More than 1,500 New Yorkers gathered today in Manhattan to mourn the death of a 32 year-old gay man, who was shot down on Friday just blocks away from the historic Stonewall Inn in an apparent act of anti-gay bias.
Guest Post: An Open Letter to Miami Herald Reporter David Smiley
By Noah Alvarez
There are simply not enough words to describe the article reporting on the horrific murder of Rene Hernandez published on Monday, November 19, 2012 by The Miami Herald.
If I could sum the article up with just two words, 'utterly disgraceful' are the words I'd use.
To learn of this woman's tragic death has been more than hurtful to the LGBT community, but to read the article you posted which completely dehumanized Rene Hernandez and minimized her life to that of just another "transgender hooker" was absolutely heart-breaking.
The entire article was a smear campaign against a woman who is already dead, and your words, Mr. Smiley, put the final nail in her coffin.
Your reporting was not only extremely insensitive to the transgender community and our allies, but your story-telling was one of the most extreme examples of transphobic news reporting I've seen all year.
"Investigators say they learned from friends and neighbors that Hidalgo was a transgender prostitute who wore women’s clothing and underwear and had undergone hormone therapy but not genital reconstructive surgery. Hidalgo “would entertain sex partners four to six times a day in exchange for cash, marijuana or for personal enjoyment and would sometimes pick up homeless men for this purpose,” according to a warrant filed by Detective Oldy Ochoa."
I have two questions for you, Mr. Smiley:
- If Rene Hernandez was a member of your family, a friend, or an acquaintance of yours who had been brutally murdered, would you have written the article the same way?
- If Rene Hernandez was not a trans woman, would you have felt the need to reference her genitalia, her personal hormone treatments, let alone the fact that she, like most women, wore women's underwear under her clothing?
Despite the damage your article may or may not have done, in tainting the memory, the life and legacy of Ms. Rene Hernandez of Miami, Florida, please know that she will be lifted up in love and light by her trans brothers and sisters who know of her struggle, and by all of the decent human beings who read her story in it's entirety.
Today, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, when thousands gathered in their respective communities to honor the lives of transgender men and women who have been lost to suicide and homicide, the Miami Herald chose to post your callous, transphobic, simply unkind article that reported Rene Hernandez to be, as you said, nothing more than a transgender prostitute.
While many people are left wondering, was there more to Rene Hernandez than your article reported, there is an entire community of people who know that yes, there was more to this woman than the circumstances surrounding her murder.
We stand in solidarity with Rene Hernandez. We refuse to allow you, or the Miami Herald to dehumanize another woman, who happens to be trans.
As a journalist, you have a responsibility to elevate the awareness of your readers and to inspire community building through reporting ill-fated incidences such as this. 265 trans people were reported murdered in 2012, in the US alone, in acts of hatred and bigotry. There has never been a more crucial time for positive, affirming media representation of transgender people, from all walks of life.
Unfortunately your biases have caused an innocent woman, working for survival, to be laid to rest with a disfigured legacy.
Myself and others will do the work to restore Rene Hernandez's legacy, and we will celebrate her life, because unlike the tone of your article suggests, we know that she is worth that, Mr. Smiley.
- Noah Alvarez, WeHappyTrans.com