QUEENSLAND’S Courier Mail newspaper has been accused of “sickening” transphobic sensationalism and faced a deluge of criticism following today’s front page and their reporting on the death of a Brisbane trans woman.
The story of 27-year-old Mayang Prasetyo’s alleged murder by her partner Marcus Volke in the inner-Brisbane suburb of Teneriffe shocked the country as gruesome details of her death, and Volke’s suicide after he fled the police, were revealed yesterday.
“RIP beautiful, the world will not be the same without you… I will miss you so much I couldn’t possibly express it in words. I still remember the day I met you and the impression you made on me. Nobody that met you could ever forget you. This really doesn’t seem real,” a friend posted on her Facebook page.
Queensland Police is treating the deaths of Prasetyo and Volke as a murder-suicide.
While most media coverage of the incident has been respectful of Prasetyo, trans* rights groups and advocates have accused the Courier Mail of transphobia and a “complete absense of respect” over their front page headline “Monster Chef and the She Male”.
They also lambasted the newspaper’s continued coverage of the story inside the print edition that had “Ladyboy and the Butcher” as a headline.
“It’s a sickening front cover and reminiscent of the worst kind of reporting on trans* issues from a decade or more ago. We had really hoped the media had moved on from this,” A Gender Agenda executive director Samuel Rutherford told the Star Observer.
“The insensitivity is astonishing — this is a woman who has just died a horrible death, and the reporting demonstrates crass objectification and a complete absence of respect for her as a person.”
Transgender Victoria executive director Sally Goldner told the Star Observer that she was shocked by the paper’s handling of Prasetyo’s murder.
“My initial reaction was disbelief and some shock at the callous and inhuman disrespect shown by the Courier Mail,” she said.
“Mayang Prasetyo was first and foremost a human being and her family, friends and others cared about her. That the Courier Mail spits in the face of those people who are dealing with extreme grief and loss is appalling.”
The Star Observer has contacted Courier Mail editor Chris Dore for comment, but a response was yet to be provided at the time of print.
The Code of Conduct for News Corp Australia — Courier Mail’s parent company — refers to how to address sex and gender discrimination in editorial content.
“8.1… No details of a person’s race, nationality, colour, religion, marital status, sex, sexual preferences, age, or physical or mental incapacity should be included in a report unless they are relevant,” it states.
In response, Rutherford said: “As far as we’re aware [Prasetyo’s gender identity] was completely irrelevant and included purely for its sensationalism.”
Goldner asked if the death of a non-trans* individual would be treated in the same manner.
“This is a case of domestic violence and a victim of crime situation. How someone described themselves in terms of an occupation is irrelevant,” she said.
“Hypothetically, put it the other way around: would there have been a description ‘cis-gender bank teller killed’ or ‘gender-expected hairdresser killed?’ Of course not.
“This is primarily a story about murder, victims of crime and domestic violence. If there was transphobia behind the alleged crime, then report that, but not just the gender identity issue in itself.”
Rutherford said the Courier Mail’s coverage could hurt vulnerable people, especially when trans* people experience higher rates of poor mental health, discrimination and abuse when compared to cis-gendered people.
“This kind of reporting is potentially very damaging, both for gender diverse people reading the story and in terms of how the broader public perceives our community,” he said.
A petition calling for an apology from the Courier Mail has been created since the front page came to light, with Brisbane trans woman and activist Melody Moore one of the voices behind it.
She said that the media had a responsibility to not use damaging language.
“I believe that the media has to be responsible and not use any derogatory terminology such as ‘tranny’ or ‘she-male’, or even ‘lady-boy’ in their reporting,” Moore told the Star Observer.
“It has really disturbed a few of us… I can only imagine that a few girls are wondering how they’d be reported in the media as well if something were to happen to them.”
According to Rutherford, media reporting on trans* people and issues has been gradually improving and many outlets were putting more time into understanding the community.
“Decades of hard work has been, and continues to be, put into improving the knowledge and understanding of the gender-diverse community and raising awareness of the specific issues we face, and generally most media coverage is becoming more positive and respectful,” he said.
“Reporting like this is always very disappointing to see and it has the potential to undo that hard work, at least in the eyes of some readers.”
Images of the Courier Mail’s front page has attracted the ire of hundreds of Twitter users, while the vast majority of comments on the story’s Facebook post condemn the newspaper.
Many social media users also urged others to direct their anger to the Australian Press Council by filing an official complaint.
Hey @couriermail, plenty of News Corp Aus people have my number. As a journalist & Trans-woman I would have happily helped w/ terminology.
— Kate Doak (@katedoak) October 6, 2014
So if you decide to use derogatory terms such as “shemale” in the future @couriermail, contact a person who can advise you editorially on it
— Kate Doak (@katedoak) October 6, 2014
— © Indigenist™ Koedal (@dameyonbonson) October 7, 2014
— Lou (@Msloulou77) October 6, 2014
I have seen public bathroom graffiti with more journalistic integrity than today’s @couriermail front page. RIP, Mayang Prasetyo.
— Katharine Nicholson (@the_cheshirekat) October 7, 2014
— QC (@ChristineEwing7) October 7, 2014