Orlando Stations Under Fire for How they Reported a Death

A transgender woman was found dead Thursday morning at an Orlando apartment complex. 

And now, a number of people are calling out Orlando station as to how they covered the murder. 

The woman was identified as Sasha Garden, 27, by her family and friends, who worked as a prostitute was found dead behind and apartment building. 

according to Mulan Montrese Williams, an advocate for transgender women and outreach coordinator for the HIV/AIDS organization Miracle of Love. 

"She was traveling a lot, trying to find a new home and find herself," according to Mulan Montrese Williams, an advocate for transgender women and outreach coordinator for the HIV/AIDS organization Miracle of Love. 


The Orlando Weekly writes that Montrese Williams says Orange County deputies came to her house around 7:30 a.m. for her help identifying Garden. 

"They were very uneducated," Montrese Williams said, regarding the deputies. "As soon as I opened the door, I get, 'I hear a bunch of transvestites stay here.' I had to let them know, I’m a transgender woman and I’m the only one that stays here." 

Montrese Williams says she corrected the deputies’ terminology and after identifying Garden’s from a photo of her body, made sure to tell deputies her name was "Sasha" and that she was a trans woman. 

"[The deputy] acted like he couldn't even pronounce transgender," she says. 

Despite Montrese Williams telling deputies that Sasha Garden was a trans woman, in the official report they described her as a 27-year-old man from Jacksonville, who "was wearing a wig and was dressed as a female." 

Naturally, after the Orange County Sheriff's Office released their report to the media, Orlando television stations followed suit with headlines that described her with phrases like a "man in a wig" (WESH) or a "man dressed as a woman" (WFTV). 

Garden's friends called the stations, desperately asking them to respectfully issue a correction, to which they initially declined. 

When reached for comment, the news director for WFTV said they only report what the police give them. WESH had a similar response, saying that people had contacted them saying the victim was transgender and went by the name "Sasha," and requested a correction to the story. But when WESH went back to OCSO with this information, they said they couldn't change the story because while authorities did confirm that Garden was a trans woman, the gender marker on her driver's license said "male."
Local LGBTQ support group QLatinx released a statement regarding today's stories from WESH and WFTV, describing the articles as "flagrant disrespect" and a "desecration of her memory." 

"The news of the passing of our beloved sister from the community, Sasha, is one of absolute heartbreak and tragedy," the statement said. "We hold her spirit and those of her loved ones in our hearts. We are equally heart broken by the flagrant disrespect and desecration of her memory by the media that has chosen to dishonor and misgender her in their reporting. We are calling for our media partners to be more reflective of their practices, issue an apology for their coverage, and commit to improving their efforts for authentically reporting the stories of our beloved transgender and gender non-conforming communities."

OCSO did finally send an updated report, six hours later, referring to Garden as "transgender." At that point WESH and WFTV updated their headlines. WESH referred to her as a "transgender woman," and WFTV called Garden a "woman." But six hours in the news cycle is an eternity, and the damage was already done. Pageviews were already logged, and the people who read these articles on Facebook or Twitter had already snickered at the headlines. 

This is something that TV newsrooms to to address. Maybe sit down with reps from the trans community and open up a dialogue. You want to report the story and have the facts, but at the same time you need to show respect for the victims. 

It might not be an easy conversation, but it was  one that stations should start having. 

Just saying...