LGBT activists can dissect the Times coverage better than I can, and in a fuller scope. But my focus here is women and appearance, and that means that in addition to the "othering" of trans people, I see this as an endorsement of the beauty standard. The Times would not have given two shits if Lorena were less successful in the feminine performance; if she looked like a dude in a dress, how would the story have been written? Would the story have been written? (It may well have been, even if the story were about a biological woman; it is a death by fire, possibly arson, which is news-friendly.) If the nation's most venerable newspaper can get away with describing a dead person in these terms in the very first line of the piece, that means it really only stopped describing all women in those terms because they "had" to, in order to shut up those mouthy feminists. The journalistic "twist" of incorporating Lorena's beauty into the piece "works" because the reader isn't initially picturing a trans woman, but a biological one. It also works because it gives us exactly what we want: the dead, beautiful woman, her hourglass figure forever taken from our gaze.
So yes, I think that her being transgender has a place in this story. And since I'm pointing out the things the Times did right with this piece, I'll point out that the reporters used female pronouns throughout and managed to have a non-sensationalistic headline. For that matter, the Times could have ignored her death because she was transgender and few would be the wiser; Lorena could have been just another dead (possibly murdered) trans person and, hey, who cares, right? That would be worse. But being grateful for scraps isn't enough, not when a dead woman's beauty—whatever her origin or background—is the news, not her death. It's something that the New York Post—which is usually far more sensationalistic than the Times—picked up on. In their coverage, they did indeed mention that Lorena was a transgender performer, which was, after all, part of how she made her living. But not a word was written about her looks. The Times should have learned from its coverage last year of the gang rape of an 11-year-old by a total of 18 men, which mentioned the victim's fashion and makeup choices. But they didn't.
One of the biggest things I've learned since starting The Beheld is that the experiences of all oppressed people—trans people, gay people, people of color—are interconnected. I knew this intellectually before starting this blog, but now I know it on a deeper level. As a woman, I'm judged in part by how well I "pass"—pass as an attractive woman who knows how to send the right signals, pass as a woman who wants to be taken seriously yet still seen as desirable. Lorena Xtravaganza was also judged on how well she "passed." And as this piece shows, even if you pass with flying colors, you can still be punished in the end.