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Story to Watch: Transgender Woman Accused of Minneapolis Murder

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23-year-old Chrishaun McDonald was charged last week with fatally stabbing Dean Schmitz at the Schooner Tavern in Minneapolis early on Monday morning, June 6. Officers and paramedics found Schmitz, 47, laying wounded in the street at approximately 12:30 AM, and McDonald was taken into custody that same night.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that McDonald was among a group of people that encountered Schmitz and other bar patrons in a clash that began with Schmitz “making a remark that police have declined to characterize.” Some outlets are reporting that this was an anti-transgender slur that Schmitz used to taunt the defendant’s appearance. “He said, ‘Did you think you were going to rape somebody in those girl clothes?’” recalled Latavia Taylor, McDonald’s roommate. She also said that Schmitz used racial epithets against McDonald, who is currently transitioning to female.

GLAAD asks its constituents to keep a close eye on coverage of this story, which has the potential for problematic reporting by writers who are not familiar with guidelines or terminology regarding the transgender community. Reporters have an obligation to respect McDonald’s identity by using female or gender-neutral pronouns.  There is sometimes a tendency by media outlets to highlight a person’s transgender status to make a story more sensational or cause the person to be perceived negatively, especially in cases related to violence. We ask that our readers notify us of any inaccurate or irresponsible journalism they come across by filling out an incident report, while we continue to monitor media coverage of this and similar stories.