22 May 2012

She Called Herself Lorena; The Times Called Her "Curvaceous"

Sometimes people don't understand why words are so important to us.  Actually, they're not any more important to us than they are to anyone else.  Some people think we're more "sensitive" to what we're called and the pronouns used to refer to us because they are not aware of the amount of respect for their dignity and persons they receive that trans--and, too often LGBT and other--people don't get.  

An example of what I'm talking about can be found in a NY Times article about a fire that killed a trans woman on Saturday night.  In the first sentence, Lorena Escalera was referred to as "curvaceous."  These days, even the NY Post does better than that.  I thought the Times stopped that sort of thing--if they ever did it--decades ago.

But it gets even worse.  The article says she was "called" Lorena.  Even the police report lists her name as Lorena; so did other documents referring to her.  If she is not legally known by that name, she is, for all intents and purposes, Lorena.  Why couldn't the Times recognize that?  Or the fact that she was living as a woman--that, in fact, she is a woman.  Al Baker and Nate Schweber, who wrote the article, simply had to say she was "born a male."  No, they didn't even have the guts to say it themselves:  They had to mention that "neighbors" said it.  

Worse yet, Messrs. Baker and Schweber simply couldn't stop themselves from indulging in some cultural stereotyping.  The noted that a debris pile outside of the apartment ravaged by the fire "contained many colorful items."  They included "wigs, women's shoes, coins from around the world, makeup, hairspray, handbags, a shopping bag from Spandex House, a red feather boa and a pamphlet on how to quit smoking.  

Baker and Schweber ended the article with a brief mention of another fire on the same night.  In fighting that blaze, firefighters found the body of a man on whom the fire seemed to be concentrated.  Around his charred remains, according to the reporters,  were "a shopping cart, spackling buckets and clothing."  Somehow I think Baker and Schweber made that list simply to highlight the "tranniness" of the belongings of someone "called" Lorena.  And, oh yeah, we mustn't forget:  This person called Lorena was curvaceous.