Content warning: this article discusses transphobia.
It can be pretty difficult to understand what it’s like to be transgender if you’ve never questioned your gender at any point. Let’s think of it this way, are you left handed or right handed? Whatever your answer may be, this is something you’ve known all your life, right? Well, imagine if someone tried to make you write or eat only by using your non-dominant hand. It’d be pretty frustrating, right?
Well, I can’t speak from personal experience, since I do identify as cisgender. From what I’ve heard, though, that’s pretty much what being transgender is like—you live your life feeling forced to be someone you’re not.
When a transgender person wants their body to match who they are inside, there are many different surgeries and hormones available to help them feel more comfortable in their own skin. It’s great that we’ve been able to make gender-affirming care accessible; that we’ve been able to allow left-handed people to comfortably use their left hand, and right-handed people to comfortably use their right.
Whether you’re cisgender or transgender, male or female, or somewhere in between, none of it changes the fact that you’re still a human being. I find it really difficult to understand people who see people of certain minorities, or really anyone who’s just different, as being less of a person.
Gender-affirming care really is a personal decision, and if it’s a decision you’re making for yourself, then I’m happy for you. Even if you decide later on that it’s not right and you wish to detransition, then I’m happy for you too. It’s not my place, or anyone’s, to judge other people’s life choices.
However, there are unfortunately people who think gender-affirming care is wrong and do think they have a place to judge. They think gender-affirming care is harmful, being pushed on people who don’t actually want it, that it’s unnecessary—that anyone who transitions will eventually detransition.
I strongly disagree with all arguments opposing gender-affirming care; almost all of them simply aren’t true, and even the ones that have a small hint of truth are just heavily misinterpreted as dangerous when they’re really not.
Yes, hormone blockers do have a few unintentional side effects, but so does every other medication. Very few people have a bad experience with puberty blockers and most see benefits actually, which is why claims like “They don’t even work,” or “they do more harm than good,” are just said in bad faith without any real research or critical thought.
Statistically speaking, there are more people that are happy with the results of gender-affirming care than those who aren’t. Actually, the past decade of research has shown that having access to care has helped benefit the mental health of all trans people; adults, teens, and pre-teens alike. Even further, studies show that the rates of depression, self harm, and suicide are considerably lower in transgender youth who get access to the care they need, and that only 1% of people who medically transition choose or want to detransition.
Also, to address the argument that increased access to gender-affirming care and increased exposure to LGBTQ+ content is “turning all the youth gay,” no, all kids are not just becoming gay and trans all of a sudden. Representation in the media does not impact a person’s identity. Simply being aware that gender-affirming care exists does not “turn people trans.” What you’re really seeing is people who would’ve identified as LGBTQ+ anyway, but are more comfortable being themselves than they would’ve been in the past. Their newfound comfort is helped by the increase in talk and acceptance of being queer, and that’s not a bad thing at all—it’s actually very good that people are starting to feel a bit more comfortable being who they are.
By now, I bet you’re wondering what all this is about, right? Well, recently there was a documentary made called No Way Back: The Reality of Gender Affirming Care that was set to release on June 27th, 2023 in AMC theaters nationwide. The documentary is filled with nothing but arguments like the ones mentioned above about how “harmful” gender-affirming care is. It spotlights the stories of six young adults who started to transition, didn’t feel it was right for them, and then chose to detransition.
When this movie was brought to our attention at Queer Youth Assemble, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering queer youth and educating the world about being both young and queer, we were absolutely taken aback by the making and promotion of this film. We went into rapid response mode and started planning ways to get it removed from theaters. We sent some emails, and we were even in the starting phases of organizing protests in front of theaters to hand out flyers with warnings about the movie.
Within a single day, victory! The movie had been canceled from AMC’s lineup! The film’s official website posted a very angry notice about its cancellation, which is actually a bit funny to read.
However, at the time of writing, this awful movie is still set to be available to stream or buy on DVD. Unless you’re watching it in a satirical, reconnaissant, or ironic way, I ask you to please avoid viewing this film. It’s just not worth putting any time or money into.
