Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Charlie Howard Remembered on the 25th Anniversary of His Murder

Charlie Howard HS photo

Charles O. "Charlie" Howard's High School Annual Picture

Charles O. “Charlie” Howard, thrown off a downtown Bangor bridge and drowned in 1984 by young hoodlums intent on terrorizing a gay person, is being remembered all week in Maine with lectures, events, and church services. After 25 years, a monument to him is finally in place near the State Street Bridge beneath which he died.  His death was terrifying and hard.  According to the autopsy report revealed at the trial of his murderers, he died of a combination of asphyxia from drowning, and from a severe attack of asthma.  Professor Marvin Ellison of Bangor Theological Seminary remembers how his killers were lauded as celebrities when the news got out.  Young toughs rode through the streets of Bangor, spewing anti-gay hate speech and brandishing shotguns.  Even so-called “decent people” adopted a wait-and-see attitude that masked their private belief that somehow the flaming gay boy with the man bag and the painted nails got what was coming to him.  The only religious groups in town who spoke out against the hatred were the Unitarian Universalists and the Jews.  It is hard to remember these things, hard on the self-image of a proud city.  But it has to be done, lest something like this happens again, and Charlie will have died in vain. As Professor Ellison said recently to the Bangor Daily News,

“Now years later, it’s a healthy sign that many more people register embarrassment, outrage and, yes, even shame that such an event happened in their city, their state and their country. For those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, we’ve learned the value of claiming the goodness of our lives and the healing power of pride. We’ve come to realize that we can honor Charlie Howard and others who have lost their lives by living our lives openly with self-respect and with determination to make the world safer for difference.”

Finally, in 2009, Maine has finally recognized same-sex marriage.  Many see this as a vindication in some small way of the pain and suffering of a young gay man ‘way back in the Reagan Era.

Rest in peace, Charlie.

July 7, 2009 - Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, drowning, gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Maine, Marriage Equality, Monuments and markers, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

1 Comment

  1. When I read about events planned in Bangor to mark the anniversary of Charlie’s slaying, memories came flooding back. I was only 25 then and this murder really stirred the gay community, especially in New England. Like Harvey Milk and so many others, Charlie, by his death, made our lives as gay people better. He couldn’t know what his death would mean for the LGBT rights movement but I hope he had even a small sense of what a hero he was just by living his life authentically, in Portsmouth NH, and in Bangor ME, in 1984.

    Comment by Scott | July 8, 2009

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