NY Daily News Tells Story Of Accused Transgender Maid In Most Offensive Manner Possible

ETA Monday 1PM PST: GLAAD has released a statement on this story and you can read the entire post at their website. Here is part of it:

GLAAD reached out twice last week to Orlando news station WKMG, which appears to have first reported on the incident, as well as the Orlando Sentinel and the New York Daily News to address these outlets’ offensive coverage.

By showing such little respect for Vanessa and for transgender women as a whole, journalists reproduce harmful stereotypes that have negative consequences for transgender people’s everyday lives. Stories of crime can be especially damaging when the media’s misrepresentations end up falsely connecting the fact that an alleged perpetrator is transgender to the crime itself. This is a gross inaccuracy that makes it possible for states like Florida and more than 30 others to refuse to hire someone simply because they are transgender.  It is important that the media be held accountable for these stories like Vanessa’s, and for portraying all transgender people in a fair and accurate manner.

Usually we steer clear of reporting extensively on stories about various sensationalized crimes allegedly perpetrated by LGBTQ persons, unless they involve giant jungle animals. Coverage of these crimes tend to suggest that the suspect’s actions are somehow related to the suspect’s orientation or gender identity — if the two are genuinely related, we’re there. But that’s rarely the case: unfortunately, evil does not discriminate and therefore people of all gender identities and sexual orientations kill and assault their exes, abuse innocent people and drop severed limbs in the mail.

If there’s any story we REALLY stay away from, it’s otherwise-irrelevant stories about child molesters or other sex offenders who just-so-happen to be LGBTQ. Which is why, despite being so appalled by this piece about an alleged sexual assault I read yesterday in The New York Daily News, I was unsure if writing about it was really the right thing to do (and am interested in your opinion on that). Should I really draw more attention to this thing? After all, I doubt GLAAD will be putting out a press release demanding reporter Christine Roberts be held accountable for mis-gendering a transgender woman who has been accused of sexually molesting a 14-year-old boy.

this is how the post was advertised on another page of the website

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s rare to find any mainstream stories about trans* people that aren’t in violation of at least one of the rules-for-writing-about-trans-folks, but this one really takes that violation to a whole new level. For starters, the headline of the piece is “Transgender Hotel Maid Busted For Groping Teen Boy.” AND WE’RE OFF!


1) Male pronouns are employed throughout. 

Despite acknowledging that Vanessa Olmos identifies as female, the writer uses male pronouns throughout the entire piece. We open with:

“A transgender motel maid is behind bars after he allegedly molested a 14-year-old boy at a Florida Days Inn, authorities said Thursday.”

2) Olmos is described as being “born as a man.”

“Police claim that Vanessa Olmos, who was born a man, touched the victim inappropriately Wednesday while the teenager’s mother was at the Orlando motel’s front desk, WFTV reports.”

3) Olmos’ transgender status is denied by a description that is more befitting to a cross-dresser than a transgender woman.

“The 35-year-old has been dressing and living as a women since moving to the U.S. from Mexico, according to WKMG. He stopped going by his given name, Christopher, since his arrival.”

4) The piece refers to Olmos’s “true gender” of male, also implies that somehow Olmos’s MAAB status was somehow relevant to her employment:

“Amjid Akram, manager of the motel, said that he was unaware of the housekeeper’s true gender and that the motel contracts maids through a third-party service.”

So. There’s that. Before we go on, if you lack the stomach to read the entire piece yourself, here’s the bizarre description of the alleged crime in question:

Olmos reportedly knocked on the door of the victim’s motel room and said “room service,” according to a police report obtained by the local station.

Police say that when the boy opened the door, the housekeeper asked if the victim had any dirty towels and if he was alone.

Olmos then allegedly asked “Can I touch?” to which the boy reponded “touch what?”

The 14-year-old victim told police that Olmos grabbed his genitals on the outside of his shorts and said “you hot.”

The boy responded “you’re weird,” walked to the bathroom and waited for Olmos to leave.

The victim’s mother, who called the police after her son told her about the encounter, said she had already exchanged towels with Olmos before the incident.

The housekeeper told police that he never touched the boy inappropriately and did not enter the room.

For starters, I recognized that my reluctance to discuss this piece was perhaps guided by the implicit acceptance of the story as “a story about a transgender woman accused of molesting a teenage boy.” But, as much as my inner feminist recoils at questioning the account of an alleged victim of sexual abuse, she is innocent until proven guilty and this very well could be a story about a teenage boy falsely accusing a transgender woman of color of sexual molestation. Olmos, who is not only a transgender woman of color but also a recent immigrant, lacks the cultural agency and probably also the financial ability to properly defend herself or execute any kind of recourse if the charges are unfounded.

Although Olmos is Mexican and therefore wouldn’t be considered “Latina,” a recent study from The Williams Institute called “Interactions of Transgender Latina Women With Law Enforcement” still offers insight into how police officers treat people who look like Olmos: two-thirds of the transgender Latina women interviewed by The Williams Institute reported verbal harassment as a characteristic of their interactions with law enforcement, 21% reported physical assault and 24% reported sexual assault. Nearly 60 percent of those stopped by law enforcement said they were not violating any laws at the time. In other words, law enforcement doesn’t require much in the way of evidence to justify handcuffing transgender women of color.

But back to the way this story is told — in addition to using “he” throughout the entire piece, this article exploits damaging myths about transgender women by attempting to present Olmos as a “deceiver,” the world’s most popular anti-trans archetype (described by Julia Serano in Whipping Girl as those who “successfully pass as women” and “play the role of sexual predators who fool innocent straight guys into falling for other ‘men.’). The language in this piece frames Olmos’ boss as the one who got fooled by suggesting that his unawareness of her gender assigned at birth somehow enabled her employment (and subsequent alleged predatory behavior) and that she wouldn’t have been hired otherwise. Whether or not the boss knew that Olmos was transgender is completely irrelevant to the crime, yet it’s so pointedly included! Last time I checked, being assigned male at birth does not affect one’s ability to vacuum. Unfortunately for Olmos, Florida does not prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Even more disturbing is that I discovered, via additional research, that this terrible reporting can’t be written off as the work of a gross bigoted straight white cisgender man out of touch with modern society penning a screed for a notoriously insensitive rag that routinely publishes transphobic shit that makes our eyes bleed.

I was shocked to discover (thank you, LinkedIn!) that the writer of this piece is, in fact, a young woman named Christine Roberts who graduated from Georgetown University with an English degree in May and prior to college was enrolled at the esteemed Brooklyn Tech, where she was a National Merit Scholar. Prior to advancing from Intern to Reporter for The NY Daily News, she’s worked in internship and assistant roles for the U.S. Government and for a radio station. She was Senior Editor of her college paper and an SAT tutor. She either lives in Washington DC or New York City or both.

Furthermore, although Roberts reports on lurid crime regularly for The New York Daily News, she’s also been given a hearty portion of gay-related stories, which she’s executed more or less without bias. She reported fairly on Obama’s support of repealing DOMA, California’s law to teach gay history and Michelle Bachmann’s glitter-bombing, among other gay interest stories.

All these factors come together to form what we’ve been sold as an “enlightened” cisgender heterosexual: young, bright, well-educated, hails from diverse and liberal cities, which just goes to show how stupid that assumption is. It’s also a reminder that although we’re constantly patting ourselves on the back for how far this new generation has come with respect to accepting gay people, 99.9% of the country remains completely ignorant of trans* issues. Whereas many gay people joke about “waiting for the haters to die off,” that isn’t the case for trans* folks. Sometimes the haters are only 21.

