Transgender Day of Remembrance
November 19, 2010
This weekend, people are gathering for the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual memorial for people killed over the past year because their gender identity or gender expression. When they weren’t ignored, many of these brutal murders were followed by disrespectful media coverage.
When news outlets refer to transgender people using inaccurate gender pronouns, sensationalized and sexualized descriptions, and excessive focus on their clothing, it’s both sexist and transphobic. Media play an important role in our collective consciousness around sex and gender issues; when outlets use inaccurate language, it contributes to a lack of understanding of transgender people at best, and at worst, a climate of disrespect and violence against transgender women and all women.
“Transgender” is a broad term used to refer to people whose gender identity (internal sense of gender) and/or gender expressions (external manifestation of gender) differ from the sex they were assigned at birth. A transgender woman identifies as female despite being identified as male at birth. Some transwomen identify as MTF, or male-to-female. Transgender men might identify as FTM (female-to-male). When media outlets use inaccurate language or ignore people’s name preferences, it can send the message that they do not understand or respect their transgender subjects.
For transwomen, this is particularly dangerous – in addition to high (yet underreported) murder rates, transgender people suffer bullying, homeless, and attempted suicide at disproportionately high rates. When disrespectful media coverage contributes to this climate, it can increase transgender women’s vulnerability. There are “precursors to murder,” and disrespectful media treatment is a big one.
At the Women’s Media Center, we’re devoted to inclusive and respectful media treatment of all women. Responding to maltreatment of transgender people is an important part of that issue. If you want to participate in the Day of Rememberance, find your local event here.
And if you’re a blogger or reporter writing about transgender issues and want to read more about accurate and problematic language, take a look at the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s resource guide, which includes entries from the AP and New York Times Style guides.