Contributors, organizations and celebrities call out the New York Times’ transphobia

The paper of record is the target of two open letters 

The New York Times is the target of two open letters collectively signed by hundreds of contributors, readers, organizations and celebrities this week, who accuse the paper of irresponsibly promoting biased and dangerous coverage of trans people. 

“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 favouritism, in fact or appearance,’” reads an open letter signed by over 100 current and former Times contributors, as well as over 1,000 readers, released Wednesday. “Yet 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, which was spearheaded by a group of former contributors including Harron Walker, Muna Mire, Sean T. Collins and Jo Livingstone, cites examples of the Times’ “editorial bias” against trans people, including Emily Bazelon’s recent article “The Battle Over Gender Therapy,” which omitted the anti-trans organizational affiliations of sources, used stigmatizing language and purportedly misrepresented the work of several expert sources. The letter’s authors note that this is far from the first time the Times has irresponsibly covered LGBTQ2S+ groups, pointing to the paper’s historical coverage of HIV/AIDS. 

The contributors also point to the citation of the Times’ coverage in legal battles over gender-affirming care, noting that “the natural destination of poor editorial judgment is the court of law.”

“To see how fast a sentiment can move from the hard right to the paper of record to policy—how fast that happens and how much the New York Times facilitates that process by condensing hard-right talking points into ostensible front-page stories. I think the speed was what rattled me,” contributor and letter organizer Livingstone told BuzzFeed News. “The way that the Times operates is they have a system which insulates them, I think, from having to respond to a lot of criticism, which is why this group decided we have to go the extra mile.”

Notable signatories include former contributors like Chelsea Manning, Roxane Gay, Jia Tolentino, Alison Roman, Cynthia Nixon and Sarah Schulman; as well as high-profile supporters like actress Angelica Ross, activist Tourmaline, drag queen Sasha Velour and more. (The author of this story is also a former contributor and signatory.) 

A concurrent letter released Wednesday—spearheaded by GLAAD and signed by over 100 organizations, leaders and celebrities—echoed these concerns, and similarly cites various instances of irresponsible coverage, including when the Times misgendered a trans woman who helped stop the shooter who attacked Club Q in Colorado Springs last fall. Initial Times coverage referred to the woman as a “drag dancer,” and per the GLAAD letter, the paper only opted to correct the story after advocates threatened to withhold further survivors of the shooting from interviews until the correction was made. 


“For those of us who truly treasured the Times coverage for so many years, it is appalling to see how the news and opinion pages are now full of misguided, inaccurate and disingenuous ‘both sides’ fearmongering and bad faith ‘just asking questions’ coverage,” the letter reads. 

The GLAAD letter also includes several demands for the paper: that it cease printing anti-trans stories; meet with and listen to “transgender community members and leaders” and hire trans writers and editors to staff positions. Signatories include organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, actors Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow, comedians Margaret Cho and Hannah Gadsby, TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney and Jeopardy! champ Amy Schneider.

Signatories note that at a moment when trans rights are under attack in political and cultural arenas, biased coverage of trans issues is more dangerous than ever. “We won’t stand for the Times platforming lies, bias, fringe theories and dangerous inaccuracies,” the letter reads. “We demand fair coverage, we demand that the Times platform trans voices as both sources and full-time writers and editors, and we demand a meeting between Times leadership and the transgender community.”

Oliver Haug

Contributing editor Oliver Haug (they/them) is a freelance writer based in the Bay Area, California. Their work focuses on LGBTQ2S+ issues and sexual politics, and has appeared in Bitch, them, Ms and elsewhere.

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