Jackie St. Claire wears transgender flag paint on her face at the Transgender day of Visibility on March 31.
Ifyouwere on X at all at the end of last week, then you probably had the misfortune of seeing the term “Detrans” trending. For those who didn’t investigate, here’s the unpleasant rundown: “Detrans” is the latest short film from the Prager University Foundation (better known as PragerU), a conservative nonprofit group best known for its videos that present archaic viewpoints on various civic and social justice topics.
Its latest documentary is about a small handful of people who transitioned as young people and then decided to detransition later. This film is not trending because people love or hate it, by the way. PragerU reportedly paid X $1 million to shove its agenda into everyone’s faces. This tactic should be terrifying to anyone who values speech, because it essentially boils down to a massive misinformation campaign. Although people who detransition certainly exist and are entitled to sharing their story, they account for only about 1% of all trans people.
So you know that the documentary’s creators aren’t acting in good faith when they withholds that context and make it look like giant swaths of trans people regret their decision to affirm their gender. The film makes it seem like kids everywhere are being tricked into being trans — and that this is a widespread problem we should all be worried about.
I was unable to find out which humans directed and produced the film; when I reached out to them for this info, a PragerU press rep said simply, “PragerU produced the short documentary.”
PragerU (which is not affiliated with an actual academic institution) was founded in 2009 by Allen Estrin, a screenwriter, and Dennis Prager, a conservative radio talk show host. On their site, they claim to “promote American values” and offer an “alternative to the dominant left-wing ideology in culture, media, and education.” PragerU was in headlines earlier this year when the Florida Board of Education approved their PragerU Kids videos for use in public K-12 classrooms, including one video geared toward children, in which a cartoon Christopher Columbus justifies colonialism by calling Indigenous people “vicious cannibals.”
“We put so many resources behind promoting [‘Detrans’] because it is one of the most important projects we have ever done,” PragerU’s spokesperson said over email, after I asked why they decided to put so much muscle behind this campaign specifically. “We are doing everything we can to reach a massive audience on the dangers of gender affirming care as it has rapidly become a social contagion that has detrimental consequences.”
Their use of the term “social contagion” illustrates just how much they see transness as an existential threat — and although I shouldn’t have been surprised and disgusted, I certainly was.
The platform formerly known as Twitter, by the way, has evidently allowed PragerU to promote its documentary when other platforms like YouTube have refused, per Deseret News. Since Elon Musk’s takeover of the site, it has lost millions of dollars in ad revenue. The “Detrans” documentary also seems pretty aligned with Musk’s anti-trans beliefs. His idea of free speech has always appeared to be about the freedom to disrespect people he doesn’t understand. And this documentary does that, as well.
I watched the 20-minute documentary so you don’t have to. Most of it consists of stories from three people who transitioned after spending a lot of time on YouTube or Tumblr and saw other trans people exploring their identities. These three people eventually then decided to detransition by stopping and/or reversing their gender-affirming care.
While their stories are valid — and definitely involve some instances of medical neglect — there’s no nuance or context provided, and it’s clear that the documentary’s aim is to make it seem like all kids are endangered by trans acceptance. Moreover, as Out points out, “although both subjects of the documentary transitioned as adults, the film uses their stories as part of a larger criticism of gender-affirming care for minors.”
There are very few expert sources included in the documentary. One of the most prominent voices featured is that of Harmeet Dhillon, a lawyer and former chairwoman for California’s Republican Party who keeps using the term “transgenderism” — hardly an objective source.
Another gag is that the end of the documentary includes a clip of Oli London, who made headlines for claiming to be a “transracial” Korean and who is now a conservative anti-trans advocate. It’s disturbing to be reminded that, for those who don’t personally know any trans people, these types of documentaries might be the only content about trans people they’ll ever interact with. It’s fear-mongering at its absolute worst, and we need to call it out.