View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. News
February 15, 2023

New York Times contributors pen open letter accusing paper of pseudoscience and bias in trans coverage

The letter has attracted signatures from more than 180 contributors.

By Bron Maher

More than 180 New York Times contributors have signed an open letter accusing the paper of bias and “pseudoscience” in its recent coverage of trans people.

The signatories, including prominent figures such as actress Cynthia Nixon and whistleblower Chelsea Manning, take exception at coverage they said has comprised “over 15,000 words of front⁠-⁠page Times coverage debating the propriety of medical care for trans children”.

The letter, addressed to associate managing editor for standards Philip B Corbett, said that The New York Times’ editorial guidelines require reporters to “preserve a professional detachment, free of any whiff of bias” in their choice of sources.

“Yet the Times has in recent years treated gender diversity 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 writers cited as examples recent stories titled “The Battle Over Gender Therapy” and “When Students Change Gender Identity and Parents Don’t Know”, which they said relied on sources hostile to trans people, misused other sources’ testimony, or used language such as the term “patient zero” that “vilifies transness as a disease to be feared”.

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

“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,” they wrote.

Content from our partners
Pugpig named best media technology partner of 2024 by AOP
Cannes Lions: The world's best creativity all in one place
L'Equipe signs content syndication deal with The Content Exchange

[Read more: Report charts UK press coverage of trans issues becoming more respectful yet ‘heated’]

The letter argued that the Times’ coverage has had real world effects: “Last year, Arkansas’ attorney general filed an amicus brief in defense of Alabama’s Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, which would make it a felony, punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment, for any medical provider to administer certain gender⁠-⁠affirming medical care to a minor (including puberty blockers) that diverges from their sex assigned at birth. The brief cited three different New York Times articles to justify its support of the law.”

The contributors likened the coverage to the Times’ coverage of gay people and HIV earlier in its history.

“You no doubt recall a time in more recent history when it was ordinary to speak of homosexuality as a disease at the American family dinner table—a norm fostered in part by the New York Times’ track record of demonizing queers through the ostensible reporting of science.”

The writers sign off: “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.

“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.

“All of us daresay our stance is unremarkable, even common, and certainly not deserving of the Times’ intense scrutiny… There is no rapt reporting on the thousands of parents who simply love and support their children, or on the hardworking professionals at The New York Times enduring a workplace made hostile by bias—a period of forbearance that ends today.” 

Similar accusations were made against The Guardian in 2020 when more than 300 staff members protested a “pattern of publishing transphobic content” at the paper. Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore subsequently left the publisher, saying she had been bullied out by colleagues because of her views on sex and gender.

[Read more: University removes ‘transphobic’ court reporting guidelines from website]

Topics in this article :

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network