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Here's Why An Anti-Trans Documentary Is Taking Over X

Here's Why An Anti-Trans Documentary Is Taking Over X

The X symbol next to a hand holding a phone with the X app on the screen
Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Ads for PragerU's Detrans documentary flooded users' feeds earlier this week.

On Thursday, November 2, users on X (formerly Twitter) woke up to find their timeline taken over by advertisements for the controversial documentary Detrans: The Dangers of Gender-Affirming Care as part of a $1 million advertising push.

The 21-minute anti-trans documentary made by the conservative advocacy group Prager University Foundation follows two people who have detransitioned — meaning people who previously identified as trans but have since reversed the gender-affirming care they received. 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. This is a hot-button issue for conservatives who have been busy rolling back access to puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgery in 22 states over the last three years, according to NBC News.

After stripping back X’s LGBTQ+ harassment policies last year, PragerU’s “timeline takeover” ad campaign represents Elon Musk’s latest push toward a more conservative agenda. The placement of the ads meant that it was the first one users saw throughout the day.

In an emailed statement to NBC News, PragerU’s chief marketing officer Craig Strazzeri said they chose to advertise on X because it is “one of the least censored social media platforms thanks to Elon Musk.” Strazzeri also said that the organization hopes that after watching Detrans “viewers will have a better understanding of how young Americans are being manipulated by social media and medical professionals to undergo life-altering surgeries that often come with major regret.”

Despite PragerU’s views — and the views of many right-wing groups and politicians — that advocate for denying minors access to transition-related care, every major medical association in the country supports and advocates for access to care.

What is the Prager University Foundation?

PragerU is a nonprofit advocacy and media organization that works to spread conservative viewpoints and claims it is an “educational media platform dedicated to promoting pro-American values.” While it is called Prager University Foundation, it is not a university and doesn’t offer any degrees.

In July PragerU faced criticism after materials the organization created for children was approved to be used in classrooms as supplemental resources by the Florida Department of Education. The materials have been widely decried as being conservative propaganda, full of misinformation, according to Education Week.

What is the documentary about?

The documentary uses the cases of two trans people who have detransitioned to try and sway opinions about gender-affirming care for minors. One of the documentary’s subjects, Daisy Strongin, began taking testosterone when she was 18, but the film confuses the issue by not stating her age when she began gender-affirming care and shows videos and photos of Strongin when she looks younger. The doc also shares the story of Abel Garcia who says he began medically transitioning at age 19.

Detrans also argues that children and teens are rushed into the process of medically transitioning, but doesn't include the perspective of any doctors, reports NBC News.

Do trans people frequently regret transitioning?

A 2021 review of 27 studies concluded that only 1 percent of people 13 and older regretted receiving gender-affirming surgery. Gender-affirming care for minors has widespread support from the medical community and studies have found that receiving gender-affirming hormone therapy reduces rates of depression and suicidality.

It is also extremely rare for anyone under the age of 18 to receive gender-affirming surgeries and even receiving puberty blockers requires informed consent from both the patient and one of the patient’s parents.

How did people respond to the advertising campaign on X?

Many users expressed anger about the film’s advertisements and being unable to block or mute the #Detrans hashtag while posting about their frustration with Elon Musk. “Elon Musk isn't just allowing PragerU to push their evil #Detrans propaganda on Twitter because he's desperate for advertising revenue, he's also doing it because he *likes* their brand of bigotry,” one user wrote.

Some users began to flood the #Detrans hashtag with positive trans stories and even photos of cats in an attempt to drown out the actual ads.

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Ariel Messman-Rucker