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Equality Matters To Journalists: Improve Coverage Of Transgender People

September 5, 2013

From Media Matters

callchelseaIn recent weeks, Private Chelsea Manning’s court case has brought the reality of transgender military service – and transgender Americans – into focus as few other events have. Unfortunately, it has also reminded us of how ill-prepared our national media is when it comes to covering this important issue.

As a result, we have seen CNN refusing to reference Manning by her preferred name and gender. Meanwhile, Fox News mocked her – and in doing so all transgender individuals –  with an insulting and derogatory choice of song to tease one of its segments on the issue. And an MSNBC guest made light of Manning’s medical need for hormone therapy, mischaracterizing the treatment as simply an attempt to “coddle” her.

Today, Equality Matters is pleased to join more than 40 organizations calling on journalists and media outlets to cover all transgender people with the dignity they deserve as human beings. In Manning’s case, she issued a public statement read by her lawyer that explicitly and unambiguously stated that she should be referred to as Chelsea, accompanied by appropriate female pronouns. The Associated Press and The New York Times each rightly have announced that they will refer to Chelsea as she requested, and other media outlets should do the same.

Consider these facts.

According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), 53 percent of anti-LGBT homicide victims in 2012 were transgender women – most were transgender women of color.

According to the report “Injustice at Every Turn” published by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

  • Transgender people experienced unemployment at twice the rate of the general population, “with rates for people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate.”
  • Ninety percent of transgender people reported experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job.
  • Twenty-two percent 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 percent) reported being uncomfortable seeking police assistance.
  • Forty-one percent of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6 percent of the general population.

Manning’s story presents an opportunity for the media to do a better job of telling the experiences 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.

GLAAD, which is organizing this effort on the part of more than 40 organizations, has led the way in providing guidance on this issue for journalists, and its media reference guide may be found here.  For the full list of organizations participating in today’s call, click here. Published in Media Matters.


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