Jesse Singal is an American podcaster, cultural critic, and anti-transgender activist. Singal launders anti-transgender extremism into mainstream media and is a prominent figure in America’s transphobic moral panic.
After initially working within the progressive movement, Singal found success criticizing progressive public policy, media, and medicine. Singal’s found even more success attacking transgender people, especially gender diverse youth.
Singal’s activism against the trans rights movement centers 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 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 attempts to disrupt conversations between healthcare providers and the families they serve by 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 credulous audiences that these narratives don’t get represented enough.
Singal frequently gets money and attention by exploiting anxiety about trans and gender diverse minors, which gets framed as “concern.” Singal then gets more money and attention by implying that 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. Singal typically focuses on a critic’s minor error, omission, or word choice and uses that detail to derail the larger points made about Singal’s work. Singal uncritically promotes any supporters, defending these ideological allies by challenging their critics with the same persistent and aggressive tactics.
Singal’s tactics have been especially harmful to trans journalists, writers, cultural critics, and experts. Through immense privilege and nepotistic connections, Singal has access to opportunities and backchannel conversations where trans people are often excluded. Singal holds forth in these trans-exclusionary spaces as an expert on “tricky science stuff,” while implying that trans people cannot competenetly discuss trans issues. Singal claims to be an edgy iconoclast willing to speak up against “activists,” which Singal uses as a thought-terminating pejorative against any trans critic.
Bad-faith cultural critics often become part of the story they attempt to cover. In The Anti-Trans Hate Machine, journalist Imara Jones outlined Singal’s historically significant role in attacks on hundreds of thousands of trans and gender diverse children. 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 there, an average of about 35 posts a day for ten years. Singal’s reputation for online histrionics and causing harm to the trans community grew, and Singal soon began exploring other self-publishing options. In November 2017, Singal started a Medium account that mostly addressed topics related to trans people and to Twitter. In January 2019, Singal 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 this 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. Singal is a once-in-a-generation problem for our children. We owe it to them to focus our limited resources on minimizing the profound harm Singal is causing. It is literally Singal’s 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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