Search Results for: transgender
This week’s news about the status of transgender members of the military makes this a good time to review some of the language that should and should not be used when we’re reporting.
For instance, we don’t say someone is changing or has changed gender. As NLGJA – The Association of LGBTQ Journalists puts it, gender is “an individual’s emotional and psychological sense of having a gender; feeling like a man, woman, both or neither (gender nonconformity). Does not necessarily align with an individual’s sex at birth.”
Just as we respect people’s wishes about how they identify themselves, their names and the pronouns they use, we respect that their gender and the sex they were assigned at birth may not be the same. They may be going through a transition (don’t refer to it as a “sex change”), but they are not changing their gender or the fact that they may be fluid.
We can’t prevent public officials or our guests from mixing the words “gender” and “sex.” But we can be careful about our usage.
Other things to note:
- Do ask what pronouns a transgender person uses and then explain that we’re respecting that person’s choice. The clearest subsequent references, of course, may simply be the person’s name.
- Someone is “transgender,” not “transgendered.”
- You may have noticed in recent months that we’ve been OK with adding “Q” to “LGBT.” It’s clear that LGBTQ is increasingly accepted, but do be aware that “queer” is still a word that many find offensive.
- NLGJA’s stylebook is here. We don’t necessarily agree with everything in it, but it has good guidance.
- Our previous “Memmos” on this subject are here.
(“Memmos;” March 27, 2018)
The words to use and not use when reporting about transgender people have been the subject of several notes in recent years. We’ll link to them below.
This note is a recommendation. Today’s Morning Edition piece about D.C. police Sgt. Jessica Hawkins is worth a listen, read and look (for the photos) because of the way Gabriela Saldivia and her editors simply and sensitively told the officer’s story. It’s also a model for how to handle gender references, names and pronouns in such reports.
One of our core principles is “Respect.” The story does exactly what we aim to do: treat “everyone affected by our journalism … with decency and compassion.”
Along with Gabriela, the team included:
- Morning Edition‘s Andrew Jones
- Story Lab’s Michael May
- Digital’s Heidi Glenn
- Photo intern Raquel Zaldivar
(“Memmos;” Oct. 6, 2016)
Several times we have said the so-called bathroom bill in North Carolina is about whether transgender people should be able “to use the public bathrooms of their choice.”
In this case, “choice” is a loaded word. Proponents of laws restricting bathroom access to the sex on someone’s birth certificate say transgender people want to “choose” which bathroom to use, which also implies that being transgender is a “choice.” But transgender people say choice isn’t involved; that that this is about people using the bathrooms that match the genders they identify with. They say being transgender is who they are, not a choice.
We look for neutral language. One way to talk about this subject is to say it’s a debate over whether transgender people should be allowed to use public bathrooms “based on their gender identities or, instead, what’s stated on their birth certificates.”
As for “gender identity,” the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association defines it as “an individual’s emotional and psychological sense of having a gender; feeling like a man, woman, both or neither (gender nonconformity). Does not necessarily align with an individual’s sex at birth.”
We’re going to be using “gender identity” again. It could help our audience understand the phrase if we take a moment when possible to explain it, perhaps simply as “the way we feel about ourselves.”
(“Memmos;” May 16, 2016)
As we report about the administration’s letter to schools, the HB2 law in North Carolina and related stories, here’s a reminder: Someone is “transgender,” not “transgendered.” And it’s “transgender people,” not “transgendered people.”
Vox has written about the difference between “transgender” and “transgendered” here: http://www.vox.com/2015/2/18/8055691/transgender-transgendered-tnr
The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association has helpful language resources here: http://www.nlgja.org/
(“Memmos;” May 13, 2016)
“Othering,” or “otherizing,” has been a topic of conversations on the campaign trail this year and in newsrooms for many years.
I think of it this way: Othering is when a story feels like it’s about “them” and that “they” aren’t like “us.” They’re “others.” It can look and sound as if the news outlet or reporter is tone deaf or condescending. The stories often feel like the reporters began with preconceived notions and looked for confirmation.
This post isn’t about a case of othering. Read or listen to Debbie Elliott’s piece this week about “transgender rights, the new front in culture wars.” The central character is LBGTQ advocate Lane Galbraith. I didn’t detect any othering, so I asked Debbie about the way she reports.
