Tobi Hill-Meyer

The Murder that Didn't Happen

Filed By Tobi Hill-Meyer | June 23, 2009 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Edeyn Blackeney, Raychel 'Roo'.

Last week I wrote about the reported murder of a young trans woman. But as time went on and the facts could not be verified, suspicions rose about whether it could be a hoax. There is now verification that it did not happen, but hoax might not be quite the right word to describe what happened.

Edeyn Blackeney , the individual who was known to the world as Raychel 'Roo' wrote an apology letter explaining that she has a form of Dissociative Identity Disorder, also known as Multiple Personality Disorder, and that Raychel was one of her personalities.

This whole situation has brought up a lot of emotions in our community and clearly people are still feeling a lot of pain, frustration, and anger. Personally, I'm not unfamiliar with DID/MPD, having multiple people who are important to me in my life who live with it. In this case it sounds as if there may be additional psychological factors as well, regardless, Edeyn was pretty clear to say that she genuinely believed that Raychel had been murdered and did not intend to frighten or upset anyone.

I hope to write in more detail on this, later, when I have more time and a chance to gather more information. For now, I hope we can take this as an opportunity to reflect about our community, how we respond to situations like these, and perhaps taking this as a reminder for the need of publicly accessible and non-discriminatory mental health support.


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Tobi, your post brings up several issues. First and foremost, once again, information is being posted in a highly public way both by you and by Laura's Playground without any attempt at confirmation or a check as to its validity. Haven't either of you learned anything from this sad episode? Yes, mental health issues deserve a lot more attention and resources in this society, but we really don't know if that has anything whatsoever to do with her explanation as to why she did it. Nor do we even know this person is actually the one responsible for it. Nor do we know whether, if her identity was found out, this explanation is a backup to keep her from being ostracized in the trans community.

In any event, D.I.D. is a highly controversial diagnosis and I believe there are many therapists who might say how this (and an earlier episode of 'crying wolf' over a false transkid identity) don't seem like obvious examples of it. My advice to you and to all bloggers who are once again willing to blindly accept what someone over the Internet has posted is don't write what you don't know. If you don't have multiple sources, then don't present something here as if it's fact. You're seriously not doing our community and young transitioners any favors.

I'm very clear about my sources and try to keep to objectively stated facts. I see a place above where I didn't do that, and I fixed it.

As for the diagnosis, it could be DID/MPD, Munchausen's, a delusion disorder, schizophrenia, pathological lying, or any combination of those. But do you see an explanation that doesn't involve mental health? Even assuming that everything she says is a lie, I can't help but come to that conclusion. And if that's the case, quibling over the diagnosis (which her doctors might not even have consensus on), doesn't seem very productive.

The bottom line is that there wasn't a murder and the person who spread the news of the murder apologized with an exlpanation that it was sparked by mental health issues she has.

sources? one unconfirmed source from Laura's playground. Everyone, including you were quoting Laura's Playground which turns out, never actually met this person, in real life. MSM has rules about confirming. Minimum two independent sources, before they post a story. Bloggers should perhaps learn something from the professionals here.
Alarm bells went off early on this and the folks who posted this with full trust and no checking, should, I hope, learned something from this mistake.

I linked to two unconfirmed sources, which we now know were both must have been based on Edeyn’s words (and one has been taken down). But I always link to sources when I can exactly for this reason. I’m not trying to be a professional journalist. I don’t have a fact checking department or paid staff and this isn’t my full time or even part time job. There are about as many different approaches to blogging as there are approaches to writing. Personally I try to be something different than a journalist but that doesn’t mean I don’t think of my responsibility.

The links are there for anyone to check into and come to their own conclusions. I first made the post saying that it hadn’t been verified by mainstream media, when suspicions arose, I gave an update asking people to be patient and not make assumptions until we knew more, and when new information became available I gave an update on that as well. I’m sorry that my sources were wrong, and yes I have learned from this. But what you’re asking for is not possible. If internet sources are inherently suspect and are often given without contact information, phone conversations can be with people pretending to be others, and even mainstream media websites can be hacked, then the verification required is far beyond what I’m capable of. At least until I get my fact checking department. In the meantime, I’ll continue to be transparent and clearly identify where I get the information I pass on and I'll continue to strive to represent things accurately.

"I’ll continue to be transparent and clearly identify where I get the information I pass on and I'll continue to strive to represent things accurately."

People aren't questioning your "transparency", they're questioning your judgement. Particularly in facilitating this persons 2nd message.

If this person is mentally ill; you've consensually become part of their delusional system. If they're not you've assisted in furthering their rather cruel fraud.

Toby Hill-Meyer
or not

Okay, so I'm new at this reporting news things. Help me with the ethics of it. Should I have not posted this update? Would it all have been okay if I used the word "alleged" half a dozen times? Is there a way to inform people about her apology that wouldn't appear to unquestioningly validate it -- as that was my intention when I used language like "Edeyn said she..." rather than "Edeyn was..." but that apparently isn't enoug.

