Hundreds of people have signed a petition to the New York Times saying it ‘sexualised’ the death of a transgender woman in a report this weekend.
The petition, hosted on the Care2 petition website, said the report “sensationalised” the death of Lorena Escalera.
Ms Escalera, who was 25, was declared dead at the scene after an apartment building fire in the New York City borough of Brooklyn.
The New York Times ran a piece on her death which said in its opening sentence she was “curvaceous, and she often drew admiring glances in the gritty Brooklyn neighborhood where she was known to invite men for visits to her apartment”.
Ms Escalera’s body was discovered after a fire broke out in the early hours of Saturday morning last week.
The report said that in the area, “many recalled a young and friendly woman”. While the artcile itself used female pronouns throughout, one neighbour said “For a man, he was gorgeous” and recalled her “hourglass” figure.
The petition reads: “On May 12 the New York Times ran a piece about a suspicious fire in Brooklyn where trans woman of color Lorena Escalera sadly died. Far from focusing on the facts of the case, the report included sensationalistic and sexualizing descriptions of her as “curvacious” and noted her “hourglass figure.”
“GLAAD has brought this matter to the NYT’s attention already, whereby you called it a “poor choice of words” as though that ended the matter. At a time when anti-trans sentiment is high and sexualization of trans people still means they are denied basic civil rights, this is not good enough.
“We the undersigned ask that the NYT print an apology acknowledging why the story was so deeply offensive, and that it highlight the prejudice and discrimination trans people face in all spheres of life.”
Carolyn Ryan, the New York Times Metro Editor had said: “We typically try to capture the personal stories of those whose lives are lost in a fire, and we sought to do so in this case. We certainly did not mean any disrespect to the victim or those who knew her. But, in retrospect, we should have shown more care in our choice of words.”
GLAAD criticised the article this week: “The decision by writers Al Baker and Nate Schweber to call her “curvaceous” in the first sentence was not a poor choice of words. It was a poor choice of focus. [...] Saying that Lorena was “called” Lorena, even though that is exactly how police identified her, was not a poor choice of words. It was a disrespectful jab at her identity as a trans woman, by implying that she wasn’t really Lorena.”
It added that it was clear that the kind of personal information mentioned in the article “was included in order to “spice up” the story by exploiting Lorena’s status as a transgender woman – not to actually inform readers about her life”.
Currently, 344 people have signed the petition.