Last Thursday the New York Times published a story about a young woman who was found dead after her apartment building was engulfed in flames but instead of focusing on the fire investigation the writers focused on the victims gender and her alleged sex life.
“She was 25 and curvaceous, and she often drew admiring glances in the gritty Brooklyn neighborhood where she was known to invite men for visits to her apartment, her neighbors and the authorities said,” read the first line of the story written by Al Baker and Nate Schweber. The story went on identify the victim as someone “called Lorena,” as opposed to saying she was “named Lorena” or that she simply was Lorena.
The 25-year old who was found dead was a transgender woman and LGBTQ advocates say the sexualized coverage of the incidents is “exploitative.”
Aaron McQuade, GLAAD’s Director of News and Field Media questioned how the Times would have covered the story if the word “transgender” was out of the equation. In a blog post on Glaad.org McQuade went on to say his organization had reached out to the NY Times to ensure this didn’t happen again.
“We typically try to capture the personal stories of those whose lives are lost in a fire, and we sought to do so in this case. We certainly did not mean any disrespect to the victim or those who knew her. But, in retrospect, we should have shown more care in our choice of words.”
McQuade says the Times’ statement reveals a lack of understanding of how serious this problem is.
“Unfortunately, the problem with the Times’ article on the death of Lorena Escalera, a transgender woman of color, is bigger than their “choice of words” or with their attempt to “capture” her story. It’s their failure to recognize trans women as women,” McQuade said in a follow up story Tuesday.
“At a time when anti-trans sentiment is high and sexualization of trans people still means they are denied basic civil rights, this is not good enough,” writes Steve Williams, Care2 Causes Blogger, who started a petition that calls on the NYT to publish an apology.
Williams’ petition demands “the NYT to print an apology acknowledging why the story was so deeply offensive, and to highlight the prejudice and discrimination trans people face in all spheres of life.”