When The Atlantic published its July/August 2018 cover story on transgender youth, Andrea James was among the chorus of trans writers and activists who excoriated it for being biased. “Editor Jeffrey Goldberg published it despite many warnings that it was likely to be a dog whistle, a kind of bias that most people won’t notice,” she says.
The article focused on the disputed concept of “desistance,” which is perceived to delegitimize the experiences and struggles of the majority of trans youth. “It also came out that elite journalists were excluding transgender journalists from backchannels where they were discussing coverage,” James says.
For James, railing against the piece on social media wasn’t enough. Anti-trans bias is hardly restricted to one outlet or journalist, and she wanted to expose it at a macro level. So she set to work on The Transphobia Project, an interactive map of the people and platforms creating biased content about gender expression and identity and the connections between them. It’s live on Kickstarter now; her project video offers a look at the prototype.
A history of outing bias
James is no stranger to data visualization, or to outing biased or fraudulent actors. Her first job out of grad school involved creating infographics at the Chicago Tribune; in addition to her work as a writer and activist, she’s an actor, director, producer, and voice coach (she consulted with Felicity Huffman for the film Transamerica), the creator of Transgender Map, an educational resource for trans people and allies, and an affiliate of Quackwatch, a site that polices health-related fraud. “I found my calling in consumer activism,” she says.
In 2003, James created an interactive chart that identified researchers and organizations promoting disease models of gender identity, some of whom advocated non-affirmative care models for transgender…