AP Style Diversity Communications Recommendations
AP Stylebook: Transgender Coverage
Terminology and red flags
At its most basic, transgender is an adjective describing a person whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth. For example, a person may be declared a boy at birth based on physical observation but may grow up feeling intrinsically like a girl, and later exhibit gender expressions such as preferring clothing or hairstyles typically associated with girls.
Some nonbinary people consider themselves transgender because while they may not identify as strictly male or female, their identity does not correspond to their assigned sex.
Use the term sex (or gender) assigned at birth instead of biological sex, birth gender, was identified at birth as, born a girl and the like.
The word identify is frequently used to describe how someone views themself and can be useful when writing about issues of identity. But often phrasing like is a woman is more to the point than identifies as a woman.
Avoid terms like biological male, which opponents of transgender rights sometimes use to oversimplify sex and gender, is often misleading shorthand for assigned male at birth, and is redundant because sex is inherently biological.
Some people use the word groom or variants of it to falsely liken LGBTQ people’s interactions with children, or education about LGBTQ issues, to the actions of child molesters. Do not quote people using the term in this context without clearly stating it is untrue.
Do not use the term transgendered or use transgender/s as a noun.
Gender dysphoria and gender transitions
Gender dysphoria is the distress felt when someone’s gender identity (feeling like a boy, girl, neither or both) doesn’t match the sex assigned at birth. It is a medical diagnosis required for people to undergo gender-confirmation procedures, sometimes referred to as gender-affirming care or similar terminology.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health recently lowered its recommended minimum age for starting gender transition treatment, including sex hormones and surgeries. It says hormones can be started at age 14 and some surgeries at 15 or 17.
Treatments can improve psychological well-being and reduce suicidal behavior. Starting treatment earlier can allow transgender teens to experience puberty around the same time as other teens. But other factors must be weighed, including emotional maturity, parents’ consent and a psychological evaluation.
But even ahead of contemplating medical treatment, experts agree that allowing children to express their gender in a way that matches their identity is beneficial, such as letting children assigned male at birth wear clothing or hairstyles usually associated with girls, if that is their wish.
Do not equate a gender transition with becoming a man, becoming a woman or the outdated terminology sex change.
If you aren’t already clear which pronoun a person uses, it’s OK and often advised to ask them. Use your judgment on whether asking sources for their pronouns could complicate your relationship or distress someone.
Don’t refer in interviews or stories to preferred or chosen pronouns. Instead, the pronouns they use, whose pronouns are, who uses the pronouns, etc.
While many transgender people use he/him and she/her pronouns, others — including nonbinary, agender or gender-fluid people — use they/them as a gender-neutral singular personal pronoun.
As much as possible, AP also uses they/them/their as a way of accurately describing and representing a person who uses those pronouns for themself. For more guidelines and perspectives, see the full pronouns entry.
Use a transgender person’s previous name, or deadname, very rarely and only if required to understand the news or if requested by the person. Deadnaming someone can be akin to using a slur and can cause feelings of gender dysphoria to resurface.
When public figures announce a gender transition that includes a name change, generally use the deadname only once and not in the opening paragraph, with future coverage using only the new name.
When naming suspects or victims in stories about crimes or accidents, be cognizant that authorities or family members may be ignorant of or disregarding the person’s identity; the person, their friends or others may have better information about how the person lived and identified.
If you do misname or misgender someone, correct it like other factual error and use the correct name, gender and pronouns thereafter.
Starting in 2020, conservative-leaning U.S. state legislatures began considering a wave of bills aimed at transgender youths. Many political observers assert that the legislation is being used to motivate voters by falsely framing children as under threat.
In the following two years, more than a dozen states passed laws banning transgender athletes from certain sports teams. Opponents say that the measures unfairly target an already marginalized community, and that rules and monitoring in individual leagues and conferences render such legislation unnecessary.
Several states have also taken steps to criminalize gender-affirming health care for transgender youths. Backers of such bans say minors are too young to make gender-transition decisions, while doctors and parents raise alarms that such restrictions to medical care put youths at serious risk.
Covering transgender people in sports
Recent moves by athletic associations, legislatures and school districts seek to restrict the ability of transgender athletes, and in particular transgender women, to compete in a way that aligns with their gender.
When covering such proposals or restrictions, check your assumptions and facts.
Proponents of such restrictions assert that transgender women have an athletic advantage over cisgender women. Transgender athletes’ backers argue, among other things, that individuals are different, that sweeping restrictions overblow the prevalence of the issue, and that it’s not possible to know with certainty what gives any particular athlete, transgender or cisgender, a competitive edge.
Don’t refer to male or female hormones. All people have the same hormones; only their levels vary. If discussion of hormones is needed, name the specific hormone(s).
Don’t use phrasing that misgenders people or implies doubt, such as former men’s swimmer or currently competes as a woman. Instead, formerly competed with men, current member of the women’s team, etc.
Be clear on the intent of proposals or restrictions. Avoid constructions like transgender bans that imply trans people, not their participation in an activity, are the thing being banned. If transgender women are banned from playing on women’s teams, say that. Be aware that laws affecting trans athletes may not only affect trans women, so be sure reporting reflects the specific legislative language used.
If transgender players of any gender are banned from playing on teams in line with their gender, say that.
**Other guidance and terminology, arranged alphabetically:
Describes people whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth; that is, not transgender. Explain if necessary. Do not use terms like normal to describe people who are not transgender. Not synonymous with heterosexual, which refers to sexual orientation.
A social construct encompassing a person’s behaviors, intrinsic identity and appearance. Gender often corresponds with but is not synonymous with sex. A person’s sex and gender are usually assigned at birth by parents or attendants and can turn out to be inaccurate. Experts say gender is a spectrum, not a binary structure consisting of only men and women, that can vary among societies and can change over time.
