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The Minnesota State High School League’s vote in early December to include transgender students in high school athletics made news throughout the state. For the first time in recent memory, a transgender issue was thoroughly covered through television, newspaper, radio, and the web. For many media outlets, it was one of the few times transgender issues were reported on. In some cases, that inexperience showed.

The Column surveyed 108 media reports from television, newspaper, radio, and web-based media organizations between Sept. 29 to Dec. 17. News items that were labeled opinion pieces were excluded.

News reports were evaluated on four criteria: 1. Was there a perceived bias in the reporting? For example, did the report only include one side of the debate? Or was there a noticeable editorial slant to the reporting? 2. Were LGBT voices included in reporting through interviews, testimony, or clips? 3. Specifically, were transgender voices included in reporting on an issue that uniquely impacts the transgender community? 4. Was appropriate language used? For example, were the subjects of the reporting misgendered or were antiquated or inappropriate terms used to describe the transgender people, issues, or communities?

Was there a perceived bias in reporting?

The majority of media outlets provided neutral coverage of the issue. Most news reports, 77 percent, either reported on the trans-inclusive policy without supporting or opposing views, or gave equal treatment to pro-LGBT or anti-LGBT voices.


All media reports rated as “opposed” (6 total) came from Greater Minnesota, while all the reports rated as “supportive” (19 total) came from the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Media with an oppositional bias tended to include quotes or reports about the Catholic Church or the Minnesota Child Protection League opposing the policy without noting the policy had support from LGBT groups and other progressive voices such as the teachers union.

Media with a supportive bias tended to be high school or college newspapers and alternative media such as City Pages.

Were LGBT voices included in media reports?

On an issue of importance to the LGBT community, reporting should include voices of those the policy will most affect. Media reports included LGBT voices 56.5 percent of the time. The vast majority were interviews with or quotes from OutFront Minnesota, the largest LGBTQ equity organization in Minnesota. Almost 44 percent of all reporting failed to include an LGBT voice. Those included brief reports as well as longer form stories.


There was a significant divide between Greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities metropolitan area in terms of inclusion of LGBT voices (There were only a handful of statewide reports from wire services such as the Associated Press).


Were transgender voices included in media reports?

Transgender people, and youth in particular, were the people most likely to be affected by the passage or failure of the transgender-inclusive athletics policy. Unfortunately, Minnesota media largely left their voices out of the conversation. Only 40 percent of media reports included a transgender perspective in the reporting.


The Twin Cities-Greater Minnesota divide was even more apparent with respect to the inclusion of transgender voices.


Language usage

The Column examined language in media reports about the transgender-inclusive high school athletics policy.

One somewhat common error was the use of the word “transgendered.” GLAAD, which has produced a media guide on transgender news reporting notes that the word “transgendered” is problematic:

The adjective transgender should never have an extraneous “-ed” tacked onto the end. An “-ed” suffix adds unnecessary length to the word and can cause tense confusion and grammatical errors. It also brings transgender into alignment with lesbian, gay, and bisexual. You would not say that Elton John is “gayed” or Ellen DeGeneres is “lesbianed,” therefore you would not say Chaz Bono is “transgendered.”

The Column identified 20 instances of the word “transgendered” in 7 newspaper reports and 13 television segments.

Misgendering was rare, possibly because of the low number of transgender people interviewed by the media. One television report referred to a transgender student as “he” although the student noted during testimony before the MSHSL that “they,” “them,” and “their” are their preferred pronouns.

Perpetuation of stereotypes

An important part of the media climate surrounding the passage of the transgender-inclusive high school athletics policy was the ability of anti-LGBT groups to get their message out. Specifically, the messages of the Minnesota Child Protection League, a group that opposes LGBT rights. The group was able to spread stereotypes and misinformation about transgender youth through the placement of advertising in newspapers. The Star Tribune, Duluth News Tribune, Mankato Free Press, St. Cloud Times, Winona Daily News, Jackson County Pilot, and the Jordan Independent all ran at least one ad from MNCPL.

