AP Updated Its Gender Jargon Guidance - It’s as Bad as It Sounds

AP Photo/Armando Franca

Paging George Orwell. Mr. Orwell, please pick up the green courtesy phone …

Hey kids, have you ever really wanted to sit with the cool journalists in the cafeteria, but were unsure of the latest trans-speak terms?  Nobody wants to be stripped naked and run through a newsroom windmill of outraged reporters who feel unsafe because you misgendered a third party in casual conversation. The Hallmark Greeting Card Style Guide Associated Press Style Book has your back, with an updated section on gender terminology!


These days, AP says, “Journalists on all beats must be able to write about and interview transgender people using accurate, sensitive, unbiased language.”

Elsewhere, it tells us “Journalists on all beats must be able to write about and interview evangelical Christian people using accurate, sensitive, unbiased language.”

Nah, just kidding.

And it ain’t just ink-stained wretches that have to be careful. Real people are getting in trouble over this stuff.

AP’s advice for journos transacting with trans: “Let your sources guide you on how they want to be identified, and then use your judgment to be both sensitive and accurate.”

Here’s a crucial point – maybe THE most crucial point, and certainly the most telling part of the update:

Avoid false balance — giving a platform to unqualified claims or sources in the guise of balancing a story by including all views. For instance, don’t quote people speaking about biology or athletic regulations unless they have the proper background. If you do need to use the quotes, fact-check them within the story. Ensure that organizations offering data or other factual information in a story are using sound methodology grounded in valid science.

In other words, only quote normal people when you can undercut and ridicule them immediately. There are not two sides to this: It’s good and decent gender-whatever people who just want to live Their TruthTM vs. reactionary bigots who can’t possibly know what they’re talking about.


AP then goes on to tell journalists the cutting-edge definitions of gender and sex – probably taken directly from Human Rights Campaign literature.

Gender refers to internal and social identity and often corresponds with but is not synonymous with sex. Experts from organizations including the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association say gender is a spectrum, not a binary structure consisting of only males and females.

Sex refers to biological characteristics, such as chromosomes, hormones and reproductive anatomy.

Some other fascinating nuggets from AP:

Since not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender — as in the cases of nonbinary and intersex people — avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders.

Uh … okay.

Some nonbinary people consider themselves transgender because while they may not identify as strictly male or female, their identity does not correspond to their assigned sex.


Similarly, some toasters may consider themselves major appliances because while they may not identify as kitchen gadgets or cooking implements, their identity does not correspond to their actual use as bread cookers. (Hey, it makes just as much sense.)

Avoid terms like biological sex, along with biological male and biological female, which opponents of transgender rights sometimes use to refer to transgender women and transgender men, respectively. They are also redundant because sex is inherently biological.

This is super important. You don’t want to be like the poor college kid who recently failed a class for using the term “biological women.” Unacceptable gender jargon comes at you fast.

“Avoid the word mutilation, a politicized and subjective term often used to mischaracterize surgery.”

Come on, you’re a journalist; you’re smart enough to write about turning outies into innies and lopping off perfectly healthy breasts without calling it by its name.

The update is nothing if not thorough. It’s got entries on “Terminology and red flags,” “Gender transitions and gender-affirming care,” “Pronouns,” “Deadnaming” and “Covering transgender people in sports.” There’s even a glossary to help you keep up with the alphabet soup of queer identity.


And for all that may be new in the update, not one bit of guidance is surprising. It’s all as dogmatically ideological as the most radical trans/gender/sexual weirdness activist could wish.

But that’s what AP does, and what journalists do: control the language, control the masses. The language only means what you want it to mean, and what’s biology or 5,000 years of Western Civilization against a J-school mediocrity with a platform?


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