66% of ‘New York Times’ Stories About Trans Issues Failed to Quote a Trans Person

The New York Times failed to quote a single transgender person in two-thirds of its articles on anti-trans legislation last year, contributing to false narratives about trans people and rights, according to a new report this week from GLAAD and the watchdog group Media Matters for America (MMFA).

In the 12 months since February 2023 — when more than 200 Times contributors signed an open letter condemning anti-trans bias at the paper — the Times published at least 65 articles focusing on or featuring anti-trans legislation, according to MMFA researchers’ analysis. (That number did not include opinion columns or editorials.) Of those articles, 66% did not include any quotes from a trans or gender-nonconforming person, and 18% quoted anti-trans misinformation from conservative sources without additional context.

The report particularly noted that the Times did not quote trans sources in its nine articles examining anti-trans legislation over the past year. The largest gap came from July to September, when the paper only quoted one trans person in 19 relevant articles. Instead, the paper seemed more welcoming to Republican politicians and conservative activists, researchers found. Articles often directly cited right-wing figures like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis without contextualizing their numerous false claims about trans people, such as the propagandistic assertion that trans communities “sexualize” minors.

On at least six occasions, researchers found that the Times failed to disclose the extent of a source’s anti-trans animus. An article about Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s short-lived restrictions on trans medical care did not mention Bailey’s public comments about transness, which he has called “a bloody scourge intended to defile innocents.” Another piece about anti-trans legislation in North Dakota quoted a spokesperson for North Dakota Can, which the paper called simply a “conservative activist group.” In fact, the organization says on its website that it is dedicated to “overcoming gender ideology” and provides resources for parents to prevent their children from being trans. “Be willing to do what it takes,” the site exhorts.

The report’s findings come over a year after hundreds of journalists and LGBTQ+ advocates penned two separate open letters to call the paper’s editorial board to task over their handling of trans topics. In response, editors formally warned its staff and contributors who spoke out, stating that their goal was to be as “panoramic as possible” in coverage. That may have been what drove editors to dedicate 15,000 words in the previous year solely to the issue of whether there are too many trans kids now.

Despite ongoing protests by GLAAD and other groups in the past year, the Times has seemingly doubled down on its approach to trans news, both in its news sections and in editorials. One editorial that spread inaccurate information about “detransitioners” was cited by Idaho Republicans to bolster a gender-affirming care ban in a legal brief just four days later. The paper has taken similar approaches to issues like HIV/AIDS drugs and Israel’s bombing of Gaza over the years, unintentionally demonstrating that centrism is not the same thing as neutrality.

“Trans people are more than theoretical curiosities to be debated from afar,” wrote Media Matters’ LGBTQ+ Program Director Ari Drennen in a post to X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday. “Each and every anti-trans bill affects living, breathing people whose voices deserve to be heard and whose stories deserve to be told.”

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