TIP SHEET: TRANSGENDER TERMINOLOGY AND TIPS FOR COVERING LILLY WACHOWSKI
[To read GLAAD's statement, please visit GLAAD responds to Lilly Wachowski's statement about her transition.]
Los Angeles – Please consider the following guidelines when covering Lilly Wachowski's announcement that she is now living publicly as her authentic self. This style guide will help you create respectful, accurate stories while avoiding common mistakes and clichés.
DO describe people who transition as transgender, and use transgender as an adjective. Lilly Wachowski is a transgender woman. DON'T use transgender as a noun. For example: "Lilly Wachowski is a transgender." DON'T use "transgendered." Transgender never needs an extraneous "-ed" at the end. DON’T use "transsexual" or "transvestite."
DO refer to her as Lilly Wachowski. DON’T refer to her by her former name. She has changed it, and should be accorded the same respect received by anyone who has changed their name. Since Lilly Wachowski was known to the public by her prior name, it may be necessary initially to say " Lilly Wachowski, formerly known as Andy Wachowski…" However, once the public has learned Wachowski's new name, do not continually refer to it in stories.
DO use female pronouns (she, her, hers) when referring to Lilly Wachowski.
DO avoid male pronouns and Lilly's prior name, even when referring to events in her past. For example, "Prior to her transition, Lilly Wachowski created the Matrix trilogy with her sister Lana Wachowski."
DO refer to Lilly Wachowski's female identity as her gender identity, not her sexual orientation. Gender identity is one's own internal, deeply held sense of being male or female. Sexual orientation is who one is attracted to. They are not the same thing and should not be conflated or confused.
AVOID the phrase "born a man" when referring to Wachowski. If it is necessary to describe for your audience what it means to be transgender, consider: "Lilly Wachowski was designated male on her birth certificate, but is now living as her authentic female self."
DON'T speculate about medical procedures transgender people may or may not choose to undertake as part of their transition. This is private medical information, and a transgender identity is not dependent on medical procedures. Overemphasizing the medical aspects of a person's transition objectifies transgender people, and prevents the public from seeing the transgender person as a whole person.
DON'T imply that someone who comes out as transgender (regardless of their age) was lying or being deceptive because he or she chose to keep that information private. Transgender people face extremely high rates of family rejection, employment and housing discrimination, and physical violence. Every transgender person has to prepare to face the possible consequences of coming out and living as their authentic selves. That caution does not mean that they were deceptive or lying. It simply means they felt it necessary to keep their authentic self private until they were safely able to disclose it to others.
DON'T indulge in superficial critiques of a transgender person's femininity or masculinity. Commenting on how well a transgender person conforms to conventional standards of femininity or masculinity is reductive and insulting.