The New York Times has an "Oops" Moment


I've read the New York Times every day for literally decades. It used to be such an amazing resource. Now, unfortunately, while there is still the occasional brilliant article--which justifies my continual subscription--it has really turned into a propaganda rag. Take today's article about several US states passing bills banning trans-identified males from competing in women's school sports. The journalist talks about how this issue "came out of nowhere," that it's all a "slick" Republican plot pushed by conservative organizations like Concerned Women for America, how these bills "single out transgender people for exclusion and feed ugly stereotypes," and where reality is "overshadowed by hyperbole," and conservative media covers the issue with "a heavy dose of sarcasm." The "slick" campaign has "borrow[ed] a page from the anti-abortion movement, which was led by men for much of its early period: they have begun featuring women as public advocates." Of coure, it's all painted as the work of a small number of bigots: in a completely non sequitur paragraph, the journalist notes that "Limiting the rights of transgender people is an issue that has resonance with an increasingly small share of the overall population. A new study by the Public Religion Research Institute reported that only 7 percent of Americans were ďcompletely againstĒ pro-L.G.B.T.Q. policies."

I mean, where to even start with this mess of an article? It's easy to refute the non-related polling: polling that speaks directly about trans-identified male participation in female sports competitions find 67% of Americans across party lines oppose such participation. The spin of the article is just so blatant, as is the fact that they did not interview any high school female athletes at all.

But in a very heartening and hopeful sign, when I turned to the comments section, the comments were running 9:1 against trans participation in women's sports! Yes, the uber-liberal elite readership of the New York Times was overwhelmingly in favor of these state bans! The top-rated Reader Picks were all against trans participation in women's sports (while the NYT picks all favored it, of course). In addition, the NYT was actually removing--after posting them--comments that favored the state bans, so that the ratio was probably more like 20:1. OOPS! The NYT is completely out of step with its own readership on this issue!

A sampling of some of the best-rated comments (rated best by readers, not the NYT):

Top-rated (730 upvotes): "As a female rugby player for 8 years, in college, club, even played in NZ, I can't imagine playing against a biological male. Title IX exists for a reason. Transwomen in sports will grestly alter and harm biological females enjoyment of sports. Being cut from a team, being benched, and watching biological males play is outrageous. Not to mentiom dangerous for contact sports and sports were accidental contact already occurs."

Second-best (693 upvotes): "Since when did a subjective interpretation of gender implicate a subjective interpretation of sex? The phrase "trans women are women" may be true, but "trans women are females" is not. Of course trans people should be accepted and protected from harm. But preventing them from competing with biological females isn't the same as allowing someone to be fired just for being trans. Lumping in sports rights with fundamental liberties like workplace discrimination and participation in the military obscures the issue and prevents needed progress."

Third-rated (610 upvotes): "A couple of things here. The first, can medical science eliminate the inherent advantages males have over females in athletic competition? The article mentions the safeguards the NCAA has but does that insure there is no advantage? Secondly, you mention that conservatives are taking a minor issue (the numbers are low for sure) and politicizing it for their own ideological purposes. True enough but the Left has arguably done the same. They have used a small percentage of the population to challenge the conception of gender and sex. The Left is every bit as ideological on this issue as the Right, neither would let science or common sense settle it."

Fourth (581 upvotes): "I find it interesting that the only two starred comments are in favor of trans women participating in biological womenís sports despite the fact that the vast majority of comments oppose their participation. Most of the comments support the rights of trans women in general, but also recognize the biological realities that would disadvantage biological women and girls. Why canít there be nuanced opinions about this issue? Why must biological girlsí and womenís genuine needs/concerns be subjugated to those of trans women? Arenít there any areas where we can allow that while socially, we can accept trans women as women, physically we can admit that there remain biological differences? I am a 50 year old liberal Democrat. I truly believe in championing the LGBTQ community, along with other oppressed groups. But I also believe that women fall into the category of traditionally oppressed and disadvantaged groups. Their rights also need protection."

Fifth (521 upvotes): "Like it or not there are two biological sexes. Each of these sexes have different physical characteristics, for example greater upper body musculoskeletal strength in men. This isn’t to denigrate those who are trans it just a fact of life."

Sixth (481 upvotes): "I am a Democrat who supports equal rights for all people. However, this is a complex problem which affects not only transgender kids who want to compete in girls' sports but also the girls who want to compete. My daughter was a very good runner in both track and cross country running and succeeding in sports was a tremendous boon to her self-esteem growing up. I'll never forget the day she came home from high school sports practice in a very angry mood. That day, the coach had the boys and girls run together and she had been out run by some boys. She said, "It's not fair - no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to run faster than the fastest boy, because he is bigger and stronger has longer legs than I do." Sports competition is physical competition. Forcing people with female bodies to compete against people with male bodies is not fair. When I was growing up, there were almost no opportunities for girls to do sports - only males got to compete. Now, we are going to make it harder for females to excel? Maybe we need a third category of competition."

