Covering the Transgender Community

Photo Illustration

Photo Illustration (Original Photo Credit: Flickr/George Kelly)

A very bright magazine cover caught my eyes one day as I waited to pay for a few items at a grocery store.


The magazine In Touch edited Bruce Jenner’s face into another picture of a woman. For effect, the magazine added bright lips, thin eyebrows and rosy cheeks.

Unlike the magazine’s name, the cover was out of touch, distasteful and offensive. The Society’s Code of Ethics is clear that journalists should treat sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.

The cover and other recent media coverage of Jenner is based on reports that the reality TV star and Olympic athlete is transgender. Jenner did not make any such public claim, however.

While U.S. journalists are increasingly familiar with transgender people in public roles, they likely haven’t reported on a high-profile person’s gender transition.

In response, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA), of which I am also a member, published an open letter about covering transgender people.

We are not an advocacy group. Our mission is to ensure fair and accurate coverage of issues that affect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities.

In the letter, NLGJA offers sound advice and terms for covering transgender people. The advice also covers how to approach the unconfirmed reports about Jenner’s transition.

The letter can be found on NLGJA’s website. Additionally, the organization offers a comprehensive stylebook on LGBT terminology.


Andrew Seaman is the chair of the Society’s ethics committee.

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