My Resignation Letter to Gender Care Consumer Advocacy Network (GCCAN)
Today is the hearing of HB 454 in Ohio, a blanket ban on gender affirming care for trans youth under age 18. Called the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act, it serves as one of many shadow bills cribbed from Alliance Defending Freedom as part of an ongoing attack by the Religious Right on bodily autonomy for trans people.
The onslaught of bills has been unending. Yet this one hits me harder than most. This time, a board member of Gender Care Consumer Advocacy Network (GCCAN) named Corinna Cohn testified in favor of the bill. A “gender critical” trans woman, Cohn is best known for her writings in Quillette and a viral op-ed in the Washington Post. She had previously testified for similar bills, including in her home state of Indiana, but as an individual rather than group representative. Now that’s changed and she’s identifying herself as member of GCCAN instead of just an individual. Two years prior, I had tried to caution this very group against taking this path, urging them to avoid causing long-standing harm to trans people.
Previously I’ve written how I had been a founding member of GCCAN as its Vice President and resigned because I viewed it as a threat to trans liberation. Founding this organization is one of my deepest regrets. I knew this day would come. There are no words to describe the grief my heart holds for the trans kids of Ohio being targeted by state violence, now bolstered by a front group which really only exists to deprive people of care they need to thrive. There are children, children who are just trying to exist in themselves, who are now being hurt by a demon I helped create. And it feels like there is nothing I can do about it.
The person that represented GCCAN during the hearing today, Corinna Cohn, will not tell you this key detail: that I had told them not to do this, that one of their own founders saw that we were headed for a dark future and that they would be party to grave harm towards members of their own community, and that we shouldn’t be giving trans and detrans people’s freedom up to those who wish to control us all. Yes, they know. They do not care, they think they’re saving people. That is the most tragic part of this story of all. They were warned years ago and do not care. They are hurting your children and do. not. care. All while claiming to. It’s frankly sickening.
On March 1st, 2020 at 12PM, I submitted my resignation as the Vice President to the operating board of GCCAN. It was sent to all active members at the time, including currently well-known members Grace Lidinksy-Smith (President) and Corinna Cohn (then Secretary). Following is the full text of the letter I sent to the GCCAN board. Within I caution that there was distrust from the trans community (true and ongoing), clear divide between trans and detrans people due to perceived use of detrans people against access to gender affirming care (true and, unfortunately, escalating), and the direction I saw the group going in and what damage it could do to people they claimed to represent. Please note that the wording may feel a bit off-putting or even “GC Lite” to people, with me referring to things like “gender care consumers” throughout — this is the verbiage I had to adopt in order to have any degree of influence for change within the group. This is another part that I regret, and why I take such pains to be more sensitive and honest with how I am connecting with people now.
As my warnings to the board went unheard years ago, my only hope now is that it will be of use to trans revolutionaries trying to resist GCCAN’s harm to trans youth. GCCAN refused to hear me those years back, but maybe you will. Please, protect trans kids. Protect them from the abuses of predatory groups like GCCAN, groups that claim to care but only exist to suck the life out of people. Draw on our connections with trans youth, extend to them the joy of community while sharing the grief, the tears shed because of those trying to eradicate us. Trans children, those fighting to survive today and future generations to come, deserve so much better.
Dear GCCAN board of directors,
I am formally submitting my resignation both as Vice President and from the board of directors as a whole. Over the past few weeks, I have been noticing shifts in both the operations and perception of GCCAN that I feel will negatively impact the consumers we strive to support.
GCCAN was founded upon a central principle: to become a beacon of support for recipients of gender care consumers who feel they have been harmed by the current system of care, regardless of how they currently identify. The founding board sought to support both transgender and detransitioned individuals in advocating for their individual and collective needs within this system of care. We sought to do so in a way that would not conflict with the needs or experiences of each group, having recognized our own experiences as gender care consumers. This vision, while noble, has since been lost in a way that I feel cannot be recovered.
As one of the only trans people on the GCCAN board, as well as serving as part of the public relations team, I was faced with the unique opportunity of networking with and hearing the skepticism of the transgender community we were attempting to connect with. By and large, trans people talking about GCCAN are wary of the direction the organization is going. While there are individual members of the community who feel differently, the overall perception is that the organization has the potential of using detransitioned people’s experiences to counteract the needs of transgender people. Similarly, there is distrust of transgender people from detransitioned people. This creates conflict that makes it extremely difficult to bring both groups together in a productive fashion, including within our own board of directors. Inevitably, such conflict results either in one impacted group feeling pushed out of spaces designed for them in favor of the other or, should the conflict go unresolved, the ultimate dissolution of the space.
Addressing this conflict within collaborative spaces is crucial to advocate for the needs of both groups. To be clear, I do view it as possible for individual transgender and detransitioned individuals to collaborate to promote more holistic care for both groups. However, my concern is that both transgender and detransitioned people live in a climate where their experiences are pitted against each other even when we attempt to meet each other in the middle. Said climate makes collaborative spaces more contentious in a way that jeopardizes the efforts made in a way that cannot as easily be overcome by more direct interpersonal relationships. Those individual collaborative relationships have enormous potential, but when it comes to collective advocacy, we are simply not there yet. This has and will continue to create barriers in the goals the organization is attempting to accomplish. If we are to succeed in advocating for gender care consumers as a whole, we must first be able to demonstrate that we as individuals can meet each other where we’re at, recognize our shared needs, and respectfully challenge each other’s view points in a way that can promote growth and mutual empowerment.
Walking the fine line of advocating for multiple gender care consumer groups within the current political climate has been difficult. Already, I see shifts toward specific detransition experiences or narratives that could alienate individuals in the member base we are attempting to build. This includes both with the material that has been promoted and how I personally have been treated by individual board members. Despite having considered myself medically detransitioned, I have not felt that my experience has been respected as it differs from narratives that are prevalent right now. I suspect that potential members in my position would feel similarly, thus alienating a group that is in critical need of advocacy. If we acknowledge the harm that can be caused by engaging with the gender care system, we must also acknowledge the harm that can be caused by disengaging from it.
Furthermore, shifts in operations lead me to believe that the organization will be co-opted by groups or organizations seeking to restrict access to gender care services on a larger scale. This is antithetical to the concept of peer support and, similarly, consumer-run advocacy organizations. While it is necessary to connect with those who provide or regulate such services when advocating for our needs and the needs of other consumers, the foundations of consumer-run advocacy organizations is that they center the rights and needs of consumers themselves. As it stands, I foresee anticipated networking efforts steering the organization’s focus in a way that undermines the rights of the consumers. Any organization attempting to do this kind of work attracts the attention of predatory groups seeking to limit the rights of women and the LGBT community as a whole. Without careful safeguarding, GCCAN could easily become the gender care equivalent to Women’s Liberation Front and cause more harm than good to our future membership base. Given that, I cannot in good faith continue to be associated with an organization that I believe is heading down such a road.
From the beginning, my dedication has always been to past, present, or future consumers of gender care services. My belief is that this is why I was brought into the founding board of GCCAN. As I believe that this dedication is neither shared across the board or truly valued, I must go where my principles guide me and walk away from GCCAN.