Over the past several years, the New York Times has increasingly elevated anti-trans rhetoric. Since writer Jennifer Boylan retired her opinion column in April 2022, the paper has lacked a regular transgender voice. And with the announcement that the Times has hired David French as a columnist, there seems to be an effort to continue to stack the deck with anti-trans writers.
While lauding French for having “spirit of generosity toward others,” the New York Times' announcement notably leaves out French’s history as an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBTQ legal organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“I don’t agree that trans men are ‘men’ or that trans women are ‘women,’ and while I strive to treat every person I encounter with dignity and respect, I don’t use preferred pronouns because their use is a form of assent to a system of belief to which I don’t subscribe,” French said in an October 2022 article.
This is one of the milder anti-trans sentiments French has expressed.
French has in the past claimed that “the edges of trans activism” in the form of potentially passing the Equality Act would undermine Title IX and endanger cisgender women.
“In the trans context, laws prohibiting gender identity discrimination will conflict with laws prohibiting sex discrimination and even sexual harassment. When the law requires an unwilling woman to see (much less handle) male genitalia, then the law has lost its mind,” French said in a 2019 article, referencing a legal case concerning beauticians being asked to provide waxing services to trans women.
French’s claim is false, and the Equality Act has not been signed into law.
The newly minted New York Times columnist has also previously bought into obsolete studies about trans youth. Among them, the now debunked social contagion theory that suggests kids are being peer pressured into becoming trans, and the discredited idea that 80% or more of trans youth “desist” in that identity by adulthood.
And well before the current moral panic surrounding trans students and school curriculum, French claimed that Barack Obama “destroyed the traditional American public school” by extending Title IX to trans people, in an article subtitled “It’s Time to Declare Independence from Public Schools.”
He also said the First Amendment “may begin to die a sad death at the hands of troubled transgenders” when New York City issued guidance in 2016 that people could be fined for deliberately misgendering trans people, or preventing trans people from using correctly-gendered facilities.
“Let’s not mince words: New York is making lies mandatory. Women do not become men through clothing changes, surgical mutilation, or mere expressions of preference. And calling a man ‘she’ or ‘her’ is to participate in a monstrous, destructive deception,” French said. “Moreover, it used to be indecent exposure to flash a penis in a women’s restroom, now it’s apparently a ‘human right’ — so long as the penis belongs to a deeply troubled and confused man.”
His past sentiments about LGBTQ people more broadly have been equally concerning.
French was also an initial signatory of a 2017 document called The Nashville Statement, a doctrine arguing for Evangelical views on gender and gender relations. While the document is riddled with anti-gay and anti-trans sentiments, Article 10 summarizes the document well.
“We affirm that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness,” the statement reads. “We deny that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.”
When then Nashville mayor Megan Barry rejected the statement as a poor reflection of the city, French spent an entire article decrying her statement, accusing her of attacking “basic Christianity” and claiming, “In some parts of the country, Christians are social pariahs if they admit to their Biblical views. In other places, their career opportunities are limited and their civil liberties are at risk.”
In 2015, French also scoffed at the notion that anti-gay sentiments could ever be viewed as egregiously as racism, writing, “The conventional wisdom is that moral opposition to same-sex marriage will eventually evaporate. … In just a few, short years the Christian churches in America will look back at opposition to same-sex marriage with the same kind of shame that Southern Baptists view their segregationist past. That conventional wisdom is garbage.”
French doesn’t always fall in line with mainstream conservatism on LGBTQ issues.
Though these small concessions toward tolerance distinguish French from the furthest right faction of the anti-LGBTQ movement, he has nonetheless staked out his place in that movement with a firm and consistent position against the equality — or even acceptance — of trans people.
French’s past remarks against the LGBTQ community raised red flags about his hiring at the Times from advocacy organizations such as GLAAD to journalists including media critic Parker Molloy and MSNBC contributor Katelyn Burns.
All concerned parties contextualize French’s hiring with the wave of anti-trans reporting doled out by the Times, particularly through the lens of the paper adding a column by Pamela Paul after Boylan’s departure. Paul has espoused an excess of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric through the paper.
Despite these concerns, Molloy and Burns explicitly state they do not want French fired, but rather, use this as an opportunity to push for balance at The New York times and call for the paper to hire trans columnists.
“I don’t want French fired. I don’t even want NYT to ask him not to write about trans issues. If he has something he wants to say, whatever, go ahead and say it. That’s fine,” Molloy said. “What I want is balance. And that means immediately hiring trans people as columnists. ‘Submit a guest essay’ is not an adequate response.”