Monday, October 4, 2010

Something’s Missing: What The Media Is Not Telling Us

cross posted from my Media Justice column

It’s Latino Heritage Month and I’ve been writing several blogs over at RH Reality Check about this month/time of “celebration.” These posts introduce several Latin@s to move a conversation about Latin@s and sexuality forward during this time. My most recent post focuses on Gwen Araujo, a Chicana transgender teenager who was murdered 8 years ago in California.

In finding updates on the Araujo family’s efforts to educate people regarding Gwen and the transgender community in general, I also found some updates on her murderers attempts to decrease their incarceration sentences, and research on the murder of transgender people all over the world.

An update to research done in 2009 around the world found that every 3 days a transgender person is murdered. Last week, researchers with Transgender Europe, an international organization, updated this to share that now every 2 days a transgender person is reported murdered. A majority of our community members who are murdered lived in Central and South America. They are Latin@s. A keyword here for me is “reported.” It means that this data can be extremely underestimating the number of transgender people who are murdered. What about the people who are not reported, who are lost and/or forgotten?

The press release stated that:

“The starkest increase in reports is also to be found in Central and South America, e.g. in Brazil (2008: 59, 2009: 68, January-June 2010: 40), Guatemala (2008: 1, 2009: 13, January-June 2010: 14) and Mexico (2008: 4, 2009: 10, January-June 2010: 9).”

To bring this “home” a bit more (at least I consider Puerto Rico my home, even if it is still a territory of the US) are three murders of three transgender women in Puerto Rico. Ashley Santiago Ocasio was stabbed to death in her home in April in Puerto Rico and the bodies of two transgender women were found murdered on September 13, 2010 in Puerto Rico.

So now, I wonder, why have we not heard about this new research? How is it that I can hear all about other aspects of Latinidad, but not hear about the intra-racial/ethnic murders of our community members? It does not become more clear than this to me: the media, especially Spanish-speaking media, does not care about their transgender community members.

Then I hear of Asher Brown’s suicide, a 13-year-old boy living in Texas, who was bullied for being poor, small, and gay. Classist and homophobic taunting lead Asher to take his fathers handgun and shoot himself. Asher is the first young person who I’ve heard this year of committing suicide. You may remember the two young men who were remembered last year because they committed suicide based on the homophobic bulling the endured: Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover and Jaheem Herrera. Both Jaheem and Carl hanged themselves in their home.

What conversations will Asher Brown’s suicide force our country to have? Will it force them to recognize the bullying the US government upholds and sustains toward the LGBTQI community in the military? Shift all the attention from the film “Waiting For Superman” about how poor our public schools are in the US and of some charter schools that are succeeding to realize that none of these schools have any anti-bullying programs that have proven to be effective in working against anti-homophobia and classis?

Finally, in writing this piece, I came across several friends who were posting the following status on their facebook pages:

is reposting this: Lohan,24, is on the news because she's a celebrity addict. While Justin Allen, 23, Brett Linley, 29, Matthew Weikert, 29, Justus Bartett, 27, Dave Santos, 21, Chase Stanley, 21, Jesse Reed, 26, Matthew Johnson, 21, Zachary Fisher, 24, Brandon King, 23, are all Marines who GAVE THEIR LIVES THIS WEEK, no media mention. Honor THEM by reposting.

Now, I had to do some research and see if this was as accurate as it was presented and there are some discrepancies, such as some of the service people are not Marines, their names are misspelled, and, unfortunately, they are not the most recent service people to have died as all the men listed died in July 2010.

Staff Sergeant Brett Linley died in July 2010, Army Sergeant Matthew Weikert died July 17, 2010, Marine Staff Sergeant Justus Bartelt (whose name was spelled incorrectly in the quote above) died July 16, 2010, Marine Corporal David Santos died July 16, 2010, Army Spc Chase Stanely died July 14, 2010, Army Spc Jesse Reed died July 14, 2010, Army Spc. Matthew Johnson died July 14, 2010, Army Sear gent Zachary Fisher died on July 14, 2010, and Private First Class Brandon King was killed in Afghanistan on July 14, 2010 and was buried in Jacksonville, FL July 26, 2010.

Just today (September 28, 2010) two more service people were reported dead in Afghanistan: Army Sergeant Mark Simpson and Army Spc. Donald Morrison. And yes, we should be just as enraged that their service in the military is not being appreciated or discussed as much as Lindsey Lohan’s recidivism and failure of her drug test.

There are many other stories just like these and I wonder if we recognize how powerful we as viewers and consumers of media are at the end of the day. If we demand and make it clear that we seek to have media that is more representative and inclusive versus celebrity gossip, perhaps a larger social justice agenda can be made. Perhaps it is a lack of attention to these stories that leads us to continue to create and make our own media. Whatever your response, I hope there is a response to these omitted stories.

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