A December 28 crime report on WTHR.com detailing the murder of a transgender woman and her boyfriend in Broad Ripple, Indiana used the incorrect name, the wrong pronouns and described the transgender victim's life in a generally offensive manner.And style-guides are for other people...
Taysia Elzy a transgender woman, and her boyfriend Michael Hunt were found murdered in their home on December 26. The article, "Family of murder victim speaks out," uses a male name to describe Taysia and uses male pronouns and identifiers throughout the piece. The story also repeats a police statement with the problematic phrase, "alternative lifestyle," neglecting to put quotes around it.
GLAAD called and e-mailed crime reporter Steve Jefferson and offered extensive resources for correcting the faulty coverage. The story clearly violates Associated Press style guidelines which state, "Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly."
Instead of taking our advice the reporter rebuffed our educational efforts saying in an email, "I did not do this story based on lifestyle." Jefferson furthered, "Our goal is to catch the killer- NOT promote your cause." He also said he did not use female pronouns because he said the transgender victim "was NOT post-op."
Of course it's not the first example. Or the second, or third, or fourth... it happens more often than not, though the stories usually get corrected.
But it could be worse, and in Guatamala, it is.
López is the director of a prominent organization that works to protect the rights of transgendered sex workers in Guatemala and he has spent many years advocating for them. He worked closely with the victim and sought police protection for her shortly before the attack. He later submitted complaints about police misconduct against sex workers, shortly before the arrest warrant against him was issued.They arrested him as an attempted murder suspect. Because who else would have phoned the police reporting the attack he witnessed?
The charges: In a news brief, La Hora reports that the Guatemalan Public Ministry released an arrest warrant against López for "his alleged participation in the attack against a transgender on July 4th in Zone 1."But it occurs to me that maybe that's not the worst. The worst is not that we constantly have to get journalists to report our murders with respect, that it's almost a ritual now. The worst is that we have gotten too used to the fact that "well, of course a couple of us are murdered every month". So much so that our outrage is not at the murders any more, but at the disrespect shown for the victims by journalists.
According to Telediaro 3, the Public Ministry alleges that López was among a group of people who beat up a transgender woman so badly that her arms almost had to be amputated.
Prensa Libre, on the other hand, seems to get the facts wrong in reporting that López was accused of murder against a transgender woman found dead on a public street in June of 2008.
López says it's a government vendetta: All three papers report that López surrendered yesterday and defended himself before the media as he made his way into the courthouse.
"As he indicated before entering the courthouse, [López said] he is being pressured by the National Civil Police (PNC) and the Public Ministry (MP), based on accusations he made last September that agents from both institutions attacked six homosexuals", says Telediario 3.
Prensa Libre says that he admitted that there had been a attack against transgender individuals on the date mentioned by the authorities but argues that he was among those who called the authorities to alert them to the attacks (he says he plans to use the phone records as roof of his innocence).