Guardian US journalists denounce newspaper’s ‘transphobic’ editorial

Guardian US journalists denounce the newspaper's "transphobic" editorial on the Gender Recognition Act reform.

The Guardian US journalists have denounced the UK newspaper’s position on the reform to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), comparing it to the view of American anti-transgender legislators.

An opinion piece published on Friday (November 2) and signed by US-based reporters Sam Levin and Sabrine Siddiqui and data editor Mona Chalabi strongly denounced an editorial published in the British newspaper on October 17, titled The Guardian view on the Gender Recognition Act: where rights collide.”

US journalists denounced the “alarming intolerance of trans viewpoints in mainstream UK discourse” and the “misplaced and misguided” editorial. They claim that some transgender people refused to speak to them in the wake  of the leaked Department of Health and Human Services memo on changing the definition of sex to “immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” because of the editorial.

Sharing the opinion piece on Twitter, Levin clarified “many Guardian US staff” felt the editorial was “transphobic” and wrote to the UK editors with their concerns. Dozens of responses to the tweet thanked the reporters for taking such a public stand on the issue.

Siddiqui also tweeted on Friday, echoing Levin’s point: “Guardian journalists in the US felt the editorial was misplaced, misguided and promoted transphobic viewpoints. And so we took the rare step of speaking out publicly.”

The editorial addressed the “toxic debate” around reform to the GRA, which aims to simplify and de-medicalise the process by which transgender people legally declare their gender identity, stating that “feminists are entitled to question whether such changes could adversely affect other women.”

Guardian US journalists say some trans people refused to talk to them after the editorial was published.

Trans activists rally in front of the White House. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

The US journalists said these views “echo the position of anti-trans legislators who have pushed overtly transphobic bathroom bills” and only “serve to dehumanize and stigmatize trans people.”

“Cis women’s intolerance should not be a legitimate reason for limiting the rights of trans women. The idea that all trans women should be denied civil rights because a trans woman might someday commit a crime is the essence of bigotry,” the opinion piece stated.

The journalists called on their editors to hire more transgender people on staff and concluded: “Our journalism should be grounded in the principle that trans women are women, and that trans people should have the right to feel safe to live as themselves.”

Senior reporter Lois Beckett supported her colleagues: “Guardian US journalists are publicly voicing our concern,” she wrote in a tweet sharing the article.

Another US-based reporter, Julia Carrie Wong, also said the opinion piece reflected a widespread concern. “Two weeks ago the Guardian published a transphobic and bigoted editorial that I could not disagree with more. The vast majority of Guardian US staff spoke out internally. Today we are publishing an alternate view that I fully endorse,” she wrote on Twitter, adding: “The original editorial asserted that the rights of trans women are in opposition to feminism. Not my feminism. Cis women’s intolerance is not a legitimate reason for limiting the rights of trans women.”

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A spokesperson for The Guardian said in a statement to PinkNews: “The Guardian has always been a home for multiple viewpoints on complex issues, and we welcome and encourage debate.”

Editor-in-chief Katharine Viner has yet to comment publicly, but Guardian UK columnist Hadley Freeman, who once wrote that “the reason women-only spaces exist is not to protect some special inner feminine essence, but because there are significant physical differences between male-born bodies and female-born ones, and the latter have long been at a disadvantage,” defended the editorial on Twitter.

Hadley Freeman defended the Guardian editorial.

Hadley Freeman defended the Guardian editorial. (Screenshot/Twitter)

“The GRA and self ID are v different from Trump erasing trans identity and it’s unfair to conflate them. It is also v sad to see people I respect dismiss British feminism as somehow more backward and conservative than American feminism,” she wrote, adding: “It is also v sad to see people suggest anxiety about self ID is just about ‘cis women’s intolerance,’ as if women were naturally, and randomly, the more bigoted sex. This is a nuanced subject, not a partisan debate.”

Another British Guardian columnist, Owen Jones, appeared to endorse the American journalists’ opinion piece, sharing it several times on his Twitter profile, remarking: “After the Guardian editorial which got it badly wrong on trans rights, it’s great to see the paper publish this letter by Guardian US taking on the myths and the moral panic. Please read and share.”

Writer, actor, filmmaker and transgender advocate Jake Graf commented on the controversy in a response to Levin’s tweet: “The Guardian will one day be ridiculed for its bigoted stance on trans rights, and shamed for promoting transphobia. Looking back they will regret being on the wrong side of history, and vilified much as they have consistently done to us.”

This article was updated with a comment received after publication. It was also amended to reflect that Owen Jones voiced support for the Guardian US opinion piece.

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