Saturday, June 28, 2014

Is The Media Disrespect Of Deceased African-American Trans Women Ever Going To End?

We have lost four transwomen of color this month to anti-trans violence in 40 year old Kandy Hall, 28 year old Zoraida Reyes, 31 year old Yaz'min Shancez and now as of Thursday 28 year old Tiffany Edwards.  

One has been buried in Ms Reyes, with the funeral arrangements pending on the others.  

And sadly, Ms Reyes is the only one of the four who has had respectful media coverage of her life and death.

When it comes to reporting about murdered African-American trans women, it seems as though the operative pattern of media outlets is to dehumanize, disrespect and follow the How Not To Respectfully Cover Black Transwomen playbook to the letter.    

*Misgender them at every opportunity?                         Check.
*Use their old male name in the story?                           Check.
*Use a mugshot if discovered?                                      Check. 
*Add criminal record to the story?                                Check.
*Salaciously suggest she was engaged in prostitution?    Check.

I have repeatedly seen this racist pattern when it comes to fallen African-American trans women and I'm tired of it.  I'm beyond sick and tired of media outlets across the country disrespecting African-American trans women in death by not only misgendering them, but if they happen to discover a criminal record, injecting that into the story and publishing a mugshot if available.

It's even more infuriating when an influential gay paper like the Washington Blade does so as in Michael K Lavers' June 8 article about our fallen Baltimore sister Kandy Hall.

Guess I should be thankful for the small favor of them not publicizing a mugshot in the article.

But if we can't get gay media outlets like the Washington Blade to respect our trans lives, what chance are we African-American trans people going to have to get television stations, magazines, and newspapers to do so? 

Publishing a person's criminal history is not germane to the fact that a transwoman was murdered and is problematic.  We transwomen of color already have enough racist stereotypes to overcome while inhabiting Black female bodies like the 'unwoman' meme in addition to the other transphobic baggage we have to deal with.

The last thing we need is media outlets unnecessarily injecting a criminal record into a news story about the untimely demise of an African-American trans woman, much less posting a mugshot pic of her when it is not germane to the narrative and unnecessary to do. 

Once again media professionals, we don't want to be fighting with you about this.  All we are asking is that you simply do your jobs and respectfully tell our stories, even in death.
A murder has been committed in which this person tragically lost their life.  Focus on that, not demonizing and postmortem disrespect of the trans murder victim.  .

No comments: