Jesse Singal is an American cultural critic best known for laundering anti-transgender extremism into mainstream media outlets. This biography supplements an overview of the harm Singal’s work has caused to gender diverse children. Singal’s anti-transgender allies and gender supportive critics also illustrate Singal’s historic role in harming gender diverse youth and adults.
Jesse Richard Singal was born November 24, 1983 and grew up in the wealthy Boston suburb Newton, Massachusetts. Singal has two siblings, Alex and Gabe, who are also involved in shaping public policy.
Singal’s parent Sydney L. Altman (1949–2021) was a psychologist, lawyer, and author who published with Zoe Lazar as BaBoom Press. Altman’s books are humorous takes on the experiences of middle-age and include the mock catalogue Victoria’s Rejects and the nursery rhyme parody Mother Goose Tells The Truth About Middle Age.
Singal’s parent Bruce A. Singal is a lawyer best known for helping pharmacist Barry Cadden beat murder charges after Cadden’s New England Compounding Center killed over 100 patients and injured about 800 more in a 2012 meningitis outbreak traced to the compounding pharmacy. Singal specialized in defending scientific and academic research misconduct cases. Singal is also known for being arrested and charged with attempted human trafficking for commercial sex acts in 2022, but that charge was later amended to soliciting a prostitute. According to reports, Singal frequented a sex worker on Boston’s “methadone mile.” Singal paid $40 for oral sex and was confronted by police during the act.
Jesse Singal’s lucrative career laundering anti-transgender extremism into mainstream media prompted left-wing pundit Matt Lech to quip, “Shocked this loser was raised in an environment of cynical mercenary pedantry.”
Singal earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from University of Michigan in 2006. After working as an editor at CampusProgress.org for the Center for American Progress from 2007 to 2009, Singal worked for a few months as a web editor at The Washington Monthly. Singal then worked as a contract opinion writer at The Boston Globe from 2009 to 2011, later contributing occasional freelance pieces. After earning a master’s degree in public affairs from Princeton in 2013, followed by a Robert Bosch Fellowship in Germany that year, Singal began writing for New York Magazine in 2014 and held various roles, mostly writing “hot takes,” or opinion pieces based on immediate impressions of current topics in culture and social science.
Singal was a compulsive Twitter user who self-published over 125,000 posts, an average of about 35 posts a day for the first ten years. Singal has unsuccessfully attempted to reduce usage several times, the latest being in 2023. Singal’s interest in internet drama coalesced around 2014 coverage of the Gamergate controversy, a complex online harassment campaign waged against critics of video game culture and those who covered the controversy.
Singal and gender critical troll Katie Herzog started the “drama” podcast Blocked and Reported in 2020. In 2021, Singal released The Quick Fix, a book on fad psychology, and began a media column at The Spectator World.
Evolution of anti-trans views
In 2015, Singal began taking an interest in the histrionics of intellectual dark web inaugural member Alice Dreger, whose 2015 autobiography Galileo’s Middle Finger featured a section critical of the trans rights movement. After reading Dreger’s book in fall 2015, Singal got involved with criticizing the firing of psychologist Kenneth Zucker, the world’s most prominent proponent of “treating” gender diverse children with a form of aversion therapy developed by Zucker and friends. Zucker originally published what became Dreger’s book section on trans activism in 2007.
At first, I thought Singal’s work defending Zucker was a one-time foray into trans issues. At some point after that, trans issues became Singal’s professed beat. Singal began covering controversies more frequently after gaining access to backchannel communication with sexologists associated with Zucker as well as trans-exclusionary backchannels for journalists.
In the way that I set about getting Zucker fired in 2007, I began focusing on Singal’s historic role in the oppression of trans people in 2018 after Singal’s Atlantic article, “When a Child Says She’s Trans.”
2021 targeted attack on a child
This page was created on March 31, 2021 after Singal made a number of inappropriate comments about a notable person’s gender diverse child on Twitter:
“There is a thread going around, being retweeted very enthusiastically by everyone, that I find really disturbing. Kid about to go on puberty blockers who doesn’t appear to have ever had gender dysphoria. That anyone thinks this is good baffles me.
