Two instances of anti-transgender murders occurred in Orlando, Florida and Baltimore, Maryland over the last 24 hours. Both were transgender women of color. And when the media doesn't tell their story correctly, it perpetuates misleading stereotypes about transgender people.
In Baltimore, Kelly Young was shot by an unknown assailant. She was rushed to the hospital where she later died. Baltimore police are investigating the murder. They have not yet ruled the shooting a hate crime, but have not yet ruled it out.
In Orlando, Ashley Sinclair was shot four times after a black sedan pulled up near where she was walking. Witnesses who heard the shots called the police, who found Ashely's body.
News13 in Orlando initially identified Ashley as a "transgender man," even after showing a photo of Ashley presenting as a women. Monica Roberts of TransGriot, quickly called the station on their misgendering.
Talk a look at the photo the family provided of Ashley. She is not a 'transgender man' as you reported, Amanda. A transgender man is someone who was born in a female body like yours and whose gender identity and gender presentation to the world is male.
Ashley is a transgender female.
And I'm pissed off not only because once again another one of my trans sisters is gone from this Earth too soon, I'm pissed off because she was misgendered in this report. I'm also angry because I've seen this crap happen with African-American (and Latina) girls like us far too often in the media.
News13 has corrected the gender references in their blog post.
Even in Baltimore, ABC2News changed Kelly's name and gender midway through the story, which draws significant attention to her transgender status. However, all the family and friends who were interviewed consistently referred to Kelly with female pronouns and by her correct name. Such details can become exploitative, drawing attention away from the horrific crime and focusing on the "otherness" of the victim.
Roberts makes a vitally important point addressing the bigger issue with reporting anti-trans violence. Transgender people, and particularly transgender women of color, are disproportionately affected by hate violence in our communities. The tragedy of these incidents is often compounded by reporting that does not respect (or, sometimes, even exploits) the victim's gender identity.
Often, reporters telling the stories of transgender victims of violent crimes will be given incorrect or incomplete information from police, from witnesses, or even from family/friends of the victim. The media also has a long history of sensationalizing stories that involve transgender people.
Janet Mock, a prominent transgender advocate, recently appeared on Melissa Harris-Perry to talk about visibility and acceptance of transgender women of color, as well as their portrayal as victims.
Bringing attention to anti-transgender violence can be helpful, but only if it is done in a way that avoids exploitation of the victim. Media who are covering transgender victims of violence should consult "Doubly Victimized: Reporting on Transgender Victims of Crime" published by GLAAD.