To the New York Times: What happened?
By some formerly trusting New York Times readers
Many of us parents of kids with gender dysphoria have been faithful New York Times readers for a long time, deeply believing we could rely upon it for factual and unbiased reporting.
For the past few years, the New York Times has been publishing many articles about transgender people and people with gender dysphoria. This is an important topic and a few of us parents thus find it concerning that they neglect to mention in their articles that at least two vastly different supportive treatments exist. They often discuss medical interventions, but we’ve not found them reporting on those who have recovered without medicalization (for instance with ethical explorative psychotherapy; there is no clinical test to determine who might not respond to therapy and/or time alone). And they rarely mention those harmed as a consequence of medical intervention. In addition, given the manner in which suicide and suicidality often figure in their coverage,1 fellow New York Times readers would be forgiven for being unaware that neither has been established to decrease by following the affirmative model or medicalization. (In contrast, medicalization does incur considerable heart, stroke, brain plasticity/aging, bone, sterilization, and longevity risks.2) Readers are similarly unlikely to have learned much about the substantial disagreements between experts, including their many expressions of alarm and criticism regarding medical interventions, or the recent adoption of psychotherapy first or medicalization only within research settings overseas.
For some New York Times articles, subscribers are invited to comment, which provides opportunities to elaborate on and/or correct content. The comment guidelines are: “The Times needs your voice. We welcome your on-topic commentary, criticism and expertise. Comments are moderated for civility.”
For months we submitted (civil) comments, noting omissions and correcting inaccuracies, which the New York Times refused to print. Nor did their corrections desk3 respond to or act upon our copious and well-documented emails asking them to correct the record publicly.
Then suddenly, for unknown reasons, the editors started accepting and posting some of our fact-based comments. We began to hope the New York Times was starting to read the actual research, as we have been doing.
But that hope turned to, well, shock, on Tuesday, September 28, 2021, with their actions regarding comments on the article For Transgender Youth, Stigma Is Just One Barrier to Health Care.
As often happens, some commenters had put in incorrect or non-factual statements, apparently unaware that the evidence base for mental health outcomes for medical intervention is low quality, with interventions sometimes resulting in no benefit or even turning out to be harmful, and that there are people regretting not getting therapy instead, as it sometimes resolves gender dysphoria. These incorrect statements included:
[false]: “The science shows that people treated medically are more healthy mentally. They are much less likely to self-harm, be depressed, and to attempt suicide.”
[false]:“Never mind a veritable mountain of peer reviewed research demonstrating that gender-affirming care allows trans kids to thrive.”
[false]:“The medical science supports a social and medical transition.”
[false]: "Scientific research tells us the greater hazard is losing the child to suicide before they ‘eventually get there.’"
Many commenters corrected these errors, some referencing external articles (many in the peer-reviewed literature) so anyone could verify the evidence. There were several other discussions on the side, including advice to a parent whose kid had just announced they identified as transgender, one person asking for what the terms “PBs” and “CSH” meant, one who didn’t know that many kids with gender dysphoria grow up to be gay (the majority of children outgrow gender dysphoria if not medicalized), and someone who did not know mental health issues sometimes manifest as gender dysphoria. (Autism can as well.) Another did not know that reliable counts of detransitioners are unavailable.
Again, statements must be “civil,” and most were. The only uncivil ones we noticed were people accusing others of being transphobic or saying their comments were transphobic. Nonetheless, it was mostly a rich exchange of ideas, a discussion interspersed with many helpful research references and personal stories.
There were slightly more than 200 comments approved, accepted, and available on the article’s web page on Tuesday night. However, by Wednesday morning, comments were closed, and only 124 comments remained. The numbers fluctuated during the day but then settled at 113.4
What did the New York Times delete?
Many comments that corrected misinformation are now gone, including most of the ones providing verifiable outside medical sources. In contrast, comments accusing others of being “transphobic” remain, as do many of the statements which are incorrect or unsupported by evidence, just now without indication that they are untrue. Of the at least 90 comments we counted as missing, we have confirmation emails for more than 30 that were cleaned out in the Tuesday night censorship spree.
It wasn’t that the article had too many comments. Some New York Times articles have more than 1000 comments, while those for this article barely broke 200. Many of those removed had even been “recommended” by several other subscribers. In addition to taking out facts and corrections to misstatements, the removals seem to have noticeably reduced the original preponderance of opinions calling for caution.
Again, our comments were factual and civil. The New York Times just decided to remove all of these comments from public view, but leave the mistakes and incorrect claims that they were responding to because……well, we have no idea.
And just yesterday it was reported that New York Times rejected an op-ed “warning that many transgender healthcare providers were treating kids recklessly,” coauthored by the president5 of USPATH. The reason for rejection? Being ”outside our coverage priorities right now."
Seriously, what is going on with you over there?
You tell us: what happened to the truth?
NOTE: Our initial plan was to include some of the comments, verbatim from the confirmation receipts we have for each message. We are all for facts and evidence. But since the comments are linked to our personal identifying subscriber information, we have decided to not do so. If any reader has receipts to share or tell us about, for any of the other over 50 deleted comments, we hope you also speak up!
(And to the New York Times: If you have evidence the removed comments were not civil, show us. We have plenty of civil, factual, censored ones right here in front of us, so you do, too.)
Perhaps why puberty blockers and hormonal treatments are still off label with the FDA for treating gender dysphoria.
From the New York Times Ethical Journalism handbook: “In print and online, we tell our readers the complete, unvarnished truth as best we can learn it. It is our policy to correct our errors, large and small, as soon as we become aware of them.”
Then up to 114 when one new comment was added Oct 7, after this essay appeared.
The article reporting the New York Times op-ed rejection quotes many concerns of Dr. Anderson, e.g., “Rushing people through the medicalization, as you and others have cautioned, and failure — abject failure — to evaluate the mental health of someone historically in current time, and to prepare them for making such a life-changing decision”.