A Media Matters study analyzing transgender coverage on national cable, broadcast, and Spanish-language news networks from January 1st to February 28, 2015, found that Hispanic media has devoted scant coverage to stories affecting the transgender community, including ignoring a recent wave of deadly violence against transgender women of color.
Spanish-Language Media Barely Covered Transgender Issues
According to the report, coverage of transgender stories on Spanish-language media has been sparse at best, devoting less than ten minutes to stories about transgender people in January and February:
More importantly, as reported by the National Coalition Of Anti-Violence Programs, seven transgender women of color have been murdered throughout the U.S. in January and February alone. Despite some of these crimes taking the lives of Hispanics or occurring in areas with dense Latino populations, the murders went without receiving coverage on Telemundo or Univision's national news programs.
Room For Improvement On National Hispanic Media
In the timeframe studied, Media Matters counted eight reports about the transgender community on the national Spanish-language news programs of Univision and Telemundo. Three were devoted to speculation involving Bruce Jenner's transition, and one was simply a mention of Telemundo's GLAAD awards-nominated August 2014 interview of a transgender woman.
The networks' disproportionate focus on Bruce Jenner's story illustrates how Hispanic media has prioritized sensationalist, tabloid-worthy coverage over important stories that spotlight the plights of the transgender community, and especially trans women of color.
One segment from the January 30 edition of Telemundo's Al Rojo Vivo Con Maria Celeste, for example, focused on the death of a transgender woman resulting from complications caused by a privately administered silicon shot:
Rather than celebrating the victim's life, discussing the challenges she faced seeking acceptance, or underscoring the tragedy of her death, the voyeuristic segment focused on aspects related to her physical appearance and aesthetic procedures, objectifying the victim's body.
Steps In The Right Direction
On a positive note, it is worth highlighting that both networks invited transgender women of color to provide commentary about the stories that concern their community, rightly providing a platform to voices that are rarely heard in the media landscape.
A segment from the February 10 edition of Univision's daily national news outlet Noticiero Univision stands as a good example of how to properly cover issues affecting the transgender community. The report highlighted discriminatory legislation being introduced in Florida to limit the access of transgender people to public accommodations, following a worrying legislative trend across the country:
Although improvements could still be made by eradicating the use of the term “transexual” and substituting it with the more culturally competent “transgender,” Univision did right by including the voice of a transgender rights activist and accurately pointing out the discriminatory consequences of such a bill.
Media has an important role to play in improving visibility for the transgender community, and especially trans women of color. Producing accurate and inclusive portrayals of the transgender community would help to contribute to the normalization of a marginalized and frequently misrepresented group.