Once upon a time, ugly bigotry on television would get somebody fired, or at least a slap on the wrist from the FCC. But not even a reprimand is likely to come down on Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson or his staff for the despicable anti-trans segment they ran on Thursday night.
The most popular cable news host in the nation spent five minutes slamming parents who accept and embrace their transgender children as child abusers, called treatment for them “grotesque” and “an epidemic.”
“What we’re about to show you is so disturbing it would have qualified as a crime not so long ago,” said Carlson, as he introduced a clip from the specific target of his obsession this week: the new documentary from HBO, Transhood. “It shows a four-year-old child named Phoenix and his mother at a Unitarian church service. The mother brings Phoenix to the altar to tell the congregation—again, Phoenix is four years old—now identifies as a girl.”
In the clip, this adorable child whispers to her mom, “I want to tell them that I’m a girl.” But understandably, she’s too shy to speak to the full church. So her mother speaks for her, using she/her pronouns to refer to her daughter, unlike Carlson, who calls all this “ventriloquism.” His belief is that children who are only four “don’t make decisions like that,” Carlson claimed. “They can’t.”
Even if you don’t support transgender rights, everyone knows that is false. At that age, children do know the difference between boys and girls, and what we are. Trans kids do, too, and all we ask is that parents listen to those trans kids.
I am living proof. I was four when I asked my mother why she thought I was a boy. Even though she told me she knew that I’d be a girl for all the months she carried me, even though I was telling her who I was, she didn’t believe me then, or when I came out to her when I was 49.
Avery Jackson, 13, was also 4 when she came out to her parents. Fortunately, her parents accepted that she knew her own gender identity, and embraced her authentic self. She is one of four young people and their families profiled in the HBO documentary, “growing up transgender in America’s heartland,” as the filmmakers describe it. HBO did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.
Carlson used the documentary’s clips of Avery, Phoenix and the other children, who were 7 and 15 when the filming began. Debi Jackson didn’t know her daughter would be on TV last night until she flipped on Carlson’s program.
“I know that they can use clips as it's public domain, but it's always a bit jarring to stumble across seeing your child, especially when people are using it to talk about ‘gender confusion’ or to accuse you of being an abusive parent,” Jackson told The Daily Beast in a direct message on Facebook. The ramifications of that, she said, go beyond just annoyance or discomfort.
“Honestly, it is shocking that people can go on TV and essentially slander you and call you a child abuser with no repercussions,” said Jackson. “In fact, the more inflammatory they are, the higher their ratings and bigger the salary. Meanwhile, it can wreak havoc in your life and you are powerless to stop it.”
Carlson went on to make a wild claim that is totally unsubstantiated and false: “Across the country, many small children are being given puberty blockers and irreversibly damaging their bodies.”
I found that last remark alarming. Why does Carlson oppose the recommendations of the American Medical Association and of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which only endorses puberty blockers for early adolescents, and have debunked myths and anti-trans propaganda about “damage.”
The reason doctors prescribe them to children is specifically because they are not harmful, and totally reversible, and put puberty on pause so that a child expressing gender dysphoria doesn’t see it worsen as secondary sexual characteristics develop. Many a late transitioner, myself included, wishes they could have had this option.
I also wondered that since gender dysphoria is an actual medical diagnosis and puberty blockers are recognized as a legitimate treatment for that medical condition, does Carlson also oppose treating bronchitis, diabetes, celiac disease, urinary tract infections and cancer in children? I asked his spokesperson these questions, and as of press time, haven’t received a response. Not expecting one, really.
Carlson is far more likely to speak to someone like last night’s guest, the very bearded self-proclaimed theocratic fascist blogger Matt Walsh, who thinks “a boy is a boy,” and that children who identify as transgender are “confused or in fantasyland.”
Here’s another statement by Walsh from Carlson’s interview that makes me question his parenting skills.
“Children literally cannot differentiate between fact and fiction, reality and fantasy,” Walsh claimed. “I have a four-year-old who thinks he’s a stegosaurus, I’m not going to take him to Jurassic Park.”
Does Walsh think Jurassic Park is real? Who did he say has the problem differentiating between reality and fantasy?
Aubrey Thomas, a trans woman in Washington State, asked on Facebook: “Why is Carlson so concerned about trans kids, and kids in general?...He needs to be told to leave children, all children alone and stick to what he does best, spreading bullshit.”
In September, U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil wrote a legal opinion that spreading bullshit is exactly what Carlson does: The “‘general tenor’” of the show should then inform a viewer that [Carlson] is not ‘stating actual facts’ about the topics he discusses and is instead engaging in ‘exaggeration’ and ‘non-literal commentary.’”
Jackson, who is also raising a cisgender 15-year-old son, tweeted the best response to Carlson: “.@TuckerCarlson just saw the full nothingburger of an interview with @MattWalshBlog about #Transhood. If you *really* have questions, why not invite us on rather than depend on the guy who’s been “on top of it” for all of a week?”
This isn’t Carlson’s first brush with attacking the transgender community. As I wrote in June 2019, he appears obsessed with trans athletes, and squeezed in another attack on them Thursday night: “Joe Biden just announced that biological men should be allowed access to women’s locker rooms in public schools across the country.”
The truth is Biden announced plans to reinstate Obama administration guidance that directs public schools to allow trans students to access bathrooms, locker rooms and sports teams in accordance with their gender identity. The Trump administration revoked this guidance, and went so far as to declare trans girls are boys.
Carlson’s history of anti-LGBTQ animus isn’t limited to trans people, either. The advocacy group GLAAD has a page listing his offenses against gays going back to 2010, even “inciting violence” against a survivor of the Pulse massacre in Orlando.
Trying to find positive words from Carlson towards LGBTQ people is tough. In 2019 he praised a lesbian as “brave”...for attacking trans people. In 2006, he discussed colleges affirming LGBTQ students, and while predictably dismissive was not obnoxious about it.
I understand people say we should ignore Carlson. But on average, five million people a night pay attention to him. Which is why we should, and continue calling out the ugliest elements of the raging dumpster fire that is Tucker Carlson Tonight.