Additionally, if I were to try to verify this, how should I do that? I don't have her IP, I'm not sure I'd know what to do if I did, and if I got in touch with her doctors any medical information would be confidential.

On another note, this morning I've been informed about a series of hate crimes that happened around a nearby pride that I went to. There's a personal testimony posted to a discussion board website. There won't be a police report, because half the testimony was about how the police stood by and watched without doing anything or arresting the perpetrator and insisted that a report wasn't necessary. For the same reason, I doubt it'll be in the mainstream news. There are no last names given, but one of my friends says that ze knows two of them. And a second person on the discussion board verified some of the facts from a second perspective and a third person posted a picture of one of the victims next to a blood stain on the street. Of course, there's nothing stopping a person from posting under two or three names, there were folks saying they knew Raychel, too, or it could be two or three people perpetrating a hoax together, and photos can be photoshopped easily, or it could be next to an old blood stain.

After this incident, I'm just not going to repost this -- I'm taking a break from posting news and sticking to personal opinion. But if I wanted to spread the word on this incident, or publicize the protest they are planning on having what should I do to verify it before doing so? Because I just don't know how I'm supposed to meet this standard of verification and I don't think the answer is that no one should spread the word or attend their demonstration until the mainstream media reports on it.

Tobi,
As an activist who also works as a journalist, I'm acutely aware of the tensions that arise when you're writing about matters that mean a lot to you. As far as the story of crimes and police indifference is concerned, the best thing to do might be to simply state the facts as people give them to you, and to make sure you contact all sides, including the police. If the cops don't respond or just give you a "no comment," it's fine to just record that in your piece. That way, the readers can deduce what they want about why some people spoke/verified and others didn't.

I wouldn't see discussion boards as news sources. If you find a photo or an account of what happened on one of them and want to pursue the lead, make sure you get in touch with the person who posts and make sure to verify their identity. If you don't know them and they're not willing to give you the most basic identifying information, they're not a verifiable source. Also, in situations where people only go by first names, it's key to remember that people share first names so people who tell you they know the people who post may, operative word may, be thinking about other people. I know that sounds obvious, but all of this really came home to me at a recent anarchist conference where nobody even used their real names, and yet people also shared assumed names - which made it hard to keep track of people.

For what it's worth, as concerned as I am about this particular story, for reasons I've already gone into in my earlier comments on the last blgo, I'm cynical of the pretense to absolute objectivity that some in the press still hold to. Case in point: Judith Miller = war on Iraq. But, to be fair, I don't know that this is about objectivity as much as it is about, perhaps, a collective desire on the part of our communities to record issues that do often go unrecorded elsewhere. And that, I think, can cloud our judgment.

And while I don't know much about the disorders claimed by Edeyn, I'm also not willing to see this as an instance that proves that we need to pay more attention to matters of mental health care. I think that issue is already being handled, albeit in fits and starts in a culture that's phobic about anything with the word "mental" attached to it. But simply taking for granted that her action came about as a result of a clinical/psychological issue is, I think, more damaging than beneficial to the cause of getting society to take such matters more seriously.

I can, actually, think of other reasons for her to do what she did: a desire to create mischief; a need to toy with the feelings of already embattled trans folk; sheer spite for the heck of it? I may well be proven wrong in all this, but I just wanted to make it clear that I don't think it's so wrong to bluntly assume the worst of people. Maybe I'm just too cynical, having seen too many people wound others for the heck of it, but human nature can be pretty warped.

In the end, for me, the real issue is the issue of vulnerability of teens who were, apparently, mentored by someone who was not vetted thoroughly. I've already indicated below that I'd like to talk to people at Laura's for a piece I'm writing on that, and if you or others know anyone who'd be willing to talk to me, please feel free to contact me at nairyasmin@yahoo.com. And while I don't claim to be an expert, feel free to contact me about how to proceed with the protest story as well.

Regan DuCasse | June 23, 2009 12:08 PM

This is unfortunate that a young person's mental disorder rattled so many people.
It doesn't diminish how and how often transgendered folks are at terrible risk for assault.

I've known some people with a form of Munchausen's which can have similar symptoms, but when someone with this issue can get an online community involved, the impact, of course will be larger.

Someone with this disorder, who engages so many people in sympathy, puts themselves at another kind of risk.
Knowing what violent head cases there are, who don't take kindly to deception by inducing sympathy, Roo is courting that kind of threat as well.

I want Roo to take care and mind having counsel and care close by.

Kathy Padilla | June 23, 2009 3:51 PM

We have no idea if this person is a youth, is transgender or has any form of DID/MPD. Though they report having Roo as an identity, they also posed as her mother - who they do not claim as an identity.

Anonymous posting and no verification of the person's identity by the moderator of the forum means we could never know any of these things. At this point - I think the moderator had a duty to confirm this person's situation prior to posting any further comments on the incident by them.

