|Use of the expression “assigned at birth”
|This phrase is scientifically inaccurate. In very rare cases (< 0.02%), there may be some doubt as to which sex a newborn baby is. In these cases further investigation may be required to see if the child has a DSD (difference, or disorder, of sex development). This investigation will also establish the child’s sex, since DSDs are sex-specific (that is, each condition affects only males, or only females).
|The way the word “gender” was used
|This word is sometimes used as a polite synonym for sex, but some people use it to indicate an inner sense of being a man or woman. Journalists should take care not to mix and match these meanings, for example using “gender” to mean the objective reality of sex and then switching without warning to mean a self-declared identity.
|Use of the expression “gender identity” to describe a supposedly innate human characteristic
|The idea that everyone has an innate gender identity, and that this is what decides who is a man, woman or non-binary, is neither scientifically sound nor universally held. Many people will not know what you mean by “gender identity”, and do not regard themselves as having one. Most people think that what makes a person a man or woman is their sex – an immutable biological characteristic.
|Use of the word “cisgender” or “cis”
|Cis and cisgender are neologisms for people who do not identify as trans. They are not neutral, impartial words, but part of a contested ideology which holds that everyone has a gender identity, which for “cis” people matches the sex of their body and for “trans” people does not. Most people call themselves men or women on the basis of their sex, not their gender identity, and therefore do not think of themselves as “cis” or “cisgender”. Journalists should not use these words to describe people who do not use these words of themselves. To do so is to present those people as within a belief system they do not share – rather like calling an atheist a “heretic” or “apostate”, which suggests that they know God exists but reject him, rather than disbelieving in God altogether.
|Use of phrases such as “used to be a man”, “transitioned from female to male” or “changed sex”
|Since sex is binary and immutable for all mammals, including humans, these phrases are misleading. A male person cannot actually become a female, or vice versa.
|Use of the word “intersex”
|“Intersex” is an outdated and misleading umbrella term used to refer to people with differences, or disorders, of sex development (DSDs). Contrary to what the word suggests, these people are not somewhere between male or female. DSDs are around 40 distinct conditions that influence the development of the reproductive organs, and are sex-specific – that is, some affect only males and some affect only females.
|Use of the words “transphobic” or “anti-trans”
|The words “transphobic” or “anti-trans” are often used for people campaigning for women’s rights, or for sex-based rights more generally. But what motivates these campaigners is concern for everyone’s sex-based human rights, not animus for trans people. Using these words is not just inaccurate and insulting towards these campaigners; it harms trans people by implying that trans rights are incompatible with sex-based rights that command wide support.
|Use of the expression “TERF” or “trans- exclusionary radical feminist”
|Avoid this term for two reasons: it is inaccurate, and it is a slur. Most people throughout history and around the world accept that people cannot change sex, no matter how they identify. But they aren’t radical feminists. Moreover, the word is associated on social media with sexualised insults and threats of violence against women. No reputable media organisation should use it.
|Reference to “hate speech”
|“Hate speech” is not a legal concept and is not prohibited per se by UK law. There is no standalone offence of inciting hatred on grounds of transgender identity in England and Wales (although there are laws relating to incitement to hatred on grounds of race, religion and sexual orientation).
|Use of phrases such as “cervix havers”, “uterus owners”, “chest feeders” or “bleeders” to refer to women and girls
|It is offensive to describe half of humanity by reference to body parts and functions. Many women find this grossly offensive. In many contexts these terms are exclusionary of people with low literacy or English as a second language, who may not know, for example, that they have a cervix, but know perfectly well that they are women.
|Description of children as “trans”
|Scientific evidence suggests that most trans-identified children become reconciled with their sex over time. There is no way to distinguish between children who will continue to identify as trans into adulthood, and those who won’t. This means the expression “trans children” is inaccurate and confusing. Your audience will incorrectly assume that this refers to children who are certain, or nearly certain, to identify as trans for the rest of their lives. It is better to follow the lead of Dr Hilary Cass, the eminent paediatrician commissioned to carry out a government review of child gender services in the NHS, and speak of “gender-confused and gender-distressed children”.
|Reference to “trans inclusion” in sport
|Whether trans-identified people can participate and compete in sport at every level is not at issue: they can, on exactly the same terms as everyone else. What is at issue is whether sport categories should be based on sex or self-declared gender identity. The phrase “trans inclusion” is therefore inaccurate. The question is whether male people are included in categories that are supposedly for female athletes only.
|Lack of clarity about sex (where sex matters)
|If sex or trans status is relevant to the story you should make this clear right at the start. It is your duty to ensure your audience has all the information it needs to evaluate the standpoint and contribution of every contributor or person quoted.
|Transwomen’s voices taken as representative of women
|This is not appropriate. If you are asking a transwoman for an opinion, remember this is someone who is male, not female. It is not the same as asking someone who is a woman. Avoid presenting transwomen’s achievements as if they are female people’s achievements, since that is inaccurate and misleading. A transwoman cannot be the “first self-made female billionaire” or “first female winner of a certain prize”, for example, because transwomen are by definition male, not female.
|Suicide linked to “transphobia”; threats of suicide if children don’t transition
|Journalists and editors should always remember that self-harm and suicidal ideation are known to be contagious. You should follow the Samaritans’ guidance, which says that the media should avoid attributing suicide to any one particular issue, or implying that people with certain characteristics are highly likely to kill themselves. As a matter of fact, there is no evidence suggesting that “transphobia” plays any part in trans people’s suicides. Suicidality among trans-identified people is not disproportionate, considering other mental-health conditions known to be linked to trans identification.
|Claims that trans people are at extremely heightened risk of being victims of crime.
|There is no evidence of this.
|It is not accurate or truthful to transition people retroactively. If a man presented and self-described as such when he did something you are writing about – fathered children, founded a company, acted in a film, committed a crime, won a sporting competition – you will be confusing and misleading your audience if you use a name and pronouns he did not use at the time.
|Discrimination excused or promoted
|Journalists should not suggest that it is lawful to discriminate at work or in the provision of a service on the basis of what people believe, or don’t believe, about gender, since to do so would be inaccurate.