Data Set

Here’s the dataset used to conduct this analysis:

LGBT voices?
Trans voices?
Approved Ad from MNCPL
10/2/2014NewspaperAssociated PressProposal for transgender student-athletes tablednononeutraln/an/a
12/3/2014NewspaperAssociated PressState braces for transgender athlete votenononeutraln/an/a
12/4/2014NewspaperAssociated PressMinnesota considers transgender athlete policynononeutraln/an/a
9/30/2014NewspaperAssociated PressTransgender guidelines for prep sports consideredyesyesneutraln/an/a
12/5/2014NewspaperAssociated PressMSHSL passes transgender athlete policyyesyesneutralnon/a
10/1/2014NewspaperFaribault Daily NewsMSHSL votes Thursday on fate of transgender athletesnononeutralnono
12/10/2014NewspaperJackson County PilotLocal reps vote yes on policynononeutralnono
12/9/2014NewspaperJordan IndependentTransgender students eligible to play high school athleticsnononeutralyesnoarchive
12/3/2014TelevisionKAALMSHSL Workshop Held Wednesday ahead of Vote on Proposed Transgender Policynononeutraln/ano
12/4/2014TelevisionKAALHigh School Transgender Athlete Policy Approvednononeutraln/ano
12/3/2014TelevisionKEYCMSHSL to Again Consider Transgender Student-Athlete Policynononeutraln/ano
10/2/2014TelevisionKIMTLeague wants to do more research before making transgender votenononeutraln/ano
12/2/2014TelevisionKIMTVote on transgender athletes approachesnononeutraln/ano
12/4/2014TelevisionKTTCUPDATE: MSHSL allows transgender athletes to competenononeutraln/ano
12/4/2014TelevisionKVLYMinnesota State High School League Approves Transgender Policynononeutraln/ano
10/1/2014NewspaperMankato Free PressMSHSL transgender policy opposition group has local connectionnononeutraln/ano
10/2/2014NewspaperMankato Free PressProposed MSHSL transgender athlete policy stirs controversynononeutralyesnoarchive
10/2/2014NewspaperNorthfield NewsMSHSL tables transgender student athlete policynononeutralnono
12/4/2014NewspaperNorthfield NewsMSHSL adopts transgender student policynononeutralnono
10/3/2014NewspaperRochester Post BulletinHigh school league delays vote on transgender policynononeutralnono
10/2/2014TelevisionWDAYMSHSL Transgender Policy Vote Delayednononeutraln/ano
12/4/2014RadioWJONMinnesota High School League Approves Transgender Policy [AUDIO]nononeutraln/ano
12/9/2014NewspaperSt. Peter HeraldMSHSL approves adoption of guidelines for transgender student eligibilitynononeutral?no
12/5/2014NewspaperAlexandria Echo PressHartmann talks new policy for transgender athletesnononeutral?no
12/4/2014TelevisionWDAYTransgender athletics policy passesnononeutraln/ano
12/5/2014RadioKTOEMankato high school athletic director on new transgender student policynononeutraln/ano
12/12/2014NewspaperWorthington Daily GlobeNew appeal procedure for transgendered students passed by MSHSLnononeutral?no
9/30/2014NewspaperBelle Plaine HeraldMSHSL Scheduled to Vote on Transgender Athletic Participation Policynonoopposedyesno
9/30/2014NewspaperForum of Fargo-MoorheadPark Christian opposed to any transgender policynonoopposedyesno
9/30/2014NewspaperMorrison County RecordTransgender debate rages on leading into Thursday’s votenonoopposedyesno
10/3/2014NewspaperMorrison County RecordMSHSL Board’s decision is no decision, yetnonoopposedyesno
12/5/2014NewspaperSt. Cloud TimesCathedral official is lone 'no' on transgender policynonoopposedyesno
12/4/2014TelevisionKBJRTransgender policy approved by MSHSLyesnoneutraln/ano
10/1/2014NewspaperRochester Post BulletinSchool transgender plan causes stiryesnoneutralnono
12/3/2014NewspaperRochester Post BulletinHigh school league considers transgender proposalyesnoneutralnono
