A reporter with The Guardian newspaper has come under fire for equating transphobia in the news media to fascism and urging publications to fight it.
Julia Carrie Wong, a senior technology reporter based in San Francisco, made a series of controversial comments on Twitter on Sunday while weighing in on a New York Times op-ed in which columnist Pamela Paul argued that “uber-progressives” were denying women their humanity and erasing them from the conversation by pandering to the transgender community.
“Tolerance for one group need not mean intolerance for another,” Paul wrote in her column. “We can respect transgender women without castigating females who point out that biological women still constitute a category of their own — with their own specific needs and prerogatives.”
Many left-wing journalists hit out at Paul on social media, accusing her of espousing transphobic ideas.
“I think that we’re entering a period when most meaningful political distinction will be fascist and anti-fascist,” Wong tweeted. “It’s really important to understand that transphobia is one of the most potent entry points to fascism today — and act accordingly.”
Transgender rights have been at the heart of an intense and complex public debate, with those speaking critically on the subject, including “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, being labelled transphobic for their views.
Critics such as Rowling have raised questions about whether transgender women should be treated the same as biological women in every sphere, including in sports, despite having apparent physical advantages.
Without mentioning Paul by name, Wong argued that some journalists have been able to rise to positions of powers in their industry by keeping their “biases and bigotries” concealed.
“Hard to express how deeply disturbing it is to see the UK media status quo of transphobia being an acceptable bigotry creep into the American press,” Wong added.
“I don’t have a lot of wins to point to when it comes to fighting this as a publication, but I will say that I think it’s imperative to fight it.”
Twitter critics wasted no time blasting Wong.
“Only a mind that is intolerant of individualism would make such an accusation of people who chose not to celebrate or promote what they want no part of,” user Tony Newberry wrote. “We are living in a time where the false intellectuals have adopted a form of marxism (sic), who call all who oppose them fascists.”
Another critic Neil Hamilton opined: “‘Transphobia’ is a word so overused that it has been drained of all meaning, assuming it ever had a meaning in the first place.”
Others pushed back against Wong’s argument that the British media were to blame for the proliferation of transphobia in the US.
“The bigotry and transphobia in the UK came from American groups bringing their hatred to the UK,” wrote Twitter user Roswald Walton.
Unbowed by the furious online backlash, Wong responded to her many detractors by tweeting, “lol I said what I said.”
Wong is a graduate of Harvard University and University of Iowa, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction in 2008.
During President Barack Obama’s first successful run for the White House in 2008, Wong worked as a field organizer for his campaign.
After working as a freelance journalist in Oakland and then a staff writer for SF Weekly, Wong was hired by The Guardian US in 2016 to cover the tech industry and the West Coast.