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July 1, 2020, 3:30 p.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK: transjournalists.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Hanaa' Tameez   |   July 1, 2020

On Tuesday, the last day of Pride Month, 50 journalists launched a project to keep with the momentum of the month: the Trans Journalists Association.

The organization offers professional support to trans journalists around the world, who are often underrepresented in newsrooms and misrepresented in news stories about them, Ashley Dejean, a founding member of TJA, said.

“Someone tweeted, which broke my heart, that they wish that this happened 15 or 20 years ago and they might still be in the industry,” Dejean said. “This is long overdue. Right now we’re seeing that current organizations that are supposed to represent LGBTQ people really don’t think about trans people, or make us an afterthought.”

Dejean said that when they first came out as trans, they couldn’t find a group that centered on trans journalists.

TJA is unique for several reasons. One of them is that membership is free. Dejean said it didn’t feel right to ask members to pay when so many trans journalists are freelancers. While other affinity groups allow folks from outside a specific identity to become members, TJA is only accepting membership requests from trans people, and not anyone who exclusively identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth.

It’s also non-hierarchal, and that’s by design. There’s no executive board or formal leadership roles. Dejean believes that nonprofit structures fail communities and their membership when certain power dynamics are created, and TJA didn’t want to replicate that. They cited issues with the Center for Transgender Equality, which fostered “a culture of racism,” according to reporting by Jezebel.

Another service TJA offers is a style guide, which 16 members worked on. It has three sections: improving trans coverage, terms and phrases to avoid, and a glossary of terms. There’s also a page for employer resources on how to create trans-friendly workplaces and support employees who come out as transgender.

Per the style guide introduction:

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.

And here’s an example of one of the tips included:

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.

Dejean said the best ways for cisgender journalists to support TJA is to hire more transgender journalists for reporting and editing roles and to donate to the organization so that it can continue to support trans journalists.

Visit the website here.

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