For the first time, the Associated Press is allowing journalists to use the singular "they" pronoun to refer to individuals who prefer to not be labeled "he" or "she."
AP Stylebook editor Paula Froke announced the change on Friday at a conference.
The new entry in the 2017 style guide says the singular "they" is permissible in certain circumstances:
In stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her: Use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible. If they/them/their use is essential, explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun. Be sure that the phrasing does not imply more than one person…
The change is included in a larger section about gender and sex, which points out the two are not one and the same.
“Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, according to leading medical organizations, so avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders as a way to encompass all people," the entry states.