Her Name is Ally
The story I will tell is neither new, nor surprising, though elements of it are certainly shocking. But Ally’s story is the story of so very many trans people that we must tell it every time and demand this stop.
Last week there was a news report published concerning the death of a teen in Houston (in Texas County – talk about confusing) Missouri. The name of the teen mentioned in the story was Joseph (Joey) Steinfeld and the person who shared it said “this person was trans” but nothing in the story indicated such. I began to look around for confirmation and soon found a Facebook page that had, under the name on the news site, (Ally Lee Steinfeld) and the profile gender was female to go along with several selfies which showed Steinfeld in female attire.So I sent a message to the news site asking them to look into he gender identity of the victim and report accordingly, and also to “Trans News Girl” on Twitter to hopefully raise the visibility of the situation.
Since then, the media reports I’ve seen have come around to the general acknowledgement of her gender identity and a couple featured quotes from some family members which illustrated that the problem in this case wasn’t the reporting, it was the family sources. In a pattern reported as often as trans people are killed, so it seems, the family members clung to the dead-name and the misgendered pronouns while describing the person they professed to love deeply. I’m not saying here that Ally’s family didn’t love her – but apparently not enough to honor her in death by forcing themselves to use the name she chose for herself. That doesn’t make them unusual, indeed it makes them entirely typical. But still wrong.
To be clear – and those who might be upset by the description of a brutal murder should skip this paragraph – for specific reasons still unknown, Ally was not only murdered but was mutilated (before or after death is not clear to me) having her eyes stabbed out and genitals destroyed. Then the body was dismembered and burned in an attempt to conceal it. One would think that in the wake of such a horrible fate, one almost certainly visited due to her trans status despite the police not yet discussing publicly a hate-crime classification, the family would feel a special burden to defend and publish her professed identity, not bury it.
Sadly, wherever you find a story about a murdered transwoman, you’ll inevitably find a quote from a friend or family member along the lines of “Why he was just the sweetest man, he’d do anything for anyone blah blah blah…” NO, damnit. SHE would. All SHE ask is that you honor her identity in memory. I is NOT too much for the victim, or us, to ask of you.
Her parents said “He(sic) was wanting to be a girl…” and her dad said it was “hard” for them to change what they called their child – and I completely get that on a day-to-day basis it takes some time to adjust (though everyone can if thy are willing). But this – and I mean in general terms when a trans person dies, not just this case, is special. You are the folks left to determine how your loved one is remembered. What do the police and the press call them, what’s on the obituary at the funeral home, what’s on the tombstone. If you struggled with affirming the transperson’s identity in life (and lets be honest, “it’s hard” only gets you so far, then it comes down to “I refuse to” but in Ally’s case they had only known, apparently, a few months) can you AT LEAST affirm them in death? I do not wish to speak unflatteringly of hurting people so I’ll leave this as an exercise for the reader: what’s the obvious motivation for erasing a trans identity after the trans person dies?
As a community, let’s continue to speak up to the press, the police, and n an appropriate way, to the survivors and insist this culture change.
Photo by: Scary Side of Earth