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Masha Gessen on the War Against Trans Rights

Masha Gessen on the War Against Trans Rights

Update: 2023-03-131


Masha Gessen has long written about Russia, and recently the war in Ukraine. But Gessen also has a deep background reporting on L.G.B.T.Q. rights. A dual citizen of Russia and the U.S., Gessen fled Russia when they were targeted by government repression of L.GB.T. people. Some of the same rhetoric that Vladimir Putin used is now appearing in bills that aim to criminalize transitioning. “All of these bills are about signalling, and what they’re signalling is the essence of past-oriented politics,” Gessen told David Remnick. “A message that says, ‘We are going to return you to a time when you were comfortable, when things weren’t scary … when you didn’t fear that your kid was going to come home from school and tell you that they’re trans.’ … Promising to take that anxiety away is truly powerful.” Gessen looks at the rapid escalation of laws in the United States that ban medical treatment for trans youth, and aspects of trans identity. “When I see that transgender care … for kids … is already illegal in some states,” Gessen says, “and for adults is likely to become illegal in some states, I know that my testosterone in New York is probably not as safe as I think it is.”

Gessen also discusses how the embattled political climate and clear dangers for trans people make nuanced conversations difficult. For instance, Gessen feels that at least some of Dave Chappelle’s jokes about trans people could be seen as sophisticated, “next-level trans accepting.” Gessen also discusses the recent backlash against mainstream media outlets for coverage of issues like detransitioning. Detransitioning has received too much of a focus, Gessen says, and focussing on it plays into a narrative that transitioning young should be discouraged. Yet the possibility of regret on the part of trans people shouldn’t necessarily be denied; better, Gessen said, to accept that regret may accompany any major life change. “We normalize regret in all other areas of life,” Gessen told Remnick. “Kids and their parents, especially teen-agers, make a huge number of decisions that have lifelong implications.”









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Masha Gessen on the War Against Trans Rights

Masha Gessen on the War Against Trans Rights

WNYC Studios and The New Yorker