Retracted story: The Equality Act's Impact on Trans Athletes
From the Editor
On March 18, Options published a story online entitled The Equality Act’s Impact on Trans Athletes. Never has a story evoked more vehemence in all my time at Options, and we must take this opportunity to learn from our mistakes.
The since retracted story aimed to explore this national legislation’s impact on athletics from a local perspective, and featured the views of two Rhode Island LGBTQ community members. One paragraph included the unabashedly transphobic perspective of a local lesbian activist. Following that was a more lengthy rebuttal in favor of the Equality Act given by a well-respected trans athletic coach, drawing on his personal coming out experience and his philosophy about athletics, which was clearly the better argument. But I had missed a larger point.
While the story clearly favored trans-inclusivity and articulated shortcomings in the transphobic remarks, I would come to realize that offering our platform for such remarks – a dedicated safe space for ideas leading to the advancement of our local LGBTQ+ community – had caused great harm to our trans siblings, and for this I deeply apologize.
Almost immediately upon the article’s circulation in our e-newsletter on March 19, I learned the frightening news that legislation to bar trans women from competing in high school and college sports had been introduced in Rhode Island. On March 20, many prominent local trans activists contacted me to express their anger and hurt, saying that our untimely article perpetuated transphobia and caused harm to the trans community. They demanded a retraction, which I gave – first the removal of the inflammatory paragraph, then the entire story – out of respect and knowledge of their myriad community contributions, as well as the insight their demands afforded me.
I see now that including the harmful perspective was at the least insensitive, and borderline antagonistic. While this transphobic community member had approached me several times over the years to express her abhorrent views in Options, this was the first time I included them, figuring the exposure of this view circulating within our community was valuable information, and that understanding her arguments would empower us to fight against them. While that may be true, we should have done more within the article to refute the hostility and debunk false science concerning gender and biology. Trans rights should not be up for debate in Options, and transphobic members of the queer community do not have a valid argument in using biology to exclude trans people from gender segregated spaces. That was not clear in the article. Options will work to become more educated in how to represent issues of trans justice in a way that is well-informed and educates the greater queer community. Prioritizing the dignity and safety of our trans community members must and will take priority going forward.
My true failure was in skirting a long-held tradition at Options: that pieces are edited by an astute team of copy editors before going to press. From before and through my tenure at Options, this team has included one or more trans or nonbinary people. Not adhering to our standard editing procedure was a disservice to our trans siblings, our readership, and our writer. As editor-in-chief, I commit to developing online editing practices that ensure our previously held editing standards for print are met.
It was also pointed out to me that we missed an opportunity to center the experiences of trans women, who time and again must languish in the crosshairs as legislators and commentators debate their very existence and worth. We made one attempt to reach a trans woman athlete for this story but did not make the connection. The Options team acknowledges that it must work harder to deepen its network so that we can reach community members of diverse backgrounds, interests, and abilities.
Options is facing a confluence of challenges that can be summed up as a lack of resources. But we are working hard to adapt and improve, and I believe we will get there. I thank the community members who offered their guidance, demonstrating that there is great value to the news shared through this cherished community resource, and that we can all be a part of helping Options reach its greatest potential.