There is no doubt that every time we turn our TVs to the mainstream news stations, we hear about the latest, bone-chilling stories concerning hellacious crimes committed throughout the world. But why, if this is the case, have we not heard every story of the disturbing crimes committed right under our noses? In June of 2014, the body of 31-year-old Yaz’min Shancez, a transgender woman of color, was found shot and badly burned behind a dumpster in an industrial area in Fort Myers, Florida. Shancez was a self-employed hairdresser who, according to her family members, began identifying as a woman at a very young age. Police stated there was no indication of whether or not the motive was due to race, religion, or sexual orientation. Because of this, they were unable to label the crime as a hate crime, and they continued on as if it were just another homicide. Through later investigation, it was shown that Shancez was paid for sexual relations by a 45 year old man named Terry Lynn Brady. After further investigation, Brady was arrested. Soon after, he was charged for the murder of Yaz’min Shancez. It is said that Brady shot Shancez and later set fire to her body after she outed him to the community via a social media network. His record showed that he had numerous arrests made prior to this incident. Normally big-name news outlets jump on the chance to cover a story concerning social media fueled crimes. So why, with all of the details available, was the information regarding Yaz’min Shancez’s murder not covered by our corporate media sources? Could it have been because she was a transgender woman of color?
Melissa Montaya, “Fort Myers Man Killed Transgender Woman for Outing Him,” News Press June 23, 2014, https://www.projectcensored.org/25-chaptered-us-military-seeks-balance-budget-backs-disabled-veterans/
Scott Kaufman, “Murdered Florida Trans Woman Set on Fire and Dumped Near Trash Bin,” Raw Story, June 23, 2014, http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/06/murdered-florida-trans-woman-set-on-fire-and-dumped-near-trash-bin/
Veronica Wells, “Trans Woman of Color Burned & Thrown in Trash,” Madame Noire, June 24, 2014, http://madamenoire.com/441782/trans-woman-color-murdered-burned-thrown-trash/
“Fort Myers Burn Victim Identified as Transgender Woman,” Naples News, June 20, 2014, http://www.naplesnews.com/news/crime/fort-myers-pd-burn-victim-identified-transgender-w
Student Researcher: Jessica Martinez, Indian River State College
Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College
With the rate at which news outlets spew out the latest stories, we begin to question why certain stories never reach our ears. There seems to be an ongoing trend growing quickly in which mainstream media sources avoid covering controversial or “taboo” cases. We can assume the murder of Yaz’min Shancez was not covered by larger mainstream media sources because she was a transgender woman, and she is not the first transgender person to have their story neglected by mainstream media. We can come to this conclusion by comparing the number of crimes covered by media that involve the death of transgender people with the other cases of murder covered. The Transgender Violence Tracking Portal released a report showing that in the first four months of 2014, an astounding 102 acts of violence against transgenders have been logged. This means, according to the TVTP, that there are many more unreported cases of violence as well. The odds of a crime against transgenders being covered by the media are slim. However, it is even more unlikely that a transgender person of color will have their story covered for the world to hear. Our mainstream media sources’ neglect of these cases could be considered a form of social discrimination. According to the Free Dictionary by Farlex, social discrimination is “treatment or consideration based on class or category, such as race or gender, instead of individual merit.” Media sources pick and choose which stories they deem most important to share with our citizens. Leelah Alcorn, a white, 17-year-old transgender girl, committed suicide in the latter part of 2014. Her story received nationwide coverage by a number of mainstream media networks. However, the death of Islan Nettles, Zoraida Reyes, Yazmin Vash Payne, Penny Proud, and even Yaz’min Shancez, who were all transgender women of color, received not even half of the news coverage Leelah Alcorn’s story did (www.slate.com). All of these women, and many more, deserved to have their stories told to the world, and it is a case of social discrimination that kept the world from hearing them. Unfortunately, Yazmin Shancez’s case was one of many cases that mainstream media brushed to the side in order to cover stories they deemed to be of higher importance. Was this lack of coverage due to the fact that she was a transgender woman of color? Every person’s life and story has equal value, and the media needs to treat each and every case equally. It is entirely unethical for mainstream media to neglect certain cases and stories based on the gender, sexuality, religion, etc. of the victims involved. It is time for mainstream media to eliminate the presence of social discrimination in our news and keep our people rightfully informed.
A.J. Walkey, “2014 Transgender Violence Statistics Sobering Thus Far” Huffpost Gay Voices, May 12, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/aj-walkley/2014-transgender-violence_b_5298554.html
Parker Marie Molloy, “Trans Women of Color Deserve to be Mourned as Much as Leelah Alcorn” Outward, February 13, 2015, http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2015/02/13/while_the_media_focuses_on_leelah_alcorn_murders_of_trans_women_of_color.html
The Free Dictionary by Farlex, March 26, 2015, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Social+discrimination