A group of LGBTQ organizations, celebrity activists, journalists, and New York Times contributors are protesting the outlet’s continued “irresponsible, biased” coverage of the transgender community.
An open letter — written to a top New York Times editor, Philip Corbett — signed by more than 180 contributors, was released Wednesday, writing: “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,” the letter, which was written in conjunction with the Freelance Solidarity Project, continues. “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.”
The letter marks the first time critics have organized to publicly denounce the Times’ coverage of trans issues.
“The newspaper’s editorial guidelines demand that reporters ‘preserve a professional detachment, free of any whiff of bias’ when cultivating their sources, remaining ‘sensitive that personal relationships with news sources can erode into favoritism, in fact or appearance.’”
This isn’t the first time the New York Times has been blasted for its coverage of the trans community. Earlier this year, a group of nine trans- and cisgender Times contributors – among them Harron Walker, Muna Mire and Jo Livingstone – joined together to figure out how they can combat the harmful, anti-trans coverage.
Wednesday’s open letter also calls out the Times for its recent news stories using “an eerily familiar mix of pseudoscience and euphemistic, charged language,” vilifying trans persons and omitting relevant information about its sources while publishing reporting on trans children.
The letter cites specific articles from 1963 to 2023, outlining the publication’s longtime biased coverage.
For example, in “The Battle Over Gender Therapy,” Times reporter Emily Bazelon quoted Grace Lidinsky-Smith, a woman who detransitioned. The letter’s signees said Bazelon failed to make clear that Lidinsky-Smith is also the president of Gender Care Consumer Advocacy Network, a group that spreads misinformation about hormone replacement therapy and is actively against gender-affirming care for trans youth.
Bazelon’s article also used the term “patient zero” to refer to a trans child who sought gender-affirming care in the 1980s. The letter condemns this phrase, writing that it “vilifies transness as a disease to be feared.”
“This era of hateful rhetoric also saw the rise of the term ‘patient zero,’ used to falsely accuse an HIV/AIDS patient of deliberately infecting others,” states the letter. “This is the same rhetoric that transphobic policymakers recently reintroduced to the American lawmaking apparatus by quoting Emily Bazelon’s Times article.”
GLAAD and more than 100 organizations and notables, including the Transgender Law Center, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, the Women’s March, Jonathan Van Ness, Tommy Dorfman and Gabrielle Union-Wade, to name a few, echoed the open letter in their own.
The coalition’s letter demands that the Times stop printing misinformation about trans people and instead meet with trans community leaders within two months while hiring trans writers and editors within three months. In addition, the coalition’s demands are plastered on a billboard truck that will drive around the New York Times building in Manhattan Wednesday.
“The New York Times has long had a reputation as a leader in the world of media, but the example they are setting for coverage of transgender people is downright shameful,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President & CEO of GLAAD, in a press release. “From the front page to the opinion page, readers are too often getting an inaccurate view of transgender people, with poor reporting that elevates harmful opinions from known anti-trans voices and so-called ‘concerns’ over the fact that every leading medical organization affirms healthcare for trans youth as safe and necessary.”
“Even more dangerous,” she continued, “politicians are using biased Times’ articles to justify support for anti-trans legislation. GLAAD and other advocates have tried to educate reporters and editors at the Times, but our community can no longer wait for the Times to do the right thing. We need to see action now: Start by listening, hiring, and reporting accurately and inclusively on trans people. Anything less than an intentional and meaningful effort to reach out to and listen to transgender experts is unconscionable and a violation of the public trust.”