On April 29th, the Cleveland Plain Dealer delivered problematic coverage of the murder of Cemia Acoff, known as CeCe to friends. The coverage misgendered Cemia and was profoundly disrespectful. Representatives from our community met with staff of the Plain Dealer in May, and later coverage has been much more respectful. However, more action can be taken by the Plain Dealer to heal the wounds that the initial coverage inflicted on the community. To that end, a group of trans advocates hand delivered a letter to the Plain Dealer today. The full text of the letter is below.
November 6, 2013
To the Editor and Staff of The Plain Dealer:
As citizens of Northeast Ohio we are concerned about our city’s image at the local, statewide, national and international levels. We want Cleveland to be recognized as a diverse, inclusive, and respectful community. We know you share these values with us. However, your organization failed to live these values in the April 29th article covering the murder of CeCe Acoff.
We understand the difficulty of gathering information on the life of a murder victim in the days following such a discovery. We appreciate your willingness to remedy those mistakes. However, The Plain Dealer’s published “correction” was derogatory and disparaging of CeCe. It left many in our community deeply offended. CeCe was Transgender. Continuing to refer to her as male in those articles was demeaning and hurtful to those who loved her.
After the much-maligned series of transphobic, insensitive and misleading articles published by The Plain Dealer, the October 29th article announcing the trial of CeCe’s accused murderer, Andrey Bridges, was truly a breath of fresh air. We applaud your decision to follow the court’s lead and respect the deceased’s right to be referenced by her preferred name and gender.
We believe that right now, in Cleveland, this continues to be a teachable moment. We have the opportunity to educate our neighbors, law enforcement officials, and the general public on the central issue: “Who are Transgender people?” Working with Equality Ohio, local LGBT community leaders Phyllis Harris of the Cleveland LGBT Community Center and Jacob Nash of Margie’s Hope met with members of The Plain Dealer editorial board in May. This was an important starting point for discussion.
We are now approaching a significant event within our community. We want to further clarify what it is like to live as a Transgender person. And we need your help. We have three requests of The Plain Dealer as follows:
• inform the public of the Transgender Day of Remembrance prior to its occurrence;
• cover the Transgender Day of Remembrance; and
• publish an article on the Transgender Day of Remembrance after the event.
These are simple requests to fulfill and can be met with both print and online coverage.
We are pleased to see that some of the Plain Dealer journalists reference LGBT community leaders as they research and compose articles covering Transgender and allied communities. We encourage more journalists to make efforts to reflect our community with honesty and respect. The upcoming Transgender Day of Remembrance event offers an opportunity to do exactly that. The Transgender Day of Remembrance is an annual event commemorated worldwide to remember those Transgender individuals who have been killed because of who they were. Coverage of the event by The Plain Dealer will provide a clearer view of the community response to violent acts perpetrated against Transgender people.
This year’s event is scheduled for November 22nd and will be held at Huntington Park at Lakeside Avenue and West 3rd St, beginning at 5:30pm. We would like to see notice of the event on or before November 18th with a follow up article during the weekend of November 23rd. We ask for your help in getting our message out to the larger community so that they may know that we are their friends, their family, their parents, their sisters and brothers.
We are looking forward to working with The Plain Dealer on these projects. We ask that a representative contact Jacob Nash (330-240-1600) no later than Monday, November 11th to gather information for the story about the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
On behalf of concerned members and allies of the LGBT community,
Mark Szabo, Navy and Army veteran
Cecilia Kasten, TransCleveland founder
Adam Tokar, TransCleveland founder
Sean Martin, Community Ally
Ari Grubaugh, Trans*Mission Co-President
Rashida Davison, Equality Ohio
Cherno Biko, TransOhio Board Member
Jacob Nash, The Cleveland Transgender Community Outreach Committee
Elyzabeth Holford, Equality Ohio Executive Director
Stacey Orms Parsons, 2013 Recipient of Transgender Leadership Award
Monica Roberts, TransGriot Founding Editor and Advocate
Phyllis Harris, The LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland Executive Director
Shane Morgan, TransOhio Founder and Chair
Andrew Lewandowski, TransOhio Board Member
Ross Murray, GLAAD Director of News
Masen Davis, Transgender Law Center Executive Director
Morgan Bonney, Get Equal Ohio Co-state lead
Heather Cronk, Get Equal National Co-director
Mason Dunn, Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition Executive Director