10K Join the Coalition Protesting The New York Times' Biased Coverage of Transgender People

February 22, 2023

More than 10,000 New York Times readers have joined last week's coalition letter and call to the Times, demanding that the Times stop printing irresponsible misinformation about trans people, meet with trans community leaders, and hire trans writers and editors. 

As of February 23, 2023, the New York Times' top editors have failed to respond directly to the coalition of organizations and leaders regarding the growing critique of its coverage of trans people and the harmful consequences. 

The Times has also failed to acknowledge or respond to specific reporting cited by Times' contributors in a separate letter, other than to threaten colleagues against speaking up with criticism. GLAAD did not assist in drafting or organizing this initiative. The Times has also failed to acknowledge its contributors' accurate citation of the Times' anti-gay history and past leadership failures being echoed in today's biased coverage of transgender people.

On Wednesday, February 15, GLAAD, along with more than 120 organizations and leaders, delivered a coalition letter to The New York Times, about the Times' biased coverage of transgender people. The letter noted that the irresponsible coverage amplified anti-trans voices, and demanded that the Times stick to the facts in its reporting, meet with the transgender people it purports to cover, and commit to hiring transgender reporters and editors. 

Signatories included GLAAD, HRC, PFLAG, Transgender Law Center, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, Women's March, Judd Apatow, Margaret Cho, Wilson Cruz, Tommy Dorfman, Lena Dunham, Jameela Jamil, Peppermint, Ashlee Marie Preston, Shakina, Amy Schneider, Gabrielle Union-Wade, Bishop Gene Robinson, Jonathan Van Ness and many more. The full list of signatories can be found here

We've had enough. We've joined over 100 organizations and leaders to demand that @nytimes stop printing inaccurate and harmful misinformation about transgender people and issues. Today we are outside of the Times building to send a clear message. https://t.co/IkQocpsG5q pic.twitter.com/bBVnFoqOjD

— GLAAD (@glaad) February 15, 2023

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. “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. And even more dangerous, 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.“

More than 180 Times contributors signed on to a separate letter delivered the same day. (Note, now more than 1,000 Times contributors have signed this letter.) The letter details specific examples of biased coverage, some of which has been cited by anti-LGBTQ lawmakers to support discriminatory laws and policy against transgender people. Signers include New York Times contributors Ashley P. Ford, Roxane Gay, Carmen Maria Machado, Thomas Page McBee, Andrea Long Chu, John Cameron Mitchell, Zach Stafford, Raquel Willis, and more. That letter read, in part, “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.“

On February 16, the day following the delivery of the two letters, the Times opinion page published a defense of writer J.K. Rowling by a non-LGBTQ essayist who has written five anti-trans pieces in her first five months as Times columnist. The essayist, who is cisgender and frequently writes positions that have been highly criticized by transgender people, defends Rowling against LGBTQ people who speak out against her without citing any of Rowling's statements against transgender people. Not one transgender person was quoted in the piece.

A Times columnist who is not LGBTQ or respected in the community now claiming to be an authority on what is and isn't transphobic. Yet she doesn't quote a single trans voice. https://t.co/yqYnpvoz4k

— Sarah Kate Ellis (@sarahkateellis) February 16, 2023

Rather than address the Times' contributors' accurate and specific critiques of the Times' biased and harmful coverage of trans people, Times top editors sent a memo on February 16 to Times staff warning them not to cooperate with advocacy groups that question the paper's coverage. 

The top editors have yet to directly respond to the letter from the coalition of organizations and leaders or to the letter representing more than 1,000 Times contributors, yet conflated the two letters and constituencies as “advocacy.“

The Times’ only public statement reads, “We received the letter from GLAAD and welcome their feedback. We understand how GLAAD sees our coverage. But at the same time, we recognize that GLAAD’s advocacy mission and the Times’s journalistic mission are different.” 

The Times response does not acknowledge that there are two separate letters, delivered separately, and does not address any of the concerns cited by the Times’ contributors letter: “The very news stories criticized by GLAAD in their letter reported deeply and empathetically on issues of care and well-being for trans teens and adults. Our journalism strives to explore, interrogate and reflect the experiences, ideas and debates in society—to help readers understand them. Our reporting did exactly that and we’re proud of it.”

Here are specific examples of biased coverage cited by contributors to the New York Times that Times leaders have so far failed to acknowledge or address:

  • Uncritically using “the term 'patient zero' to refer to a trans child seeking gender⁠-⁠affirming care, a phrase that vilifies transness as a disease to be feared.“
  • Quoting sources without noting their connections to  “explicitly anti-trans hate groups” that push “junk science.“
  • Quoting multiple sources “who have since expressed regret over how the Times misrepresented their work.“

The New York Times contributors' letter also accurately critiques a Times piece that failed to identify how anti-trans groups are aligning with parents quoted in its piece:

As of February 22, New York Times leadership has also failed to address the consequences of its reporting failures, as also noted by Times contributors:

