The grimly repeating history of homophobia at The New York Times

Jack Mirkinson writes that The New York Times' reportorial hostility to trans people echoes a long history of homophobia—something for which it has apologized in recent years, but learned little from. His article is an excellent and explicit history of the Times' attitude toward gays and people with AIDS, with links to old articles, and an implicit argument about how this institutional attitude persists there to be transferred to others.

One part of [former NYT executive editor A. M.] Rosenthal's 1992 conversation with Signorile is especially pertinent today. Asked why he maintained the ban on the word "gay," Rosenthal said that he "felt at that time that the Times should not use a word for political purposes until that word has become accepted as part of the language."

There are clear echoes of this kind of blinkered loftiness in [current NYT executive editor] Joseph Kahn's acid references to "advocacy groups" in his staff memo about the paper's trans coverage. Thirty years after Rosenthal's admission, the Times is still trapped in the same bunker when it comes to LGBTQ issues. It is still at pains to distance itself from what it clearly believes to be an activist mob that doesn't understand what Real Journalism is all about. It is still so instinctively appalled at the notion that its critics might be right that it is choosing the path of aristocratic contempt.

I like a comment Mirkinson made elsewhere about the mentality of it: "swimming in foul water." It gets at how demands for acceptance generate an unhinging reactionary impulse in people whose first principle is tolerance.