In 2021, GLAAD “failed” the Times, alongside Newsweek and CNN, for coverage of the Equality Act, which would federally enshrine anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people (and largely looks dead). In their ranking, GLAAD noted that the Times included zero quotes from LGBTQ community members besides one directly involved in the bill; no trans voices; and that the Times’s coverage “gives lengthy space to inaccurate, transphobic rhetoric from several elected officials without countering or contextualizing as false.”
Trans healthcare is not actually a debate, and anti-trans laws are not, as trans historian Jules Gill-Peterson argues and Death Panel’s Beatrice Adler-Bolton explains for The New Inquiry, “moral issues at play in a culture war” but instead “echoes of eugenics policymaking.” Adler-Bolton, in conversation with Gill-Peterson, defines “eugenics policymaking” as deciding “what kinds of life are acceptable, which should be promoted, and which should be subject to what abolitionist Ruth Wilson Gilmore calls ‘organized abandonment,’ in which the state makes itself through policing, surveillance, and denial of the resources people need to survive.” Another word for this is necropolitics.
Maddeningly, this playbook was taken straight from the U.K., where the media’s treatment of trans women in particular has contributed to suicide in at least one case.
This is not to absolve U.S. media of the same: In 2014, a report from the shuttered sports site Grantland about, of all things, golf clubs by a cis journalist led to the outing and suicide of a trans woman. Editor in chief Bill Simmons apologized after public outcry, admitting to the staff’s “collective ignorance about the issues facing the transgender community in general, as well as our biggest mistake: not educating ourselves on that front before seriously considering whether to run the piece.”
Back to the U.K.: In The Transgender Issue, Faye cites a 2011 analysis from a UK media watchdog group, which examined the role that media outlets play in trans discourse and issued recommendations: “The defence the press uses in situations such as these is that they are simply reflecting public unease – downplaying its role in creating and shaping that unease to begin with,” the watchdog group’s report reads.
Does this sound like it was from 11 years ago? I might’ve written this today. Clearly, no one in the U.K. was listening; just this month, they announced a ban on gender-neutral bathrooms in new government buildings. This feels especially stinging for me in the wake of the violent attack on 20-year-old trans man Noah Ruiz in Camden, Ohio, who was instructed to use women’s toilets then jumped by three men upon exiting, leading to Ruiz’s arrest – over the exact same weekend as the UK’s bathroom announcement. You read that right: A trans man was instructed to use the wrong bathroom for his gender, was physically attacked by men over it, then arrested by police after being attacked. According to Them’s reporting, the police report confirms Ruiz’s account of events, while misgendering him throughout.