In recent years, trans people and issues have become hypervisible in the media. While many outlets have published some thoughtful, accurate stories, too much of that coverage has failed their audiences and trans communities.
The media bears a great responsibility when it comes to ensuring accurate and sensitive coverage of trans communities. Most of the public’s primary source of information on trans topics is likely the media (only about a quarter of people in the United States, for instance, have a close friend or family member who is out as trans), meaning media coverage is critical in shaping how the public talks and thinks about transgender people. Therefore, it’s imperative for media outlets to get this coverage right.
The Trans Journalists Association’s Style Guide is a tool reporters, editors and other media makers can use to begin to improve trans coverage. It gives insight into appropriate language, common shortcomings, and steps journalists can take to make their coverage better. While this guide provides a strong foundation for covering trans communities with sensitivity and care, trans communities are incredibly diverse. The language some trans people use to describe themselves and their communities might be different from or even contradict parts of this guide. Reporting well on trans communities requires nuance and care, and this guide is only a starting point.
Table of Contents
Section 1 — Guidance For Improving Trans Coverage
1.1 Guidance on diversifying newsrooms and sources
1.2 Guidance on being respectful in your coverage
1.3 Guidance on avoiding harmful cliches and stereotypes
1.4 Guidance on covering anti-trans hate and disinformation
1.5 Additional Guidance
Section 2 — Terms and Phrases to Avoid
Section 3 — Glossary of Terms
Section 1 — Guidance on Improving Trans Coverage
1.1 Guidance on diversifying newsrooms and sources to improve coverage
hire trans reporters, editors, and leadership
The number one way to improve trans coverage is to hire trans people. Because of their lived experiences, trans reporters often have a much deeper and more nuanced understanding of trans issues and gender than even the best cis reporters. Trans journalists also have greater access to trans communities and can more easily gain the trust of trans sources, which will result in stronger coverage.
Additionally, many underrepresented groups face an uphill battle when it comes to improving coverage of their communities because newsrooms lack diverse editors and leadership. Newsrooms must do better and prioritize diversity. It’s necessary to include trans people in that diversity.
talk to trans people about trans people
When reporting a story about trans issues, trans people should be interviewed and quoted as experts, not just subjects. Trans people are the experts on trans lives and experiences. Their voices should be centered in this coverage. A cis person will rarely have better insight. Trans people are also often the leaders in research on trans communities. There are cis experts worth quoting within specific specialities; however, when you write about trans issues, do not include more experts who are cis than trans. When covering trans issues, consider whether you need any cis voices in your stories.
have more trans sources on stories that aren’t about trans issues
Trans people are also often experts and have unique perspectives in subject areas beyond trans issues. Incorporate trans people into your source base, and interview them for stories across beats, just as you would interview people with a variety of backgrounds and perspectives for most stories.
hire trans sensitivity readers
Even the most well-meaning and well-intentioned reporters make mistakes. When reporting on trans people, communities, and issues, it’s best to involve trans reporters and/or editors who understand these communities. If this is not possible, hire an outside trans sensitivity reader or editor to provide feedback before publication. This is even more essential when your coverage involves trans people who experience marginalization in multiple ways — for instance, trans people of color, trans sex workers, or trans people with disabilities. In these cases, we advise hiring sensitivity readers who understand the various axes of oppression relevant to the story and sources.
use the trans news “Bechdel test” as a guide
Trans communities are varied and diverse. However, the overwhelming majority of trans sources quoted in the media are white, non-disabled transgender women. Like with any story, a lack of diverse sources often makes coverage one-dimensional and less nuanced. It fails to give voice to various perspectives, life experiences, and viewpoints. One way to improve trans coverage is to diversify sources. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help determine how you’re doing.
Have I quoted more than one transgender person?
Is at least one of those transgender people an expert in their field?
Is at least one of those transgender people not a white transgender woman?
Much like the Bechdel test, these questions are not the final arbiter of whether the sources in your coverage are diverse. However, this is a helpful framework to assess stories and think about how you can improve the diversity in your coverage.
