The Editors’ Code of Practice sets the framework for the highest professional standards for journalists. There are some situations where it is helpful for IPSO to produce guidance which explores in more detail how the Editors’ Code applies to particular themes or issues. One such area is the researching and reporting of transgender issues.
This guidance does not replace or supersede the Editors’ Code, but is designed to support editors and journalists who are researching or writing on transgender issues. It does not limit or restrict editorial decision making, but may inform that decision making.
This guidance is aimed at editors and journalists and may also be helpful to members of the public. If you need further advice, please contact IPSO or see the ‘Resources’ section at the end of this guidance.
The Editors’ Code contains a number of Clauses relevant to reporting or researching stories on transgender individuals (although it is important to note that all Clauses of the Code may be relevant). There are exceptions to some Clauses in the Code (including 2, 3, 6 and 8 below) where publication of material that might normally breach the Code would be allowed in the wider public interest. Editors invoking the public interest will need to demonstrate that they reasonably believe that publication would both serve and be proportionate to the public interest.
There are a wide variety of stories which may touch on transgender issues. We have developed some key questions and points, based on the Editors’ Code, which may help journalists and editors. Some points may be more relevant to particular types of stories than others, but it may helpful to consider all of the points set out below.
1. Relevance (Clauses 12 and 2)
2. Language (Clauses 12 and 1)
3. Publicity (Clauses 12 and 1)
4. Terminology (Clause 1 and 12)
5. Unnecessary information (Clause 2)
6. Statistics (Clause 1)
Children who are experiencing gender dysphoria or undergoing a gender transition may be particularly vulnerable. The Editors’ Code contains stringent requirements that are intended to ensure that children are protected from unnecessary intrusion.
Any coverage of a child’s personal circumstances must be contemplated with extreme caution and due regard for the requirement that “in cases involving children under 16, editors must demonstrate an exceptional public interest to override the normally paramount interests of the child.” If you believe that an exceptional public interest does justify coverage, you should consider how to limit the intrusion posed by the coverage. You could do this by omitting details that could identify the child or the school they attend. Editors should be aware that this may not be sufficient to meet the requirements of the Code. Such coverage has the potential to intrude into a child’s time at school even in cases where they not readily identifiable.
Some individuals of transgender status will be happy to discuss their experiences with the media, others feel extremely vulnerable when their circumstances are brought to public attention through press coverage or are concerned about the prospect of coverage. When preparing stories, editors and journalists should not lose sight of the fact that individuals who are experiencing gender dysphoria, or are undergoing or have undergone a gender transition, will often be in a particularly vulnerable position.
The Gender Recognition Act 2004 enables transgender people to apply to the Gender Recognition Panel to receive a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). If an individual is granted a full GRC they will, from the date of issue, be considered in the eyes of the law to be of their acquired gender. The Act safeguards the privacy of transgender people by defining information in relation to the gender rec-ognition process as protected information. Anyone who acquires that information in an official capacity may be breaking the law if they disclose it without the consent of the individual concerned. However, protected information can be disclosed for limited, defined public policy reasons, for example when investigating a crime. Editors may want to seek legal advice before making a decision on whether to publish information in relation to the gender recognition process.