The New York Times' stylized T logo over a photo of a trans flag waving in the wind
Molly Butler / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Seen but not heard: The New York Times failed to quote trans people in two-thirds of stories on anti-trans legislation in a one-year period

From February 15, 2023, through February 15, 2024, another 18% of such articles included anti-trans misinformation with no fact-checking

A new report from Media Matters and GLAAD finds that The New York Times excluded the perspectives of trans people from two-thirds of its stories about anti-trans legislation in the year following public criticism for its handling of the topic.

Media Matters previously reported that the Times helped fuel a right-wing anti-trans panic in 2022 by platforming anti-trans extremists, painting rising transgender identification as a social contagion, and fearmongering about the costs of transgender acceptance.  

In February 2023, the paper received two separate open letters: one from a coalition of 150+ organizations and leaders, including GLAAD, and a separate letter signed by hundreds of Times contributors that criticized the outlet's contributions to a deadly anti-LGBTQ culture war. The newspaper attempted to conflate both efforts, dismissing all criticisms of its coverage as merely “protests organized by advocacy groups.”

Between February 15, 2023, when those letters were separately delivered to the Times, and February 15, 2024, the Times published at least 65 articles that mentioned U.S. anti-trans legislation in either their headline or lead paragraphs. We counted how often the paper quoted openly trans or gender-nonconforming sources, cited anti-trans misinformation or talking points without context or adequate fact-checking, and accurately represented the records of anti-trans figures mentioned in its stories. Our findings: 

  • 66% of the articles did not quote even one trans or gender-nonconforming person.
  • 18% of the articles quoted misinformation from anti-trans activists without adequate fact-checking or additional context.
  • 6 articles obscured the anti-trans background of sources, erasing histories of extremist rhetoric or actions.
  • 66% of the Times’ articles about anti-trans legislation failed to quote trans or gender-nonconforming people

  • When the Times covered North Dakota’s decision to ban transgender girls from playing sports with other members of their lived gender, the article didn’t give any of those girls space to talk about how it might impact them. The Times covered Missouri’s heavy restrictions on treatments for trans people without providing its readers a reaction from somebody who would be losing access to the health care they rely on. 

    For about three weeks in late spring, from May 18 to June 11, The New York Times wrote about anti-trans legislation 9 times, covering bills passed in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and elsewhere. Not one of those stories included the perspective of a trans person. 

    The Times also covered President Joe Biden’s speech to a Pride celebration at the White House without speaking to any of the trans people who attended. Another article covered Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis approving “tough discipline for college staff who break bathroom law” but did not include a perspective from a trans person who might be affected by the rule, which requires colleges to fire employees who use a bathroom that does not correspond to their sex at birth. 

    Only 1 of 19 Times articles covering anti-trans legislation from July through September quoted a single member of the community.

  • A year long stacked bar graph of when the NYT did and did not quote trans people. Most notably, the Times only quoted a trans person in 1 of 19 articles published from July to September.


    Molly Butler / Media Matters

  • 18% of Times articles quoted anti-trans misinformation without pushback

  • In its coverage of a Florida law banning gender-affirming care for minors, the Times repeatedly quoted DeSantis spreading anti-trans misinformation. In one instance, the Times quoted the governor’s false claim that  “gender-affirming care” is a euphemism for “sex-change operations.” Two other articles quoted DeSantis’ claim that offering gender-affirming care to children amounts to “sexualizing” them.

    “Sex change” is an outdated term for some forms of gender-affirming care, specifically bottom surgery. The term “gender-affirming care” is used instead to encompass a broader range of treatments that do not necessarily include surgery. As the Human Rights Campaign explains: “It is not a single category of services but instead is a range of services, including mental health care, medical care, and social services.”

    Such care may include puberty blockers, which have been FDA-approved to treat precocious puberty in children for over 30 years. According to health technology company Komodo Health Inc., less than 1,400 youths with a prior gender dysphoria diagnosis in the U.S. received puberty blockers in 2021. Anti-trans activists contend that prescribing puberty blockers to trans minors is an “off-label” use of those drugs, but off-label drug use is common in pediatric medicine.

    Moreover, gender-affirming care is not “sexualizing” children — being trans is not inherently sexual, and studies published in the journal Pediatrics have shown that trans people are less likely to commit acts of sexual violence but more likely to be victims of them than cisgender people.

