News (USA)

New York Times publishes story based on edited emails put together by anti-trans activist

New York, NY, USA - July 11, 2016: Headquarters of The New York Times in night
The Manhattan-based headquarters of The New York Times at night Photo: Shutterstock

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article by Azeen Ghorayshi that uncritically platformed alleged leaked emails from a notorious anti-trans advocate without seeing the original material for themselves.

The article focuses on allegations that the Biden administration pressured the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) into removing age limits on gender-affirming care, including gender-affirming surgeries.

The article’s evidence came from an appendix written by Canadian psychologist Dr. James Cantor in support of Alabama’s ban on gender-affirming care. The appendix contains excerpts of these emails, but it does not contain the full emails. Some of the emails were claimed to be by staff representing Assistant Secretary of Health Admiral Rachel Levine.

The Times article bears the headline, “Biden officials pushed to remove age limits for trans surgery, documents show” – a headline that readers may have taken to mean that they wanted to allow, say, five-year-olds to get bottom surgery. But even the email excerpts used for the story tell a starkly different story.

The email excerpts are from a discussion over revisions to the WPATH Standards of Care (SOC) for gender-affirming care. Researchers discussed what they believed should be included and why. One person mentioned removing references to specific ages when it came to different treatments associated with gender-affirming care for minors for political reasons.

While it may be true that some brought up political concerns over how right-wing media would portray recommendations that trans minors be treated with, for example, puberty blockers, there is no evidence that these emails were a factor in WPATH decision-making.

The New York Times did not include information on the full, original emails and only reported as fact the excerpts that Cantor put together in his appendix. While it is typical for news outlets to report on prominent claims made by activists, including allegations of evidence, it is unusual that the Times does not mention pursuing the full emails.

Ghorayshi is known for publishing articles that are friendly to the anti-trans cause and has been accused of bias. Assigned Media reports that organizations sent out alerts to warn community members not to talk to Ghorayshi for her stories on trans issues.

The Times did reach out to Cantor for comment, and he said the original emails are under seal due to a protective order.

Conservative writer Ben Ryan reports that psychologist Dr. Amy Tishelman’s words were misrepresented in Cantor’s report and that she denies having any role in discussing surgical interventions. She further refers Ryan to a statement from WPATH from 2022 that characterizes these leaks as “dangerous misinformation.” The Times did not mention Tishelman in their article, despite her being quoted in the report they cite.

Dr. Jack Turban, one of the researchers who participated in the email discussion that was excerpted in the appendix, said on X that, when there was an open comment period for the SOC, many experts called for lowering or removing the age guidelines based on scientific evidence.

The New York Times also did not mention Cantor’s past as an anti-trans advocate and his lack of expertise in pediatric gender-affirming care. As revealed in the Tampa Bay Times‘ reporting on the Alabama court case, the judge gave Cantor’s testimony “very little weight” after he said that he had never worked with a trans child younger than 16 and had never given a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Cantor is, rather, a psychologist with an expertise in pedophilia. Assigned Media reports that Cantor’s work is primarily about pedophiles and that he had made a post on X in favor of adding “P” for pedophile to the LGBTQ+ initialism. He is known to promote Dr. Ray Blanchard’s fringe ideas that trans identity is a fetish, something that has no basis in research. He regularly serves as an expert for anti-trans advocates.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) called on X for an open investigation into the claims made in the New York Times article.

A New York Times spokesperson told LGBTQ Nation, “The New York Times’s reporting was rigorous, comprehensive and inclusive of available information, making clear that certain communications – including government correspondence – were not made publicly available despite their potential relevance to public understanding of the complex and developing matter.”

“Furthermore, the story explicitly indicates that Cantor is ‘a longstanding critic of gender treatments for minors,’ as well as portraying the opposition to his positions within the broader debate. Any fair reading of The Times’s reporting should not dismiss this necessary context we provided for audiences.”

Dr. James Cantor responded to a request for comment as well. “Because I have had access to a great deal of WPATH’s internal correspondence that is still subject to a protective order, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to talk to the media about the issues of that correspondence,” he said.

“The content of the expert report I’ve submitted speaks for itself, and I wrote it so as to stand on its own.  Also, I believe it would very much be in the public interest for the full set of WPATH’s materials to be made available to the public, which I hope will happen soon.  Until then, respecting the court’s order requires that I say only that I have taken every effort to ensure the accuracy of the material my report contains.”

LGBTQ Nation reached out to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health for comment, however did not receive a response at the time of publication. This article will be updated accordingly.

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