The LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD published an open letter on Wednesday taking on the New York Times for “irresponsible, biased” coverage of transgender people. More than 100 LGBTQ+ organizations, leaders, and bold-faced names in entertainment, including Gabrielle Union, Judd Apatow, and Margaret Cho, signed on.
The Times has repeatedly platformed cisgender (non-transgender) people spreading inaccurate and harmful misinformation about transgender people and issues. This is damaging to the paper’s credibility. And it is damaging to all LGBTQ people, especially our youth, who say debates about trans equality negatively impact their mental health, which is a contributing factor to the high suicide rates for LGBTQ youth.
In a separate letter, coordinated to publish at the same time as the GLAAD letter, some 170 New York Times journalists directed a similar critique to the paper’s standards editor. More than 1,000 other Times contributors and some 23,000 additional people—including Times’ subscribers and media figures—also signed on.
Plenty of reporters at the Times cover trans issues fairly. Their work is eclipsed, however, by what one journalist has calculated as over 15,000 words of front-page Times coverage debating the propriety of medical care for trans children published in the last eight months alone…[T]he 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.
Their case builds toward a chilling conclusion that inaccurate coverage of trans issues is feeding into the widespread anti-trans bills showing up on lawmakers’ desks ahead of the 2024 election. This year’s legislative agenda, “unprecedented in the number and scope of bills around transgender issues,” according to Reuters, includes measures to ban trans girls from girls’ sports, prevent teachers from using pronouns that match a student’s gender identity, and, of course, the now all-familiar bathroom issue. More on that in a moment.
Last month, Utah became the first state to ban all gender-affirming health care for people under 18. This week, South Dakota broke dangerous new ground by passing a similar ban and going one step further: Health care workers must cease all treatment for young patients already receiving care, effectively forcing trans kids to detransition.
You can track these bills in state legislatures across the U.S. here.
One of the boldest recent uses of corporate allyship was the coordinated 2017 boycotts of states considering anti-LGBTQ legislation known as the “bathroom bills.” My former Fortune colleague, Jeremy Quittner, reported on their effectiveness. “All told, North Carolina [the first state to enact a bill that required people to use the bathrooms that corresponded with their gender assigned at birth] jeopardized as much as $5 billion in federal funding, business investment, and travel and tourist dollars when it enacted HB2,” he wrote at the time.
The two public letters this week, which offer solutions for better coverage and more meaningful public discussion, strike me as a significant call to action.
Now that the conversation about the identity, health, education, and humanity of trans people has become a mainstream political weapon, it’s time to make sure a response is at the ready.
You can read (and sign, if you choose) the New York Times letter here.
More allyship news and opportunities below.
This edition of raceAhead was edited by Ruth Umoh.
A fintech unicorn aims to end homelessness
Fortune CEO Alan Murray and I recently caught up with Wemimo Abbey, cofounder and co-CEO of Esusu, a company with a unique mission: democratizing access to credit. Its target audience is the 45 million Americans considered to be credit invisible, and as a result, unable to get a home loan, affordable credit cards, certain school loans, and even a good job. It started, as the best ideas often do, as a problem that needed to be solved and has turned into a unique alliance of investor and philanthropic money in service of a bigger cause. It's also a great idea hiding in plain sight. He calls it “justice capitalism.”
Leadership Next podcast
Tyler Perry sets aside funds to help Atlanta's elderly
The actor, filmmaker, and Atlanta-based mogul has set aside $2.75 million to provide financial assistance for elderly homeowners on fixed incomes who may struggle to stay in their homes in light of rising property taxes. The nonprofit Invest Atlanta Partnership will administer the funds and carve out $750,000 for the first year to cover anyone unable to pay back taxes. Salvation is in the details.
Black male execs make some representation gains
USA Today's Jessica Guynn and Jayme Fraser have continued their series with this insightful snapshot into the diversity of corporate America. Though there are only four Black CEOs in the S&P 100, Black leaders are making headway in the C-suite. White men, however, still run corporate life and continue to overpopulate management ranks, despite a diversifying pipeline and the fact that, well, companies with diverse leaders make more money.
Major philanthropists agree: Fund Black women
Speaking of open letters, this one signed by some of the biggest names in philanthropy calls for increased investment in Black feminist organizations and, very specifically, a targeted goal of $100 million in support of the Black Feminist Fund. Signatories include Solidaire Network; Melinda Gates’s Pivotal Ventures; and the Ford, Clara Lionel, Libra, Farbman Family, Satterberg, and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur foundations. “[I]t’s a practical challenge to open our eyes to the fact that no meaningful change across the many global issues we care about—from democracy to health to climate and education—can be secured without investing in Black feminist leadership," the letter reads.
Philanthropy News Digest
Are you a soft Black girl? Do you care about the Black women in your life?
Join my amazing colleague, L’Oreal Thompson Payton, as she explores the hidden dangers of the “strong Black woman” trope in conversation with author and therapist Oludara Adeeyo. Bring your fuzzy slippers and a new intention to help create a happier, more present soft life for yourself. “Soft life, to me, is really about embracing self-care in every aspect of your life from home to work to your relationship with wellness and how you manage your relationships,” says Adeeyo. “It touches everything.” Tuesday, Feb. 21, 3 p.m. EST. Catch the vibe here: It’s time to leave the Strong Black Woman trope in the past. Meet the Soft Black Girl. Sign up below. Oh, and allies are very welcome to tune in to listen and learn.
"We are reaching one of those culminating points where the scale has got to tip. There is a bigger backlash against drag queens; there is a bigger backlash against the LGBTQ+ community and people of color, no matter what group you are in. We are in it not just for drag but for the greater picture."
—Bella Naughty, a Washington D.C.-based drag queen and counter-protester