03 March 2013

If A Trans Woman Is Beaten And Nobody Hears About It...

If you've ever been a journalist, as I've been, or simply follow the news, you start to realize the prejudices that shape what we see in the media.

The media outlets in which a crime is mentioned--or, indeed, whether or not it is covered at all--has much to do with its victim.  If something happens to a celebrity, of course, it's on the front page and in all of the TV programs that cover entertainment.  The whiter and richer the victim is, the more likely he or she is to get sympathetic reporting--or any reporting at all.  One example of what I'm talking about is Lacy Peterson who, as I've mentioned in an earlier post, made international headlines when she disappeared from her home in an upscale San Francisco suburb and her husband, Scott, was convicted of murder.  A few months earlier a poor Salvadorean immigrant named Evelyn Hernandez was the victim of a remarkably similar crime on the other side of San Francisco Bay.  My blog is one of the few places in which she has ever been mentioned.  

So, should I be surprised that when a transgender woman is beaten by at least three young men in a midtown hotel, none of New York's daily newspapers or television network affiliates mentioned it?  The closest thing I've seen to local coverage was in Newsday, which is published in Long Island.  

(About twenty years ago, Newsday had a New York City edition, which covered many stories the Times, Daily News and Post neglected.  They also published the columns of Sydney Schanberg, whom the Times fired after his editorials criticized some real estate developers who just happened to be major advertisers in the newspaper.)

In addition to Newsday, I'll give credit to DNA Info and several weekly community newspapers for publishing stories about the crime.  While some details are still in dispute, it seems that the basic story goes something like this:  A 27-year-old trans woman advertised online.  One young man responded. They met in the Holiday Inn near Columbus Circle.  He was unhappy with the price.  They argued; she kicked him out.  He returned with his buddies and they beat her while one of them brandished a gun and threatened to kill her if she didn't stop screaming.

It seems that the woman wasn't seriously hurt.  Still, she's relatively lucky:  Too many of us are beaten much worse, or even killed, even when neither sex nor money is involved.  At least there are surveillance photos of at least two of the men and the woman provided some detailed descriptions. 

Newsday and DNA Info published those photos, and accounts of the crime.  That's more than any of New York City's three daily newspapers did.