The medical treatments that transgender and nonbinary people sometimes use to transition, or alter their sexual characteristics. Can include surgery and/or hormone therapy.
Sometimes rendered gender-confirming as an adjective. Alternatives such as gender affirmation and sex reassignment are acceptable in quotes and in proper names.
If surgery is involved, gender-confirmation surgery. Do not use abbreviations such as GCS or SRS unless in quotes, and introduce the full term before the quote. Do not use the outdated term sex change, and avoid describing someone as pre-op or post-op.
Refer to a person’s gender-confirmation surgery only when relevant. Surgery is not necessary for people to transition.
How people outwardly convey their gender, intentionally or not, such as through fashion choices, mannerisms or pronouns. Gender stereotypes can lead others to incorrectly perceive someone’s gender or sexual orientation.
Refers to a gender identity or expression that changes over time. Include the hyphen.
A person’s sense of feeling male, female, neither or some combination of both. Often just gender will suffice: She spent a lot of time explaining her gender may work just as well as She spent a lot of time explaining her gender identity. Examples of gender identities include man or boy; woman or girl; nonbinary; bigender; agender; gender-fluid; genderqueer; and combinations of identities, such as nonbinary woman.
Acceptable in broad references to describe people whose identities or expressions do not follow gender norms. May include but is not synonymous with transgender. Avoid dated terminology such as gender-bending or tomboy.
An identity describing people whose gender expression does not follow norms; use only if the person or group identifies as such. Not synonymous with nonbinary.
Describes people born with genitalia, reproductive organs, chromosomes and/or hormone levels that don’t fit typical definitions for males or females. Identify specific people as intersex only if they use the term themselves. Not synonymous with nonbinary or transgender. Do not use as a noun.
When relevant, describe the person’s specific condition, along with a brief explanation: Statler has Klinefelter syndrome, in which males have an extra X chromosome. The term difference(s) in sex development is acceptable in quotes and medical contexts; limited use of the abbreviation DSD is acceptable in subsequent references. Avoid the outdated term hermaphrodite.
Describes people who don’t identify as strictly men or women; can include agender (having no gender), gender-fluid (an identity that fluctuates) or a combination of male and female. Not synonymous with transgender, though some nonbinary people are also transgender.
The term openly can imply that to identify as transgender is inherently shameful, so use it only when relevant: Xiong is the group’s first openly transgender president (which would allow for the possibility that previous presidents were transgender but not open about it.)
Do not use terms like avowed or admitted.
Don’t assume that because news figures address their gender transition publicly, it qualifies as coming out; public figures may consider themselves out even if they haven’t previously addressed their identity publicly.
Outing or outed is usually used when someone’s identity is revealed against their knowledge or will.
pregnant women, pregnant people
Pregnant women or women seeking abortions is acceptable phrasing. Phrasing like pregnant people or people seeking abortions is increasingly used in medical contexts and is also acceptable to include people who have those experiences but do not identify as women, such as some transgender men and some nonbinary people. Use judgment and decide what is most appropriate in a given story. Neutral alternatives like abortion patients are also acceptable, but do not use overly clinical language like people with uteruses or birthing people.
They as a singular pronoun may be confusing to some readers and amount to a roadblock that stops them from reading further. Some people also use multiple pronouns, such as she/they, which could further trip up readers. At the same time, though, efforts to write without pronouns to avoid confusion may make people feel censored or invisible.
How to balance those priorities? Try to honor both your readers and your story subjects. As in all news writing, clarity is paramount.
Often, as can be the case even with traditional pronoun use, a sentence can be sensitively and smoothly written with no pronoun. For example: Hendricks said the new job is a thrill (instead of Hendricks said Hendricks is thrilled about the new job or Hendricks said they are thrilled about the new job).
When using they/them/their as a singular pronoun, explain if it isn’t clear in context: Morales, who uses the pronoun they, said they will retire in June.
Be sure that the phrasing does not imply more than one person. Rephrase if needed to avoid confusion about the antecedent.
Don’t make assumptions about a person’s gender identity based on their pronouns, or vice versa. Don’t assume a person’s pronouns based on their first name.
In general, do not use neopronouns such as xe or zim; they are rarely used and are unrecognizable as words to general audiences.
They/them/their take plural verbs even when used as a singular pronoun, and the singular reflexive themself is also acceptable when referring to people who use they/them/their.
Male or female puberty or puberty typical of males or females is acceptable in reference to transgender people who did not take hormone-altering medication during puberty.
Refers to biological and physiological characteristics, including but not limited to chromosomes, hormones and reproductive organs. A person’s sex is usually assigned at birth by parents or attendants, sometimes inaccurately. Sex often corresponds with but is not synonymous with gender, which is a social construct.
Describes people whose gender does not match the one usually associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Identify people as transgender only when relevant, and use the name by which they live publicly. Unless it is central to the story, avoid mention of a person’s gender transition or gender-confirmation surgery in news coverage, which can be intrusive and insensitive.
The shorthand trans is acceptable on second reference and in headlines. Do not use the outdated term transsexual unless a source specifically asks to be identified as such.
Avoid the word tranny, which is a slur.
transition (n., v.), gender transition
The legal, medical or social processes some transgender or nonbinary people undergo to match their gender identity. Examples can include a formal or informal change to names or pronouns, makeup and hairstyles, hormone therapy, or gender-confirmation surgery. Mention or describe it only when relevant.
Some people who have undergone gender-confirmation procedures refer to themselves as transsexual; use the term only if a person requests it.
People’s awareness of themselves in a sexual sense. It incorporates a person’s sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.
Increasingly popular shorthand for the concept of sexual orientation and gender identity. Avoid using the acronym unless necessary, as in a quote or name of an organization, and explain the term if used.