karr.jpgJohn Mark Karr, who has been using the name Alexis Valoran Reich these days, is the focus of a restraining order issued by San Francisco Court Commissioner William Gargano on account of alleged death threats. The target of said threats is Samantha Spiegel, 19, who also claims that Karr/Reich made threats of a sexual nature toward children.

Not her children – she doesn’t have any that we are aware of – but children in general.

Creepy, but not surprising; Karr/Reich’s claim to fame is a bogus confession in 2006 to the murder of Jon Benet Ramsey, child beauty queen, ten years after her death.

The motivation for this false admission of guilt is not hard to decipher. As the leader of a hoped-for Jon Benet cult dubbed “The Immaculates,” Karr/Reich reportedly fantasized about unleashing a horde of Jon Benet lookalikes on the world that would make even hardcore fans of Toddlers and Tiaras head for the hills. And as our own Beth Spotswood pointed out previously, the impression given by the name “Reich” coupled with an obsession with little blonde girls is one of a creepy white supremacist.

Karr/Reich met Spiegel about ten years ago at a girls school in San Francisco, where Karr worked and Spiegel was enrolled. The two began an online relationship involving emails and video chats a few years ago, culminating in the crescendo of anti-social behavior on Karr’s/Reich’s part that is now making headlines.

The only difficulty is the actual issuance of the restraining order: Karr/Reich is apparently nowhere to be found (though last seen in Seattle), and the changes made to Karr/Reich’s appearance could make pursuit difficult — Karr/Reich been dressing as a woman for a relatively short time, so familiarity with Karr’s appearance won’t help you find as Reich.

A photo of Reich is available, not surprisingly in this modern age via Facebook, but as a generic close-up shot that looks like it was taken with a cell phone it ain’t much to go on.

And, of course, there’s the issue of the pronoun used to describe Karr/Reich — typically, news organizations are expected refer to a person using the gender they self-identify as. However, media reports as recent as last week‘s continue to refer to this person as “he” when it appears that she says she is a she.

Is it sheer laziness on the part of the rest of the heteronormative chattering class preventing them from just referring to Alexis Valoran Reich as the woman she wants to be? (Admittedly, writing/editing this piece felt like a bit of a gender-identity minefield.) For example, we spoke to the producer of a national news broadcast show who said that they continue to refer to Reich as “he” because “as we understand it, he hasn’t gotten the ‘full operation’ yet.”

And it has, indeed, been reported that back in 2006, Karr apparently wavered on gender reassignment, and one could argue that there’s more going on here than a simple crisis of gender identity.

Kristina Wertz of San Francisco’s Transgender Law Center agrees, saying “clearly, there are other things happening in this case than someone transitioning.”

However, regardless of where Reich seems to be on the continuum of gender reassignment, Wertz says that “the best practice is to report the fact that this person seems to be transitioning to female” and to “refer to the person as the gender they’re transitioning to — it’s all about the destination.”

Eve Batey contributed some reporting to this story.

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