Both can land with the force of a hook to the jaw.
It’s one thing when it’s an accidental fumble of a pronoun. It happens. It hurts, but it happens.
However, there is a group of people who do these things willingly. That shot to the jaw is the point and they know it. The person who is the target knows it too.
There are many people who engage in this level of transphobia, and they have some formidable public platforms in sports media, news media and the body politic.
There is a work by cartoonist Barry Deutsch that breaks down what these people do and exactly who these people are:
The last panel is how many trans people — including myself — feel about the varied outlets, politicians, other paid professional transphobes, and random people on social media, who spew transphobia and try to call it “commentary.”
This comes out strongest whenever a transgender woman who is an athlete does well. It doesn’t matter what the level is, from high school track, to an Ivy League swimming pool, to the Olympics.
Researchers have shown that the simple act of affirming a trans person’s name lowers depression and suicide rates for trans youth to the same as similar cisgender populations. Being affirmed by a parent reduces ideation by nearly two-thirds. These studies are two examples among hundreds.
It’s no accident that every major medical organization in the world supports affirming strategies in socialization, mental health care and physical health care.
Yet there remains a group of people who intentionally misgender trans women in sports. Using it as a weapon, they do it to harm us.
They’ve trained their venom in particular on transgender women who want to compete and do their best. The most recent example is a 22-year-old college student who has followed every metric of every rule of the NCAA, yet she has often been misgendered, deadnamed, demeaned as a “cheater” and worse.
To those who spit such venom? Congratulations! You are the 2021 Outsports Assholes of the Year.
Notice the plural here. Since so many of you trade in this bigotry, we want to point out the standout transphobes among you all.
The double play
We’ll start with some large outlets that found ways to misgender, deadname and demean all at the same time. They have done it consistently and without a care in the world for the needs of trans people.
I call it the “double play.”
A textbook case is the recent coverage surrounding University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas. Both the New York Post and the notoriously transphobic Daily Mail in the UK deadnamed her. Each publication went as far as using photos of her pre-transition without her consent.
Did they care about why deadnaming is poor journalistic ethics, in addition to being harmful to trans people? I doubt they read any Alex Kapitan, also known as “The Radical Copyeditor”:
“Using a trans person’s birth name or former pronouns without permission (even when talking about them in the past) is a form of violence.” — theradicalcopyeditor.com
Both the Post and Daily Mail claim to be news outlets staffed by journalists. I guess they missed what the Associated Press stylebook — considered “the journalists’ bible” — said about this situation: “In general, use the name by which a person currently lives or is widely known.”
As bad as these two publications have been, the largely right-wing, wannabe “edgy” clickbait crowd has been just as bad, if not worse. OutKick, for example, has gone as far as deadnaming her and putting her identity as a woman in “quotes” in one of their stories, in addition to continually running play #1 in the “transphobe’s playbook” (Play #1: Immediately sell the point that trans women are not women).
One thing I will say for both Travis and Tucker Carlson, pictured above. You know what they think about transgender people. Carlson took Travis one better by misgendering Thomas on national television.
A memo to Clay Travis and OutKick: Actually cover women’s sports before you speak of “defending” them. Gillian Branstetter, the press secretary for the National Women’s Law Center and before that a journalist, has your kind pretty much pegged.
How about their coverage of women's swimming? Katie Ledecky's four Golds from Tokyo? Maybe just very dedicated to one spo--ahh, no. pic.twitter.com/KWHYM67VwY— Gillian Branstetter (@GBBranstetter) December 22, 2021
Don’t worry Tucker, we didn’t forget about you. You and other commentators of similar ilk are award winners, too.
Sadly, a lot of people on social media take their cues from people like Carlson and Travis. The misgendering of Lia Thomas and others has gotten so bad on Outsports’ Facebook page that we closed the comments on any post involving transgender athletes. Literally hundreds of people have come onto Outsports’ social media just to misgender trans athletes.
It’s cruel, sick and hostile, but this is where we are as we head into 2022.
ADF: Masters of the dark art
All of these outlets seem to have learned from some of the masters of this dark art of misgendering: Those high-powered, political-professional transphobes like the Alliance Defending Freedom.
The leaders in copy-paste op-eds that read essentially similar from each of their varied clients in their legal endeavors to their attempts to have a judge thrown off out of a case because the judge refused to misgender two transgender Connecticut high school students the ADF attacked and demean relentlessly in a lawsuit.
In 2021, the ADF’s coordinated legislative assault on trans youth has ballooned to 38 states. The tally of those who have turned their cut-and-paste transgender student-athlete ban bills into laws is up to 10. One of those bills — in Florida — was signed into law on the first day of Pride.
Their strategy and tactics have spawned a nationwide surge of politicians ready to employ the problematic term “biological males” — a term that is hurtful to trans women and that is often used as a weapon to dehumanize transgender people — to advance a political agenda and ban trans women from women’s sports.
Send in the clones
Consider Idaho Republican state representative Barbara Ehardt as perhaps the most egregious example. She is the originator of what has become a legislative onslaught against transgender student-athletes.
Her prime tactic in hearings far beyond Idaho have focused on a single person as an object lesson. She consistently and willfully refers to University of Montana’s 2020 Big Sky Conference mile champion June Eastwood as a “biological male.” The goal it seems is to make the young woman, now in graduate school, a menace that threatens cisgender women in college sports.
Don’t believe us? See it for yourself.
Ehardt has spawned imitators across the country, such as Texas legislators Valoree Swanson and Charles Perry. Both elected officials weaponized the misgendering of trans athletes to push exclusionary legislation in the nation’s second most populous state in October.
There is also Beth Stelzer, the head of the “Save Women’s Sports” organization. She’s been at a number of these hearings as well, saying much the same in keeping with the tone of her group’s website, which takes every opportunity to misgender, including an entire section called “Males in Women’s Sports”.
This section lists former and current competing trans women athletes and often refers to them as “men” or “males.”
Save Women’s Sports held a protest along the course at USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships December 14, during which a trans woman, Austin Killips, was competing in women’s elite race. Despite the vitriol by the group every ntime she raced past their protest, Killips sped to a 10th-place finish.
The protest was particularly galling to various event supporters and other competitors, many who criticized USA Cycling for allowing the protest along the race course. It was particularly galling to Killips’ father, who expressed his frustration on social media immediately following the event.
Yes, Ms. Stelzer’s organization, and anybody who gives it aid and support, gets this award too.
In turn, all of the examples above spawn an army of social-media soldiers ready to storm the hill for transphobia. Deadnaming? They’ll do it. Misgendering? With consistent vigor. And in the case of Lia Thomas, they don’t go after just her, they have given her entire school a new hashtag.
The ignorance level mirrors that of commentators, pundits and politicians with platforms across mass media.
Congratulations honorees! I’m sure you're proud of this and will wear as an unfortunate badge of honor.