No Respect for the Dead: the Double Murder of Gwen Araujo
The most depressing thing on my radar right now is the brutal murder of a 17-year-old transgendered girl from California named Gwen (or Lida) Araujo. If this story sounds unfamiliar, it's because you probably heard it reported in USA Today as "Slaying of transgender boy haunts city", in the New York Times as "3 Are Charged in Death of Boy Who Dressed in Girl's Clothes", or in the Los Angeles Times as "3 Charged in Beating Death of Boy, 17, Who Lived as a Girl." You probably heard the murder victim referred to as "Eddie Araujo" a "17-year-old boy who dressed and lived as a girl."
This type of news coverage is no way to condemn the murder of a young woman killed for her gender identity. But it's nothing new. The same thing happens over and over again in reports on the murders of transgendered men and women. When transgendered African-American woman Rita Hester was stabbed to death in Boston several years ago, even the local gay paper, Bay Windows, reported it as the death of "William 'Rita' Hester" and insisted on calling her "he" and not "she." Even after Boys Don't Cry, reporters refer to Brandon Teena as "Teena Brandon."
This is, of course, all complicated by the fact that often family still use the old pronouns. But although Araujo's mother still referred to Gwen as her son, she has no intention of burying her in a suit. As USA Today reported: "Anyone who knew him and loved him called him Gwen," Guerrero says. "I'd get phone calls: 'Is Gwen home?' It's nothing that he hid from me. I bought him his jeans, his little tops and makeup, everything... . I'm going to bury him in the prettiest dress I can find... . With makeup. His tombstone will say 'Gwen.' "
The only news outlet I've come across that got the pronouns right in the Araujo case was The Advocate, who reported in their article that "Police affidavits say that Northern California 17-year-old Lida Araujo was murdered after friends discovered at a party that she was a biological male."
It won't bring her back. But at least it doesn't dishonor her memory.