1.2 Guidance on respectful coverage
when other sources deadname or misgender a trans person
A friend, family member, or the police may misgender or deadname your source. Do not use that quote in your story without a correction. Use brackets to replace the incorrect information with the correct information for text stories. For video or audio stories, reporters should find another clip or write around the deadnaming or misgendering. If this is not possible, consider not using this person as a source. You may also let the listener/viewer know the person is being misgendered/deadnamed and bleep those words out, as you would with a curse word or protected personal information.
writing about someone in the past
Use someone’s current name and pronouns when writing about that person in the past, unless they tell you differently.
don’t identify someone as trans unless it’s relevant
If you’re working on a story unrelated to transgender issues and a person you’re quoting is trans, you don’t usually need to mention that they’re trans. Only report this information if it’s necessary to contextualize a quote or explain the inclusion of the source.
don’t make a big deal about someone’s pronouns
Reporters never write a sentence to explain a cis source’s pronouns. For example: “Jill, who uses she/her pronouns, attended the event.” If we don’t emphasize cis people’s pronouns, we shouldn’t need to explain trans people’s pronouns — especially when they are common pronouns like he, she, and they. They/them pronouns are not new and should not require an explanation for audiences. The pronoun they has been in use as a singular pronoun since the 1300s. The media has been reporting regularly on singular they/them pronouns in relation to trans people for at least a decade, and these pronouns are in the dictionary. They/them pronouns are only confusing when stories are written poorly. When a source uses less common pronouns, it’s acceptable to have a quick, appositive phrase mentioning their pronouns. For example: Taylor, who uses ze/hir pronouns, attended the event.
don’t make a big deal about someone’s gender
When writing about cis people who are men or women, reporters never write a phrase explaining their gender. For example: “Jill, who is a woman, attended the event.” If we don’t make a big deal of cis people’s gender, we shouldn’t need to explain and call unnecessary attention to a trans person’s gender. Unless the source’s individual experience with gender is integral to understanding the story, there’s no need to even mention it.
Additionally, when a non-binary source is introduced, reporters often include a phrase explaining their gender. Not only are these definitions often inaccurate, but they’re also unnecessary and treat trans people like oddities. The public is aware that non-binary people exist, and this level of explanation is no longer necessary. When a deeper explanation of someone’s gender is important to the story, an explanation may be appropriate. In these cases, reporters should take care to use only words that the individual uses to explain their gender. Also, reporters should avoid mentioning a trans person’s assigned sex at birth, as this level of explanation is not necessary, especially when the person in question is a trans man or trans woman. Journalists should only mention the assigned sex of a non-binary person if it’s crucial to understanding the story.
don’t assume a source’s gender or pronouns
It’s impossible to tell if everyone is cis or trans – or guess their gender or their pronouns – based on their appearance. You shouldn’t assume this information. Most stories don’t require information about someone’s gender, and journalists should avoid asking for that information when it’s not relevant to their coverage or interactions with a source. Journalists should make a habit of asking sources for their pronouns, so they don’t misgender someone in their coverage. This guidance applies to all coverage and beats, as trans people exist throughout different communities and industries.
never out your sources
Take extra care not to out your sources. Some trans people may be out to certain people in some contexts but not want to be out publicly in a report published online. Like with any source, make sure they understand the implications of being featured in your report. Clarify with them whether sensitive information they’ve shared is on-the-record. It’s also worth asking which pronouns they’d like used in the story, as some people use different pronouns publicly than they use in other contexts for various reasons, including safety.
changing/removing names in published stories
If a trans person contacts a newsroom or reporter asking for a story to be updated with their new name or to remove information that outs the person as trans, newsrooms should always make those changes when possible. In cases where it would materially change the content of the piece — for instance, a story about the lived experiences of trans people — consider making that person anonymous or only using a first name. These changes have little to no impact on newsrooms or reporters when it comes to work that has already been published; however, they can have a major impact on a trans person’s life. Additionally, publications should update these stories to include the appropriate pronouns when requested.
When a reporter, editor, or writer changes their name, news organizations should update bylines on past stories to reflect the person’s new name at the individual’s request.
don’t equate gender and anatomy
Avoid equating gender and anatomy in your coverage. This is particularly prevalent when writing about “men’s health” and “women’s health.” Consider whether that framing is trans-inclusive. When you write the word women, are you including trans women? Does it apply to non-binary people and trans men? Most reporting about health according to gender overlooks trans people and incorrectly equates anatomy to gender. Instead of simply writing “men” or “women,” consider who the issue you’re writing about affects — for instance: people with ovaries, people with prostates, people who can get pregnant. In some cases, the answer is not immediately clear, and it might be necessary to consult an expert. If you’re unable to find a clear answer, you can use “cis men/women and some intersex and trans people.”
take care not to ask offensive or inappropriate questions
Don’t ask someone about their genitals, hormones, or medical procedures.
