This weekend, the New York Times published an extremely exploitative article about a transgender woman who had died in a fire. The article, about Lorena Escalera, only mentions that she was killed in a fire after telling readers that she was "curvaceous," that she "drew admiring glances" in her "gritty Brooklyn neighborhood," that she "was known to invite men for visits to her apartment," that Lorena was "called Lorena" (as opposed to saying she was "named Lorena" or that she simply was Lorena) and that she "brought two men to her apartment" sometime between late Friday night and early Saturday morning.
The article by Al Baker and Nate Schweber treats Escalera completely disrespectfully, later describing a pile of debris outside the burned apartment which "contained many colorful items. Among them were wigs, women’s shoes, coins from around the world, makeup, hair spray, handbags, a shopping bag from Spandex House, a red feather boa and a pamphlet on how to quit smoking."
Take the word "transgender" out of the equation.
Would the New York Times ever describe a woman who is not transgender, who had died in a fire, as "curvaceous" - in the first sentence, no less? Would it carefully note that her apartment contained makeup and "women's shoes?" Would it say that she was "called" whatever her name was - especially if police later identified her by that name?
Janet Mock, Autumn Sandeen and other noted leaders in the trans advocacy movement have been speaking out about this article online. Colorlines.com also wrote about the problematic coverage. Thank you to all of you who submitted incident reports about this article, or alerted us to it through Twitter. We are reaching out to the Times to discuss the many incident reports we received, and to ensure that exploitative pieces like this don't get printed in the future.