Similarly, it’d be easy and perhaps comforting to write this off as another case of The New York Daily News being a misogynist transphobic piece of shit, which is certainly a valid description of that paper — but it’s worth mentioning that The New York Daily News has been reprimanded for their transphobic language in the past and made some visible efforts to improve.

In 2008, the NYDN headlined a story about the murder of a 25-year-old trans woman in the Bronx “Fooled John Stabbed Bronx Tranny,” which earned them a GLAAD intervention. GLAAD informed TNYDN “that tranny is often considered pejorative and dehumanizing and that insinuating Stewart “fooled” her murderer was both defamatory and irresponsible. The paper dropped both tranny and fooled in follow-up stories and changed the online version of the original report to address the concerns raised.” In 2010, apparently GLAAD had to intervene again when the NYDN misgendered another murdered trans woman of color, and the NYDN again corrected their mistake.

Recently, The New York Daily News has reported unoffensively on things like the transgender woman who successfully won a fight against her health insurance company for refusing coverage of a routine mammogram, an article which even included the sentence: “Scott, who eventually won the fight and received an apology from Aetna, is just the latest person to struggle against the institutional medical discrimination that transgender people face.”

Ultimately, no one except for Olmos can know whether or not these charges are true, but everyone else charged with crimes at least has the dignity of being correctly gendered, and she deserves that, too.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3212 articles for us.


  1. Ugh this is so awful :( and because she’s a woman of color, the New York Daily News feels no obligation to show her any decency or respect at all

  2. I’m Latina, and as someone who has both been sexually abused and had guardians who were arrested for sexual crimes against children, I do not show any sort of respect toward a person accused of something like this.
    And what bothers me about writing about the misgendering is that it removes the focus from a victimized child and a horrible, scum-of-the-earth adult to trans issues. And while I am all for correct gendering and trans equality, etc, I am not for the shift of focus.

    Just my two cents.

    • hmmm… i feel you (and thank you for sharing your two cents) but i’m inclined to suggest that i wouldn’t have felt compelled to write about the misgendering if it hadn’t happened. i’d feel like it’s the NYDN’s responsibility to ensure that language like this doesn’t unnecessarily distract from the story being told, not mine.

      • I get that. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t want this woman pitied. Her life is rough as a transwoman, I’m sure, but this isn’t about her. If the accusations are correct, she’s scum and no one needs to be feeling sorry for her.

        I don’t know…
        I always feel conflicted in these situations.
        I guess it was a little triggering.

        • “If the accusations are correct, she’s scum and no one needs to be feeling sorry for her.”

          But you’ve already assumed that they are, by not giving a shit about this.

          Even if the accusations are correct, denying her her identity as punishment is transphobic because no one does that at any step for cisgender offenders of any kind.

          • Why are you so adamant about her giving a shit about this? If it was a “real” man who was accused you wouldn’t give two shits about him and assume he was guilty. What gives this bitch a pass? I don’t think anyone will write about the “accused” in a positive light given the circumstances. And why the hell are you covering this story again? Is this tranny a lesbian? Is this lesbian related in any way? Didn’t think so. Also, no one outside of your tiny liberal bubble gives two shits about cisgenders much less cisgender offenders. In fact as I’m typing this cisgender is being rejected by the spell check on this site.

            Please go bitch about your fucking first world white girl problems some more and detract from the little boy who may have been traumatized.

          • wow.

            I think you may have gotten lost on the internet, you’re in the wrong place here.

          • We have an obligation to protect and respect human rights no matter the nature of the crime in question.

          • The bit that made me laugh is ‘no one cares about cisgenders’, for being both grammatically incorrect and hilariously wrong with the intent anyway. I’m pretty sure people do care about cisgender people and cisgender offenders with them being, well, the huge majority.

    • The key word here is “accused”. She hasn’t been proven guilty of the alleged crimes, so calling her scum-of-the-earth is highly inappropriate. Also, consider that her status as a trans woman of colour, and a recent immigrant, does not put her in a position of being likely to be tried fairly. There is far too much precedent for this, and because of it, any conviction will always have a shadow of doubt over it.

      But yeah, denying someone respect due to unproven accusations just isn’t right. All human beings deserve to have their identity recognised, no matter the crime they are accused of.

      • Hi Miri. I honestly don’t see what her being guilty or not has to do with it. I think presumption can be set aside completely.

        She’s a women whether she’s guilty or innocent. I don’t think there’s a need (and I don’t think we should) start a discussion of the strength of the claims, their veracity or the likelihood of her trial reaching a fair conclusion.

        Either way the reporter doesn’t need to misgender her and probably doesn’t need to bring up her trans status at all. (Many reports actually have guidelines that say you shouldn’t specify things like that unless relevant. They usually follow them for things like race and sometimes sexual orientation, but I think it’s rarer for them to follow those guidelines for gender identity.)

    • THIS! Ad s TWOC, it would really break my heart to see the transphobia of this article overshadow the fact that the victim here is a teen aged boy. I feel like it should be possible to fight the problematic language, which hurts all trans women, without trying to make their defense for them, and acknowledging that members of victimized groups are perfectly capable of doing horrible things.

      I remember over a year ago, this situation happened in reverse. A maid (also an immigrant) accused a cisgendered guest of assault. In that case, the victim had her account mistranslated, her personal information disclosed (and speculated about), and her conversation misrepresented in the press to make her appear untrustworthy. I’d rather not repeat something like that, or even buy into the attitude that could. My two cents, though.

      PS: FWIW, I decided against reading something triggering this early in the morning. So I haven’t read the article.

    • This isn’t about her, it’s about me and the countless other trans* women who are being unnecessarily conflated with the accused-actions of this maid.

      Also, the article is just plain damaging to the entire trans* community.

  3. Sigh. Talkin’ ’bout my generation…

    I’m struggling to come up with the right words to explain Christine Roberts’ disingenuous language in the content of the article. While half of me is ready to school her in ALL OF THE GENDERS, the other half is giving her editors the side-eye.

    When I wrote for a newspaper, my superiors always came up with the sensationalist headlines for my articles, so I’m inclined point that finger of blame in their direction.

    • Indeed, the headline almost certainly wasn’t of her doing.

      I wonder about the rest of the piece?

      That said, I’m not going to give some girl a pass just because she went to some “prestigious” school – sounds like she was well-off, went to a fairly conservative prestigious school, and now writes for a very conservative paper…it’s not like conservatives/bigots are roundly uneducated. Most members of Congress, for instance, have a decent education -_-.

      • But I wonder if Riese tried to get in contact with her and ask her what’s up, eh? Why not? :P

      • Brooklyn Tech is a public high school, going to Brooklyn Tech and then Georgetown doesn’t necessarily imply wealth as much as intelligence (albeit intelligence as judged by the school system)

        I think Riese was trying to point out that this writer is supposed to be smart by certain standards, not anything about conservatism or wealth.

        (sorry, as someone from NYC who went to a specialized public HS followed by a private college, that kind of assumption gets under my skin since I have always been BROKE)

        • I think Riese was trying to point out that this writer is supposed to be smart by certain standards, not anything about conservatism or wealth.

          yes, exactly. i actually didn’t think about whether or not she was wealthy, to be honest, i don’t really think that’s important. i have an ex (who was def not wealthy!) went to brooklyn tech, that’s how i know much about the school to begin with.

