The trans community finds new support as lawmakers file record number of anti-LGBT bills

February 17, 2023, 6:17 PM UTC
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signs a bill on Feb. 3, 2022, at the state Capitol in Pierre, S.D., that will ban transgender women and girls from playing in school sports leagues that match their gender identity.
South Dakota passed a bill that health care workers must cease all treatment for young patients receiving care of any kind, including hormone therapy, puberty blockers or surgery, or face losing their licenses. In 2022, the state also banned transgender women and girls from playing in school sports leagues that match their gender identity.
Stephen Groves—AP Images

Happy Friday.

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.

From the letter:

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.

From the letter:

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.

Ellen McGirt

This edition of raceAhead was edited by Ruth Umoh.

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Special Invitation

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.
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Parting Words

"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

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