The Lateisha Green Murder: Violence Against Transgender People Resource Kit
Media Resources for Covering Hate Crimes
ABOUT HATE CRIMES COVERAGE
Inaccurate hate/bias crime reporting can unintentionally support a blame-the-victim strategy. Personal assaults and criminal acts may only involve a single victim, but perpetrators often intend them to send a message that LGBT people are legitimate targets for abuse, harassment and violence. (In fact, the victims of some anti-gay hate crimes are heterosexuals who are thought to be gay. In 2008, 9% of all victims reporting anti-LGBT violence to the NCAVP identified as heterosexual.) Please report the specifics of a crime and its social implications based on the facts of the case.
Implying that an openly gay or transgender victim shares responsibility for being attacked simply because the victim is gay or transgender often biases criminal or legal investigations. It also sends the message that violent attacks against, and even murder of, LGBT people is acceptable. Media coverage also sometimes implies that LGBT victims may have caused their attack or death by alleged association with drug use or sex work. For instance, 20/20 did a “jailhouse” special interview with Matthew Shepard’s killers in 2004 that blatantly ignored key sources and facts of the case in order to suggest that the murder was caused by drugs and not anti-gay bias.
Sensationalizing anti-transgender violence by inappropriately focusing on the gender identity of the victim – rather than on the crime itself – is disrespectful and degrading to the victim and the victim’s family, and can bias investigations. Transgender Americans deserve respect and dignity just like everyone else. Sensitivity to the victim’s chosen name – which may be different from the victim's birth name – and preferred pronouns is essential to fair, accurate and inclusive coverage. Sensationalizing the victim’s gender identity can send a message that transgender people deserve abuse, harassment and even violence by focusing on their gender identity instead of the crime committed against them. For instance, the New York Post’s 2008 article, “Fooled John Stabbed Bronx Tranny,” jumped to conclusions about the role a transgender victim could have played in her own murder and made numerous sensational remarks about her gender identity.
Hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity often are inadequately reported in the media. Media are responsible for accurate and inclusive coverage, including news reports of hate crimes against LGBT Americans and others singled out based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. The disparity is particularly evident in media coverage of anti-transgender hate crimes. Accord ing to GenderPAC, most gender-based murders never generated sustained media coverage (only averaging one single 500-word article rather than the more extensive coverage usually accorded a deadly hate crime), and 24% of victims of gender based violence receive no media coverage at all.
The following guidelines will assist you as you write stories about transgender people. Issues surrounding the coverage of transgender people can be complex and sensitive — the utmost care should be taken to avoid defamatory or offensive language in your coverage.
Hate Crime: A crime that occurs when the attacker targets a victim because of his or her membership – or assumed membership – in a certain social group, usually defined by race, religion, national origin (or ethnicity), age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity. Hate crimes have a unique impact upon society because they are not directed simply at an individual; they cause fear and intimidation in an entire group or class of people.
Blame-the-Victim Strategy: The justification of an act of anti-transgender violence based upon the allegation that the victim “deceived” the attacker about the victim's gender. This blames the victim of the hate crime instead of the attacker and appeals to potential bias against transgender people, suggesting that a violent (or even murderous) response is appropriate.
Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Transgender people may or may not choose to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.
Gender identity is one’s internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or a boy or girl). For some transgender people, their birth-assigned sex and their own internal sense of gender identity do not match.
Sexual orientation describes an individual’s physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to another person. Sexual orientation is not the same as gender identity or expression. Transgender people can be heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual.
Transition is a period of time for a transgender person that includes some or all of the following cultural, legal and medical adjustments: telling family, friends and/or co-workers about one’s transgender status; changing one’s name and/or gender marker on legal documents such as a driver’s license or birth certificate; hormone therapy; and some form of surgery.
Transgender glossary of terms: See GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide section devoted to transgender-specific terminology.
Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund
Michael D. Silverman, Executive Director
Justice for Teish Facebook Page
Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
Andy Marra, Senior Media Strategist