0190C: Her Name is Jennifer, Not Jeffrey

One of the major headlines this week apart from the back and forth mudslinging between Vice President Binay and the Administration includes the murder of a transgender woman. I suppose in the same way that US media struggled to figure out how to propely address Chelsea Manning (born Bradley Edward Manning) when she came out as a transgender woman just as she was to be imprisoned for violating the Espionage Act, our own media groups seem to be at a loss how to properly discuss this story.

Despite how groups like GLAAD have excellent resources related to handling media discussions related to transgender people, pretty much all of our local news agencies have stumbled with this story by referring to Jennifer Laude as "a transgender" or being "transgendered" when the word "transgender" is an adjective and neither a noun nor a verb. They seem to be on the right track with headlines that make mention of a "transgender woman" but then they play with safe language in the article itself by trying to refer to her more as "the victim" instead of using pronouns like "she."

But the biggest crime that every single news agency continually commits is using language such as referring to the victim as "Jeffrey Laude a.k.a. Jennifer" or "also known as Jennifer." This disrespect for her gender identity extends to pseudo progressive news site Rappler that goes the extra mile with the annoyingly pseudo-familiar phrase, "Jennifer to her friends" since they don't want to go further down that road. For a site that is blatantly designed to provide Philippine news for non-Filipino audiences (e.g. every last line is painfully translated into Filipino, all references to local currency are converted to US dollar, and most of their columnists are expat Filipinos living abroad), they're trying to play things even safer by minimizing headlines that even mentioned the term "transgender" - for them Jennifer is merely a Filipino victim.

Some may argue that we do not have definitive proof that this is a hate crime and thus there is no need to bring up the transgender aspect of her identity. But given the local political climate and the reality that most anti-transgender crimes go unreported or hidden precisely because of this same discomfort with this aspect of the LGBT spectrum. Many anti-transgender crimes are dismissed instead mere robberies or domestic disputes instead of what they really are.

Thus at this point in the investigation and given the rather brutal nature of Jennifer's death, one cannot dismiss outright the gender aspect of this crime. She was beaten and strangled to death, her body left partly in the toilet. How can anyone say that this wasn't a crime with highly personal motivations behind it?

So yes, we need to continue to report that the victim was a transgender woman. We cannot rush to drop the term and just refer to her as "the victim" as Jessica Soho suggested in this interview. Jennifer deserves justice and in death she also deserves the dignity of being remember as she saw herself - as a woman.