Last Friday, shots were fired into the dark windows of the Las Vegas Lounge, a trans-friendly bar in Las Vegas. Two people were injured, including trans woman Callie Lou-Bee Haywood, and police are still searching for the shooter, who fled the scene.
— Max Michor (@MaxMichor) February 23, 2018
But reports that actually identified the lounge as a trans space are only now coming to light. And that’s a problem.
Try googling it. Las Vegas lounge shooting. I managed to find four articles one only has 5 sentences, and mentions nothing about how the bar was specifically for trans people.
— Leo || (@AwkwardEggcorn) February 28, 2018
Las Vegas Lounge’s exterior is emblazoned with the transgender pride flag, meaning whoever shot at the building was knowingly targeting the trans community.
“This was a hate crime,” posted Haywood, who was shot in the leg. “No LGBT community having our backs?! What’s going on?”
A more complete picture of the incident didn’t emerge until Monday, when Into identified the lounge as a transgender club. LGBTQ Nation and The Daily Dot followed suit, but to date no mainstream news network—national or local—has included that crucial element of the story.
Such flawed coverage is unacceptable, especially given the rising levels of anti-trans violence in America. Six transgender women have been brutally murdered already this year—in the past two days alone, we’ve learned of the deaths of Phylicia Mitchell and Zakaria Fry.
Last year was the deadliest on record for trans Americans, but if this staggering trajectory continues, 2018 will outpace it before October.
That should instill fear. And inspire action. If we as a society can’t end the systemic oppression of transgender Americans, then we at least owe them balanced and comprehensive coverage in the media.
At the most basic level, that means actually reporting on incidents of anti-LGBT violence: This week, a new report from Media Matters revealed that seven major TV news networks covered anti-LGBT hate crimes in 2017 just 22 times—and for a total of 40 minutes. Notably, last year was the deadliest year on record for queer Americans overall, with 52 LGBT lives lost to hate-related violence.
Comprehensive media coverage also means doing your research, knowing your subjects, and being accountable when you get it wrong. Too many times local outlets misgender and dead-name victims of anti-trans violence. In the rush to report, mistakes can happen. But especially in the world of digital media, it’s imperative to update with accurate and respectful language as information comes to light.
“Disregarding the victim’s gender identity and misgendering them in news reports adds further insult to injury, compounding the tragedy by invalidating who the victims were,”
writes GLAAD in its Media Reference Guide. “Use the lived identity, name, and pronoun of the victim [and] report on each victim with dignity and respect, portraying them as a person, not just a statistic.”
Doing right by the trans community also means documenting the lows and the highs—mourning deaths but also celebrating remarkable accomplishments. And it means listening to trans readers and adapting practices that incorporate their perspectives.
Americans are finally waking up to the epidemic of gun violence in this country. They need to wake up to the epidemic of anti-trans violence, too. And that can only happen if it’s reported on accurately.
A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to support Haywood.