Following the discovery of Cemia Acoff, a transgender woman found dead in a pond after being reported missing for little over a month, media is still ignoring both the AP stylebook, which has included guidelines on transgender reporting since 2001, and GLAAD who has demanded fair reporting on transgender issues.
GLAAD joined local advocates in Ohio in calling for accountability from The Plain Dealer newspaper after it ran a highly offensive story about Cemia's death. The newspaper has since agreed to meet with GLAAD and local transgender advocates to address its reporting on transgender issues. GLAAD has also created a media guide for journalists reporting on transgender victims of crime.
While mainstream media continues to misrepresent transgender people in reporting, the trans community relies on itself for accurate and un-biased information surrounding yet another hate crime involving a young African-American trans woman. The media has largely learned to report using correct pronouns and names when covering the LGBT community, but the reality is that mainstream media outlets continue to misunderstand and misrepresent stories about Trans people.
Mainstream media sources have continued to overshadow Cemia's story with irrelevant information and biased undertones, which only further distracts from the fact she was a victim of a hate crime. Cemia was killed because of her gender identity. She, like anyone else, deserves justice and fair representation in the media. LGBT blogs such as Transgriot, Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents, and Myhusbandbetty have done a much more diligent job ensuring that the story of Cemia Acoff gets told correctly and with a sense of compassion.
Using the reporting on Cemia's murder, Monica Roberts for Transgriot created a checklist of frequent offences by journalist that encompass a poorly written article regarding a Transgender woman.
"Misgender the person at every opportunity? Check
Use police mug shot? Check
Drag old criminal record into the story? Check
'Deception meme' injected into story? Check
'Tragic transsexual' meme injected into this story? Check
Use salacious and sensationalist headlines? Check
Not give a rats anus about the victim's dignity and their femme presentation? Check
Disrespecting another African-American transwoman? Check."
Monica Roberts Transgriot
She followed her very emotional rant to question reporters John Caniglia and Jo Ellen Corrighan of the Cleveland Plain Dealer; asking if the victim had been a cis-gendered white woman would they have done the same poor job in reporting the crime.
"I am so fracking sick of African-American transwomen who have unfortunately been killed repeatedly being disrespected by predominately white reporters. Would you have done a story on a white cis female murder victim that way? Would you have used a mug shot or plastered her criminal record all through a story reporting on her death?"
Monica Roberts Transgriot
Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents did a blog post on the recent rally held in honor on Cemia Acoff.
"I am simply horrified to report that the Cleveland Plain Dealer has yet to eliminate the transphobic and hateful content in their reporting on the murder of 20 year old Cemia Acoff (also known as Ce Ce Dove.) It is simply unbelievable, but it is important to take note of this degree of institutionalized hate. Because words matter, my friends. Images matter. Ignoring the LGBTQ community’s request to provide fair & accurate coverage on a horrible crime to our sister matters. Meanwhile, supporters gathered in Cleveland yesterday (Weds) to honor her life and demand dignity and justice for her death. City Hall flew the transgender pride flag in honor of Ce Ce."
This post included direct links to positive imagery, which unlike the original pictures of Cemia used in initial articles, showed her in a positive light. PLC also included information on how someone can directly donate money to a fund which has been established to assist in burial cost of Acoff. Throughout the post, the tone went from anger at the initial journalist, who frequently referred to Cemia as a male, eventually displaying sympathy towards Cemia, the victim of a heinous crime.
Myhusbandbetty, a Word press site which describes itself as a journal, showed sensitivity towards Acoff and expressed distain with the media's lack of respect for transgender persons.
"I’m sorry, Ms. Acoff, that we have not yet made the world a place that is safe enough for your beauty. Rest in Peace. (And journalists, and police, get your shit together already. For those who are wondering, she felt forced to admit she was a man, which, if she hadn’t had her ID changed legally, she might have done in order to prevent more complications and charges. Trans women do not “admit” to being men because they “know” they are, but because they know that people are stupid and hateful and shitty to Trans people.)"
Media outlets have exemplarily references to utilize when reporting on transgender issues. Following the guidelines set forth by the AP stylebook and advocacy groups like GLAAD, journalists have no valid excuse in unfairly reporting on transgender issues. Transgender persons inhabit the same planet as those who feel they aren't equal. Cemia Acoff's life ended too soon.The media has a responsibility to demonstrate professionalism and show compassion for Cemia and her family by reporting fair and un-bias.