The check-in: The NYT is 'proud' of work causing harm to trans youth
Plus: A couple of fun announcements, and a couple of palate cleansers.
Hello! I hope you’re all doing well! We’ve got *a lot* of things to talk about, so I’ve got about 5,000 words of check-ins coming to your inbox in the next two days. Today we’ve got a couple of Power Plays announcements (I’m hiring a virtual assistant! Scroll down to read more!), a couple of uplifting stories, and a lot of angry words about the New York Times, because I started writing and couldn’t stop. Tomorrow will be more focused on the big women’s sports stories of the month — WNBA free agency, the Canadian WNT’s fight for equality in soccer, eye-popping valuations, etcetera etcetera.
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Okay, friends. Let’s do this!
1. Fuck the New York Times.
Over the past couple of years, as transgender youth have faced a surge of legislative attacks by politicians across the country, the New York Times has devoted an unfathomable amount of coverage fear-mongering about a (non-existent) society that is being *too accommodating* to our trans youth. Journalist Tom Socca calculates that, “in the past eight months the Times has now published more than 15,000 words’ worth of front-page stories asking whether care and support for young trans people might be going too far or too fast.”
Last Wednesday, two open letters — one from GLAAD, the other from the Freelance Solidarity Project, the digital media division of the National Writers Union — called the Times out for its dangerous obsession.
The GLAAD letter — which was addressed to the paper as a whole, and was written on behalf of LGBTQ and allied leaders/organizations — addressed the consequence of “just asking questions:” (Emphasis mine)
The Science Desk decided to spend more than a year undermining support for transgender youth by writing "just asking questions" stories about medically approved best practices for gender-affirming healthcare. The Opinion editors gave noted cisgender heterosexual Pamela Paul space for her unfounded thoughts about how LGBTQ people should describe themselves, as if the Times could not find anyone with lived experience in the LGBTQ community to write about our issues. Then the Times boasted about hiring David French, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group that actively spreads misinformation about LGBTQ people and pushes baseless legislation and lawsuits to legalize discrimination.
Think your stories are innocently "just asking questions"? The State of Texas quoted Emily Bazelon’s June 2022 report in the New York Times Magazine to further target families of trans youth in court documents over their private, evidence-based healthcare decisions. Here are facts that the Times chooses not to include in favor of fringe anti-trans voices who are not experts on medical care for trans youth: Every major medical association supports gender-affirming care as best practices care that is safe and lifesaving and has widespread consensus in the medical and scientific communities. Yet the Times continues to churn out pieces that anti-trans extremists use to harm children and families. In November, the Times published a story that got the science of gender-affirming care so wrong that the WPATH had to write a multi-page tear-down explaining how the Times misrepresented the facts at every turn.
The letter from the Freelance Solidarity Project — which was addressed to Philip B. Corbett, associate managing editor for standards at The New York Times, and written on behalf of more than 200 New York Times contributors — also cited recent harm the Times’ coverage has done. Additionally, it added historical context by looking at how the Times has erred when covering LGBTQ issues in the past:
In 1963, the New York Times published a front-page story with the title “Growth of Overt Homosexuality in City Provokes Wide Concern,” which stated that homosexuals saw their own sexuality as “an inborn, incurable disease”—one that scientists, the Times announced, now thought could be “cured.” The word “gay” started making its way into the paper. Then, in 1975, the Times published an article by Clifford Jahr about a queer cruise (the kind on a boat) featuring a “sadomasochistic fashion show.” On the urging of his shocked mother, Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger sent down the order: Stop covering these people. The Times style guide was updated to include the following dictum, which stood until 1987: “Do not use gay as a synonym for homosexual unless it appears in the formal, capitalized name of an organization or in quoted matter.”
New York Times managing editor and executive editor A. M. Rosenthal neglected to put AIDS on the front page until 1983, by which time the virus had already killed 500 New Yorkers. He withheld planned promotions from colleagues he learned on the grapevine were gay. Many of his employees feared being outed. William F. Buckley published his op-ed arguing that people with HIV/AIDS should all be forcibly tattooed in the Times. Obituaries in the Times ascribed death from HIV/AIDS to “undisclosed causes” or a “rare disorder,” and left the partners of the deceased out entirely from its record of their lives. This era of hateful rhetoric also saw the rise of the term “patient zero,” used to falsely accuse an HIV/AIDS patient of deliberately infecting others. This is the same rhetoric that transphobic policymakers recently reintroduced to the American lawmaking apparatus by quoting Emily Bazelon’s Times article.
If all of that doesn’t convince you that the Times is doing irreparable harm, I also recommend that you read this piece from Parker Molloy, “Why I Signed the NYT Letter (And You Should, Too):”
After the paper published a very rare pro-trans column from Jamelle Bouie titled, “The Relentless Attack on Trans People Is an Attack on All of Us,” the paper swapped out the headline with a much more generic, “There Is No Dignity in This Kind of America.” God forbid that the paper makes it clear in its headlines that trans people are being targeted by unjust and unprovoked attacks.
There’s no dignity in the kind of newspaper that can’t even say the word “trans” in a headline without immediately backtracking and changing it to something so vague that it tells you next to nothing about the subject being discussed.
