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Update to Transgender Style Guide: Bodies and Anatomy

Thanks to great feedback from readers, it quickly became clear that The Radical Copyeditor’s Style Guide for Writing About Transgender People was missing vital guidance on writing about bodies and anatomy in ways that are sensitive and inclusive.

So today I made the second major update to the style guide by adding two sections: one on practicing sensitivity around trans people’s bodies and anatomy in particular, and one on decoupling anatomy from identity when referring to people in general.

See below for these new sections or click through for the updated style guide.

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Update to Transgender Style Guide: “They” as a Personal Pronoun

Thanks to great feedback from readers, I realized on Sunday that the style guide I published last week was missing a section. The guide addresses singular they as a generic pronoun for people whose gender is unknown in section 3.1, but it did not explicitly provide guidance on singular they as a personal pronoun.

Therefore, yesterday morning I added a new section: 2.4.4. Respect singular they as a personal pronoun and use it appropriately.

Click through to “The Radical Copyeditor’s Style Guide for Writing About Transgender People” to read the update in full, complete with helpful hyperlinks.

The Radical Copyeditor’s Style Guide for Writing About Transgender People

Introduction (Read This First)

A style guide for writing about transgender people is practically an oxymoron. Style guides are designed to create absolutes—bringing rules and order to a meandering and contradictory patchwork quilt of a language. Yet there are no absolutes when it comes to gender. That’s why this is a radical copyeditor’s style guide. Radical copyediting isn’t about absolutes; it’s about context and care.

There are profound reasons for why the language that trans people use to describe ourselves and our communities changes and evolves so quickly. In Western culture, non-trans people have for centuries created the language that describes us, and this language has long labeled us as deviant, criminal, pathological, unwell, and/or unreal.

As trans people have fought for survival, we have also fought for the right to describe ourselves in our own language and to reject language that criminalizes, pathologizes, or invisibilizes us. Just as there is no monolithic transgender community, there is also no one “correct” way to speak or write about trans people.

Continue reading The Radical Copyeditor’s Style Guide for Writing About Transgender People

Why It’s Incredibly Problematic to Call White Supremacists “Insane”

Graphic using speech bubbles to illustrate why it's important to stop calling white supremacists "insane": When people say "insane white supremacists," "these KKK marches are crazy," "the USA has gone made," and "racism is a mental illness," what they are really saying is "people with disabilities are abnormal; it's an insult to be compared to them," "people with mental health conditions are dangerous, violent, criminal," "racism is irrational; an abnormality; history, not current reality," and "racism is caused by individuals, not by systems of white supremacy."

As white supremacists march in cities across the country this month, inciting terror and violence, a lot of people are calling such people “crazy,” “insane,” or “mentally ill.” Beyond the well-documented fact that white lawbreakers are often described by the media in markedly different ways from those who are people of color, calling racism a “mental illness” has got to stop. Here’s why.

Continue reading Why It’s Incredibly Problematic to Call White Supremacists “Insane”

On “Person-First Language”: It’s Time to Actually Put the Person First

Language is a tool. It can make our worlds bigger or make them smaller. It can be used to create connection or to cause harm. It can affirm or it can disparage.

When it comes to how we describe marginalized aspects of ourselves or others—things that are perceived as “not normal” by the mainstream—language matters a whole lot, because how we talk or write about ourselves and each other can either affirm the value of diversity and difference, or demean people who are different from the idealized norm.

Continue reading On “Person-First Language”: It’s Time to Actually Put the Person First

What’s in a Word: white supremacy

What’s in a word?

“WHITE SUPREMACY”

What does it mean?

White supremacy is a system or social order that keeps power and resources consolidated among white elites, using an ideology (or way of understanding the world) that upholds whiteness—including white people, white cultural values, and white institutions—as being best or most “normal.”

Continue reading What’s in a Word: white supremacy

Radical Vocabulary: Post-Election Words to Know

Sometimes you want help understanding the meaning of a word, but you’re not sure whether you can trust a dictionary to give you a definition that is rooted in anti-oppression.

Most dictionaries were originally written by white, wealthy, educationally elite, straight, able-bodied men, which means normative assumptions and prejudices about how words should be used were written into them. And although dictionaries—like words themselves—have evolved, not all of their definitions give you the information you really need, or adapt quickly enough to provide you with fully current meanings of words.

Having a radical vocabulary can help you use language to unpack oppression, violence, and hate—and in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, this couldn’t be more essential. So here’s a list of the top words to know since the election. 

Continue reading Radical Vocabulary: Post-Election Words to Know

What’s in a Word: white nationalism

What does it mean?

White nationalism is a sector of the U.S. right-wing political sphere that is characterized by a white supremacist ideology.

As Chip Berlet explained, in a 1992 piece co-authored with Margaret Quigley, white nationalism “oscillates between brutish authoritarianism and vulgar fascism in service of white male supremacy” and white nationalists believe that “social problems are caused by uncivilized people of color, lower-class foreigners, and dual-loyalist Jews.”

Continue reading What’s in a Word: white nationalism

The New York Times, Radically Copyedited: Reporting on Bias

Yesterday, The New York Times published the article “On Campus, Trump Fans Say They Need ‘Safe Spaces,'” by Anemona Hartocollis. Showcasing an appalling lack of responsible journalism, the piece attempted to present a “balanced” take on heightening tension on college campuses in the wake of the U.S. presidential election.

From the article:

According to a campuswide message from Mark Schlissel, the university’s president, bias incidents have been reported. A student walking near campus was threatened with being lit on fire because she wore a hijab. Other students were accused of being racist for supporting Mr. Trump.

A responsible journalist would never equate the act of naming an ugly truth about another person with the act of threatening another person’s life. Unlike threatening to set a Muslim woman on fire is, using the word racist is not an act of bias when the person you are referring to has taken actions that actively support overt racism—such as voting for or supporting Donald Trump.

Anyone who says otherwise, and any publication that prints such a false equivalence, is anything but “balanced”; rather, doing so furthers the oppression of marginalized peoples.