The Cleveland Plain Dealer's coverage of the murder of Cemia Acoff, a transgender woman whose body was found tied to a block of concrete at the bottom of a pond after being stabbed repeatedly, is being denounced by LGBT rights organizations for its dehumanizing characterizations of the victim and transgender people.
An earlier piece on the murder had referred to Cemia as "it".
GLAAD, Equality Ohio, TransOhio and Cleveland's LGBT Community Center are working to address anti-transgender local coverage of the story of a Cleveland transgender woman, Cemia Acoff, who was found dead earlier this month.
Throughout the day we have been in touch with all three local organizations and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the source of two highly problematic stories, currently 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 previously said "Oddly dressed man.")
As of 3:05 PM, the Plain Dealer has updated its two stories to remove pronouns (except in the case of that one headline) and a few of the more sensationalized aspects of the stories. However, many problems remain.
Describing Acoff as "oddly dressed" is incredibly insulting.
Her murder did not "end her fight for acceptance," it ended her life. Period.
There is no need to describe what she was wearing at the time of her murder; she had already been identified at the start of both stories, describing her wardrobe only trivializes her murder.
Acoff's criminal record is almost certainly irrelevant to the story, especially when provided without any context concerning the trans community and law enforcement.
And removing pronouns doesn't fix much. Yes, the stories are no longer factually incorrect, but this tact still shows an unwillingness to respect the victim's gender identity and accept her as female.
Laurel Ramseyer at Pam's House Blend adds:
The journalist knew that Acoff was a trans woman because he reported that fact, yet he chose to not only mis-gender her, but he refers to her body as an “it”. Corpses are generally referred to in the press as male or female, depending on the apparent anatomy or the determination made in the source police report.
Even mis-gendering the body would have been better than applying the dehumanizing “it”.
Violence against transgender people is at epidemic levels in the United States, with transgender African-Americans one of the hardest-hit subpopulations. Pieces of dehumanizing garbage like these articles in the Plain Dealer (here and here) or this article at Fox 8 Cleveland only feed the flames of hatred and abuse.
Our thoughts go out to Cemia's family and friends.