Respecting Gender

[I’ve been asked to repost this here.  I hope you enjoy it.]

Awkward.  That’s about the only way I can explain the New York Times article by Emmarie Huetteman and Brian Stelter, After Sentencing, Manning Says, “I am Female”.

It’s almost like the writers didn’t even read Chelsea Manning’s statement. which is somewhat odd since the last paragraph indicated that they were aware of the issue.

And what was the issue?  Chelsea Manning had asked that people refer to her by using feminine pronouns.  The Times writers managed to write about that while referring to her only with male pronouns.

I want to thank everybody who has supported me over the last three years.  Throughout this long ordeal, your letters of support and encouragement have helped keep me strong.  I am forever indebted to those who wrote to me, made a donation to  defense fund, or came to watch a portion of the trial. I would especially like to thank Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network for their tireless efforts in raising awareness for my case and providing for my legal representation.

As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me.  I am Chelsea Manning.  I am a female.  Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition.  I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.

–Chelsea E. Manning

Poynter.org got to the meat of the matter:  Bradley Manning news raises questions about how to refer to transgender people in stories.

Savannah Guthrie, who broke the story, “used the pronoun ‘she’ to refer to Private Manning throughout most of the interview, but used ‘he’ when trying to emphasize the change had just been announced.”

It seems that many, if not all, of the managing editors in charge of style were “Out of the office” when they were most needed.

We’re in the process of reviewing our style in light of the Manning situation,

–Tracy Grant, Washington Post

transgender (adj.) is an overall term for people whose current identity differs from their sex at birth, whether or not they have changed their biological characteristics.  Cite a person’s transgender status only when it is pertinent and its pertinence is clear to the reader.  Unless a former name is newsworthy or pertinent, use the name and pronouns (he, his, she, her, hers) preferred by the transgender person.  If no preference is known, use the pronouns consistent with the way the subject lives publicly.{new 3/05}

—-Greg Brock, New York Times

We use the names and pronouns preferred by the subject. And we would refer to someone’s transgender status only if it is relevant to the story.

–Phil Corbett, New York Times

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.

–AP style guide

Transgender:  An umbrella term (adj.) for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.  The term may include but is not limited to: transsexuals, cross-dressers and other gender-variant people.  Transgender people may identify as female-to-male (FTM) or male-to-female (MTF).  Use the descriptive term (transgender, transsexual, cross-dresser, FTM or MTF) preferred by the individual.  Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.

–GLAAD media reference guide

GLAAD goes further in that it discourages the use of transgender as a noun, adding an “ed” at the end of the adjective, and describing a transperson’s status as going through a “sex change” or being pre-operative or post-operative…preferring the phrase “in transition.”

We’re in the process of drafting an update to our guidelines, which date to about 2003.  Not having a copy of either version at hand, I can say generally that we refer to subjects by their chosen gender identification, in line with the guidelines recommended by GLAAD and NLGJA and with AP style.  We use the name and personal pronoun that conform with how a person lives publicly.

–Henry Fuhrmann, LA Times

One might be cynical about the fact that this is just now becoming an issue with news reporters, like there have never been any transpeople before Manning.

Let’s take a peak at how the CBS local network handled the recent murder of Domonique Newburn.

Authorities are looking for a suspect who allegedly murdered a man in Fontana.

Officers responded to a disturbance call around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at an apartment in the 7900 block of Bennett Avenue.

Upon arrival, police found the front door open and discovered a bloody scene and a deceased male.  The Press-Enterprise reported that the victim was a man dressed in women’s clothing.

Domonique’s neighbors only knew her as a woman.  

Eventually the station got the gender right.  But mostly they seemed to be trying to avoid pronouns.

By the way, Domonique’s 2004 Mercedes was found abandoned in a parking lot at Perris Hill Park.

1 comment

  1. TMC

    and your views on LGBT are most valued.

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