This week, a Dallas Morning News
writer by the name of Tod Robberson moronically wrote that using a transgender person's correct name and their preferred set of pronouns is "political correctness." He thinks misgendering a transgender person is "proper journalism" and "truthful," which in fact is lazy, hurtful, defamatory, and insulting journalism.
Todd Robberson's insensitive column at Dallas Morning News:
The New York Times and Associated Press, among other news organizations, have decided that they will recognize the gender preference of transgenders in news copy. Which is to say, when a male who has yet to undergo gender reassignment surgery nevertheless calls himself a female and is the subject of a news story, he will be identified as a female in all references.
Thus, if I were to correctly rewrite the previous sentence to conform to AP and New York Times style, I should have written: “Which is to say, when a female who has yet to undergo gender reassignment surgery nevertheless calls herself a female and is the subject of a news story, she will be identified as a female in all references.”
Does our devotion to the language of acceptance require us to misinform the public? The Army service member who dumped thousands of classified documents onto the Internet via Wikileaks was not Chelsea Manning. It was Pfc. Bradley Manning. (And Manning’s action did not legally constitute whistle-blowing. It was a massive theft and document-dump, for which Manning is now serving time in prison.)
If the act in question was undertaken by an individual who had yet to change his/her name or declare his/her sexual identity, it undermines our integrity as journalists to alter the facts just to suit a newfound sense of social justice in support of transgender rights. If Bruce Jenner decides tomorrow that he wants to change his name to Beverly, that would not justify future journalistic references to 1976 Olympic decathlon gold medalist Beverly Jenner. To do so would be a misstatement of fact. Bruce Jenner, and only Bruce Jenner, won the 1976 Olympic decathlon gold medal.
Robberson is WRONG on this issue.
Carlos Maza at MMFA:
An editorial writer for The Dallas Morning News offered an embarrassing defense for not bothering to correctly identify transgender people, arguing that widely accepted journalistic guidelines for talking about the transgender community are "confusing" and "misinform[s] the public."
NYT Editorial Board:
In a May 4 column in The Dallas Morning News, editorial writer Tod Robberson criticized The New York Times and Associated Press for recognizing "the gender preference of transgenders in news copy." According to Robberson, identifying trans people using the pronouns they prefer "distort[s] the truth" in order to embrace "the politically correct transgender language of the day."
A generation ago, transgender Americans were widely regarded as deviants, unfit for dignified workplaces, a disgrace for families. Those who confided in relatives were, by and large, pitied and shunned. For most, transitioning on the job was tantamount to career suicide. Medical procedures to align a person’s body with that person’s gender identity — an internal sense of being male, female or something else — were a fringe specialty, available only to a few who paid out of pocket.
Coming out meant going through life as a pariah.
Being transgender today remains unreasonably and unnecessarily hard. But it is far from hopeless. More Americans who have wrestled with gender identity are transitioning openly, propelling a civil rights movement that has struggled even as gays and lesbians have reached irreversible momentum in their fight for equality. Those coming out now are doing so with trepidation, realizing that while pockets of tolerance are expanding, discriminatory policies and hostile, uninformed attitudes remain widespread.
They deserve to come out in a nation where stories of compassion and support vastly outnumber those that end with a suicide note. The tide is shifting, but far too slowly, while lives, careers and dreams hang in the balance.
As prominent transgender people have come out in recent years, their revelations have been a source of fascination, much of it prurient. There was the actress Laverne Cox, the Army whistle-blower Chelsea Manning and most recently, Bruce Jenner, the gold-medal Olympian. Their stories have brought attention to the plight of a segment of the population that continues to confound many Americans. One challenge lies in semantics, a complex and fraught subject given the extraordinary diversity of experiences within the transgender community. The term transgender covers a broad range of people who do not identify with the gender listed on their birth certificate.
A far more compassionate take on transgender rights than Robberson's rubbish column.
GLAAD has the list on how to properly cover transgender issues.
Always use a transgender person's chosen name.
Many transgender people are able to obtain a legal name change from a court. However, some transgender people cannot afford a legal name change or are not yet old enough to change their name legally. They should be afforded the same respect for their chosen name as anyone else who lives by a name other than their birth name (e.g., celebrities).
Whenever possible, ask transgender people which pronoun they would like you to use.
A person who identifies as a certain gender, whether or not that person has taken hormones or had some form of surgery, should be referred to using the pronouns appropriate for that gender.
If it is not possible to ask a transgender person which pronoun is preferred, use the pronoun that is consistent with the person's appearance and gender expression.
For example, if a person wears a dress and uses the name Susan, feminine pronouns are usually appropriate.
It is never appropriate to put quotation marks around either a transgender person's chosen name or the pronoun that reflects that person's gender identity.
The Associated Press Stylebook provides guidelines for journalists reporting on transgender people and issues.
According to the AP Stylebook, reporters should "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." (see AP & New York Times Style)
When describing transgender people, please use the correct term or terms to describe their gender identity.
For example, a person who was assigned male at birth and transitions to living as a woman is a transgender woman, whereas a person who was assigned female at birth and transitions to living as a man is a transgender man. If someone prefers a different term, use it along with an explanation of what that term means to them.
Avoid pronoun confusion when examining the stories and backgrounds of transgender people prior to their transition.
Ideally a story will not use pronouns associated with a person's birth sex when referring to the person's life prior to transition. Try to write transgender people's stories from the present day, instead of narrating them from some point in the past, thus avoiding confusion and potentially disrespectful use of incorrect pronouns.