Playboy’s puff piece on intellectually dishonest Blaire White

Previously: Transgender youth fact check: Blaire White is wrong, What are the odds you’ll stop harassing trans kids?, Debunking hypothetical arguments about youth transition

“Intellectual dishonesty”.

This is the phrase that’s been on my mind since reading the recent profile of Blaire White on Playboy.com. To be clear, Playboy does tend to have good articles – my partner Heather has written for them, and contributed to their coverage of the Pulse attack last year. But this article by Debra Soh is one of the most uncritical and misguided puff pieces I’ve ever read, particularly when Blaire White is allowed to preach at length on principles of intellectual honesty:

What can people do to fight back against intellectual dishonesty?

The absolute best thing a person can do to combat intellectual dishonesty is to remain strongly principled and stick to fact-based argumentation. Call out falsities where you see them from both your ideological opponents and like-minded people. I strongly oppose the political tribalism that has taken over this country and caused people to behave like they’re on a team rather than than truth-seeking individualists.

Nowhere does this article make note of Blaire White’s continued denial and mischaracterization of transgender medicine and healthcare, something I’ve covered in extensive detail. In light of this, her supposed dedication to “truth-seeking” and “fact-based argumentation” is absolute nonsense.

She has spent months openly rejecting the medical consensus supporting gender-affirming therapy and the use of puberty blockers for transgender youth. She claims to have “expertise” on this topic even as her position contradicts the stances of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Endocrine Society, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. Rather than acknowledging the overwhelming clinical evidence in favor of an affirming approach, she labels this “child abuse”. She broadcasts this shameless denialism to hundreds of thousands of viewers, deliberately propagating misconceptions and causing untold damage to the public’s understanding of trans people.

On its own, this already demonstrates a remarkable degree of intellectual dishonesty. But when I presented her with evidence contradicting her assertions, she proved just how persistent she is in her rejection of facts that don’t fit her ideology. After 3500 words and 23 citations outlining this evidence, here’s how Blaire White chose to respond:

[0:36] First up, we have Zinnia Jones, a transgender YouTuber who takes issue with my opinion that children should not be transitioning. What’s up, Zinnia?

>> “This is absolutely mind-numbing.”

You know that I’m pretty vocal about being against children transitioning.

>> “What is wrong with you? Like, actually what is your problem?”

Um, children transitioning. I thought that was obvious from when I said “vocal about being against children transitioning”.

>> “What makes a person act like this?”

Um, having a basic level of empathy for children, and understanding that they don’t have the foresight to make permanent bodily changes and sterilize themselves — that’s kind of my whole thing.

>> “What is this?”

Tourette syndrome?

>> “You need to understand something. Your viewers aren’t there for you. They’re just in it for the ready-made excuses for transphobia that you provide to them.”

Okay, this might blow your mind, Zinnia, but people who are transphobic do not subscribe to trans people on YouTube. Similarly, people who are snaggletooth-phobic don’t subscribe to you.

>> “I don’t know why you think this is okay. I don’t know why anyone thinks this is okay. It’s nothing but evil for the sake of evil.”

Okay, out of all the people that I’ve responded to on YouTube since I started, however diametrically opposed I may have been to their views or the things that they said, I’ve never thought any of them were evil. I didn’t even think the ‘transgender terrorist’ was evil. I mean I’m sure he’s great fun at parties and satanic rituals. So I’m really sorry, Zinnia, that you seem unable to escape this pubescent mindset that the planet is separated into good guys and bad guys, and whichever side you land on is the good guys. But it is possible to not hate trans people and simultaneously believe that children sterilizing themselves for the sake of growing tits isn’t the best idea. [2:18]

Did she acknowledge the clinical consensus and extensive evidence supporting the availability of transition treatment for trans youth? No. Did she admit that trans adolescents who are allowed to access puberty blockers have measurably improved health outcomes? No. Did she recognize that there are relevant aspects of a person’s quality of life other than fertility? No. Did she offer any reason why her position should be considered more reliable and persuasive than that of numerous major medical organizations, dozens of leading children’s hospitals, and countless specialists who have treated trans kids for years? No. Did she admit to any of her errors, or make any effort to correct them, or apologize for any of this? No.

Did she insult the condition of my teeth? Yes.

 

The flattened playing field of “opinion”

Is this what intellectual honesty looks like? Maybe – to the intellectually dishonest. What few defenses she does offer are deliberate and practiced strategies to undermine fact-based discussion in the pursuit of truth. In a comment responding to the video she quoted, Blaire White had this to say:

This is my view and I’ve never claimed to be an expert on the topic. I specifically state “I FEEL/IN MY OPINION/TO ME” constantly in my videos about this. You’re fucking childish for branding my difference of opinion as evil or malicious. You know the world isn’t separated into “good guyz vs bad guyz”, right? like someone can feel differently than you without being a bad person.

I share MY perspective – it’s easy for you to say I’m flat out lying to people or that I’m pretending to care about children, but deeming people who disagree with you as (in your words) “evil for the sake of being evil” is incredibly stupid.

In this context, the label of “opinion” serves as an escape hatch from accountability, a mental stop-sign intended to halt any closer examination of her position – because there’s really nothing there. So you have a belief about something – so what? On what basis did you form this belief? What evidence supports your belief? To what extent does your belief account for the existing body of knowledge on a given topic? If your belief diverges from the consensus of relevant medical authorities, do you have a compelling reason why your belief should be regarded as being of equal standing?

