USA Today removed the word male from an op-ed by a female athlete after publication, arguing that her use of the word male to refer to men who transition to women was "hurtful language."
Chelsea Mitchell, a female student athlete from Connecticut, wrote an op-ed published in USA Today on May 22 about her experience as the fastest female runner in the state prior to competing against individuals who transition from male to female.
The column originally used the term male to describe those runners against whom Mitchell competed who transitioned from male to female. Three days after publishing the piece, USA Today changed the word male to transgender without consulting Mitchell.
"This column has been updated to reflect USA TODAY‘s standards and style guidelines. We regret that hurtful language was used," editors at the publication wrote after updating the article.
USA Today did not respond to a request for comment on the removal or on its editing process. The decision to edit the article after publication comes amidst debates over whether individuals who transition from male to female should be allowed to compete in female sports with physical advantages. More than 20 state legislatures are considering legislation that would ban transgender girls from competing in female-only sports. LGBT advocacy groups have condemned such legislation as attacks on trans people.
Mitchell's attorney, Christiana Holcomb from the Alliance Defending Freedom, said that USA Today was appeasing "the mob."
"USA Today violated its principles to appease the mob. This blatant censorship violates the trust we place in media to be honest brokers of public debate," Holcomb wrote on Twitter.
The Alliance Defending Freedom posted the original article to its site. In it, Mitchell describes her experience of being the first-ranked track runner in the state before she started competing against males who had transitioned to female. She wrote that she began to lose because of the physical advantages and the mental toll that took on her.
"It tells me that I'm not good enough; that my body isn't good enough; and that no matter how hard I work, I am unlikely to succeed, because I'm a woman," she wrote.
With assistance from the Alliance Defending Freedom, she filed a lawsuit challenging guidance from Connecticut officials that allowed biological males who transitioned gender to compete in female sports.
"Connecticut officials are determined to ignore the obvious," Mitchell wrote. "That's wrong. And it chips away at women's confidence and our belief in our own abilities. It's happened to me over and over. Every time I walk up to the starting line, I try to tell myself that I can overcome the unfair odds — I can win, even though the race is stacked against me."
A federal district judge dismissed the case, but Mitchell wrote that she intends to challenge that decision.