Journalists have been urged to avoid making reference to the fact someone has had a sex-change operation unless it is "genuninely relevant to the story".
Clause 12 of the PCC code urges journalists to avoid gratuitous reference to race, gender and sexual orientation. And a guidance note issued by the PCC yesterday made clear that transgender status is covered by this clause as well.
When it comes to descriibing transgender people. the PCC is less helpful – noting that "there is a range of views within the community on terminology issues".
Editors should also be aware of the issue of relevance, the PCC says. "It may be useful to assess whether a story would be considered newsworthy if it did not concern an individual of transgender status, and if so, whether the individual's status is genuinely relevant."
On the question of whether a transgender person should be referred to as he or she, the PCC said: "The Commission considers that it is generally best to refer to an individual using the pronouns that they use to describe themselves. If in doubt, ask the individual how they prefer to be known, if this is possible."
When primary school teacher Nathan Uptoon changed her gender and became Lucy Meadows there was coverage in the local paper earlier this year which was picked up by the nationals and particularly the Daily Mail's Richard Littlejohn, who said:
By insisting on returning to St Mary Magdalen’s, he is putting his own selfish needs ahead of the well-being of the children he has taught for the past few years.It would have been easy for him to disappear quietly at Christmas, have the operation and then return to work as ‘Miss Meadows’ at another school on the other side of town in September. No-one would have been any the wiser.But if he cares so little for the sensibilities of the children he is paid to teach, he’s not only trapped in the wrong body, he’s in the wrong job.The Mail robustly defended the Littlejohn piece
Meadows killed herself three months after returning to school. Although the coroner condemned media coverage, Meadows herself did not mention this as a factor in her suicide note.