WSJ: Don’t ‘inflict’ courtesy titles on Justin Vivian Bond

The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal “ran a correction recently to point out that entertainer Justin Vivian Bond doesn’t identify as either male or female,” William Power and Jennifer Hicks write in a post on the Journal’s style blog. “Our article had used Mr. on second reference.”

In such cases, they write, “we will respect a subject’s views in that area by not inflicting a courtesy title.” How to handle it in copy? “In such cases, we try to avoid a pronoun or use descriptive terms on second reference such as the artist.”

Poynter’s Lauren Klinger wrote last year about ways journalists can write well about transgender people. Bond is trans. “In the future if I see or hear the words he or she, her or him, hers or his, in reference to me, I will take it either as a personal insult, a weak mind (easily forgivable), or (worst case scenario) sloppy journalism,” Bond writes.

More recently Klinger wrote about how the Poynter-owned Tampa Bay Times wrote about a trans kid’s prom. Tom Tobin, who edited Lisa Gartner’s story about Sebastian Rollins, told Klinger that when they discussed pronouns, “My own thinking was that this was something a person gets to decide, similar to the way our society gives us great leeway to decide what constitutes religious practice.”

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