2/ It could be the dad who authored it is leaving something out and there’s more evidence than what he provides, but what sucks is anyone who directly responds will be accused of harassment, despite this being exactly the sort of thing we should probably discuss more openly.
3/ Kid’s a natal male. In the thread Dad explains that her saying, on one occasion, at 5 years old, she was a girl, in direct response to Mom’s priming, helped to explain the fact that she had preferred long hair to that point. If you don’t find that troubling… ¯(ツ)/¯
4/ What really gets me is that if someone asked “Hey, was you kid ever assessed for gender dysphoria by a competent clinician?,” they would be raked over the coals. This is such a deeply fucked up environment in which to discuss children’s healthcare. These are big decisions…”
Other anti-trans extremists like Owen Benjamin decided to make similar inappropriate comments about this six-year-old child in 2017.
These anti-trans activists want to affect this child’s life, when the medical record of a stranger’s child is absolutely none of Singal’s business. My bright line has always been attacking and mocking our children, and this is when Singal crossed it. This section will be expanded as more information comes to light about Singal’s extensive anti-trans activism behind the scenes.
2023 leak of children’s medical records
In a 2023 The Free Press article, healthcare worker Jamie Reed described keeping a secret list of gender diverse children who were receiving healthcare at The Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Reed claimed the materials showed a “red flag list” of patients. When the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a March 5 article that disputed Reed’s claims about care protocols, Singal asked in a since-deleted tweet for advice from a HIPAA expert.
On March 10, Singal published more evidence from Reed’s materials, which contained personally identifiable information about the children such as dates of treatment. Reed also named staffers Karen Hamon and Casey Lofquest as witnesses who could corroborate these concerns. Critics who believed that Reed violated HIPAA laws filed formal complaints. Matthew Cortland, a health care lawyer and activist based in Washington, filed a complaint on March 12, citing Reed’s story and Singal’s March 10 post.
On March 20, parents of one patient recognized their child from the identifying information. The parent lodged two federal privacy complaints and one with the university, stating that Reed “shared details in that article that put myself and my child at risk.”
Influence on public policy
Singal’s work is supported by anti-transgender media figures and legislators seeking to shape public policy that restricts healthcare for gender diverse youth.
In May 2019, four faith-based groups and the attorneys general of 7 states cited Singal’s anti-transgender Atlantic cover story in Reply Brief In Support Of State Plaintiffs’ Renewed Motion For Summary Judgement.
The bathroom example highlights the fundamental point that putative intervenors miss. The basis of sex discrimination law, as it currently exists, is biological sex. By contrast, there is no broad consensus—much less federal law—on the proper approach to treating individuals with gender dysphoria, the clinical term for the feeling of disconnect between one’s gender identity and sex at birth. See, e.g., Jesse Singal, When Children Say They’re Trans, THE ATLANTIC, July/Aug., 2018 (describing the “growing number of people” who regret transitioning to a different sex and later detransition).
This is a reasonable reading of Singal’s focus on the ex-trans movement. Ken Paxton, the anti-trans Attorney General of Texas, was one of many people who cited Singal’s Atlantic article to support their case. In February 2022, Paxton released a formal attorney general opinion concluding that the affirmative model of care for trans youth was “child abuse” and ordered state agencies to investigate families with gender diverse children. In March, Paxton went on to earn the most votes in the Republican primary of the Texas AG election.
2023 Genspect conference
In 2023 Singal was scheduled to appear on a panel with other anti-trans extremists at the November Genspect conference. According to Genspect promotional materials, “Jesse Singal and Ben Appel will join Shellenberger and Sapir for a panel discussion focused on the media’s love affair with trans identities, moderated by Benjamin Boyce.”
Genspect quietly deleted their promotion of Singal’s appearance. Singal attended but did not present.
