In rare TV appearance outside of Fox, Alliance Defending Freedom attorney repeatedly misgenders trans athletes

Extreme anti-LGBTQ group ADF’s Christiana Holcomb appeared on NBC’s Today

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom’s (ADF) Christiana Holcomb repeatedly misgendered two trans athletes during an NBC Today segment covering ADF’s legal complaint that objects to trans athletes’ participation in sex-segregated sports. ADF rarely appears on TV news networks other than Fox News, where its staff have appeared at least six times this year.

In June, ADF filed a Title IX discrimination complaint to the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of three high school track athletes in Connecticut, taking issue with the state’s policy allowing transgender athletes to compete in sports that align with their gender identity. ADF first announced that it was filing the complaint on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight.

ADF’s attorneys regularly promulgate their anti-LGBTQ views on Fox News and rarely appear on other news networks. In fact, a Media Matters analysis found that no ADF staff have appeared on the cable news channels MSNBC or CNN since at least August 2017 -- though in 2017, ADF attorney Kristen Waggoner and client Jack Phillips appeared on at least two broadcast news shows, NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today and ABC’s The View. Fox provides a safe space for ADF’s dehumanizing rhetoric, as its hosts regularly give the group a platform to discuss its anti-LGBTQ cases and often echo its anti-trans rhetoric such as its penchant for misgendering trans people.

During the July 26 segment, Holcomb repeatedly referred to transgender girls as “biological male.” Holcomb makes it a rule to misgender trans people, including in her news appearances, statements, legal documents, and tweets. Misgendering is a type of harassment that violates journalistic standards and has real negative impacts on transgender people.

Today’s correspondent Stephanie Gosk also missed an opportunity to properly contextualize ADF as an extreme anti-LGBTQ group, instead describing ADF only as “a Christian law firm that has previously fought against transgender causes.” In fact, for over two decades, ADF has led an anti-LGBTQ crusade that seeks to prevent LGBTQ people from adopting children, bar transgender students from using facilities that align with their gender identity, and promote the discredited and harmful practice of conversion therapy. And in October, ADF will argue in front of the Supreme Court on behalf of Harris Funeral Homes, which fired its employee Aimee Stephens after she came out as trans. ADF is arguing that employers should be allowed to fire their staff just for being trans. The Supreme Court will decide if Title VII of the Civil Rights Act’s protections against sex discrimination also apply to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

In contrast to Holcomb’s anti-trans views, the Today segment also featured compelling interviews with trans students Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood. Miller responded to ADF’s complaint, saying, “You don’t want us running with the boys, and not the girls. So what are we? Are we not human like everybody else?”

From the July 26 edition of NBC News’ Today:

STEPHANIE GOSK (CORRESPONDENT): In June, Selina [Soule], two other unidentified female students, and their parents filed a complaint with the Department of Education for discrimination. They are being represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian law firm that has previously fought against transgender causes. Attorney Christiana Holcomb says, in this case, the state of Connecticut is violating Title IX. 

Explain to me the complaint.

CHRISITIANA HOLCOMB (ALLIANCE DEFENDING FREEDOM): What we’re hoping to achieve is to have the department start an investigation and ultimately to restore fairness and a level playing field to women’s sports. I don't think any solution can be truly fair that allows a biological male to come in and take away athletic opportunities from young women.

GOSK: Right now in the NCAA, if a transgender athlete has taken hormone suppression for a year, they are allowed to compete. Does that rise to your level of fairness?

HOLCOMB: You know, I think even that poses significant questions of fairness. Because even under that rubric, a biological male can come in and be on the podium displacing a young woman.

GOSK: While Andraya and Terry did not discuss their private medical history, they do say the issue goes far beyond the podium and the medals.

TERRY MILLER (STUDENT ATHLETE): So, you don't want us running with the boys, and not the girls. So, what are we? Are we not human like everybody else? Am I just some “it” or my life doesn't matter? How do you think we feel? We go through this every day, and we're brave enough to keep running.