updated 09-06-2016

Media Tips for Trans People

Talking to the media can be scary, so we’re giving you some tools to help you put your best foot forward. It’s important for the media to be able to provide the public with an accurate representation of transgender youth, adults, and families.

The following information has been created by MTPC with some material adapted from the GLAAD Media Essentials Guide.

Change the Public’s Perception of Trans People

  • Avoid talking about transition and medical history. Shift the conversation away from the sensationalized “transformation” narrative that news outlets so often focus on.
  • Use proper terminology. Interviewers and members of the audience will take cues on how to talk about trans issues from you.
  • Keep things simple. Make sure to use language that cisgender people will be able to understand and empathize with.
  • Don’t disclose your birth name. This creates a “before and after” narrative which supports the idea that transitioning means becoming a whole new person.

Frame the Discussion

You want to be in control of the conversation to ensure the audience gets your message.

  • Prepare talking points in advance.
  • Restrict your message to one of three categories: personal story, general statement, or facts and data to support your claims.
  • Chose two to three broad messages that you want to deliver based on the subject of the interview.
  • Make sure those messages support your objectives.

Prepare Your Talking Points

  • Are they succinct? Talking points shouldn’t be more than a sentence or two. When spoken, each point should only be 5-15 seconds long.
  • Are they punchy? Talking points should be engaging. Use vivid language and connect your mission to your personal stories and professional expertise.
  • Do they avoid jargon? Be as clear and understandable as possible by avoiding technical terms and acronyms.
  • Do they simplify an issue? While the issues the LGBT community faces are complex, the purpose of a talking point is to change opinions and attitudes. Boil down an issue to core values.
  • Are they relatable? Everyone can relate to values of equality, fairness, family, and community. Make your message more effective by using language that speaks to common core values.

Common Pitfalls

  • Remember that no interviewer is your friend. Be thoughtful about what you say and how you say it.
  • Accept that you are an expert on your story only. If you don’t know the answer, don’t make it up: Give the interviewer the name of someone who might have the answer, or say “I don’t know off the top of my head, I’ll have to get back to you on that.”
  • Avoid jargon, surgery speak, and before-transition information such as pictures, names, or other details that can and will be sensationalized.
  • Keep it to one story/experience per interview.
  • Bring the conversation back to your message when questions stray from the topic you want to address.

Humanize and Desensationalize Your Existence.

  1. “Being transgender is just one part of who I am, and it doesn’t define me. I am also a(n) ________ (engineer, student, poet, gamer, parent, activist, etc.).”
  2. “This type of legislation is necessary because I have experienced discrimination (it’s useful to cite specific instances), and fear of discrimination affects my everyday quality of life.”

GLAAD Media Essentials: Tip Sheets for Print, Television & Radio Interviews

SPECIFIC TIPS FOR PRINT INTERVIEWS

  • Send background materials to your interviewer.
  • Use notes to help you stay focused.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Respect the interviewer’s deadlines.
  • Follow up after the article is printed.

SPECIFIC TIPS FOR TELEVISION INTERVIEWS

Live Interviews

  • Prepare your talking points in advance. Remember that quotes cannot be edited out or, conversely, taken out of context.
  • Prepare for a wide variety of questions if the audience will be calling in.
  • Remember that everything you say is ON THE RECORD.

Taped Interviews

  • No one is watching yet, so you can pause, organize your thoughts, and steer the conversation back to your major points.
  • Most of the interview will not be used, so the sound bite is key.
  • The audience will usually only hear your answers, not the interviewer’s questions.

On-the-Scene Interviews

  • Always be prepared for the media to show up when you’re hosting an event (like a rally, protest, or speech).
  • Assign media roles to two or three key people. One to be the spokesperson, another to handle media requests, and another to usher the spokesperson from interview to interview (in cases where many reporters are present).
  • Make sure to ask whether you’re live or being taped.

Television Appearances

  • It’s not just what you say but also how you look and act.
  • Your clothes shouldn’t distract the audience from your message. Avoid flashy prints or patterns, white shirts without a jacket, all black clothing, and shiny fabrics.
  • Don’t wear excessive makeup. TV studios generally have makeup artists who will assist you, but if not, do use powder to remove glare or shine from your face.
  • When on TV, don’t look at the camera. Look at the reporter and smile whenever you can.
  • The camera sees everything, so don’t fidget.
  • If you make a mistake, correct it by repeating the entire statement. If you misspeak, stop, regroup, and start the statement again from the beginning.

Radio Interviews

  • Radio interviews can be live or taped.
  • No one can see you, so use notes to stay focused on your message.