The transgender community is experiencing higher levels of violent crime, much of which is not reported or incorrectly reported. Unfortunately, from available records, transgender people seem to be targeted on multiple levels of hatred. Homophobia, sexism, and racism all play roles in transgender deaths. For those reasons, transgender women of color are the most targeted. This seems to be the case with Stephanie Montez last week in Texas.
Stephanie Montez was found dead on a roadside near Corpus Christi, Texas with three gunshot wounds. When the story of the murder first broke in the local newspaper, her gender was listed as male. Even though she was found wearing women’s clothing, she was listed by her birth gender and name: Juan Montes.
It’s understandable: officials use what information is on record for victims who can’t tell them otherwise. The local paper Corpus Christi Caller-Times interviewed the victim’s friend, Brittany Ramirez, after their first initial reporting of the murder. Ramirez said of her friend,
She used to like to dance. She really enjoyed life. She was one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. She just had a great outlook on life. She was very supportive of everyone … I’m hoping everyone has equal rights. It’s a human life regardless. I don’t know why anybody would do this.
Even after speaking with the victim’s friend, the article went on to refer to Montez as “Montes”, her given name associated with the male gender. Local news organizations play a vital role in accurately reporting crimes against the transgender community. Using incorrect pronouns is, frankly, disrespectful to the victim and hinders awareness.
Local LGBTQ-friendly groups are organizing a trans rights rally on November 4 in honor of Ms. Montez. Organizations like GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) make the argument that victims like Stephanie Montez are doubly victimized. According to their site,
[It’s] critically important that journalists make the effort to report on each victim with dignity and respect. Disregarding the victim’s gender identity and misgendering them in news reports adds insult to injury, compounding the tragedy by invalidating the person’s lived reality.
Don’t we all deserve that final respect?