Journalists: Commit to Fair and Accurate Coverage of Transgender People, including Pvt. Chelsea Manning

GLAAD Press Release:

September 4, 2013

Over 40 organizations call for improved media coverage of transgender people


Rich Ferraro
Vice President of Communications, GLAAD
(646) 871-8011

The media has a long and poor track record of reporting on transgender people, and the coverage surrounding Private Chelsea Manning has brought that lack of fair and accurate coverage into sharp focus. The coverage that we have seen thus far has relied on stereotypical images, contrived confusion over names and pronouns, and an obsession with surgery. Examples include:

  • USA Today displaying a graphic that outlines several of the surgeries transgender women may elect to undergo, overemphasizing and sensationalizing the role of surgeries in the life of a transgender person.  A transgender identity is not determined by medical procedures.
  • The New York TimesWashington PostCNNNPRNBCFox NewsReuters, and a host of other outlets wrote articles that outlined the “struggles” that media outlets faced in referring to Private Manning as Chelsea or choosing a pronoun. The Washington Post, Fox News, and CNN still refuse to honor Private Manning’s preferred name and pronouns.
  • CNN’s Jake Tapper conducted an interview with a close friend of Manning, continually referring to Manning as Bradley, and also referring to his guest as a “gay man” when she is a transgender woman.

The media disrespected and insulted all transgender people by using phrases like “choose to be a girl,” and CNN panelist Richard Herman saying that Manning will “get good practice” as a woman in prison. Fox News offensively teased a broadcast segment on Private Manning by playing Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like A Lady).”

Transgender people face tremendous levels of discrimination and violence. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), 53% of anti-LGBT homicide victims in 2012 were transgender women – most were transgender women of color. According to the report “Injustice at Every Turn”:

  • Transgender people experience unemployment at twice the rate of the general population, with rates for people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate.
  • 90% of transgender people report experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job.
  • 22% of respondents who have interacted with police reported harassment by police, with much higher rates reported by people of color.
  • Almost half of the respondents (46%) reported being uncomfortable seeking police assistance.
  • 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6% of the general population.

We, the undersigned organizations, call on journalists and media outlets to cover all transgender people with the dignity they deserve as human beings. Private Manning issued a public statement, read by her lawyer, that explicitly and unambiguously stated that she should be referred to as Chelsea and to use female pronouns. The Associated Press and TheNew York Times have both announced that they will refer to Chelsea as she requested, and other media outlets should do the same.

The Associated Press Style Guide states that when referring to a transgender person, to “Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals.” GLAAD’s full Media Reference Guide on reporting on transgender people may be found here.

The following are commonly accepted guidelines for covering a transgender person:

  • Always use a transgender person’s preferred name.
  • Whenever possible, ask transgender people which pronoun they would like used.  
  • Do not put quotation marks around either a transgender person’s preferred name or the pronoun that reflects that person’s gender identity.
  • Avoid pronoun confusion when examining the stories and backgrounds of transgender people prior to their transition. In Private Manning’s case, she may simply be referred to as Private Manning.

Private Manning’s story presents an opportunity for the media to do a better job of telling the story of everyday transgender people who are simply trying to live their lives. The media has an opportunity – and the responsibility – to improve its reporting and accurately reflect the lives of transgender people.

If your organization wishes to sign the statement, please email

One Response to “Journalists: Commit to Fair and Accurate Coverage of Transgender People, including Pvt. Chelsea Manning”

  1. Edith Pilkington Says:

    I don’t expect my comment to be very welcome and maybe, once again, I should pause and recite the Serenity Prayer but I got as far as the link to the USA Today article. I didn’t see any graphic. What jumped out at me, though, was this quote:

    “A man who undergoes gender-reassignment surgery to appear female.”

    When I ask myself where I have seen that statement before it didn’t take me long to get back here:

    Click to access NCTE_UnderstandingTrans.pdf

    “Some transsexuals have surgery to change their appearance. . . .”

    Would Ray Blanchard portray the situation any differently? I don’t know how any of this is helping. How much different is this outlook than what one sees at the prominent hater sites?

    You said to me once that you couldn’t imagine how anyone could live the closeted existence I did for so long. Believe me, you couldn’t.

    I have plenty of sympathy for Chelsea Manning. I will offer her all the support I can muster. These advocacy groups take the identity “rationale” way too far, though. It’s worse than counterproductive. I don’t see how it will help Manning, especially if she needs SRS.

    I really hope you don’t mind me saying this but that is what I feel and worse than that, it is what I know for certain.

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