Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Hero and Martyr Postage Stamp Design Revealed

Harvey stampWashington, D.C. – The long-awaited Harvey Milk commemorative postage stamp is now a reality, according to Linn’s Stamp News.  A black-and-white photo image of Harvey Milk will be the central feature of this non-denominated U.S. Postage “Forever” Stamp.  The stamp design includes the colors of the Rainbow Flag in six differently colored squares stacked vertically in the upper left corner.  First day of issue is planned to be May 22, 2014, Harvey Milk Day, to celebrate the San Francisco gay politician, activist, and city supervisor.  Cities likely to be chosen as first issue sites are Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, California.

Milk, who is recognized throughout the world as a hero and martyr of the LGBTQ and human rights struggle, was a U.S. Navy veteran, and one of the earliest openly gay elected officials in the United States, winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of City Supervisors in 1977.  Though gay rights was a major emphasis of his political career, Milk also championed affordable housing, city sanitation, expanded child care, and public transportation. He was shot to death in his City Hall office on November 27, 1978 by Dan White, his one-time colleague who blamed his actions on momentary insanity and disorientation from eating too many sugary desserts.  White also shot and killed San Francisco Mayor George Moscone the same day.  The appearance of this commemorative stamp marks the first time a gay hate crimes murder victim has been publicly honored in this way.

EDGE on the Net reports that The stamp, likely to be issued in a pane of 20, will be used to mail a one-ounce letter regardless of when the stamp is purchased or used and no matter how future prices fluctuate.  The current value of the stamp is 49 cents.

According to SF Gate, the U.S. Postal Service selects only 20 persons per year to be honored with a commemorative stamp, out of the thousands nominated by people all over the globe, and vetted by a citizens’ advisory committee.  Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle in October 2013 at the announcement of the Postal Service’s decision to develop and issue the stamp, Milk’s nephew and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, Stuart Milk said, “We’re excited. We think this will represent my uncle’s message, which is hope and courage and authenticity, very well.” 

April 2, 2014 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, California, gay men, GLBTQ, Harvey Milk, Harvey Milk Commemorative Postage Stamp, Harvey Milk Day, Harvey Milk Foundation, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, San Francisco, U.S. Postal Service (USPS), Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Gay Inaugural Poet Delivers “One Today,” A National Treasure

Richard Blanco poetWashington, D.C. – Richard Blanco delivered his poem at the Second Inaugural Swearing-in Ceremony of President Barack Obama on the threshold of a new era for the descendants of the Stonewall Uprising of 1969.  Gay people make a great stride forward today with our poet leading the way: the youngest Inaugural Poet in the nation’s history, a Cuban-American, and an openly gay man.  With this groundbreaking cultural and literary event, Richard Blanco, at the behest of President Obama, has inaugurated a new dignity and impetus for LGBTQ Americans, and ushers us along the path to becoming a People: diverse, empowered, graced, and maturing into the full equality of national citizenship.  This is one step in a long journey, and no one must be fooled into a sense of ease or rest on a bed of laurels.  But nonetheless we have lived to hear the voice of Our People ring out openly and unhindered across the great mall of the National City, and we have every right and reason to be proud.  Gracias, querido Richard!  Muchísimas gracias! 

Here is the poem in its entirety (video of Blanco’s delivery of the poem available here):

One Today
 
One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.
My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.
All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches 2
as mothers watch children slide into the day.
One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.
The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.
Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello| shalom,
buon giorno |howdy |namaste |or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.
One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound 3
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.
One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.
We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together
Richard Blanco delivers "One Today" at Barack Obama's Second Inaugural Swearing-in Ceremony.

Richard Blanco delivers “One Today” at Barack Obama’s Second Inaugural Swearing-in Ceremony.

January 21, 2013 Posted by | gay men, GLBTQ, Inaugural Poet, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBTQ, President Barack Obama, Richard Blanco, U.S. Presidential Inauguration, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Gay, Latino Inaugural Poet Chosen by President Obama! Felicidades, querido Richard!

 

Richard Blanco, 2013 Inaugural Poet, first gay and Latino in U.S. history.

Richard Blanco, 2013 Inaugural Poet, first gay and Latino in U.S. history.

Washington, D.C. – The 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee has announced that poet Richard Blanco is President Obama’s choice for his Second Inauguration–a gay of Cuban extraction who was shamed by his own family for being gay.  In one historic move, President Obama has chosen the first gay man, the first Latino, and the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. According to Huffington Post, Blanco will recite a poem at the presidential swearing-in ceremony on the U.S. Capitol steps on January 21.

