Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Threatening Postcards to Gay Profs Ignite Investigations

Images on hate mail sent to gay professor, John Koster photo for North County Times

San Marcos, CA – Authorities for the county, state, and federal governments launched a co-ordinated investigation last week into menacing postcards being sent to three gay Palomar College professors.  Since mid-2008, 20 postcards threatening murder have been sent to the trio, with 1o of these targeting Dr. Fergal O’Doherty, an open and out gay man who teaches English at the San Marcos campus.  O’Doherty said that FBI agents had contacted him on January 21, informing him that they are carrying out an investigation.  Sending threats through the U.S. Mail is an automatic federal offense.  O’Doherty told Morgan Cook, staff writer for the North County Times, that the cards sent to him have included images of sexual violence and death, the most disturbing of which showed skeletons engaged in sex acts with a repetitive caption reading “I’m glad I’m not dead” 10 times.  The tenth caption omitted the word “dead.”  One of the most recent cards Professor O’Doherty received shows a collage of pop culture images, a Nazi swastika, and a drawing of Elvis Presley sporting devil’s horns.  The caption on this postcard reads, “I want to go to Hell like Elvis.”  Authorities have not yet determined that these cards constitute a hate crime, but colleagues on the Palomar College campus are not waiting for such a determination.  They have founded a group to raise awareness of hate crimes and combat them before they are acted out, called the Palomar College Committee to Combat Hate.  Members of the group are committed to the human rights of LGBT people on the campus.  O’Doherty says that since he is one of the few openly homosexual professors at the 30,000 student community college, located 30 miles north of San Diego, his sexual orientation is probably the magnet for the hate mail.  From the variety of academic and pop culture icons incorporated into the cards, some as eminent as singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen and author Ernest Hemingway, but also including relatively obscure philosophers, O’Doherty speculates that the person creating them is intelligent, well-read, and dangerous.  “[The card-creator] mentions works by writers and philosophers that aren’t even assigned in undergrad classes,” he told the North County Times.  While this is not the first time O’Doherty and other gay faculty have been harassed for their sexual orientation, this is the first time officials have taken the threat seriously.  Even then, when the postcards started appearing, campus police refused to act, apparently believing that they were written by a harmless crank.  With over 13,000 documented violent crimes perpetrated against LGBT people throughout the nation in the decade prior to the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in October 2009, and spiking numbers of anti-LGBT hate crimes in California where Proposition 8 and Marriage Equality are such hotly contested issues, the decision to launch an investigation is more than prudent on the part of law enforcement.  Prevention is possible only when the menace is taken seriously.  That is exactly what Professor O’Doherty knows to be true, as he shows his most recent death threat by mail to the press.

January 29, 2010 - Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, California, death threats, FBI, gay men, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Marriage Equality, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Popular Culture, Proposition 8 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: