The Wrong Questions

Andrew Sullivan and the New York Times provide a series of bad answers to the “trans question.”

Jude Ellison S. Doyle
7 min readApr 13, 2021


More of a bisexual lighting question, really. Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

Last week, I found myself on the phone, trying not to shout at a reporter from the New York Times.

The shouting was about Substack. I was one of several people who left the platform over its choice to pay, platform and protect transphobic writers. Unfortunately, my post about leaving Substack caught lots of traffic, and I was being treated as an “expert.” Being a trans “expert” in a conversation about transphobia is the closest any human being can get to Hell without hitting Glenn Greenwald on the way down.

There was the writer who wanted to know why I wasn’t able to share platforms with “people I don’t like,” and who ended the interview when I kept pulling the focus back to transphobia. There was the radio show that interviewed me and a trans woman, then ran quotes from neither of us, tapping a cis reporter — the same reporter who’d ended the interview with me — to read my post aloud on air and explain how unreasonable it was.

After a few of these, I’d decided not to do any more interviews. I only budged for this request because, well, it was the Times. I shouldn’t have.

It fell apart early on. Ben Smith, the reporter, told me by email that his only other trans sources for the story were Daniel and Grace Lavery, who had accepted advances from Substack. I replied that I didn’t want to be pitted against the Laverys, and offered to connect him to several other trans writers, so he could get a range of opinion. He assured me he had no interest in a cage match. Then, on the phone, he asked me how I could call Substack transphobic if they were hiring writers like Daniel and Grace Lavery.

“If Substack were to pivot so that it only paid trans writers, I would be fine with that,” I remember saying, my voice already brittle around the edges.

I recall the rest less as an interview than as an ongoing series of attempts to complete a sentence. I said that Substack, by recruiting specific writers and making determinations about who deserved to be paid, had made itself a publisher, and was responsible for the rhetoric on its platform. This rhetoric was frequently transphobic, which —



Jude Ellison S. Doyle

Author of “Trainwreck” (Melville House, ‘16) and “Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers” (Melville House, ‘19). Columns published far and wide across the Internet.