HRC Blog

Murder of Houston Transgender Woman Raises Media Coverage Concerns

This post is from HRC Board of Directors member Meghan Stabler of Houston: One week ago today the half-naked body of Myra Ical, a 51-year-old transgender woman was found in a vacant lot in the Montrose area of Houston. Initial media reports referred to Myra by her male name and used male pronouns along with placing emphasis that her body was found in an area known for drugs and prostitution. The Houston Chronicle reported that Ruben Dario Ical “also went by the name of Myra Chanel Ical” and that “he had numerous bruises and defensive wounds, as if he had struggled against his attacker.” Myra’s attacker remains at large and this represents the 7th Houston transgender murder case in the last few years that has still to be resolved. The brutal attack on her is devastating to the community. Yet much like the ‘shot heard around the world,’ initial media reporting that was lazy and irresponsible then propagated bad journalism as it was reused across media outlets. The majority of the reports showed the amount of ignorance about transgender issues that is rampant among far too many reporters despite the existence of resources to help them report accurately. With so many local LGBT resources and organizations available to local media I continue to be surprised that mainstream news sources get it wrong. The prevalence of violent attacks against transgender people is horrible and yet the situation is compounded when the press does not respect the transgender community enough to write about us in ways that are both accurate and that recognizes our humanity. Journalists must realize that transgender people have the right to fair, accurate and inclusive reporting of their stories and their issues, ever more so evident when a life is tragically stolen from us such as Ms. Ical. The media’s inability to follow nationally recognized LGBT reporting guidelines bolsters fear, further dehumanizes the transgender community, perpetuates a lack of understanding and supports a culture of transphobic violence.  It must stop. Any violent attack, be it a hate crime or not, must stop. Accurate and fair reporting in the mainstream media needs to start, and when notified of errors, corrections made. We must do all that we can to urge reporters to ‘use fair, accurate and inclusive reporting’ when covering LGBT issues. The murder of Ms. Ical must be solved and the violence against transgender people eliminated. Some of that responsibility starts with correct and humanistic reporting based on fairness, integrity and respect for the transgender and LGB community as a whole. Members of HRC Houston will join in solidarity with the Transgender community of Houston for a public memorial and candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. on Monday, January 25 to honor Myra Ical. The memorial will include two moments of silence, one for Ms. Ical and another for the other 6 transgender Houstonians who have been murdered and whose crimes remain unsolved. A moment of noise-making will take place to recognize that it is silence that allows the perpetrators of crime to go unpunished. The Memorial will be held at the site where Ms. Ical’s body was found. If you are in Houston on Monday evening please attend. See the Facebook events for more information. Anyone who might know anything about this crime or who might have witnessed it is urged to call Crime Stoppers. Crime Stoppers will pay up to $5,000 for any information called in to the 713-222-8477 tips hotline or submitted online at www.crimestoppers.org that leads to the identification, arrest and/or charging of the any of the suspects in this case.

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