After things settled down a bit following the showing cancellations, I had the privilege of speaking with a few of the people who had been directly involved in our efforts or had done work behind the scenes. These people are real superheroes and the reason this ridiculous film was removed from mainstream cinema.
First, I bring you Pluto—a teen volunteer with QYA using He/It/Bun/Fae pronouns:
MJ: How do you feel about the No Way Back: The Reality of Gender Affirming Care film?
Pluto: To me it seems very bigoted and rude.
MJ: Thank you, my next question is, what roles did you play in the resistance to the release of this film?
Pluto: I sent emails to two people from AMC asking them to take it down. I was also going to be helping with a protest if we got that far.
MJ: How did it feel to get involved in a cause like this and send those emails? Even when you ended up getting your desired outcome?
Pluto: Honestly it feels like we as a community shouldn’t even have to do anything like that. It’s 2023 and people are still on the wrong side of history and it’s not okay. Being a detransitioner is 100% okay but not when you spread false information about it.
MJ: I 100% agree. And lastly, what do you think we can do in the future to prevent further misinformation and hate being spread like this?
Pluto: We can spread around our experiences and try to educate people when they don’t know about things. And if something like this happens again then we pop into action.
Ink, who uses they/them pronouns, is another teen volunteer with QYA who planned to help organize against the movie:
MJ: My first question is How do you feel about the No Way Back: The Reality of Gender Affirming Care film?
Ink: I feel like that movie was a complete waste of time for making it and watching it, there was no real purpose for it to exist other than to try and fear monger people into joining in this homophobic cause
MJ: Thank you, I agree. My next question is, what roles did you play in the resistance to the release of this film?
Ink: I actually didn’t do anything, I was gonna help everyone on Saturday cause I had a sleepover on Friday and by the time I got back it was already taken out
MJ: Oh lol. But didn’t you end up watching the movie?
Ink: I mean yeah but it was after it was taken out of theaters and all I did was give comedic relief for anyone in the call during the hard parts.
MJ: Well, you still participated in reconnaissance if you think about it. Could you tell me how it made you feel to watch the movie?
Ink: It made me feel like I needed to do something and educate anyone that didn’t understand. The whole movie is trying to put forward these points that just aren’t true at all and I wanna explain to anyone watching that’s misinformed that this movie is crap.
MJ: I understand that feeling completely. And I think that’s what we’re trying to achieve in QYA, to really educate people on the truth. And lastly, what do you think we can do in the future to further our education? How can the normal, everyday person contribute to change?
Ink: I would say for a regular person to contribute to change is very simple. If you have a question or just don’t understand something, just ask someone that’s willing to explain or look it up. And if you misgender or deadname someone, apologize appropriately and just try your best to make sure you’re not being mean or unintentionally hurting anyone.
Here’s what ZG, another teen QYA volunteer going by they/them pronouns, had to say about the situation:
MJ: My first question is How do you feel about the No Way Back: The Reality of Gender Affirming Care film?
ZG: It’s a terrible representation of how the majority of transgender people actually think and function.
MJ: Thank you, I agree. My next question is, what roles did you play in the resistance towards the release of this film?
ZG: Originally, when the QYA rapid response team started working on the push back against the movie, my job was to watch and take notes on a longer panel of detransitioners talking about themselves and the film. From that, I felt a spark in myself to dig deeper into what all of this was really about. So I started the project of collecting all of the information I could about the film and everyone around it into one document. This led me to watching the film myself and spending many hours researching all I could. I will say that I had much help from volunteers in the team though and I appreciate every single one of them. The document is not finished at this time, but I am hoping to finish it by the end of this summer.
MJ: Wow you really did a lot, I thank you for your service. What have you learned from this experience, both in watching the film and from working so hard to combat this?
ZG: You’re welcome. It truly is my passion to do stuff like this and I am honored to have the opportunity to even be able to do it in the first place. I have learned a lot actually. Seeing other people’s perspectives and how they would come to think like they do now is so fascinating to me. It really pushes me to keep my mind open and willing to understand others.
MJ: Lastly, what do you think we can do in the future to prevent further misinformation and hate being spread like this?
