AP Style

LGBT AP style tips for reporters

In an effort to remain objective in your reporting and sensitive to the people and issues at hand, here are some style tips for covering all of the diverse members who make up the lesbian, gay, bi and transgender community.

LGBT, LGBTQ Acceptable in all references for “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender” or “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning and/or queer.”

  • In quotations and the formal names of organizations and events, other variations are also acceptable, though letters should be explained.

lesbian The preferred term, as both an adjective and a noun, for women who are attracted to other women

  • Some women prefer the term “gay,” so ask your subject for their preference if possible

gay Preferred term over “homosexual” for men who are attracted to other men

  • Do not use as a singular noun

bisexual No hyphen

  • Noun: an individual attracted to more than one gender
  • Adjective: of or relating to sexual and affectional attraction to more than one gender

transgender An adjective to describe person who identifies themselves as having a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth. A transgender woman was assigned as male at birth; a transgender man was assigned female at birth.

  • Should never be used as a noun. A person is not “a transgender.”
  • A reporter should always refer to a trans person using the gender pronoun of their choice according to the AP Stylebook. If that pronoun is not expressed, you should use the pronoun consistent with the way the person lives publicly.
  • If the person prefers the gender-neutral pronoun “they,” the AP Stylebook recommends a story notes the individual’s pronoun preference and then refer to the person by their last name in future references in the story.
  • Trans is acceptable on second reference and in headlines.

GLAAD and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association have several useful media references for reporters and other media professionals covering the LGBT community, which list potentially problematic terms and phrasing, as well as general recommendations for creating conscientious narratives involving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women.

A few things to avoid

Never assume someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Always ask your subject if you feel it is necessary to your story.

Do not use the term “gay” to describe all members of the LGBT community, unless you are using it in a headline to save space and plan on further clarifying the term it in your story.

bathroom bill — Unless used in a direct quote

sex change — The term “sexual reassignment” should be used to describe the medical and surgical process some transgender people undergo to change their physical characteristics to reflect their gender identity.

  • A reporter should avoid overemphasizing the surgical part of a person’s transition as it can incorrectly suggest a trans person must have surgery to transition.

transsexual — Should be avoided in favor of “transgender person” unless a person prefers this term.

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