Transphobic advertisement is unethical


Photo and graphic by Ruby Dennis

Ruby Dennis, Staff Writer

The Star Tribune’s choice to include an extremely transphobic advertisement in its Sunday issue was horrific. It was a blatant disregard for ethics, and shocking coming from a newspaper many have come to believe is respectable.

At a glance, the advertisement appeared to be about men invading the showers of teenage girls. It read, “A male wants to shower beside your 14-year-old daughter. Are YOU okay with that?” Out of context, one’s knee-jerk reaction would probably be to say, “no, of course not!” But that’s just what they want you to think.

Upon closer investigation, it’s clear that the advertisement was meant to oppose the MSHSL’s policy proposal that would further enforce the permission of transgender students to participate in the gendered sport of their choice.

This ad was blatantly transphobic. It’s not okay to imply that transgender girls are “males” (surprisingly, girls are indeed female), and that they are potential sexual offenders. It certainly isn’t appropriate content for Minnesota’s largest newspaper.

“I understand freedom of speech and freedom of press, and you can print whatever you want to print, but those things shouldn’t necessarily cover hate speech,” said AJ Gerick, a recent South graduate. “And I think that the Star Tribune should’ve at least asked whoever was running the ad, ‘could you maybe change this so it’s slightly less offensive?’”

In addition, the article seems to have completely missed the point of the policy (which will be voted on December 4th.) Nobody will be forced to shower anywhere they don’t feel comfortable being. The policy only says schools must “ensure reasonable and appropriate restroom and locker room accessibility for students.” This is an extremely flexible rule that schools may interpret in a variety of ways.

Transphobia like this, especially against teenagers, is not restricted to high school athletics. It’s just part of a much bigger problem in society, including the judicial system. The Center For American Progress reported that while “gay and transgender youth represent just 5 percent to 7 percent of the nation’s overall youth population, they compose 13 percent to 15 percent of those currently in the juvenile justice system.” This is a great disparity in comparison to cisgender, heterosexual youth.

The Star Tribune should not allow hate speech to permeate its supposedly clean and neutral pages, and furthermore should apologize for this mistake. Why? Here’s a fun new idea: transgender people are human, and deserve the same rights and respect as everyone else.

UPDATE, 12/1/14:

The Star Trib’s done it again. Another transphobic advertisement was published in the popular newspaper, once again sponsored by the Minnesota Child Protection League.

A full-page photograph of a women’s softball player, accompanied by large text reading “THE END OF GIRLS’ SPORTS?,” emblazoned the Sunday (November 30th) issue this weekend. Further down, it says this: “her dreams of a scholarship shattered, your 14-year-old daughter just lost her position on an all-girl team to a male… and now she may have to shower with him.”

As before, the ad addressed a decision (tabled, to be reopened December 4th) by the MSHSL about whether or not transgender students can participate in sports that match their gender identity.

As NBC sports writer Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) tweeted, “sub in basically any other group of humans for transgendered people and try to imagine a newspaper accepting the ad.”

In this scenario, it would not be published, because this is hate speech.

Star Tribune, please stop perpetuating stereotypes towards transgender people, and revise your advertising policies to prohibit the publication of prejudice.