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‘The New York Times’ is Shocked—Shocked!—at All This Anti-Trans Fervor

Tim Robinson wears a hot dog costume in a clothing store. Subtitles read, "We're all just trying to find the guy who did this."

A new article in The New York Times, “How a Campaign Against Transgender Rights Mobilized Conservatives,” exposes how Republicans have deliberately stoked and coordinated anti-trans hatred as a way to galvanize their base. According to a conservative strategist quoted in the article, Republicans “threw everything at the wall” to find an issue that their voters would respond to. The existence of trans people was the issue that stuck.

The article describes how anti-trans hatred has reinvigorated the conservative movement:

Today, the effort to restrict transgender rights has supplanted same-sex marriage as an animating issue for social conservatives at a pace that has stunned political leaders across the spectrum. It has reinvigorated a network of conservative groups, increased fund-raising and set the agenda in school boards and state legislatures.

The article goes on to explain that the current wave of anti-trans bigotry is “the result of careful planning by national conservative organizations to harness the emotion around gender politics.”

Kudos to the two journalists who did this reporting. What the article doesn’t mention, though, is all the ways that The New York Times itself has aped anti-trans conservative talking points.

For instance, last November, the Times launched an investigation into gender-affirming healthcare, claiming that care like puberty blockers was leading to irreversible damage in the bodies of trans youth. Chase Strangio, a trans rights lawyer, had to explain the direct connection between fear mongering in the Times and violence against trans people.

Then, in January, the Times published an article bemoaning trans youth who don’t come out to their parents. Titled “When Students Change Gender Identity, and Parents Don’t Know,” the article legitimized the beliefs of parents who feel they should have control over their children’s gender expression, and failed to meaningfully center the perspectives of the trans youths themselves.

The Times‘ transphobic coverage got so bad that in February, hundreds of Times contributors signed an open letter condemning the paper. In response, the Times sent out a memo stating that it would “not tolerate” protests from staff members about its anti-trans bias.

Then the day after the letter went public, the Times published an op-ed titled “In Defense of J. K. Rowling,” which used quotes by noted transphobes to downplay and excuse Rowling’s notorious transphobia.

Conservatives started it, but The New York Times has pushed transphobia hard

What’s insidious about coded bigotry, especially when it bubbles up on the Left, is that it’s crafted to sound like reasonable concerns. “Hey, we’re liberals!” sources like the Times seem to claim. “Of course we believe in human rights for everyone! But we just noticed something odd about this one particular group. What’s up with them? Don’t they make you kind of uncomfortable? Here’s some data, which we definitely didn’t massage or get from a questionable source, that makes this group look super dangerous. We’re just asking questions!”

Maybe some editor at the Times realized that people aren’t on their side here, and they’ve issued a course correction. If so, a formal apology to trans people for the harm the paper has already done would be more than warranted. I won’t hold my breath, though.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Julia Glassman (she/they) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.