Baltimore, Maryland – The discovery of the body of Mia Henderson, slain transgender woman of color, in Northwest Baltimore signals an alarming increase in the numbers of violent attacks on gender variant and transgender persons. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) and TransGriot, a blog dedicated to raising issues pertinent to the African American transgender community, note that Ms. Henderson’s murder this week is the fifth report of a trans person murdered since June nationally, and the second for Baltimore during the same time span.
Henderson, 26, the sibling of NBA star Reggie Bullock of the Los Angeles Clippers, was found dead in an alley Wednesday morning. Gay Star News reports that her body had suffered “severe trauma,” according to Baltimore Police Department sources, resembling the savagery that took the life of Kandy Hall, 40, in early June, also in Baltimore. No suspects have yet been identified in either of the homicide investigations.
The most recent annual NCAVP report on anti-LGBTQ violence in the United States signals a troubling spike in the number of violent attacks on transgender persons, especially male to female transgender women (M to F), and persons of color. The 2013 report details that “almost three quarters (72%) of [LGBTQ] homicide victims were transgender women, and more than two-thirds (67%) of homicide victims were transgender women of color, yet transgender survivors and victims only represent 13% of total reports to NCAVP.” The report goes on to say that transgender victims are more at risk of injuries, and ethnic/racial minority transgender persons were more likely to be harmed in shelters than the population at large. From the report: “Transgender men were 1.5 times more likely to experience injuries as a result of hate violence and 4.3 times more likely to be the target of hate violence in shelters when compared with other survivors. Transgender people of color were 1.8 times more likely to experience hate violence in shelters.”
Port Bolivar – Suspicions are mounting in the double murder of a Texas Lesbian couple whose bodies were discovered by a dumpster in Port Bolivar. KHOU Houston reports that the corpses of Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson, both 24, were found dumped beside a trash dumpster outside of Fisherman’s Cove store by a beer deliveryman taking out garbage early on March 7. Galveston Sheriff’s Department officials say that the young women were in a romantic relationship. Details of the murders remain scarce, but officials have said that each of the victims was killed in a different way, and that the lack of blood at the scene suggests they were murdered at another location, after which their bodies were taken to the dumpster site.
KTRK Eyewitness News says that the young lesbians who lived with their great grandmother had gone to Galveston for Mardi Gras. Jackson, who is described by her relatives as loving her partner Cosby, leaves behind a five year old daughter. The child considered Cosby and Jackson as her parents. The families of both women are desperate for answers. They are pleading for informers to come forward and give authorities leads as to who killed their loved ones. McDade Cosby, Britney’s sister, begged the public via KTRK, “Just come forward, just to give us closure as a family. Just come forward, ’cause we need closure at this point.” Crystal’s sister, Lequita Jackson, sobbed as she decried the murder, “What did they do to you to kill my sister? You beat my sister up and you just, you messed her up to the point she can’t breath no more.”
Police are searching for Britney Cosby’s 2006 Silver Kia Sorrento that appears to have been stolen. Authorities believe whoever took the vehicle may be the key to this grisly double murder. In an update on the case, a police sketch of a prime suspect in the murders has been released to the press.
The quiet beach town is rattled and on edge from the news of the murders. Residents say they do not feel safe. “Unbelievable, it’s scary,” Nancy Palley, a Port Bolivar citizen, said to Huffington Post. “You know, I told my husband we are making sure to lock our doors today. I’m not coming home to find someone in my house.” Though an explicit statement that these killings are an anti-gay hate crime, that possibility looms large in the minds of the public and law enforcement. This case recalls the double shooting of two lesbians in Portland, Texas, a Corpus Christi area town, in 2012. Mollie Olgin, 19, was found dead at the scene of a gunshot wound, and her partner, Mary Christine Chapa, 18, was grievously wounded but survived. No one has been arrested in the Portland murders.
San Diego, California – A gay man who was brutally beaten with a ball bat across the face in the Hillcrest Neighborhood of San Diego used to feel gay people were safe in San Diego. No more. Dwayne Wynn, walking along the sidewalk at midnight Monday was targeted for being gay by three men who pulled up behind him in a truck and ambushed him with a ball bat, crushing his eye socket and smashing his ribs. 10News.com interviewed a tearful Wynn in his home, still obviously shaken by his ordeal. Wynn told News10 that he heard an anti-gay slur shouted behind him, and then was struck full in the face with the bat. “The last thing I see is a baseball bat being swapped right across the face,” he said. “I was laying there,” said Wynn. “I was covered in blood and I could hear them literally high fiving each other as they’re walking to their truck.” It all happened so quickly that Wynn could not get an accurate description of the men who assaulted him or the vehicle they were driving. “I thought I was dead,” he said, trembling from emotion. “I’ve never been that scared in my entire life. I literally thought I was going to die. I thought they were going to kill me. They were beating me that bad.”
The spree nature of the attack in the heart of Hillcrest, the San Diego neighborhood noted for “tolerance and acceptance” sends a wake up call to the residents of the large, active LGBTQ community there, reminding them that diversity is not the same thing as equality. “They just didn’t stop and they thought it was a game,” Wynn said, according to EDGE. “They thought it was fun.”
