On January 24, a report on the murder of a trans woman named Alka, in Raipur, appeared in The Times Group’s ‘Mirror Now’. From its very headline to the last three words, it is one of the most offensive things that has appeared in the news recently.
The report identifies Alka’s name as an alias, calling her instead by her deadname Jaiprakash. A deadname is one that many trans people drop because it is associated with the gender assigned to them at birth and not the one that matches their true identity. Deadnaming Alka stripped her of her identity. Even in death her dignity was not respected. But wait, there’s more.
Trans women are women. Trans men are men. This is not up for discussion. To deadname a trans person is bad enough, but Mirror Now repeatedly calls Alka a man.
The headline contains the words “mistook him for a woman”. The wrong pronoun “him”. The writer does it again, saying that Alka’s murderers “[thought] that he was a woman due to his attire.” The report further misgenders Alka: “cheated them and that he was a male”. I’ll say it again she was not a male. The last lines of the report read Alka “used to carry himself like a woman”.
Accompanying the article is the image of a deceased person, covered in a white shroud. The focus is on death. Victim. Tragedy. Not the perpetrators. The focus in media, traditionally, has been on the tragedy. Human interest, apparently. Not only is this a super triggering image, it also removes the attackers from the reader’s imagination. And dare I say the figure is a man?
In multiple places, Mirror Now calls her a ‘eunuch’, one of the most offensive terms for a trans person, meaning ‘a castrated male’. The term is born from an uneducated, vicious attitude towards trans people, and anyone with any sense has dropped it from their dictionary.
Noun. Not adjective. With the same ignorance as using ‘eunuch’, and he/him pronouns, the phrase rings with the idea that somehow a human being is an anomaly, a freak. Do we use ‘a cisgender’? Do we use ‘a heterosexual’?
Why, when trying to raise awareness about the violence trans people have to face, would you reinforce the same unempathetic, dehumanising, stereotyped idea that upholds the violence? Why publish this story without thinking about the kind of effect it has on a reader’s mind? Why do such a disservice to an already marginalised community? Why?
It has taken ages for crimes against LGBTQ people to even be considered worth reporting. The rising frequency of these reports is devastating enough, but the way in which leading media houses present the details only adds insult to injury.
It’s true that many media houses lack the sensitivity you need to write about trans people. There are no training programmes to speak of. There is no discussion on how to write about LGBTQ+ people. As long as the curse of transphobic writing continues to plague media houses, there is little we can do to change society’s view of the community. And no, falling back on the same tragic stories of violence is not enough.
In the Mirror Now article, there is nothing to suggest responsible journalism or integrity.