Alliance Defending Freedom grants to American College of Pediatricians to discredit WPATH SOC, 2018-2019

These “expert” pediatricians were paid by a far-right legal group to come up with evidence to attack the WPATH transgender standards of care

What this is: Leaked documents show the anti-LGBT legal group Alliance Defending Freedom paying manufactured experts to attack WPATH’s transgender standards of care, asking them to find evidence for harmful anti-trans myths that they knew were baseless and unsubstantiated. This is an original finding and report by Zinnia Jones (she/her), a transgender Florida resident of 11 years whose access to HRT is now jeopardized by the enactment of state law and policy based on work from these same experts.

Detailed summary: From 2019 onward, states across the US have been faced with an intensely active wave of reused anti-trans experts, recurring characters who keep repeating the same spurious arguments against gender-affirming care in court cases, legislatures, and other policy bodies. Where did they come from, and why did this start happening?

  • Due to the Florida-based anti-LGBT hate group American College of Pediatricians choosing to set one of their Google Drive folders to be publicly viewable by anyone, files were released this month showing the contents of their staff’s communications and other working notes over several years.
  • These documents included records of the Alliance Defending Freedom – another hate group who are also responsible for bringing the mifepristone case with ACP as a plaintiff – approaching ACP’s leaders in 2018 and 2019 to offer them a grant of $10,000 or more. The ADF wanted the pediatricians “to draft a white paper that refutes the WPATH Standards of Care”, “for use in litigation and should also benefit many other allies at State and Federal Level”.
  • ACP’s president Quentin Van Meter and executive director Michelle Cretella promptly got to work on this “Special Project”, and the ADF hosted expert witness workshops at ACP’s conferences. ACP members including Van Meter went on to present anti-trans testimony in several ADF-litigated cases and ADF-involved trans youth care bans.

In May 2022, Van Meter authored a sham report for Florida Medicaid to justify their trans coverage exclusion, mostly drawing from previous ACP position statements; court filings later revealed Michelle Cretella was recommended by the Florida governor’s office, and she pointed the way to all the other anti-trans experts hired by Florida in 2022 to support the Medicaid exclusion of transition care.

  • One notable document found in the ACP’s drive contains “Transgender Research Requests”, with the ADF asking Cretella and other ACP leaders to “substantiate” now-commonplace anti-trans talking points. These included bizarre claims by the ADF such as “it is normal during adolescence for children to go through a phase when they identify (to some degree) with the opposite sex”, and “For those who have undergone hormone therapy and genital change surgery, a paper that says they are no happier (and perhaps worse off if the research supports it)”.
  • The ADF was asking this anti-trans group to come up with anything that could support the arguments they were already planning to make.
  • This appears to be one of the very sites where those baseless myths about suicide, social contagion and other supposed harms, now regularly repeated in court cases and testimony and uncritically accepted by the mainstream right wing, were conceived and gestated.

These same experts then substantially reused these work products in their reports for Florida Medicaid, a public health agency whose accepted standards determination process is supposed to be a transparent and open-ended evaluation of peer-reviewed medical evidence.

Altogether, these documents appear to demonstrate a paid smear by a hate group and right-wing law firm against a leading professional transgender healthcare organization following the best available evidence and medical practices, as well as misconduct on the part of ACP experts who reused this work in their reports for a Florida public health agency.