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Conservatives have built a vast network of junk science organizations to oppose trans equality

Conservatives have built a vast network of junk science organizations to oppose trans equality
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A new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center details a vast network of junk science organizations masquerading as authoritative medical sources in the far-right’s effort to manipulate public opinion and advance legislation and legal action targeting the LGBTQ+ community. 

The report, titled Combating Anti-LGBTQ+ Pseudoscience Through Accessible Informative Narratives, identifies over 60 groups making false scientific claims through so-called research papers, letters to the editor and testimony in state legislatures that attempt to cast doubt on the scientific consensus of legitimate medical organizations.

SPLC identifies well-known right-wing players like Alliance Defending Freedom and newer sources of junk science, including the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine and Genspect, which share hundreds of connections in their effort to undermine gender-affirming care, defend conversion therapy and generate moral panic over trans people.

“We show how this network of anti-LGBTQ+ actors have built a political and PR machine that twists data and opinion from a very small minority of the medical community and positions it as mainstream,” said R.G. Cravens, senior research analyst for SPLC’s Intelligence Project.

One example of a false “scientific” narrative detailed in the report is so-called “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” which assumes that transgender identity spreads through “social contagion” in spaces that affirm LGBTQ+ identities, like social media. This junk science, appearing in a published study and later amended with multiple corrections, itself became a social contagion spread by anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups and was used to justify anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

A blatant instance of false representation is the case of the American College of Pediatricians, identified as a fringe group by SPLC but with an official sounding name remarkably similar to a legitimate medical organization, the American Academy of Pediatricians, formed in 1930 and recognized as the premiere association of American pediatricians.

Unlike the pretender organization, which seeks to undermine gender-affirming care for minors and promotes conversion therapy, the AAP recognizes the efficacy of gender-affirming care — as do all major medical organizations.

“Disinformation from junk science is dangerous,” said Rachel Carroll Rivas, deputy director of research, reporting and analysis for SPLC’s Intelligence Project, introducing the report. “When anti-LGBTQ+ pseudoscience turns into policy, it has real-life, often life-threatening consequences for trans and nonbinary people.”

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