        • Yes, and I think it was an oversight on riese’s part to assume that just because someone went to a school that’s been dubbed ‘prestigious’ that they should be worldly or intelligent in some way. I was offering an alternative interpretation, one in which the author may have been from a conservative family/upbringing, was privileged, went to a conservative school, etc. And then this article really doesn’t seem so out of left field. Judging it by its merits – and not her pedigree – conveys something else about the author’s intelligence entirely, that’s for sure.

          • “Yes, and I think it was an oversight on riese’s part to assume that just because someone went to a school that’s been dubbed ‘prestigious’ that they should be worldly or intelligent in some way.”

            I’m actually attempting to draw attention to the fact that it IS an oversight. That’s why I said this in the article after making those statements:

            “All these factors come together to form what we’ve been sold as an “enlightened” cisgender heterosexual: young, bright, well-educated, hails from diverse and liberal cities, which just goes to show how stupid that assumption is.”

          • Lol, sorry for dragging you into that riese – I was actually a bit peeved by the “I think what riese meant to say…” thing, and that threw me for a loop, because I wasn’t really trying to say anything about what you meant to say haha. I was just saying that, though I was wondering how much of the article was sensationalized/edited (I know for a fact editors can do a doozy on your pieces), I also would have no preconceived notions of someone being sensitive or well-rounded or even intelligent just because they went to an elite high school/college/whatever, regardless of whether the content speaks for itself or was heavily edited by conservative/sensationalists at the top. I think wealth does have something to do with it, because I acknowledge that good scores on high school entrance exams, SATs, good grades, etc. have to do with privilege, and often wealth to some extent, and not intelligence. And keeping that in mind is why I didn’t need your extra line to remind me that what we’re being sold shouldn’t be bought. I think a lot of people actually don’t fall into the camp that is buying that nonsense that your high school/college is an indicator of your level of intelligence, hence a poster above being peeved because some people assume it was wealth that gained her access to a good education, not her smarts. People shouldn’t really make assumptions either way, I’d say. But if you want people to assume you are intelligent because of it, then you should be ready to accept the other side of the coin as well.

  4. Innocent or no, Olmos deserves to be treated like a person without dehumanising her and erasing her identity. riese, you are one hundred and eleven percent correct that the allegations against the suspect and gender identity/expression of the suspect are – and always ought to be – mutually exclusive.

    Transphobia blows. The only time I find it more appalling is when it takes place within queer circles, by people who are supposed to know better.

    Aside, if Olmos is genuinely guilty of the crime she is accused of then, by all means, legal ramification and reparation is deserved but that is no kind of excuse to so disarm her of a fundamental human right.

  5. I guess what I’m finding it difficult to grapple with here is not the way Olmos’ identity is being reported (disgraceful) but actually the point where you write “she is innocent until proven guilty” and then go on to discuss how her race and class could play into the allegations and her ability to engage in the legal process.

    I accept the importance that conversation. Yet the same time I maintain that “innocent until proven guilty” is not a useful maxim to repeat in sexual assault cases, notwithstanding that it is the presumption on which the law operates. Most sexual assaults are not reported, most reported sexual assaults are not prosecuted, most prosecutions do not result in convictions. If everyone the system deemed to be “innocent” actually is so then there are a lot of people (including children) out there making up stories about being sexually assaulted. That is also why I’m uncomfortable by your comment that the claimant could be making the story up, especially since he is also underage.

    I’m certainly not arguing for assuming guilt until innocence is proven – that would be even worse – but the law certainly seems to err on the side of innocence with respect to sexual assault.

    • that’s a really valid point about that maxim not being useful in sexual assault cases, and i agree with you that “guilty until proven innocent” is the right stance to take with these cases, absolutely. and i do that. there’s no reason why her gender identity should’ve been mentioned in this piece, but it was the centerpiece. i think that actually Beth in her comment below talks about the problem better than I did. I don’t mean to downplay sexual assault AT ALL, i feel terrible if anybody thinks i did.

      as a sidenote, maybe; i think a thing that is difficult for me to grapple with is that i’ve read 35,000 stories about grown white cisgender men raping and molesting boys and girls for years and years and years and never even getting a slap on the wrist. then a trans WOC gropes a teenage boy without his consent, he recoils and tells her she’s weird, and she leaves, and she’s instantly tossed behind bars. in florida. yes, sexual assault is sexual assault, period, and one part of me wants to applaud this swift action, as sexual assault cases are so often dismissed at this level — or not reported at all because the victim thinks nobody will care (and on that tip, i speak from personal experience). i do think (as someone says downthread) that it’s nearly impossible to discuss a case that involves sexual abuse without getting into sticky territory. but would the boy have reported an incident like this at all if it had been a cisgender white woman? his football coach? a female friend of his mom’s? if he had, would they be taken to jail immediately based on his word? would the NYDN have written about it at all? because if the answer to any of those questions is “no,” i think that the way that this story, and stories like it, are told, is part of the reason why.

  6. Half of me is happy to see an article like this on Autostraddle. The other half of me thinks there’s no reason to wander away from this stance:

    “If there’s any story we REALLY stay away from, it’s otherwise-irrelevant stories about child molesters or other sex offenders who just-so-happen to be LGBTQ.”

    I really don’t see why you can’t confront this issue and stick to a stance like this. It’s not like there aren’t other examples. Even when trans women are the victims of crime, the media is usually there to misgender in the resulting article. Or in the obits. Or by family members at a funeral.

    I think the person in this article totally has a right to be gendered correctly.

    But, it’s not like we’re short on cases where a trans woman’s identity was obliterated by the media. Or even worse, by their family after death. (One of the forums I’m part of lost a member to suicide, her identity was erased by the media reports, the police report and her family.) I think everyone has a right to be properly gendered, but if I were to select which case should have the light of media shined on it? Which case felt like it needed that light and attention more?

    I don’t think it would be this one.

    Then again, the fact that no one else is covering this maybe means this one *does* deserve attention. Maybe there’s good in wading further away from the cases where other people are lining up to play violin music to tackle the cases where the person really isn’t a very good person if she’s guilty of what she’s accused of and stand up and say: Hey, we’re watching. It’s still not cool.

    I don’t know.

    I think at the end of the day, I’m happy to see Autostraddle cover these types of issues and that’s my only real conclusion here.

    • I really don’t see why you can’t confront this issue and stick to a stance like this. It’s not like there aren’t other examples.

      well, as i address in the piece, this is the worst example of this kind of language that i’ve seen in a mainstream outlet in two years! [ETA: no it’s not] if it was on par with other articles about trans people then without a doubt i wouldn’t write about it at all, i’d use one of the other examples. i ran it by a few other people before i started to see if they felt it was above and beyond what we’re used to, and they agreed, so i went forward.

      anyhow, thank you for the feedback and the well-thought-out response!

      • > this is the worst example of this kind of language that i’ve seen in a mainstream outlet in two years!

        Hah. I guess I probably read a lot more of these than most people.

        A lot of the really bad ones have been taken down or altered… (like the headline of this article…) but here’s a few off I grabbed from a very incomplete list of the media’s greatest hits, if you or anyone wants to peruse more examples of reporting that, to me, rises to this level:

        Here’s Reuters misgendering and sensationalizing a trans minor victim: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/06/idUS279320246320120106 Which I suppose doesn’t get away from the sex offense stories, unfortunately.

