The Dos And Don'ts Of Discussing Transgender Health Care

Fox vs MSNBC Coverage of Transgender HealthcareWhile Fox News continues to disregard journalistic best practices in reporting on transgender people, MSNBC has repeatedly demonstrated how to properly cover stories about transgender medical treatment, inviting actual transgender guests to offer expert testimony about the importance of health care for the transgender community.

When Private Chelsea Manning - the former soldier currently serving a 35-year prison term for leaking thousands of classified documents - came out as transgender in August 2013, major media outlets proved just how ill-prepared they were to cover transgender stories. Both Fox News and CNN repeatedly misgendered Manning, disregarding GLAAD's Media Reference Guide, which calls on news organizations to refer to transgender people by their preferred gender pronouns.

Manning is back in the news after a February 13 report by USA Today revealed that Manning has been approved to receive hormone therapy as part of her transition. And the story has once again highlighted the need for responsible coverage of transgender stories: 

While MSNBC took steps to include transgender voices and cover Manning's transition with intention and accuracy, Fox News ignored journalistic guidelines while continuing to mock and degrade transgender people in its coverage. (CNN briefly mentioned the story without editorial comment)

Fox continued to misgender Manning when discussing her healthcare. Misgendering a transgender person violates journalistic guidelines established by the Associated PressNew York TimesGLAAD, and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, which all instruct journalists to refer to transgender people by their preferred pronouns. In addition to misgendering Manning, Fox continued its year old tradition of playing music to mock transgender people.

Fox also neglected to mention that denying transgender prisoners with treatment could have severe health consequences - instead fixating on the cost of Mannings' treatment.

In sharp contrast, MSNBC's Ronan Farrow and Joy Reid both provided exemplary, accurate coverage of Manning's story. Both Farrow and Reid held to the GLAAD best practice that “transgender people are the experts to talk about transgender people,” and invited transgender women and activists - Allyson Robinson and Jennifer Boylan - on as expert guests to educate viewers about transgender health care. In doing so, the two gave viewers an opportunity to learn about the necessity of trans health care.

MSNBC proved that it is easy to follow the guidelines in covering transgender stories by using correct pronouns, and ensuring accurate coverage by inviting the experts - transgender people themselves - to educate viewers about transgender issues. 

Video created by Coleman Lowndes.