“I’m beside myself, bestowed with this great honor, brimming over with excitement, awe, and gratitude,” Blanco responded to the announcement. “In many ways, this is the very ‘stuff’ of the American Dream, which underlies so much of my work and my life’s story—America’s story, really. I am thrilled by the thought of coming together during this great occasion to celebrate our country and its people through the power of poetry.” 

Blanco is the son of Cuban exiles who fled to Madrid, where he was born. The family moved first to New York City, but then settled eventually in Miami, where Blanco was reared and educated.  He now lives in Bethel, Maine with his life partner.  Politico tells the story of the price he paid as a gay person in Latino culture–even in his own family. Cross currents of cultural identity–Cuban-American and gay–threatened to sweep him into depression or worse. Politico highlights Blanco’s essay, “Afternoons with Endora,” that appeared in the 2009 anthology, “My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them,” where Blanco describes himself as “a boy who hated being a boy.”  As a child, Blanco says he retreated from playing sports to his notebooks, writing and drawing; that he much preferred women’s Tupperware Parties to Clint Eastwood movies.

His grandmother lashed out at Blanco for being gay, calling her own grandson “the shame of the family,” and “little faggot.” 

“According to her,” Blanco wrote, “I was a no-good sissy — un mariconcito — the queer shame of the family. And she let me know it all the time: ‘Why don’t we just sign you up for ballet lessons? Everyone thinks you’re a girl on the phone — can’t you talk like a man? I’d rather have a granddaughter who’s a whore than a grandson who is a faggot like you.’

“Her constant attacks made me an extremely self-conscious and quiet child,” Blanco wrote of his grandmother. “But it also made me a keen observer of the world around me, because my interior world was far too painful. This inadvertently led me to become a writer, a recorder of images and details.”  Seeking refuge from his family’s harsh, anti-gay nagging, young Blanco would secretly dress up in his own room as Endora, the magical character from the hit television show Bewitched, and pretend he lived in a world without queer shame. “I wanted to be as powerful as [Endora], and for a little while every afternoon I was,” he wrote. “I could conjure up thunderstorms so I wouldn’t have to go to baseball practice…I could concoct love potions that would make me like girls instead of boys and make my grandmother love me.”

directions-to-the-beach-of-the-dead-bookIt is a testimony to Blanco’s strength of character and web of supportive friends that he rose above queer shame to become one of the premier poets of this era, a rise that caught the attention of President Barack Obama. The President said, “I’m honored that Richard Blanco will join me and Vice President Biden at our second Inaugural. His contributions to the fields of poetry and the arts have already paved a path forward for future generations of writers. Richard’s writing will be wonderfully fitting for an Inaugural that will celebrate the strength of the American people and our nation’s great diversity.”

Achy Obejas, a commentator for WBEZ.org, reflects on the significance of Blanco’s selection as Inaugural Poet, and upon his reasons for crying for joy when he heard of the pick: “The President of the United States, the most powerful man on earth, has chosen a guy you know — a fag, a cubiche who likes to joke that he was made in the U.S. with Cuban parts, with whom you codeswitch about Miyami and lechón and our mamis — to consecrate this moment in history with his — our — words.
“¡Guao!
“And you nod and grin through your stupid tears because you know — you really know — that damn arch really does bend, it really does indeed point to a shinier day.”

Blanco has had a distinguished teaching career at Georgetown, American, and Central Connecticut State universities.  His award-winning books of poetry include City of a Hundred Fires, which won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh, and Directions to The Beach of the Dead, which won the PEN American Center Beyond Margins Award.

When Richard Blanco mounts the podium on Inauguration Day with the whole world watching, they will see a cubiche, no longer un mariconcito–but a spokesperson for all LGBTQ people whose longings are rising above the challenges of discrimination to the heights of full citizenship. “Felicidades, querido Richard,” indeed!

January 9, 2013 Posted by | gay men, GLBTQ, Heterosexism and homophobia, Inaugural Poet, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBTQ, President Barack Obama, Richard Blanco, Slurs and epithets, Special Comments, U.S. Presidential Inauguration, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

PFLAG Founder, Our Mother, Jeanne Manford Dies at 92

Jeanne Manford (1920 - 2013), proudly cradling the photo of her gay son, Monty.

