NBC Philadelphia’s Role in Inaccurate Transgender Reporting

Poor reporting on transgender people is, unfortunately, very common. Just last week, FOX Sports reported that a transgender man “decided to identify as a man.”

After some pressure, FOX Sports fixed their mistake. But now another story about a transgender person is spurring a new wave of inaccurate and disrespectful reporting.

Transgender woman Peaches Burton was recently charged with killing a man. She was arrested last week and police suspect that she beat and killed Michael Brady, before burning the hotel room to cover up any evidence of the murder. Burton was on probation and had been arrested 36 times in the past five years. Her arrests were mostly related to loitering and obstructing the highway — charges that are often associated with prostitution.

Media coverage of the event has shown a shocking ignorance of transgender issues among reporters. Several articles misrepresent Burton’s identity and use sensationalist, insulting terms, instead of respecting her identity and referring to her as a woman.

According to an NBC Philadelphia article, Burton is a “male prostitute” and a “cross-dresser.” This language completely misrepresents Burton, who is a transgender woman. Her transgender identity was largely ignored in the article. While she was at no point referred to using female pronouns, a line about her sister refers to her as the woman’s brother, instead of her sister. She is also referred to as “a man who dresses as a woman.” Finally, she’s referred to as a “transgender man,” even though she’s a transgender woman.

This coverage is extremely troubling in its lack of understanding of transgender identity. Her identity is described incorrectly, and the article fails to make an important distinction between cross dressers and transgender women (Burton is not a cross dresser, she is a transgender woman).

Please ask NBC to correct their article in light of Burton’s identity. Burton is a woman, and she should be referred to as a woman. References to Burton as a “male prostitute” and “cross-dresser” are inappropriate and misleading, and should not be included in the article.

Photo credit: Marcin Wichary