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The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

Fact-checking Matt Walsh’s rhetoric against trans rights

The conservative commentator said the transgender community “inflicts more damage on itself” than he does. What’s the truth?
Staff photographer
Matt Walsh clenches his fist as he speaks in University Chapel on Sept. 18.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect official attendance numbers.

Conservative political commentator Matt Walsh spoke to Washington and Lee students and the Lexington community about his opinion on transgender rights as part of his “What is a Woman?” tour on Monday. 

In a thirty-minute speech in University Chapel, Walsh linked transgender advocacy groups’ actions to high suicide rates in transgender youth instead of factors like transphobia or a lack of trans-affirming care. 

About 465 people attended the event, according to Kamron Spivey, ’24, who helped organize the talk. Walsh’s remarks were met by raucous applause.

Despite expressing confidence in the truth of his message, Walsh’s speech included misleading statements.

In his talk’s opening, Walsh cited an FBI statistic stating that two transgender individuals were killed in hate crimes in 2021. 

But hate crime data collection varies significantly at the state level, despite federal guidelines requiring agencies to report such crimes. A 2017 ProPublica report reveals that only 12 states require academies to provide police officers with training to recognize  such incidents, and at least seven others don’t require recruits to learn about hate crimes at all.

Walsh also repeatedly correlated the rise in gender-affirming care with an increase in transgender suicide rates. But a 2022 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found gender-affirming care decreased the odds of suicidality by 73% compared to those who did not receive the care. 

After the speech, Walsh answered questions from the audience. Kayla Richardson, ’27, said bans on gender-affirming care, such as those found in a recent Kentucky state law, would prevent 5.6 million census-designated intersex people from seeking needed treatment.

“I have to confess I’m skeptical with your reading of the Kentucky law. I have not read the exact language of that law myself,” Walsh responded.  He later said that such intersex caveats exist under Tennessee state law. 

Meanwhile, students from Virginia Military Institute and Sweet Briar College asked Walsh questions about masculinity in America and LGBTQ+ rights in education. 

What else did Walsh say?

Walsh said the trans community asks too much of American society, but did not name any specific demands. He concluded his remarks by comparing trans people to a children’s book character.

“You are the mouse who wanted the cookie, and you were given the cookie, and you ate it, but then you wanted to eat everything else in the house too,” Walsh said. “You push too far, way too far, and now you’re feeling the pushback.”

Walsh’s presence on campus, originally scheduled for March 30, was protested last spring by students and staff through a petition. The petition reached about 600 signatures before Walsh postponed the talk, citing death threats coming from his home in Nashville. 

The petition said Walsh, creator of the 2022 film What is a Woman?’, offers remarks that venture beyond criticism and into hate. 

“The school cannot escape responsibility for providing a platform for one-sided, non-academic, harmful rhetoric,” the petition stated.

McKenzie Kane, ’25, brought the petition to Walsh’s attention during the Q&A portion of the talk. In response, Walsh said such sentiments go against the mission of higher education.

“That’s an example of a university not being open to dialogue, being hostile to free speech. All of that is anathema to what higher education is supposed to be,” Walsh said. “It’s not primarily an attack on speech, it’s an attack on truth.” 

Walsh had eight security guards, some of whom were undercover, patrolling the venue in case of protest. A Public Safety officer remarked that it appeared Walsh had more security than former Vice President Mike Pence did during his visit. 

No disturbances occurred inside or immediately outside the chapel. Twenty-two Public Safety staffers and four members of law enforcement, including officers from the Lexington Police Department, staffed the event.

Walsh’s talk on campus was jointly hosted by two student organizations, The Spectator and College Republicans, and funded by The Generals’ Redoubt. Young America’s Foundation, a group that brings conservative speakers to college campuses, helped to organize Walsh’s visit to campus. 

The Spectator’s editor-in-chief, Kamron Spivey, ’24, said Walsh was chosen as catalyst for dialogue.

“Walsh, The Spectator and College Republicans believed, could invite discussion on the changing gender norms of the 21st century, a topic which The Spectator observed was very popular among W&L student discourse,” Spivey said.

Walsh’s talk on campus was jointly hosted by two student organizations, The Spectator and College Republicans, and funded by The Generals’ Redoubt. Young America’s Foundation, a group that brings conservative speakers to college campuses, helped organize Walsh’s visit to campus. 

Spivey added that they considered both Walsh and fellow Daily Wire pundit Michael Knowles, but that Walsh was chosen in part for scheduling reasons. Spivey added that The Spectator is actively accepting brief letters to the editor in response to Walsh’s appearance. Spivey said he believed the brief Q&A allowed for civil discourse.

“The Spectator and College Republicans were pleased that the talk ran smoothly. Walsh and the audience engaged with one another respectfully, and the Q&A was a great opportunity for individuals who disagree with the speaker to express themselves,” Spivey said. “We hope to see these civil conversations continue beyond his talk.”

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  • N

    Nelson PattersonSep 29, 2023 at 12:10 pm

    Is this intended as a news article or an opinion piece? Just trying to understand how to interpret some of the statements.

  • K

    Kamron M. SpiveySep 23, 2023 at 5:54 pm

    Also, there were not 30 public safety and police. There were 16 public safety, 4 police officers, and 8 private security. Please be specific when reporting, otherwise you compromise the legitimacy of your article. Here is an example of accurate reporting: “matt-walsh-speaks-at-lee-chapel” on The Spectator website

    • P

      purple haired trans rights activistSep 27, 2023 at 8:47 am

      “otherwise you compromise the legitimacy of your article”

      *hosts events and covers them himself*

  • K

    Kamron SpiveySep 23, 2023 at 5:51 pm

    Actually, 465 people attended the event. Ask Public Safety or chapel officials. I do not know where you got that super lower estimate…

  • L

    Lee LandersSep 21, 2023 at 5:23 pm

    The reporter did an excellent job providing a well-balanced view of the event and ensuring solid fact-checking. The article is also well written.