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Hundreds of LGBTQ+ leaders call on “New York Times” to fix “biased” & “irresponsible” coverage of trans people

Do you read the New York Times? Glaad billboard criticizing anti-trans coverage.
Photo: Courtesy of GLAAD

Hundreds of New York Times contributors, LGBTQ+ rights organizations, and community leaders are demanding that the New York Times improve its coverage of transgender people, which many have long criticized as being inaccurate, uninformed, and dangerous.

Two separate open letters were written to the Times, one from over 180 contributors to the publication and another from community organizations and leaders.

The former includes signatories like Roxane Gay, Cynthia Nixon, Alexander Chee, Angelica Ross, and the letter’s co-author, trans activist Cecilia Gentili. There is also space for any member of the public to add their support.

The latter was spearheaded by GLAAD and includes GLSEN, Jazz Jennings, Amy Schneider, Charlotte Clymer, Dylan Mulvaney, Equality Federation, Gabrielle Union-Wade, Human Rights Campaign, Matthew Shepard Foundation, NYC Pride, PFLAG, the Transgender Law Center, the National LGBTQ Task Force, and others.

The letter from the contributors points out that in the past eight months the Times has devoted 15,000 words of front-page coverage to debating the merits of gender-affirming care for trans youth.

For example, a November 2022 cover story hinges on what the authors describe as “emerging evidence of potential harm” related to the use of puberty blockers for transgender youth. But health experts say that the data referenced in the Times‘ reporting comes to a different conclusion – which led many to question the motives behind the piece.

“The Times has in recent years treated gender diversity with an eerily familiar mix of pseudoscience and euphemistic, charged language, while publishing reporting on trans children that omits relevant information about its sources,” the letter states.

Courtesy of GLAAD

In January, the Times posted a story about the frustrations some parents reportedly feel when their children are allowed to socially transition at school without their knowledge. In a long Instagram post, activist Chase Strangio – who has been critical of the Times’ reporting on trans issues since at least 2016 – ripped the paper to shreds for getting so much wrong.

The contributors’ letter outlined the consequences of this recklessness.

“The natural destination of poor editorial judgment is the court of law,” it said, bringing up an amicus brief supporting a law banning gender-affirming care for youth that was filed last year by the Arkansas attorney general and cited three Times articles.

“As thinkers,” it continued, “we are disappointed to see the New York Times follow the lead of far-right hate groups in presenting gender diversity as a new controversy warranting new, punitive legislation.  Puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy, and gender-affirming surgeries have been standard forms of care for cis and trans people alike for decades. Legal challenges to gender-nonconformity date back even further… This is not a cultural emergency.”

The letter concluded, “A tiny percentage of the population is trans, and an even smaller percentage of those people face the type of conflict the Times is so intent on magnifying. There is no rapt reporting on the thousands of parents who simply love and support their children, or on the hardworking professionals at the New York Times enduring a workplace made hostile by bias—a period of forbearance that ends today.”

GLAAD’s letter similarly lambasted the Times and also included a list of action items it seeks from the publication: Stop printing biased stories against trans people, meet with trans leaders, and hire full-time trans staff. The group delivered its letter to the New York Times this morning, accompanied by a billboard truck driving around the building sharing facts about trans health care and blasting the Times.

Courtesy of GLAAD

In 2021, the paper also came under fire for refusing requests to change policy to allow journalists to update their published names, or bylines, on articles after they come out as transgender. At the time, management also refused to allow for the implementation of gender-neutral bathrooms on every floor of their headquarters.

That same year, GLAAD gave the Times a failing grade in their inaugural Media Report Card report. Based on their coverage of the passing of the Equality Act through the House of Representatives, GLAAD found that the Times had “failed to include any quotes from LGBTQ advocates” and “failed to contextualize need for Equality Act.”

GLAAD also criticized the paper for, outside of a quote from then-Assistant Secretary of Health nominee Dr. Rachel Levine, not including the voices of trans people in their reporting. Instead, the paper gave “lengthy space to inaccurate, transphobic rhetoric from several elected officials without countering or contextualizing as false.”

Courtesy of GLAAD

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