        Here’s an article about a trans prisoner in jail over a robbery gone deeply wrong: http://www.news.com.au/top-stories/granny-killer-claims-discrimination-over-female-hormone-treatment-behind-bars/story-e6frfkp9-1226153768537

        Did AS cover this one? I feel like this one might have covered here, but if it wasn’t, here’s a notable clusterfuck from America’s largest news network: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/10/17/controversial-therapy-for-young-transgender-patients-raises-questions/ Misgendering of the child abounds, “transgender men” instead of “trans women” and a TV psychiatrist brought in to say stupid shit. Bonus: Lesbian issues come up directly in that if a lesbian couple raises a trans child, they must be terrible parents!

        • yes we covered that:

          holy crap that reuters piece! shit. well!

          i think maybe i was being a bit hyperbolic (about the “worst” in two years) in my response, admittedly, especially since we’ve written about things that actually were worse — i think the thing that shocked me here was, as gina says below, “how often media tries to portray trans women as some form of sexual predator… and that’s entirely why the accused being trans IS in this piece front and center”, not the pronouns necessarily (as i mention in the piece, the pronoun problem is commonplace and it’s hard to find any article about trans people that doesn’t make at least one mistake, usually that one).

          i read shit like this in The Daily Mail every day, of course, but everybody knows that they’re assholes who will never change, they also write about gay people in terrible ways, but the NYDN specifically has been reprimanded about this twice, so it stuck out to me. i went back through their archives to find everything they’d written about trans people in the last six months or so (b/c i think things have changed slightly in the past six months moreso than any time previous, but i could be wrong) and it seemed like they’d “cleaned up their act.” ? idk

          • > yes we covered that:

            Ah, yes, I thought that might have happened! I suppose I really should have searched around for it, but right now my Internet is literally going through outer space and I’m going to use that as an excuse for my laziness!

            > holy crap that reuters piece! shit. well!

            Yeah, it really reaches for a new level of disrespectful.

            > i think maybe i was being a bit hyperbolic

            Sorry, I didn’t really mean to hold you to that point, I just thought it might be interesting to actually look through and see some of the other stories in the past little bit. I did it for my own thinking and then I figured I might as well post the results. :)

            > b/c i think things have changed slightly in the past six months moreso than any time previous, but i could be wrong

            Yeah, I’ve been getting kind of the same feeling in multiple places actually. It’s partly thrilling (yay progress!) and partly wondering what’s next.

            Trans issues manage to skate under the radar sometimes because most social conservatives are still focusing on gay marriage and sometimes I wonder what will happen as that debate becomes more settled. Lately it’s seemed like we might be at an inflection point and ready for a shift in several ways. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

    • I guess my reaction to this piece is… misgendering of trans women, no shit, it sadly happens every day. It happens in the NY Times, in Salon.com, on Jezebel, in Queerty, it’s even happened in AS. It happens to many trans women in practically every social situation and it’s done by right-wing a-holes, by young women with degrees from progressive schools, by people in the LGBTQ coalition and certainly by tabloid newspapers. The Daily News has had countless such stories about which they’ve been routinely informed by trans women media activists (to whom they don’t listen at all) and by GLAAD (to whom they sort of do). This is absolutely nothing new. Btw, this story was on news wires (also including the misgendering before it was in the Daily News, so the writer just paraphrased what she read in the wire stories and didn’t bother to think about how she was representing the accused. Yes, the writer should be ashamed of herself both as a human being and as a professional journalist… this is not just about the headlines

      GIven that there are many such cases of misgendering of trans women by the press every week in situations which involve them being murdered, discriminated against not to mention the recent Swedish case where a rapist was exonerated from rape charges because his attempt at rape was against a pre-op trans woman, I do think there’s something kind of curious about choosing this case to be the one which pinpoints such misgendering. It would be a bit like using the case of the Colorado lesbian couple who invented a hate crime to get back at their homeowner’s association to use as the basis for discussing marriage equality. The crime is distracting from the real point of the piece.

      Of course people are upset about sexual molestation… they have every right to be. I have a teen daughter and am worried about it happening to her every time she goes out. I don’t think this AS article is underplaying how important an issue it is (not to mention triggering) or the injustice of how often young people aren’t believed when they come forward about it, but I do think it’s hard to throw two hot-button issues into a single story without making it seem as if one somehow dismisses the other. The real transphobic issue I read into this piece is how often media tries to portray trans women as some form of sexual predator… and that’s entirely why the accused being trans IS in this piece front and center. That’s the real point of the Daily News piece, not that a young person has been traumatized or attacked. As to the facts in the case, I’ve purposely been holding off having opinions about it until I find out more.

  7. Riese, this is such an important piece, and whatever your reservations when starting, I am so, so glad you wrote it. The nub of the issue you hit directly – if even a pretty enlightened seeming reporter couldn’t stop equating the assault with Olmos’s (misrepresented and demonized) gender/sexual identity, then how can we possibly hope Olmos will receive a fair and unbiased trial in a criminal justice system that is even further skewed than the press?

    Maybe this is not a perfect analogy, but imagine the crimes of Bernie Madoff. It’s different on a lot of levels, mostly because he has already been unquestionably convicted, while Olmos hasn’t even been shown guilty yet. But let’s assume for a moment Olmos is as guilty of assault as Madoff is of financially messing with this country. Ok.

    So if a reporter was writing about Madoff, and virtually every adjective used to describe him in the article somehow circled back to the fact that he is Jewish (ie. “the Jewish ponzi-scheme maker, Bernie Madoff” or “the big nosed, big criminal Jew, Madoff”), there would be instantaneous outrage. True, Madoff happens to be Jewish. But this world has seen too many Jews automatically convicted of monetary crimes solely on the basis of stereotypes of their culture and beliefs, that to constantly refer back to Madoff as a Jew would be to use his very real crimes as ammunition for reinforcing the very false stereotype that all/most Jews are financially deceptive criminals.

    Similarly, constant referral to Olmos’s gender identity has no place in the article. True, she is trans*. But that she was “born a man,” that her boss never knew her “true” gender?? This is about as relevant to the case as a long exploration of Madoff’s faith or Jewish physical characteristics would have been in an article about the specifics of his financial – not religious – based crime.

    But beyond misrepresenting Olmos, and simultaneously throwing additional negative associations on top of the already demonized trans* community, the article’s referral to Olmos as a man raises a second, equally important issue.

    Riese is right when she says there are evil people in the LGBTQ community just as there are in the straight community; I am going to extend that to say that there are evil women just as there are evil men. We don’t know if Olmos committed the crime or not, right now the entire case is just one person’s story in contradiction with another’s. But again, let’s assume for argument’s sake that Olmos is completely guilty. Ok, so she has committed the crime. But if the reporters continue to refer to her using male pronouns, there is an implication imbedded there that women aren’t capable of sexual assault, only men. That if a woman touched an adolescent boy, it must be she was “really” a man in “disguise” or some other ridiculous nonsense like that, because women are somehow believed incapable of such horrendous action.

    The problem with the reporter’s article then is twofold: it both conflates Olmos’s unproblematic identity with her highly problematic actions, but also, by making it seem impossible for a woman to have been the perpetrator of assault, it erases the all too real stories of sexual assault victims who no one will believe were possibly abused because they were molested by women.

  8. Why is this on a lesbian site? As a lesbian I’m getting so sick of being lumped in with fucking trans people.

    • As a bi fucking trans person, I love Autostraddle’s inclusiveness.

      I’ll try not to get cooties on you?

    • I just, no.