Jeanne Manford (1920 – 2013), proudly cradling the photo of her gay son, Monty.

Washington, D.C. – The founder of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Jeanne Manford, has died at the age of 92.  She was a Giant whose influence for healing and hope among queer folk and their families is incalculable.  Tributes are pouring in from all over the world, led by this one issued by PFLAG Executive Director, Judy Huckaby, which we quote here in its entirety:

“Today the world has lost a pioneer: Jeanne Manford, the founder of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and the Mother of the Straight Ally movement.
 
“Jeanne was one of the fiercest fighters in the battle for acceptance and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. It is truly humbling to imagine in 1972 – just 40 years ago – a simple schoolteacher started this movement of family and ally support, without benefit of any of the technology that today makes a grassroots movement so easy to organize. No Internet. No cellphones. Just a deep love for her son and a sign reading “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for Our Children.”
 
“This simple and powerful message of love and acceptance from one person resonated so strongly it was heard by millions of people worldwide and led to the founding of PFLAG, an organization with more than 350 chapters across the U.S. and 200,000 members and supporters, and the creation of similar organizations across the globe.
 
“Jeanne’s work was called ‘the story of America…of ordinary citizens organizing, agitating, educating for change, of hope stronger than hate, of love more powerful than any insult or injury,’ in a speech by President Barack Obama in 2009.
 
“All of us – people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight allies alike – owe Jeanne our gratitude. We are all beneficiaries of her courage. Jeanne Manford proved the power of a single person to transform the world. She paved the way for us to speak out for what is right, uniting the unique parent, family, and ally voice with the voice of LGBT people everywhere.”
Jeanne Manford’s world changed the day in 1972 when she saw her gay activist son, Monty Manford, brutally attacked at a Gay Activist Alliance (GAA) Rally.  The police refused to intervene.  In her sorrow and outrage, Mrs. Manford wrote letters to the New York Post, penning the now famous words, “I have a homosexual and I love him.”  With uncommon courage, in a hostile context we have largely forgotten once existed, her mother-love acted to defend and empower her child, and all the children of difference who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer. She founded Parents of Gays (POG), the parent organization of we know now as PFLAG.
Through decades of harsh heartbreak, Mrs. Manford comforted the parents and friends of the queer community, fired their children with the grace and fire to live everyday of their lives as the beloved creations of God they were born to be, and challenged the systems and structures of oppression.  Because of her efforts, the world we know experiences less hostility and discrimination than the one she and Monty knew all too well.  In too many ways for us to count, Jeanne Manford was the Mother of us all.
Fr. James Martin, SJ, moved by the news of her passing, wrote his Evening Meditation as a tribute to her today. He concludes it with a heartfelt benediction and blessing upon the work, soul, and life of this great, prophetic spirit.  His words serve as ours tonight:  “May Jeanne Manford rest in peace, and may we always love prophetically, recklessly, prodigally, dangerously, eternally.”  Amen.  Mother of us all, rest well.

January 8, 2013 Posted by | GLBTQ, Jeanne Manford, LGBTQ, PFLAG, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Prayer For the 2012 International AIDS Conference: A Special Comment

Washington, D.C. – As the International AIDS Conference convenes today amidst shocking statistics of the pandemic and hopeful advances toward a cure for this ravaging disease, the Unfinished Lives Project Team offers a Prayer for all who seek to overcome the death, horror and fear associated with HIV/AIDS. May the 20,000 top scientists, activists, policy makers, and everyday people who attend be challenged and inspired by this Franciscan Prayer as we have been [With thanks to Joe Stabile, Nathan Russell of Brite Divinity School, and Jennifer Jacobson who helped transmit the prayer to us].

“St. Francis ‘Neath the Bitter Tree,” by Fr. William McNichols

A Franciscan Blessing

May God bless you with discomfort
at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships
so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears
to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war,
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them
and turn their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference in this world,
so that you can do
what others claim cannot be done.

Amen.

July 25, 2012 Posted by | Brite Divinity School, GLBTQ, Heterosexism and homophobia, HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS prevention, International AIDS Conference, LGBTQ, Social Justice Advocacy, transphobia, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gay Couple Brutally Attacked in D.C.

