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Friday 30 June 2017

Trans advocates slam media coverage of court case

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By Daily News staff - 20th March 2017

Two of New Zealand’s prominent transgender advocates say the mainstream media coverage of convicted offender Alex Aleti Seu, is “ignorant” and “inflammatory”.

The Dunedin trans women was sentenced last week following a violent and premeditated attack on a young man and the indecent assault of two of her former flatmates in June 2016.

All mainstream media coverage of the case from The Otago Daily Times , Stuff and the New Zealand Herald has referred to Seu using male pronouns and referred to her as a transgender male.

It is unclear whether Seu, who has been convicted of sexual violation and indecent assault, goes by any other name.

Community leader and advocate Brown-Acton says the most recent article in the Otago Daily Times “purely misgenders her [Seu] on purpose for the purposes of causing a reaction or anger!”

“Timothy Brown and the Otago Daily Times should be embarrassed and ashamed of themselves!” she says.

“If you don't know the difference between a transgender man and a transgender woman in this day and age, you must be living in a cave with a club in hand if that is the case.”

The trans advocate, who is currently doing work at the United Nations in New York, says that it is not acceptable that this ignorant type of journalism exists today in this country.

This is a sentiment that trans rights advocate Hamblett agrees with, saying “I think it’s appalling the way she was mis-gendered all the way through the article.

“The Otago Daily Times saw her as a male. By using the term transgender male at the beginning of the story just shows their ignorance and lack of understanding.”

She says “It just denies the existence of trans women. Trans women are male in the eyes of the media. This is wrong and goes against our struggles to be accepted. This trans women deserves her gender identity to be recognised, regardless of the crime she may have committed.”

Brown-Acton says that articles like this reinforce a message and further create negative attitudes towards transgender women who are already marginalised and made more vulnerable in many other ways.

“The impacts of discrimination and prejudice for transgender people daily is already alarming and this type of scare mongering is not welcome nor should it be tolerated, just like we don't tolerate sexism or racism.

“I do not condone sexual violence at all, but come on, this article stereotypes and perpetuates a message that is equally as violent!”

[Editor's note 21/3/17: Daily News was unable to be in the Dunedin court to cover this case first-hand but we are reliably advised that throughout the case Seu was referred to by officers of the court, her own lawyer and in formal court documents as "he." This may have been based on her gender as identified on her birth certificate. Reporters in court are constrained by laws and protocols to report proceedings and language faithfully as it actually appears in the courtroom.

However, it was also clear that she, to a considerable degree, identifies as a transgender woman. Seu is of Samoan descent and so the likelihood of fa'afafine identity was also taken into account in writing our news item. With these considerations in mind and taking into account the way Seu presented in court Daily News, not ourselves being in court, chose to use the pronoun "she" in our coverage.

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