1,000 New York Times contributors oppose articles questioning push for child gender transitions
Newspaper defends reporting as 'sensitively written'
Hundreds of current and former New York Times contributors are accusing the outlet of "editorial bias" for reporting on concerns about the push for child gender transitions.
A letter, released Wednesday, was signed by prominent Times contributors such as feminist Roxane Gay, former reporter Dave Itzkoff, and actors Lena Dunham and Cynthia Nixon. The signatories highlighted a Popula report showing that within the last eight months, the outlet published more than 15,000 words of front-page stories questioning the safety of encouraging children to transition.
An update posted at the top of the letter Thursday states that at last count, over 1,000 contributors to the New York Times have supported the letter.
While the letter contends that some Times reporters cover issues involving trans-identified people "fairly," it states that the outlet's reporting on "gender diversity" has changed in recent years.
According to the signatories, the legacy news outlet has treated the topic "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 cites a January article by reporter Katie Baker as an example of what they consider the Times' concerning journalism on the matter, suggesting that it "misframed" how schools handle situations where students identify as the opposite sex without their parents' knowledge or consent.
The letter maintains that the article failed to disclose that the parents suing these schools are often represented by conservative legal groups like Alliance Defending Freedom.
Although the signatories condemn ADF as one of several "anti-trans hate groups," the legal nonprofit has won several U.S. Supreme Court cases in recent years.
According to the signatories, ADF has labeled trans-identifying people as an "existential threat." The ADF article the letter links to describes public schools "confusing a generation about biological reality" by "encouraging social transitioning" as an "existential threat."
In an email statement shared with The Christian Post, ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco said the letter's accusations are "a flat-out lie."
"[A] simple click on the link they share proves this," Tedesco stressed, adding that the article "Should Schools Notify Parents if Their Child Claims to Be Transgender?" stated the following:
"By encouraging social transitioning, many school officials are putting children on a path toward medical transition, including hormone therapy and surgery. These treatments cause irreversible damage, locking a child into physical changes for a lifetime. Confusing a generation about biological reality is an existential threat to society."
ADF stands by that statement.
"Sadly, in keeping with the shrill cancel culture that has taken hold in the U.S., those who disagree with our policy positions often deliberately mischaracterize, smear, and outright lie about our work in order to silence debate on these issues," Tedesco wrote. "This is just another example of this unfortunate reality."
Another article the contributors' letter cited as a cause for concern was published last June by author Emily Bazelon, who questioned whether young people who opt to transition are trying to change themselves due to struggles with mental illness.
The signatories took issue with Bazelon using the term "patient zero" to describe a child looking to medically transition in her article, which the letter believes "vilifies transness as a disease to be feared."
"As thinkers, we are disappointed 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," the letter stated. "Puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy, and gender-affirming surgeries have been standard forms of care for cis and trans people alike for decades."
The letter likened the framing of "gender identity" as a mental illness to a period in history when homosexuality was treated like a disease, pointing to a series of Times articles from the late 20th century that treated same-sex attraction like an illness.
"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 areas. "Some of us are cis, and we have seen those we love discover and fight for their true selves, often swimming upstream against currents of bigotry and pseudoscience fomented by the kind of coverage we here protest."
Times Executive Editor Joseph Kahn and Opinion Editor Kathleen Kingsbury sent a letter to staff this week defending its coverage as "important, deeply rooted, and sensitively written."
"These journalists who produced those stories nonetheless have endured months of attacks, harassment and threats," the editors wrote. "The letter also ignores The Times' strong commitment to covering all aspects of transgender issues, including the life experience of transgender people and the prejudice and violence against them in our society."
Kahn and Kingsbury also state that the newspaper's policy prohibits its journalists from from joining protest actions on matter of public policy.
"We do not welcome, and will not tolerate, participation by Times journalists in protests organized by advocacy groups or attacks on colleagues on social media and other public forums," they wrote.
In recent years, many have voiced concerns about the push for hormonal and surgical transitions for children who express confusion about their sex.
Some individuals who detransitioned after transitioning as teens to the opposite sex claim they rushed into the decision and are now expressing regret.
CBS' "60 Minutes" received similar pushback in 2021 when it aired a segment featuring veteran television journalist Lesley Stahl interviewing several young people who had undergone gender transition procedures. They all said they were rushed into a decision and affirmed their transgender identities too hastily.
"I didn't get enough pushback on transitioning. I went for two appointments and after the second one, I had my letter to go get on cross-sex hormones," said a young man named Garrett from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The Human Rights Campaign, one of the leading pro-LGBT lobbying organizations in the United States, accused the outlet of causing harm to "already marginalized" trans-identified people by highlighting the accounts of detransitioners.
The American Civil Liberties Union called the segment "dangerous."
Critics of the push to promote gender transition contend that there is no consensus about the long-term health impacts of hormone suppression drugs and cross-sex hormones and consider such treatments experimental. Proponents of such interventions have pushed back on those claims.
Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics was accused of stonewalling the debate on the use of hormone drugs and puberty blockers as the first line of treatment for gender dysphoria instead of counseling or therapy.
The AAP's 2018 guidelines include medical intervention and puberty suppression as potential ways to help those with gender dysphoria.
Some governments and institutions are beginning to take precautions amid an exponential rise in children presenting themselves to gender clinics with gender dysphoria.
Last June, the United Kingdom's National Health Service announced it will shut down its largest gender clinic in favor of a more regional approach. The NHS proposed new guidelines last October warning doctors not to be so quick to encourage minors to socially transition during what may be a "transient phase."
"We do not fully understand the role of adolescent sex hormones in driving the development of both sexuality and gender identity through the early teen years, so by extension we cannot be sure about the impact of stopping these hormone surges on psychosexual and gender maturation," wrote Hillary Cass, the former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, who conducted an independent review of the NHS' handling of children with gender dysphoria.
"We therefore have no way of knowing whether, rather than buying time to make a decision, puberty blockers may disrupt that decision-making process."
In the U.S., some states have taken steps to prohibit hormone drugs and gender surgeries for minors. Most recently, Missouri's attorney general announced an investigation into a gender clinic in St. Louis accused by a former clinic worker of lying to the public and parents and "permanently harming the vulnerable patients in our care."
As CP previously reported, Helena Kerschner, a biological female who detransitioned after identifying as a man, insists that it's not "appropriate" to allow children to make decisions that will "permanently injure" their bodies.
Kerschner started taking hormones as a teenager after immersing herself in an online community that she said encouraged her to transition. At the time, she said she had been struggling with a series of mental health issues.
"Just looking back on it, it was the same pattern — just kids who are really struggling, kids who were very alone and isolated, maybe they didn't have a welcoming family life," she asserted. "They just got caught up in these communities online and just started interpreting their emotional pain through the same lens together."
Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follower her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman