How The NYT and JK Rowling Influence Anti-Trans Policies
Opinion by Anonymous Coloradan

Last Monday, I was sitting in a room at the Colorado State Capitol listening to people talk about how trans students in Colorado should have to play on the sports team of their sex assigned at birth. Many of these testimonies were by white cis men and women who called themselves feminists and advocated for this anti-transgender legislation in the name of protecting women. 

Let’s be clear- trans women are women. Feminists who don’t include trans people in their ideology and advocacy have been coined “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists” or TERFs. Only a few days after the anti-trans sports bill was voted down, I saw these same “feminist” arguments in an opinion article published by the New York Times called “In Defense of JK Rowling.” JK Rowling is perhaps one of the most widely talked about TERFs in recent years after repeatedly sharing her transphobic views on gender and sex. This NYT article lists a variety of Rowling’s views and concludes that “nothing Rowling has said qualifies as transphobic.”

All of it is transphobic. Transphobia can show up in attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and policies that stigmatize, harm, or deny the validity of trans, nonbinary, and gender expansive folks.

  • Conflating gender and sex is inaccurate and transphobic. (source)
  • Claiming that trans women put cis women at risk of harm is inaccurate and transphobic. Trans women, specifically trans women of color experience gender-based violence at much higher rates than cis women. (source)
  • Assuming that all people have body parts that fall into a biological binary is inaccurate and transphobic. (source)

Notice that not only are these claims harmful, but they are all also scientifically and biologically unsound.

So let’s talk more about the New York Times. Last Wednesday, the day before they published the article defending JK Rowling’s transphobia, 120+ organizations & leaders and 180 former NYT contributors sent letters to the NYT calling out their biased coverage of trans issues, specifically gender-affirming care for young people. In the letters, leaders highlight how the NYT’s inaccurate and biased reporting of gender-affirming care is now being cited as evidence in anti-trans policies being introduced across the country. One of the letters states, “the natural destination of poor editorial judgment is the court of law.”

This cycle of misinformed media influencing policy is a dangerous one. Let’s map it out:

  • Celebrities like JK Rowling share anti-trans views
  • NYT publishes inaccurate, biased, anti-trans articles including ones defending JK Rowling
  • People believe the anti-trans propaganda
  • Legislators propose anti-trans policies, citing NYT articles as evidence
  • Anti-trans policies are passed
  • Trans folks are denied access to healthcare, restrooms, sports, and more, becoming more marginalized and politicized
  • The cycle repeats itself

Last Monday, I heard testimony from people saying there should be “separate but equal” sports teams for trans students in Colorado. I heard this same ideology from a school board in Colorado Springs last fall who proposed separate schools for LGBTQ+ students and families. This idea of segregation must sound familiar to you. The dangerous cycle of hate and fear that we are in is not only happening in front of us but it has happened throughout history. We must not let it continue.

The NYT has stood by their biased articles and not indicated that they will make any changes. JK Rowling continues to be one of the highest earning celebrities on the planet. Trump has made attacking gender-affirming care a centerpiece of his presidential run for 2024. Over 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in the US in the last six weeks. Although Colorado’s anti-trans sports bill failed in committee last week, the testimonies shared in support were reflective of the larger anti-trans ideology being used to take away our rights across the country. The things that celebrities, politicians, and news outlets share have real and profound impacts on the health and safety of our communities. It is up to us to hold them accountable and continue to move towards a more safe and accepting state and nation.

Ways you can get involved:

  • Tell the NYT to stop the misinformation
  • Start a conversation with your friends and family about this cycle
  • Refrain from spending your money on good and services that support anti-LGBTQ+ people and organizations
  • Donate to LGBTQ+ organizations

Tell your legislators that anti-trans rhetoric and policy is unacceptable. Find your legislators’ names and contact info here.