The comprehensive study, “Combating Anti-LGBTQ+ Pseudoscience Through Accessible Informative Narratives,” or Project CAPTAIN, revealed during a press conference on Tuesday, details the concerted efforts of these groups to undermine LGBTQ+ rights through the manipulation of scientific realities, particularly when it comes to gender-affirming care and the health care needs for transgender people.
R.G. Cravens, lead editor and author of the report, highlighted the alarming trend of using pseudoscience to target these groups.
“The gender-affirming care model… represents a global medical consensus. But the attempts to undermine it that we detail in this report are manufactured,” Cravens explained. “If the pseudoscience goes unchallenged… it has real life and often life-threatening consequences for trans and nonbinary people.”
The report identifies over 60 groups, including familiar names like the Alliance Defending Freedom and lesser-known entities such as the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine. It uncovers the connections between these groups and their strategies to influence public policy and opinion.
“This report is pretty groundbreaking in how we’re able to look at these connections and help expose all of the groups that are at the center of this moral panic that we’re seeing,” Emerson Hodges, a research analyst at SPLC, said. “This report was ultimately designed to help provide details on pseudoscience and has become a tool to help us map out the far-right and their attempts to manipulate public opinion and advance anti-LGBT policies.”
One notable group, the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine, emerged as a significant player, according to the report. Formed in 2020, SEGM has become a central hub, connecting preexisting researchers and newer online entities. Their influence extends to various legislative efforts across states, underlining their strategic role in shaping anti-trans policies.
Another critical organization highlighted in the report is the American College of Pediatricians. Despite its official-sounding name, ACPeds is recognized as a fringe group that stands in stark contrast to mainstream medical opinion. Their tactics, as detailed in the report, include masquerading under the guise of medical legitimacy to propagate anti-LGBTQ+ narratives. This deceptive approach underscores these groups’ sophisticated methods to influence public opinion and policy. Major medical associations in the U.S. actually support gender-affirming care.
The involvement of organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom in high-profile legal cases, including efforts that led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, demonstrates the far-reaching impact of these organizations. Rachel Carroll Rivas, deputy director of research reporting and analysis at SPLC’s Intelligence Project, underscored the importance of understanding the legal dynamics at play.
“The legal machine behind this is very real, and it’s very much impacting policy, and it’s up the courts, and it’s causing real harm,” Carroll Rivas said.
The report raises concerns about the future implications of these movements as well, particularly with initiatives like Project 2025. Spearheaded by the Heritage Foundation, this project aims for a potential far-right shift in political power in 2025. The SPLC researchers warn that the success of such initiatives could lead to the entrenchment of anti-LGBTQ+ pseudoscience in federal policy, posing a significant threat to LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms in the coming years. It calls for a comprehensive approach to combat those possibilities and that misinformation. As emphasized by Carroll Rivas, “Prevention in part means education.”
The SPLC’s report comes at a critical juncture as anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and policies gain traction in various states. Multiple organizations have reported on the hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced by Republican-led legislatures, mostly targeting transgender youth.
“There’s still some out there that we have the opportunity to challenge, and we have the opportunity to intervene before the harm can be caused,” Cravens said.