March 25, 2017
The state of having a penis or vagina is no longer relevant.
As such, it’s time to pretend that penises and vaginas don’t exist.
In a Friday email to subscribers listing updated entries for its style manual, the Associated Press is urging journalists to avoid making references in news stories that suggest there are only two sexes in the human race.
The term “gender,” the AP Stylebook says, is “[n]ot synonymous with sex.”
“Gender refers to a person’s social identity while sex refers to biological characteristics,” the style guide explains.
“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. When needed for clarity or in certain stories about scientific studies, alternatives include men and women, boys and girls, males and females.”
The Stylebook issued further guidance for use of pronouns under an entry named “they, them, their.” Those third-person plural pronouns are preferred by some transgender or gender fluid individuals who say they are not comfortable with traditional male or female personal pronouns.
For its part, the AP advises writers that while “[i]n most cases, a plural pronoun should agree in number with the antecedent …. when alternative wording is overly awkward and clumsy” it may be permissible to use they, them, or their to refer to an individual. “However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable” because “[c]larity is a top priority” in news reporting and “gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers.”
It’s all about the pronouns.