October 16, 2023 - 10:11am

Another glimpse into the abyss of America’s media bifurcation, as the Washington Post takes up the cudgel on behalf of Artemis Langford, a transgender student activist for the Democrats who became the first biological male to join an all-female sorority at the University of Wyoming.

The report from the weekend depicts Langford as a lonely, queer, autistic trans individual from a Mormon background, who “thought she’d finally found sisterhood and a place to belong after years of shame and loneliness” in the “forever home” of a sorority. Instead, we learn, Langford “became a target” of conservative media hostility and lawsuits by sorority members. 

This contrasts sharply with less favourable reporting elsewhere. Langford, National Review reported last year, was admitted to Kappa Kappa Gamma following a vote during which voter anonymity was withdrawn, creating “social pressure” for preference falsification. Women who objected were reportedly told they could “drop out” of the sorority. 

Then, in March, the feminist magazine Reduxx reported on the lawsuit brought by seven sorority members against Kappa Kappa Gamma. According to the complaint Langford, who stands 6’2” and weighs around 260 pounds, asked women about their bra sizes and romantic situations, was noticed “voyeuristically peeping” at and photographing sorority members in the house, and on one occasion allegedly had a “visible erection” while doing so. “It is really uncomfortable,” one of the seven women who sued later told the broadcaster Megyn Kelly. “Some of the girls have been sexually assaulted or sexually harassed. Some girls live in constant fear in our home.” 

Meanwhile, the Post focuses on how Langford felt it as “a gut punch” that, “after working so hard to get in”, it came as a complete surprise that “there were people who never wanted me there in the first place.” The report later underlines Langford’s supposed vulnerability, with graphic descriptions of an unrelated local case of homophobic murder that took place 25 years earlier, plus a 2022 shooting spree in a Colorado Springs gay club three hours away. The author neglects to mention that it’s far from clear what motivated the Colorado Springs case, given that the shooter, Anderson Lee Aldrich, reportedly identified as non-binary. 

The newspaper also neglects to mention that Langford is far from politically isolated, and in fact has a track record of political activism including a stint as legislative intern for the Wyoming Democrats. Presumably this would detract from the overall picture of a trailblazer standing alone against the full force of conservative bigotry, a picture in any case undermined by the fact that in August a judge dismissed the sorority women’s complaint. 

Taken together, these reports reveal several things. One is how self-contained America’s partisan media ecosystems are. Another is that Langford had supporters as well as detractors within Kappa Kappa Gamma — though, given the partial nature of reporting, there’s no easy way of establishing whether the women who spoke out were genuinely a minority in a chapter that otherwise had no problem with Langford, or whether — as others suggest — this was an illusion created by social pressure. As is now usual, readers will make their preferred inference based on which media ecosystem they inhabit. 

Above all, though, one thing is clear. It is consistently the case that no one cares about women’s discomfort, as long as the women in question are poor or otherwise voiceless. It’s only when women are pretty, articulate and from middle-class families that their discomfort causes an outcry. As with Langford, so too with the addition of males such as Lia Thomas to all-female college swimming teams. Each incident has an outsized effect on debate, because it impacts women who have a voice and are empowered to speak out about their discomfort. 

America lags Britain on the gender debate by several years, and it’s a long way from a foregone conclusion whether any of the last remnants of sex segregation will survive the three-pronged assault against it by trans activism, progressive women, and their cheerleaders in the media. If the right to single-sex space does prevail, it will be thanks to a new generation of confident, high-profile, college-educated sex realists, with views on gender ideology forged not via received progressive dogma but personal experience in swimming-pool changing rooms and sorority slumber parties.

Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.