Letter to the Editor: Student Life again fails to condemn transphobia

and | Former Student Life Managing Editors

Editor’s note: This article contains discussion of transphobia and violence. Resources for anyone impacted by these topics are listed at the bottom of this page.

It’s easy to be taken in by fake news. It appeals to our emotions and plays on our implicit and confirmation biases. It is the job of a newspaper — a reputable one, at least — to help its readers see past the lies and find the truth. Last week, Student Life failed to serve this purpose

On Feb. 9, Jamie Reed, a so-called whistleblower from the Washington University Transgender Center at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, published an article alleging practices that she claimed were “permanently harming” transgender youth in the Center’s care. Trans researcher and writer Erin Reed subsequently published an article thoroughly debunking the claims as a “manufactured controversy… entirely planned.” This debunking, however, has been entirely ignored by the right-wing politicians who are weaponizing Jamie Reed’s unproven claims to advance their ongoing legislative attack against trans youth. 

On Feb. 12, Student Life’s Editor-in-Chief published an article covering the controversy. Before it was edited on Feb. 16 in response to backlash, the article focused largely on Jamie Reed’s allegations and the University’s reaction, including the administration’s communication with Republican Senator Josh Hawley — who has a history of making transphobic remarks and pushing for transphobic legislation. Hawley quickly leveraged the whistleblower allegations to introduce a bill defining gender-affirming care as “child abuse,” and is currently joining Missouri’s Republican Attorney General in an investigation of the Center that feels like a thinly-veiled excuse to shut down trans healthcare for youth.

Student Life’s initial choice to focus on Jamie Reed’s allegations — rather than her blatant disregard for the research disproving the theory of rapid-onset gender dysphoria, the research showing that hormone replacement therapy does not in fact lead to permanent infertility, and the research illustrating the clearly life-saving impacts of gender-affirming care — is incredibly irresponsible journalism. It presents the casual reader with an unbalanced caricature of the facts, implicitly endorsing Jamie Reed’s claims by omitting the data that refutes them. Couched in the language of protecting children, Jamie Reed’s article leads readers without adequate context to believe that trans healthcare is the thing harming youth, rather than the rampant transphobia that the article itself perpetuates — and by repeating those decontextualized claims, Student Life did the same. 

The administration’s failure to promptly and publicly defend the Transgender Center was a slap in the face to the University’s many trans students, and Student Life’s careless promotion of transphobic rhetoric was particularly cruel to its current and former trans and gender nonconforming staffers. It is the responsibility of the paper to tell its readers the truth — and the truth in this case is that these calculated efforts to incite transphobic hysteria are fueling an increasingly hostile legislature and a staggering amount of anti-trans violence

This is not the first time that Student Life has platformed dangerously transphobic rhetoric. In its Dec. 12 coverage of conservative speaker Amala Ekpunobi, the paper directly repeated Ekpunobi’s appalling comments about swimmer Lia Thomas, in which Ekpunobi repeatedly misgendered her and labeled her “predatory” — a statistically-disproven trope often used to fuel the exclusion of and violence toward trans women. Despite the article’s length — nearly 1,700 words, making it the paper’s second-longest news article in the last two months — Student Life again failed to provide the factual context for and real-world harms of this hate speech.

Student Life’s decision to revise its original article is a step in the right direction, as is the Feb. 14 letter in which University administrators rejected calls for a moratorium on gender-affirming care and noted the “lifesaving, evidence-based” nature of such treatment. But these steps do not absolve either party of the damage and pain that has already been caused. 

Student Life’s pattern of contributing harm to marginalized communities extends back far further than last year, but it does not have to continue. It’s time for the paper to recommit to its own stated principles of holding power to account, critically seeking out diverse perspectives, and carefully considering the impact of the information it promotes. Instead of amplifying anti-trans propaganda that already has a broad audience, Student Life’s reporting should uplift actual trans voices and separate fearmongering from facts. In the face of an unprecedented wave of bills promoting government-sanctioned transphobia — that, as Erin Reed writes, “have and will kill trans youth”— it is more important than ever for Student Life to foster a climate of acceptance through thoughtful, truthful coverage.

Several former Student Life staffers — including former social media editor Sabrina Spence, former multimedia editor HN Hoffman, former design chief Christine Watridge, and former managing editor Ted Moskal — contributed to this letter and share outrage over Student Life’s conduct toward the trans community. Do better.

Below are resources to support members of the trans community. 


The Trans Lifeline works to connect trans people with emotional and financial support, along with other community resources. Trans counselors can be reached 24/7 at 1-877-565-8860.

The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for the LGBTQIA+ community, can be reached 24/7 by calling 1-866-488-7386 or texting START to 678-678.


The St. Louis Queer+ Support Helpline offers resources and support from local, LGBTQIA-affirming peer counselors, and can be reached Friday – Monday from 1 p.m. – 7 p.m. CT at 314-380-7774.

The Metro Trans Umbrella Group facilitates St. Louis-based support groups for trans-masculine, trans-feminine, non-binary and genderqueer individuals, as well as LGBTQIA+ people of color. Contact information for each group can be found online

Pinwheels is a support group with meetings in St. Louis for trans and gender nonconforming children, teens, and their families. 

Growing American Youth is a social support organization for LGBTQ+ youth who live near St. Louis and are 21 and under, and can be contacted via Instagram or Facebook.


The National Queer & Trans Therapists of Color Network provides a variety of identity-affirming resources, including a directory of queer and trans therapists of color. 

Trans researcher and writer Erin Reed has created an online map of every informed consent hormone clinic in the United States. 

The Gender Affirming Letter Access Project aims to increase access to free letters for gender-affirming medical care by providing a directory of trans, nonbinary, and allied mental health and medical clinicians.

The DIY HRT Directory is an online resource that provides information about how to safely obtain and perform hormone replacement therapy.

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