In rare cases where this information is relevant to the story, ask the person you’re interviewing whether they’re comfortable sharing this information publicly before asking for these personal details. Some sources may be comfortable sharing specifics with you, but not want some information published. Be sure to delineate what is on and off the record, in those areas. Ask for only the information you need for the story.
Don’t ask about someone’s deadname.
When reporting on some topics, reporters will run background checks and search public records. If such a story involves someone you know is trans and a background check is necessary, you may ask for this person’s deadname sensitively. Explain why you’re asking and how you’ll use that information. Understand that you are never entitled to this information. You should also never publish it.
Don’t ask for or publish a person’s criminal history unless it’s completely relevant.
Be aware that trans people are disproportionately criminalized and policed. If the person you’re reporting on has a criminal record, reporting that information could have consequences for that person. For instance, it could make it harder for an individual to find work. Reporting on that criminal record also perpetuates stereotypes about trans people. If that history is not relevant to the story, you should not report it. If it is, you should consult with the individual about whether they are comfortable with that information being published. Before proceeding, discuss the potential negative impact publishing such information could have on them. You may need to find a different source or give the source anonymity if you cannot proceed with the story without publishing their criminal history. Publishing such information is rarely in the public interest. Consider killing a story if you have no alternatives.
1.3 Guidance on avoiding harmful cliches and stereotypes
avoid hyper-focus on trans bodies and transition-related care
Trans bodies and medical care are often sensationalized and treated like an oddity in the press. When writing about transgender people, consider whether it’s necessary or appropriate to mention their medical history. Are you shedding light on the importance of these procedures and the barriers to care? Or are you just adding a line about someone’s transition in a story that doesn’t require it?
Additionally, coverage of transition-related care tends to focus on the potential risks of such care, especially when it comes to young people. Journalists should cover these stories with extra thoughtfulness and not overemphasize them. Activists and politicians often use this sort of coverage to justify denying lifesaving care to trans people. For more on this, see the section titled “overemphasis and disinformation on detransitioning” and “disinformation on ‘rapid onset dysphoria.’”
avoid hyper-focus on the way trans people look
Do not over-describe the way trans people look. Do not focus on a trans person’s appearance any more than you would focus on the appearance of a cis person in your reporting. Journalists should not use descriptions that call attention to the sex trans people were assigned at birth. For instance, avoid descriptions of trans women being tall, trans men having high-pitched voices, or trans women having large hands. Journalists should also avoid describing certain features as masculine, feminine, or androgynous unless a source uses that language themself or are comfortable with it. Additionally, journalists should avoid descriptive language that suggests a trans person’s gender is superficial or that trans people are reinforcing gender stereotypes. For instance, avoid focusing on how a trans woman is dressed, her makeup, her nails, etc.
cover stories beyond trans pain
The media often fails to cover trans stories beyond trauma and pain. That contributes to a culture that makes trans people afraid to come out and imagine a happy life for themselves. It also worsens fears that parents and family have when their children come out as trans. Many trans people live happy, successful lives. Reporting on trans civil rights, homelessness, and other issues facing trans communities is important but so is telling stories of trans people thriving.
avoid furthering the “losing a loved one” cliche
Often, the media will quote sources saying they feel as though they’ve lost their trans relative, lover, or friend. While loved ones of trans people often need to process that their loved one is trans, it is overdone and unoriginal to emphasize the grief of cis family and partners. These stories also center cis people in stories about trans people. Many people are happy and joyful that the trans people in their lives feel free to live as their authentic selves, yet those stories rarely get told. These stories are especially important and should be normalized.
don’t suggest trans and non-binary people are “new” or overemphasize trans youth In recent years, many outlets have published trend pieces about trans youth. Young people have more access to information about trans people, and many cultures have become more accepting, which means many trans people are discovering who they are at a younger age. However, many of these trend pieces have perpetuated a harmful myth that being trans is “a new thing” or limited to young people. Non-binary genders especially are often written about as if they’re new, which is incorrect. Evidence of trans people and gender variance exists across time and culture.
