On April 17, C. Acoff was found brutally murdered in Olmsted Township, a western suburb of Cleveland. She was a transgender woman. The reporting of this death in the Plain Dealer last night lacked even a nod to human dignity. I am asking you this morning to remember, as you read this news, that C. was a person, and a beloved member of our community.
The brutal murder of a 20 year old, African American transwoman would seem to be tragedy enough for our community. However, our local reporters have managed to strip away her human dignity even in death.
Please, take a moment to mourn C. Acoff - and to remember that behind every death reported in sensationalist journalism, there is a human being with family, friends, and a life story.
We are working right now to address the fact that this horrific murder was reported without any sensitivity to the victim and to our community.
I will update you shortly with information on opportunities to mourn C. Acoff's loss and to help us educate our state and our media on the lives and rights of transgender Ohioans.
-Phyllis Harris, MNO, Executive Director of The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community of Greater Cleaveland
I am greatly saddened and angered by the horrific murder of another member of our transgender community. I am also deeply offended that numerous news reporting agencies have chosen to sensationalize her murder, perpetuate negative stereotypes of the transgender community, and violate her memory, by the manner in which they have reported her violent murder. All of us should be more compassionate and remember – first and foremost – that she was a human being, undeserving of the brutal end that was visited upon her.
-Tara Allison, Attorney at Law and BRAVO Board member
The murder of Ms. Acoff, and the media handling of it, illustrates everything how far we have to go as a country when it comes to transgender individuals.
The media reports' callous indifference to her identified gender demonstrates a lack of journalistic integrity and professionalism. The National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association has been distributing a style guide appendix to the Associated Press style guide since 1990, and the media failed to follow any of the standard best practices for discussing transgender issues. Worse still, they displayed a wanton a disregard for her worth as a person. The use of media to dehumanize groups of people is unacceptable anywhere.
When the media chose to highlight her arrest record, the charges against her only showed how transgender individuals are routinely denied a right to self defense, and access to adequate medical care. Her past is indicative of a desperate struggle for survival and lack of access to health care, not of a criminal nature. Yet the media attempted to spin it this way in order to minimize the empathy people might have for the victim.
Transgender women constitute approximately 45% of all LGBT people murdered in hate crimes. We are more than five times as likely to be murdered in a hate crime as LGB people. Eighty-seven percent of all trans people murdered in hate crimes are people of color. When trans people are attacked, their attackers are much more likely to kill them. The statistics are clear: transgender people are disproportionately the target of violence, and when violence finds them their attackers do so even more viciously based on their perceived lack of human worth.
It has been almost 15 years since Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered. The LGB community is making great strides legally, legislatively, and socially. People tell me such things do not happen anymore because we have come so far since then, and as such we do not need additional legal protections. The transgender community knows better. Every day is another struggle to prove ourselves worthy of basic human dignity.
-Brynn Tannehill, former U.S. Navy pilot and contributor, Outserve Magazine
On April 17th, Cemia Acoff was found dead. This is a tragic and unnecessary loss of life. Media coverage of Cemia's death, thus far, has lacked any sense of human dignity. We need to stop this violence. Now.
We need to educate about trans* lives and encourage appropriate reporting that is accepting and affirming. Equality Ohio is working with the trans* community and Cemia's circle of support in Cleveland to organize meetings across the state right now.
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