Yellow Journalism Trumps Trans Truths
The workings of the new media are not quite what they used to be and the romantic view of the reporter doggedly shaking down their leads to bring in a story is quickly fading away. Today, the goal is to bring in a story fast and first – with depth and accuracy often, at best, secondary. Stories are often picked up without attribution, passed around like a childhood game of telephone. Many, too, are little more than parroting of press releases and prepackaged fluff stories. As a result, one usually has to look at the news with a careful eye, doing the fact checking that was once done at your local television station or newspaper desk. Enter an article on the website for the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). The article talks about a transgender student at Florence High School in Florence, Colorado. Presumably, this student was harassing others in the restroom at school, and school officials told complaining parents that the transgender student’s rights “trumped” their daughters’ rights to privacy. More than this, students were threatened with being charged with hate crimes and being kicked off school teams simply for speaking out against this student. The hero of this story is the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), who sent a sternly worded letter to the school. “We’re not going to stand by and let 99.7 percent of our students lose their privacy and free speech rights just because .3 percent of the population are gender-confused,” said the PJI. They continued, demanding the school provide assurances that “privacy and expressive rights” will be protected. Now it is hardly surprising to see a conservative group like the PJI climb immediately into such a case. The very day that California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB1266, a bill that prohibits schools from discrimination based on gender, gender identity, and gender expression, the PJI took the lead opposing the bill. They launched a website, genderinsanity.com, and began the search for “anyone who will be victimized as a result of this new law.” I should note that one of those victim classes they were seeking was “someone whose privacy rights are violated in the bathroom.” CBN launched their article about Florence High School on a Sunday, while the school was closed and no one was available to comment. A handful of other news websites picked up this news, all credited back to the CBN site. None of them added any details beyond what CBN had provided, and none of them spoke with the PJI, school officials, or any of the concerned parents of any of the students. I do not want to claim that the PJI, let alone CBN, fabricated this story from whole cloth, though I do suspect there is a whole lot to this story that is not being presented. The story begins by talking about the push for “radical transgender rights” and tells us about a “male student” who “claims to be a transgender” and has been “harassing girls in the bathroom.” The picture they wish to paint in your mind is of a boy who is sexually harassing female classmates, and using transgender-based protections to hide behind. Yes, the so-called “bathroom meme.” I am pretty tired of talking about the bathroom meme, but it appears to be the transgender version of “gays recruit” or “Dungeons & Dragons leads to worshipping Satan.” In short form, they claim that if you allow transgender people to use public accommodations like restrooms, sexual predators will claim to be transgender in order to rape and molest your wife and children – and the law will protect them. To date, there have not been any proven cases of this happening: not in Colorado, not in California, not anywhere. Rape and assault remain crimes no matter who does them, let alone the fact that a molester or rapist is not going to go through the trouble of establishing a transgender identity when they can likely find plenty of other easier ways to prey on people. Buried within the comments on one CBN-sourced article was a reply from a student of Florence High School, who signed herself as “Honest Jane.” Her reply gives us another side to this story. “Honest Jane” has never seen the trans youth harass anyone, and labels them as being both “shy” and “a nice person.” While she herself is torn about this student using the women’s room in which “maybe 30 percent” of the other girls are uncomfortable, she knows that they would get assaulted in the men’s room. The issue about getting charged with a hate crime or getting kicked off the sports teams was not as simple as the PJI painted it: There had been a post on Facebook, where this teen transwoman was “outed” by a number of students, and the school opted to act in response to it. It was this response, which included confiscation of students’ electronic devices, presumably to intrude on the privacy of the transgender student, that the parents raised objection to. A conversation that transadvocate Cristan Williams had with a school district representative backs up “Honest Jane.” There has been no harassment on the part of this young transgender woman and the majority of students and parents are supportive of the student and the school. Further, a report on KOAA 5 in Colorado Springs backed this up, giving us even more information about the transgirl in question, Jessica Valentine, and further debunking claims that she was also allowed to use the girls’ locker room. So why is the CBN story so slanted? I see this story as part of a larger strategy, and expect we will see this article trotted out as “proof” that AB1266 needs to be repealed. It seemingly has everything the PJI was asking for, and would make a great newspaper clipping to “prove” their point. Perhaps I have worn too many tinfoil hats, but it just seems to fit too well. So I ask you, dear reader, to continue to be cautious about what you read, and look for more to the story: There may be more at work than you may realize.