Second Ward, Minneapolis

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Transgender Woman Murdered - Media Response Varies

Tragically, Minneapolis has our first homicide of the year: Chrissie Bates, a 45-year-old transgender woman.

I don't usually write about homicides that occur outside the Second Ward, but I thought it was worth pointing out that some of the local news media did a stellar job reporting on this event with clarity and sensitivity, while others did not.

The good and the pretty good: City Pages and the Star Tribune. Both outlets used the personal pronoun "her" when describing the victim, as in the phrase "in her apartment" from the Star Tribune article. But the City Pages, and particularly reporter Erin Carlyle, did far and away the best job. They have, at the time of this writing, posted not one but two informative articles, quoting extensively from neighbors and public employees.

As importantly, Erin and the City Pages embraced who Chrissie was, unapologetically, clearly, and as if her identity was not a question or assertion. For example, where the Star Tribune used the phrase "transgender person," the City Pages used the phrase "transgender woman." Where the Star Tribune explained the victim's transgender status by stating that "[a]lthough police said the victim was a man, neighbors say she lived as a woman," the City Pages simply noted that she was "[f]ormerly known as Christopher Bates." And where the Star Tribune put quotation marks around the victim's name of choice, "Chrissy," the City Pages openly used her name, sans quotes, in the headline. City Pages even went a step further, reaching out to the GLBT community and finding out about the vigil planned for January 21, from 6-7:30pm.

But at least the Star Tribune tried. All other major media sources referred to the victim as a man, used her former name, and used male personal pronouns. The bad: Fox 29, KARE 11, MPR, KSTP, WCCO, and the Pioneer Press.

Kudos and thanks to the Star Tribune and especially to the City Pages and Erin Carlyle for reporting on this tragic event in a way that respected the victim enough to describe her as she described herself.


At 10:40 AM, Blogger andrea said...

It was just reported in the tar Tribune that Minneapolis is now "The Gayest City in America" it is truly unfortunate that the collective awareness and acceptance is not extended to the Transgender community. That being said I express my deepest condolences to Ms. Bates family and friends, and I urge the media to become more sensitive and educated on the Transgender community.

At 4:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did she legally change her name? News outlets will often use the legal name of a person, with any nicknames in quotes.

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Robin Garwood said...

Anonymous: "Did she legally change her name? News outlets will often use the legal name of a person, with any nicknames in quotes."

There is a significant difference between a nickname and a gender-appropriate name that a transgender person adopts. This purposeful renaming is a major step in the process of aligning one's outer gender identity with one's internal, lived gender. It's not too much to ask that news outlets show enough respect for those they cover - especially victims of violent crime - to use the name, and by extension gender identity, that one has chosen, and to do so without making it seem controversial.

I should note that the Star Tribune story today ( is much, much better. It refers to her in the lede as a transgender woman, and the first mention of her name lacks the quotation marks.

At 9:22 AM, Blogger Robin Garwood said...

A few updates:

Police have arrested a suspect in this crime, and should be commended for their good work.

It appears that the victim spelled her name "Krissy," not any of the alternate spellings that were in the reporting (and the above post) in the days right after the event.

Lastly, the reporting is still spotty, but seems to be improving a little. Fox and WCCO have improved their coverage, while KARE and KSTP are still misreporting the story.


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