An op-ed article in The New York Times has expressed support for J.K. Rowling’s views on transgender issues, following the publication of two open letters on Wednesday alleging the paper’s past coverage of child sex changes was biased against transgender people.
The New York Times published an op-ed titled “In Defense of J.K. Rowling” by columnist Pamela Paul one day after nearly 200 of the newspaper’s contributors signed a joint letter accusing The New York Times of “anti-trans bias” and aligning their views with “far-right hate groups,” which was followed by a second letter led by LGBT advocacy group GLAAD and signed by activists and public figures.
“Our journalism strives to explore, interrogate and reflect the experiences, ideas and debates in society — to help readers understand them. Our reporting did exactly that and we’re proud of it,” said Charlie Stadtlander, a spokesman for the Times, adding that on the subject of transgender issues, the consideration that went into their reporting was done “deeply and empathetically.”
The New York Times has found itself embroiled in a heated debate on transgender issues after publishing articles in recent months that attempted to take a fair and balanced approach on the subject of pediatric social and medical transition.
Backlash from the reporting culminated in two open letters that were published on Wednesday, one from 200 New York Times staff and contributors to Philip B. Corbett, associate managing editor for standards at the Times, and the other from GLAAD, an LGBT advocacy organization, signed by celebrities and activists.
The first letter accused the paper of “editorial bias” in its reporting on “transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people,” while the second letter accused the NYT of “irresponsible, biased coverage of transgender people.” The signatories of the GLAAD letter include several campaign groups, along with celebrities including Jameela Jamil, Lena Dunham, Gabrielle Union, Judd Apatow, and Tommy Dorfman.
A few of the “problematic” articles the letters mentioned were Emily Bazelon’s “The Battle Over Gender Therapy,” “When Students Change Gender Identity and Parents Don’t Know” by Katie Baker, and “How to Make Sense of the New L.G.B.T.Q. Culture War” by Ross Douthat.
The publication of the pro-Rowling article indicates that The New York Times is still willing to share a range of opinions on the debate, despite criticism. In her op-ed, Paul argued that the abuse faced by the author of the “Harry Potter” series is unfounded and that her statements do not qualify as transphobic. She denounced Rowling’s detractors as a “noisy fringe of the internet and a number of powerful transgender rights activists and L.G.B.T.Q. lobbying groups.”
Paul argues that Rowling is not disputing the existence of gender dysphoria and has never voiced opposition to allowing adults to transition under evidence-based medical care, but her defense of biological women’s spaces, skepticism of self-declared “gender identity,” and support for detransitioners and feminist scholars have been interpreted by some as “transphobic.”
Paul references the new podcast, “The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling,” set to launch next week by Megan Phelps-Roper, a former member of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, which includes nine hours of interviews with Rowling that explore her views and the backlash faced by the author.
Paul argues that those who accuse Rowling of punching down against her critics ignore the fact that she is sticking up for those who have silenced themselves to avoid job loss, public vilification, and threats to physical safety that other critics of recent gender orthodoxies have suffered.
“The pushback is often, ‘You are wealthy. You can afford security. You haven’t been silenced.’ All true. But I think that misses the point,” Rowling says in the podcast. “The attempt to intimidate and silence me is meant to serve as a warning to other women” with similar views who might want to have their opinions heard.