A simple guide for journalists, reporters, and editors; words and phrases to avoid, alternatives to use instead, how to avoid undermining journalistic integrity through misreporting the gender of a source, and a glossary of useful definitions.

The basics of best practice

Much like ascertaining correct spelling for an unusual name, or giving the correct job title, using correct pronouns for sources is essential for maintaining journalistic integrity.

A policy to confirm the pronouns of every source is the best way to maximise the accuracy and credibility of the news outlet.

This also helps to create a culture of respect for trans people, making it safer for trans people to engage with the media. This means that a diversity of trans perspectives can be present in news media more often.

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Avoid trivialising human rights

Avoid language which frames transgender human rights as something trivial, or as optional.

Some common phrases which do this:

  • ‘Culture wars’ – if it were a culture war, it would be the culture of being allowed to live vs the culture of eradicating trans people from society. The players in the ‘culture war’ would be conservative political parties, the far right, and right wing conspiracy theorist and religious groups (and the anti-trans campaigners they support) vs transgender people just trying to live their lives.
  • ‘Transgender debate’ – if it were a debate, the debate would be whether trans people are humans who deserve human rights, or not. The further right you look, the more the debate is one of genocide. Rather than a debate, anti-trans propaganda is an international disinformation campaign (incorrect information with intent to harm). This then becomes general misinformation, as well-intentioned people believe and spread it.

Avoid incorrect oppositional framing

Avoid framing entire groups of people as opposing transgender human rights.

Some common examples include:

  • ‘Feminists vs trans people’ – in Aotearoa, all of the major feminist organisations support transgender rights (e.g National Council of Women, Māori Women’s Welfare League, the entire sexual violence prevention sector). None of the small anti-trans organisations carry out any feminist work (i.e. they don’t campaign on the wage gap, benefit rights for single mums, women being allowed to beat men in sport, rights for migrant women, etc). We have not seen a single example of an actual feminist organiosation in Aotearoa which does not support transgender human rights and view trans women as women.
  • ‘Parents vs trans people’ – many trans people are parents, and many parents who are not trans support transgender people. There are also many parents who have transgender children. Most parents are concerned about things that actually effect their kids – like quality healthcare, whether their kids are making friends, getting good grades/future financial stability, getting head lice. Safety is of course the top concern of most parents, but safety concerns tend to be things like bullying, anxiety and depression, and problems with drugs and alcohol.


You can find a glossary of terms with some social context in our ‘Trans 101 – glossary of trans terms and how to use them’.