The new Trans Journalists Association wants to see more transgender representation in newsrooms — and in the journalism they produce

Faces of TJA Collage
Kam Burns, Gillian Branstetter and Kae Petrin are three of the founding members of the Trans Journalists Association founded on June 30, 2020. PHOTOS COURTESY OF TJA

Journalists from around the world have come together to create the Trans Journalists Association, the newest addition to the landscape of journalists’ organizations advocating for communities that are under-represented in newsrooms and the coverage they produce.

In 2019, several transgender journalists formed a Facebook group as a safe space to speak openly about issues pertinent to their community. Soon after, the group moved to a Slack workspace and gained more than 200 members. A year and a half later, on June 30, the group launched the Trans Journalists Association, formed to push for better representation of the transgender community in the news media.

“I’m so gratified to see others have come out and made their way,” said Dawn Ennis, a journalist based in Connecticut. “But until now, we haven’t had an organization just for us.”

The new association, which only accepts membership requests from transgender people, is different from other traditional journalist organizations in some big ways: Membership is free and there is no executive board or formal leadership roles.

The organization’s first priority was to create a style guide for all journalists covering trans issues. The guide has three sections and covers issues like improving trans coverage, phrases to avoid and a glossary of LGBTQ+ terms.

Many members of the fledgling organization said the group was formed, in part, as an answer to other other LGBTQ+ journalist associations, which several members said do not provide a space for trans journalists.

One of the most prominent of these organizations is NLGJA – The Association of LGBTQ Journalists, which was founded in 1990.

“NLGJA has historically been mostly welcoming to white cis gay men and less inclusive for everyone else,” said Kam Burns, a member of TJA. “Generally across media, across different organizations, there are lots of hiccups covering trans people and trans issues.”

Trans journalists have expressed frustration that NLGJA’s conventions do not cater to the transgender community, and they have called on NLGJA to change its acronym — short for the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association — because it does not include transgender people.

“NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists welcomes and congratulates the organizers of the Trans Journalists Association and supports their mission,” Sharif Durhams, NLGJA’s president, wrote in an email to the Latino Reporter. “We stand with the Trans Journalists Association, and hope that our associations can serve as a resource to each other as we work to fairly and accurately cover, represent, and support LGBTQ communities in news coverage and newsrooms.”

One of the new organization’s stated goals is to push newsrooms to hire more trans journalists.

“For too long, trans stories have attempted to be told without trans people involved,” said Felix Mufti, a writer and actor from the United Kingdom. “TJA is attempting to reform this narrative, we are reclaiming our stories and telling people that we will no longer be overlooked in the mainstream media.”

For more information on the Trans Journalists Association, go to its website or follow the group on Twitter.

Julian Berger is a junior at the University of North Carolina studying journalism and Hispanic studies. He works as a part-time reporter for La Noticia, a Spanish-language outlet that covers his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. Reach him at julianb [at] live [dot] unc [dot] edu and on Twitter @julianrberger.

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