This section details what reporters must keep in mind while reporting on a story concerning LGBTQIA+ persons and/or communities. Please bear in mind that reports must be responsible and must not produce stories that could lead to discrimination or hatred in society.
Names and pronouns
Reporters are usually under tight deadlines, but that is no reason to forget being respectful towards the people you interview. Do bear in mind that as a reporter, your job is to be professional, and also to build trust with your sources. It is the job of a reporter to tell stories with accuracy and integrity, and to protect your sources. This shouldn’t change when you are interviewing an LGBTQIA+ person.
It is imperative for reporters to ask a person’s name and pronouns and use them correctly while quoting the person, writing about them, or speaking about them publicly. Please do not assume anything in this case, and always resort to asking — politely:
- What is your name? This may not be the legal name of the person, but stick to the name they give you in your reports.
- What are your pronouns? Don’t use the term ‘preferred pronouns’ — just ‘pronouns’. A person’s pronouns can be he/his, she/her, they/them, ze/zis, he/she/they etc.
- Please do not ask a person about their deadname or use it anywhere without their consent. A deadname is what a person formerly used or was addressed by. The use of a deadname is considered highly disrespectful and dismissive of the person’s gender identity.
Reporting about transgender persons and communities
When reporting and writing about transgender persons, please remember the following:
- The word ‘transgender’ is to be used as an adjective. That is, don’t use the terms ‘a transgender’ or ‘transgenders’. Always use transgender person(s), trans person(s), transgender woman, trans woman, transgender man, trans man etc, as per context.
- Do not use phrases such as ‘born a girl’, or ‘born a boy’. ‘Sex assigned at birth’ is the correct phrase to use.
For example: “Ravi is a transgender man.”
If readers need more clarification, say: “Ravi was assigned female at birth and began transitioning at the age of 20.”
Do not say: “Ravi was born a woman.”
- Avoid asking questions about a transgender person’s body and genitals. If your story is about healthcare, then stick to open ended questions and let the trans person guide the conversation in terms of how much they want to share.
- Avoid using the term “sex change”. Instead, use “gender affirmation surgery” if speaking about surgical transition. ‘Transition’ of ‘gender affirmation procedures’ can be medical, social, legal etc.
- While covering stories about transgender persons and communities, it is important to go beyond their personal journey and their medical changes. There are many issues the community faces such as police brutality, discrimination, exclusion from public healthcare, education, work and living opportunities.
Other things to keep in mind:
- A person’s gender identity or sexual orientation should only be mentioned if it is pertinent to the story. For instance, if a theft has been committed and the person accused is gay, there is no reason to reveal this in your report. We don’t usually talk about a straight thief’s sexuality in our reporting, so why focus on it only for LGBTQIA+ people?
- If you are quoting an expert in your story who is an LGBTQIA+ person, and their identity is relevant to your story, ask them how they would like to be designated. For instance: If Neha is a writer and a lesbian, she can be designated as: Neha, a writer; or, Neha, a lesbian writer; or, Neha, a lesbian woman who is a writer; or, Neha, a writer who is a lesbian woman. When in doubt, pick the last option.
- If you’re reporting about a minor person who is queer, gender non-conforming, or trans, ensure that you protect their identity the same way you would protect the identity of any other minor.
- Think about who you’re quoting for your story. If you are writing about an LGBTQIA+ person who has died, for instance, are you prioritising the voices of their biological family instead of speaking to their chosen family/friends, who may be able to give a more correct picture of the deceased person?