Tip Sheet: Reporting on Chelsea Manning's gender identity


NEW YORK / May 9, 2017 – Please consider the following guidelines when covering Chelsea Manning's release from prison. Her release follows President Obama's decision to commute her 35-year sentence for leaking classified government information. (Please note: Chelsea Manning was not pardoned – her sentence was commuted.) Since her arrest in 2010, she has been held in all-male prisons and other detention facilities.

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. Chelsea Manning is a transgender woman.

DON'T use transgender as a noun. Example: "Chelsea Manning is a transgender."
DON'T use "transgendered" – transgender never needs an "ed" at the end

DON'T use "transsexual" or "transvestite"

DO refer to her as Chelsea Manning.

DON'T refer to her by her former name. She should be accorded the same respect received by anyone who has changed their name. Since Chelsea Manning was known to the public by her prior name, it may be necessary initially to say "Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning…" However, once the public has learned Manning's new name, do not continually refer to it in stories.

DO always use female pronouns (she, her, hers) when referring to Chelsea Manning.

DO NOT use male pronouns, even when referring to events in Manning's past.

DO refer to Chelsea Manning'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 Manning. If it is necessary to describe for your audience what it means to be transgender, consider: "Chelsea Manning was assigned male at birth, 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, 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.

For a more extensive Reference Guide on covering transgender issues, please visit glaad.org/reference/transgender. For additional resources visit glaad.org/transgender.

About GLAAD: GLAAD amplifies the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories, holding the media accountable for the words and images they present, and helping grassroots organizations communicate effectively. By ensuring that the stories of LGBT people are heard through the media, GLAAD promotes understanding, increases acceptance, and advances equality.