Thursday, November 20, 2008

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance.

This day "was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice."

We remember.

"Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred."

Unfortunately, our transgender brothers and sisters often face hatred or, at least, indifference. As one example, whether due to indifference or judgmental hatred, the mainstream media often fails to report hate crimes against transgender men and women in a culturally competent manner. Just yesterday, for instance, a newspaper reported a hate crime against a transgender woman and, throughout the article, described her using male pronouns. In addition, the article made the common mistake of conflating gender identity and sexual orientation, even though it's not clear that the victim identified as gay.

Observe how this newspaper describes the death of Teish Cannon

Cannon's family accepted his sexual orientation. Pictures of Cannon in women's clothing were on display in the family's living room, and the family selected one for The Post-Standard to publish. Often when family members spoke of Cannon, they used 'she' to refer to him.

Even though the family clearly referred to Cannon as "she," this reporter continually refers to Cannon as "he" and "him." Good for this family for being so accepting of Cannon, and good for them for not being ashamed of who this woman was. Perhaps they realize that calling people by their preferred pronouns is a simple concession that we all can make out of respect for another human being at no cost to ourselves. Maybe those who deem themselves competent to write about transgender and "gay" issues should familiarize themselves with respectful protocol when it comes to discussing these issues.

It is my understanding that it can be very hurtful when others mis-use someone's preferred pronoun. In the context of an article describing the transphobic hate-based murder of a transgender woman, I can imagine that it would be even more demeaning and offensive to be described as a man throughout.

"Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence."

Today, I'm standing in vigil.


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