New York Times Anti-trans Bias Petition
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New York Times Anti-trans Bias Petition refers to an open letter signed by hundreds of media professionals, including New York Times contributors, decrying the paper for purportedly prioritizing the publication of opinion pieces that are perceived as sympathetic towards anti-transgender views and stories. The petition spread widely on social media in mid-February 2023. However, the day after the petition was first posted, the paper then published a piece titled "In Defense of J.K. Rowling" (the Harry Potter author accused of espousing TERF ideologies), leading some to suspect it may have signaled an intentional rejection of the petition, sparking further controversy online.
On February 15th, 2023, an open letter decrying the paper for perceived anti-trans coverage, first sent out by New York Times contributors, circulated on social media. The letter noted several recent stories published in the NY Times that received front-page or high-visibility placements in the paper. Stories such as “The Battle Over Gender Therapy” by Emily Bazelon, "When Students Change Gender Identity and Parents Don’t Know" by Katie Baker, "How to Make Sense of the New L.G.B.T.Q. Culture War" by Ross Douthat and editorial changing of headlines to remove the word 'trans' from a headline  were singled out as articles that have been cited by politicians looking to make gender-affirming care for transitioning teens a felony. The piece also claims how the NYT had a purported history of prioritizing conservative voices in trending social justice issues, such as its coverage of homosexuality in the '60s and the AIDS epidemic in the '80s.
In roughly 24 hours, the letter was signed by hundreds of New York Times contributors and supporters, as well as journalists, media workers and supporters not affiliated with the Times.
As the letter spread, the LGBTQ+ advocacy group GLAAD joined the protest by placing a truck with an electronic sign inviting others to support the cause outside the New York Times office in Manhattan on February 15th, 2023 (seen below).
In response to the letter, the New York Times external communications director Charlie Stadtlander defended the pieces cited as "deeply and empathetically" researched that same day (shown below).
J.K. Rowling Defense Piece
The day after the letter was published on February 16th, 2023, the New York Times published an opinion piece by Pamela Paul titled "In Defense of J.K. Rowling." The piece aims to argue that nothing J.K. Rowling has said or done has been transphobic, stating that Rowling's documented stance against letting trans people use bathrooms in accordance with their gender is not transphobic, among other things. A pertinent quote reads:
So why would anyone accuse her of transphobia? Surely, Rowling must have played some part, you might think.
The answer is straightforward: Because she has asserted the right to spaces for biological women only, such as domestic abuse shelters and sex-segregated prisons. Because she has insisted that when it comes to determining a person’s legal gender status, self-declared gender identity is insufficient. Because she has expressed skepticism about phrases like “people who menstruate” in reference to biological women. Because she has defended herself and, far more important, supported others, including detransitioners and feminist scholars, who have come under attack from trans activists. And because she followed on Twitter and praised some of the work of Magdalen Berns, a lesbian feminist who had made incendiary comments about transgender people.
You might disagree -- perhaps strongly -- with Rowling’s views and actions here. You may believe that the prevalence of violence against transgender people means that airing any views contrary to those of vocal trans activists will aggravate animus toward a vulnerable population.
But nothing Rowling has said qualifies as transphobic.
Many who signed or were aware of the circulating petition took the op-ed as the Times' rejection of its content. For example, on February 16th, 2023, Twitter user @aubreyhirsch pointed out the optics of the Times publishing the op-ed, gaining over 500 retweets and 2,700 likes in one day (shown below, left). Also that day, user @Britsanity tweeted, "The NYT is complicit in this ongoing hate campaign against trans people" (shown below, right).
On February 16th, 2023, the media outlet Defector then strongly criticized the piece in an article titled "The New York Times Continues To Make Its Priorities Clear," writing, "There is no value in this column beyond provocation, and choosing to publish it the morning after these two open letters were sent shows exactly who the Times hopes to provoke: not people in power, but people who have a right to question them."
 New York Times – In Defense of JK Rowling
 Twitter – @aubreyhirsch
 Twitter – @laurahazardowen
 Defector – The New York Times Continues To Make Its Priorities Clear
 Twitter – @Britsanity
Feb 16, 2023 at 01:36PM EST
Feb 17, 2023 at 10:49AM EST
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