Jesse Singal is an American podcaster and cultural critic. He is a key figure in laundering anti-transgender extremism into mainstream media and a prominent activist in America’s transphobic moral panic.
After starting his career within the progressive movement, Singal found success criticizing progressive public policy, media, and medicine. Singal is one of his generation’s most tenacious critics of progressive movements that benefit transgender people and gender diverse youth.
Singal’s attacks on the trans rights movement center on several gender critical tactics:
- promoting the fringe ex-transgender movement
- supporting disease models of gender identity and expression
- supporting gatekeeping models of healthcare for our minors
- criticizing expert medical and scientific consensus on healthcare for our minors
- amplifying outliers and edge cases in controversies to derail broader discussions
- undermining his critics, especially trans and gender diverse critics
- getting support from anti-transgender activists, media figures, professionals, and legislators, among others
Singal seeks to influence healthcare decisions about our minors with the same rhetoric and tactics used by activists who seek to restrict reproductive healthcare options like contraception and abortion. Singal works to impose his will onto the bodies of minors by inserting himself into their lives, disrupting conversations between healthcare providers and the families they serve and demanding more gatekeeping.
Singal focuses on childhood “desistance” and adult “detransition,” two disputed conceptualizations of people whose gender identity or expression shifts over time. These cure narratives and regret narratives are collectively known as the ex-trans movement. These narratives are vastly over-represented in media coverage of trans issues, but Singal’s coverage often suggests to his credulous audience that these narratives don’t get represented enough.
Singal frequently gets money and attention by exploiting anxiety about trans and gender diverse minors, which he frames as “concern.” He then gets more money and attention by implying that his many opponents and critics are incompetent, dishonest, or even dangerous. Biologist Julia Serano has described this as the “Dregerian narrative,” named after Singal’s role model, gender critical historian Alice Dreger.
Singal has gained a reputation for “sealioning,” or persistent and aggressive challenges to criticism of his work and ideas. He typically focuses on a critic’s minor error, omission, or word choice and uses that detail to derail the larger points made about his work. He is also known for his uncritical promotion of people whose work and ideas support his own. He frequently defends these ideological allies by challenging his allies’ critics with the same persistent and aggressive tactics.
Singal’s tactics have been especially harmful to trans journalists, writers, cultural critics, and experts. Through his privilege and nepotistic connections, he has access to opportunities and backchannel conversations where trans people are often excluded. He holds himself forth in these trans-exclusionary spaces as an expert on “tricky science stuff,” while implying that trans people cannot discuss trans issues as well as he can. He markets himself as an edgy iconoclast willing to speak up against “activists,” which he uses as a thought-terminating pejorative against any trans critic of his beliefs.
Bad-faith cultural critics often become part of the story they attempt to cover. Singal is the inspiration for this site’s decade-long Transphobia Project. That project seeks to show that there are many ethical journalists, public intellectuals, cultural critics, and other creators of knowledge and culture who are capable of addressing controversial gender issues in fair and value-neutral ways.
Singal is a compulsive Twitter user who self-published over 125,000 posts in his first decade on the platform, an average of about 35 posts a day for ten years. As his reputation for online histrionics and causing harm to the trans community grew, he began exploring other self-publishing options. In November 2017, he started a Medium account that mostly addressed topics related to trans people and to Twitter. In January 2019, he started a Substack newsletter titled Singal-Minded. In March 2020 Singal began a lucrative Twitter “drama” podcast called Blocked and Reported with gender critical troll Katie Herzog. These platforms generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue each year and allow Singal to continue his pattern of behavior without any editorial oversight or accountability.
People like Jesse Singal are an enormous resource drain for a persecuted minority like the trans community. He is a once-in-a-generation problem for our children, and we owe it to them to focus our limited resources on minimizing the profound harm he is causing. It is literally his business to derail the trans rights movement, and business is booming.
This information will be significantly expanded over the next decade. In 2022 the illustration was updated in response to feedback.
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