We recently became aware that The Alliance Defending Freedom has been contacting high profile detransitioned people attempting to find potential plaintiffs to bankroll medical malpractice lawsuits. We strongly urge all detransitioned people to resist the temptation of ADF’s financial support. We acknowledge that many of us have received medical and mental health care that was grossly negligent. While we believe it protects the well-being of all patients for negligent medical providers to be held accountable, any relationship formed with the ADF assists them in their agenda of eroding the autonomy of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified and gender non-conforming youth by legitimizing conversion therapy based on Christian fundamentalism. We ask you to think critically about this and reject any “support” that would allow the ADF to treat our painful histories and financial vulnerability as an opportunity to promote their anti-LGBT and anti-woman agenda.
What is The Alliance Defending Freedom?
The Alliance Defending Freedom is the most powerful and best funded right-wing Christian legal organization operating in America today. Taking in around $40 million a year, and working with more than 3,000 associated lawyers around the world, it’s well equipped to push the social and political agenda of the religious Right both in the U.S. and internationally. In the U.S., it works to erode the separation of church and state to better push its version of conservative evangelical Christianity onto the whole of society. For years, it’s been on the front lines of the religious Right’s assault on the rights and well-being of women and LGBT people, hiding behind the guise of protecting “religious freedom.” The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the ADF as a hate group because of the countless attacks it’s made on the LGBT community since its creation in 1993.
The ADF has fought against women’s reproductive rights, LGBT non-discrimination laws, LGBT anti-bullying campaigns in school, and same-sex marriage. It’s fought for the criminalization of gay sex in the U.S. and abroad, creates anti-gay propaganda that alleges there’s a “homosexual agenda” conspiring to undermine American society and promotes gay conversion therapy.
Recently, the ADF has been at the forefront of promoting so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” (RFRAs). Claiming to protect free expression of religious beliefs, RFRAs legalize discrimination against LGBT people and undermine women’s reproductive autonomy. Worryingly, many members of the Trump administration have ties to the ADF, and several have advocated for RFRAs. While he was the governor of Indiana, now-Vice President Mike Pence signed an RFRA into law. Attorney General Jeff Sessions consulted with the ADF before issuing federal guidelines that support RFRAs. Trump himself made campaign promises (which he affirmed after assuming office) to promote RFRAs. It’s no wonder that the ADF and others in the religious Right see this administration as the perfect vehicle to push their agenda.
Despite their powerful political connections and vast financial resources, the ADF promotes a narrative where conservative Christians like themselves are victims being brutalized by LGBT people, feminists, and others who don’t adhere to their narrow vision of morality. It then uses this narrative to raise millions of dollars to fund its legal activities. Quoted by ThinkProgress in an article profiling the ADF, Rob Boston from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State says, “If you read their emails, their magazines, go to events, you hear a constant message of ‘we’re under attack, under siege, being persecuted.’” This narrative “motivates people to give, makes them afraid, causes them to reach for checkbooks or credit card.”
ADF Moves to Co-Opt Our Experiences
The ADF has now turned its sights onto detransitioned people, viewing us as another fund-raising opportunity and means for advancing their political agenda. Like others on the Right, the ADF sees us as a way to undermine both the trans movement and LGBT rights in general. Seizing on incidents where detransitioned people have been censored or research on us has been blocked, the Right attempts to co-opt our experiences and spin them to support their victim narrative where a domineering LGBT movement suppresses the freedom of those who disagree with it. In the process, they try to link detransitioned people with ex-gays and conversion therapy, claiming that both are being unfairly suppressed. Casting us as “mutilated wrecks” deceived, destroyed and then cast out by the “trans cult,” organizations like the ADF see us a perfect way to drum up money from their supporters and revive the scientifically discredited practice of conversion therapy.