10/1/2014NewspaperSt. Cloud TimesMinnesota Catholic Conference opposes MSHSL transgender policyyesnoopposedyesno
10/2/2014TelevisionKDLHMN transgender athlete policy postponedyesnosupportiven/ano
12/5/2014NewspaperRed Wing Republican EagleMSHSL approves transgender policyyesnosupportivenono
11/26/2014NewspaperStillwater Gazette (ECM)Transgender policy back on the table for MSHSLyesyesneutralyesno
11/28/2014NewspaperMorrison County Record (ECM)Transgender policy on the table again for MSHSL in Decemberyesyesneutralyesno
12/5/2014NewspaperMorrison County Record (ECM)Transgender policy passed by MSHSL Boardyesyesneutralyesno
12/4/2014TelevisionWKBTMSHSL Approves Transgender Policyyesyesneutraln/ano
12/4/2014TelevisionKEYCState High School League Approves Transgender Student-Athlete Policyyesyessupportiven/ano
12/4/2014TelevisionMankato Free PressTransgender teen supports high school league voteyesyessupportiven/ano
12/7/2014NewspaperChaska HeraldTransgender students eligible for high school athleticsnononeutralyesyesarchive
10/2/2014NewspaperSun Post (ECM)MSHSL board tables transgender policy discussion (brief)nononeutralyesyes
10/2/2014NewspaperPioneer PressMinnesota high school league transgender vote postponednononeutralnoyes
12/3/2014NewspaperPioneer PressMinnesota State High School League resumes transgender discussionnononeutralnoyes
12/3/2014NewspaperPioneer PressMSHSL resumes transgender discussionnononeutralyesyesarchive
12/3/2014NewspaperStar TribuneHigh school league braces for transgender athlete votenononeutralyesyes
12/3/2014NewspaperStar TribuneTransgender issue goes to votenononeutralyesyesarchive
12/3/2014TelevisionWCCOH.S. League To Workshop Transgender Athlete Guidelines Before Votenononeutraln/ayes
12/5/2014TelevisionWCCO6pm Broadcastnononeutraln/ayesarchive
12/4/2014RadioWCCOChad Hartmann Shownononeutraln/ayes
12/16/2014NewspaperLakeshore Weekly NewsSchool districts react to MSHSL transgender policynononeutralnoyes
12/15/2014NewspaperPrior Lake AmericanDistrict 719 to address transgender policynononeutralnoyes
12/3/2014Radio WCCOJohn Hines Show 9amnonosupportiven/ayes
12/5/2014Online newsCity PagesDayton Slams "Despicable" Anti-Transgender Bigots in Awesome Rantnonosupportivenoyes
12/1/2014Online newsCity PagesNewspapers Across MN Run Another Anti-Transgender Adnonosupportivenoyes
10/17/2014Online newsCity PagesReligious Freedom Group Says Transgender Athlete Policy "Treats Children As Guinea Pigs"nonosupportivenoyes
9/29/2014Online newsCity PagesStar Tribune Runs Anti-Transgender Adnonosupportivenoyes
12/4/2014TelevisionKARE 1110pm broadcastyesnoneutraln/ayesarchive
12/3/2014TelevisionKARE 1110pm broadcastyesnoneutraln/ayesarchive
12/4/2014TelevisionKSTP6:30am broadcastyesnoneutraln/ayesarchive
12/3/2014RadioMPRMinn. could allow transgender athletes to pick team that suits themyesnoneutraln/ayes
9/30/2014NewspaperPioneer PressTransgender student-athletes policy collects foes - and a backeryesnoneutralnoyes
10/3/2014NewspaperStar TribuneAmid deluge of reaction, High School League tables plan for transgender athletesyesnoneutralyesyes
12/4/2014NewspaperStar TribuneHigh School League overwhelmingly approves transgender policyyesnoneutralyesyes
9/30/2014TelevisionWCCOMSHSL Addressing Guidelines For Transgender Athletesyesnoneutraln/ayes
12/4/2014TelevisionWCCO5:30am broadcastyesnoneutraln/ayesarchive
9/30/2014TelevisionWCCO5:30am broadcastyesnoneutraln/ayesarchive
10/3/2014Online newsCity PagesMinnesota State High School League Delays Vote on Transgender Athlete Policyyesnosupportivenoyes
