by Joe Siegel
The Associated Press Stylebook has added an entry for “they” as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun for its 2017 print edition due out on May 31. The entry is already featured in the online stylebook.
“We stress that it’s usually possible to write around that,” Paula Froke, lead editor for the Associated Press Stylebook, explained in a blog post on the American Copy Editors Society’s website. “But we offer new advice for two reasons: recognition that the spoken language uses ‘they’ as singular and we also recognize the need for a pronoun for people who don’t identify as a ‘he’ or a ‘she.’”
The new stylebook also includes an updated section on gender, which reads, “Gender refers to a person’s social identity while sex refers to biological characteristics. Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, according to leading medical organizations, so avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders as a way to encompass all people.”
More significantly, it added its first entry for “homophobia, homophobic,” which it stated are “acceptable in broad references or in quotations to the concept of fear or hatred of gays, lesbians and bisexuals.”
The Washington Post, which uses its own style guide, officially welcomed the usage of the singular “they” in 2015.
For LGBT publications, the use of gender-neutral pronouns is nothing new.
“We've been using ‘they’ for at least a couple of years for those that don't use ‘he’ or ‘she,’” said Patrick Saunders, editor of Atlanta-based Georgia Voice. “We include a brief note by the first reference of a source,” for example, “Jamie Smith, who prefers they/them/their pronouns, was present at the rally.”
Cynthia Laird, news editor of San Francisco's Bay Area Reporter, says the newspaper uses gender-neutral pronouns if an interview subject requests it.
“If we are unsure about how someone identifies, we try to ask them,” Laird said. “We have also had experience when covering the death of a trans or GNC (gender non-conforming) person whereby family members will refer to the old name and/or pronouns.”
“When interviewing sources we always ask what their preferred pronouns are,” said Nicole Lashomb, editor of Boston’s The Rainbow Times, “and write stories accordingly while upholding the highest level of journalism integrity possible.”