Schultz’s recent death underscores the issues of police violence, mental illness in the LGBTQ+ community and the accountability of journalists who cover such tragedies.
In the past week, the coverage of Schultz’s death spanned university, local and national journalism outlets.
While every publication strived to accurately report the events of that Sept. 16 evening, the ways that writers and editors have approached Schultz’s gender identity range from clumsy to blatantly disrespectful.
Most articles include the following quote from Schultz’s father:
“Why did you have to shoot? That’s the only question that matters right now. Why did you kill my son?”
It may seem inconsequential, but editing the quote to be gender neutral by substituting “son” with [child] could make a huge difference to the queer and transgender community that Schultz helped foster.
Other articles address Schultz’s use of they/them pronouns awkwardly, with qualifiers written along the lines of:
“Schultz... preferred to be referred to by the pronoun ‘they.’”
"Schultz... preferred using 'they/them' pronouns over 'him' or 'her.'"
Other articles incorrectly refer to Schultz with he/him pronouns. Others do not refer to Schultz by any pronouns at all.
“They” used as a gender-neutral singular pronoun was voted the Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society in 2015. Additionally, the Associated Press added singular “they/them/their” conventions to their style guide last spring.
There is no need for publications to sensationalize or draw any more attention to Schultz’s gender than they would if Schultz were a cisgender man or woman.
Scout Schultz did not “prefer” to be referred to as someone who was nonbinary. They simply were.
In the wake of their painfully early passing, we can, and should, respect that.