Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Cleveland Transgender Woman’s Body Found With Multiple Stab Wounds; Now 3 Trans Murders in April

Transgender woman Cemia Acoff, 20, stabbed to death and submerged in a pond west of Cleveland.

Transgender woman Cemia Acoff, 20, stabbed to death and submerged in a pond west of Cleveland.

Cleveland, Ohio – The badly decomposed body of a local transgender woman was found sunken in a pond on Wednesday, April 17.  The victim, Ms. Cemia Acoff, 20 years of age, also known as Ci Ci Dove by her friends, had been reported missing since March 27.  The pond, located in Olmstead Township west of Cleveland, was built to recycle runoff water from a once thriving greenhouse operation in the area.  Ms. Acoff’s body, riddled with stab wounds and naked from the waist down, was tied to a concrete block in order to weigh the corpse down to the bottom of the pond.  The Advocate reports that a resident of a close by apartment complex discovered the body, and notified police.  The coroner had to identify Ms. Acoff by testing her DNA, because of the state of the her remains.

Adding insult to the grief of family and friends, local news outlets heaped disrespect upon Ms. Acoff’s memory, sensationalizing her transition and employing a deeply insensitive reportage template to her story, referring to her as “a man in a dress,” a stock response of transphobic ignorance in situations like these.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Fox 8 were called to task by  GLAAD, faith leaders, and local LGBTQ advocates. For example, Fox 8 published a whole paragraph in their report demeaning Ms. Acoff’s character for having a police record, and describing the clothes found on her corpse.  The outcry against such negative coverage of the murder of a transgender woman caused both the Plain Dealer and Fox 8 to modify their previous stories, but GLAAD representative Aaron McQuade issued a statement to the press calling on both local news outlets to meet with GLAAD and members of the transgender community to learn what more they need to do to redress the damage they have already done to the memory of Ms. Acoff.  In part, McQuade stated: “The truth is, when someone like Cemia appears to identify as female sometimes and male other times, it’s because it’s still socially unacceptable (and often dangerous) to be transgender. The fact that some people in Acoff’s life didn’t know she sometimes identified as female, and the fact that her legal identification might not have reflected her gender identity, doesn’t change the fact that she was a transgender woman.”  

CemiaTransGriot points that the murder of Ms. Acoff is the third anti-transgender hate crime homicide of an African American transwoman reported in the month of April alone.  Besides Ms. Acoff, 29-year-old Kelly Young was shot to death in Baltimore on April 3, and 30-year-old  Ashley Sinclair of Orlando, Florida who was also found shot to death the next day, Thursday, April 4.  The murder of transwomen of color has reached alarming proportions throughout the nation in recent months–all the more reason to get the sad news of the loss of Cemia and her transgender sisters of color widely, sensitively, and accurately distributed throughout the media.  For a further report on the slow rolling decimation of the transgender population in the United States, see the landmark study, “Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey,” which may be accessed in detail on the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force website.

As of this writing, Ms. Acoff’s killer or killers remain at large with no leads.

May 1, 2013 - Posted by | African Americans, Character assassination, Florida, gender identity/expression, GLAAD, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, Maryland, Media Issues, Ohio, Racism, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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