'Choice' Is Not The Word To Use : Memmos Standards & Practices Editor Mark Memmott writes occasional notes about the issues journalists encounter and the way NPR handles them. They often expand on topics covered in the Ethics Handbook.
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'Choice' Is Not The Word To Use

Several times we have said the so-called bathroom bill in North Carolina is about whether transgender people should be able "to use the public bathrooms of their choice."

In this case, "choice" is a loaded word. Proponents of laws restricting bathroom access to the sex on someone's birth certificate say transgender people want to "choose" which bathroom to use, which also implies that being transgender is a "choice." But transgender people say choice isn't involved; that that this is about people using the bathrooms that match the genders they identify with. They say being transgender is who they are, not a choice.

We look for neutral language. One way to talk about this subject is to say it's a debate over whether transgender people should be allowed to use public bathrooms "based on their gender identities or, instead, what's stated on their birth certificates."

As for "gender identity," the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association defines it as "an individual's emotional and psychological sense of having a gender; feeling like a man, woman, both or neither (gender nonconformity). Does not necessarily align with an individual's sex at birth."

We're going to be using "gender identity" again. It could help our audience understand the phrase if we take a moment when possible to explain it, perhaps simply as "the way we feel about ourselves."

Related:

Reminder: It's 'Transgender,' Not 'Transgendered'

On Gender Identity

NPR Issues New Guidance On Manning's Gender Identity