Cemia Dove (Ce Ce or Ci Ci for short) Acoff was a young woman whose body was found brutally slain and dumped in a pond in a suburb near Cleveland Ohio on April 17th. She was stabbed multiple times, tied to a slab of concrete and thrown into a pond. She was identified Monday using DNA samples from her family. I take this moment to pay tribute and honor her short life. I take this moment to express outrage and sadness that someone so young had her life taken away so tragically.
And I wish I could say everyone stood with me, but the mainstream media coverage of this tragedy has been problematic, degrading, and insulting. Despite knowing that Acoff was transgender and identified as a woman, the first article posted on Cleveland’s newspaper Plain Dealer was titled “Oddly Dressed Man Found in Olmsted Township pond identified.” (they later changed “man” to “body”) Furthermore, both the article and station WJW-TV referred to her as “him” or “he” or “man.” Even as people wrote in outraged that they would misgender her, the Plain Dealer only begrudgingly added that she “sometimes self-identified as a transgender woman.” As if this wasn’t enough, the article focused on what Acoff was wearing when she was found, describing her clothing as “odd” and “pretty unusual,” as if this added any information about her case or was relevant at all. Instead of using this opportunity to inform people about her murder, they used it as an opportunity to try and turn her into a freak show.
To only make matters worse, there’s been an attempt to criminalize her. The media coverage has included her mugshot and details of her criminal history that have nothing to do with her murder. What was the purpose of including these details if not only to further try and dehumanize her?
Instead of focusing on whether her murder was a hate crime or giving her the respect and dignity she deserves, they instead try to turn this incident into what they perceive to be a freak show. Just another black transwoman to gawk at with no care. I can’t help but think about the outrage coverage like this would have received had the victim been a young, middleclass, white ciswoman. This would have been deemed unacceptable. After all, people would say, she could have been anyone’s daughter. The headlines would read “America’s Sweetheart is Tragically Murdered.” Feminists groups would pop up everywhere asking why there was more focus on her clothing than the crime itself. People would question this apparent need to criminalize her.
But this is just another reminder that poor black women don’t count, especially transwomen. Their murders are there for the media to sensationalize and forget about. This phenomenon is not new but that doesn’t make it any less tragic. How many transwomen of color have to die before we say enough is enough?
To Ce Ce I say, I am sorry beloved. Rest in Peace.
For readers in the Cleveland area there will be a rally today, May 1st, at 3:00pm EDT on the steps of Cleveland City Hall.
For more coverage go over to TransGriot. Monica Roberts is doing an unbelievable job at covering this story.