The violent death of a transgender Texas woman almost went unacknowledged after police and local media misgendered and dead-named her. Stephanie Montez, 47, was initially referred to as "a man in a dress" in a Nueces County police report.
Had friends not investigated her disappearance and spoken up, it's likely we'd never know about the murder of what's believed to be the 22nd transgender American this year alone.
An October 26 article in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported that the sheriff's office was "investigating the death of a 47-year-old man found with multiple gunshot wounds on County Road 61 near Robstown."
Medical examiner Heraldo Pena said authorities initially believed the person was a woman; the person was wearing a dress and make up. They discovered later the person was male and that he had been shot in the chest, abdomen and a shoulder.
When a crime is committed, especially when the victim can't speak for themselves, misinformation and misunderstanding can seep into the reporting. But surely the reporter, who used Montez's birth name, could have considered that someone "wearing a dress and makeup" identified as a woman.
And in fact, an article the following day by the same writer, correctly identifies Montez.
“She used to like to dance,” friend Brittany Ramirez told the paper. “She really enjoyed life. She was one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet.” Ramirez added that Montez “"had a great outlook on life."
"She was very supportive of everyone... I’m hoping everyone has equal rights. It’s a human life regardless.”
PFLAG Corpus Christi will host a rally on November 4 to draw attention to Stephanie Montez's murder and the lack of protections for the LGBT community. In Texas, gender identity isn’t covered under hate-crime statues—in Corpus Christi, neither sexual orientation nor gender identity are included in discrimination laws.
Last term, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick backed SB6, the “Texas Privacy Act,” as one of his top priorities: It would have barred transgender people from using bathrooms and other facilities that match their gender identity. (Schools and government services would have faced $1,000 to $10,500 penalties for not complying.) Speaker Joe Straus blocked the measure from reaching the House floor last spring, calling it "manufactured and unnecessary."