GLAAD joins Ohio LGBT advocates to encourage Cleveland Plain Dealer coverage of Transgender Day of Remembrance

GLAAD joined a coalition of Ohio and nation-wide transgender in an open letter addressed to the Cleveland Plain Dealer regarding their coverage of violence against transgender people and the upcoming Transgender Day of Remembrance. 

The Plain Dealer, you may remember, earlier this year completely botched reporting on the murder of CeCe Acoff. The Plain Dealer wrote two highly problematic stories, titled "Brutal slaying marks the end of Cleveland man's fight for acceptance" and "Oddly dressed body found in Olmsted Township pond identified" (The latter had been originally titled "Oddly dressed man found in Olmsted Township pond identified"). The Plain Dealer then issued a follow-up column that defended the paper's coverage, and complained that the Associated Press' guidelines to use the person's correct name and pronouns was "perplexing."

LGBT community leaders met with the leadership of the Plain Dealer to address its coverage of Acoff.

Now, transgender and LGBT advocates are using this instance as a teachable moment. The letter requests that the Plain Dealer cover the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is an annual observance on November 20 that honors the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. It was started by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence that year and began an important memorial that has become the annual Transgender Day of Rememberance.

The week before TDOR is Transgender Awareness Week, a time for transgender people and their allies, to take action and bring attention to this community by educating the public and advancing advocacy around the issues that transgender people face.

Advocates are requesting the Plain Dealer to cover TDOR, both before it occurs, as well as coverage of the Cleveland vigil, which will be held on November 22.

Full text of the letter is below:

To the Editor and Staff of The Plain Dealer:

As citizens of Northeast Ohio we are concerned about our city’s image at the local, statewide, national and international levels. We want Cleveland to be recognized as a diverse, inclusive, and respectful community. We know you share these values with us. However, your organization failed to live these values in the April 29th article covering the murder of CeCe Acoff.

We understand the difficulty of gathering information on the life of a murder victim in the days following such a discovery. We appreciate your willingness to remedy those mistakes. However, The Plain Dealer’s published “correction” was derogatory and disparaging of CeCe. It left many in our community deeply offended. CeCe was Transgender. Continuing to refer to her as male in those articles was demeaning and hurtful to those who loved her.

After the much-maligned series of transphobic, insensitive and misleading articles published by The Plain Dealer, the October 29th article announcing the trial of CeCe’s accused murderer, Andrey Bridges, was truly a breath of fresh air. We applaud your decision to follow the court’s lead and respect the deceased’s right to be referenced by her preferred name and gender.

We believe that right now, in Cleveland, this continues to be a teachable moment. We have the opportunity to educate our neighbors, law enforcement officials, and the general public on the central issue: “Who are Transgender people?” Working with Equality Ohio, local LGBT community leaders Phyllis Harris of the Cleveland LGBT Community Center and Jacob Nash of Margie’s Hope met with members of The Plain Dealer editorial board in May. This was an important starting point for discussion.

We are now approaching a significant event within our community. We want to further clarify what it is like to live as a Transgender person. And we need your help. We have three requests of The Plain Dealer as follows:

  • inform the public of the Transgender Day of Remembrance prior to its occurrence;
  • cover the Transgender Day of Remembrance; and
  • publish an article on the Transgender Day of Remembrance after the event.

These are simple requests to fulfill and can be met with both print and online coverage.

We are pleased to see that some of the Plain Dealer journalists reference LGBT community leaders as they research and compose articles covering Transgender and allied communities. We encourage more journalists to make efforts to reflect our community with honesty and respect. The upcoming Transgender Day of Remembrance event offers an opportunity to do exactly that. The Transgender Day of Remembrance is an annual event commemorated worldwide to remember those Transgender individuals who have been killed because of who they were. Coverage of the event by The Plain Dealer will provide a clearer view of the community response to violent acts perpetrated against Transgender people.

This year’s event is scheduled for November 22nd and will be held at Huntington Park at Lakeside Avenue and West 3rd St, beginning at 5:30pm. We would like to see notice of the event on or before November 18th with a follow up article during the weekend of November 23rd. We ask for your help in getting our message out to the larger community so that they may know that we are their friends, their family, their parents, their sisters and brothers.

We are looking forward to working with The Plain Dealer on these projects. We ask that a representative contact Jacob Nash (330-240-1600) no later than Monday, November 11th to gather information for the story about the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

On behalf of concerned members and allies of the LGBT community,

Mark Szabo, Navy and Army veteran
Cecilia Kasten, TransCleveland founder
Adam Tokar, TransCleveland founder
Zoë Lapin 
Sean Martin, Community Ally
Ari Grubaugh, Trans*Mission Co-President
Rashida Davison, Equality Ohio 
Cherno Biko, TransOhio Board Member
Jacob Nash, The Cleveland Transgender Community Outreach Committee
Elyzabeth Holford, Equality Ohio Executive Director
Stacey Orms Parsons, 2013 Recipient of Transgender Leadership Award
Monica Roberts, TransGriot Founding Editor and Advocate
Phyllis Harris, The LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland Executive Director 
Shane Morgan, TransOhio Founder and Chair 
Andrew Lewandowski, TransOhio Board Member 
Ross Murray, GLAAD Director of News
Masen Davis, Transgender Law Center Executive Director
Morgan Bonney, Get Equal Ohio Co-state lead
Heather Cronk, Get Equal National Co-director
Mason Dunn, Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition Executive Director