The recent killing of an LGBT couple in the Maxfield Avenue community, or rather how the murders were framed in the media, has triggered a raging disquiet among Jamaican activists and advocates.
Leading the charge, non-governmental organisations TransWave Jamaica and Equality Jamaica, in a joint statement on Thursday (August 4), denounced the misgendering of ‘Kimmy’, a 20-year-old transwoman, who was shot dead alongside her partner Recco Gayle, 29, in the early hours of Emancipation Day.
The groups argued that the two newspaper articles were deeply transphobic and “glamorised the incident” in a manner clearly intended to “steer public ridicule by posting a picture of the deceased being fully affirmed in feminine clothing without acknowledging her gender”.
TransWave Jamaica was especially incensed by the ‘deadnaming’ of ‘Kimmy’ to Kevaughn Young—the name she was originally born with before her transition—arguing that there was “no attempt to acknowledge who she was or respect her identity”.
For Renae Green, executive director for TransWave, the incident has taken a toll on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) community, especially given the onset of Pride celebrations in Jamaica.
“It is sad that even today, despite our many advances, we are still at a place where the respect for people’s lives seems to be secondary. I am hoping that Kimmy’s death will not be in vain and that the police and other key officials will take this matter seriously and investigate thoroughly,” she began.
As a transwoman herself, Green lamented further: “With that being said, I want to charge media houses that when they report on incidents like these that involve the community, the necessary care is given to ensure respect and consideration is given to the victim. Kimmy was a transwoman – one who brought light to her community and she deserves far more than what was given. I charge…news outlets to consider the victim’s humanity when writing and they should exercise due diligence when making reference to their identities, particularly as it relates to gender identity and sexual orientation, treating the story with care. Now is the time for Jamaica to examine itself and take stock of what is truly important. No one’s life should be this easy to be taken away, nor should it be easy for them to get away with it.”
A similar stance was taken by WE-Change, a feminist group focused on advocating for lesbian, bisexual and queer women.
In an email response to an Our Today query earlier this week, WE-Change replied that “the intentional misgendering and deadnaming of Kimmy in the recent reporting of her murder is transphobic and perpetuates violence towards members of the LGBTQ community. There is no care for Kimmy as a victim of a crime and no compassion for those in her community who are now processing the grief of losing her in this way.”
The bullet-riddled bodies of both Kimmy and Gayle were found in the decaying house they had called ‘home’ for some time after residents heard explosions on August 1.
The couple was pronounced dead at the Kingston Public Hospital, with no motive yet to be established for the double killing.
Residents who empathised with the victims but requested anonymity explained the pair was often physically assaulted on the basis of their sexual orientation and routinely targeted by armed robbers.