Executive at Conservative Media Watchdog Group Accuses Me of Bias for Not Outing Myself as Transgender

November 2, 2013

Dan Gainor, Vice President of Business and Culture for the Media Research Center, a conservative media watchdog group (think of them as a bizarro world version of Media Matters), accused me of being unethical in my reporting for Rolling Stone. According to their website, Media Research Center’s “sole mission is to expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the Left: the national news media.” Welp.

In case you missed it, I reported on the efforts to repeal a California law designed to protect transgender students in grades K-12. It was first published yesterday on RollingStone.com. I interviewed several people on the topic: Matthew McReynolds of the Pacific Justice Institute (one of the groups pushing for repeal), Masen Davis of the Transgender Law Center (one of the groups defending the law), California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (author of the original legislation), and Ashton Lee (a transgender 16-year old student in California). Additionally, I put in interview requests with two more organizations pushing for the law’s repeal: National Organization for Marriage & Privacy for All Students. Neither group responded to my request.

Overall, I feel like I provided an objective look at the concerns groups like PJI, NOM and PAS have; as well as the reasons groups like TLC feel the law is important to ensure the safety of all students (including trans students). I stuck to a few pieces of primary source data:

  1. Text of the legislation itself. You can find that here.
  2. Information provided to me in interviews.
  3. Information available on the websites of these organizations.

I didn’t, for example, point to reports that the Pacific Justice Institute had falsely accused a transgender student in Colorado of harassing girls in a restroom. I didn’t point out the amount of out of state money that was being shoveled into the repeal effort by the likes of giant corporations like Jelly Belly (alas, my favorite jelly beans are now tainted!). I didn’t point to reports that signature gatherers pushing for repeal have allegedly (well, it is caught on tape…) been lying to people in order to get them to sign the petition. I didn’t point to the fact that PJI has been running ads that portray all transgender people as big, burly “men in dresses” (you stay classy). I didn’t even mention that the Pacific Justice Institute had been classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate group.”

Why? Because reporting on other reports leads you down a path towards bias. I wanted to put out a straight news piece that could both highlight an important issue that has been under-reported, as well as highlight my skills as a journalist (hire me. Please? C’mon. Okay, e-mail me).

Still, this wasn’t good enough for Dan Gainor.

While I see where Dan’s coming from, there was absolutely nothing in that piece that could have been seen as being from an activist’s viewpoint. I didn’t have a chance to look at the link that demonstrated why he believes I’m an “activist” until much later, but once I saw the piece he referenced, I went from feeling disagreeable to feeling angry.

Here’s the piece he chose: Coming Out to My Parents as Trans: An E-mail Exchange.

He referenced the e-mail, something personal I decided to share with the world, as an example of me “being an activist.” Please. Read that post. The only thing I’m advocating for in that piece is my own existence and the love of my parents. That post, in and of itself, means that I should be forced to out myself to the 10 million+ monthly visitors to RollingStone.com? Really? The post only had to do with who I am as a human being. The post didn’t make mention of political affiliation, stance on legislation, support of an organization. In it, I talked about myself.

Because I’m transgender, because I’m someone who has deep knowledge of what it’s like to feel as lost and scared as many of those kids in California; that should disqualify me from reporting on trans issues? Is that honestly what Gainor believes?

I am a professional, Dan. My reporting doesn’t require an asterisk or a disclaimer (which would only be used to delegitimize what I’ve written). I don’t see cisgender journalists having to include disclaimers that they’re cisgender when dealing with issues affecting them. If a white man reported on Mitt Romney during the election last year, by this logic, shouldn’t he have had to disclose that he, like Romney, is also white and male?

There are other things I’ve written where you could say that I take stances on items. Sure. This wasn’t one of them, and shame on you, Dan, for saying it was. My identity doesn’t make me an activist. My existence doesn’t make me unfit to be a journalist.


11 Responses to “Executive at Conservative Media Watchdog Group Accuses Me of Bias for Not Outing Myself as Transgender”

  1. @MissParkerMarie, The problem with people like Mr. Dan Gainor is that their minds are already made up and they do not wish to be confused by the facts. Their definition of “fair and balanced” is very fuzzy indeed. I’m sure that he thinks that you outing yourself would taint an excellent article. Congratulations on your RS debut & stay classy yourself. I am now humming the Dr. Hooks song, to myself, in your honor!

  2. You handled yourself very well! His argument is the equivalent of absurdity; should any woman who writes a piece of journalism disclose “I have a functioning uterus and ovaries” if the topic includes abortion? Or if a child is murdered, should anyone writing on that horrible “situation” be required to disclose “I have children”? Maybe conservatives who write stories in the mainstream media about food stamps should also be mandated to declare “I think these people should go out and find a job instead of being dependent on the state for sustenance.”