Additionally, many stories about trans youth focus on their bodies and medical care (i.e. puberty blockers, binders, hormones, etc.) and highlight the risks of transition-related care. This contributes to a hyper-focus on trans bodies and medical care. (See entry “avoid hyper-focus on trans bodies and transition-related care.”)
don’t use stereotypically gendered imagery or “before” and “after” pictures
Trans stories often use stereotypically gendered imagery. For instance, a trans woman putting on makeup or wearing heels or a trans man going to the gym. This imagery reinforces the harmful idea that trans people’s genders are superficial. It can also communicate that the existence of trans people reinforces gender stereotypes — a common argument used to deny trans people medical care and civil rights. Find other ways to illustrate a story.
Additionally, avoid “before” and “after” pictures of someone’s transition. These almost never add value to a story and are simply used to satiate invasive curiosity about trans people.
1.4 Guidance on covering anti-trans hate and disinformation
report carefully on anti-trans hate
Like anti–gay rights groups or climate science deniers, anti–trans rights groups and individuals push a fringe, radical agenda. Leading medical and psychology organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association affirm trans people exist; these organizations also state that trans people need access to gender-affirming care, gender-appropriate public resources, and jobs where they can be themselves. Giving anti–trans groups a platform isn’t being unbiased, but rather giving fringe ideology outsized influence. When reporting on these groups or quoting people with this ideology, take care to fact-check their claims within the article. Do not spread disinformation.
avoid giving a platform to TERFs or so-called “gender critical feminists”
Some anti-trans rights groups and individuals use the euphemism “gender critical feminism” to describe their hateful ideology. They are also sometimes called “trans exclusionary radical feminists” or TERFs. This ideology should not be elevated in the press. When reporting on fringe groups and hate groups, instead of calling them TERFs or gender critical feminists, use language like transphobic, anti-trans, etc. Avoid referring to anyone as a feminist when they are spreading anti-trans hate.
avoid giving a platform to transmedicalists/truscum
Transmedicalists are a fringe part of the trans community who believe that experiencing gender dysphoria and seeking gender-affirming medical care is a prerequisite of being trans. Many wrongly argue that non-binary people cannot be trans and spread the inaccurate message that non-binary people don’t need or want gender-affirming medical care. Avoid elevating this harmful ideology, which ignores the varied experiences of trans people. On the rare occasion that it’s ethical to report on this ideology, bear in mind that only reporters deeply familiar with trans communities are equipped to cover this topic without causing harm and spreading disinformation.
avoid disinformation on “rapid onset gender dysphoria”
Much like the media’s overemphasis on detransitioners (see entry “do not emphasize detransitioning or report disinformation on those who stop transition-related care”), disinformation around so-called “rapid onset gender dysphoria” harms young trans people and fuels the far right’s attacks on trans children. The concept of “rapid onset gender dysphoria” comes from a flawed study that’s been heavily criticized by academics and scientists. There’s no evidence this is a real phenomenon at this time, and reporting otherwise is irresponsible.
do not emphasize detransitioning or report disinformation on those who stop transition-related care
“Detransitioning” is generally defined as seeking gender-affirming medical care and then stopping it and/or attempting to reverse its effects. Journalists have overemphasized and sensationalized stories about detransition. Narratives of detransition should be generally avoided because they misrepresent the social and financial complications of transition. They often suggest trans people should not have bodily autonomy and give fuel to the far right’s attacks on trans youth.
Many people who fall into the mainstream media’s definition of “detransitioner” are still trans and/or non-binary and find being characterized as a detransitioner inaccurate or offensive. Trans people stop seeking gender-affirming care for a variety of reasons. Some more common reasons include that they lack the social support or resources to continue care, that they do not wish to complete what some consider “full transition” to a binary gender, and that they want to have biological children. Additionally, many trans people experience shifts in gender over time — this is especially common in genderfluid individuals. Some sources who have been quoted for major stories on “detransition” have even later decided to retransition. Only a small fraction of people fall into the common detransition narrative, which posits that every single person who stops transitioning does so because they are not actually trans. This is inaccurate.
While there’s no good data, a Swedish study found only 2.2 percent of participants who sought gender-affirming medical care regretted their transition. This is lower than the rate of people who regret their abortions. This is also much lower than the rate of people who are dissatisfied with their nose jobs and other cosmetic surgeries, according to various studies. Unlike many elective plastic surgeries, transition-related care is lifesaving.
