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Friday, 16 September 2011

I wrote a letter to the Metro

I wrote to the Metro about this article which differs from the print version. The print headline was "Boy, 10, returns to school a girl." The first sentence repeated the word "boy" and thereafter used only terms like "child," and avoided any use at all of pronouns.

I'm not sure how much of an improvement it is to say that a 10 year old wants a "sex change." I guess they thought the word "transgender" would be too difficult for London morning commuters.

This is the letter I wrote:

Dear [Editor],

I am writing in regards to yesterday's Metro front page article, "Boy, 10, who went back to school a girl" in regards to misgendering the subject. The correct way to refer to a trans person's gender is to follow their choices. The girl in the article clearly wishes to be known as a girl and your use of "boy" in the first sentence and headline is therefore inappropriate. The rest of the article uses only the term "child." It is not appropriate or neutral to treat this girl's gender as if it is a subject of open debate. You also use words like "youngster" to avoid using pronouns outside of direct quotes. This, plus the use of boy does seem to undermine the gender identity of the girl.

There is a very helpful website, trans media watch, which offers advice to journalists writing articles about trans people: http://www.transmediawatch.org/guidance_for_media.html This website advises the media to avoid phrases like "sex-change," which also appears in the first sentence of your article. Your article is otherwise sympathetic, so I hope you can keep these things in mind the next time you write about a trans person.

Did I mention they picked it as their front page article? This is something that happens every single autumn in at least one school in the UK. It was in other news outlets, including on the BBC, as the girls' mum talked to the national press. I'm all for raising awareness of anti-trans bullying, but large shocking headlines seem to be participating in, rather than decrying, adults calling this girl a "freak."

The Metro has not acknowledged my letter, although they did correct the web version. I thought I'd post the letter here.

I'm trying to imagine how it would have felt to have a newspaper headline when I returned to uni with a new set of pronouns... I hope the girl's mum is keeping her away from the news.

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