      Where does this website say that it is exclusively say it is for lesbians? Yes the blurb following the name says “girl on girl culture,” but that does not mean that it is exclusively for lesbians. You know there are bisexuals, right? Also, if you look at the mission statement it is pretty fucking clear that this site is designed to be a safe, fun place for all women that deviate from the cis-gendered heteronormative model of what a woman should be. Get over yourself.

    • I feel like the trolls have lost some of their finesse lately. You really want to be a bit more subtle about it if you expect people to bite, y’know?

      • And yet we all responded. On a side note, I’m really disappointed in myself for not making ಠ_ಠ my screenname.

    • Wow. You know, trans people can be lesbians too. Also, I think this site is more for the female (or female-identified) queer community in general. Also also, I don’t think “fucking trans people” is the most inclusive thing to say, particularly in the light of this article…

    • I identify as trans male, but I identified as lesbian when I found this site, and I love it. Autostraddle is not exclusive, and anyone who wants to be part of this community can. For the most part the articles are just about queer life, sometimes there are specific lesbian ones, sometimes even gay male, and trans* articles. Don’t read the ones you don’t agree with.

      • I fundamentally disagree with this. This website should strive to get its readers to read articles they DON’T agree with, so they can have an intelligent discussion in the comments. Sometimes I think this community is far too insular for its own good. This site appeals so heavily to liberal LGBTQQIA readers that I think it ignores other possible areas of readership. I would LOVE to hear from a Log Cabin Republican. There are LGBTQQIA people who aren’t liberal. If we would only read articles by liberals, we could never LEARN from these other LGBTQQIA experiences.

        • I kind of get what you are saying, but I am sure there are outlets for that, like there are outlets for everything. The point I was trying to make was that people choose what they are exposed to (for the most part) and they can censor in any way they want for themselves.

          • I agree with you that people choose what they are exposed to. I just think Autostraddle should offer the option of being exposed to something that might contradict the Autostraddle general essence.

        • I maybe kind of agree with you. I’m not happy about it, but I do. Reading an article from a log cabin republican would probably just make me want to bang my head against a table, but, it would make me consider other points of view, and possibly help queers from more conservative places feel welcome here/help ease them into our liberal gay baby army.

    • Not if you were aware of this, but there are trans lesbians in this world. what does the article “12 Ways to Sneak Pink into Any Outfit” have to do with being a lesbian? that is on this site too. There are entire sections on this page devoted to books, tv, and fashion. These are not “lesbian” content but content that some lesbians may enjoy. There is a section of women of color, religion, parenting, and teens, but not all lesbians fit into those groups. Some do however. This is an article about a trans people and some lesbians, who may or may not be trans, might find it interesting, just as some lesbians, who may or may not be trans, might be interested in the article on sneaking pick into any outfit.

  9. ”But, as much as my inner feminist recoils at questioning the account of an alleged victim of sexual abuse, she is innocent until proven guilty and this very well could be a story about a teenage boy falsely accusing a transgender woman of color of sexual molestation.”

    saying you don’t want to question a teenage boys account of molestation but then doing it anyway?
    i don’t consider those accused of sexual assault of minors ‘innocent until proven guilty’, i consider them ‘dangerous until proven otherwise’

    doubting the victim in order to make a political point is really shitty and i’m really surprised it would happen on autostraddle

    • “doubting the victim in order to make a political point is really shitty and i’m really surprised it would happen on autostraddle”

      You got that right. Everyone is so up in arms about being all inclusive and shit they’ve jumped right past the true horror behind this story. I’m surprised no one from Autostraddle has written an article about how wrong and unfair it is that people keep on describing Rocco Luka Magnotta as a gay porn star in all their articles. Oh the unfairness!

    • Looks like someone’s trying to censor my post here…Really autostraddle? Really? This isn’t so inclusive of you…

      “doubting the victim in order to make a political point is really shitty and i’m really surprised it would happen on autostraddle”

      You got that right. Everyone is so up in arms about being all inclusive and shit they’ve jumped right past the true horror behind this story. I’m surprised no one from Autostraddle has written an article about how wrong and unfair it is that people keep on describing Rocco Luka Magnotta as a gay porn star in all their articles. Oh the unfairness!

    • i think you’re misreading that paragraph. i’m not questioning his account! i don’t know anything about what happened in that room, it’s not for me to know or find out. i was explaining my thought process in deciding to write about this story — after thinking about it over the weekend, i had a moment where i realized that my decision not to write about it was based on the assumption that she was guilty and therefore this would be better left unsaid. but then i checked myself and remembered that technically, we have to read stories of alleged crimes as just that — alleged. the sentence you quote is me reminding myself that people are “innocent until proven guilty” and even though it makes my inner feminist recoil, i do have to acknowledge that, and i think that we have a really racist and transphobic justice system in this country and that it’s important to keep that in mind when discussing cases like these.

      did i make the right call by deciding to write about it? i don’t know. that’s why i asked for your opinion in the post, and i am glad to be getting it. the point here is how she was written about and framed — and i’m not reporting the story, i’m commenting on somebody else’s reporting. we write opinions here, but she’s supposed to write facts, and they’re not supposed to write headlines that proclaim a person’s guilt when that hasn’t been proven yet. which goes back tot he point of the piece which isn’t whether or not she did it, but the language that’s being used to discuss it — the fact that she was transgender in the first place isn’t even relevant, yet they’ve made that the centerpiece of this article. that’s what i’m commenting on.

      • i had a really strong reaction to this for my own reasons
        i do i think looking at trans coverage in the media is really important
        and i do think that its important to look at the way the courts treat people, especially TWOC
        i still don’t know if i’m comfortable with speculating on a specific case
        but thank you for replying and giving your reasons – i appreciate that you and the other autostraddle writers bother to read everybody’s opinions/ ideas and respond even when there are a million different opinions about one article

    • I don’t think abandoning “innocent until proven guilty” for one class of crimes is necessary, or even called for, whatever the genders involved. And I don’t think that holding to it is the same kind of dismissive, grasping-for-excuses-to-disbelieve “doubt” that infuriates us when we see it. You can treat a victim’s testimony as legitimate – that’s why you start the legal investigation and trial with all seriousness – without declaring the process pre-decided or unnecessary.

      It feels cheap to pull victimhood for credibility, but consider this a data point. I was sexually attacked as a teenager, and I appreciated that what I said was taken seriously and became part of a serious investigation, then a trial, then – glory be – a conviction. That’s the kind of respect I wanted my words to draw. I didn’t expect or really even want people to omit his right to a legal defense. Granted, the fact that we did get a conviction makes it easier to believe in the system, and if the conviction hadn’t happened maybe I’d want people to say they *believed* him guilty anyway, but that would be damn cold comfort. Having a proper, careful conclusion made me feel much more vindicated than an off-the-cuff, jumped-to conclusion ever could have.

  10. Any other progressives continually baffled why Democracy Now’s Juan Gonzalez writes for this horror rag?

  11. At the end of the day this story is about the potential abuse of a minor.
    Priorities Riese- you’re doing them wrong.

    • People of all genders and orientations read
      and contribute to this site. The site makes no secret of being all inclusive. Also if you think Trans women can’t be part of girl on girl culture then fuck you, seriously

    • Everybody is innocent until proven guilty, irregardless of the nature of the crime and irregardless of their gender identity, she wasn’t trying to ram a liberal agenda down your throat and by all rights she wasn’t defending the maid in question. She was simply commenting on the writing style of an arguably broadsheet news publication whom were being completely intolerably sucky.

