Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you How NOT to Report on the Heinous Murder of a Transperson.
[UPDATE: We now know that Ms. Acoff went by “Cemia” or “Ce Ce.” I have removed all references to her birth name out of respect for the dead. Also, the article has been updated on the Plain Dealer’s web site with a (still offensive) title, but the main title text in the link remains “man.”]
Cemia (her body found violated and tied to concrete and steel in a retention pond in the back of beyond) had a history of scrapping with local cops over her right to be herself. She had previously been charged with drug possession (said drugs including the estrogen she needed to help her body align with her mind) and fined $1000. She was also charged by police for insisting that they treat her as a woman.
A thousand dollars, because she insisted on being herself. Endless mockery and harassment from the very people who have dedicated their lives to protecting the citizenry. And now, a brutal, lonely death.
We are dying. By the thousands, we are dying. Muder, rape, prostitution, despair, suicide; these are life events that define a transgender existence in modern America.
And then the media, seeing the myriad ways in which this culture of fear and ignorance chooses to demean and marginalize us while we live, seeks to erase our very identities in death. Yes, responsible media agents follow the GLAAD guidelines in respecting the pronouns of transpeople, but apparently they didn’t get the memo in Cleveland.
Him. He. The man. His.
Small words with big impact. In denying her, EVEN IN DEATH, the right to identify as her true self, the media is killing her all over again.
Replace “transgender” with any other minority. Go ahead. “Body with odd skin tone found in pond.” “Body with oddly non-functional legs found in pond.” “Body of oddly retarded man found in pond.” “Body of oddly Asian man found in pond.”
“Body of oddly non-caucasian, non-Christian, not-man found in pond.”
“We see you dying,” say those who seek to destroy us. “We hear your cries of anguish. And we delight in them. Because your destruction eliminates whatever threat we perceive to our sexuality, or our religion, or our own trembling secret selves, and we tell ourselves it’s okay, because you are LESS. You are OTHER.”
But we’re not. We’re your sisters and brothers. We’re your daughters and sons, kicked out of homes and hustling on the street in the name of personal integrity. We’re your friends and coworkers.
We are Cemia Acoff, and, if the genetic dice had tumbled a bit differently, so might you be.
We are human. We are you.
And we don’t deserve to have our lives and identities obliterated because our desire to be our best, most complete selves makes you uncomfortable in your underpants area or challenges your provincial notions of what is acceptable.
We are dying. I beg of you, get educated. Understand what transpeople go through. There’s a guide at the top of this blog. It’s one click and a bit of reading. Let illumination replace the darkness of your ignorance and fear.
Help us live, instead of killing us twice.
Nota Bene: The author of the piece linked above is John Caniglia, at The Cleveland Plain Dealer. He can be reached at .216.999.4097 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I encourage you to reach out and share your (respectful) objections to this thoughtless and demeaning piece with him. We have a voice, my friends. Let’s use it.