On June 30—the last day of Pride Month—a group of nearly 50 journalists launched the Trans Journalists Association (TJA). The organization offers support for trans journalists in their workplaces and careers through community support. In addition, they provide guidance for more accurate coverage of trans communities and tools to help employers make the newsroom more supportive for trans employees.
After coming out as transgender in 2017, Oliver-Ash Kleine, a founding member of TJA, started a Facebook group and a Slack group the next year. Kleine said they felt isolated and sought a place to talk with other trans people in the media industry. Conversations to create the association started from those groups and the first meeting was held in the fall of 2019.
“We kept seeing stories that really disrespected trans people (and) devalued their lives in our communities, and language that was really rooted in sexism,” Kleine said. “It was this ongoing frustration with a lot of trans journalists that I was in a community with and we realized that we were uniquely positioned to push back and to make a difference.”
TJA launched with several resources including a style guide, which has three sections: Guidance for Improving Trans Coverage, Terms and Phrases to Avoid, and Glossary of Terms. There are also a few resources for employers including best practices for trans-friendly workplace policies and a guide for supporting employees coming out as transgender.
The new association is unique in that its non-hierarchical. Kleine explained that many members “feel strongly about creating a structure that pushes back against current systems of oppression in our society and empowers our members to have a strong voice in the direction of the organization.”
TJA is also unique in that membership is free. Kleine said the reason is that most trans journalists are freelancers as they are “systematically kept out of newsrooms.” Making TJA accessible to trans journalists is essential, they explained. Thus, TJA felt a membership fee would not be in line with those values.
To join, users only need to visit transjournalists.org/join and fill out a quick survey. According to the website, TJA is “open to anyone who does not exclusively identify as the gender assigned to them at birth whether or not they personally use the term trans to describe themselves.”
When E&P spoke with Kleine, TJA had already received about 300 applications, and the association was in the process of reviewing new applications and admitting members.
“The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive,” they said. “There’s one tweet that particularly sticks out to me. Someone said that if this existed 10 or 15 years ago, they might still be in the industry and I think that highlights that our association is long overdue.”