      I’m prescribing that everybody all up in this bitch calms down. Heres a picture of me wearing a Lampshade to help with that process. Word.


  12. riese – i share your concerns about how to talk about the complexities of this kind of thing. i think insofar as “priorities” are concerned, it’s both/and. sexual violence and transphobia are equally damaging and harmful and stem from the same place. i feel complicated about these issues too, like i feel complicated about the lookism in the coverage of luke magnotta; there is violence in everyone’s actions here, and both magnotta AND the media need to be held accountable. i disagree with taylor – talking about them both in the same piece is relevant and important and i actually don’t think you are addressing one over the other.

  13. The reporter turned the accused into a pedofile by changing her gender to male and insinuating he was sick (gender dysphoria, anyone?) already, building the prosecutor’s case for her. That’s what’s shit about this piece of journalism; the utter disregard for journalistic principals.

    In other news, like most ignorance arround trans issues, education on the subject would probably clear that up. Most times we don’t realize the room is dark until someone turns the light on.

  14. Regardless of the article’s topic, using trans* phobic languange isn’t cool, so I’m glad you reported this and put it on autostraddle.

  15. thanks for the writing this article, riese, if for nothing else, at least for starting a much needed conversation about the topic.

    i hesitate to point out that everyone who is playing the “in cases of sexual assault, the accused is guilty until proven innocent” [or, holy cow “dangerous until proven otherwise”] is stepping down a pretty slippery slope.

    regardless of the accused’s gender [or trans*ness], she# is just that, ACCUSED. i agree, olmos is accused of a very very heinous thing. but, just as people get accused of trivial things they did not do, many people get accused of heinous things THEY DID NOT DO. certainly any situation that is one person’s story against another’s is tricky-as-shit to work through, and one where historically victims have been blamed and required to show unreasonable/impossible levels of “proof” to convict someone, but it’s also a situation where countless people have been wrongly convicted and had their lives ruined. sexual assault situations necessitate everyone stepping back, taking a deep fucking breath, and then proceeding carefully and conscientiously. jumping to conclusions [in either direction] is really, really bad.

    conversely, regardless of the accused’s legal status, she# has the right to be treated with dignity [as beth so eloquently pointed out earlier]. even people that commit ridiculously heinous crimes still deserve to be treated with basic respect and dignity. in this situation, would anyone be ok with that article referencing any of the horrible anti-mexican/latin@ stereotypes, slurs, etc.? doubt it.

    finally, i’d like to mention an issue that i saw in this [autostraddle] article, surrounding the stereotype-based presumptions of olmos’ trans* narrative/identity. without speaking to the accused, you don’t know that she# actually uses she/her pronouns or even self-identifies as a woman. truth is, you don’t know that about anyone unless they tell you. true, chances are that she# identifies as a woman and uses she/her pronouns, but you don’t know that. i happen to know a number of trans* folks that have “women” names yet use “he/his” pronouns, for example [shit, i have a “man’s name” but use “she/her” pronouns]. now, granted, using gender-neutral language is often difficult and cumbersome, but as an alternative, might i suggest just putting a disclaimer somewhere acknowledging that you don’t know the subject’s situation?

    also, it’s not a fair assumption that olmos doesn’t identify as being “born a man”. as a trans* woman who does identify as being born, and identifying for most of my life, as a man, my skin crawls every time i see my identity erased at the hands of the “born this way”/”woman trapped in a man’s body” narrative. that certainly works/is true for some people, and they should have every right to identify in that way, but many trans* folks don’t, and they shouldn’t be painted with a broad brush.


    note: #i don’t know what pronouns olmos uses or even in reality what she identifies her gender as, but for the sake of simplicity, i will use ‘she/her’

      • C’mon, Riese. Joe wrote 6 paragraphs, you could have given her more than 6 words in response.

    • I love what you have to say here and agree, aside from the pronoun part. I get so tired of the omg you must all fit a single trans narrative to be legit bs. Still I think they could have handled the pronoun issue much more delicately than they did, and I feel they chose to go about it in this fashion so they could play up the TRANS WOMEN ARE REALLY MEN OUT TO RAPE YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN angle.

      • thanks, tiger. i’m a bit confused, though, what don’t you agree with about the pronoun part?

  16. Wait, why aren’t Mexicans considered Latinas?
    Otherwise, thanks for writing this, Riese.

    • That was my question as well. Mexico is a part of Latin America and every mexican i’ve ever met has considered themselves latino. So it seems a bit odd to me.

  17. I didn’t know anything about trans* people before watching The L Word. And I know people in this community always say it was horrible representation… But, it still is what taught me most of the stuff I know about trans* folk. I don’t know much more today. And I’m a bisexual cis girl, on this website almost every day for 1-2 years.
    Our/your expectation may be a bit too high. We can’t expect everyone in mainstream society to know about “our” stuff. Hell, I’m LGBTQIA and *I* don’t know half the stuff you guys seem to, I always need to research stuff after reading articles here… And I spend some serious time on it, too! I can understand why straight people wouldn’t wanna spend time learning about these issues… well, the 1% of issues that they actually know exist, that is!
    And when you don’t even know stuff exists, you’re even less likely to spend time researching it…
    Anyway, journalists should do better than the general population, yes. But I’m not blaming that 21-year-old girl for not knowing all there is to know about LGBT issues. That article should just have been written by a different, more competent on the subject, writer.
    PS: I didn’t know Mexicans weren’t Latino either… That might be because I’m not American. Or not. Again, can’t know everything about every subject! I can only try to learn, and try not to be too insensitive, and try not to offend too many people, and try to guess when I might offend/be insensitive when I don’t really know the subject at hand. Every day. I can only try.

    • @Not Proud: I’m not sure who’s specifically ‘scolding’ you about your level of understanding of trans issues… unless you go by different names when posting I haven’t seen it.

      The thing is, you’re an individual who admits her shortcomings on those issues and, hopefully, is working on it. Just to remind you though, this is not about straight—gay but rather trans—cis (people who aren’t trans). Someone getting something inadvertently wrong is no biggie. It’s when people make big bad sweeping dismissive statements and get it wrong, or make entire parts of a community invisible and get it wrong and refuse to admit their lack of being informed that hurt feelings and arguments occur.

      This story is not just about one 21-year old journalist… the original misgendering was done by the Orlando Police Department, then repeated without thought and even amplified by local Florida TV stations, then spread around by Associated Press with no further corrections (or thought) until it ended up at the Daily News, where it continued the misgendering and insinuations about trans women being sexual predators. And now it’s on the Internet mindlessly linked to by one blog after another. It might very well impact how many low income trans women are (further) not employed at places like child care centers, schools, public accommodations and many other places of work.

      The Daily News is the 4th most circulated paper in the US. Articles appearing in it get posted to the Internet, reposted by other outlets and, potentially, reach millions of readers who they consciously or subconsciously influence. Tabloid or not, that’s exactly where there better be a higher standard as to what it means to be a journalist.

    • I haven’t read the whole article because I basically can’t right now, but here’s the thing.

      “Our/your expectation may be a bit too high. We can’t expect everyone in mainstream society to know about “our” stuff.”

      I do expect this of journalists. The writer’s age, status as a cis person and so on is not relevant because goddammit, she should know how to use Google like a functioning professional no matter her personal details. What goes through someone’s mind, when they don’t do basic research and that should, by all rights, be a required function of their job?