  • “The natural destination of poor editorial judgment is the court of law,“ the Times' contributors' letter continues, noting how three New York Times pieces were cited in legal briefs in Arkansas that would criminalize providing best-practices healthcare to trans youth.
  • No one from the Times' leadership has addressed contributors' accurate observation and disappointment “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.“
  • No one from the Times' leadership, including its openly LGBTQ members, has addressed the Times' contributors accurate citation of the Times' anti-gay history and how it was perpetrated– “a norm fostered in part by the New York Times' track record of demonizing queers through the ostensible reporting of science.“ 
  • Times' contributors note the deadly consequences of biased coverage and leadership failures: “New York Times managing editor and executive editor A. M. Rosenthal neglected to put AIDS on the front page until 1983, by which time the virus had already killed 500 New Yorkers.“

Former Times contributors posted an update to their letter on February 16, reading in part: “Times representatives avoided addressing the substantive concerns in the letter by simply alleging that it “came to [them] through GLAAD.” However, GLAAD confirmed to us that they did not deliver a copy of our letter to The New York Times. We look forward to clarification from the Times. Additionally, though we coordinated timing with GLAAD, our letters are very different documents. For example, we are not an advocacy organization. Our letter is addressed directly to the Standards editor, and makes a clear case drawing on the Times' own history and editorial standards.“ 

Memo from Joe Kahn to NYT staff responding to yesterday's letter re: trans coverage.

Times leadership says the paper "will not tolerate, participation by Times journalists in protests organized by advocacy groups or attacks on colleagues on social media and other public forums." pic.twitter.com/bjLruJVPnf

— Max Tani (@maxwelltani) February 16, 2023

On Friday, September 24, the coalition spotlighted the 10k+ signers by flying an airplane across New York City at 9 am ET with a banner reading, “10k NYT readers say: better trans stories!” 

“The shockwaves the events of this past week have sent through the worlds of journalism and media speaks volumes. Our coalition has not heard back directly from the Times, but we all read the biased opinion piece published the morning after,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President & CEO of GLAAD, referencing an opinion piece defending J.K. Rowling’s well-known anti-trans politics. “It has always been our job at GLAAD to call on the media to represent our community in a fair, accurate, and inclusive way, but we are far from the only stakeholders invested in the Times’ coverage of trans people: more than 100 civil rights organizations and leaders, 1,000 and counting of the Times own contributors, and now more than 10,000 Times readers all agree: the Times must examine its coverage and address the blatant bias thriving across the Science Desk and Opinion Page."

The Times' coverage, and all coverage about healthcare for transgender people, should include these facts:

  • Best practices medical care for transgender youth is supported by every leading medical association including the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychiatric Association, The Endocrine Society, and The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (statements here).
  • Transgender people are under attack in state legislatures across the country. In 2022, more than 220 bills disproportionately targeting LGBTQ youth were introduced in state legislatures to restrict access to school sports, healthcare, books and inclusive curriculum, and the bathroom. As of February 2023, the anti-LGBTQ bill count is over 500. 
  • None of these bills are based on facts or medical expertise or supported by medical professionals who treat LGBTQ youth. 
  • Evidence is growing about the harm of these bills and other efforts to target trans youth. A shocking 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth—and 66% of all LGBTQ youth—say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health; 52% of trans and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. 
  • 36% of LGBTQ youth reported being physically threatened or harmed due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, and 70% of LGBTQ people report an increase in discrimination in the past two years. 

Numerous media outlets have previously reported on the Times' irresponsible reporting and harmful opinion essays, including “The New York Times helped fuel an anti-trans panic in 2022. Will 2023 be any better?“ (Media Matters, 2/23), “The New York Times Declares War on LGBTQ People With Hire of Anti-Trans Columnist“ (The Present Age, 1/23), “The Worst Thing We Read This Week: Why Is The New York Times So Obsessed With Trans Kids?“ (Popula, 1/23), “Uncompromising Transphobe David French Hired by NYT Opinion” (Assigned Media, 1/23); “Pamela Paul's Gender Agenda“ (FAIR, 12/22), “The NYT's Big Piece on Puberty Blockers Mucked Up the Most Important Point About Them” (Slate, 11/22), “Reckless NY Times reporting fuels disinformation about trans youth“ (LGBTQ Nation, 11/22), “The New York Times Posts Another Misinformed, Deranged Story About Trans Youth“ (Into, 09/22), “Nobody is trying to ban the word 'woman'“ (The Present Age, 7/20), “The Times Published Some Transphobic BS Over the Weekend“ (Them, 7/22),and “Why Does the 'New York Times' Feel the Need To Inject Transphobia Into the Fight for Abortion Access?“ (The Mary Sue, 6/22).

Media outlets and leaders are continuing to report on the Times’ irresponsible reporting, including MSNBC “The New York Times' dehumanizing trans double down — and its consequences” by the ACLU’s Chase Strangio, The Weekly Distopia’s “Why a crusade against the New York Times shows LGBTQ groups outlived their purpose” by Chris Johnson, and a number of university publications

About GLAAD: GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love.