Continued culpability in anti-trans campaigns

I wish that my prediction was upbeat, that it signaled an unyielding hope of a near-future I actually want to live in. But that’s not possible.

The lives of trans people, and the gender-affirming and life-saving care that many of us need, should not be up for debate. Our humanity should not be a political wedge issue, or an object of social debate that demands supposed investigating. And yet, here we are.

And here we will remain if news media continues to do the anti-trans — and anti-Black, white supremacist, patriarchal, and gender essentialist — work of the conservative political establishment who refuse to shake themselves loose from the confines of bigotry.

On multiple occasions, our industry’s publications of record have platformed transphobia or emboldened anti-trans rhetoric. One of the most prominent offenders this last year has been The New York Times. Under the guise of “just asking questions,” poor excuses for reporting have been labeled earnest efforts to address alleged social issues. In fidelity to the machination of white supremacy that is “objectivity,” the harmful and dangerous positioning of people and organizations that expressly believe trans people should not exist are propped up with equal weight alongside the prevailing, trans-affirming sentiments of major medical institutions and our community’s fight for life and life more abundantly. The audacity!

There aren’t two sides to the humanity of trans people. The healthcare that many of us require to survive the dumpster fire that is this world of boxes and limitations and trauma and strife legitimately improves the health outcomes of trans folks.

But this isn’t just about the paper of record, as countless other publications over the years have similarly succumbed to the sweet bliss of ignorance. This, really, is about the ways these anti-trans pieces are being used as literal ammunition in state legislatures to justify the oppression, marginalization, and institutional violence being enacted on trans people; they’re not just discourse for discourse’s sake. A Times article published this year, which positions an organization funded by extremely anti-trans voices as reasonable, was cited in a report filed by the state of Texas to defend its abhorrent policy that investigates parents who affirm their trans child’s identity for child abuse. Amid a historic rise in anti-trans (and, more broadly, anti-LGBTQ) sentiment, as manifested in bathroom restrictions, sports team restrictions, and bans on trans healthcare, what gets published in newspapers and magazines and online has consequences.

Journalists who are trans, many of them part of the Trans Journalists Association, have sounded and are sounding the alarm. As have (trans and non-trans) advocates, organizers, activists and allies. I’d love to see every journalism-oriented organization doing the same — from the National Association of Black Journalists, where I’m a board member and co-chair of our LGBTQ+ Task Force, to the Asian American Journalists Association and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists; from the Society of Professional Journalists to the Online News Association and the Pulitzer Prize Board. We all have a role to play. Because the very circumstances that lead to articles wrongly misrepresenting the needs and lives of trans folks are the same ones that bring about the empty platitudes about newsroom diversity, pay equity, and the like.

I hate to think of all the trans lives our industry has already negatively impacted. But we can collectively change course toward a news media ecosystem we all can be proud of.

Tre’vell Anderson is a freelance entertainment journalist and podcast host.

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