Also highly ranked:

"Trans advocates are getting to the point where they have an issue with any criticism or discussion of nuance in relation to trans issues. This is not dissimilar to a tactic that christian conservatives use when there is any critique of religion in the public space. The chilling effect of this tactic is palpable. If any group seeks assimilation with broader society then legitimate criticism must be accepted. Not every statement is a threat to a given way of life and, judging by the handwringing of many liberals in the comment section, this issue is much more complex than trans advocates acknowledge. It is definitely not a simple matter of “if you are concerned about fairness in sports you are transphobic” as a few commenters seem to believe."

"This is not just about Republicans or a "culture war." Every liberal I know, including myself, opposes allowing transfemales to compete in women's sports. Women worked too long and too hard to lose our places on the field, court, pool, etc. The reality is that allowing transfemales to compete will take spots and opportunities away from girls and women."

"For some reason, those who wish to preserve the status quo -- i.e. recognizing the obvious and fundamental differences between men and women -- are portrayed by the Times as "waging a culture war." Whereas those who are determined to make ever more radical changes to society -- i.e. obliterating the differences between men and women -- have nothing whatsoever to do with any "culture war." It's always the other guys who are responsible for the culture war."

"Trans women will definitely triumph athletically against cis-women, but that is a separate issue from the other trans rights. Conflating the two will cost democrats votes and cost trans women good will."

"Itís very fashionable to try to discredit an opinion or movement by associating it with Donald Trump or with other far right Republicans. However the issue of keeping trans women out of womenís sports has a much broader coalition of backers than just the right - it includes moderates and progressives as well. There are instances where our biology, not identity, is the relevant determining factor and sports are one of those instances. In fact the sole dividing line between menís and womenís sports is biology, not long hair vs. short hair."

"I completely support trans women who want to live as gendered females. I support allowing all transgender people to choose any side in a recreational team or during recess. But I donít support those who want to compete with biological females. Not unless and until science has proven that they no longer have a biological advantage over females. This position doesnít make me a bigot or a transphobic hater, yet Iíve been called that, and that opinion is frequent in the media. This article presents the debate as though anyone who disagrees is a narrow-minded bully of transgender individuals. This is not the way to help transgender people win acceptance in our society. It feels more like the extreme left throwing biological females under the bus in the name of a phony inclusion that excludes us from a fair playing field."

"Although I have never thought of myself as a conservative, I am with the Republicans on this one. This is not a question of discrimination: men simply run faster and jump higher than women, no matter what their gender identity. It's biological: the pelvic area is different, the musculature is different, etc. etc. The best women's times in track and field are roughly equivalent to men's elite high school times. If there were no divisions between men's and women's sports, women would struggle to make the qualifying rounds. So legitimizing people with men's bodies to compete against people with women's bodies is simply unfair to the genetic women who, no matter how hard they train, will never be able to succeed. Of course Trans people belong, but not at the expense of women's sports."

"If you think that this fight has come "out of nowhere," you're woefully out of touch, especially for a journalist. And if you think this is an issue that upsets only right-wingers, you're wrong. No sane person wants transgender people to be denied their existence, to be denied housing, to not have a fair crack at the (terrible) job market, etc. But likewise, no sane person denies the reality of sexual dimorphism in the human species. It simply exists, and to deny that it has real-world ramifications in the everyday lives of persons born female is an indication that one has been blinded by a cultish ideology. A stubborn refusal to acknowledge this physical reality may make one feel virtuous in the short term, but I wonder how virtuous it will seem when females are routinely displaced by (often self-identified) trans athletes, as has already happened in Connecticut. Will you all feel as good about this if biological females come to be routinely out-competed and relegated to the losers' benches? Or has that maybe the (subconscious) point, all along?"

"The headline forced me to not read the article. "Came out of nowhere"!?! NYT, this isn't a suprise. The trans issue in sports has been a topic for years, and is a logical progression as trans issues become more prominent. Also, as a moderate Democrat, the politicization of this issue is frustrating. I do not believe Republicans are any in a culture war on this one, but rather a logic war. Is it logical to ignore physiological differences in the name of equality, while simultaneously destroying the efforts and dreams of those they beat? Is it logical to think our sexual preference should dictate if my body is physically big and strong, or merely average? Sports are not marriage -- overall 'equality' actually results in less equality. In fact, the only reason we have separate leagues in the first place for gender is BECAUSE it is unfair to have males play with females: not because they look different, but because physically they ARE different. And you don't hear any complaints about how the men's soccer league doesn't let a women play with them, or vice versa."

OOPS. The NYT really blew it this time. Of course, it's unclear that the Times cares at all that they are so at odds with their readers. But it is heartening and hopeful that that is the case, and it's clearly a bipartisan feeling that women's sports should be protected. I have a flutter of hope for my country tonight!