Media reporting on Brisbane trans* death “sickening”

Media reporting on Brisbane trans* death “sickening”

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.

Police have not yet confirmed the identity of Prasetyo but friends and family of the cabaret performer — who also earned an income as a sex worker to support her family back in Indonesia — have expressed their grief on social media.

“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”.

courier mail Oct 7

They also lambasted the newspaper’s continued coverage of the story inside the print edition that had “Ladyboy and the Butcher” as a headline.

courier mail oct 7

“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.

To sign the petition, click here. Readers can also file a complaint at the Australian Press Council here.

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50 responses to “Media reporting on Brisbane trans* death “sickening””

  1. That’s disgusting! Vile reporting. Shame the media in this country, shame Australian’s that don’t report and act on such wrongful behaviour. One day other people’s compassion might be all you have.

  2. The narrative she deserved it, is sadly not just confined to the Courier Mail. Channel 7 and 9 in Melbourne both referred to the Bali Sex worker, with Channel 9 even talking about the tragedy it was for the killers family. A big WTF?

    Fairfax seems a right progressive paper, until you see it refers to the Salvo line, as if people feeling depressed would be helped by the Salvation Army. Their manual calls for an army of God soldiers to fight homosexuality. Oh I feel so better!

    The police called it an escalation of domestic violence. I bet if the newsroom people were butchered and cooked, they would not be so keen to sell a narrative that this person was not normal, a strange person, who somehow had it coming given the lifestyle choice. I hope this never happens to any of them, it is just a shame they cannot report reality, and instead make the terrible murder of someone a freak show because they happen to be transgendered, and because they choose to be bigots.

  3. What absolutely shocked me was that during the Nova 106.9 6am news this morning, they blatantly referred to Mayang as a ‘she-male’ before they even referenced her being transgender. Not very well thought out scripting there… Almost dropped my toothbrush in the loo when I heard that one! This poor girl has had her life and dignity taken in such an inhumane way… Could have been handled in a much better way by the media.

  4. I would just like to credit the wording of the petition going around to Corey Alexander, who spent tireless hours writing and editing it last night.

    • Totally Jade. I think it showed great initiative and it has given 15000 plus peeps at (930 pm Melb time Tuesday) a chance to show their support. And that the number of signatories keeps going up is at least a teensy positive outcome from this situation. Well done Corey!

    • Yes, credit must go to the trans guys from the Brisbane community who were quick to respond to my call for this petition while I was in transit from Adelaide to Cairns following the ANZPATH conference. So well done guys, you really did an awesome job.

  5. REAL TALK: While the gay left sit around whining about “offensive” news paper headlines, gays are being slaughtered in Islamic countries. Yet the gay media here stays silent because it’s not PC to talk about. Not to mention the “she male” prostitute in question actually called herself that when advertising for clients. But don’t let facts get in the way of your pathetic little lynch mob. Grab them pitchforks and get them evil Murdoch reporters! #lol

    • While the left gay community? I guess spending billions in a budget crisis helping protect Saudi Arabia, so they can cut the heads off more gay people, is a better use of time if I am to believe what you say. A person was brutally murdered, it does not matter if this person was the political left or right. Show some respect.

  6. Hey Star Observer, do you know what’s sickening? You reporting on trivial issues like this and ignoring the gays being stoned to death in Islamic nations so you won’t have to answer to the lynch PC mob.

  7. Fundamentally racist. Inherently classist. Thoroughly sexist. Completely transphobic. Isn’t this what the White skinned middle class heteronormative Courier Mail built their empire on?
    Sign the petition and boycott the paper. Boycott cafes and restaurants that stock the newspaper and tell the owners this is why you are going elsewhere. It might inconvenience your life a bit, but so what.

  8. Tom, I can discuss a number of things at once. There isn’t a hierarchy of ‘offense’. I’m also happy to discuss the influence of american rightwing Christian groups on the outlawing of homosexuality and other troubling legislating being introduced in some African countries.

    • “American right wing Christian groups” its literally a handful of people and if you think they’re powerful enough to change a whole countries laws then one must ponder, how gullible are African people? Lets talk about the 300 million radical Muslims and how they pretty much are all against homosexuality. But wait, there’s an offensive newspaper headline to talk about!

  9. Gays being stoned in Islamic countries yet the gays go after a newspaper for a slightly offensive headline while gay media stay silent on Islamic stonings to be PC. Let’s discuss THAT.

    • “Burn the Murdoch press to the ground” What a travesty that would be. We’d be left with the Star Observer reporting about Zac Efron’s abs.

  10. A disgusting article by the Courier probing new lows. I really am not surprised by News Corp. but would like to think they would do better.
    Great article David, will be writing the Press Council.