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Cleveland 'Plain Dealer' Dehumanizes Horrific Murder of Trans Woman

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.

TransmurderAn earlier piece on the murder had referred to Cemia as "it".

GLAAD writes:

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.

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  1. Kiwi,

    It is transphobic to put a transwoman's name in scare quotes. It is transphobic to make lighthearted metaphorical references to "slaughter" relating to one of your internet flame wars, in the context of an actual murder of a transwoman. And it is transphobic and disrespectful to respond to a transwoman who brings this transphobic conduct to your attention by saying that her concerns are "hilarious."

    I don't recognize in you and your attitude a supporter. I do see a privileged ego-driven white cis male who is happy to use transfolk and trans issues to elevate himself.

    Posted by: Katie | May 1, 2013 2:12:05 PM

  2. "Cisgender" means someone who is comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth, as a complementary term to "transgender", which is someone who is not comfortable in their AAB gender.

    Posted by: TheDrDonna | May 1, 2013 2:19:20 PM

  3. it's not transphobic to put an anonymous person's name in quotes are there's no verification that you are who you say you are.

    and i use slaughter, and i will again. why? because lies borne of hatred and prejudice are exactly what lead to murders like the woman in this story.

    none of the things you listed as being "transphobic" are in any way shape or form inherently "transphobic"

    in fact, transphobic comments are on this page. you've ignored them and instead focused on me. how odd.

    if you are indeed a transwoman i wish you the best of luck in life. so far, your inability to pick the right battles for the right reasons make it seem like you're going to need it.

    think what you like of me. but you've got it reversed - i use myself to help elevate transpeople and trans issues.

    you're welcome, btw. ;-)

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | May 1, 2013 2:29:35 PM

  4. Katie, LittleKiwi put your name in quotes (not scare quotes, as you suggest) because he assumed you were an alias of one of Towleroad's infamous trolls, who posts here under the names such as Rick, Jason, David Hearne, Ratbastard, Adam, and I'm sure others. It's one guy who is a real creep.

    When he put your name in quotes, he was doing so because he assumed you were that same troll posting under a different name to pick a fight. This troll picks fights with Kiwi every day, so I don't blame him for being skeptical about the identity of posters who go after him,

    Posted by: MateoM | May 1, 2013 3:57:23 PM

  5. Also, despite what you may think, Kiwi has been one of the outspoken trans advocates on this site for quite some time. I'm sorry if you have personal issues with him, but he's vital considering how much transphobia still ends up in the comments section.

    Posted by: MateoM | May 1, 2013 3:58:48 PM

  6. We have no idea what this person was mixed up in.

    Posted by: Tyler | May 1, 2013 6:48:13 PM

  7. For crying out loud, Andy. Would you catch a clue and start banning IPs, already!

    Posted by: FFS | May 2, 2013 3:41:48 AM

  8. @alfie: hormones, if not taken under correct medical supervision, can most certainly be dangerous drugs. You start messing with chemical balances like that and things can go very wrong, very quick. Nothing to do with the rest of the debate, but hormones should really be used cautiously and I'd hate for anyone to think otherwise.

    Posted by: Isaak | May 2, 2013 5:07:23 AM

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