Thursday, June 7, 2012

Respectful Reporting

Because it seems to be impossible for me to see any news coverage about a transgender person without wanting to pull my hair out, I thought I would save time by making a stock letter to use when future transgressions arise.  Feel free to adapt this yourself whenever a reporter makes you want to punch something.

Dear (Insert Ignorant Reporter's Name Here),

I'm writing in regards to your recent article/story/piece concerning (a transgender person).  Assuming you've attended journalism school or have been in the business for any fair amount of time, you no doubt have a recent edition of the Associated Press Stylebook, commonly referred to as "The Journalist's Bible".  I would like you to turn to the section concerning transgender people.  Just in case you don't have a copy handy, I'll quote below:

Transgender-Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.   

If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.
Because you are a journalist, I'm sure you are dedicated to presenting the truth in any story you cover, so I would hate to see you continue to misrepresent or disrespect people's gender identity by:

1.  Using improper pronouns.

2.  Referencing names assigned at birth over newer names.

3.  Putting a name in quotation marks.

4.  Showing "before" pictures of a transgender person.

5.  Referring to a trans woman (MTF) as a "man who thinks s/he is a woman" or vice versa for a trans man (FTM).

6.  Use of s/he, tranny, transvestite, he-she or any other derogatory remarks.

7.  Depicting transgender women as putting on makeup or trying on clothing when the story has nothing to do with beauty products or fashion.

8.  Depicting transgender men as shaving when the story has nothing to do with facial hair or grooming.

If you're unsure how to handle a certain subject, it's best to ask the people you're writing about.  Of course, that's not always possible, but there are many members of the community who would be more than happy to help you get things right.  Especially if it helps diffuse potentially confusing messages in the media.

Do not hesitate to call me if you have any questions, either about this letter or general questions about proper terminology for the LGBT community.

Sincerely yours,

Dorian Mooneyham

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