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More Than a Number: GLAAD Report Urges Shift in Media Coverage of Transgender Homicides
- Last updated: May 24, 2023
NEW YORK – GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, today released the report, More Than a Number: Shifting the Media Narrative on Transgender Homicides, a new resource for reporters and activists. The report outlines the importance of moving away from focusing solely on the number of victims lost in a given year, documents the epidemic of anti-trans violence in 2017, and provides reporters with advanced tips and advice from transgender spokespeople and activists about how to better cover anti-trans violence.
“We must evolve the ongoing national conversation around the fatal violence that transgender Americans face far too frequently and work together to report accurately and fairly when covering this epidemic,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD. “When we reduce individual lives to a number we dehumanize those who we have lost and fail to address the stories and humanity of victims whose trans identities have been erased following their death.”
More Than a Number includes an advanced tip sheet for reporters covering the epidemic of anti-trans violence in the United States. Key highlights include:
- Don’t treat each case as a number: Break away from the same overly simplistic and predictable format: name of the victim, circumstance of their death, and running tally of the number of known transgender homicides that year and fail humanize the victim.
- Take time to humanize the victim: Reach out with empathy to friends, family, and community members to get information about their life.
- Remember there is no way to be fully confident that the number of known victims accurately reflects the total number killed in any given year.
- Don’t only report on stories that place the transgender community in the context of victimhood: also cover topics such as victories for transgender equality, accomplishments of members of the transgender community, stories of trans people who have lived prior to the 21st century, and more.
The report also includes advice to reporters from transgender spokespeople around the nation who have had experience educating reporters on the homicides of transgender people, and working to improve media coverage, including:
Shelby Chestnut, National Organizing and Policy Strategist, Transgender Law Center: “Reporters can play an important role in correcting the police when they put out misinformation. Take setting the record straight seriously.”
Monica Roberts, Journalist and Writer, Founding Editor of TransGriot: “Nine times out of ten people have a Facebook page, where you can get correct information about the person and nice photos that you can use.”
LaLa Zannell, Lead Organizer, New York City Anti-Violence Project: “Ask about what resources can be included in your reporting. Is there a GoFundMe site to support the family? A vigil to honor the victim? A local organization that can support the community at this time?”
The “More Than a Number” report also includes in-depth case studies that breaks down the media coverage of the homicides of three transgender women who were killed in 2017, Stephanie Montez (Robstown, TX), Ally Lee Steinfeld (Cabool, MO), and Jaylow Mcglory (Alexandria, LA), exposing what went wrong during the initial reporting and what can be improved moving forward.
GLAAD and other organizations like the National Coalition of Anti-Violence will continue the tracking and analysis of homicides of transgender people in the U.S. for the vital information that we can learn and share for advocacy, organizing, education, and memorialization. While GLAAD is advocating for moving media coverage away from simply counting the number of victims each year, and toward an acknowledgement that we cannot yet measure the full scope of this national tragedy, the information we track remains highly valuable. Below are the key demographic trends from the homicides that GLAAD tracked in 2017.
- In the United States alone, 26 people – that we know of – were victims of homicide in 2017.
- 25 (96%) of the 26 known transgender victims in 2017 were transgender women or people assigned male at birth who were feminine-presenting.
- 24 (92%) of the transgender people murdered this year were people of color.
- As is common practice in initial police or media reports on transgender victims of homicide, at least 22 of the victims (85%) were misgendered in initial reports of their deaths.
- At the date of this report, twelve of the murders (46%) are unsolved: of these twelve cases, a person or persons of interest have been identified in only four of them.
This new resource serves a nuanced companion to GLAAD’s tip sheet Doubly Victimized: Reporting on Transgender Victims of Crime, which is intended for reporters who are new to writing about members of transgender community who’ve been victimized by crime.
About GLAAD: GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org or connect with GLAAD on Facebook and Twitter.
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