Reporting on Los Angeles attack should avoid assumptions

A brutal attack on a 22-year-old person of color in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles on Thursday night left the victim severly injured and requiring hospitalization to recover from multiple injuries. In a story for the local CBS affiliate in Los Angeles, the victim's sisters suggest that their sibling was dressed in women's clothes at the time of the attack. The reporter tells viewers that the sisters describe their sibling as "gay and transgender," and that according to them the Los Angeles Police Department is investigating the attack as a hate crime. Several news outlets are now circulating the CBS report, and interest is being driven in part because the victim works at a restaurant owned by actress Eva Longoria.

Since the victim has not yet spoken directly to the media, we don't know how the the person identifies or what name and pronoun would be preferred. Until those questions are answered, journalists should refrain from calling the attack an "anti-gay hate crime" when the victim may identify as transgender. Journalists should also take care to point out that while the victim's family uses a male name and male pronouns, it's not clear if that's how the victim would prefer to be identified.

The victim's gender presentation at the time of the attack is significant, as three transgender women of color were murdered in April alone, and attacks against transgender women are often ignored by the mainstream media. When media outlets do cover violence against transgender victims, many reports are dehumanizing and disrespectful. To ensure accurate reporting, GLAAD has created a reference guide for the media on coverging stories involving transgender victims of crime.

GLAAD will continue to monitor the coverage of this attack, and provide updates on the investigation.  

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