This past weekend, GLAAD learned that local Philadelphia media sensationalized and inaccurately reported on the murder of a trans woman of color, using the wrong name and pronoun and including irrelevant information about her past. The victim, Ms. Williams, was brutally killed and dismembered last week. Initial reporting by NBC Philadelphia misgendered Ms. Williams with the wrong name and pronoun, used the victim's mug shot and the mention of previous, unrelated criminal charges, and included the victim-blaming suggestion that Ms. Williams was murdered following the supposed "discovery" that she was transgender.
As trans advocate Monica Roberts at TransGriot points out, "One of the reasons we're getting more combative about insisting on respectful media coverage for transpeople is because potential jurors that watch these misgendering and sensationalized reports are being poisoned with this slanted anti-trans coverage that could result in the murder victim at trial not getting justice and the alleged killer going free."
Journalists have a responsibility to represent Ms. Williams fairly and accurately, and GLAAD and the AP Style Book are both clear that fairly and accurately means using the name and pronoun consistent with the way the individual lived publicly. GLAAD has spoken with NBC Philadelphia, and while they have removed the offensive video clip and are now referring to the victim as a transgender woman, they have still erroneously included her mug shot and an incorrect name. GLAAD urges the media to investigate further and reach out to the victim's friends and family for fuller and more accurate information about her life.
Recently the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) released its annual Hate Violence Report. Findings for the 2012 calendar year show that in 53% of anti-LGBTQ homicides, the victims were transgender women. Additionally 73% of all anti-LGBTQ homicide victims were people of color. Just this past April, three transgender women of color were murdered. These crimes often go unreported in the media and when media outlets do cover the stories, the reports are often dehumanizing and disrespectful.
Too often the media doubly victimizes women like Ms. Williams by dehumanizing them with inaccurate and sensationalized reporting about their lives, even after after they have suffered extreme violence. GLAAD has created a guide for journalists to help ensure that transgender people are treated with respect by the media when they have been the victims of a crime. We will continue to monitor media coverage of this story. If you see defamatory media coverage of transgender people, please report the incident to www.glaad.org/reportdefamation.