Naomi Hersi

Content: murder. Who was Naomi Hersi?

Naomi Hersi was a woman. The photo on that page shows her Black, smiling, beautiful, vibrant. It’s a good photo. She lived in Mill Hill, North West London.

You can read about her brutal murder, that she was “openly transgender”, what her “legal name” (that is, male name) was. You can read the words of her murderer given in evidence at his trial: “I felt open-minded, liberal-minded”. All sorts of details. Here you can read about her dead body. She was in no position to respond to her killer’s attack. Ms Hersi’s family described her as a “sweet and trusting” person who was “funny and carefree”. “Our lives will never be the same. The grief has swallowed us up. It’s consumed us. Maybe one day it will not be so painful but the violence of [the] death haunts us,” her father said. Did the BBC use “[the]” to cover up “his”? I don’t know.

This article, on the woman who tried to help her killer evade justice, and got a suspended sentence and 150 hours of community service, includes the murderer’s description of Miss Hersi, which I do not believe.

So much for the BBC. MTV had a documentary entitled “The Body in the Bathroom: The Murder of Naomi Hersi”. The photo of her there is of her, still alive, and by coincidence with a red patch on the wall behind her head.

After the conviction The Independent reported her “legal name” and that she was an “openly transgender woman”. It reported that her murderer (whose photo, often repeated, is not attractive) “was a former grade A student”. The link is “transgender-murder-sex-drugs-[killer’s name]-naomi-hersi-heathrow-airport”. Almost at the end of the article, it quotes a detective inspector saying she “will be much missed by all those who knew her, especially by her family”. Someone from the Crown Prosecution Service said her death was “tragic”.

The Mirror headline is “Web of lies that snared university drop-out for murder of transgender woman”. The page starts with a video from Channel 5, “The Body in the Bathroom”, then invites the reader to subscribe to “free email alerts from Mirror – Celebs”. The murderer was “a gifted tennis player”. There are three images of Miss Hersi, captioned “(Image: Naomi Hersi)”- the one with the coincidental red stain, and one with her presenting male. There is a long account of the murderer’s lies, and nothing about Miss Hersi at all. Of her family, the Mirror says, “their grief still goes on”.

After the murderer was sentenced, The Guardian published the same unattractive photo of him, and a Press Association report. She was 36. There is one of her photos: the caption again describes her as “sweet and trusting”. The murderer mixed fact and fiction, disregarding anyone but himself. Miss Hersi’s sister is a “hospital doctor”- Registrar? Consultant? Junior doctor? Her father said the grief has “consumed us”. The murderer had been at the LSE but his “promising academic career” was cut short.

The Sun reported on the sentencing of the murderer’s girlfriend. It described Miss Hersi as the murderer’s “transgender lover”. There is nothing about Miss Hersi at all, just about the murderer, his girlfriend who believed his lies until their trial and then had a breakdown, the murder, and how Miss Hersi met the murderer, on a “dating app”.

The Press and Journal of Aberdeen, famed for the “Aberdeen Man Lost at Sea” headline reporting the Titanic sinking, has a tag page for “Naomi Hersi” but no articles now tagged.

I thought the Daily Mail had interviewed her sister Amina, but it appears they only watched “The Body in the Bathroom”. The article refers to Naomi as “he” and by her male name, shows her photo presenting male, and describes the murder in detail. Naomi never showed herself to her sister: she only saw her presenting male. If Amina said anything about what Naomi was like as a person, the film or the Mail don’t consider that worth recounting. Perhaps that’s a good thing: if Amina had only seen her sister presenting male, Naomi had not really shown who she was.

So much for the mainstream media.

A week after the murder, Stonewall commented “Media coverage of Naomi Hersi’s death is a disgrace”. It wrote of the abuse trans people suffer, but nothing about Miss Hersi. Galop, the LGBT+ anti-violence charity, issued a statement on the press coverage of Naomi Hersi. “The media reporting may be unsettling for trans communities…. We are here if you have been affected.”

I had not heard of Fumble, “Your handy guide to sex”. It has a large headline “Black Trans Lives Matter”. It says “It’s time we listened and believed the voices of the trans community”. It then quotes the start of Travis Alabanza’s article in Gal-Dem, a news site with Black women and non-binary journalists. This is that article. As a black nonbinary person Travis apologises to Miss Hersi, that things happened to her that happen to other Black TGV (Trans and Gender Variant) people.

Travis reports “This killing hits particularly hard”. The Times, which reports the most trivial thing if it can make trans people look bad, did not report the murder. They write searingly of anti-blackness: would there be a similar silence for a white trans woman with class privileges? As I said, I am glad I am that trans woman. I am not dead. I say it because it is true: I am not trying to be nice, I just could not bear the additional discrimination. From her still visible Twitter, Travis found out that Miss Hersi was “a tennis enthusiast, a music lover and a chocolate addict”.

Research Naomi Hersi, they said. After an hour and the top twenty articles my Google search finds for her name, I know she was sweet and funny, trusting and carefree, a tennis enthusiast, music lover and chocolate addict, that she at least once used a “dating app”, and that she lived to age 36. I know a bit about her murderer, and her murderer’s deluded accomplice, and a lot about his lies and the crime. I have seen the lovely photographs, and that’s all I know of Naomi Hersi. There may be a tribute on line to Naomi Hersi the person, describing her joys and dreams, but I have not found it. Instead there are reports of the crime and the murderer’s attempts to get off.

Lower down the google rankings, Isabelle Ehiorobo anatomises how the murderer’s story plays on transphobic and racist tropes to portray Naomi as a threat. Sometimes such “Bad Victim” tactics result in acquittal. I look at Isabelle’s photo, see she is Black, think she might be trans, and wish it was a white cis bloke explaining these things, that we did not have to explain them to people, fearing we were not believed. There was a lot of evidence against the murderer, such as the lack of defensive wounds on either party, indicating he had surprised her, and she had no chance to defend herself; and there was CCTV of them together. Without that evidence, might he have got off with it?

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