- Overview of Singal’s harm to gender diverse children
- Singal’s anti-transgender allies
- Singal’s gender supportive critics
Schrappen, Colleen (March 20, 2023). Parents of patients at St. Louis transgender center fear privacy breaches, file complaints. St. Louis Post-Dispatch https://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/health-med-fit/parents-of-patients-at-st-louis-transgender-center-fear-privacy-breaches-file-complaints/article_6b623743-e441-5119-92a4-27c19547e4b2.html
Singal, Jesse (March 10, 2023). Gender-Clinic Whistleblower Jamie Reed Has Provided A Detailed Account Of Her Most Controversial Claim, Including The Names Of Those Involved. Substack https://jessesingal.substack.com/p/gender-clinic-whistleblower-jamie
Singal, Jesse (March 7, 2023). Journalists Are Exhibiting Far Too Much Credulousness Toward Jamie Reed’s Critics. Substack https://jessesingal.substack.com/p/journalists-are-exhibiting-far-too
Schrappen, Colleen (March 5, 2023). Parents push back on allegations against St. Louis transgender center. ‘I’m baffled.’ St. Louis Post-Dispatch https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/parents-push-back-on-allegations-against-st-louis-transgender-center-i-m-baffled/article_a94bc4d2-e68b-535f-b0c7-9fefb9e8e9f4.html
Singal, Jesse (July 2018). When a Child Says She’s Trans. [stealth edited online title: When Children Say They’re Trans.] The Atlantic https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/07/when-a-child-says-shes-trans/561749/
Bidgood, Jess (March 22, 2017). Compounding Pharmacy Owner Not Guilty of Murder After 60 Meningitis Deaths. New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/22/us/meningitis-new-england-compounding-center-barry-cadden.html
Chow, Andrew R. (March 25, 2018). Photographer Nicholas Nixon Leaves MassArt Following Allegations. New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/25/arts/design/photographer-nicholas-nixon-massart-allegations.html
Scocca, Tom (January 29, 2023). The Worst Thing We Read This Week: Why Is the New York Times So Obsessed With Trans Kids? Popula https://popula.com/2023/01/29/the-worst-thing-we-read-this-week-why-is-the-new-york-times-so-obsessed-with-trans-kids/
Murphy, Pat (May 9, 2019). Boston firm stakes out ‘research misconduct’ niche. Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly https://masslawyersweekly.com/2019/05/09/boston-firm-stakes-out-research-misconduct-niche/
Fox, Jeremy C. (April 29, 2022). Prominent attorney charged with soliciting a prostitute after arrest in parking garage. Boston Globe https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/04/29/metro/prominent-attorney-charged-with-soliciting-prostitute-after-arrest-parking-garage/
Staff report (April 29, 2022). Former Assistant U.S. Attorney and prominent Boston lawyer arrested on Methadone Mile by Human Trafficking Task-Force. Live Boston 617 https://liveboston617.org/2022/04/29/prominent-boston-lawyer-former-assistant-u-s-attorney-and-current-b-c-law-professor-arrested-on-methadone-mile-for-sex-crimes-update-2/
Sydney Altman (1949–2021) [obituary] Boston Globe. https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/bostonglobe/obituary.aspx?n=sydney-altman&pid=198401366&fhid=5816
Franciscan Alliance v. Azar, Civ. Action No. 7:16-cv-00108-O, Document 157 (PDF)
Salish Coast Antifascist Action (APT-19.3.161). Deleted tweets for jessesingal. https://github.com/salcoast/deleted-tweets-archive/blob/main/datasets/jessesingal-deleted.md
Attorney General of Texas (February 21, 2022). AG Paxton Declares So-Called Sex-Change Procedures on Children and Prescription of Puberty Blockers to be “Child Abuse” Under Texas Law. https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/news/releases/ag-paxton-declares-so-called-sex-change-procedures-children-and-prescription-puberty-blockers-be
In 2022 the illustration was updated in response to feedback. In 2023 an uncorroborated statement about his family’s religious background was removed.