The following is communication sent by Michael Finch, Brandon Thomas, and Brendon Holloway of the TEP Rutherford County Committee to WKRN regarding a recent story in which a transgender woman was misgendered and demeaned:
To Larry Flowers and the WKRN News Team:
We, The Tennessee Equality Project in Rutherford County, are writing in reference to the recent News 2 story on Devonta Blockmon, the transgender woman arrested on prostitution charges. We were disappointed to see that, although the article at one point acknowledged that Ms. Blockmon lives as a woman, the incorrect pronouns were used throughout the televised story and in the written article.
The Associated Press Stylebook has this to say about referring to transgender people in the news:
Transgender: Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.
While we may disagree on whether Ms. Blockmon’s transgender status was necessary to report, or whether it only further served to sensationalize the story and contribute to the stigma against transgender women of color, it is clear that Ms. Blockmon lives publicly as a woman. The pronouns “she” and “her” should have been used, if News 2 wanted to follow the guidelines put forth not just by GLBT advocacy groups like GLAAD and HRC, but by the Associated Press as well.
The lives of transgender women of color are often tragically short – experts estimate that transgender people have a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered, and the statistic increases to 1 in 8 when looking only at transgender women of color. Also, in states like Tennessee where an individual can be fired for their transgender status, transgender women are often forced to turn to avenues like prostitution in order to survive.
We at TEP don’t expect News 2 to singlehandedly solve these problems, but misgendering Ms. Blockmon simply adds further insult onto the trauma of being arrested. We would love to see News 2 take the lead on following AP Stylebook guidelines instead, knowing that other news outlets often look to News 2 for guidance.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or seek further comment on the matter.
TEP Rutherford County