    Gender-affirming care is also not only largely reversible (except for surgeries), but backed by every major medical association and leading international authorities, yet The New York Times has published numerous claims that it is “risky” or “permanent.”

    The New York Times also published DeSantis’ claim that trans children are being told “that they may have been born in the wrong body,” deeply oversimplified rhetoric that has been contested by trans people for years.

    During the heated discussions on defense spending in 2023, the Times also printed claims from Republicans that Americans did not want a “woke” military that included transgender people, and that it would be weaker. As of 2019, Gallup found that 71% of Americans approved of letting transgender people serve in the armed forces, and according to the American Psychological Association, there is no scientific evidence that demonstrates transgender soldiers negatively affect “readiness or unit cohesion.” 

    The Times has also published related claims that trans youth are being rushed into receiving gender-affirming care, and that doctors are manipulating parents into consenting to that care (some say that manipulation is achieved by pointing to suicide concerns). The reality is that transgender people are at high risk of ending their own lives, but having access to gender-affirming care, along with family support, reduces suicidality.

    Wait times to receive gender-affirming care vary from months to more than a year, and Arkansas court filings also found that patients of one clinic wait 6.5 years on average before coming out to their parents. The shrinking number of available clinics must also take on more patients who often have to travel much farther than before. Insurance limitations and requirements can also create additional hurdles for those seeking care. 

  • 6 Times articles glossed over anti-trans extremism from their sources

  • In an article about Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s unilateral move to restrict children and adults from seeking gender-transitioning treatment, the report did not mention any of Bailey’s inflammatory comments about clinics offering gender-affirming care, which he described in one of numerous right-wing media appearances as “left-wing quackery” and “a bloody scourge intended to defile innocents.” 

    An August story discussing Florida’s anti-trans bathroom policies in schools and universities (without including the perspectives of trans people) did include a quote from an anti-trans activist named Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie. Pozo Christie is a senior fellow of The Catholic Association, an organization that has given detransitioner Chloe Cole a platform to call the trans rights movement one of “deceit.” In another instance, Pozo Christie and Cole talk about “protecting kids from the trans-movement” and “the dangers of promoting transgenderism.” The Times identified Christie simply as “a radiologist, who serves on the state board and voted for approval.”

    In its coverage of a North Dakota law banning trans girls and women from participating in women’s sports, the Times quoted a member of North Dakota Can, an organization that has called LGBTQ Pride “predatory” and has ranted about “child predator apologists” in “Big Education.” Despite the organization’s radical record, the Times identified it as merely a “conservative advocacy group.” 

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched articles in the Nexis and Factiva databases for all original, print, and online news articles from The New York Times for any of the terms “trans,” “gender,” “transgender,” “biological boy,” “biological man,” “biological male,” “biological girl,” “biological woman,” “biological female,” “gender identity,” or “single sex” within close proximity of any of the terms “restroom,” “bathroom,” “locker room,” “women’s spaces,” “girls’ room,” “boys’ room,” “gender affirming,” “health,” “puberty,” “therapy,” “hormone,” “identity,” “bill,” “measure,” “clinic,” or any variation of any of the terms “surgery,” “counsel,” “mutilate,” “law,” “legislation,” “sex,” “right,” or “pronoun” from February 15, 2023, when GLAAD and New York Times contributors published letters of criticism against the paper, through February 15, 2024.

    We included articles, which we defined as instances when any U.S. anti-trans legislation was mentioned in the headline or lead paragraphs. If an article was published in print and online, we included only the print edition. We did not include editorial, op-eds, or letters to the editor.

    We then reviewed the identified articles for whether they quoted or paraphrased a trans or gender-nonconforming person (we determined a person's gender through self-identification or publicly available biographies), or failed to state the affiliations of anti-trans figures or presented them without context. We also reviewed the identified articles for whether they quoted or paraphrased misinformation from an anti-trans advocate without fact-checking the comment, including any of the following false or misleading claims: that a “woke” military that includes trans troops would be weaker; that gender-affirming care sexualizes youth; that trans people are born in the “wrong body”; that gender-affirming care is “risky” or “irreversible”; that children are being rushed into gender-affirming care; or that medical professionals are manipulating parents.