Politico doesn’t know how to report on trans issues

A recent expose on the publication by The Daily Beast mentioned a recent story about trans athletes

Katelyn Burns

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Photo by Russell Laurie, license

The issue of trans athletes, and specifically trans women and girl athletes in women’s sports is a nuanced one, with a lot of misunderstood and often willfully ignored science.

Given that the trans population in the US is tiny, and that people have been worried that trans women would soon take over women’s sports for the greater part of the last 50 years (which hasn’t happened and likely never will), it’s remarkable that Republicans have managed to take this niche, boutique issue and turn into something even somewhat electorally viable.

That doesn’t mean that Republicans are right, it’s just that they understand better than anyone how to turn a scary minority into an emotional wedge.

Enter Politico.

Last March, Politico reporter Gabby Orr published a piece about transgender athletes as a political issue. The article quoted 5 anti-trans or conservative political activists and operatives all spreading a largely inaccurate line that trans women would somehow usurp cis women in women’s sports. As a counterbalance, Orr included two quotes from an attorney at the Human Rights Campaign, who basically called it a manufactured issue.

The story didn’t quote a single trans person, instead using the HRC attorney as a stand-in for the pro trans side.

The story is not particularly bad and isn’t offensive in the slightest. It’s a pretty standard piece about electoral strategy, especially given that Republicans have abandoned legitimate policy-making to lean into culture war bullshit.

The Daily Beast reported that there was fallout within Politico in the wake of the story’s publication, setting older, more established reporters against the so-called “woke police,” younger staffers who likely have more exposure to trans people and sources. According to The Daily Best, a handful of Zoom meetings took place involving concerned staff.

Eventually the meetings concluded that the story could have been more inclusive of trans voices. It’s a reasonable conclusion, given that the piece didn’t quote…

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Katelyn Burns

Political journalist. The first openly trans Capitol Hill reporter in US history. Writing about more than just trans issues. Follow her on Twitter @transscribe