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We screwed up

by BAR Editorial Board

We screwed up

The Bay Area Reporter values the trust that readers place in us. As the oldest, continuously published LGBTQ newspaper in the country, we take our responsibility to the community seriously. That's why when we get it wrong, we owe you an explanation.

Last week, we screwed up.

In a story about a gender nonconforming person. who had been arrested but was not charged, in a possible domestic violence incident, we "deadnamed" the individual ["Person not charged in DV case," January 25]. What that means is that we published the person's old name. We have published the former names of trans people before, sometimes with their permission, but usually for cases in which they've been killed and if that's how the authorities identify them in official documents. In those instances, we have also used the name that the deceased person was known by.

But in the case last week, involving Davia Spain, we should not have published her former name.

The B.A.R. news section uses the Associated Press Stylebook, which is a resource utilized by hundreds of news outlets and contains usage guidelines for all sorts of topics. It has extensive entries on transgender people and AIDS, for example, and contains more mundane topics like how to refer to courts and companies. Last year, the Stylebook included a new entry called Name changes; it states: "In general, use the name by which a person currently lives or is widely known. Include a previous name or names only if relevant to a story."

In this case, Spain's former name was not relevant and should not have been published. We heard from community members about this error. Assistant editors Matthew Bajko and Seth Hemmelgarn, who wrote the story, news editor Cynthia Laird, and publisher-owner Michael Yamashita discussed the issue and reinforced our name change policy. We removed Spain's former name from the online version of the article last Thursday afternoon.

We regret this mistake and apologize.

Other issues
As referenced earlier, regarding the identification of murder victims, we defer to the appropriate law enforcement agencies. We will use a person's name and pronouns by which they were known - as we have done - but will likely include a reference to the official identification. Trans organizations should work with government agencies, like they did after the 2016 Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, to update their policies. In that case, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office's Coroner's Bureau worked with trans advocates and victims' families that preferred names for the known trans victims would be used when issuing the official list of those killed.

Similarly, we try to get comments from relatives of deceased people we write about. In the case of trans people, sometimes their own family members misgender or deadname them. If it's a direct quote, we will leave that in, as we have in the past. We do not change what people say. But we will, as we have for many years, include information that the person is using pronouns with which the deceased person did not identify.

Neither of these two issues has resulted in the objections we received for the Spain article last week.

We respect how people identify, and constantly ask those we interview how they identify and what pronouns they prefer.

We want to be transparent when we fall short. We regularly criticize others when they get it wrong, you deserve to hear from us when we do too.

RIP Dennis Peron
Dennis Peron, the marijuana legalization advocate and activist who died last weekend, was a true San Francisco original. A gay man, Mr. Peron was unstoppable when it came to fighting for sick people to have access to medical cannabis, and his successful Proposition 215 made California the first state in the nation to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes. Along the way, Mr. Peron garnered support from progressive Democrats - and some Republicans - and saw over two-dozen other states follow California's path in the ensuing years.

Mr. Peron suffered many health challenges in recent years, and was out of the spotlight during the successful 2016 push for legalized recreational marijuana in the Golden State. But pot advocates owe him a debt of gratitude for his leadership, especially bringing medical cannabis to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Mr. Peron endured rough treatment from San Francisco police and other authorities over the years, but never waivered in his belief that cannabis helped people living with serious health issues such as glaucoma and the "wasting" side effect of early AIDS medications. His former Cannabis Buyers Club on Market Street was more than one big party - it was where Mr. Peron and like-minded activists came together to help make sick people's lives better.

Mr. Peron was also a longtime activist in the LGBT community, working with pioneers like the late Gilbert Baker, the late Hank Wilson, and Cleve Jones.

We will miss his usually cheerful demeanor and his fighting spirit. California is a more progressive state thanks to his advocacy.

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