GLAAD AND THE ONSLOW COUNTY LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY CENTER URGE CHANGES TO COVERAGE FOR MORE ACCURATE AND RESPECTFUL REPORTING OF THE DEATH OF JENNA FRANKS

March 4, 2021

Contact:
Serena Sonoma
Communications Coordinator & Regional Media Lead, U.S. South, GLAAD
ssonoma@glaad.org

Thursday, March 4, 2021 - GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, today is joining LGBTQ advocates in North Carolina to urge local media outlets to update inaccuracies in their reporting on transgender and gender-nonconforming people. 

Outlets including The Jacksonville Daily News and CBS-affiliate WNCT-TV in Greenville, North Carolina, repeatedly and knowingly misgendered and deadnamed 34-year-old Jenna Franks, a transgender woman who was found dead in Jacksonville, North Carolina, last Wednesday. These local media outlets failed to revise their reporting when contacted by local LGBTQ+ organizations including Equality North Carolina, Campaign for Southern Equality, GLAAD, and The Onslow County LGBTQ+ Community Center about the practice, called deadnaming, of using a trans person’s birth name without their permission.

Dennis Biancuzzo, Director of Onslow County LGBTQ+ Community Center told GLAAD: 

“Jenna Franks lived in Jacksonville North Carolina. She was loved by many people in Jacksonville. She was also a transgender woman. I know these things because Jenna was a client of the Onslow County LGBTQ+ Community Center, one of 8 transgender women found dead so far, this year. But the first thing reported about her by local media was the one thing I never wanted to hear: the deadname she was assigned at birth.” 

Statement from Serena Sonoma, GLAAD’s Communications Coordinator and Regional Media Lead, U.S. South: 

“It’s unfortunate that North Carolina’s local media has failed transgender North Carolinians at a time when accuracy and representation are needed the most. What local media outlets will need to realize is that choosing not to respect trans identities opens the community up to discrimination, and potentially more violence. When we correctly identify trans people, we respect their authentic selves and allow space for nuanced discussions about the issues currently facing the community. 

What we know about Ms. Franks from those who knew her best is that she was also a homeless trans individual. The media should not only report on her life and identity accurately, but they should also address the high rates of job and housing insecurity in the trans community, realities that put them at higher risk of threats to their emotional and physical well-being. It starts by reporting on trans people accurately, with names and pronouns that reflect their authentic identity.”

GLAAD issues the following guidance in reporting on transgender people:

Revealing a transgender person’s birth name without their explicit permission, a practice called “deadnaming,” is an invasion of privacy that undermines authentic identity, as does using pronouns or gendering that don’t reflect that identity. We host a media reference guide for journalists that explains why this practice is offensive to trans people. More resources here and here.

For transgender people, the relationships to their names are complicated, to say the least. What they are called has power, and hearing a blatantly masculine or feminine name applied to you when you’re trying to realign your gender in a different direction can be a source of profound, dysphoria-inducing anxiety. Hearing or seeing one’s old name can induce a visceral sense of terror that no matter how much progress one makes in their transition, the person they used to be (or pretended to be) is still there.