Interviewing and reporting on members of the LGBTQI community


Over the past few years there has been significant evolution in our understandings and cultural acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) people.

As a result, media coverage of LGBTQI issues has moved beyond simplistic political dichotomies and towards more fully realised representations of the diversity of the LGBTQI community. This includes LGBTQI people's lives and their families. Today, LGBTQI people's stories are more likely to be told in the same way as others — with fairness, integrity, and respect.

GLAAD Media Reference Guide - 10th Edition

Journalists and broadcasters realise that LGBTQI people have the right to the fair, accurate, and inclusive reporting of their stories and their issues, and GLAAD's Media Reference Guide, now in its tenth edition, offers tools you can use to tell LGBTQI people's stories in ways that bring out the best in journalism and helps contribute to an open and fair society. Some resources in the guide include:

Interviewing transgender and gender non-conforming (GNC) people

It seems to be coming up more and it can feel like new or changing territory, and it's important to get right and to make people feel comfortable.

Start with good research. Do a pre-interview. Depending on the show this might be basic or in-depth, on the day or before – but generally a pre-interview involves briefing your guest on the format of your interview, checking facts, perhaps what territory you'll cover and if there are topics they're not comfortable discussing.


The word 'transgender' describes a person whose gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. A person's understanding of their gender evolves over time and everyone should have the ability to self-assess their gender identity.

Gender runs along a broad spectrum of possibilities. Constricting options to only a man and woman inhibits expression of this range. ‘Transgender’ does not stop after MTF (male-to-female) and FTM (female-to-male). A variety of descriptors such as agender, androgynous and gender fluid, may more accurately describe an individual's gender. The opposite of transgender is cisgender.

NB. Coming out as transgender is a realisation of someone's gender, not a switch. 

Terminology, pronouns and names

There's a strong chance that a GNC individual has dedicated a lot of time and energy to thinking about how they wish to discuss their identity. Assume the person you’re talking to has the expertise to identify themselves. The names or pronouns an individual uses should be affirmed and respected regardless of surgery, hormones or their driver's licence.

Typical he/she pronouns often don't fit well because they reflect a binary system. Although ‘they’ is conventionally a plural pronoun, it is also gender-neutral; so it's a preferred pronoun for many people. Other options include ‘ze’, ‘hir’ or just a first name. Other people may not have a strict preference at all. 

Echo back the terminology that a person uses. If you’re unsure, ask (before you're on air). If you want to be certain of the pronouns, simply and respectfully ask "What are your gender pronouns?" If you can’t do that for some reason, defer to the GLAAD guide above. If you make a mistake, apologise, continue and try again next time.

Trans people who identify as male or female will never tire from hearing their correct pronouns used. Use them in emails, when greeting them or introducing them eg. 'Up next is Teddy, he's an amazing young producer and all-round top guy'. A lot of trans people can feel on edge worrying about being misgendered, so hearing their correct pronouns can help them relax and know they're in a place where they're respected.

If you're struggling with gender neutral pronouns then practice, practice, practice. Think of how we already use them in everyday life eg. 'hey, someone has left their keys in the office. Let's post on the Facebook page to find out who they might be'. 

Names given at birth are often tied to a gender. When we age, those names may not correspond with our gender identity and may prompt association with gendered pronouns. Some GNC people change their name to something that better reflects their identity. 

Avoid saying things such as “she goes by this name”, “she wants to be called” or “she calls herself.” This language is distancing and can sound like you're casting doubt on the person’s identity.

The GLAAD guide dives further into problematic terms, but 'transgender' is the accepted umbrella term. It’s incorrect to refer to someone as 'transgendered' or 'a transgender'. Avoid ‘transwomen’/ ‘transmen’; they’re not a new breed. Write transgender people or trans people, trans women/ trans men (note the space). Transgender women are women, transgender men are men, and everyone is human.

Lines of questioning

It is wonderful and important to celebrate diversity in gender. But this does not mean every transgender person would like to share their story. Coming out is not always a positive experience, so don’t assume that everyone is open to sharing. Similar to the personal details of your life, someone’s gender identity story is a personal story. Allow them to share it of their own accord.

People deserve to have stories about their lives and accomplishments told in ways that don’t reduce them. Transition is not always relevant to a story about a trans person and it’s almost always inappropriate to ask about surgical status.

With any question - is the answer relevant to your interview? Test your question by turning it back on yourself. You're speaking to someone who is a person - is this okay to ask someone?

If a transgender person is comfortable talking about their body, all the power to them. But even then, the conversation should be led by that individual and should stop at their request.

Gender and sexuality

Although gender non-conformity often corresponds with non-normative sexuality, it's important to recognise the difference between sexuality and gender. Sexual orientation indicates who you partner with. Gender identity indicates who you are inside. They are distinct. Everyone has a sexual orientation (lesbian, gay, bisexual, straight etc) and a gender identity (cisgender, transgender etc).

Thanks to Caroline Gates at FBi Radio for writing this resource.