I think one of thing that is very likely, is that this person is not a youth. And that their presence on any youth boards - particularly as a moderator & advisor to suicidal kids is extremely dangerous.

Kids w(and adults) ho have these feelings should be connected with real resources staffed by trained people - not anonymous boards.

One of the reasons this story had the impact it did is that we're used to being victimized, so much so that when we hear of a transperson being murdered the tendency is to accept it as fact out of hand because it's so damned believable.

I hope this also serves as a lesson to all of us who put our own stuff out there for public consumption on the web: There's a reason why even though more people are getting their news and information online than ever before, the blogs are still commonly seen as inherently less credible than "regular" news sources like newspapers, radio, and television.

The fact is that people are paying attention. Misinformation like this, whether intentional or not, has consequences. It's only a relatively recent development that web-based writers and new sources have become commonly used as guest experts in mainstream newsmedia.

I think it's incumbent upon all bloggers, no matter who we are or what we're blogging about, to make sure that when we're disseminating news rather than just our own opinions we get our facts straight, or at the very least we make clear at the outset when information hasn't been verified as accurate.

We need to link to the sources for our information, and we need to be sure that those sources accurately reflect what we're reporting. In short, if and when we act as journalists, we must also exercise the same level of care in verifying information as professional journalists do. Confirming information through at least two credible sources should be the very minimum before going public with what is essentially an unsubstantiated rumor until it's verified.

I think we bloggers have the most responsibility to sniff out stuff like this because it's our reputations which will take a hit when stuff like this gets more credibility than it actually deserves.

The bottom line is not that there wasn't a murder. There wasn't even such a person to be murdered. The bottom line is people largely had apoplexy because a young, passable post-op was supposedly murdered. Whoever it was who did the fraud knew this community and its fantasies and created this fiction accordingly. It got ten times more reaction than when young transwomen of color actually get murdered. That's the real point, IMO.

And moreover, I see no attempt to verify this newest story on any level. I'm assuming (from her letter on Laura's Playground) they traced her IP address and confronted her. I didn't see anyone in the thread who actually knew her. She has a Facebook page and two Twitter accounts (that we know of, anyway). She makes no apology for what she's done. This diagnosis and her situation is purely on her word. As others wrote in the LP thread, her behavior sounds nothing whatsoever like DID or Munchhausen's. It does sound like extreme Troll behavior. Whether you consider that a sickness of not, neither of us is qualified to make a diagnosis like that. And this story is just as irresponsible and not-thought-through as the original 'newsflash.'

Jackxthexpumpkinxking | June 24, 2009 4:32 PM

I'm actually quite glad that this was posted. People wanted answers, and this is as much as we know. Maybe its not true, but no one ever said it was. At Laura's, people are still plenty skeptical, and we've been having quite a discussion on it. Personally, I think this is something that needed/needs to be talked about. Thanks for posting this. I thought it was rather well done, and that you were clear on the matter of verification. Thank you.

I think this is definitely something that needs to keep being discussed. As I indicated in a response to the last post, I'm concerned about the issue of the vulnerability of trans youth in such mentoring situations. Jackxthexpumpkinxking or anyone else: If anyone from Laura's would be willing to talk to me for a piece I'm writing, please contact me at nairyasmin@yahoo.com.

Thanks!

It may need to be disccussed further by trans people, by counselors who have realtionship with our community or by orgs that serve us - like - say Kim Pearson of Trans Youth & Family Allies. Maybe Bilerico can invite some of these people to guest post.

There's a guy on Craigslist TG forum that's known for creating hoaxes. Pretended to be a divorced dad of a tragic trans teenager for over a year. It was every bit as detailed and overwrought as "Raychel's" story.

Stepping in as the editor here, I think the way Tobi handled this was appropriate after it became apparent that the murder did not happen. She posted an update to the original post almost immediately that indicated that the story might not have been true, and she was fully transparent about her source when it comes to Edeyn's mental illness.

As Tobi points out, we don't have the resources to fact check every story, or really any story outside of what we see at other sources. Is this the result of DID/MPD? From what Tobi's written, we at least know that the only source is Edeyn herself, and therefore can assume what we want to, as people in the comments have already done.

As for the original posting, well, while I probably would have waited longer before posting something that was originally broken on a discussion board, Tobi followed through and I highly doubt anyone who reads TBP is under the impression that the Raychel Roo murder was a real event. As Tobi points out, we don't necessarily have the time or resources to go through every lead, and we're going to mess up sometimes. Heck, that even happens when I sometimes post commentary based on reports from established media - having two confirmed sources doesn't necessarily mean that a story is correct or complete.

What we do have is transparency, reputation, and a desire to pass on correct and truthful information. And as long as a blogger takes care to pass on all available information about a story and doesn't either go into hiding, lie, or repeat falsehoods after knowing that they're untrue, I think she's doing alright.