The UWT Ledger Adopts the Trans Journalist Association pronoun use policy

On April 1, 2023 the UWT Ledger updated our pronoun use policy to be more inclusive of all pronouns.

Photo by Alexa Christie | The Associated Press Stylebooks.

The Associated Press Stylebook is considered the rule book for journalism publications. The AP style guide is used across the industry as the general set of rules on how to craft, edit, publish and present journalistic publications to an audience.

In the larger picture, the AP Stylebook guidelines are an arbitrary set of rules made up by a group of people based on what they present as “the right way to do it.” Over US history, many acts have been done that caused harm, oppression and violence towards specific communities and/or individuals.

With the Ledger being an award-winning publication, we recognize we have a platform. Simply following a format style can put us in a position to be harmful and oppressive with our publication. In this case, pronoun use is the issue in question.  

The AP Stylebook’s position on pronouns singles out anyone with they/them pronouns. The way it is currently structured, anyone using he/him or she/her is simply referred to as their pronouns. However, anyone with they/them pronouns or other neopronouns, such as ze/zir or fae/faer, is spotlighted by explicitly stating why their pronouns are being used. 

The Current AP Stylebook guidelines for pronoun use is as follows:

“For the use of singular they/them/theirs pronouns, The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook currently encourages using the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible.” 

The AP Stylebook further asks that if singular they/them/theirs pronouns are used, that the writer “explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun.” 

Rewording or clearly explaining a person’s pronouns are at the core of the current AP protocol, with the stylebook stating “clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers.” 

Additionally, the AP Stylebook firmly guides against using “other gender-neutral pronouns such as xe or ze.”

In the 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, the Trevor Project shares that suicide rates for LGBTQIA+ youth who had adults in their life who regularly used their correct pronouns went down by up to 50%. Though the Ledger acknowledges what the AP Stylebook calls for in terms of pronoun use, as a publication, we recognize the devastating impact this improper pronoun use policy can have on the LGBTQIA+ community, and our readers alike. 

The Ledger values and honors the authentic identity of all individuals. We strive to be a publication that uses our position to push back on problematic social norms in support of those who are being harmed by them. In this instance, normalizing the use of pronouns is normalizing the existence and humanity of all individuals. 

Therefore, as a publication, with the support, advice and guidance of community members, fellow Ledger staff and UWT students, we have updated our pronoun use policy to align with the Trans Journalist Association’s suggestion for pronoun use in journalism, found in the Trans Journalist Association Style Guide. 

Beginning April 1, 2023, the new UWT Ledger policy, as it is written in the Trans Journalist Association Style Guide, is as follows:

“Don’t make a big deal about someone’s pronouns

Reporters never write a sentence to explain a cis source’s pronouns. For example: “Jill, who uses she/her pronouns, attended the event.” 

If we don’t emphasize cis people’s pronouns, we shouldn’t need to explain trans people’s pronouns — especially when they are common pronouns like he, she, and they. They/them pronouns are not new and should not require an explanation for audiences. The pronoun they has been in use as a singular pronoun since the 1300s. The media has been reporting regularly on singular they/them pronouns in relation to trans people for at least a decade, and these pronouns are in the dictionary. They/them pronouns are only confusing when stories are written poorly. When a source uses less common pronouns, it’s acceptable to have a quick, appositive phrase mentioning their pronouns. For example: Taylor, who uses ze/hir pronouns, attended the event.”

To be a publication that uses our position to push back on problematic social norms, is to be a publication for and by our community.  

To the LGBTQIA+ communities that have advocated for equity and justice, thank you. Though I worked to begin this process of policy change, I am grateful for the individuals who partnered with me and informed, supported and guided this process. I would like to give special thanks to the following individuals who willingly gave their guidance, time, support, and advice to inform this pronoun policy change:

Steph Caronna, UWT Sophomore and Ledger News Reporter, who partnered with me, gave their time, shared their experiences and provided advice and guidance on how to best form the new pronoun policy.

Matthew John Wilson, Executive Director of Oasis Youth Center, for his guidance on the importance of respectful pronoun use and its impact on LGBTQIA+ youth. Wilson gives special recognition to the trans community who he has learned from. He recognizes their hard work over generations to build equality for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Ledger Editors and Advisor, Destiny Valencia, Madeline Hiller, Josie Trueblood, Andrew Anderson and Daniel Nash for your support in updating the Ledger policy to be more inclusive, and your time and dedication to implement the new policy change in a timely manner.