One of the most important and somber days of the year for gay and transgender communities and our allies occurred last Thursday as communities around the world commemorated Transgender Day of Remembrance.
While these events are primarily a way to memorialize and honor the lives of transgender people, media plays a key role in illuminating transgender experiences. Accurate and fair portrayals of Transgender Day of Remembrance events helps to expand public awareness and understanding of transgender lives.
This year, press coverage of the events grew in both national and local regions. Sadly, this seems to be linked to the recent murders throughout November. Coverage this year was particularly poignant in Tennessee, New York, and Florida where recent deaths shocked and galvanized communities. The recent murders of Duanna Johnson and Lateisha Green, and the recent death of Aimee Wilcoxson brought issues of anti-discrimination laws, proper health care, and community responses to violence into media focus.
One of the many news outlets that overall accurately covered the Day of Remembrance was News-10 in New York. News-10 originally had inaccurately reported on the murder of Lateisha "Teish" Green in Syracuse, however they quickly corrected their reports after outreach from GLAAD and local community organizations. On Friday, the station explored the meaning of Transgender Day of Remembrance vigils, focusing on the local one for Lateisha Green. From the article:
"Many may think that violence against transgender individuals happens in bigger cities. But that, in fact, is not the case. And the recent murder of Teish Cannon brought that to the forefront."
Reports from Tennessee closely followed Duanna Johnson, often reporting on the pending legal case against the Memphis Police Department and the ongoing instigation into her murder by the FBI. The day before the Transgender Day of Remembrance, Nov 19, MyFOX and MyEyewitness News both reported that one of the officers responsible for her assault, Bridges McRae, had been indicted. National publications such as the New York Times also covered the assault and her death.
Reporters also covered the vigil for Duanna, which occurred on Nov 16. From MyEyewitness News:
"Back at the vigil on the streets of Midtown Memphis, those paying their respects to Duanna Johnson honored her as a woman who became the face of the fight against racism, homophobia and transphobia. They remembered her as a woman who received no justice in life, but whose life and struggle for equality will not be forgotten."
Other local outlets included Maryland's The Herald Mail, which focused on job discrimination.
The quarterly magazine ColorLines reported on the day in their blog, RaceWire. The blog, written by ColorLines' Managing Editor, focused on the reporter's personal experience covering the murder of Gwen Araujo in 2002. Gwen was a Latina transgender woman whose case made headlines across the nation, the reporter compared Gwen's story to the brutal and devastating murder of another Latina woman who was murdered this year, Angie Zapata of Greeley Colo.
Casual Loafing, a weekly alternate newspaper in Fort Lauderdale, Fla covered the day in their blog, Daily Loaf, as well. The blog focused on the murder of Simmie Williams, a Fort Lauderdale resident, who was murdered in February of this year. The reporter highlighted how underreported anti-transgender violence is:
"It's definitely a problem and one that gets little coverage and even less understanding. One just has to look at the Pinellas County Commission's decision this year to not cover transgender folks with their revamped Human Rights Ordinance. Or the circus surrounding Susan Stanton."
Online networks and blogs also observed the day with bloggers from Jezebel, feministe, and feministing all participating in remembering the names of those murdered this year and in providing information on vigils and other events.
The Day of Remembrance was commemorated on many college campuses as well, with reports from newspapers such as Penn State's The Daily Collegian, Purdue University's The Exponent, the University of Georgia's Red and Black, University of Tulsa's The Collegian, and Towson University's The Towerlight, reporting on the ways in which transgender lives are remembered on campuses throughout the nation. Vanderbilt University's InsideVany reported on the campuses' first-ever Transgender Day of Remembrance.
The University of Minnesota paper MN Daily included a long column on the importance of both remembering the dead, and working to improve the lives of the living:
"For many transgender people, the threat or the fact of physical and psychological violence is a daily reality. The fear and risk that accompany performing a non-normative gender are shaped simultaneously by their experiences of identities. The terrain of work for justice, equity and compassion for people who experience gender violence demands that we uplift and engage in all of these struggles. Thus, the challenge — and the promise — lies in working together, and in creating space to honor the multiple dimensions of each of our identities so that each person might be able to be present, to live in their bodies in their fullness."