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Erin Fitzgerald

Author ››› Erin Fitzgerald
  • STUDY: Charlotte Media Peddle "Bathroom Predator" Myth In Coverage Of Nondiscrimination Ordinance


    Television news stations in Charlotte, NC, have misrepresented the city's recently passed nondiscrimination ordinance, which the state's Republican legislators are vowing to repeal in the April legislative session. Outlets have highlighted the "bathroom predator" myth peddled by anti-LGBT groups without noting that the talking point has been debunked by states and cities with similar laws on the books. That narrow focus on opponents' claims came at the expense of accurate reporting on the ordinance's comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.

  • Washington State Anti-LGBT Group Launches Campaign To Repeal Non-Discrimination Protections

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    The Family Policy Institute of Washington (FPIW) is the group behind the latest effort to limit protections for the LGBT community in Washington state. The group has a long history of spouting anti-LGBT rhetoric, including claiming that the "transgender revolution" is a product of "hurt feelings."

    On February 17, the Family Policy Institute of Washington announced via e-mail a new anti-transgender campaign titled "Just Want Privacy." The campaign aims to repeal the Human Rights Commission's clarification of the state's 2006 non-discrimination law, which prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The regulation guarantees equal access to restrooms, locker rooms, and similar facilities according to a person's gender identity.  

    The clarification has caused an uproar among anti-LGBT activists, led by FPIW, which falsely claims that the law will allow sexual predators to sneak into women's restrooms. Advocates for victims of sexual assault, law enforcement and government officials, and a Pulitzer-prize winning columnist have all debunked the talking point, calling it "beyond specious."

    FPIW, based in Washington state, is an established anti-LGBT group  with ties to one of the country's most notorious anti-LGBT hate groups -- the Family Research Council. FPIW is led by Joseph Backholm, a former legal fellow at the extreme anti-LGBT legal group Alliance Defending Freedom. In a December 2014 blog post, he claimed the "transgender revolution" is a result of hurt feelings.

    FPIW has spent have spent the last month disseminating misinformation and employing anti-trans rhetoric, including:

    • claiming that allowing transgender people equal access to locker rooms and bathrooms is part of the real "war on women";
    • describing LGBT non-discrimination protections as "a big welcome mat" for sexual predators; and
    • releasing a video that suggests trans people "don't want to deal with reality" and that the "compassionate" thing to do is to help people see themselves "in a way that conforms to reality."

    As the campaign kicks off, local and national media should contextualize the "Just Want Privacy" initiative with FPIW's well-established history of anti-LGBT extremism.

  • NBC Philadelphia Demonstrates Journalistic Excellence with Coverage of Most Recent Transgender Homicide

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    NBC Philadelphia demonstrated a number of best practices in its coverage of the recent murder of a transgender woman of color, avoiding the stigmatizing tropes that often dominate reports on transgender victims of violence.

    Maya Young, a 25-year-old transgender woman of color, was stabbed to death in Philadelphia on February 21. Among media outlets covering the story was, which included Maya's previous name, violating established journalistic standards. The article also needlessly included her criminal history.

    In contrast, NBC Philadelphia did an exemplary job covering Maya's story in both its TV report and accompanying text. The reports contextualized Maya's homicide as part of an escalating trend of violence against and murders of transgender people, especially trans people of color. On air, local correspondent Randy Gyllenhaal highlighted the systemic discrimination transgender people face in housing and employment, which contributes to high rates of homelessness, sex work, and economic insecurity in the community. His report included comments from city officials who condemned the crime and it was centered on the voices of transgender people and advocates, including a friend of Maya's.

    As the transgender community continues to gain visibility, many journalists will need to aspire to higher ethical standards to accurately and responsibly report on transgender people in life and in death. NBC Philadelphia's report should serve as a model for media outlets and reporters moving forward.