The Responsibility of LGBT Media in Educating on Community Issues

The Responsibility of LGBT Media in Educating on Community Issues

Unpublished Letter to the Editor of Baltimore OUTloud, addressing their coverage of the tragic murder of young transwoman, Shelley Hilliard, on November 10th, 2011. We publish this with much respect for the work the journalists behind OUTloud put into their project; yet, with a careful eye to the importance of releasing perspectives that are meant to educate.

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I found it incredibly disheartening to see Shelley Hilliard not only referred to as "a transgender" in the article that was written about her murder, but also to see her previous name unnecessarily published.  The word "transgender" can take many forms in the English language, but never that of a noun.  To use it in such a way is offensive and suggests that we are not people, but rather something else entirely.  Additionally, it is never necessary nor appropriate to ask for, use or publicize someone's previous name.  Very few things from one's past have a significant bearing on their present, and one's previous name is definitely not one of those things.  Besides the fact that it is just downright disrespectful to use someone's previous name, it can be incredibly damaging as well.  All too often a trans person's past is a source of anguish and heartache.  Even something as seemingly small as a name can bring up moments from one's past that they may never like to revisit again.  

As Baltimore's leading LGBT newspaper, you have not only the power to educate people on issues that transgender folks face on a day-to-day basis, but also to misinform a large portion of the LGB community on those same issues.  The latter situation is detrimental to the furtherance of trans visibility, not only in general society, but more specifically within the community that claims to support us.  Please take the time to educate yourselves so that you can help educate others in our community.  It's not just up to trans folks to do the educating anymore.