None of this means people’s experiences with detransition are invalid. They are, however, sensationalized and given a disproportionate amount of weight in the media. When journalists do cover detransition stories, they should include examples of people who are trans, yet have stopped transition-related care. Additionally, journalists should find subjects who actually started medically transitioning. “Detransition” narratives often feature people who thought they were trans or experiencing gender dysphoria and later figured out they weren’t without medical treatment. These stories should not be used to question established medical standards that give trans people bodily autonomy, which are laid out by the internationally recognized World Professional Association for Transgender Health.
avoid misinformation in coverage of trans women in sports
Often, stories about whether trans women should be able to compete in women’s sports contain misinformation. For instance, outlets fail to fact-check the people who argue that trans women shouldn’t be allowed to compete in women’s sports. Journalists also often show bias against trans athletes by only covering trans people in sports when a trans woman wins a competition. Trans medical experts are rarely quoted in these stories, which often contain no scientific information about how cross-sex hormones alter trans women’s athletic performance. While this is a controversial issue in the media, there’s no evidence that trans women who are recieving transition-related medical care have an advantage over cis women. Trans women have been allowed to compete in the Olympics since 2003, yet as of June 2020, no trans woman has ever won a gold medal in a competition. When outlets cover trans men in sports, they also spread misinformation — especially in instances where leagues force trans men to compete with cis women. Outlets should take extra care to clarify those competing are trans men so that readers do not assume the athlete is a trans woman.
1.5 Additional Guidance
take care when reporting on anti-trans violence
Do not report information before it’s verified. When reporting on violence against trans people, take care not to jump to conclusions. This is doubly important when writing about violence against trans women of color, who disproportionately experience anti-trans violence. Don’t assume the death of a trans person is a murder, and don’t rush to pin a series of trans murders on a potential serial killer. Reporting on the epidemic of violence against transfeminine Black, brown, and Indigenous people of color is crucial, but these stories should be told with extra care.
Reporters should also seek sources beyond the police when reporting on violence against trans people. Police often deadname, misgender, and provide inaccurate information about trans victims. Not only is the information often inaccurate, but reporting this inaccurate information will erode trust between journalists and trans communities.
Journalism about murdered trans people often reduces those people’s lives to their gender and the crime against them. Instead, these stories should seek a more nuanced snapshot of the victim that doesn’t sensationalize their life. Additional information about covering trans homicides with sensitivity can be found in the FAQ for reporters writing about anti-trans violence from the Trans Journalists Association, Media Matters and the Human Rights Campaign as well as GLAAD’s More Than A Number report.
do not make assumptions about trans identities and gender variation in other cultures
When reporting on a culture outside of your own, it’s always important to take extra care to understand and accurately represent people and communities within that cultural context. This style guide primarily outlines the terms, understandings of gender, and norms of a western, colonial perspective and is U.S.-centric. While parts of this guide might be applicable beyond this perspective, much of the guidance laid out is inappropriate or inaccurate when discussing trans or gender nonconforming communities in other cultures.
take extra care when reporting on trans sex workers
Familiarize yourself with current best practices regarding reporting on sex work. Sex Workers Outreach Project’s resource list and Nina Luo’s “Decriminalizing Survival” are two great starting points.
When reporting on trans sex workers, clarify what names and pronouns they want published when stories reference their work experience. Many have work identifiers that are different from their civilian identifiers (which can be different from legal names and/or deadnames, too). Others may go by their work name in other parts of their life or have different work names for different services. Trans sex workers may refer to themselves by slang clients use on hobbyist forums or online communities, which may include words that are demeaning out of context. If reported, these words need to be used in context. They should only describe individuals who would use those words for themselves and not be applied to groups of people.
Additionally, you should confirm what details are on the record and off the record with sources. For example, some sources may be out about their sex work among colleagues but would not want this information published due to safety concerns. Other sources may openly advertise some services but only discuss their full-service work off the record.
Journalists should also aim to diversify sources. White former sex workers, activists, and workers with higher class status are often more visible in media than current workers, workers who are Black, brown, and Indigenous people of color, and survival/street workers. Also consider hiring a sensitivity reader, especially if you don’t have a deep understanding and familiarity with trans and sex worker communities.
cover healthcare concerns for trans people outside transition-related care
Covering the barriers to transition-related care is essential. But journalists should also report on other aspects of trans healthcare. Trans people experience health concerns and barriers to receiving healthcare that are unrelated to transition-related care. Like other marginalized groups, trans people often lack access to culturally competent care, responsive providers, and affordable healthcare. Trans people are also more likely to be mistreated or harassed by their providers. On top of that, trans people face many of the same barriers and have the same concerns around healthcare as cis patients.
