TV news channels turn not actually controversial story into an excuse for transphobia

I am so sick of 24-hour news networks. Their insistence that every story be framed as controversial has led to some awful coverage of California’s new law requiring public schools to respect students’ gender identity, which we reported on yesterday. The law’s going to be a big deal in the lives of kids whose shot at academic success was limited by, say, not being able to find a place to change for gym. It’s an important but very basic fix, and there’s no reason for controversy or for folks who aren’t directly benefiting to care, besides being happy for the win. That is unless you’re a bigot. And in the land of 24 hour news, bigots get a great big soapbox when it means the network gets to turn a simple win into a controversial news item.

CNN decided Randy Thomasson, the president of, which the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as a hate group, had the expertise to comment on this story. Apparently the same level of expertise as Masen Davis, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center. Thomasson, who has a history of disgustingly bigoted statements, spouted “won’t somebody think of the children!” bullshit (um, that’s what this law does, protects the kids in my community) and babbled about “sexual indoctrination laws.” And then he called Davis, who is a man, a “lady.”

Davis told Raw Story:

“Thomasson’s attempt to disrespect my own gender identity by referring to me as a ‘lady’ said more about him than me (I’m no lady, and clearly he is no gentleman)… I am comfortable in my own skin, and proud of my journey as a transgender man. I have heard, though, from many transgender people and allies who are very upset by his shallow attempt to mis-gender me. Failing to honor the gender identity of a transgender person is a common way for anti-equality zealots to try to undermine our credibility and humanity.”

Fox News also thought this story was a great opportunity to freak out about the “PC police.” But they didn’t even bother bringing on an actual expert to debate resident bigot Michelle Malkin, who’s only an “expert” at panicking over nothing. Like calling this simple bill “social engineering run amuck” before rambling about how CA schools have bigger priorities. Apparently Fox News’ priorities are in just the right place, though.

My favorite part of this segment is when Clayton Morris facetiously asks, “Is this children who consider themselves a different gender and have not gone through some sort of surgery?” Um, grammar school kids are supposed to have expensive, often inaccessible surgeries that not everyone wants anyway and that can end your ability to have kids yourself? “Won’t somebody sterilize the children!”

Update: And Fox News just keeps piling on. Really, they had nothing else to cover?

I haven’t found full transcripts of the segments, but Raw Story has typed up the important parts. If anyone can post full transcripts in the comments it would be greatly appreciated. Both videos are via Media Matters.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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