Texas Outlet Willfully Misgenders Transgender Murder Victim And Calls Her By The Wrong Name

ABC El Paso affiliate KVIA ignored widely accepted journalistic standards in its report on the homicide of a transgender woman of color, misgendering the victim as a “man” named “Eric,” despite reporting that her neighbors and family called her “Erykah.” The article is part of a widespread problem of local news reports misgendering transgender victims of violence.

Erykah Tijerina, a 36-year-old transgender woman of color, was found dead in her El Paso, TX, apartment on August 8. While police haven’t yet released all the details of the case, they said they are investigating Tijerina’s death as a homicide and that they found “obvious signs of foul play” in her apartment. Tijerina’s friends and family members told El Paso outlet KFOX that they fear Tijerina was targeted because she was transgender.

In its August 9 report on Tijerina’s murder, El Paso ABC affiliate KVIA repeatedly misgendered Erykah and referred to her “Eric/Erykah” in the article’s headline. Despite mentioning online posts in which Tijerina’s sister declared her love for her “sis Erykah” and noting that Tijerina “went by ‘Erykah,’” KVIA called Tijerina a “man” named “Eric” who “dressed in women’s clothing”:

Before releasing furthers details, police are waiting for the Medical Examiner to say what killed a 36-year-old man whose body was found inside a unit of a South-Central El Paso housing complex.

A witness spotted the body of Eric Tijerina about 8:25 p.m. Monday at the Rio Grande Community apartments on the 200 block of Lisbon Street, police said. The witness waved down an officer, who according to a police news release, immediately suspected foul play.

ABC-7 spoke to Tijerina's next-door neighbor, who said Tijerina often dressed in women's clothing. According to viewers, Tijerina went by “Erykah.”

In a Facebook post, a woman who identified herself as Tijerina's sister said she was shocked to learn her sister “Erykah Monroe,” had been murdered.


“I hope we can get justice for that one man who killed her she didn't deserve that,” Tijerina Gonzalez wrote. “She is now in heaven with my mom they are together in peace their [sic] my angels rip I will always miss you and I'll always remember you taught me to love my self. I love sis Erykah Monroe.”

Misgendering a transgender person violates journalistic guidelines established by the Associated Press, The New York Times, GLAAD, and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, which all instruct journalists to refer to transgender people by their chosen names and pronouns. Yet some local and national outlets continue to violate these standards, sometimes even defending the practice with shoddy appeals to journalistic integrity.

An unprecedented number of transgender women were murdered in 2015, and this year the continuing wave of anti-trans violence is on track to be just as deadly, if not more so. Given the context, it’s more important than ever for reporters to accurately and responsibly identify transgender people -- especially victims of violence.