If sources share a transgender or gender-nonconforming identity on the record, ask which pronouns they use and incorporate them into your report as needed. They/them/their are acceptable as nonbinary, singular pronouns if the subject uses them. Alternative nonbinary pronouns, such as zie/zim/zis, are acceptable if requested but may require extra explanation in a story or broadcast.
Clarity for the audience is paramount. If a subject’s gender identity is not relevant to a story but the person uses a nonbinary pronoun, confusion may result if it is used without explanation. Therefore, it may sometimes be helpful to explain that a subject uses a nonbinary pronoun. Journalists should use their judgment on whether a passage can be recast for clarity, whether use of the pronoun creates more confusion than it solves, and whether it makes sense to explain the pronoun in the story.
For example, the meaning of the sentence Robert Sanchez, a member of the group of environmentalists, said they disagree with points of the organization’s mission hinges on whether they refers to Sanchez or environmentalists. The options for recasting would depend on the context available to the journalist and on the story’s audience.
Avoid references to preferred pronouns because doing so implies that calling people other than what they want to be called is a viable alternative. Avoid references to chosen pronouns because they are not always chosen. Instead, when relevant: Sanchez, who uses the pronoun they or Sanchez, whose pronouns are they/them/their.
Updated December 2020