It’s easy to get hard-hearted about the news when you spend ages trawling through it, but this week something alarmingly close to home emerged in the local paper. A post-graduate trans woman in her 20’s had been found strangled to death in her burnt out flat, just a 5 minute walk away from where I live. I didn’t know her, but she was a sister and she suffered for it.

We don’t know yet whether her murder was connected to her transsexualism, but one only has to look at our suicide rates to know that dying young is not uncommon when you’re trans. The mainstream press picked up the story Tuesday, but what none of them mentioned is the Transgender Day of Remembrance coming up on November 20th. Regional newspaper The Argus reports that a service will be held November 21st, at 3.30pm, in the Peace Park at Dorset Gardens in Brighton for this international day of remembrance.

The Sun, The Independent, The Daily Mail and BBC News could have told you that, worldwide. This young woman is the 260th trans person to be murdered this decade. It doesn’t take a statistician to know that’s a disproportionately high number of people from a small section of society, especially when they’re only the one’s we know about.

The methods of killing were varied and bloody: many were shot repeatedly or stabbed in the throat, whilst others had the life beaten out of them, or were struck hard with weapons like those who were stoned to death. Others were bludgeoned, beaten with bottles, sawn apart and given disfigured faces; as well as being raped, slashed and electrocuted. Andrea Waddell was, sadly, not the first to be strangled.

But none of the newspapers tell you this. They would rather devote column inches to giving you this woman’s old name, when she live as a boy.

Often, victims of anti-transgender violence are not identified as such due to the silence of their families, as well as fear amongst the police for the victim’s friends, or indeed the refusal of police to investigate these murders and/or report them as hate crimes. So it’s welcome news that The Home Office has just awarded the Gender Identity Research and Development Society (GIRES) a grant to fund the development
of a national system for reporting transphobic crime. Very few trans people who experience such crimes report them to the police. You can check out the GIRES website, which is full of interesting scientific stuff, here:

Channel 4 also managed to kill off my enjoyment of an otherwise positive, non-judgemental and sympathetic documentary on Monday. Why the hell did the narrator insist upon referring to the trans people with the wrong gender pronouns throughout the entire programme? Even a stupid person who has spent time around trans people would understand this is a huge no-no. In case the media need guidance on how to cover transgender stories, they have the Associated Press Stylebook to refer to – the journalist’s bible. It’s very clear about this issue:

“Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics (by hormone therapy, body modification, or surgery) of the opposite sex and present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.

If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.”

So if the children’s parents – and everyone around them – referred to the kids with their preferred pronouns, which were in keeping with their public personae, why couldn’t the documentary makers? They wouldn’t have been so rude to their faces, so why do it behind their backs, in the editing room? If anyone’s ever called you by a name you didn’t like, or worse, the wrong gender pronoun, you’ll know why this is such a biggy. Everyone, regardless of their physical sex, has a right to a gender identity. Individuals choose how they identify – you don’t get to make that choice for them. So, next time you meet someone who wants to be called ‘he’, call him he. Meet someone who see’s themselves as a she? Call her… her. See – it’s SO easy! It’s not illegal, it’s doesn’t hurt, and it’s free: manners.

Oh, and stop killing us please.

(The views expressed in this blog are the authors own and may not reflect the official position of the Gender Trust).

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  • rose  On November 4, 2009 at 6:32 am

    technically the usse of the wrong pronouns is Hate Crime and can be punished as such.

    The Hate Crime laws are that anything taken as offensive by a TGLB person is Hate Crime and constantly offending one by wrong pronoun is just that…and also it is promoting hate crime by inciting viewers/listeners/readers to cause offense to TLBG people.

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