    Calling BULLSHIT. As you so eloquently explained, disclosing your “situation” would be expected in an opinion piece or one of advocacy. Sheesh!

  3. jemima2013 Says:

    As so often I see parallels with the sex workers rights movement, which is why in the dim and distant past I wrote a natural allies post. If you “declare and interest” your words will be dismissed as biased, if you dont, and it comes out you are duplicitous and biased. Its an argument used to silence the marginalised and oppressed.
    People like Gainor believe they are more qualified to comment by virtue of being cishet white men. everyone else is simply trying to push an agenda, whilst they of course have none, maintaining the status quo being seen as simply normal, and never ever in their favour.

  4. Dianne P Says:

    Very journalistic article in the Rolling Stone! This person is angry because you didn’t apply a Fox “News” template to it. I read a huge amount of trans related news (a very huge amount…) and I am honed in on seeing bias. I read this article earlier and was impressed by how “real news” it was. Facts, balance, no bias. People on both sides of issues have gotten used to the consumer based news where you get the coverage that prefilters things for you and you get your predigested anger ready made. Thus they are so used to inherent bias that any coverage missing their pre-bile-gorged bias MUST be evidence of “the other side.” Heck! I was initially frustrated that it didn’t “expose” the PJI and didn’t explore the trans narrative “enough.”

    But it wasn’t written for me!!! It was written for the general public to inform them, not to convince them. It wasn’t written to make me feel good or to make conservatives feel good. That’s the point! The complainer is a paid reactionary hack. Sadly, I am increasingly convinced that we can’t fix the world by bringing discussion or journalism back to the middle. I am increasingly convinced that we ACTUALLY DO have to get in the mud and wrestle with the public opinion pig.

    “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” George Bernard Shaw

  5. Juli-Ann Says:

    I think being unbiased when being a journalistis the way to be…
    No matter how a person identifies.
    Gay news reporters don’t have to disclose themselves or republican, democrats liberals etc. Etc…
    The idea of writing is to be fair and provide info from all sides…
    So if I am from Florida? I shouldn’t write about it because you know, I am from there.

  6. Michelle G. Says:

    I am just so very happy to have you on “my side”!

    When I see and hear those conservative gas bags spout their hate like it’s read from a universal script I can’t help but wonder why…how can they honestly sleep at night with all that hateful dogma bouncing off the walls inside their heads!

    I re read your RS story again and can’t for the life of me see anything that warrants the attacks from him!


  7. ericaforman Says:

    You know I may have criticized you for being neutral in my comments on the piece (Schooly Dee), by even quoting PJI. The funny thing is that I had not noticed your by-line. So given that I know who you are as a writer, I did not think it was slanted at all. Being a traswoman myself, I am sometimes grateful for truthful and unslanted news about trans related issues.
    So Yeah, that is BS, because I would be inclined to say it was too neutral.

  8. Daniel Hauff Says:

    Thank you for not only standing up for yourself on Twitter but also for sharing the experience with all of us here. This takes courage and commitment to your well being. Your actions are admirable.

    We at OutJustice commend you for your professionalism in this and your original article, your strength, and your refusal to hide in the face of his shamefully hateful harassment. Well done.

  9. Charlene M Boyles Says:

    Perhaps Mr. Gainor should consider promulgating a uniform standard for journalists of any ilk or persuasion which at least would inform all readers or listeners as to the journalists possible biases.

    And for a start his proposed standard might include: Number of arrests, DUI’s, traffic tickets, number of spouses, number of divorces, number of civil actions filed against them, number of visits to bordellos, fraternal or sororital affiliations, political affiliations, other clubs, religious affiliations, a list of all their cash flows and remunerations and sources, employment history, etc, etc, etc… Wouldn’t want any little inconvenient personal facts slipping through the cracks of judgemental thinking. Think how he could raise the bar for all of journalists….

    I’d hate to think that someone with an informed opinion or personal experience with a particular issue would be the only person to be “called out” for being an activist when experience is most likely to be the single most important asset for investigating a particular issue.

    Good job, Ms Malloy!

  10. Jamey Says:

    Mr Gainor isn’t looking to broaden his perspectives or have his mind changed. He’s part of the subset of “serious” people who think that transgendered persons or the parents of transgender minors are forcing their own (or their kids’) [sic] “sexuality” on others, just to piss them off or otherwise make a “statement.”

    It’s depressing.

    And for this reason, I love your aplomb in defending yourself and your journalistic practices.

  11. Maybe we can hope one day that people who espouse these toxic views will apologise to those they have wronged.

    Of course, that will never happen, but we can hope.

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