Section 2 — Terms and Phrases To Avoid
biological women/men or born male/female
Avoid the terms “biological gender,” “biological sex,” “biological woman,” “biological female,” “biological man,” or “biological male.” These terms are inaccurate and often offensive. When necessary, you can refer to someone’s assigned sex at birth using terms like “assigned male at birth” or “assigned female at birth.” These can be abbreviated as “AMAB” and “AFAB” after first reference. Think seriously about whether a story requires this information.
Instead use: assigned male/female at birth or raised as a boy/girl
A term that’s considered outdated and offensive when referring to trans people. Avoid using this language unless an individual uses it for themselves.
female/feminine pronouns, male/masculine pronouns
Not all people who use she/her are women, and not all people who use he/him are men.
Instead use: pronouns, she/her pronouns, he/him pronouns
gender identity disorder
This is an outdated term that is no longer relevant and often considered offensive. Gender identity disorder used to be the official psychological diagnosis from the American Psychological Association for trans people seeking transition-related care in the U.S. In 2012, it was changed to gender dysphoria.
Instead use: gender dysphoria
This language is awkward, grammatically incorrect and should not be used. We would not say “gender woman” to describe a woman. Writers should use the same grammatical conventions we use for woman or man when writing about other genders.
Instead use: non-binary
identify as/identifies as
Avoid the phrase “identifies as” to write about a trans person’s gender when replacing it with “is” doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence. This language questions a trans person’s gender by calling it an “identity” instead of just stating someone is non-binary or a man/woman. Journalists never write about cis people’s genders this way. Extend the same respect to the trans people. It is only acceptable to use this language when quoting a trans source.
Instead use: is
“Male-bodied” and “female-bodied” are inaccurate terms and are often considered offensive. Male and female bodies come in all shapes in sizes with various primary and secondary sex characteristics.
Instead use: assigned male/female at birth or raised as a boy/girl
male-to-female (MtF), female-to-male (FtM)
These terms used to be a common way to describe a trans person. In recent years, they’ve come to be considered outdated and sometimes offensive descriptors. Journalists should avoid this language unless quoting a trans source.
Instead use: trans woman, trans man
Avoid the term “non-binary pronouns.” This is inaccurate because not all non-binary people use the same pronouns, and people of other genders use they/them pronouns. While many non-binary people they/them pronouns, many non-binary people also use he/him, she/her, ze/hir, and other pronouns.
Instead use: gender-neutral pronouns, they/them pronouns, or pronouns
This language reinforces the gender binary and inaccurately positions men/males and women/females as opposites, rather than merely different genders/sexes.
Instead use: different gender/sex
Avoid using the term “preferred pronouns.” Someone’s pronouns are not a preference, but rather the only appropriate way to refer to that person. The term “preferred pronouns” is only appropriate when someone uses more than one set of pronouns and has a preference for one over the other.
Instead use: pronouns
sex change/sex reassignment
These are outdated terms and sometimes considered offensive. Don’t use them unless quoting a trans source.
Instead use: transition, gender-affirming care, or transition-related care
Avoid using the terms “stealth” or “passing” to describe someone who is not generally perceived as trans unless you are quoting a trans person who uses those words. These terms imply trans people are deceptive by simply existing. Similar phrases like “you’d never be able to tell she was trans” are similarly inappropriate in most cases. Journalists should also avoid making assessments about how trans someone appears to be. When this information is necessary to understand a story, use language like “generally perceived as trans” or “not generally perceived as trans.”
Instead use: out as trans, not out as trans, publicly disclosed as trans, not publicly disclosed as trans, generally perceived as trans, not generally perceived as trans
transgenderism/gender ideology/trans ideology/trans agenda
Far right and anti-trans activists use these terms in disinformation campaigns against trans people. They are politically loaded terms that such activists use to describe what they believe to be a radical trans agenda. This is similar to anti-gay activists fearmongering about “the gay agenda.”
This is not a word and is widely considered offensive.
