Instead of 'deadnaming,' police take bold step of verifying Colorado shooting victims' names, pronouns

  • In Business
  • 2022-11-22 18:23:24Z

As Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez somberly took to the podium during a news conference Monday to identify the five victims fatally shot at Club Q nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, he calmly said their names - and their pronouns.

"We respect all of our community members, including our LGBTQ community," Vasquez said. "Therefore, we will be identifying the victims by how they identified themselves and how their families have loved and identified them."

He reads their names: Kelly Loving; Pronouns are "she/her;" Daniel Aston; Pronouns are "he/him;" Derrick Rump; Pronouns are "he/him;" Ashley Paugh; Pronouns are "she/her;" Raymond Green Vance; Pronouns are "he/him."

Authorities decided to take a rare but deliberate step of taking time verifying the correct names and pronouns of the victims by working with their families, and not merely relying on what the coroner's office provides, a Colorado Springs city spokeswoman told USA TODAY on Monday.

Gesture praised by national LGBTQ leaders

Tony Morrison, a senior communications director from GLAAD, who is currently in Colorado Springs, told USA TODAY that the organization worked closely with the police department "to ensure that the names released will be the names they go by and respectful of the gender-expansive community here."

The goal, Morrison added, was to be "in lockstep with the families affected."

That came as good news to Olivia Hunt, a National Center for Transgender Equality policy director. She's heartened that police are using the names the victims go by, not what appears on their driver's licenses or birth certificates.

"It is refreshing to hear that they are taking the time to make sure they're known by the correct names and pronouns," Hunt said. "Otherwise, it's being even more disrespectful in death as they are by some in life."

Jason Newton, a community relations sergeant for the Colorado Springs Police Department, confirmed the approach.

"We do take our time to ensure that all families have been notified and have a chance to get proper support systems in place before their loved ones' names and photos go out publicly," Newton told USA TODAY in a statement after the victims' names were released. "We always delay to ensure the victims and their families are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve."

'AN ENTERTAINER, A SUPPORTIVE FRIEND': What we know about the Colorado Springs victims

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'A wonderful and welcomed surprise'

The practice of referring to people by a name they don't want, especially in the transgender community, is called ''deadnaming," according to Dr. Jason Lambrese, a psychiatrist at the Cleveland Clinic.

"A transgender person may decide to no longer use their birth or legal name. Instead, they'll choose a name that better aligns with identity," said Lambrese in a published piece on the topic in 2021. "The person who they once were is dead, but the new person is alive, so their current name should be used."

Hunt said what police are doing, in this case, is encouraging and a long time coming.

"Often we don't know if law enforcement even cares if they have this correct information or we infer that they don't care because they often get it so wrong,'' Hunt said. "So many trans people's identities are erased in death when people don't take the care to correctly identify them."

Imara Jones, the founder of TransLash Media, agrees. She calls what the police did a surprise.

"A wonderful and welcomed surprise, but it is also a shame because this is a no-brainer," Jones said. "This should be the norm, without exception. If we want to show respect for the dead, we should go by the name they used in their lives.

"It's not that complicated."

'AND A HERO COMES ALONG...': Man who tackled Colorado Springs shooter to police: 'I was trying to protect my family'

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Colorado Springs PD boldly ID the shooting victims and their pronouns


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