ZG: I think it’s so important to keep talking about factual information no matter what. Whether with a couple of your friends, on a stage with thousands of people watching, or on social media for the whole world to see. Anything helps to spread information that saves lives.
Finally, I got to speak with a QYA head, the one and only Faith Cardillo (she/they). Here’s what she had to say:
MJ: How do you feel about the No Way Back: The Reality of Gender Affirming Care Film?
Faith: Even though I am cisgender myself, I knew this film would be incredibly damaging. After watching the film with some of our volunteers, it had a very “propaganda” vibe and feeling to it which I felt uncomfortable about mass amounts of people viewing. Of course detransitioning is a thing and a very real situation a lot of gender nonconforming and trans individuals deal with, we need to educate in a safe and open manner and not belittle others or scare people into not doing what’s best for their physical and mental health.
MJ: Thanks for your answer! My next question is, what roles did you play in the resistance towards the No Way Back film?
Faith: I was one of the lead organizers and one of, if not the first in QYA to call for the national movement. I helped set up the structure of our response, the deadlines we had to meet, and got the ball rolling on the whole initiative.
MJ: What have you learned from this experience, both from the actual issue itself and from working with others to combat this?
Faith: This experience solidified the fact that we can make change regardless of who you are, where you’re from, or how you identify. You can be an average teenager and make a difference in the world. Working with and empowering youth across the country is one of the main reasons why I love my job with QYA so much.
MJ: Lastly, what do you think we can do in the future to prevent the spread of misinformation and hate like this?
Faith: We need to start having these uncomfortable situations and conversations in order to make talking about these issues more safe for individuals to do. By spreading lived experiences from a youth’s point of view without the media distorting it, we can learn a ton from one another by simply listening.
After interviewing these wonderful people, I was able to solidify my opinion on this film: it is propaganda, it does not tell all sides to the story, it does not include all people, and it causes more harm than good.
However, there’s something else that concerns me. AMC was actually asked why the movie was removed from the lineup and they told the press it was due to low ticket sales, which is not true at all. It just shows that AMC doesn’t actually care about LGBTQ+ issues at all. Not only are they willing to show hate-fueled propaganda, but they can’t even call out the movie for being hateful after it was removed.
Also, have you ever heard of Panacol Productions and Deplorable Films? These are the two production companies behind the making of this film. It seems that they were actually created for the sole purpose of producing this movie. Deplorable Films describe themselves as “a new label for the distribution of films that the illiberal ideologues in Hollywoke—and their comrades in DC—are afraid you might see.” Yes, their official website actually says that.
Additionally, the film was originally supposed to be called “Affirmation Generation,” because, in their view, Gen-Z is the only generation with transgender people, so of course that’s what they decided our generation should be called.
Furthermore, to quote something that was once on the film’s official Twitter account, “Losing a child to the gender cult results in unimaginable grief. Basically, your child kills self (dead name) and becomes someone unrecognizable.” Statements like these prove that these people are neither educated nor equipped to create an informational film about the reality of transitioning and the transgender experience.
To add to everything, on June 13th of this year, it was claimed in a press release announcing the film that the movie was produced by “lifelong California democrats and LGBT activists” and that it takes a “non-religious, non-political, non-ideological look on the subject of gender-affirmative practices,” While the first statement is true, the latter statement is quite contradictory, considering they are literally coming at it from a religious, political, and ideological perspective.
When looking at everything logically and objectively, it makes the most sense to support gender-affirming care, considering that all the data and statistics show that the overwhelming majority have a positive experience rather than a negative one. However, if you’re going to look at it religiously, politically, and ideologically, you’re more likely to agree with this group of, ironically, “lifelong California democrats and LGBT activists.”
Overall, I recommend that no one watch this film. What we need to do from now on is think critically and not feed into propaganda that’s designed to pull in more and more people to harbor harmful ways of thinking. While I can see where both sides come from, I don’t believe in censorship, and recognize that there are multiple sides to every story, it will always be an issue when someone’s part in the story includes intentional harm to other individuals. I simply cannot support people who literally have endless research and data at their fingertips, but would rather rely on their feelings that are so set in stone and ingrained in their every thought. You’re free to think what you want to think, but that doesn’t make you free to force everyone to agree with you.