joy that should be a part of this. I wonder how you’ll feel once that first injection happens, and if the euphoria, the joy of it, comes through.

Phineas Fleming-Smith: I don’t know.

Imara Jones: This hurts me so much. Phin’s about to embark on a big milestone after winning a monumental victory against the machine. But he’s defeated. Just to talk about this issue, inflicts severe pain, we don’t even know the damage. But when these bills pass, its sheer hell. Trans kids and two states are grappling with that reality. And kids like Phin, who managed to avoid the worst this year, they’re worried about what next year will bring

Phineas Fleming-Smith: I mean, I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want it to come up again. But it’s probably going to come up again, if they were so being hard-asses is about it. 

Trace Trice: If this comes back up next year, even if you’re already taking testosterone, will you think about speaking up again? 

Phineas Fleming-Smith: Yeah, probably as much as I didn’t care for it. I don’t know. If I have to step back up again. I’ll do it. But begrudgingly do it because this is stupid and doesn’t need to come up again.

Imara Jones: This episode has been hard, because these issues are so personal. And these are kids. Despite how gut wrenching all of this is, though, we have to remember that these anti-trans medical bills basically come out of a single session at a one day event: The Summit on Protecting Children from Sexualization. The massive collection of self-replicating, self-reinforcing family groups turn this single conversation into a massive attack on trans kids in nearly every single corner of the country. It’s truly dystopian.

But if that wasn’t enough, there’s one other group that’s one of the main sources of Promise to America’s Children. It’s another arm of the Anti-Trans Hate Machine. And it plays a very specific and a very influential role. We’ll explore that group in our next episode.

Heritage Foundation Member: Heritage is a way to smuggle ideas into the political debate. 

Unknown Speaker: There was direct collaboration to the end of a consistent government position undermining the rights and very existence of transgender people. 

Unknown Speaker: You could be having a heart attack and then they leave you they have to die in the emergency room because of their religion.

Imara Jones: Next time on The Anti-Trans Hate Machine, a Plot Against Equality.

This project is made possible with support from the New York Women’s Foundation and the Heising-Simons Foundation. I’m Imara Jones, your host and executive producer. Oliver-Ash Kleine is our senior producer. Tyler Wilson, Annie Ning,  Ruby Fludzinski, Callie Wright and Jaye McAuliffe are our producers. Archer Quinn is our editor. Sound design and mixing by Alexander Charles Adams. Montana Thomas is our production coordinator. Research from Sydney Bauer. Gillian Branstetter and Elle Communications are in charge of press and outreach for this series. Our digital strategy is led by Daniela Capistrano of DCAP Media. Social media and production assistance by Yannick Eike Mirko. Graphic and social media support from Resistance Communications. Justin Kloczko is our fact checker and our intern is Jordan Mirana. Our theme music was composed by Ben Draghi, additional music courtesy of Alexander Charles Adams. Subscribe to The Anti-Trans Hate Machine: A Plot Against Equality, where ever you listen to your podcasts, and be sure to tell all of your friends about our show.

Subscribe to receive alerts:

Learn more about The Anti-Trans Hate Machine: A Plot Against Equality.

[Heateor-SC style="background-color:#ffffff;"]

TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. As a trusted source for journalists, thought-leaders, movement activists, researchers, and those wanting to know about trans people, we produce narratives about and for the trans community—accurately and reliably. At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media serves as a beacon of hope through the voices that we share with the world.



TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. As a trusted source for journalists, thought-leaders, movement activists, researchers, and those wanting to know about trans people, we produce narratives about and for the trans community—accurately and reliably. At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media serves as a beacon of hope through the voices that we share with the world.


Coming Soon

The Glow UP

At TransLash, change is constant. We embrace our own process of collective transformation, and we honor every step of the journey. We’re getting ready to celebrate a pivotal point in our story, and we’re inviting you to be a part of it! 

Play Video

We’ve been working behind the scenes to launch a new brand for TransLash—one that honors our roots, reflects our growth, and leaves room for what’s to come. Over the next few months, you’ll notice fresh visuals and content as we bring our “glow up” to life across our digital channels. This summer, we’ll celebrate the culmination of that work: our brand new website! We’re building a new home for the journalism you love and trust, grounded in our deep commitment to the trans community.

We’re stepping into our own transition, and we want to share it with you. Join us!

Be the first to know when we launch the new site!


scroll to top