Kenneth BostickAge 59
4 May 2017
New York (USA)
TDoR list ref: tgeu/4-May-2017/Kenneth Bostick
Kenneth lived in a homeless shelter and was beaten on the head with a metal pipe. He spent more than a week in Bellevue Hospital before he died on 4th May.
Bostick also used to talk about finding permanent housing, and he had plans for that, too. “He wanted a big apartment,” the social worker said, and when he got it someday, his plan was to have a dinner party. He’d invite a bunch of friends and serve them a big catered spread. “But then he’d make people believe that he cooked the food himself. He laughed when he said that. He knew it was a little rascally.”
Initial news reports about his murder misgendered Kenneth and referred to him by his deadname.
We Got It Wrong
UPDATE: Initial reports incorrectly identified Kenneth Bostick as a transgender woman. We have updated this story to indicate he was a trans man.
When a crime happens—especially a violent crime—details can be sparse, and the media can rush to get the story out before getting it right.
Last week we reported on the death of Kenneth Bostick, believed to be the tenth trans person murdered in the U.S. so far this year. Working on early news reports, we misgendered Kenneth as a trans woman. In subsequent days, friends have stepped forward to give a more accurate representation of his identity.
While our mistake was made without malice, it was a mistake nonetheless. Too many times crimes against transgender people are misreported and their identities are erased. Sometimes that’s out of ignorance, but too often it’s because family members don’t want to be “embarrassed” or authorities don’t want to acknowledge the epidemic of anti-trans violence. One in four trans people has faced a bias-driven assault in this country, and 2016 saw more murders of trans people than any other.
But it’s also about shaping a narrative: We, like most outlets, reported that Bostick’s death was the tenth murder of a trans woman of color in 2017. While it’s important to acknowledge that, it also drives a narrative about who is at risk and who needs help. Shelters and other social services are often divided by gender—a trans man housed with cisgender men faces serious threats to their safety and well-being. And that shouldn’t be ignored, either.
And lastly, it’s about human beings: It’s easy to boil a person down to the particulars of their death, to paint them as just another victim. Especially if they’re not on Facebook or don’t have dozens of selfies on Instagram.