If a source shares transgender or gender-nonconforming identity, it is best practice to ask what pronouns the person uses. Be cautious that a person’s pronouns may not correspond with the gender that may be associated with one’s name or appearance. Also, do not assume transgender status or include it if it is not germane to the story.
When writing about events prior to when the person began living publicly as a different gender, NLGJA recommends avoiding a mix of different pronouns within a story by using the person’s first name at the time, using the last name as appropriate, or using a structure that is clear about the timeline but avoids the need to reference the name.
Example: “Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley, came out as transgender last week. In a statement, Manning said she had felt this way since childhood. Manning grew up in Oklahoma. In middle school, Manning was very outspoken in class about government issues and religious beliefs, friends said. She continues to be outspoken about her beliefs.”
In many cases, especially those in which the subject’s pronoun preference isn’t known, the story may be more accurate and flow better if pronoun use is avoided rather than risk use of the incorrect one.
Example: “Rory has been involved with the group for three years. ‘This cause has been important to me since high school,’ the teenager said.”
If your outlet’s style rules allow unconventional pronouns, as preferred by some transgender people (e.g., “they” as singular or “ze”), it is acceptable to explain in the story that the source prefers it.
Example: “Rory, who uses the pronoun ‘they,’ said they support the bill.”