The Voice: Cover, care equally about trans crimes


Mary Margaret Stewart

I asked her, ‘Why do you want to dress like that?’ and she said, ‘I know this is hard for you and embarrassing, but I just can’t be that boy anymore,” Carol Asberry said in an interview with The GA Voice. Asberry’s daughter, Keymori Johnson, is a transgender black woman.

Asberry was shocked again when her daughter was shot dead at her apartment in Albany, Ga., on Dec. 6, 2014, and again when the suspected murderer was released on a $1,000 bond.

Kuyaunnis James murdered Johnson because of her gender identity, which constitutes a hate crime. Sadly, this isn’t that uncommon.

“Fear of being targeted simply because a person is transgender is endemic to the United States,” activist and author Wallace Swan writes.

Three trans women of color were murdered in Virginia, Texas and California in January 2015. Four were murdered in San Francisco, New Orleans, Akron and Miami in February.

Johnson’s murderer should receive a fair punishment. More importantly, hate crimes like this must end.

The media amplifies coverage of black cisgender males (those that identify with their assigned gender at birth), but such reaction should extend to all gender identities. Regrettably, the mainstream media is incapable of equal and respectful representation of transgendered victims.

According to “News and Sexuality: Media Portraits of Diversity,” network news portrayals are ignorant and conducive for stereotypes because journalists “often fall into lazy habits that pollute coverage and alienate news consumers.”

After Lamia Beard’s murder in January 2015, police officers and hospital officials reported her as a male in several media outlets, according to

As executive director of the Trans Women of Color Collective, Lourdes Hunter spoke out in a public statement against this misidentification.

“Another one of our sisters has been misgendered in the media,” she said. “The media’s obligation is not to the police but to report accurate news.”

According to Media Matters for America, Fox News’ coverage of the transgender community is “inaccurate, defamatory, and dehumanizing”  and “contributes to transphobic violence and discrimination.” So much for fair and balanced.

Coverage of these hate crimes should respect victims’ gender orientation. With access to a variety of social media accounts, students need to bring deserved attention to black trans women.

Most calls to action started with social activism from young people. Young activists responded loudly after the homicides of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

Decatur students should add their voices to the mix.

“Despite this violence, the majority of network news outlets have failed to give the recent string of trans murders and suicides a meaningful semblance of visibility in 2015,” Derrick Clifton wrote in an article published by The National Center for Transgender Equality.

Mainstream media’s disregard for the lives of minority trans women is a blatant example of disrespect toward the gender identity movement.

Transgender white female Leelah Alcorn committed suicide in Ohio last fall and quickly gained recognition on social media, garnering over 38,000 Instagram posts hashtagged “#LeelahAlcorn.” In contrast, four murders in June of transgender women of color in Ohio received minimal recognition, even with the growing use of #BlackLivesMatter.

When the Denver police killed Jessica Hernandez, an unarmed 17-year-old Latina genderqueer (someone who does not identify with conventional gender distinctions), on Jan. 28, 2015, only 710 Instagram posts recognized her death – less than two percent of the attention Alcorn received.

Police departments, national organizations and the court system are failing to recognize people with the gender identities they prefer, and insufficient public recognition only encourages this trend.

Now is the time for young people to use their influence on social media to raise awareness for the hate against minority transgender women.

Decatur students are surrounded by the influences of Atlanta Pride and the high school’s gay straight alliance and are accepting of all types of people. More than most others, this school knows what gender equality looks like.

Equality means accurate representation, not selective coverage.

Pick up your phone and use your online presence to rally for trans women of color. Do all you can to keep hate crime in the public spotlight.