Unfinished Lives author, Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, commented that major metropolitan LGBTQ communities have been lulled into a sense of complacency by recent news of marriage equality victories throughout the nation. “Cities like San Diego pride themselves in diversity and tolerance,” Sprinkle said, “but that doesn’t mean queer folk are safe anywhere they live. Just because you live in a bubble, you do not live in a culture that accepts and defends your right to exist and be secure from harm.” Sprinkle, an LGBTQ hate crimes expert, noted that a prominent gay bookstore in Hillcrest was contacted to host a book signing and discussion on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes for the upcoming Martin Luther King Weekend, but the store management declined since the issue did not seem pressing. “Now, with this gruesome crime in the heart of the ‘gayborhood,’ perhaps anti-gay hate crimes are a bit more real in San Diego,” Sprinkle observed. “We are thankful complacency has not cost anyone his or her life there,” he said.
The Hillcrest neighborhood, just north of famous Balboa Park, hosts the largest civic celebration in San Diego each year, the Pride Festival, drawing thousands. Dwayne Wynn used to feel safe and secure in his neighborhood. Now, he and many others do not, due to a group of homophobic men who are still at large, hunting down gay men.
The Advocate reports that the gay men were beaten, dragged by their hair, and threatened with a knife. Malone, who lost a tooth in the attack, said one of the assailants slashed at his stomach and his head with a knife, intending to stab him. “He swung it at my stomach and then swung it back up at my face,” Malone said. In a defensive move, Malone kicked off the stiletto heels he was wearing, and used them to back the attackers off.
In their interview with KATU, the three men vividly recalled the chaos and fear they felt as their assailants pressed their assault:
“I was on the ground and they reached over and punched him in the face.”
“All I saw was blood all over his mouth.”
“I was in shock. I felt my tooth go into my tongue and I spit it out onto the ground.”
“All I remember is hearing somebody yell there was a knife.”
“He swung it at my stomach and then swung it back up at my face.”
A passing cyclist aided the victims, and the gang of attackers ran from the scene, leaving the trio scarred, bruised, and shaken, but thankful they were not injured more seriously from the sudden, savage assault. Hundreds from the community have responded with messages of support and comfort to the victims, and have donated money to help with medical expenses. In one overwhelming expression of generosity, a local dentist replaced Malone’s broken tooth with a temporary replacement, and pledged to complete the permanent dental replacement later.
Hughes, Malone, and Miller reported the attack as an anti-gay hate crime, but they are not optimistic about anyone being apprehended and charged in the case. They understand that their costumes were provocative, and that some might not appreciate their taste, but they never imagined that irrational hatred could turn the evening so brutal. All three gay men are clear, however, that nothing they did provoked the attack, and they are determined to remain strong and proud in their gender presentations and identities. As Malone told EDGE Boston, they are not going to let this experience change who they are, “Not even for a second.”
Omaha, Nebraska – A straight friend of two gays stepped up to defend them from harassment by three belligerent men, and received a thrashing for it. Refusing to retaliate, Ryan Langenegger stood his ground, battered and bloody, and asked his assailants the one question all fearful, homophobic people should have to answer: “Why?”
KMTV Action News 3 reports that Langenegger, who self-identifies as heterosexual, and his out gay friends, Josh Foo and Jacob Gellinger, had dropped into Omaha’s popular Old Market late Saturday night to grab a bite to eat at PepperJax Grill when the three alleged homophobes approached their table. Gellinger who was wearing a dress that evening was the initial target of the most vocal of the men, who called him “disgusting” and the others “faggots.” Attempting to avoid a confrontation, Gellinger, Foo, and Langenegger left the grill, but their three harassers followed them outside and intensified their name-calling. According to Huffington Post, Langenegger stepped between the belligerents and his friends, saying that they should just leave the gay men alone. One of the verbal assailants then punched Langenegger so hard it chipped two of his teeth, deeply gashed his brow between his eyes, and left his face a bloody wreck.
Josh Foo wrote up his own account of what happened on his Facebook page, expressing appreciation for the courage of his straight friend. Referring to a photo of Langenegger taken soon after the assault, Foo posted: “This photo was taken soon after Ryan stood up for my friend and I after being called ‘faggots’,’disgusting’, etc. by a group of men at a restaurant who then followed us outside. We did not provoke this in anyway and also did not retaliate after the assault. Ryan, after being hit, paused and looked at the men and asked ‘Why’? which was the question we were all wondering since we did not do anything wrong besides be ourselves. What Ryan did meant a lot to me and I thank him for standing up for his friends and accepting them for who they are in everyway. He’s a great friend. The world needs more people like him.”
In an interview with KMTV 3, Langenegger called the entire incident “sad, very sad,” going on the say that he sees this sort of harassment against gay people all the time in Omaha. Asked if he thought standing up for his friends was worth the beating he took, Langenegger said “yes!” with no hesitation, adding “It just makes no sense this day and age and in Omaha, for all of this stuff to still be happening and out in the streets.” He hopes that the news of this unprovoked attack will serve as a wake-up call to the LGBTQ community.
Meanwhile, authorities are seeking leads in the case. In the face of unreasoning hatred, Ryan Langenegger’s one-word question demands an answer on behalf of us all: “Why?” May Mr. Langenegger’s tribe increase everywhere, until homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia have vanished from among us.