It has been a frightening week to be trans in Washington, D.C.
Miriam linked previously to RMJ’s excellent critique of Metro Weekly’s coverage of an attack on a transgender woman by a gay man. I was particularly struck by Ray Young’s approach to solidarity between gay and trans folks. His statement that, “I let her know that I was one of the family, that I was homosexual” assumes that gay and trans individuals are automatically allies. Of course, this is following his violent attack on Janey Kay, a trans woman. Young seems to think he should be perceived as a friend to trans folks just because he’s gay and regardless of his actual actions.
I see this largely as the product of the often tokenizing tacking on of “T” after “LGB.” As RMJ points out, Metro Weekly claims to be “Washington DC’s GLBT Newsmagazine,” but their coverage of this story shows a woeful lack of understanding of and respect for transgender individuals. The fact is, solidarity between gay and trans folks is not an automatic reality. Cisgender gay folks can still be transphobic, as Young demonstrates. The attack on two trans men at Fab Lounge, a D.C. gay bar, in March is more proof that gay spaces can be sites of violence against trans folks. I certainly hope for solidarity and community under the queer and trans umbrella. But there is a great deal of difference among LGBT folks and support for each other’s causes and needs is something that takes real work.
The anti-trans violence continued in D.C. on Wednesday when two transgender women were stabbed on a public street in the middle of the day. Both of them were taken to the hospital where Tyli’a “NaNa Boo” Mack died. The location of the attack is particularly frightening:
The stabbings occurred about two blocks from the North Capitol Street offices of Transgender Health Empowerment, a private social services group that provides drop-in services to transgender people, including transgender youth.
My information about the individual’s identities as trans women and the name of the woman who died comes from Transgender Health Empowerment’s News Release. News reports have been confusing and contradictory regarding their identities. The Sexist’s post on the incident catalogs the strange back and forth that occurred in the press regarding whether these individuals were trans women or trans men. In one article Fox 5 referred to the individuals as transgender women but then used male pronouns (the article has been updated since publishing so this may have changed). This lazy and irresponsible journalism shows the amount of ignorance about transgender issues among far too many reporters despite the existence of resources to help them report accurately.
If gay media is screwing up on trans issues it is sadly no surprise mainstream news sources are getting it so wrong. The prevalence of violent attacks against trans folks is horrible enough. The situation is compounded when the press does not respect the transgender community enough to write about us in ways that are accurate and recognize our humanity.
The othering of trans individuals and confusion about our identities in the press makes us seem strange and unknowable and bolsters fear. Poor reporting can further the dehumanization and lack of understanding that support a culture of transphobic violence.
For those of you in the D.C. area: there will be a candlelight vigil tonight at 6:30pm at 209 Q St. NW.