Transgender and pronouns
In this morning’s Baltimore Sun Justin Fenton writes about a victim of homicide found asphyxiated in a vacant house. It is one more in Baltimore’s apparently endless series of killings. But the trouble for the reporter, and for some readers, was a matter of pronouns.
The victim, born Anthony Trent, more recently known as Tyra, was a transgendered person who preferred to live as a woman and did so openly.
Mr. Fenton’s article quotes members of the Trent family referring to the victim as “he.” Mr. Fenton refers to the victim in the article as “she.” And today, I’m told, the family is upset with the feminine pronoun, advocates for the transgendered with the masculine.
There are two principles we follow here. The first, and simplest, is that we do not reword direct quotations. If the family says “he,” so will the article. If friends and associates say “she,” so will the article.
The second is that we refer to people as they choose to be known. When, for example, someone prefers to be known by a nickname rather than a given name, and no fraud is involved, we honor that preference. That is why we have written about Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton rather than James Earl Carter Jr. and William Jefferson Clinton.
In the far more delicate area of sexual identity, we refer to people by the gender by which they choose to be known. Ordinarily, of course, this is no problem, but with transgendered individuals we have to provide additional context, as Mr. Fenton did in his article.
This is an aspect of our effort to remain faithful to the truth and the facts, however complicated they may be.