The Economist caused an outcry on Tuesday by tweeting a question about whether the transgender people should be sterilized.
The post included a link to a story by the U.K. magazine about a ruling by Japan’s Supreme Court earlier this year that upheld sterilization as a prerequisite for a person to be officially deemed transgender. The tweet, which was quickly deleted, asked: “Should transgender people be sterilized before they are recognized?”
— Lily! Madigan🌹 (@lesbianleftie) March 19, 2019
As the Economist article explained, Japan also mandates that transgender people who want official status have surgery to make their genitals look more male or female, be older than 20, not have minor children, and be diagnosed with “gender-identity disorder.”
Liberal activists were outraged that the Economist would raise the question of sterilization as though it were legitimate.
British entrepreneur and prominent LGBT advocate Anthony Watson suggested the venerable publication was promoting the use of “eugenics” against transgender people and contributing to youth suicide within the identity group.
. @TheEconomist asked if #transgender people should be sterilised. That’s right: sterilised. Is it any wonder half of all #trans youth attempt suicide when prominent media outlets write #transphobic click-bait crap to advance the view that #eugenics be used against #trans people! https://t.co/DDCrSYMNpw
— Anthony Watson (@AnthonyWatson) March 20, 2019
American transgender rights promoter Parker Malloy dropped a stream of F-bombs, saying the Economist was normalizing transphobia.
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) March 20, 2019
The Economist later tried to explain that it had made a mistake, but some people were not satisfied.
You mean the one that suggested sterilizing trans people was open for debate?
Yeah, that’s not a “mischaracterization.” That’s transphobia, and it’s the kind of nonsense you should be apologizing for. https://t.co/d6QiVEMQY7
— Zack Ford (@ZackFord) March 19, 2019
On Wednesday, the magazine tersely apologized, saying: “We were wrong to use the first line of this article out of its context. Sorry.”
The article explores in detail a question that was put to Japan’s Supreme Court. Our tweets often use a line from the articles they link to. We were wrong to use the first line of this article out of its context. Sorry
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) March 20, 2019
Coba Weel, a self-described gender-neutral queer “SJW,” expressed certainty that the Economist’s tweet was not a mistake, but rather a deliberate troll. If the magazine cared about transgender people, she claimed it would have fired finance editor Helen Joyce, who has been an outspoken critic of the transgender rights movement.
Let’s take a look at this here tweet of hers. pic.twitter.com/slF6IlI06h
— Coba Weel 💜⚧💚 (@weel) March 19, 2019
The backlash against the Economist was part of an aggressive international campaign to advance transgender rights. The effort has quickly paid dividends, upending social norms, laws, and even language. However, critics have warned that the movement’s zealousness has silenced legitimate debate on what amounts to a sweeping social change.