Kayden Clarke shot and killed by police

By | February 6, 2016

Here’s an article about a trans man, Kayden Clarke, who was shot and killed by police officers. I want to show you something interesting: The disconnect in how the information in this article refers to Clarke. The video and photo captions attached to the video refer to him as a woman and use his legal name. Several people quoted in the article itself–including his mother–do the same. Yet the reporter, Christopher Brennan, repeatedly and firmly refuses to go along with it.

I want you to look at this segment from the article:

Police told local media that the 24-year-old, who they identified by his legal name Danielle Jacobs, came at them with a knife and they fired in self-defense….

“I talked to her last night and the night before and she seemed fine,” his mother, who now is taking care of the Rottweiler, told the News.

She added that people who knew her son, whom she called her daughter, were questioning whether police shooting the young man in the stomach was necessary.

See what Brennan did there? He made it clear where he stands: Clarke was a man, even though the police referred to him by “his legal name.” Clarke was a son, even though his mother referred to him as “her daughter.”

Brennan tweeted about the story, first calling Clarke by his legal name and using female pronouns, then switching to his chosen name and male pronouns. Many people responded to his initial tweets, notifying him that he had misgendered Clarke; at some point in the process, Brennan and the NYDaily News got on board.

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The story itself is so, so sad. The public shift in tone and language is, however, encouraging. And the tension between the elements of the story demonstrate pretty clearly the kind of struggle around perceptions and representation that many trans people go through all the time, every day, with everyone they know. Imagine living inside of that tension. Imagine how it might feel to have that tension follow you around, in every single area of your life. Imagine how much harder everyday life would be if that was your reality.