The most recent episode of CBS Sunday Morning featured the segment, "Born this way: stories of transgender children," in which trans kids and teens, and their parents, spoke of their journeys and identities.
Unfortunately, the segment also gave airtime to Brad Dacus, noted anti-LGBT extremist and president of the Pacific Justice institute, which has been designated an active hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Rather than clarifying to viewers that the opinions were from the leader of a known hate group who regularly demonizes LGBT people, CBS Sunday Morning instead referred to the Pacific Justice Institute simply as "a conservative legal group" and did not provide background information on Dacus' anti-trans activism.
As if having the leader of an active hate group wasn't enough, CBS News also decided it was a good idea to poll Americans: "Transgendered [sic] students should use the bathrooms/locker rooms of their...birth gender [or] preferred gender?" The premise of this question, in itself, is problematic. Furthermore, its phrasing is inaccurate and implies being trans is a choice or a preference, rather than a legitimate identity.
Perhaps most significantly, with 59% of respondents voting for "birth gender," the results indicate that public education on transgender issues is at a place where a hate group leader's reinforcement of false and negative information is unfair, inaccurate, and harmful journalism. Trans youth do not need Dacus to undermine or invalidate their identity to a national audience.
When we learned that Dacus was to be a detracting voice within the segment that primarily focused on listening to transgender youth and their families, GLAAD reached out to CBS Sunday Morning producers and publicists, notifying them of the violent rhetoric Dacus has used in the past and shared his profile on the Commentator Accoutability Project. We asked if they would let viewers know who he really is and what type of organization PJI is known to be. CBS representatives proceeded to feature PJI's president.
Dacus was invited to present the "opposing" opinion, though CBS Sunday Morning failed to mention that Dacus' opinion on the LGBT community has included statements like:
- Referring to law protecting transgender students as "hideous;" claims it will lead to "many casualties"
- Saying a law designed to protect transgender students will turn CA schools "into a horror film"
- Praying for LGBT people to be freed from "Satan's dominion"
- Calling in-school protections for trans students "forcing boys and girls to share bathrooms, locker rooms and sleeping arrangements is not equality; it is insanity," and launching "GenderInsanity.com" to promote this disparaging and false viewpoin
- Defending a pastor who said gay people are abmoinations who deserve to be stoned to death
- Comparing stopping marriage equality to stopping the Nazis
Dacus is also known to support widely discredited practices, such as "ex-gay conversion therapy" and blatantly lying to the public; last October, his organization fabricated a story about a transgender teenager harassing other students in order to fight against equal protections for trans youth in California schools.
These are just a handful of the many horrible and baseless claims Dacus has made, all of which are documented on GLAAD's Commentator Accountability Project profile on the PJI leader. Right Wing Watch has also compiled a profile on Dacus.
During the show, he told CBS reporter Rita Braver, "A 13-year-old or 14-year-old girl in a locker room has to change and dress and be naked in front of, say, a 16-year-old boy simply because a 16-year-old boy who's a biological boy, but inside has a mental condition called gender identity dysphoria and thinks that he's a girl. This is ludicrous, and really unreasonable [emphasis added]."
Dacus e-mailed PJI supporters over the weekend, celebrating that "due to our involvement in this issue of children's privacy, I was asked to sit down with the national CBS Sunday Morning show for an interview." The "involvement" of which he speaks refers to Dacus role as leading opposition against California's AB 1266.
The bill, also known as the School Success and Opportunity Act, was signed into law in August 2013 and ensures that trans students have equal access to school accommodations and safety protections. In February, anti-trans activists tried to repeal the law, but could not gather enough petition signatures to garner a referendum vote.
"It's not difficult to discern why Dacus was so enthusiastic about the segment," said Media Matters in a recent blog post. "Even if CBS devoted the vast majority of its segment to telling transgender kids' stories, Dacus knows that the mere opportunity to peddle transphobic talking points on a mainstream news program lends his organization an aura of credibility - no matter how ill-deserved."
The reporting in the story attempted to let trans youth and their parents speak for themselves to make their experiences known and their voices heard. However, a number of the network's practices do not follow GLAAD's Media Reference Guide for covering trans topics, such as labeling trans youth as disordered, referring trans youth's birth names, and saying that trans youth "choose" their genders. Additionally, questioning teens about their interests in surgery and asking a child as young as six if she thinks being trans is temporary, is invasive and inappropriate.
GLAAD contues to reach out to CBS News about the segment, appropriate ways to report on transgender people, and the background and context of anti-LGBT activists like Brad Dacus.