Washington, D.C. – A gay couple was bashed by three men on the sidewalk near their home early on Sunday morning in NE D.C.  Michael Joel Hall (l), a popular yoga instructor in the District, and his partner, Michael Roike (r), were ambushed by three men, according to MYFOXDC.  The couple had been driven to their neighborhood at about 2 a.m. and were walking to their home on 3rd and T Streets NE when the attack materialized seemingly out of nowhere. Investigators say that the three bashers were yelling anti-gay slurs as they pressed their assault against the couple. Police are investigating the case as a probable anti-gay hate crime.

Both Hall and Roike were injured in the assault.  Hall’s injuries were by far the most severe, suffering a broken cheek bone and fractured face where one of the assailants struck him.  Roike’s mother says that the couple would surely have been killed if passers-by had not shouted at the attackers and rushed to the scene.  The thugs escaped with a cell phone belonging to one of the victims. Hall was rushed to Howard University Hospital where he underwent surgery to repair his shattered face on Monday.

Because Hall has no health insurance and lost his apartment in a recent fire, friends in the yoga community and Hall’s students have created a Facebook page, “Friends of Michael Joel Hall and Michael Roike,”  and established a fund to help defray his medical expenses. The response of the community has been heartening to the couple.  Cobalt/30 degrees is hosting a fundraiser for Hall on Thursday evening, and Flow Yoga in Logan Circle is hosting a “In the Name of Love” fundraiser on Friday night. The Facebook page has details about both these events and the MJH Fund on PayPal.

A local blog, dcist, reports that this hate crime attack is part of a disturbing pattern in the nation’s capital.  Numbers of anti-gay hate crimes have spiked alarmingly in recent months.  Of the 57 confirmed hate crime attacks in the District in 2011, 37 of them targeted LGBTQ people.  In March of this year, hundreds of members of the gay community and straight allies marched from Columbia Heights to Georgia Avenue to draw attention the issue and demand an end to the senseless violence.  As of this writing, there is no report of an arrest in the case.

July 24, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Metropolitan Police (D.C.), Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Vigils, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why We Fight”: Fallen Gay Activist’s Fierce AIDS Speech Remembered on His Birthday

Vito Russo delivering his powerful AIDS activist speech, “Why We Fight,” as part of the ACT-UP protest against callous government neglect of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Vito Russo (1946-1990) would have been 66 today, had the AIDS pandemic not robbed us of him. As a gay activist and groundbreaking film historian, Russo is best remembered for authoring the 1981 book, The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the MoviesBut Russo’s impact on LGBTQ equality and American culture and politics reached farther.  He was a participant in virtually every landmark gay and lesbian rights effort since the Stonewall Rebellion in the streets of New York City in 1969–where he was actually present, protesting in the crowd who fought back against police oppression in what has come to be known as the birth date of the gay rights movement. He became a leader in the Gay Activists Alliance in the aftermath of Stonewall, and a co-founder of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) because of his concern about how gay people were portrayed by the media. In the 1980s, Russo became involved in ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) out of deepening frustration over federal and state governmental refusal to take the HIV/AIDS epidemic seriously.  In 1990, he died of complications from the disease, but his legacy became secure after HBO aired a documentary film version of The Celluloid Closet narrated by comedy great, Lilly Tomlin. Russo’s family authorized a biography in 2011 published by the University of Wisconsin Press, Michael Shiavi’s Celluloid Activist: The Life and Times of Vito Russo. On July 23, HBO will premier a new documentary film, Vito

On the anniversary of his birthday, July 11, we at the Unfinished Lives Project join Jeffrey Schwarz, the Producer/Director of Vito, to recall Russo’s powerful AIDS activism, and to remember the multitudes of women, men, and youth cut down so senselessly by a pandemic the U.S. government would not acknowledge until it began to affect the heterosexual population of this country. As Schwarz says in the Huffington Post: “During the AIDS epidemic Vito watched the world he loved crumble beneath his feet. By the time Vito received his AIDS diagnosis in 1985, the epidemic was well into its first decade, and thousands had already died. Vito had long been involved in empowering his community, so he found a way to channel his rage and grief into effective and history-making activism. ‘Why We Fight,’  Schwarz goes on to say, “was a fiery 1988 speech given before a tumultuous crowd of angry ACT UP demonstrators at the New York State Capitol in Albany.” The Queer Rhetoric Project records that the speech was delivered first in Albany as a part of the “9 Days of Protest” demonstration, and then later in Washington, D.C. at the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Why We Fight,” in its entirety, can be found here.  Toward the climax of his fierce indictment of a medical and political regime in the U.S. marked by footdragging and homophobia, Russo said, almost prophetically:

“Someday, the AIDS crisis will be over. Remember that. And when that day comes, when that day has come and gone, there’ll be people alive on this Earth, gay people and straight people, men and women, black and white, who will hear the story that once there was a terrible disease in this country and all over the world, and that a brave group of people stood up and fought and, in some cases, gave their lives, so that other people might live and be free. So I’m proud to be with my friends today and the people I love, because I think you’re all heroes, and I’m glad to be part of this fight. But, to borrow a phrase from Michael Callen’s song, ‘all we have is love right now. What we don’t have is time.'”

