Last week, a transgender woman employed at a Days Inn motel in Orlando, Florida was arrested following accusations that she had inappropriately touched a 14-year-old boy who was guest at the motel. A police report alleges that Vanessa Olmos entered the boy’s room where the incident is said to have occurred. Vanessa faces charges of molestation of a victim younger than 16 and battery, but says she never entered the room or touched the boy.
While this story deals with a sensitive issue of an alleged crime, the media has largely disregarded basic respect for Vanessa and her identity. Several news outlets have used wrong pronouns and called Vanessa the wrong name, misrepresented her gender identity, and even referred to her with derogatory slurs (screenshot from NY Daily News website below via Autostraddle).
GLAAD reached out twice last week to Orlando news station WKMG, which appears to have first reported on the incident, as well as the Orlando Sentinel and the New York Daily News to address these outlets’ offensive coverage.
By showing such little respect for Vanessa and for transgender women as a whole, journalists reproduce harmful stereotypes that have negative consequences for transgender people’s everyday lives. Stories of crime can be especially damaging when the media’s misrepresentations end up falsely connecting the fact that an alleged perpetrator is transgender, to the crime itself. This is a gross inaccuracy that makes it possible for states like Florida and more than 30 others to refuse to hire someone simply because they are transgender. It is important that the media be held accountable for these stories like Vanessa’s, and for portraying all transgender people in a fair and accurate manner.
If you see problematic media coverage of this or other stories, please report it to GLAAD.