Instead use: transgender
Section 3 — Glossary of Terms
A term that often describes someone who falls under the non-binary umbrella and does not have a gender.
assigned male/female at birth/assigned sex at birth
Instead of “born male” or “born female,” which are inaccurate and considered offensive, use “assigned male at birth” or “assigned female at birth” (often abbreviated to AMAB and AFAB). You may also use “raised as a boy” or “raised as a girl” when appropriate. When using this language, consider whether it’s necessary to call attention to someone’s assigned sex or the gender they were raised as. It usually is not. Most audiences understand what transgender means and don’t need to know a person’s assigned sex at birth to understand the story you’re sharing.
A non-binary gender or word to describe someone’s gender that often means someone who has two genders. These genders can be, but are not always, male and female.
A gender that exists within the gender binary: man or woman.
Short for cisgender.
A term used for someone whose gender is exclusively the one they were assigned at birth.
A man who is cisgender.
A woman who is cisgender.
A trans person’s given or former name that they no longer use, also often referred to as a “given name” or “legal name.” There’s never a reason to publish someone’s deadname in a story. Reporters should refrain from asking for this information unless it’s absolutely necessary for background checks or public records access. If writing about an individual, you should ask them what language they prefer if you refer to the existence of a deadname. While deadname is usually a noun, it’s also used as a verb to refer to the act of using the wrong name for a trans person.
A non-binary gender that often describes someone who is partially a man, boy, or masculine gender.
A non-binary gender that often describes someone who is partially a woman, girl, or feminine gender.
gender-affirming care/transition-related medical care
A broad term for health care transgender people may pursue, including counseling, hormone replacement therapy, and surgical treatments. Not all transgender people pursue every form of medical treatment available. Many never receive medical care of any kind due to cost, access, or personal choice.
When writing about medical care is appropriate and not objectifying (see “avoid hyper-focus on trans bodies and transition-related care” under the “Guidance on avoiding harmful cliches and stereotypes” section), terms like “gender-affirming medical care” or “transition-related medical care” will usually suffice. General language is usually better than more specific terms that draw unnecessary attention to trans bodies and medical procedures.
Occasionally, stories will require more specific language to describe a procedure. When appropriate and necessary, journalists should generally use the official name of a surgery or treatment. One major exception: avoid the term mastectomy when describing surgical changes to a transmasculine person’s chest. Instead, use the terms “chest reconstruction surgery” or “chest masculinization surgery.”
A cultural and societal classification system that sorts everyone into a male/female binary from birth.
In a medical context, gender dysphoria refers to the feeling of discomfort or distress some trans people feel when their bodies don’t align with their gender. Gender dysphoria can also refer to feelings of discomfort many trans people experience when misgendered, deadnamed, or otherwise treated as the wrong gender. Not all trans people have dysphoria. Some terms describe specific types of gender dysphoria (see “social dysphoria/social euphoria”).
The feeling of comfort or happiness some trans people feel when their gender is affirmed. People sometimes experience gender euphoria when their body aligns with their gender or when others use the correct name and pronouns for them. Some terms describe specific types of gender euphoria (see “social dysphoria/social euphoria”).
A non-binary gender or word to describe someone’s gender that often means someone whose gender fluctuates or is not fixed.
Gender nonconforming (often abbreviated as GNC) refers to gender presentations outside typical gendered expectations. Note that gender nonconforming is not a synonym for non-binary. While many non-binary people are gender nonconforming, many gender nonconforming people are also cisgender.
Use this language to describe they/them pronouns and other gender-neutral pronouns. They/them pronouns are not interchangeable with other gender-neutral pronouns such as ze/hir and ey/em. While these pronouns are considered gender-neutral pronouns, they are often not appropriate replacements for gendered pronouns, especially within trans communities. Using gender-neutral pronouns to refer to a person who uses gendered pronouns can often be offensive and feel invalidating. Take care to use the appropriate pronouns for everyone in your coverage and interactions. Also, keep in mind that non-binary people don’t always use they/them pronouns and often use she/her, he/him or other gender-neutral pronouns.
A non-binary gender or word to describe someone’s gender.
Someone born with reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or chromosomes that don’t fit into strict binary understandings of sex. Intersex people can be any gender and may or may not consider themselves trans.
An umbrella term used to describe everyone who is not a cis man. This is the preferred and more inclusive alternative to “women, non-binary, and trans people.”
The act of gendering someone incorrectly. This often involves using gendered words that are inappropriate or the wrong pronouns.
A non-binary gender or word to describe someone’s gender that often means someone whose gender is neutral or who has no gender.