The wrack and ruin of the AIDS pandemic is still with us, and the disease as dangerous as ever.  The Unfinished Lives Team asks you to join us in honoring Vito Russo on the anniversary of his birth by advocating for increased research funding, effective education, and regular testing until this horrible disease is finally defeated.  For now, like Russo, we must continue the struggle–remember the fallen–and do the work of hope.  Happy Birthday, Vito!

July 11, 2012 Posted by | ACT-UP, gay men, GLAAD, GLBTQ, Heterosexism and homophobia, HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS prevention, LGBTQ, New York, Protests and Demonstrations, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Vito Russo, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teen Lesbian Shootings Spark Urgent Calls From Advocacy Groups to Solve the Crime

L to R: Mary Chapa, 18, and Mollie Olgin, 19, gunned down in what many believe was an anti-lesbian hate crime in Coastal Texas.

Austin, Texas and Washington, D.C. – The savage shooting of two Coastal Texas lesbian teens has drawn national attention from major human rights advocacy groups, adding pressure to local law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Justice to bring a killer to justice.  On Saturday morning, the motionless bodies of Mollie Olgin, 19, and Mary Chapa, 18, were found in the tall grass of a popular bayside park in Portland, Texas, where an attacker left them sometime after midnight on Friday (for details, see coverage in Unfinished Lives Blog). Olgin died as a result of a gunshot to her head.  Chapa was rushed to a local hospital for emergency surgery, and remains in serious but stable condition. No suspect or suspects have been identified in the investigation so far. Local authorities have been slow to suggest a motive for the brutal attack. Many believe an anti-lesbian motive lies behind the brutality of the assault, however.  The couple had been in a love relationship for over five months at the time of the killing and assault, according to their friends and co-workers.

The Washington, D.C. based Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights and education group, and Equality Texas (EQ TX), based in Austin, are calling on local officials to find the killer and prosecute this case with all possible speed. In a joint statement issued today from Austin, spokespersons for these groups put their wishes in unmistakable terms.

Equality Texas issued the following statement after speaking with the Community Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Justice:

“Equality Texas joins with the Human Rights Campaign in urging a swift and thorough investigation of this crime. We applaud the Department of Justice Community Relations Service for quickly offering their assistance.  Community members are welcome to join a candlelight walk and vigil this Friday, June 29 at 6 p.m. at Violet Andrews Park, 305 Wildcat, Portland, TX 78374.”

The Human Rights Campaign has reached out to local law enforcement officials as well as the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI. HRC President Chad Griffin released the following statement:

“I want to express my sincerest condolences to the families and friends of the victims of this horrific crime. Two young lesbian women were shot and one lost her life. Regardless of the motivation behind this tragedy, we must send a strong message that violence against anyone is never acceptable. We have reached out to law enforcement officials at both the federal and local level, and hope to see a thorough investigation. These women, and all victims of violent crimes, deserve nothing less.”

June 26, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Equality Texas, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, U.S. Justice Department, Vigils, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Marine Murder Anti-Gay Hate Crime, Prosecutor Says

LCpl Philip Bushong, 23, mistakenly assumed to be gay, stabbed to death for hugging a friend.

Washington, D.C. – Yelling anti-gay slurs, a U.S. Marine stabbed another Marine to death after seeing him embrace his male friend outside a popular Barracks Row pub in the nation’s capital.  The Washington Post reports that Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman confirmed that his office is proceeding with anti-gay hate crime charges against Michael Poth, 20, who stabbed Lance Corporal Philip M. Bushong, 23, on April 21. “This was a hate crime,” Liebman said. “The victim and his friend were embracing outside.”  The Post goes on to say that a DC Metro Police homicide detective reported that the crime took place because Poth believed the two men hugging were both gay.  In fact, while his friend is out and gay, Bushong was heterosexual.

