On Wednesday 15 February 2023, 170 past and present New York Times contributors signed an open letter denouncing the publication’s coverage of transgender, non-binary and gender nonconforming individuals.
The letter, signed by high profile individuals such as writers Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, Ed Yong, and Lucy Sante and celebrities Jameela Jamil and Cynthia Nixon, claimed that The New York Times had “treated gender diversity with an eerily familiar mix of pseudoscience and euphemistic, charged language.”
Specifically, the group took direct umbrage with the apparent editorial bias shown in so many of the stories covering trans and nonbinary-related topics. For example, as noted by NPR, one of the articles the signatories mentioned focused on the challenges schools face when students change their gender identity without their parents’ knowledge.
The letter claimed that the publication “misframed” the issue and failed to make clear that related lawsuits brought by parents against school districts are part of a legal strategy tied to groups that have identified trans people as an “existential threat.”
The signatories also referenced a recent article from experimental news publication Popula titled: Why is the New York Times so obsessed with Trans kids? In the piece, the writer Tom Scocca identified that “in the past eight months the Times has now published more than 15,000 words worth of front-page stories asking whether care and support for young trans people might be going too far or too fast.”
This issue aside, there’s also a lot to be said about the paper’s recent decisions regarding its columnists. For example, one of the other points mentioned in the contributors’ statement was the Times’ choice to not to renew a contract for one of its opinion writers, Jennifer Finney Boylan, who is trans.
Of course, the publication has made attempts to dismiss and derail the accusations, relaying a statement to NPR that it’s proud of the coverage it produces regarding LGBTQIA+ subjects. However, the evidence—as seen in the articles mentioned above—paints a very different picture.
In January, the publication hired anti-LGBTQIA+ attorney and writer David French as a columnist—a move which the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) deemed “appalling” and highly “damaging to the paper’s credibility.” GLAAD has also published its own open letter condemning The New York Times’ recent coverage of trans and non-binary individuals and topics.
On top of that, on 16 February (one day after the initial open letter was released) opinion writer Pamela Paul published an article titled: In defence of J.K. Rowling. I mean, seriously—how can that be misconstrued as anything other than bias?
The New York Times is a titan within the media industry, and has always been heralded as a pillar of excellence when it comes to journalism. So, can it repair this damage? Or will it persist in denying any wrongdoing, and therefore lose all of us as readers along the way?