An umbrella term for genders other than man and woman. This is also a term for a specific gender. While non-binary is considered a trans identity, not everyone who is non-binary considers themselves trans. Be aware that Indigenous communities and communities of color have other words to describe gender variance. Sometimes these terms can be included in the non-binary umbrella and sometimes they cannot. Always consult experts from these communities and the individuals you are reporting on in regard to this.
When writing about someone, ask the person what pronouns they would want you to publish. Do so even when those pronouns are new to you. Avoiding using someone’s pronouns is not only bad writing, but disrespectful to the person you’re writing about. Our audiences learn how to write and talk about trans people from media. Refusing to use someone’s pronouns in media coverage strengthens public discomfort with unfamiliar pronouns. Some sources may request that you use different pronouns for publication than in person. Respect this request. It can be a matter of safety for some trans people. For more guidance, see the entry “don’t make a big deal about someone’s pronouns” under the “Guidance on respectful coverage” section.
Use the term “reproductive health” instead of “women’s health” when writing about abortion, birth control, and other reproductive health issues. Additionally, use gender-neutral language like “people who menstruate” when writing about people who get pregnant, menstruate, need access to abortion, and other related topics. These issues affect trans men and many non-binary people, so they are not just “women’s health” issues. The reproductive needs of trans women and transfeminine people are also important to include in reproductive health coverage centering women and marginalized genders.
social dysphoria/social euphoria
Social dysphoria is a type of gender dysphoria that refers specifically to the feeling some trans people get when others do not treat them as the correct gender. People sometimes use “social dysphoria” to distinguish between dysphoria prompted by interactions with others and dysphoria prompted by physical or internal factors. Conversely, “social euphoria” refers to the feeling some trans people get when others affirm their gender.
top surgery/bottom surgery
These are colloquial terms trans people often use to refer to transition-related medical procedures. When writing about surgical procedures, refer to the guidance in the entry “gender-affirming care/transition-related medical care.”
A term used for someone whose gender is not (exclusively) the one they were assigned at birth. It’s most widely understood to be short for transgender. Though it can have different meanings for some trans communities and individuals, such as being short for transsexual (see “transsexual” entry).
A term that often refers to trans women and non-binary trans people who have a more feminine gender than the one they were assigned at birth. This term is not interchangeable with trans woman.
A term used for someone whose gender is not (exclusively) the one they were assigned at birth. Transgender is an adjective and should not be used as a noun. Be aware that Indigenous communities and communities of color have other words to describe gender variance. Sometimes these terms can be included in the transgender umbrella and sometimes they cannot. Always consult experts from these communities and the individuals you are reporting on in regard to this.
The social, legal, and/or medical process of aligning one’s life with one’s gender. This can (but does not always) include changing one’s name and pronouns; altering dress, speech, and mannerisms; updating documents and legal registries; and seeking medical treatment to change physical characteristics.
A man who is trans. “Trans man” is two words and trans is an adjective use to describe man. Making this one word is considered disrespectful and inaccurate, as it implies a trans man is not really a man.
A term that often refers to trans men and non-binary trans people who have a more masculine gender than the one they were assigned at birth. This term is not interchangeable with trans man.
A term coined by Julia Serano in her book Whipping Girl, that describes the unique oppression transfeminine people face because of both misogyny and transphobia.
A term coined by Trudy on her blog Gradient Lair that describes the unique oppression Black, transfeminine people face due to racism, misogyny, and transphobia.
A term that often refers to someone who has had or seeks gender-affirming medical care. Once the dominant word to describe someone who wants or seeks treatment for gender dysphoria, this is now a more niche and intra-community term. Some consider it outdated or offensive. The term should only be used when an individual or group of people use it for themselves.
A woman who is trans. “Trans woman” is two words and trans is an adjective use to describe woman. Making this one word is considered disrespectful and inaccurate, as it implies a trans woman is not really a woman.
Contributors: Cassius Adair, Sasha Alexander, Gillian Branstetter, Kam Burns, Oliver-Ash Kleine, Al Donato, Abigail Hadfield, Da’Shaun L. Harrison, Alex Kapitan, Kae Petrin, Scout Schiro, Olympia Sudan, Ana Valens, Emily VanDerWerff, Tuck Woodstock, and Lara Witt
*Note: The Trans Journalists Association’s Style Guide is a living document that will be updated as language evolves and additional guidance is needed. If you believe something is missing from this guide or have suggestions for improving an entry, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.