Correct language important for respectful coverage

As a journalist, I understand that language can be very important and can have a huge impact on the way a situation is received. People of marginalized groups also believe language, and the way they are referred to, is incredibly significant.

This is especially true for the transgender community, which receives little coverage from the media and is shrouded by a lot of misunderstanding. To be transgender is to feel that your gender identity is different than your assigned sex. Transgender is an umbrella term that covers many identities, many that fall out of the traditional gender binary, but the most understood definition is a person transitioning from male to female or from female to male.

Language has been used against the trans community in harmful ways through slurs, like many people of other marginalized identities, and so it is imperative, especially for journalists to get these terms right. Transgender or trans should be used to describe an individual with that identity, unless they explicitly ask otherwise.

Trans people should be referred to with the correct pronouns always and journalists should ask which pronouns are most appropriate to use. Though this should only be done if you are not sure, to not only be respectful to trans people but also to be careful not to out them.

Most undocumented people prefer “undocumented” over “illegal” because it is a much more respectful term, and no matter what you believe about immigration in the United States, it is important to represent groups how they want to be represented.

Journalists are aiming to spread truths and the correct language surrounding a marginalized group is a truth. All people deserve to be respected and using discretion when choosing which words to use is a part of that.

Marginalized people are also contributors to and consumers of news. If they aren’t being treated in a respectful and accurate way by news outlets, they aren’t going to get their news from that source.

Using chosen language from marginalized groups is not about political opinion, it is about respect and accuracy. Journalism can breed contempt for vulnerable groups if they are using disrespectful language. Journalists are not doing their job if their chosen language alienates a certain group of people.

Not using the chosen language of marginalized groups keeps out their perspectives. Journalism is dominated by middle-class white people, which only brings about so many perspectives.

Think about the language you use and how it might affect a group of people, because language does have power.