Monday, January 4, 2010

The paper of record and pronouns...

On January 3rd, the NY Times published an article about the US Evangelical's role in the new Ugandan law that establishes the death penalty for homosexual behavior. Overall the article was interesting, but I had some problems with how they dealt with two folks that are transgender.

here's a link to the article:

And here's the letter, I just wrote the NYT in response:

In the explanation under a photo of Nikki Mawanda on the website at 10:55 am 1/4/10, he was referred to as "born female but lives as a 'trans-man' "

That description is incorrect. Trans-man should not have quotation marks (in fact in Websters the term is transman with no hyphen). It is not an uncommon term, and it is how he defines his gender. Quotation marks would not be placed around how he identifies his ethnicity, his political affiliation or just about anything else. By putting quotation marks around the term he uses to define his gender, it sets the term off and implies it is a slang term. Which it is not.

Later in the article Stosh Mugisha was referred to as she, even though the information under the photo of Mugisha stated that "Stosh Mugisha is going through transition to become a man". It is likely, this person would prefer the pronoun he and/or no pronouns at all. Was she the pronoun that Mugisha stated as their pronoun of preference? Or was the question never asked?

In the stylebook supplement put together by the NLGJA, transgendered terms are addressed:

transgender (adj.): An umbrella term that refers to people whose biological and gender identity or expression may not be the same. This can but does not necessarily include preoperative, postoperative or nonoperative transsexuals, female and male cross-dressers, drag queens or kings, female or male impersonators, and intersex individuals. When writing about a transgender person, use the name and personal pronouns that are consistent with the way the individual lives publicly. When possible, ask which term the subject prefers.

As you know, words and language are very powerful, especially in terms of how people define themselves. What does the NYT stylebook say on the matter? Is this matter addressed?

Thank you

Jacq Jones

Seriously, what do we have to do to get news organizations to refer to folks by their chosen pronouns? And yes, I know that Mr. Mawanda should have been referred to as "identified female at birth", but I chose to use the stylebook from the NLGJA to back me up and they aren't there yet. Using journalists seemed a way that might actually get action

It's not rocket science.

Want to send a letter yourself? Here's the email address:

And here's a link to the NLGJA stylebook (the National Lesbian and Gay Journalist Association)

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