The Acorn takes a harmful stance on transgender athletes and masks it as journalism

Nothing is ethical about this editorial


The transphobic editorial published by the Acorn represents the views of the paper.

At the core of every respectable publication is a solid ethical framework which justifies the writing from a moral standpoint. Without concern for the ethical ramifications of publishing certain ideas, a newspaper is no better than a junkyard for information.

As a reporter for the Talon for two years and a lifelong news reader, I understand the almost sacred weight that an editorial piece carries. Typically, they are landmark articles written in advocacy of something: a topic the publication feels so passionate about they are willing to stake their reputation on by putting their name in the byline.

On April 28th, 2023, The Acorn published an editorial entitled, “Nothing is level about this playing field.” It briefly focuses on a new piece of legislation that would not allow transgender women to compete in women’s sports and introduces The Acorn’s position on the issue: transfeminine athletes should not be allowed to compete in women’s sports because, according to the editorial board, they have biological advantages over their competitors. 

The issue does not lie with the fact that Acorn writers hold these beliefs, although I must note that I ardently disagree with them and believe them to be hateful. Editorials are listed under the Opinion section of every newspaper. In this section, Acorn writers have the liberty to exercise their right to free speech. The issue lies in the fact that this article demonstrates a clear lack of journalistic integrity, instead replaced by harmful rhetoric and virulent hatred with scant factual support. 

The Acorn editorial calls transgender women “athletically superior men-by-birth” and “boys and men who identify as women.” This language is a case of weaponized ignorance, unnecessarily insensitive to and deeply dehumanizing to the over 1 million transgender Americans. Especially with the recent trends slamming transgender people, and a history of violence against those in the LGBTQIA+ community, furthering false narratives like these is irresponsible. 

This is not the only case of gratuitously offensive language in the article. The editorial references the transgender female athlete Lea Thomas, describing her as a person “who was born a male and competed as a female.” Such references to transgender women as men do nothing to add value to the article: this is no more descriptive than using the word transgender. They are simply an effort to invalidate the existence of individuals who merely desire respect and tolerance for how they express their gender. 

The editorial also discusses the case of a transgender female MMA fighter named Fallon Fox, who caused injury to another woman’s skull in a fight. While doing so, The Acorn refers to Fox by her deadname, which is the name she went by before her transition. Broadcasting her deadname is not only an utterly irrelevant detail to the issue at hand; it is also extremely disrespectful and deeply unethical for various reasons. 

Her deadname is not her legal name and is in no way pertinent to discussions about her performance as a fighter. But beyond that, bringing it up only serves to act as a reminder of her life pre-transition and is a subtle move to try and delegitimize her identity post-transition. Sometimes, deadnaming someone can be an accident but when published in an editorial, along with other hateful rhetoric, there is no room for mistakes like these. 

Furthermore there is a complete lack of objective evidence and zero statistics used. There is no data on the number of trans-athletes that rank in the highest levels of athletics and they provide no evidence from cisgender women who feel uncertain about their personal performance in their respective sports. 

This piece does not have the goal of informing the public and bringing about constructive discourse. The writer seems primarily concerned with bullying marginalized groups, advocating a response fueled by fear, rather than one fueled by the facts of the matter.

This is further supported by the sheer amount of fear mongering present within the editorial. It describes the fact that, under the new “Biden rule,” transgender women could possibly use women’s facilities, including locker rooms, dorms and women’s centers. It’s at this point that the editorial shifts from the biological disparities in women’s sport competitions to a subtle implication of the possible malicious intent of transgender women. 

And the fear is further instilled when the editorial says “then a Title IX school near you, the one your son or daughter attends, will be hard at work revising policies and procedures so that biological boys may compete in girls’ sports.” Quite honestly, it’s a manipulative form of pathos used to scare parents in the community that something could possibly harm their children. Nothing elicits more fear than a parent being presented with the fact that their child might suffer some injustice, and nothing is more unethical than presenting that false fact as true. 

Opinionated journalism should not be motivated purely by the desire to cause harm to others. Using your position to instill fear and attack minority groups is an abuse of the power granted to journalists. Even the most scathing opinions should focus primarily on constructing a well-thought-out argument through a lens of empathy and understanding to bring about some meaningful societal improvement.

Personally, I believe that trans rights are human rights and that everyone’s identity is their own private business. But, even if you fundamentally disagree with these assertions, there is a certain level of respect that trans people, as humans, are innately owed.

Whether or not you think the playing field is level, you should do your best, as a journalist, as a publication and as a human being, to approach issues where lives are at stake with a little bit of compassion. This editorial weaponizes elements of harmful propaganda and is simply not journalism. The Acorn readers deserve better.