I had missed that headline change by the Times, and let me tell you, when I read Molloy’s newsletter, I was absolutely floored. (Also, Molloy has a great Substack, “The Present Age,” which you should subscribe to!)
So, now that we’ve established the problem, at this point, you might be wondering how the Times responded to the open letters?
Well, as of late last week, the Times hadn’t reached out directly to either GLAAD or the Freelance Solidarity Project. But last Wednesday, the day the letters were sent, it released a public statement saying it was “proud” of its coverage of transgender issues.
Then, on Thursday, the Times sent a note to its staff members that disingenuously conflated the GLAAD letter and the FSP letter, and staunchly defended the Times journalists whose work was cited in the letters. The note also included a warning to the Times staff members and contributors who signed the FSP letter, accusing them of participating with the GLAAD advocacy campaign, which was “against the letter and spirit of our ethics 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,” the note said. “We live in an era when journalists regularly come under fire for doing solid and essential work. We are committed to protecting and supporting them. Their work distinguishes this institution.”
This response did not engage with any of the critiques of either letter, brushing them aside as “activism.” It’s a patronizing and phony response that not only ignores the fact that there were two distinct letters, but shows disrespect for the Times contributors — the 200 who initially signed the letter, and the 1,000+ that have since joined — who took a stand, knowing the consequences it could have for their careers.
Also on Thursday? The Times published a heavily-featured op-ed by Pamela Paul, “In Defense of J.K. Rowling.”
(If you’re lucky enough to have missed this fun development over the past few years, J.K. Rowling, the billionaire author of the Harry Potter books, has become a staunchly anti-transgender activist. The Human Rights Campaign has the receipts, if you can stomach them.)
Somehow, one of the wealthiest and most successful women in the world and one of the most influential newspaper publishers of our time have managed to turn *themselves* into the victims of the fight to provide transgender people, one of the most marginalized communities in the world, with basic human rights.
It’s truly baffling. But, as Power Plays readers are aware, it’s a familiar playbook.
A huge swath of the debate over transgender rights is taking place in the sports world. As Emily Stets wrote for us earlier this month in a must-read piece, “The weaponization of Title IX against trans youth in sports has reached an inflection point,” the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group (WSPWG) — a highly-influential organization run by women’s sports pioneers such as Martina Navratilova and Nancy Hogshead-Makar — has an explicit mission to fight against the “discrimination” that cis women face now due to transgender inclusion in sports. Its current obsession is making sure that Title IX doesn’t apply to transgender youth.
The WSPWG, like the Times and Rowling, claims it is not transphobic, despite the fact that its work is being used to strip rights away the transgender community.
The truth is, you don’t fight for Title IX to exclude transgender youth unless you don’t think transgender youth are valid beings that deserve protection. And you don’t devote 15,000 words of A1 real-estate in eight months to debating whether gender-affirming care should be accessible unless you think there’s a good chance that it shouldn’t be.
The same people who want to separate themselves from LGBTQ activism are making incredibly active choices to harm the transgender community.
I’m struggling to wrap this up because there’s so much more to say — as one might expect, I get pretty heated over the journalism vs. activism conversation in any context — but we’ll keep revisiting this topic time and time again. In the meantime, you can show your support for the transgender community by signing the FSP letter here and by signing the GLAAD letter here.
And, as always, listen to the USWNT and defend trans joy.
2. I’m hiring a part-time virtual assistant for Power Plays. Here is how to apply!
The women’s sports calendar never truly sleeps, but if I had to designate the “on season,” it would be March through early November.And as that season fast approaches, I want to (read: NEED TO) hire some help.
I’m looking for a part-time virtual assistant for Power Plays. Pay is $20-25 per hour, and it begins with a minimum of five hours a week., but there is definitely an opportunity for growth on both fronts. The job will entail things like social media promotion, basic graphic creation, email organization/responses, and article research.
Here is the job description and a link to the application form. The application deadline is Sunday (2/26).
I know I’ve talked about hiring help before, but this time is different, because I’ve already been working with a business manager on a part-time basis, and she is going to help guide this hiring process. Hooray for building a support team!
If you have any questions, feel free to email me and let me know. If you think this would be a good fit, I hope you’ll apply. This is an exciting time.
3. It’s time for the Power Plays Mailbag to return!
I haven’t done a Power Plays mailbag since the very, very early days of this newsletter, and mainly that’s because I’m always afraid that nobody is going to send in any questions. But it’s time to push through fear and bring them back!
If you have any questions you’d like me to answer for an upcoming mailbag, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Mailbag.” This will be fun.
4. Please watch these two videos of the Indiana Fever welcoming Erica Wheeler back to the team.
I wanted to wrap things up with some heartwarming stories, so please do yourself a favor and watch these two videos of Erica Wheeler’s return to Indiana.
5. Nikki Hiltz became the first openly non-binary athlete to win a USA Track and Field national title.
Finally, let’s listen to the USWNT and end with some trans joy! Nikki Hiltz won the women’s 1500m at USATF nationals last week, less than two years after coming out as transgender. (I highly recommend you read their essay with Alex Azzi from 2021.)
We LOVE to see it.
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Talk to you all tomorrow.
I know there are big events in the winter, friends, this isn’t meant as an insult to the sports happening in December, January, and February. Women’s sports never sleep.