In reality, the ADF is paramount in creating those social forces pushing some women to medically transition. For decades the ADF has fought against women’s bodily autonomy and the freedom and well-being of LGBT people, particularly the acceptance of gays and lesbians into uncloseted public life. They have worked hard to promote the idea that gay and lesbian people are sick, depraved and deviant. Many detransitioned women from the U.S. grew up in conservative Christian households where they learned their expression of womanhood was sinful and unacceptable. Others of us grew up knowing that millions of our fellow Americans believed that we deserved fewer rights and less respect than other people because of who we love or how we express ourselves. We grew up knowing that in churches across the country, right-wing Christians were preaching that we were a sickness to be cured or a crime against nature to be locked up. Without organizations like the ADF doing everything in their power to oppress women in general and lesbians in particular, far fewer of us would feel pressured to change ourselves to survive. When the ADF and other conservative Christians attempt to use our stories to line their pockets and further their agenda, they attack our well-being once again.
The religious Right has lost many battles in the last few decades but feels invigorated by the Trump administration, which rose to power largely through support of white conservative evangelical Christians. While they have access to power, they intend to use it to reshape American culture and politics to fit their vision of a Christian civilization. The ADF and their ilk use hatred and fear of women, gays and lesbians, and trans people to fund and fuel their aspirations towards dominance. When right-wing Christians move in to use detransitioned people as a tool to further their agenda, we must resist and name the harm being done to us–and to others in our name.
For more information on ADF and its activities:
The 800-Pound Gorilla Of The Christian Right, by Josh Israel
How An Extreme Anti-LGBT Legal Powerhouse Is Working To Enact “Religious Freedom” Laws, by Rachel Percelay
Alliance Defending Freedom profile by SPLC
Jeff Sessions consulted Christian right legal group on religious freedom memo, by Pete Madden
We also recommend reading Jeff Sharlet’s book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power for more information about the religious Right’s methods and intentions to take political control of American society.
How can detransitioned people resist Christian fundamentalism?
Many detransitioned people practice a variety of faith traditions, while others are atheist or agnostic; and we hold a wide spectrum of political beliefs. But fundamental to our many differing worldviews is the principle that being a gender non-compliant (“GNC”) person, whether because of your interests, physical appearance, or sexuality, does not entitle another person to abuse you under the guise of correcting your gender non-compliance. Faith-based “conversion therapy” masquerading as mental health care is abuse of gender non-compliant people. Medical and mental health providers who refuse to acknowledge how widespread hostility and discrimination against the gender non-compliant often create conditions that make GNC people want to “correct” their bodies through medical procedures, are also committing abuse. Abuse, whether psychological or physical, whether committed by a fundamentalist Christian or a die-hard progressive, and whether at the hands of a doctor or a pastor, is not our birthright.
On a personal level we can resist by being proud of our non-compliant selves who have survived so much, including fundamentalist Christian homophobia. We can tell our stories without shame, acknowledging the many people in our lives who attempted to make us abandon our fullest selves for the sake of their own comfort. We encourage detransitioned people who experienced the violence of fundamentalist Christianity to submit writing and art to Autotomous Womyn’s Press recently announced zine seeking pieces about that experience.
On a group level we can continue organizing so that detransitioned people have access to community, employment, healthcare, and legal resources so that desperation does not incentivize ignorance about the opportunism of groups like the ADF. While they can offer money, we can offer a community based on respect for the individual’s autonomy, joyful celebrations of difference and potential, and solidarity with all those who reject the violent enforcement of gender.
We invite you to join us in resisting the ADF and in building positive change together.
Carey Callahan, Cleveland, OH, USA
@crashchaoscats on Twitter
Max Robinson, Oregon, USA
Profiled here: https://www.1843magazine.com/features/when-girls-wont-be-girls
Elizabeth Rosch, Vancouver, BC, Canada and Cleveland, OH, USA
@celizrosch on Twitter
St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Profiled here: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/feb/03/experience-i-regret-transitioning
Aaron Schroeder, Arizona, USA
Michelle P., Chicago, IL, USA
Claire Ryan, Colorado, USA
Dylan C., Oregon, USA