Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Modest AP Stylebook Proposal

2013 coverFor those of you who have taken the time to peruse the over 6500 posts here, you'll notice that many of the posts I have written over the last seven years have chronicled the many journalistic fails in terms of following the AP Stylebook guidelines for reporting on transgender people.

To remind people, here's what they say in terms of writing about trans people:

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 individuals live publicly.
Translation: transgender woman=use female pronouns in story. Transgender male=use male pronouns in story.  

GLAAD has a media guide you can peruse in addition to the NLGJA

Since there seems to be confusion, a lack of reading comprehension, or outright blatant ignoring or disrespect of the trans person's humanity a la the Cleveland Plain Dealer's recent journalistic hate crime in these stories, I propose adding this line to the current AP Stylebook guideline in covering transgender stories.

When in doubt, use the name germane to the acquired characteristics or the way the persons live publicly and do not use a name inconsistent with those characteristics.

What that will do is make the stories about trans people more consistent, respectful and less confusing to readers, the trans community and our allies.  It is not necessary for a reader to know in a human interest story for example that Karen's name used to be Kendall or because Karen has yet to get her identity documents changed to seize on and add to the story 'her legal name is Kendall'.

You have already let your readers know that Karen is a transwoman by stating that fact in the headline or opening paragraph of the story.   Throwing the old name in the story is disrespectful, unnecessary (and in some cases triggering) to the transperson in question. 

The bottom line is trans people aren't going back into the closet or going away.  We are spread out all over the country and will eventually make news good, neutral or bad that you'll be in a position in your various locales to report on.

We in the trans community would prefer that those media interactions be positive ones and not adversarial. 

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