Following criticism over its recent coverage of transgender issues, Fox News is being petitioned to put an end to its long history of promoting misleading and defamatory representations of the transgender community.
Fox News came under fire after its Fox Nation website paired a January 13 article about transgender health insurance coverage with an image from the movie “Mrs. Doubtfire”:
The Fox Nation post sparked a petition from LGBT equality group Basic Rights Oregon, which called on Fox News to “end its transphobic content”:
Fox News: stop misrepresenting gay and transgender people with sensational and dehumanizing coverage. Trivializing transgender people's need for medically necessary health care ignores the position of the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and countless other authorities on health care. We demand an apology and that Fox News end its transphobic content.
The transgender community has been a constant target of Fox News’ anti-LGBT commentary and misinformation over the past several years.
Mocking Transgender People
Fox Nation has a reputation for using inappropriate images and headlines to defame the transgender community. Long before it used Mrs. Doubtfire to depict transgender health problems, it used an image of a man in a wig to depict transgender people and implied that gender reassignment surgery caused a German politician to become a leftist:
Fox News reporter Todd Starnes has also mocked transgender women. In June, Starnes reacted to the news that a pro-transgender contestant had won the 2012 Miss USA pageant by mocking her on Twitter, writing:
In 2011, the crew of Fox & Friends poked fun at Chaz Bono, who had suffered a knee injury while performing on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, joking that it was “the one part of Chaz that hasn’t been operated on.”
During a segment about a 7-year-old transgender girl in Colorado who had been barred from joining a local Girl Scouts troop, Fox’s Bill O’Reilly bluntly stated “so it’s a transvestite boy.”
And on January 11, both O’Reilly and Fox host Megyn Kelly mocked the appearance of a transgender prison inmate, joking that she was not attractive enough to be sexually assaulted in prison.
Attacking Transgender Protections
When Fox isn’t outright making fun of transgender people, it is busy criticizing efforts to combat transphobic intolerance and discrimination.
When the Girl Scouts of Colorado chose to accept a transgender girl into its ranks in 2011, FoxNews.com turned to some of the most transphobic pundits in America to comment on the story.
The network also invited hate group leader Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, to criticize the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency for providing hormone therapy to transgender detainees. Perkins referred to the program as “cross-dressing as healthcare.”
Fox also invited the founder of the notoriously anti-LGBT Liberty Counsel to condemn Macy’s after the company fired an employee for refusing to allow a transgender customer to use the fitting room of her choice.
The Fox & Friends crew has repeatedly mocked efforts to accommodate transgender people, including gender-neutral housing policies on college campuses and gender-neutral passports.
The crew also celebrated the International Transgender Day of Remembrance by scoffing at a transgender inmate in Massachusetts who requested that the state provide her with electrolysis treatment to complete her gender transition.
When a California school attempted to institute gender diversity lessons to promote tolerance and understanding, Fox ran three separate segments attacking the program in two days, with Perkins warning that the lessons might indoctrinate children into homosexuality.
Fox’s O’Reilly made a similar criticism of the television show, Glee, which featured a story line about a transgender teenager struggling with her gender identity. O’Reilly warned that the show would encourage “dopey kids” to experiment with homosexuality and potentially identify as transgender.
Fox’s harshest criticism, however, has been reserved for the supportive parents of transgender youth. Fox’s O’Reilly suggested that the parents of a transgender boy in Maryland might be guilty of “child abuse” for supporting their son.
Peddling Transphobic Pseudoscience
A large chunk of Fox’s anti-trans talking points originate with Dr. Keith Ablow, the network’s resident anti-LGBT pseudoscientist and a member for Fox News’ “Medical A-Team.”
Ablow is most famous for igniting a controversy surrounding Chaz Bono’s appearance on Dancing with the Stars in 2011. Ablow warned that children watching the show might be [[come]] convinced to identify as transgender, a claim that was quickly discredited by medical experts. During several appearances on Fox, Ablow defended his column, comparing transgender people to people suffering from anorexia and heroin addiction.
Despite being chastised by major medical organizations, Ablow used his FoxNews.com column to continue to assert that Americans are “Bono-ing… ourselves into oblivion.”
Ablow has also used his position as a medical “expert” to criticize a J. Crew catalogue featuring a picture of designer Jenna Lyons painting her son’s toenails pink. Ablow warned that such imagery might throw children into “psychological turmoil” and cause people to “grotesquely amputate body parts.”
When news broke of a lesbian couple in California deciding to support their transgender daughter, Ablow peddled the myth that having same-sex parents may have caused the child to become transgender. He also misinformed viewers about the consequences of allowing potentially transgender youth to use hormone blockers, claiming that the hormone treatments would be “tough to reverse.”
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