MSHSL’s New Transgender Student Policy Sparks Controversyyesnosupportivenoyes!single-post/cjds/00A1F587-EC66-4302-903E-ECF1061702B7
9/30/2014TelevisionKAREControversial gender identity proposalyesyesneutraln/ayes
12/5/2014TelevisionKARE 114:30am broadcastyesyesneutraln/ayesarchive
9/29/2014TelevisionKMSPFull-page ad sparks outrage over transgender athlete policy draftyesyesneutraln/ayes
10/1/2014TelevisionKMSPTransgender policy draft brings emotional comments to MSHSLyesyesneutraln/ayes
10/2/2014TelevisionKMSPMSHSL transgender policy vote tabled until Decemberyesyesneutraln/ayes
9/30/2014TelevisionKSTC7am broadcastyesyesneutraln/ayesarchive
9/29/2014TelevisionKSTC9pm broadcastyesyesneutraln/ayesarchive
9/30/2014TelevisionKSTPControversial Ad Sparks Debate over Transgender Athlete Policiesyesyesneutraln/ayes
10/1/2014TelevisionKSTPMinnesota Transgender Policy Draws Mixed Responsesyesyesneutraln/ayes
12/4/2014TelevisionKSTPMSHSL Approves High School Transgender Athlete Policyyesyesneutraln/ayes
12/4/2014TelevisionKSTP9pm broadcastyesyesneutraln/ayesarchive
12/4/2014TelevisionKSTP4:30pm broadcastyesyesneutraln/ayesarchive
10/2/2014TelevisionKSTP10pm broadcastyesyesneutraln/ayesarchive
9/29/2014RadioMPRProposed transgender high school athlete policy stirs controversyyesyesneutraln/ayes
10/2/2014RadioMPRHigh school league puts transgender athlete policy on holdyesyesneutraln/ayes
12/4/2014RadioMPRHigh school league votes to let transgender athletes pick their teamsyesyesneutraln/ayes
10/1/2014NewspaperPioneer PressHearing on policy for transgender high school athletes draws supporters, detractorsyesyesneutralnoyes
10/2/2014NewspaperPioneer PressMinnesota State High School League - A POLICY DIVIDEyesyesneutralnoyesarchive
12/4/2014NewspaperPioneer PressState high school league OKs guidelines for transgender athletesyesyesneutralnoyes
12/4/2014NewspaperPioneer PressMinnesota high school league plans transgender voteyesyesneutralnoyes
9/30/2014NewspaperStar TribuneHigh school league plans vote Thursday on guidelines for transgender athletesyesyesneutralyesyes
10/2/2014NewspaperStar TribuneTransgender vote provokes pleasyesyesneutralyesyesarchive
10/1/2014TelevisionWCCOMSHSL Hosts Hearing On Transgender Athletesyesyesneutraln/ayes
10/2/2014TelevisionWCCOMSHSL Postpones Decision On Policy For Transgender Athletesyesyesneutraln/ayes
12/4/2014TelevisionWCCOMSHSL Votes To Approve Policy For Transgender Athletesyesyesneutraln/ayes
12/4/2014TelevisionKMSPMSHSL approves transgender policyyesyesneutraln/ayes
12/4/2014TelevisionNorthwest Community TelevisionMSHSL holds landmark vote on transgender student-athletesyesyesneutraln/ayes
10/15/2014NewspaperHamline OracleAnti-transgender ad causes outrageyesyessupportivenoyes
10/2/2014TelevisionKAREVote on high school transgender athlete policy delayedyesyessupportiven/ayes
10/2/2014TelevisionKAREVote on transgender athlete policy set for Thursday (LGBT reporter)yesyessupportiven/ayes
10/2/2014TelevisionKMSP5:30pm broadcastyesyessupportiven/ayesarchive
12/4/2014Online newsMinnPostTransgender high-school athlete to MSHSL: 'All kids deserve to be happy'yesyessupportiven/ayes
9/29/2014NewspaperPioneer PressMSHSL debating policy for transgender student-athletesyesyessupportivenoyes
10/19/2014NewspaperStar TribuneTransgender debate offers an opportunity for understanding (Opinion))?yesyessupportiveyesyesarchive
10/2/2014Online newsCity Pages"Controversial" MSHSL Draft Transgender Policy Really Shouldn't Beyesyessupportivenoyes
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