Sometime during the night between the 12th and the 13th of June a 26-year-old trans woman lost her life as a result of a stabbing at Vantaa, Finland. The victim’s memory was insulted by both the police and the media. The press release put out by the police misgendered the victim and the media, despite having received new information from a number of trans rights organizations that challenged the police narrative, did not correct their news reports that misgendered the victim. Organizations dedicated to advancing the rights of transgender people in Finland demand that both the authorities and the media take responsibility, follow their legal duties and correct their mistakes. Additionally, both the media and the authorities must treat transgender people with dignity and in a sensitive manner in the future. Equal treatment of trans people is enshrined in Finnish law and must be respected.
The police were very late in putting out a press release concerning the Vantaa homicide and in their report they misgendered the victim, calling her a man. The police also admitted to having forgotten to send out a press release about the homicide. According to people close to the victim and her public social media profiles she had been living out and proud as a woman for several years. In the Vantaa homicide the alleged perpetrator, a man in his 30s, stabbed a woman late in the night. The crime was a murder of a woman belonging to a marginalized group, not an “argument between men”, as the press release sent out by the police framed it.
Misgendering of transgender people in death is still very common and the fear of being remembered by a name that is not yours or in a gender you don’t belong to lives painfully in the hearts of many transgender people. Misgendering, especially at a point when the victim can no longer defend themselves and request it to be corrected, is the final hostile act that people who hold negative or even hostile views towards transgender people can commit, thus insulting the deceased. Due to Finland’s current legislation concerning transgender people many Finnish trans people cannot correct their gender markers on public documents and are therefore forced to use the incorrect gender marker assigned at birth in all official matters. As the Vantaa homicide proves, the current state of Finnish trans legislation has serious effects on the human rights of victims of serious crimes.
Based on the press release published by the police, the Finnish media Ilta-Sanomat published an article on the 16th of July, which ended up misgendering the victim. The misgendering is an understandable mistake, since the information was obtained from the police. However, numerous members of the trans community contacted Ilta-Sanomat and provided more information on the gender of the victim, but to no avail. The article had been updated later on the 17th of July, but only to clarify unrelated comments made by the police. Ilta-Sanomat could have issued a correction and referred to the victim as a person, instead of as a man, which would have avoided the misgendering. As they chose not to do this, the original mistake made by Ilta-Sanomat turned from an accident to an intentional act of misgendering, meaning that Ilta-Sanomat is responsible for insulting the memory of the victim. Another media, MTV Uutiset, published their first article regarding the crime, which included misgendering of the victim. Even when they have corrected the victim’s gender in their future articles, they have not done so in their initial report, which also means that they have chosen to keep misgendering the victim on purpose and are responsible for insulting her memory.
The homicide has caused great concern among Finland’s trans community and especially trans women and transfeminine people are living in even greater fear than before. The violence inflicted by men on women is a societal problem in Finland and marginalized women such as trans women are at an even greater risk of violence. Therefore it is extremely important to document instances of violence correctly. The crime has caused the threat of violence to go from an abstract threat to a concrete, real fear for many people in the community. The actions taken by the police add on to this fear, because the indifference shown by the police, along with misgendering of the victim, sends out a message to minorities that the police do not take their concerns seriously or treat them with respect. According to the Victim Support Finland (RIKU) crimes committed against transgender victims are already strongly underreported and there’s a possibility that even fewer police reports will be filed as the trust between transgender people and the police is eroded even further.
According to a 2020 report by the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency FRA only 16% of LGBTI+ people who’d been victims of violence had reported it to the police. In the same report FRA found that every fifth transgender or intersex person had experienced physical or sexual violence within the past 5 years. This shocking statistic paints a worrying picture that should serve as a wake-up call within the Finnish police. According to the 2019 study of Finnish students by Finnish institute for health and welfare (THL) transgender youth experience more violence and sexual harassment compared to their peers starting as early as middle school. This is a systemic issue that cuts through our entire society.
We the signatories demand that Ilta-Sanomat issue a correction according to the feedback they have received and publicly apologize to the victim and those close to her. We also demand other media outlets to correct their news reports if they include instances of misgendering based on the police reports. The Guidelines for Journalists state that journalists must respect the dignity and human rights of all and respecting a trans person’s true gender is the least that we can expect from journalists following the guidelines.
Additionally, we demand that the police issue a public correction to the press release and publicly apologize for their actions that insulted the memory of the victim. We also demand that the police seriously consider the possibility that the homicide in question was a hate crime and that the police register the crime as an act of violence against a marginalized person. Actions on the part of the police are now required in order to begin rebuilding trust between minorities and the police. We as organizations specializing in this field are prepared to commit to a partnership with the authorities to make sure that the trust is restored.
From the Ministry of the Interior and from the National Police Board we demand concrete steps to investigate the attitudes of police officers in relation to minorities and additional training on minority issues for officers both in training and already in the field. The Vantaa homicide must be the last crime where the police knowingly ignore the victim’s gender and downplay the violence marginalized women are subjected to.
We the signatories want to see the world become a place where everyone is respected as their true selves both in life and in death. We want to see a world where transgender people do not need to fear that their memories might be insulted after they’re gone. This is why we demand action from all parties involved.
On behalf of Transfeminiinit ry, Trans ry, Trasek ry, Regnbågsankan rf and Pro-tukipiste ry,
Vice-chair, Transfeminiinit ry, firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice-chair, Trans ry, email@example.com
Tanja von Knorring
Member of the board, Trasek ry, firstname.lastname@example.org