Social conservatives slammed Fox News on Friday after the cable network aired a lengthy segment praising a transgender California teenager as an "inspiration" for LGBTQ+ pride month.
"Pride month continues as we highlight the story of Ryland Whittington, who's journey of transitioning at age 5 has been seen by seven million people in a family YouTube video," said anchor Dana Perino as she introduced the controversial segment on "America's Newsroom" Friday.
Fox News correspondent Bryan Llenas then reported on Ryland Whittington, a 14-year-old gender dysphoric girl who identifies and presents as a boy.
“If you saw me walking down the street you wouldn’t think anything different,” Ryland says at the beginning of the segment.
“14-year-old Ryland Whittington is a typical southern California teenager. And the Whittingtons, along with mom Hillary, dad Jeff, and sister Brynley are a typical family. The only difference though, in Ryland’s eyes, is what this family can mean to the tens of thousands of kids under 18 who identify as transgender,” Llenas reported.
“We put our story out there so people could see that, like, there's another family out there that is going through what we’re going through or there is another family who is proud of who they are," Ryland said.
The Whittingtons claim they knew their child was transgender even before Ryland could speak.
“I could see it. It wasn’t him trying to be a brat. It was like painful. It was truly painful for him to have to wear feminine clothing and for us constantly telling him that you're a girl,” said Ryland's mother, Hillary.
When Ryland vocalized her gender confusion at age 5, her parents "fully embraced" her new identity as a boy, Llenas reported.
“We were confused like most people are. We thought gender and sexuality were the same thing. It took us a while to figure out those two things are different and that children actually do recognize their gender identity very young. Some of them, not all,” Hillary said.
She claims that her "conservative faith" led her to believe that God made Ryland transgender.
“For me, it is just a deep spiritual belief that you believe in God and he created us the way he wanted us and he created Ryland just the way he is,” Hillary said.
The Whittington family said they want Ryland's story to raise awareness for how transgender youths are at a higher risk of self-harm when their self-proclaimed gender identities are not accepted. Llenas reported statistics from the Trevor Project, a suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth, that show more than 50% of transgender youths consider suicide.
“That was the turning point. I didn’t want to see Ryland go through that,” said Ryland’s father Jeff.
“I would rather have a living son than a dead daughter," added his wife Hillary.
"I guarantee that if we had pushed back and done what a lot of parents do, I don’t think we would have either one of the kids that you see before you here today,” she said.
The family has written a book, "Raising Ryland," that chronicles their experience. They also posted a YouTube video telling Ryland's story in 2014 that has since been viewed more than 8 million times.
“I’m just here to make the ride smoother for others. You might be struggling right now but we believe in you. This family, we might not know you, we might not know where you live but, you know, we understand you and we believe in you,” Ryland concluded.
“What extraordinary courage, displayed by Ryland, his sister Brynley, father Jeff, and mom Hillary. I want to thank the family for speaking to us,” Llenas said at the end of the segment. "It is not easy, particularly at a time when transgender issues have been politicized. People are afraid of what they don’t understand, Dana. This family hopes their story will lead to more understanding, more acceptance, and ultimately more love."
Social conservatives reacted poorly to the Fox News segment, which was aired as part of the network's diversity programming for Pride Month.
"I’m stunned that Fox News ran a segment celebrating a girl whose parents 'transitioned' her into a boy when she was 5 because she apparently told them she was a boy 'before [she] could talk,'" tweeted BlazeTV host Allie Beth Stuckey of "Relatable."
"For those saying, 'why are you stunned?' Look - of course we all knew most at Fox are socially liberal. But THIS? Is a whole other level. It’s as extreme and depraved as it gets," she said in a follow-up tweet.
"Fox has become Jenner’s press agent, so this is sadly its next logical descent into the mouth of madness," BlazeTV host Steve Deace of "The Steve Deace Show" said, quoting Stuckey's tweet and referring to Caitlyn Jenner, a transgender former Olympic athlete who has since been hired as a contributor by Fox News.
Conservative radio host Erick Erickson commented that the segment on Ryland was likely to hurt Fox News' reputation as the go-to cable news channel for conservatives.
"Fox News promoting trans propaganda is something to behold. That’s gonna hurt the network more than calling Arizona for Biden," Erickson tweeted.
Others slammed Fox News for promoting the pro-trans position.