A cache of emails has been leaked by Twitter activist ‘maia’, revealing an organised campaign between US politicians, lawmakers and right-wing groups to target transgender rights across the nation. The emails number 2,600 pages of chilling correspondence, wherein South Dakota representative Fred Deutsch and his associates plan and celebrate anti-trans legislation.
The email chains revolve mostly around Fred Deutsch, beginning in August 2019. At that time, Deutsch sent emails to more than a dozen anti-trans activists, doctors and lawyers, attaching the text of a bill he was planning to introduce to the South Dakota parliament.
The bill is called the Vulnerable Child Protection Act (VCPA), and it intended to make it a criminal offence for doctors to provide gender-affirming medical care to children under 16 years of age.
Deutsch told his email recipients to prepare for “an uphill battle” to get the law passed, and asked, “As always, please do not share this with the media. The longer we can fly under the radar the better.”
When Deutsch’s bill was rejected in 2020, he complained to his email chain that, “Though our session in SD is now over and our efforts to protect gender-confused vulnerable children failed, I continue to receive ugly email and social media posts.”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the end for the VCPA, which passed with some revisions this year. Doctors in South Dakota who provide gender-affirming care to minors will have their medical licenses stripped, and healthcare providers will be required to gradually cut off puberty blockers and hormones for any kids they’re already treating.
It’s well established that gender-affirming healthcare significantly reduces risk of suicide and self-harm for gender diverse young people. Numerous scientific studies conclude as such, and all America’s major medical organisations support the importance of gender-affirming care.
But the uncovered emails show the South Dakota ‘team’, as they commonly refer to themselves, brainstorming how to counter this argument.
The emails also show extensive collaboration with groups like the conservative Christian legal powerhouse Alliance Defending Freedom.
ADF has drafted bills banning trans kids from using school bathrooms or playing on sports teams aligning with their gender, and was behind the Mississippi abortion ban that led to the overturning of Roe. ADF has also suggested state-sanctioned sterilisation of trans people in Europe.
The common refrain of anti-trans activists – that they’re trying to protect and help ‘confused’ children – is “just a front for what they do behind the scenes,” says Elisa Rae Shupe. “It’s like they want to do as much damage to the trans community as they can.”
Shupe is a retired US Army soldier who became vocal anti-trans advocate and participated in Deutsch’s working group after detransitioning. She’s since retransitioned and denounced many of her past statements. Speaking about her time working with the ‘team’, she said “It was like Deutsch assembled a team of Navy SEALs – we were all trained killers in a specialty.”
And even as Deutsch’s original bill was being rejected and reassembled, these anti-trans ‘SEALs’ were working to get similar VCPAs passed in other states, including in Georgia, Utah and Alabama.
Activist Erin Reed, who tracks anti-trans legislation, says legislators are often surprised that outside forces are pushing this backwards legislation. But the leaked emails clearly show an organised conspiracy to restrict trans rights. “This isn’t coming from an in-state grassroots support system,” says Reed.
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