There’s a particularly cynical exchange in an episode of the cult HBO series “The Wire,” wherein a couple of homicide detectives remark upon how little priority is being given to the unsolved murders of several poor African-Americans. To drive the point home, one of the detectives refers to these homicides as “misdemeanor murders”.
Complaining about the media’s exclusive fascination with kidnapped or missing white children has become something of a dead horse. At a certain point, just observing that something is a problem isn’t really helping matters; if it bothers you, logic dictates, you actually try to do something about it.
That said, it’s hard not to be disturbed by the near-dearth of coverage that the case of Sage Smith has received, in Virginia or nationally, and the tone of the scant coverage that she has been given. Smith is a 19-year-old African-American transgender woman who disappeared from her Charlottesville, Va., home nearly a month ago; she was last seen leaving to meet one Eric McFadden at a train station and still had not returned two days later.
According to Daryl C. Hannah of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), since Smith’s disappearance, the only remotely “mainstream” media coverage the disappearance has received has been a local news report. During this report, despite identifying as female, Smith is repeatedly referred to using male pronouns; the local police have insisted on the same terminology, issuing a statement in which they refer to Smith as a “young man.” Even “Missing” posters in Richmond refer to Smith as “him/her.”
The case demonstrates, in microcosm, everything wrong with media coverage of trans people: the only outlet that even cares enough to cover the story cannot be bothered to even use correct pronouns, even though the Associated Press stylebook states that journalists should “use the pronoun consistent with the way the (transgender) individuals live publicly.”
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