“You know, my approach is always to just try to get to know the people I’m interviewing as people first, not ‘subjects,’ ” she said in an email. “I get rather familiar quickly, but always say something like, ‘OK, now I’m going to get a little nosy or into private territory, please don’t be offended and feel free to wave me off if it’s too personal.’ I will also be honest and admit that I’m not sure a question is appropriate, but ‘here’s what I’d like to know.’
“Generally, I find that people are longing to tell their story, so I mostly listen. And in this case, we had spoken a few times before during the same sex marriage battles in Alabama, so I had a bit of a foundation to build from. …
“There are some interviews you do that are mostly about gathering facts, or (let’s be honest here) getting the sound bite you need. But if you’re looking to share a deeper truth, and get below the surface of the news of the day, it requires a different approach. You have to care about a person’s story and give them the time and space to tell it. And that’s hardly ever linear or even logical. Those kind of interviews are certainly less efficient, but can yield priceless insights.”
There’s a key point there: “I mostly listen.” Also, yes, we tell stories. But they’re not about us or our preconceived notions. As Debbie says, “people are longing to tell their story … give them the time and space to tell it.”
No news outlet gets this right every time. We should keep talking about othering and how to avoid it. Please flag “good” and “bad” examples.
(“Memmos;” May 12, 2016)
First, the “long version” describing what HB2 is all about:
HB2 is the controversial North Carolina law limiting civil rights protections for LGBT people. It excludes LGBT people from the state’s non-discrimination laws and prevents local governments from offering discrimination protections that go beyond the state’s. It also requires people to use public restrooms that correspond with the sex indicated on their birth certificates.
The law also eliminates the ability to sue in state court over a discrimination claim and prevents local governments from requiring contractors to pay a higher minimum wage than the state’s.
Then, a shorter (hopefully intro- and spot-friendly) version:
HB2 is the controversial North Carolina law that limits civil rights protections for LGBT people.
“So-called bathroom bill” is acceptable in billboards and as a subsequent reference in stories. Material from the “long version” can certainly be folded into pieces in different places.
Note: LGBT is acceptable on first reference. Somewhere else in the story, spell out “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.”
Thanks go out to Brent Wolfe at WUNC, Russell Lewis, Theo Balcomb and Renita Jablonski.
(“Memmos;” May 11, 2016)
“Korva said she would tell her driver, Pat, to start warming the car at 3:07 a.m. each day instead of 3:05 just as soon as she returns from the organic smoothie shop.”
Who’s at the organic smoothie shop? Pat or Korva? Who’s the “she?” When will she get back with that smoothie?
We offer this presumably fictional and rather convoluted sentence because many of us aren’t careful about making sure that the pronouns we use are clearly connected to the antecedents they replace. Editors see antecedent/pronoun problems in copy every day.
Let’s pick apart the opening scene. This is what was happening:
– Korva wanted the car started at 3:07 a.m., not 3:05.
– Pat was at the organic smoothie shop getting Korva’s Mango/Kale/Chia Supreme.
– Korva would have to wait until Pat returned to tell her about the new starting time.
Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style offers this advice: “The relative pronoun should come, in most instances, immediately after its antecedent.” Note, for instance, how much clearer it reads to say Korva would have to “wait until Pat returned to tell her.” Just four small words separate the antecedent from the pronoun. It’s clear that Pat is “her.”
Please also take care to pair singular pronouns with singular antecedents and plurals with plurals. Gender agreement is important as well, but bear in mind that the choice of pronoun may be a sensitive issue when the subject is a transgender person.
(Memmos; Nov. 11, 2015)
Bruce Jenner’s appearance Friday on ABC-TV may generate news we want to report. If you’ll be involved in the coverage, it’s worth revisiting our guidance on gender identity.
The key points:
– People define their gender identities and we respect their decisions.
– We respect their wishes if they change their names.
– We respect their wishes on whether to be referred to as “he” or “she.”
– If they have been in the public eye in the past, we remind listeners/readers about their histories. Chelsea Manning’s story is a recent example.
The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association adds that if someone, such as Jenner, “has not publicly announced a gender identity, the best practice is to refer to [them] by name rather than using pronouns.” The NLGJA has some useful resources here.
Update at 1:40 p.m. ET: Someone is “transgender.” Do not write or say “transgendered.” There’s a good discussion of the difference here: http://www.vox.com/2015/2/18/8055691/transgender-transgendered-tnr
(Memmos; April 23, 2015)