Organizers for an event discussing opposition to transgender surgeries and other forms of physical alteration to minors say they were forced to move the meeting after numerous threats made to the hotel and threatening posts on social media. Details are still murky because hotel officials deny any threats, but local police seemed to strongly imply something investigation-worthy happened, even though they remained tight-lipped about specifics.
An event planned and hosted by No Left Turn in Education, “Innocence Under Siege,” was initially scheduled to be held at the Sheraton Great Valley in Chester County. However, due to alleged threats from objectors to the event, it was moved to an alternative venue in Montgomery County, approximately 40 minutes away.
The event organizer and Pennsylvania leader for No Left Turn in Education, Mike Winterode, said he had a conference call on Friday at 5 pm with the Sheraton and the East Whiteland Police Department where the threats were discussed. When reached for a comment over the phone, the Great Valley Sheraton manager, Joseph Dillon, said he was unaware of any threats made and understood that the organizers had canceled the event.
But local police left open the possibility that something untoward had happened.
“Due to the nature of the incident I am unable to release any criminal justice information you requested,” said East Whiteland Police Chief Chris Yeager.
While the police chief did not verify the nature or severity of the threats, his statement implies that there was some type of “incident” that may have led to the change of venue.
Event organizers seemed galvanized by the happenings.
“To those out there who made the threats, your victory was short lived,” Winterode said. “We found a church that welcomed us 90 minutes later and we still had a great turnout.”
According to organizers, there were initially 126 people registered to attend and approximately 85 showed up despite the last-minute change in location. The event featured two advocates for children’s rights, Chloe Cole and Sarah Higdon. They spoke about the harm in allowing children to make life-changing medical decisions for themselves.
Winterode, a resident in the West Chester Area School District, initially proposed the session to the school board at an October 2022 meeting (time stamp 1:14:10). He asked the board to consider co-hosting the event at no cost to the district. Mr. Winterode subsequently followed up with the District DEI Director via email and was told, “regarding your request, no thank you at this time.”
As a result, No Left Turn in Education hosted the event independently on Saturday. There were multiple security guards at the new location to ensure the safety of the speakers and guests.
The session featured multiple speakers, including Chloe Cole and Sarah Higdon. From different perspectives, they shared similar views on the ability of children to make irreversible medical decisions. Cole is an eighteen-year-old “detransitioner,” who started testosterone and puberty blockers at the age of thirteen. She had a double mastectomy at fifteen, and then resumed her biological gender at age sixteen.
Cole shared her experience with gender dysphoria and added that she also suffered from body dysmorphia at the start of her teen years. She cites social media as the cause for many of these issues. Cole got a cell phone in 6th grade and set up an Instagram account. She started seeing images of full chested, beautiful women and how they were idolized on social media. Cole began to feel that she could not live up these images. Then her Instagram account started showing pictures and posts about transgender kids, and it looked very inviting. “I could opt out of being a girl.”
She discussed her feelings with her parents, and they sought professional help from a therapist. The therapist immediately informed her parents that they must affirm her new gender or Cole might commit suicide. Her parents did not want to start her on hormones and puberty blockers, but they were afraid, and the therapist insisted that this was the correct path.
Initially, the transgender community was welcoming to Cole and offered a safe space. “It was all unicorns and rainbows.” Then one year after her double mastectomy, she realized that she had made a mistake and missed being a girl.
When she made the decision at sixteen to detransition and shared her regrets, she was vilified by the transgender community. The same people who celebrated her transition began to attack her detransition. “You don’t deserve a family who supported you.” “Stop talking about it, you’re hurting us.” She felt silenced.
Cole further described the physical issues as a result of her medical interventions.Two years later after the double mastectomy, she has to wear bandages on her chest because the skin graft is failing. The hormones and puberty blockers caused urinary tract infections and joint pain. It is unclear whether she will ever be able to have children, but she knows that she will never be able to breastfeed. Consequently, she recently filed a lawsuit against Kaiser, the medical institution that allowed her to make these decisions.
In addition to Cole, Sarah Higdon spoke and tweeted about the event and change of venue. She describes herself as a Libertarian transexual woman, former Army officer, and freelance writer. At the age of 31, Higdon transitioned from a biological man to a woman, and she is an outspoken advocate of the idea that children are not developmentally ready to make the decision that she made as an adult.
Higdon and Cole share a similar message despite their different backgrounds and have been traveling the country to tell their stories.
Beth Ann Rosica resides in West Chester, has a Ph.D. in Education, and has dedicated her career advocating on behalf of at-risk children and families. She covers all education issues for Broad + Liberty.