Justin Ward – GLAAD’s Media Field Strategist
October 14th, 2010
As confirmed today by the Philadelphia Daily News, autopsy results indicate that a transgender woman’s death in Philadelphia has been ruled a homicide.
The body of a 31-year-old transgender woman named Stacey Blahnik Lee was discovered Monday night by her boyfriend in the home the two shared in Point Breeze, a neighborhood in South Philadelphia.
Initial reports indicated that Stacey was found with a pillowcase around her neck. Homicide Sgt. Bob Wilkins refuted this yesterday. Instead, the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office says that Stacey was strangled to death.
Autopsy reports also indicated that a weapon, nor a pillowcase, was used in Stacey’s death. This finding was in line with Sgt. Wilkins’ comment on Tuesday that there were no visible signs of trauma to the victim, such as stab or bullet wounds.
Though Stacey and her boyfriend were regarded by neighbors as a private couple, phrases such as “really nice” and “very friendly” have all been used to describe Stacey.
GLAAD is in contact with the Philadelphia Daily News about some problematic elements in its coverage of this story, including putting quotes around Stacey’s name.
After speaking with GLAAD the paper did remove quotes around Stacey’s name in part of the story but not the entire piece.
It is never appropriate to put quotation marks around either a transgender person’s chosen name or the pronoun that reflects that person’s gender identity. After consulting with GLAAD the outlet also made changes to include the word transgender to describe Stacey and we are continuing conversations with editors to bring the paper’s overall reporting on this story in line with fair, accurate and inclusive standards.
As many questions remain surrounding the circumstances of Stacey’s death, GLAAD urges the media to cover this story fairly and accurately, with particular attention to word choices. As noted recently on our blog, the use of problematic terminology is too often the case in stories involving transgender people, particularly when those stories revolve around violent crime.
GLAAD has produced a Media Reference Guide that is intended to be a resource to media professionals when covering LGBT-related issues. Specifically, pages 8-11 address issues that often arise in reports about the lives of transgender people.
We will continue to closely monitor the coverage of this story to insure fairness and accuracy.