The Tragic Death of India Clarke Deserves Better Reporting

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equality_florida_smTAMPA, Fla.—Family, friends as well as the entire LGBT community are grieving over the murder of India Clarke, a transgender woman of color whose body was found Tuesday morning on the playground of the University Area Community Center in north Tampa.

While the sheriff’s investigation continues, this much is known: Ms. Clarke was the tenth transgender woman to be murdered in the U.S. already this year. In all of 2014, there were 12 such murders. Most victims were women of color. It is an alarming trend, tragic in every case, underscoring the particular vulnerability of this part of our community. [pullquote]Ms. Clarke was the tenth transgender woman to be murdered in the U.S. already this year. In all of 2014, there were 12 such murders. Most victims were women of color. [/pullquote]

Unfortunately, the initial reporting of her death in local news media inaccurately described her as “a man in a dress.” We know how difficult it is to report crime news on deadline, especially when one must rely only on limited information issued by law enforcement.

But such a cavalier, de-humanizing description only intensifies the pain and fear in transgender people, who know all too well the lack of understanding that makes them so often the victims of discrimination and violence. You won’t have to go far online to see the outrage that has spread across the country about these initially flawed reports. Here’s one example.

We also know every journalist aims to tell a story whole.

So we urge you to report more than just Ms. Clarke’s prior arrests (none of which led to convictions) and to portray her as a human being, including the gender identity that she had claimed for herself and that was supported by her family.

Some of you have already turned this corner, and we’re grateful.

For all of you, we are using our networks to gather names of friends who knew India, so that you can paint a fuller picture of the life that was taken. That list is still being developed early this afternoon, but call us and we will try to connect you. There is also conversation among friends and supporters on Facebook. [pullquote]So we urge you to report more than just Ms. Clarke’s prior arrests (none of which led to convictions) and to portray her as a human being, including the gender identity that she had claimed for herself and that was supported by her family.[/pullquote]

Here also are links to some well-regarded journalistic guidelines to help you through the sometimes confusing matters of gender identity, birth names, chosen names, pronouns, inflammatory language and the like. This is not about being politically correct. It’s about describing people truthfully and accurately, which we know is your goal.

Equality Florida and our partner TransAction Florida will be closely monitoring this case, including whether investigators determine that this was a hate crime.

Through our social media networks, we are asking anyone with information that might aid in the investigation to please contact Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay immediately.

And we will participate with other members of our community at a candlelight vigil this Friday at 8 p.m. at Lykes Gaslight Square Park to commemorate India Clarke’s untimely death and to say these killings must stop.

Our mission at Equality Florida is not just to pass ordinances and laws. We want to make Florida safer, so that every person can live and be their authentic selves. Any attention you can draw to this cause is deeply appreciated.

[From a News Release]

 

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