Are legacy media outlets breaking basic rules of grammar and journalism in pursuit of a more transgender-friendly editorial approach?
A Los Angeles Times article from June 4 on Elliot Page, the trans-identified actor formerly known as Ellen Page, is the latest example in which a highly respected news outlet violated some fundamental rules of storytelling — namely, using Page's preferred pronouns of "he/him" even when it is factually inaccurate, such as when referring to events that occurred before the transition — or when "he" was a "she."
For example, the article recounts an episode in 2008 where Page — who still publicly identified as "she" — was in a relationship with another woman: "He was dating a woman at the time but had been urged by his manager to hide this relationship from the press, so he did not have his partner by his side."
In context, this statement makes little sense and lacks context unless the reader already understands why Page had to hide this relationship from the press: because it was a same-sex relationship, and as such, the statement implies, would likely have stirred no small scandal and potential damage to Page's career.
Yet because of how The LA Times article is written, the reader is forced to do the math on their own about when Page transitioned and whether "he" identified as "she" at that point.
Furthering the confusion, the next line of the story states that it "would be six more years before Page came out as queer in a speech at a Human Rights Campaign event."
It's just one of a number of similar statements in the article that, while acknowledging Page's current chosen gender identity, are factually incorrect when it comes to relating Page's identity for the time period specified in the context of the story.
LA Times managing editor Scott Kraft told The Christian Post that the newspaper's guidelines instruct journalists and editors to "use the pronoun that the person currently uses" and "are consistent with the way they live publicly, even for past events."
"We do try, generally, to use the person's last name when referring to past events, to avoid confusion and be crystal clear who we're talking about without resorting to using the person's 'dead' name or pronoun," Kraft said.
While he disagrees that using an inaccurate pronoun "alters the facts" of the story, he does acknowledge that "it can be confusing at times."
Kraft said The Times' editorial guidelines are based on the person's current gender identity, regardless of how they "presented" themselves at the time of the event being described.
"Our guidelines rest on the principle that a transgender man who has always known that he was male, even when using a female name and presenting outwardly as female earlier in life, is and was a man," said Kraft.
So is that principle accurate?
Not according to Kara Dansky, author of The Abolition of Sex: How the "Transgender" Agenda Harms Women and Girls, who says she and other "radical feminists like me have just about had it with mainstream legacy news outlets like the Los Angeles Times that are simply outright lying to the American people about what is really going on here."
"The same people who say things like [Kraft's statement] will also tell us that a 'transgender man' is someone who was originally female but has 'changed gender in order to affirm his authentic self,' or something like that," Dansky told CP. "It's all internally inconsistent and none of it is logical."
For Danksy, even the fact that a journalist would use terminology like "presenting outwardly as female" is "wildly sexist … from a feminist perspective."
"What on earth does it mean to 'present outwardly as female?" she added. "A woman is an adult human female regardless of how she presents. A woman who wears combat boots and cargo pants is no less female than a woman who wears dresses and makeup.
"Feminists have fought hard for decades to combat these regressive stereotypes."
The LA Times, of course, is not alone in its use of the language preferred by transgender activists to convey factual events.
The Associated Press, long considered the standard of editorial desks and newsrooms worldwide, has told its reporters to avoid using the term "transgenderism," which the AP says "frames transgender identity as an ideology."
In what he described as an "institutionalized betrayal of journalism and the truth," CP's Social Commentator and writer Brandon Showalter detailed how AP reporters, who have already been told to use "preferred pronouns" in recent years, should also avoid the terms biological sex, biological male and biological female because "opponents of transgender rights sometimes use [those terms] to refer to transgender women and transgender men, respectively."
According to the new AP Transgender Coverage Topical Guide, reporters also should refrain from referring to "birth gender" and instead opt for "sex assigned at birth" because the guidelines state sex is usually assigned at birth "by parents or attendants, sometimes inaccurately."
The guidelines also advocate for reporters using "they" or "them" — which have historically been used as third-person plural pronouns — instead as "a gender-neutral singular personal pronoun."
Between grammatical misuse and ideological assertion, Showalter says the guidelines do little to help readers understand what they're reading.
"Journalists following the new AP guidelines on this subject do the public a tremendous disservice because it forces readers to think in murky, convoluted categories and function behind an epistemological wall of distortion," he wrote. "It posits that physical reality is not knowable and presents postmodern word salad and fantastical theories as neutral, brute facts."
This agenda was perhaps most chillingly illustrated in March following the murder of six people — including three children — at a Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, when The New York Times issued a clarification on the murderer's pronouns.
In response to a tweet about a report on the rarity of female shooters, the Times tweeted: "There was confusion later on Monday about the gender identity of the assailant in the Nashville shooting. Officials had used 'she' and 'her' to refer to the suspect, who, according to a social media post and a LinkedIn profile, appeared to identify as a man in recent months."
There was confusion later on Monday about the gender identity of the assailant in the Nashville shooting. Officials had used “she” and “her” to refer to the suspect, who, according to a social media post and a LinkedIn profile, appeared to identify as a man in recent months.— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 28, 2023
While an original CNN report — now archived — used the word "woman," CNN later, without any editorial acknowledgment, changed the headline to omit any reference to the shooter's identity or the Covenant School as a Christian institution.
This pattern was repeated in the days and hours following the Nashville shooting: CBS News reportedly banned the word "transgender" in the network's coverage, while some of America's most prominent newspapers avoided using the word "Christian" in their headlines.
While such an obsession with language — how to phrase this, what is the technically correct term for that — has always been part of the job, traditionally, this pursuit has been in the name of accuracy, not ideology.
Following Bruce Jenner's public transition to Caitlyn Jenner in 2015, The New York Times acknowledged the potential for "pronoun confusion" and, in doing so, highlighted the potential for editorial quagmires.
After Vanity Fair released its now-famous cover photo of the newly-transitioned Jenner, The New York Times reported that Vanity Fair writer Buzz Bissinger, despite spending "hundreds of hours with Jenner post- and pre-op" — language, incidentally, which now violates Associated Press guidelines — confessed to experiencing "continual pronoun confusion during the interviews."
"I constantly used 'he' instead of 'she,'" Bissinger wrote, "and at one point called Caitlyn 'dude' out of force of habit."
The New York Times also noted how some journalists, including one of its own reporters, "chose to use 'she' in all circumstances presumably to show respect to Jenner's preferred gender choice, resulting in the eyebrow-raising construction: 'As Bruce Jenner, she had been on the cover of Playgirl.'"
Dansky says these sorts of grammatical and linguistic acrobatics fail to address a crucial point: simply using "preferred" language to communicate a "preferred" reality doesn't necessarily mean that reality actually exists.
Put another way, as Shakespeare famously wrote, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
"When someone uses the phrase 'transgender man,' the person is referring to a woman who claims to be a man. No women have ever been male and no men have ever been female," Dansky said.
"There is simply no credible scientific evidence to support the idea that anyone can be 'born in the wrong body' or that it is possible to change sex."
And while such criticism may sound familiar coming from Christians or social conservatives, Dansky wants to make clear that she speaks for neither group, regardless of whether the mainstream media wants to acknowledge it.
Dansky said she's tired of legacy outlets failing to report honestly about what she describes as the "leftist feminist critique" of "gender identity."
"We are not conservatives," she said. "We are leftist feminists who think that 'gender identity' is a regressive, authoritarian, sexist, and homophobic ideology."
"Outlets like the Los Angeles Times know that we exist, but they refuse to platform our voices."