‘America Sent Gender Ideology Here’: Anti


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Jun 16, 2023

‘America Sent Gender Ideology Here’: Anti

About 100 people gathered in a small room in Tel Aviv on Sunday to hear

About 100 people gathered in a small room in Tel Aviv on Sunday to hear controversial U.S. writer Abigail Shrier speak at the Hebrew launch of her book ‘Irreversible Damage.’ As some attendees muttered of a ‘rainbow mafia,’ the hundreds of protesters outside delivered an even clearer message about trans rights

After moving three times, a contentious Tel Aviv event finally found its home on Sunday evening. In a small room in the suburb of Ramat Gan, the right-wing Israeli publishing house Sella Meir hosted Abigail Shrier – the U.S. writer who has been championed by the right and panned by mental health and medical professionals for her theses on transgender issues.

The event marked the Hebrew-language translation of her book "Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters."

About 100 plastic chairs were crammed together in the small space but just a handful were taken at 6:45 P.M., 15 minutes after the event was scheduled to begin – largely due to the massive protest below.

First published in June 2020, Shrier's book claims that social media and social pressure drive young girls to identify as transgender and seek gender-affirming care, encouraged by adults in their lives, and end up left with regret and the titular "irreversible damage" to their bodies.

The claims in the book have been refuted by physicians, psychologists and LGBTQ advocacy groups, and have drawn fierce criticism from, among others, transgender people and parents of transgender children.

Shrier claims that "biological girls" – her term for transgender men – immediately boost their social status by transitioning, and says her book offers parents advice on how to "protect their daughters."

When Sella Meir first announced the event – a talk with Shrier about the book, moderated by the publishing house's lead editor, Leora Levian – it was slated for Tel Aviv's ZOA House, but was soon relocated to Tel Aviv's Social Space for unspecified reasons. The latter venue, which generally holds apolitical artistic events and community-building workshops, seemed an odd choice. It was. The managers canceled the event moments after learning of its content.

Sella Meir Publishing owner Rotem Sella promised to "work to hold the event at an alternative location," which was quickly revealed to be Tel Aviv's Carlton Hotel. But while Sella Meir was location-hopping, a group of teenage activists launched an initiative of their own: A Twitter account called "The Official Page for LGBTQ Terrorism" – a tongue-in-cheek nod to the Israeli far-right's description of such activists – alerted the Carlton to the event's content, and it promptly backed out.

Next time, Sella Meir stayed mum on the venue and did not release the location to ticketholders until 24 hours before the event. It settled on a space in Ramat Gan's business area, run by an organization called Forum Café Shapira, whose website says it seeks to "put an end to the fear of the rule of political correctness, the extreme feminism violence ... and the country's democracy court domination."

Meanwhile, a WhatsApp group started by the young activists to protest at the event had ballooned. By Sunday night, it numbered some 950 participants. Throughout the evening, hundreds would arrive to voice their concerns: chiefly that the book provides "dangerous and baseless advice to parents."

"Organizations that are responsible for attacks on democracy are behind this event," a group post stated, citing the right-wing Tikva Fund, "and their goal is clear: controlling the public discourse in Israel and importing messianic American conservatism."

‘Awful guidance to parents’

Ahead of the talk's start time, protesters gathered on a nearby street. They held transgender and LGBTQ pride flags, and signs reading "Trans rights are human rights" and "Protect trans teens."

A contingent of protest drummers warmed up, while friends with the brightly dyed and side-shaven hair popular among Israel's queer youth embraced each other before heading over to the building's entrance. Most looked to be under 20 and, unlike a sizable proportion of the people trickling into the building for the event, were Israeli-born rather than Western expats.

Ash, an 18-year-old nonbinary protester who uses she/her pronouns, said she "came here because I saw the storm that surrounded the book when it came out in English. I understood that it was very harmful."

She added: "It's intended for people who are on the fence about whether to accept their trans children. … Those who are in doubt, like my parents – if they read this book, it’ll hurt their kids. It will cause suicidal thoughts and, more than that, suicides. What this book symbolizes, basically, is an attempt to murder trans people."

Orit, a 69-year-old draped in the Israeli flag characteristic of the current protests against the judicial overhaul, said she was not a member of the LGBTQ community herself, but came to support family members and friends.

These people "want to give awful guidance to parents so that their kids won't be LGBTQ – conversion therapy," she said. "They’ve let [anti-LGBTQ lawmaker Avi Maoz] be a deputy minister and intervene on LGBTQ issues, trample their rights, drag them to conversion therapy. It's time to wake up and get out on the street more," she said.

Dan, 16, was preparing a sign on the sidewalk, scrawling: "Trans health care saved my life."

"I’m trans, and I was in a very difficult place in my life," he explained. "The treatment I received changed my life, turned me around 180 degrees. The fact that my parents were as accepting as they were meant everything, and even before I took puberty blockers – that don't do anything; they just stop the onset of puberty – the fact that I was able to dress how I wanted and that they used male pronouns was an incredible change."

He said he had not read Shrier's book, but had watched videos online about it.

"First of all, this book wants to impart the message that it's very easy to get [gender-affirming medical treatments], and it really isn't. You need the approval of at least two mental health professionals and it costs a lot of money, which isn't easily accessible – my insurance wasn't so excited about covering it. We had to sue them. It's really hard to get, and it saves lives. The book says the opposite and that people regret it."

Becoming a dinosaur

As protesters chanted "We will not be silent or agree to the persecution of children" and "Sella Meir, get out of here," a car pulled up and several people emerged. One was hurriedly surrounded by guards and police officers, and the security detail's frenzy drew the protesters’ attention. Even those deep in the crowd realized that Shrier had arrived.

They greeted her with a wall of noise: megaphone sirens, drumming, chants of "Shame! Shame!" and noisemakers filled the cramped space as the police parted the protesters like the Red Sea.

I headed in with Sella Meir's spokesman, past tight security up to the venue, where a few people were munching on a spread of cookies and chips. Attendees had yet to work out how to get through the protest below. A handful of those entering looked more like protesters outside, but despite being questioned at the door, proved they were ticket holders and were allowed to take their seats.

Already seated was Eric, a Los Angeles native who has been in Israel for 14 years. "When people start protesting this much, I’m glad they’re voicing their opinion," he said of the drum fills and chants clearly heard from several floors below. "But in the end, it doesn't change my mind. If anything, it makes me think more that they can't handle hearing differences of opinion."

He had come along with his friend Robert, originally from Frankfurt. "I saw that they tried to silence her," Robert said of the canceled venues, "so I even bought the book online from Sella Meir. … Now I’m even happier because the protest outside shows that they don't accept freedom of speech, so it's even more important to listen to her."

Robert has yet to read his copy of the book but had listened to Shrier's appearance on Ben Shapiro's podcast. "What she's saying is pretty important because right now they’re trying to influence children, which I see as dangerous." Who is? "The rainbow mafia. The LGBT community." They’re telling children that "biological sex doesn't exist, which is dangerous," he charged.

When asked how the LGBTQ community benefits from this, he paused. "It depends, they gain more power. … I just came here to basically support the event and show the people outside that they don't rule things."

Eitana, originally from New Jersey, is a parent to children aged 16, 15 and 10. She has been following Shrier's work for a while and said she finds that the "gender ideology movement" leads in the end to "evil."

"We brought our children up to understand what reality is and isn't," she said, "so they’re fully understanding that if they hear things that allude to gender ideology or being able to change their sex, then it's obviously as true as if they wanted to become a dinosaur. Thankfully, my kids are happy, healthy, well-adjusted and looking forward to building a proper family."

Another mother who had come to hear Shrier speak was from the audience's Israeli-born minority. Dina said she was concerned about "the ideological wave coming here from Western countries – mainly from North America, mostly from academia – which tells teachers to spread identity politics in the education system."

As she alluded to the idea that foreign money is flowing into the media in order to promote positive images of transgender people, I started to wonder if my check had gotten lost in the Israel Post.

‘Despite Abigail Shrier's best attempts...’

Eventually, the crowd hushed and the talk began, introduced by Sella himself. Levian's questions for Shrier were some of my own: Do the ideas in this book push trans children back into the closet? What about the negative impact – including suicide – that lack of parental acceptance has on transgender youth?

Shrier refuted these with a smile – and with a lot of the same talking points that have themselves been refuted many times over by doctors, psychologists, parents and transgender people alike.

"Within that room there were about [100] people, mostly Americans. Why? Because no one here cares about it. It's an entirely manufactured outrage," says Ayelet.

At this point, a young person in the front row leaped toward the stage while beginning to ask Shrier a question. Immediately, a group of men – security guards and attendees – grabbed them. At least one attendee shouted transphobic statements at them as the men dragged them out of the room by the legs, knocking them into chairs.

Outside, that protester, Ayelet, told me: "I came to protest the frankly incredibly cynical exportation of bigotry from one country to another. … Israel has its own bigotry to deal with. Within that room there were about [100] people, mostly Americans. Why? Because no one here cares about it. It's an entirely manufactured outrage.

"I personally am a trans person," Ayelet continued, "and as someone who is 17 years old, am fully in the right to make choices about my own body. Despite Abigail Shrier's best attempts, my parents love me and accept me for who I am."

When I returned to the event, Shrier was discussing parental affirmation. "The suicide narrative is a lie," she said. This perplexes me as I know transgender people who were prepared to end their lives for this very reason, and she is not citing sources.

"The most important thing is to tell your daughters the truth: you are not a boy," Shrier told the enraptured crowd.

Shrier's statements – including that parents who do not use the names and pronouns that their children prefer are actually helping rather than harming them – were met with applause. "The most important thing is to tell your daughters the truth: you are not a boy," she told the enraptured crowd.

"After everyone adopts affirmation as a standard of care … everyone who doesn't want to do that is abusive. They can get their children taken away," Shrier said. This warning sounds like a twisted inversion of the legal reality in the United States, as more and more states ban access to gender-affirming health care for minors.

Shrier seemed to be aware that her ideology is an American and British import here. "I’m more optimistic for Israel," she declared. "You can see what happens in the United States and England … you know that throughout America, teachers can indoctrinate children."

She said that "America sent gender ideology here" and that transgender identity in itself is a new product in the Jewish state – the same Jewish state that sent Dana International to represent it at Eurovision in 1998.

During the subsequent Q&A, a young transmasculine person in the crowd, wearing a kippa and tzitzit, rose during his turn to speak – and revealed a "Protect Trans Kids" T-shirt. He asked how Shrier could write her book despite lacking any background in psychology. He was immediately booed and interrupted by the crowd. One attendee shouted "Does Haaretz have journalists here?" (Um, yes.) Another shouted, "Because she has common sense!"

Shrier calmed the crowd and told the person who posed the question that she wrote the book because "the doctors won't."

When the event ended, attendees swarmed the teen, surrounding him on all sides and lecturing him about his body, warning him of the danger he is in. Another was filming close to the youth's face as he stuttered, trying to explain that his experiences and self-perception were authentic.

‘Awful guidance to parents’ Becoming a dinosaur ‘Despite Abigail Shrier's best attempts...’