Methuen school faces parents' queries on student's gender issue

Dozens of parents flooded the Methuen school system with phone calls yesterday after a local newspaper reported that a fourth-grade girl had returned from the February school break requesting to be treated as a boy.

The child’s parents told school officials that he had always considered himself a boy, rejecting feminine dress and name, and they were agreeing to raise him as a male. —Tracy JanMethuen school faces parents’ queries on student’s gender issue (Boston.com)

This article raises an interesting question for a journalist.

In order for the article to make sense, the reader has got to know that the student is biologically female, but the reporter’s use of the masculine pronoun makes the second paragraph more confusing than it should be.

If the editor chose to use the feminine pronoun for the sake of clarity, that would be akin to making an ideological statement — rejecting the request that the school superintendent has apparently granted. But doesn’t the use of the masculine pronoun also suggest an ideological statement?

If I were writing this article, I would probably find a way to introduce this non-standard pronoun usage via a quotation:

“We only want what’s best for him,” said so-and-so, referring to the fourth-grader.

In professional medical literature and in academic gender studies, I wouldn’t find this kind of grammatical play unusual, but in a newspaper for the general reader, it would probably we worthwhile to include some signal like that.