Two years ago, NBC reported on a big change at queer media advocacy organization GLAAD. The organization had added a “Q” to “LGBT” in its Media Reference Guide.
The guide is supposed to be a definitive resource for reporters covering the LGBTQ community, and given NBC’s reporting on it, one might assume the network and its affiliates had actually read it.
But that didn’t stop NBC Philadelphia from deadnaming a trans woman who was arrested at Philly Pride over the weekend for allegedly trying to burn a “Blue Lives Matter” flag. Deadnaming is the practice of calling a trans person by a former name that they no longer use. Unless a trans person says otherwise, using an old name is widely considered a challenge to a trans person’s humanity.
“Do not reveal a transgender person’s birth name without explicit permission from them,” reads the GLAAD media guide. “If the person is not able to answer questions about their birth name, err on the side of caution and do not reveal it.”
And yet multiple media outlets including ABC 6 Action News, The Philadelphia Inquirer, FOX News, Philadelphia CBS Local, The Philly Voice, USA Today, The Courier-Post (owned by USA Today), Patch, and AOL all deadnamed her. NJ.com deadnamed her and corrected their article, but continued to deadname her in their caption.
The reports stem from the arrest of ReeAnna Segin, whose arrest has been criticized as political. She was allegedly attempting to burn a “Blue Lives Matter” flag, a symbol associated with police support and backlash against “Black Lives Matter.”
The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that flag burning is protected under the First Amendment, but protesters are also not allowed to endanger others.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office reported that police arrested Segin in a crowd at 12th and Locust streets.
“She attempted to pour accelerant on the flag and tried to light it on fire,” the DA’s Office said in a statement. “There were also road flares protruding from her backpack.”
She faces misdemeanor charges of possession of an instrument of a crime and recklessly endangering another person. Felony charges of attempted arson and causing/ risking a catastrophe were dropped Wednesday after public outcry over her arrest.
Amber Hikes, executive director of LGBT Affairs for the city, reported that Segin was held at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, a men’s jail.
Local Political organization Philly Socialists has reportedly been coordinating support for Segin. The organization told INTO that Segin is not currently talking to media, but in a statement released to on its Facebook page, the group said the incident highlights why police have no place at Pride events.
“Police presence at Pride represents an affront to LGBTQ people and people of color, who daily face threats of unjustified, brutal violence and death at the hands of the police state,” they said.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, police publicly identified Segin as female but used her birth name because it was the only one she provided.
Media outlets went off that information in deciding to deadname Segin.
But these publications knew better. For one, police told them she was female. And local activists like Philly Socialists published Segin’s correct name in calling for her release.
In fact, some of the outlets that deadname her like The Philadelphia Inquirer actually use her correct name alongside her deadname. It’s as if these outlets went out of their way to misgender Segin under the guise of reporting facts.
Neha Ghosh, who co-founded the Philly LGBTQ organization Qunify, points out the irony of Segin being deadnamed after attending a Pride event.
“It felt very wrong,” said Ghosh. “It felt very purposeful when that’s not okay. And the fact that she was sent to a men’s prison was extremely problematic.”
To Ghosh, the entire incident, from Segin’s arrest and detainment to the media’s treatment of her case sends a message to the larger queer community in Philly.
“If you want to talk or protest or discuss any problems within the queer community, we’re going to shut you up.” Ghosh said. “It’s like why aren’t you happy with what we have so far?”
NBC referred questions about its coverage to NBC Philadelphia which declined to comment.