The New York Times Called Out for 'Harmful' Reporting on Transgender People

The New York Times Called Out for 'Harmful' Reporting on Transgender People

Following a pattern of publishing articles criticizing gender-affirming care for transgender people, celebrities and contributors alike are calling on The New York Times to investigate their biases.

The legacy publication has published countless articles about trans issues from supporters and more critical voices, and many people have been concerned with the implications of the latter getting a platform.

The group penned an open letter to Philip B. Corbett, associate managing editor for standards at The Times, which reads:

We write to you as a collective of New York Times contributors with serious concerns about editorial bias in the newspaper’s reporting on transgender, non⁠-⁠binary, and gender nonconforming people.

Plenty of reporters at the Times cover trans issues fairly. Their work is eclipsed, however, by what one journalist has calculated as over 15,000 words of front⁠-⁠page Times coverage debating the propriety of medical care for trans children published in the last eight months alone.

One of the articles in question, "Parents and Schools Clash on Gender Identity," was published on January 22 and featured interviews with students, parents, teachers and activists on all sides of the political spectrum. The piece was about whether or not schools should maintain student privacy if their child has chosen to identify as a different gender identity while at school without their parents knowing. According to Tom Scocca writing for Popula, the piece featured an interview with a 15-year-old student who began socially transitioning at school. Also included were the teen's diagnoses for autism, ADHD and more, which can be seen as a subtle signal that their gender identity is due to mental illness or another underlying condition.

The inset box, which is in many of the publication's features as a way to link to related coverage on the issue, included skeptical articles about puberty blockers, opposition for gender-affirming surgery for teens and rising numbers of people identifying as gender nonconforming. According to Scocca, "With the story about social transitioning in schools, in the past eight months the Times has now published more than 15,000 words’ worth of front-page stories asking whether care and support for young trans people might be going too far or too fast."

The letter also points to Emily Bazelon’s article “The Battle Over Gender Therapy” which referred to a trans child as "patient zero." The letter's authors criticized that choice of language as "a phrase that vilifies transness as a disease to be feared." Some sources for the piece appeared to also be misattributed, such as Grace Lidinksy⁠-⁠Smith, framed as a person who chose to personally detransition. Lidinsky-Smith is actually President of GCCAN, a consumer rights group that partners with anti-trans groups. Lee Leveille, co-founder and former Vice President of GCCAN, resigned in protest after discovering that "Lidinsky-Smith and other members were actively reaching out to and partnering directly with staunchly anti-trans groups like Rethink Identity Medicine Ethics and 4thWaveNow."

There have even been claims that states have been including Times articles as evidence to push anti-trans bills.

The letter has been signed by countless celebrities, contributors and more including Cynthia Nixon, Jia Tolentino, Chelsea Manning and Roxane Gay. Advocacy group GLAAD also published a letter echoing similar sentiments which HRC, PFLAG, the Transgender Law Center, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund and the Women’s March have endorsed. "It is appalling that the Times would dedicate so many resources and pages to platforming the voices of extremist anti-LGBTQ activists who have built their careers on denigrating and dehumanizing LGBTQ people, especially transgender people," the GLAAD letter reads. "While there have been a few fair stories, mostly human interest stories, those articles are not getting front-page placement or sent to app users via push notification like the irresponsible pieces are."

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