      Sure it may be fair to say that she’s under deadline, being pressured by people in a greater position of power, etc but the fact of the matter is quite a few people in these ugly string of words knowingly dropped the ball in favor of sensationalism. It also underscores the fact that LG rights are not T or even B rights, or sensitivity.

      In a lot of ways for the average person I agree with you. It bothers me outright when activists assume, for example, that the average person should know all our special educated liberal activism words and if they don’t OMG BURN THEM but in this case the reporter absolutely cannot and should not hide behind that. She wrote a disgusting article that hurts trans people AND makes the person seem guilty already and she has all the education and opportunity in the world to assure she does otherwise.

      No sympathy.

      • Re: “What goes through someone’s mind, when they don’t do basic research and that should, by all rights, be a required function of their job?”

        I agree that this article is written in a manner that is harmful to trans* people generally, no matter the subject matter. The issue at hand should not interfere with the ability of the reporter to identify and discuss the accused appropriately. I just wanted to say that first, to be clear.

        However, I question the ability of our current educational institutions to train journalists to cover trans* issues appropriately. I don’t see this as a failing on the part of the girl who wrote the story. Should she be more proactive at researching the history and discovering the language necessary to write this article. Sure, absolutely. Is she aware that she even needs to do this? Probably not. The fault of this lies with her education. Targeting individuals like her doesn’t get us very far. Targeting institutions that will train our future journalists makes a whole lot more sense.

        And ultimately, the editors of the paper are the ones we should be tearing down here. They chose to cover the incident because it would get readers, and presenting it in a harmful and derogatory manner turned the situation into a circus act. They can make a decision to report irresponsibly because, hell, the outcry against it isn’t going to outweigh the perceived entertainment value.

        So instead of fighting amongst ourselves about whether it’s the writer’s fault, let’s take this opportunity to educate the general public. Maybe next time a few more people will make a fuss, and eventually perhaps enough people will care that the newspapers won’t be able to get away with this anymore.

  18. Thanks for your reply, ginasf.
    I’ve never been scolded about trans* issues. I think I have never commented on them, actually. It’s more about a certain sense of fatigue stemming from the constant attention we need to pay our words. (I know, I know: “oh, it’s so hard having to be sensitive!”. It’s not what I mean. I try, like I said, I try, I think we all try, to the best of our knowledge.)
    I don’t comment much, I haven’t been scolded myself on here, but many times, I’ve seen comments I could have written, and the commenters were called out on their racism, their entitlement, their obliviousness about their privilege… Sometimes the issue is ignorance (I’m sorry if a Mexican is offended when I call them Latino, I just didn’t know they weren’t), and sometimes it’s weariness when you read something like the person on the comment awards post this week, who took offense in the “penises ruin everything” comment, saying it was “completely not cool. Some girls have penises, y’know”. Well, I guess that’s a trans* thing, so I am back on topic. But I can’t be the only one who thought “Okay this is really going too far, we can’t say anything anymore cos there’s always gonna be at least one person that’s gonna be offended” when reading that!
    I’d written a bit more earlier, something I hadn’t posted:
    “I don’t think you realize how immersed you are in this culture, how literate you are about it, how people outside of it have no idea what even the most basic of the words we use mean! No wonder they don’t know how to use them! Can we really blame them?
    Hell, I’m pretty sure my mom never even heard of bisexuals! And I’m in France (quick reminder: world’s fifth largest economy, we have civil partnerships, gay marriage should become legal next year), and she’s only 60, and watches TV all day long! But straight people who don’t think they know not-straight people, like my mom, they have absolutely zero interest in investigating gay stuff. And I can understand it, in a way.”
    I agree with all the stuff you said, though. About responsibility when your words influence people. The issue here is a lack of education on part of the police and on part of journalists. The straight general public doesn’t care about learning about gay stuff, but obviously those people should be educated about those issues. Do they try to be, or do they not care at all? I don’t know. I guess LGBTQ organizations do try to reach out to them already, and it doesn’t work… Ah well. I don’t know.

    • “Okay this is really going too far, we can’t say anything anymore cos there’s always gonna be at least one person that’s gonna be offended”

      You’re not but it wouldn’t hurt to *why* you thought that.

      I would find myself saying those things sometimes on a variety of topics but at the end of the day AS is a safe space for everyone under the queer/trans* rainbow. If *I* don’t find a particular comment problematic or hurtful but someone else does, who am I to tell them to feel otherwise in a safe space. I think the key to having those thoughts occur less is education and honestly believing in the safe space that AS tries to provide.

      I do not know too much about trans issues but I am willing to learn. For me to learn I read and not get too defensive when I am called out on some cissexist shit. Sure I would like the person calling me out not be rude but damn, I can relate when I’m silenced because I did not protect the delicate feelings of the person I call out on their homophobic/racist/sexist/etc. shit.

      People will get offended period so worrying about it won’t do you any good but it does not mean one should be purposely reckless with their words in a safe space like AS. Sure ignorance is a real thing and people are not bad for it but it is not an excuse to be stagnate in learning about different people.

      Or one could always just shut the fuck up and listen when it comes to things they know nothing about but that I know is too much to ask for.

      • I would find myself saying those things sometimes on a variety of topics but at the end of the day AS is a safe space for everyone under the queer/trans* rainbow.

        I don’t think that’s true. I think this community is only safe for liberals. Sorry, but find me someone here who thinks that George W. Bush isn’t a bad guy. (He wasn’t evil, just easily manipulated.)

      • Yes shaming those who long to understand and requesting their silence is totally the way to breed universal understanding and acceptance. I know that is how I learn things, by never asking questions or expressing that I simply don’t grasp a concept.

    • I completely agree. I read this story when I got to work this morning and have spent all day trying to read as much as I can to deal with my guilt about not knowing about trans issues, and mostly it has left me really tired and kind of annoyed. I’m not transphobic, but I don’t completely understand what is wrong with describing an individual based on their history. I get that using a masculine pronoun is wrong considering her current transitioned status, but talking about how person (A) used to be one gender or another is useful information. When they say the suspect is Black or Mexican are they not just stating what is a known fact.I can only assume that this information isn’t speculation based on the uproar. I’ve come so far as to understand the trans person’s desire to distance oneself from the past, but I don’t understand the level shame that seems to be associated with it. You were born one way, you feel another, you went with that. I am more than accepting of that choice. The choice to embrace what you feel inside, but I have a hard time trying to keep track of all the rules associated with knowing what to say about you. I read some things on the tumblr and there is no way I could keep track of all of that. I have trans friends. I don’t feel comfortable asking about their junk so I don’t. I just treat them like everybody else because they are like everybody else. Having said that, if one of my friends killed someone I would expect to hear about their being trans to some degree because like being catholic, or a kardashian, or vegetarian the transition is a part of the story. Or so I thought.

      • Hi, I think I can help, so I’m going to give it a shot, if it doesn’t help, then just ignore my comment!

        I think the part where your thinking might be a bit off is this one:

        > You were born one way, you feel another, you went with that

        No more than a gay person was born straight and then felt queer, so went with that.

        Could you see how it might be a little uncomfortable and inaccurate if you said all queer people “used to be straight”?

        It’s a rough analogy, but I think it might help anyway.

        • It actually did help. It prompted a search for sex v. gender and I am now “Processing”. I’m a lesbian. I’m also a minority. I understand these are things I cannot change and did not choose. I also get that sex does not determine gender expression. I guess it is just hard to get hot and bothered about misrepresentation when the media does it in a lot of criminal cases. This article is wrong, for ALL THE REASONS, but I don’t see identification as a trans individual as inherently damning, and if it is, you are buying what this article is selling, which is tickets to the bullshit show.

