Arrest Made in Cemia Acoff Murder; Media Continues Transphobic Coverage

It is my understanding that the Cleveland Plain Dealer has agreed to meet with GLAAD and local trans activists to discuss their coverage of the murder of Cemia Acoff.

Photo: Cleveland Transgender Community Outreach Committee

Photo: Cleveland Transgender Community Outreach Committee

Then, last night, I saw this piece which actually has some good news – the FBI working with local police have made an arrest in the murder according to the Sun News.

A Parma man was arrested this morning for the murder of Carl Edward Acoff, Jr., the 20-year-old man whose body was found in a pond on Mackenzie Road April 17.

Andre L. Bridges, 36, is being held in Olmsted Township jail following his arrest by Olmsted Township police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Fugitive Task Force.

Note that they continue to use Cemia’s male assigned name (Carl Acoff) in spite of both the promise to work with GLAAD and the fact the FBI is involved. I’m not a lawyer or a police officer, but I assume the federal government is involved because this might rise to the level of a hate crime as defined by the Matthew Shephard Act to include gender identity. In short, the federal government involvement signals an acceptance that Cemia was a trans woman – and in spite of that fact, the Cleveland media clings to male pronouns.

Why?

For the record, Cleveland.com is the online home to the Plain Dealer and 50+ community newspapers in Northeastern Ohio.

Cleveland.com columnist Ted Diadiun has some insight – most of it craptastic – as to the “why”

First, he seems to believe that it is acceptable for a major media outlet to not be current on the AP Style Guide.

The bulk of the objections stemmed from the use of the male pronouns. The Plain Dealer generally follows Associated Press style, which at one time specified using female pronouns for someone born a male only if a sex-change process had begun.

However, several years ago, the AP changed its style on transgender references to the following: “Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.”

The transgender community knows this. Caniglia and his editors did not. The story was in the paper when they were made aware of the change in AP style, but editors hurriedly went back into the online version, taking the words “oddly dressed” out of the headline and making the references gender neutral. Along the way, in some references to the body, “he” became “it,” until that was changed — which only served to increase the ire of some readers.

Yes, it seems Diadiun finds it perfectly reasonable that “the transgender” community  is aware of media style guidelines whereas media professionals are not. And apparently paying attention to details like “she” “he” and “it” when correcting style errors (factual errors really) isn’t a big deal – it was all fixed eventually, right, once the transgender community did its job of editing media reports.

He goes on

The AP style change is understandable, but perplexing.

“Where do we draw the line?” said Chris Quinn, the editor in charge of the paper’s local coverage. “What’s a cop to do when filling out the gender form of a police report? What’s a census taker to write? What about a driver’s license?”

Quinn said future stories will say something like, “Acoff self-identified as a transgender woman so, for the purposes of this story, will be identified with female pronouns.”

Well, Quinn should probably note that the AP Style Guide does not apply to police documentation, the US Census or the Department of Transportation. It applies to the media, right? The same media that would be reporting on a US Census taker who refused to use the “boxes” for sexual orientation or incidents of police misconduct involving arrest procedures of LGBTQ residents. Right? Isn’t that the point – the media relies on these sources for some facts and the style guide helps navigate their reporting and their own JOB is to pick up on discrepancies that impact the news.

I don’t even begin to have patience for Diadiun’s whining about the “tone” of the trans advocates (and allies) who complained. One need only look at a few of the hateful comments left by readers to  appreciate how ridiculously petulant he’s being. We didn’t ask nicely enough and hurt the feelings of the poor humble reporters?

Let’s hope the FBI conducts a thorough investigation since we can’t seem to count on the “Fourth Estate” in Cleveland to do their job. I can’t find more information on Andre Bridges so stay tuned.

Meanwhile Cemia’s friends continue to fundraise to pay for her funeral.

  • Vannevar Bush

    Excellent post, tragic story. My compliments V.

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