GLAAD calls on media to accurately report on Oakland fire victims

On Friday, December 2, a fire engulfed a warehouse in Oakland, California leaving more than 30 people dead. Among the deceased were Cash Askew, 22, Em Bohlka, 33, and Feral Pines, 29 - all of whom were transgender.

In some of the media reporting, Askew, Bohlka, and Pines have been misgendered and their birth names used. Journalists should refer to all of them with the names shown above and with female pronouns. (Feral Pines' family has also stated that Feral sometimes used names Riley and Fyrah). 

GLAAD worked with the Trans Assistance Project, who knew the victims and provided detailed information about their identities.

GLAAD reminds and urges journalists to follow these guidelines to help ensure the transgender victims of this tragedy are treated with respect and dignity. These guidelines apply to all stories that involve the transgender community, and are especially important when there is loss of life.

Gender & Pronouns: A victim's gender is how they currently identify or, if they were killed, how they identified at the time of the incident. Always use the gender and pronoun that corresponds with the way the victim identified. If how the person identified is not known, use the pronoun consistent with how the person lived publicly. This holds true even if you have only been given the victim's birth name, and even if the only name you have for the victim does not match their self-identified gender. Disregarding the victim's gender identity and misgendering them in news reports adds further insult to injury, compounding the tragedy by invalidating who the victims were.

Names: A transgender person's chosen name should be considered by reporters to be their real name, whether it has been legally changed or not. Often transgender people cannot afford a legal name change, or they live in a community where obtaining correct identification is difficult. All transgender people should be treated as though they have changed their name legally to their chosen name. If you do not know a transgender victim's chosen name, make the source for the name you are using clear.

Both GLAAD's Media Reference Guide  and the AP Style Guide support these guidelines. 

Conflicting Information: Many transgender people are only able to live as their authentic gender some of the time. Some have only disclosed the fact that they are transgender to certain people. Often a victim's co-workers, neighbors, or even family won't know that the person was transgender. In these cases, you should still listen to the friends who did know about the victim's trans identity, and respect the way a victim identified at the time of the incident.

Incorrect Information: Often, police or witnesses will use the wrong name or gender for the victim. When possible, paraphrase rather than quote directly, or quote elements of the statement that do not include this incorrect information. If this is not possible, leave the quote as-is but make sure that you, as the journalist, use the correct information.

For additional information about how to report on transgender victims, read more here.