          • Here’s the thing, YOU don’t see it as damning, which is a good stance and one that will hopefully become commonplace, however many people do see it as inherently damning, due to this kind of media portrayal. This then leads to justification of acts against trans people because we’re all clearly just fucked up perverts to the majority.

            Oh and trans men don’t exist. (I have no idea how many people i’ve found thinking trans people are only ever MAAB, it’s disheartening).

  19. I think the problem is when the media starts to misgender and attack not just the person involved, but the entire concept of being transgender, people apply it to all trans people, who are so rarely in the media, what times they are there carries so much weight. This person, who if guilty is a horrendous individual, is being made into a representation of the whole community by this paper

    As well as that, I think this kind of thing really exposes the huge underlying problems straight society, even the ‘enlightened’ part still have. They like to say they’re so accepting, so open etc, but they’re not. The vast percentage of them haven’t a fucking clue what they’re on about. They like applying whatever label to themselves, but make no effort to live up to it.


  20. “If there’s any story we REALLY stay away from, it’s otherwise-irrelevant stories about child molesters or other sex offenders who just-so-happen to be LGBTQ.”

    That’s such a great point. A colleague of my sister works in an institution where paedophiles are getting therapy after spending time in prison. And she said one of the first things they learn is that paedophilia is stamped into the person like sexuality. And one important point is – because (a lot of) children just haven’t evolved a sexuality – paedophiles aren’t straight or gay, they are attracted to children – the ones without a complete sexuality or gender identification. I found that really interesting.
    But I also find it so sad that this (scientific knowledge!) isn’t recognized in current coverage about stories of child molestations.
    I’m left asking – why do we have these founded studies on paedophilia if people covering for mainstream media don’t use it? That’s an obligation for journalists – to use recources!

    • I hear you. Child molesters and paedophiles are two different types of people even on the rare occasions that they intersect, but the media is often too thick to understand the difference. That’s why they were calling Jimmy Saville a paedophile when he was never attracted to children, only interested in the opportunities they seemed to offer him.

  21. “Last time I checked, being assigned male at birth does not affect one’s ability to vacuum.”

    Riese, I think even my mom would overlook this “phase I’m going through” and kiss you herself for that comment, then repeat it to my dad.

  22. Thank you so much, Riese, for writing this article. A lot of what I wanted to say has already been said by previous commenters, so I’ll just add this:

    I don’t want to defend the writer wholly about the misgendering that’s happening in the article, but a lot of it may not have been up to her. When you’re writing a journalistic piece, there’s a lot of rules you must adhere to. Where they say the person was unaware of Vanessa’s “true gender,” the writer may have well known that the correct phrasing would be “sex assigned at birth,” but the problem is, that was a paraphrasing of somebody else’s quote, and therefore could not be altered to be politically correct. She probably did not write this highly problematic headline – often an entirely different department does that.

    As we all know, lbgt rights and the right, respectful language to use has deeply evolved over the last few years. Which is wonderful! Unfortunately, trans writing rules have probably not caught up, and this writer may be trapped into saying these things that she does not necessarily agree with – after all, this is not an editorial piece. She also doesn’t necessarily have the power to change it for this particular article, or even for the long run. Head editors only sometimes decide that, more often an entirely different board does that. Once again, I’m not exonerating her from blame. Nor the NY Daily News. However, somebody there needs to stand up and be an advocate and bring to a higher-up’s attention the problem with these rules. They’re not respectful and come from a time where people wouldn’t bother with distinguishing between sex, gender, and etc.

    It is so, so unfortunate that the writing is still like this. I know I’ve brought up some problematic language with whoever I could at the paper I work at – and people do listen. Just thought I’d provide a little context. :)

    • Augh! Accidentally deleted the last bit. It’s more important that the higher ups know about this, really, because they’re the ones that create the writing standard. I know that for AP style it is very, very precise and deeply unbiased with its language, (which comes off as much, much more respectful of course, if perhaps slightly antiquated with some terms) but each journal has its own specific rules that may override the AP (or sometimes the writers don’t look at the AP at all). It’s a great thing that we are making our voices heard, because as more news articles must come out about us making a stand, more language must be developed to properly address the queer crowd. So keep on shouting, ladies!

  23. I remember reading an article once (I think it was on AS) about a transgender man that was killed, and the first thing I saw about it was the title: “Death Of A Deciever”. After that I spent 3-ish hours very angry, reading the whole, almost-biography-length article, which drove me to tears more than once. This reminds me somewhat of it, although the transgender man in “Death of a Deciever” was definitely not guilty of any crimes. The article was written in the 90’s, and even though it’s been a little less than 20 years since then, I find no difference in the way the above report was written.

    I’m a firm believer in the saying “innocent until proven guilty”, and the tone of the report seemed very accusatory, as if the woman whom had written it had already decided that the transgender woman was guilty, and that her being a transgender had somehow everything to do with it. What, a woman is not capable of molesting a 14-year old boy, so she has to point out that she was once a man? Or the way she mentioned that the boss had no idea that she was a transgender had some bearing over wether she could do her job? Or that she had some obligation to tell him that, to give him the chance to fire her because she wasn’t a straight “real woman”? And I’m not even going to get into the point that the journalist kept calling her a “he”.

    Innocent until proven guilty, and even if she is proven guilty I will stand by my opinion that report is transphobic.

  24. Pingback: Media Fails in Coverage of Trans Hotel Employee in Florida | LGBT Human Rights. Gay News, Entertainment, Travel

  25. The only way i can think about this is to seperate the two issues involed, AKA we are talking about the misgendering and sensationalising of transwomen, we are not talking about this woman.
    It’s too hard to address if we are talking about this woman, because, proven guilty or not, it is incredibly tricky to do so without sounding like you are sympathising with her / waving off this boys side. Even Riese sad something earlier that, personally, I felt was a little dismissive “a trans WOC gropes a teenage boy without his consent, he recoils and tells her she’s weird, and she leaves, and she’s instantly tossed behind bars” even though it was followed up with an acknowledgement that all abuse is abuse, I am drawing from my personal experience to say that if I had ever told someone what I went through and it was summarised in that way, I would have felt completely unprotected and it makes me glad I never did.

    A transwoman should always be referred to as a woman and is a woman and not a “tranny” and trans men and women are not fairly represented in the media and the authors need to be held accountable.

    This boy is saying he was sexually abused, and it is not our place to comment on any aspect of this story, in my opinion.

  26. 1. Ugh. This must be what the ACLU feels like when they have to defend neo-Nazis.

    2. Must be nice being straight. Every time you read about a straight person committing a crime – not that the media will mention that they are straight – you don’t think, “Oh, crap, I can feel the straight-bashers loving this story.”

    3. I love you, Autostraddle.

  27. I honestly don’t mind that they wrote that Vanessa ‘was born as a man’. Especially considering how so many people don’t ‘get’ the concept of trans* identity. Is the reporter talking about a trans man as someone who is transitioning into a man? Or into a woman? Things like that.
    Everything else, though, was completely ignorant and offensive.

  28. “Police claim that Vanessa Olmos, who was born a man, touched the victim inappropriately Wednesday while the teenager’s mother was at the Orlando motel’s front desk, WFTV reports.”
    Ms. Olmos was born a man? Really? What happened, she went through precocious puberty in the womb or something? 0_o

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