Blaire White has hardly anything to offer in the way of this. In and of itself, holding an opinion means very little. The mere fact that a person believes a thing does not lend support to that belief. But as a rhetorical device, invoking one’s “opinion” can be quite valuable. Are we to believe that the opinion of major medical organizations and the opinion of Blaire White both hold equal merit? Of course not. But stripping away all of these relevant features is a handy trick if your position loses on those terms: when you treat an opinion as a mere excuse with zero responsibility attached, reducing a discussion to a “difference of opinion” subtly discredits the positions of everyone involved.

It projects a false modesty – in a realm of free-floating opinions where the simple act of holding a belief is treated as practically unimpeachable, assertions of facts are liable to be seen as an uninvited intrusion, a rude claim to possess something that rises above the newly flattened playing field of opinion. The humility of adjusting one’s beliefs based on facts is thus framed as an act of arrogance, while the arrogance of disavowing facts in order to maintain your preferred beliefs instead becomes a performance of humility. This is not the behavior of an intellectually honest person.

 

Disavowing right and wrong

Her resistance to having her actions judged as good or bad at all is similarly dishonest. Of course Blaire White is willing to pass such judgment on others, just like pretty much any of us. If anything, she has a history of doing so especially zealously and recklessly, making the most inflammatory accusations with little justification for this. In a video titled “Children Transitioning = Child Abuse”, she described an article about a 9-year-old trans girl as “every bit of this story looking like the mom encouraged the kid to live this way and be this way”, and suggests that it’s highly unlikely for a transgender child’s mom to be an activist for trans kids. She made this claim despite a number of easily-located stories stating that this mother became an activist after her child came out as trans. This family subsequently received a great deal of harassment and violent threats from internet trolls.

When Blaire White conducts herself in this way, she is making a moral argument. She is appealing to a sense of what is right and what is wrong, she is invoking supposed consequences and harms, and she expects others to concur on this moral equation and agree with her conclusion. She is accusing a person of child abuse. The seriousness of such an allegation is not compatible with her attempt to retreat to blurry ethical ground where nobody is ever told that they’re good or bad.

This disavowal of good and evil is nothing but a situational shield for her. When a person aims to smear the very idea of assessable ranges and spectrums of right and wrong into one shade of grey, they typically have something to get out of it that they can’t get any other way. In the course of explaining why early treatment for transgender youth is effective and medically necessary, I didn’t have to defend my position by saying “well, is anything really good or bad?” Does she? If so, that should be very revealing. Imagine how she might react if that child’s mother responded to her accusations with “you really shouldn’t say people are good or bad”, or “hey, this is just my opinion”. Do you think that would convince Blaire White to say “oh, my bad, sorry for accusing you of child abuse”? Yet these are the very same excuses she makes for herself when she’s called out for intentionally misinforming a mass audience about the benefits of medical treatment and encouraging harassment of children and their parents. Again, this is not intellectually honest.

 

Who can be transphobic?

Another situational shield she makes use of is the notion that her channel cannot possibly be a hotbed of transphobia because she herself is trans – a rare invocation of identity politics that she normally seems to deplore. Once again, she resists any attempt to focus on the actual content of what she’s saying, much of which is unambiguously transphobic and will attract a transphobic audience.

Denying the proven medical necessity of appropriate treatment for transgender youth is transphobic. Ignoring the harms of untreated gender dysphoria and reducing this to “for the sake of growing tits” is transphobic. Mischaracterizing treatment for adolescents as being decided solely by the child and not by an accompanying team of adult medical specialists is transphobic. Claiming non-binary trans people aren’t “real” is transphobic. In one recent video, she even suggests that a “cure” for trans people is not being developed because of “political correctness”:

[4:43] Some are of the opinion that transitioning is actually cruel to allow the person to do and it’s just feeding into the disorder, but to those people I think it’s important to pose the question: What else do they do? Because there is no other option other than transitioning, as faulty as it is. There’s no cure, nothing you can take, you just kind of have to live with it. And in many cases, unfortunately, it’s like too much to live with, and suicide rates are high for trans people.

My opinion sits somewhere in the middle on that. I think that transitioning is not for everyone, but for some people it is really their best bet, and it can be successful. I would, however, love for in the future there to be some sort of other option other than transitioning, because like I said, I don’t think that it’s for everyone. And I think part of the reason there’s no funding going into finding a cure or a treatment is the political correctness factor. [5:28]

In making this claim, not only is she proposing without evidence that such a “cure” could even exist, but she is exempting herself from providing that evidence by further claiming that some imagined conspiracy exists to suppress this. Her viewers are invited to do all the work of filling in whatever shadowy details they like, and all she has to do is toss out a vague and groundless suggestion. This is Blaire White’s own political correctness: a political correctness of withholding accurate information from her viewers on treatments that already work, and misrepresenting anyone who contradicts her on this.

This doesn’t cater to transphobes in spite of her identity – it caters to them because of her identity. She has unique value to them, offering an example that they can hold up to say, “See? Even trans people believe that they’re mentally disordered, and that there needs to be a ‘cure’, and that allowing children to access treatment is ‘child abuse’”. Her denial of everything she’s doing right in front of our eyes is not intellectually honest. If Blaire White wants to “combat intellectual dishonesty”, she should have started a long time ago. The honest thing to do would be to admit that she just doesn’t care. 

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About Zinnia Jones

My work focuses on insights to be found across transgender sociology, public health, psychiatry, history of medicine, cognitive science, the social processes of science, transgender feminism, and human rights, taking an analytic approach that intersects these many perspectives and is guided by the lived experiences of transgender people. I live in Orlando with my family, and work mainly in technical writing.
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