Note: this letter was drafted in collaboration with all undersigned organizations regarding offensive statements that Marshall McPeek, a Columbus news personality, recently made at an NLGJA event. Equality Ohio is sharing it here.
We want to share our collective concerns and request meaningful, measurable change to combat a climate that has allowed marginalized communities to be harmed with impunity. The undersigned organizations condemn in the strongest possible way Marshall McPeek’s remarks at The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) convention. McPeek, who is a meteorologist with ABC 6 WSYX news, and a member of the LGBTQ community, was an emcee at the event. During his remarks, he addressed the audience as “ladies and gentlemen, things and its.” His actions demonstrate a breathtaking lack of empathy and disregard for the transgender and non-binary communities. McPeek’s words were denigrating, hurtful and highly offensive. This is not a social gaffe – this is hate speech. Dehumanizing language is abuse, and a gateway to further violence. Given the opportunity to speak for the LGBTQ+ community and a platform to do so, McPeek abused that trust. That a member of our community would express such a demeaning sentiment is terribly disappointing and a stark reminder that there is much work to be done.
Words matter and have consequences. Racism, genderism, transphobia, sexism, homophobia, classism, ableism, biphobia, heterosexism, and all other forms of oppression are intrinsically linked. When one of us is harmed we all are harmed. We stand with our entire community in opposition to all forms of oppression. McPeek’s words are unacceptable under any circumstances and reflect poorly on the good people of Columbus, a city that is working hard toward better visibility, connection, and inclusion for all. He must be held accountable for his actions, and action must be taken to educate and inform those individuals who represent Columbus in the public arena.
We will not allow our great city to stand silent in the face of such offensive bigotry. Only when we face the ugliness and strive to be better will we progress as a society.
We understand that McPeek has been suspended without pay pending a further decision by the network. We believe this suspension reflects the station’s acknowledgment that this is a serious matter. McPeek has also issued a written apology, and although his words may be sincere, his description of his remark as “ill-thought-out and highly insensitive” falls short of acknowledging the harm done when marginalized communities are referred to as less than human.
Respectfully, rather than call for Marshall McPeek’s resignation, we call on ABC 6 WSYX, to use this incident as an opportunity for McPeek and Sinclair Broadcasting to partner with the LGBTQ+ community to be a catalyst for meaningful change.
We believe the following action steps would be an excellent avenue to bring education and a better understanding to the entire Columbus community:
- Host and broadcast a town hall on the arc of oppression and violence – Words Matter
- Provide cultural competency training for the network by contracting with local organizations utilizing transgender and gender non binary people.
- Spotlight the alarming murder rates of transgender individuals in Ohio. 2019 will be the 50 year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, so the timing is opportune to use this event as a learning opportunity and a historical look back on the LGTBQ+ community
It is our sincere hope that you will partner with our undersigned organizations and the greater LGBTQ+ community to combat oppression against transgender and non-binary communities. We look forward to hearing from you and working with you to make Columbus a city where all communities can thrive, free from oppression and valued in all their diversity.
TransOhio, Melissa Marie Alexander, Co-chair, Board of Directors
Transgender Children’s Legal Defense Fund, Benjamin Cooper, President, Board of Directors
Black Out & Proud, Inc. (BOP), J. Averi Frost, President, Board of Directors
Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO), Debé Turnbull, President, Board of Trustees
Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus, Adam Burk, Executive Director
Equality Ohio & Equality Ohio Education Fund, Alana Jochum, Executive Director
Equitas Health, Bill Hardy, President and CEO
Kaleidoscope Youth Center, Erin Upchurch, Executive Director
PFLAG Columbus, Jaron M. Terry, MS, APR, President, Board of Directors
Stonewall Columbus, Robert Podlogar, President, Board of Trustees