The story confirms what hate crimes activists have seen time and again in fatalities like this: even the assumption that a person is gay or lesbian can be deadly.

Video surveillance of the area shows Bushong lifting his shirt after the attack with a startled look on his face, and then collapsing to the pavement.  His assailant had stabbed him once in the chest with a pocket knife. When Poth heard that Bushong had been transported to a hospital to deal with the stab wound, he was heard shouting, “Good!  I hope he dies!”  Prior to the attack, Poth was heard threatening the two men he saw socializing outside the pub, “I’m going to stab someone and cut their lungs out.” Poth, who had already received a “less-than-honorable discharge” from the Marines according to court testimony, had been under investigation by the Marine Corps since last November for altercations with other Marines, and for drug offenses.

Poth has been charged with second degree murder.  His attorney, who claims his client was defending himself from Bushong, unsuccessfully attempted to get the charge lowered to manslaughter. In the altercation, Bushong was heard calling Poth a “boot,” which in Marine slang suggests that Poth was a substandard soldier.

May 23, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Mistaken as LGBT, Slurs and epithets, stabbings, U.S. Marines, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marine Murdered in Possible Anti-Gay Hate Crime

Philip Bushong, 23, called homophobic slur and stabbed to death by a fellow U.S. Marine

Washington, D.C. – A U.S. Marine was attacked and stabbed through the heart by a fellow Marine who allegedly ignited the fight by calling him an anti-gay slur.  Philip Bushong, 23, was fatally stabbed with a pocket knife on Saturday in the Barracks Row section of D.C. by 20-year-old Michael Poth, according to reports in WTNH News. Gravely wounded, Bushong was rushed to a nearby hospital where he died about an hour later. The stabbing took place near the Marine Barracks and the home of the U.S. Marines Commandant–a bustling section of the U.S. Capitol with shops, restaurants, and residences that is normally thought to be safe because of its proximity to the military barracks.

Witnesses told DC police that Poth called Bushong the homophobic slur as the two Marines passed each other on the sidewalk at about 2:40 a.m., according to the Washington Post.  Bushong, who apparently had never met Poth, took exception to the slur, and the fight erupted in front of a sporting goods store. The DC Metro Police are taking the lead on the investigation of Bushong’s murder, assisted by the Naval Crime Investigative Service.  Poth was charged Monday with second degree murder, according to WJLA News 7. Bail was denied at the request of representatives of the Marine Corps, and Poth will go to court the next time on May 15. Defense attorneys allege self-defense on their client’s part. When Poth was arrested by Marine guards and told that Bushong was on his way to the hospital, he allegedly told them, “Good! I hope he dies!” Carolyn Eaves, a worker a block away from the scene of the crime, told News 7, “Sad. Two families… now destroyed “We have to learn not to call people names, you know. Got to be on our Ps and Qs all the time. Sad.”

Because of the report of the homophobic slur, hate crimes protocols are being observed in the investigation, and the Gay and Lesbian Task Force of the Metro Police have been brought in.  The Advocate reports that OutServe, the first openly gay and lesbian active duty military advocacy organization in the nation, issued a statement on the killing over the weekend.  In part, the statement reads: “We are troubled by the specter that this might have been a hate crime; if so, we anticipate the authorities will pursue it to the fullest extent of the law. This is particularly upsetting since, overall, gay and lesbian Marines have been accepted and treated equally in the force since repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ We look forward to the results of a swift and thorough investigation of this tragic incident.” 

Bushong, a Marine since 2007, was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.  A native of Enfield, Connecticut, he was described by friends and fellow Marines as a fun-loving person who enjoyed his life. Funeral arrangements in Connecticut have not been released to the public at the time of this report.

Hate speech has the capacity to inflame young men, in particular. What prompted one Marine to sling an anti-gay epithet at the other is not known, but neither young man is believed to be gay. The language of violence attached to homophobia is still strong enough to infuriate people like no other speech in our time, and turn otherwise sensible people into combatants, as in this awful case in the nation’s capitol. The Marines have traditionally been felt to have a higher degree of homophobia than the other armed forces, but recent accounts seemed to indicate that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was going well in the Corps. It seems there is much work left to do, however, until young men like these no longer feel that accusations of homosexuality are intolerable to their manhood.

April 24, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Connecticut, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Metropolitan Police (D.C.), OutServe, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, U.S. Marines, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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