The New York Times has been at the center of a controversy this week regarding their coverage of transgender issues. We break down what happened.
Wednesday, Feb. 15, media watchdog GLAAD presented an open letter to the New York Times about their coverage of transgender issues. For years, LGBTQ+ advocates have expressed concern over the bias of the New York Times’s coverage of trans issues, with articles like April 2022’s “How to Make Sense of the New L.G.B.T.Q. Culture War” by Ross Douthat and June 2022’s “The Battle Over Gender Therapy” by Emily Bazelon.
According to GLAAD, they have repeatedly expressed concern over the paper’s coverage and their influence over the conversation around trans rights, which is even being used now in anti-trans legislation conversations.
The letter, addressing GLAAD’s concern over the Times’ trans coverage was signed by more than 100 organizations and advocates including HRC, PFLAG and Transgender Law Center. Celebrities like Hannah Gadsby, Jameela Jamil and Jonathan Van Ness also lent their names to the letter.
The letter breaks down GLAAD’s demands for the coming weeks and months which include ceasing biased stories about trans people, holding a meeting with members of the trans community and listen to their concerns and hiring trans writers.
GLAAD also used a digital ad space in front of the company’s building and a billboard truck that drove around Manhattan Feb. 15.
In addition to GLAAD’s letter, a separate letter was also presented to the Times featuring the signatures of over 1,000 current and past writers and contributors. The two letters have been conflated, even by Times editors, but they are indeed two individual documents.
The letter from the contributors was timed to go out with the GLAAD letter. While the messaging shares some similarities, it also expresses the unique opinion and solidarity of queer and trans writers who have bylines on the Times.
“Some of us are trans, non-binary, or gender nonconforming, and we resent the fact that our work, but not our person, is good enough for the paper of record,” the letter said. The letter also hearkens back to missteps made by the Times during the AIDS crisis and even as far back as 1963.
The following day, Thursday, Feb. 16, the Times published an editorial piece by Pamela Paul called “In Defense of J.K. Rowling.” (The article does not include any trans voices.) Rowling, most known as the author of the “Harry Potter” series, has expressed many opinions about trans women over the years on social media. The timing of the piece only increased the volume of the conversation.
Later in the day Thursday, Times Executive Editor Joseph Kahn sent out a memo to the Times’ contributors and staffers, expressing displeasure at the letter and mistakenly combined the message with the one from GLAAD. “Yesterday, The New York Times received a letter delivered by GLAAD, an advocacy group, criticizing coverage in The Times of transgender issues,” the memo begins. “Participation in such a campaign is against the letter and spirit of our ethics policy,” the memo also states. The memo goes on to call the NYT’s coverage of trans issues, “important, deeply reported, and sensitively written.”
As of publication, Friday, Feb. 17, the Times has yet to respond to GLAAD’s letter. However, the Times did publish a series of letters from readers about the J.K. Rowling piece, praising and criticizing the article.
News is Out will update this article if and when new information becomes available.
Read what News is Out member publications are saying about this:
New York Times called out for coverage of transgender people – Washington Blade