Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Anti-Gay, Anti-Latino Murder Trial in Brooklyn; Assailants “Didn’t Like the Way They Looked”

José Sucuzhañay

Brooklyn, New York – After a year and a half, a murdered Ecuadoran immigrant mistaken as gay may get some justice.  José Sucuzhañay, 31, a native of Ecuador with a real estate brokerage in New York, was savagely dispatched with a beer bottle, kicks and stomps, and an aluminum baseball bat, according to testimony reported by media throughout the Five Boroughs of New York.  The trials of Hakim Scott, 26, and Keith Phoenix, 30,  got underway in Brooklyn Supreme Court on April 10 for the 2008 murder of Sucuzhañay. Charges against the pair include second-degree murder, manslaughter, assault, and murder as a hate crime.  If  convicted, the alleged killers could face sentences of 78-years-to-life imprisonment. The defendants are being tried simultaneously before separate juries in a precisely choreographed judicial drama.  At times, both juries are seated to hear the same  testimony.  At other times, dictated by the presentation of evidence, only one jury is present in the courtroom.  As reported by the New York Times, José Sucuzhañay and his brother, Romel, visiting from Ecuador, were attacked at 3  a.m. on December 7, 2008 in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn because Scott and Phoenix “didn’t like the way they looked.”  Prosecutor Josh Hanshaft, referring to Phoenix who allegedly wielded the bat, told the juries, “He didn’t like that they were Hispanic. From his eyes, it appeared they were a gay couple, a way of life he didn’t like and wasn’t going to tolerate.”  In reality, both men were heterosexual.  The Latino brothers had been drinking at parties in the neighborhood and were tipsy enough that they uninhibitedly hugged each other for support and warmth on a bitterly old night as they walked along.  The attackers, who had also been partying that night, set upon them, yelling “faggot ass niggers” and “fucking Spanish,”  from Phoenix’s red SUV.  The prosecution believe that both assailants acted in concert to effect their victim’s death. Scott, Hanshaft said, emerged from the auto and smashed a beer bottle over José’s head.  He then charged Romel with the deadly shards of broken glass, slashing at his neck. Phoenix took the bat, swinging it “high above his head,”  and struck Sucuzhañay “over and over and over again,” Hanshaft said. “He came back with the bat and hit him two to three times on the head, cracking his skull wide open.”  A Brooklyn cabbie at the scene witnessed the attack well enough to capture the license plate of the red SUV, but then had to cover his eyes with his hands, unable to watch the coup de grâce delivered by Phoenix.  As reported by Chelsea Now, taxi driver Davi Almonte, speaking through an interpreter, told the court, “I didn’t want to see the head explode when it was hit. I could hear the impact [of the bat crushing his skull].”  According to NY1, in testimony on the trial’s second day, Demetrius Nathaniels, cousin of Keith Phoenix, heard the bones cracking as Phoenix bludgeoned Sucuzhañay with the bat on his head, back, side and ribs.  A coroner’s report confirmed that José died of a fractured skull from blunt force trauma.  Romel, only superficially injured by Scott’s assault, was left stunned, nearly catatonic by the body of his brother who lay in a massive pool of blood, and had to be led away by police responding to the alarm raised by witnesses.  The alleged killers sped from the scene. A toll booth video capture of the red SUV on the Triborough Bridge clearly shows Phoenix laughing and smiling barely 19 minutes after the fatal attack.  Sucuzhañay was left brain dead, and placed on a ventilator at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens where he finally succumbed on December 12. An outpouring of grief and rage followed news of the murder, both in New York and in Sucuzhañay’s native Ecuador where the slain immigrant was given a near-state funeral attended by hundreds.  New York Gay and Latino advocacy groups organized protests and vigils, while city officials roundly condemned the brutal killing. Philip J. Smallman, attorney for Phoenix, summed up the consensus of all concerned with events of December 7: “Does anything good happen at 3 o’clock on a Sunday morning in 30-degree weather, with people with bellies full of booze?” he asked.  The Brooklyn trial is expected to last for a number of weeks.

April 28, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, Brooklyn, Ecuador, funerals, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latinos, Law and Order, Mistaken as LGBT, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Racism, Slurs and epithets, Stomping and Kicking Violence | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Gay College Student Beaten by Homophobes, Ignored by Oklahoma Police

Claremore, OK – A 24-year-old gay college student was beaten late last month by three men screaming anti-gay slurs as he took out the trash at his apartment complex.  Phillip Nelson, an out and open gay man, was jumped and thrashed in the quiet town of Claremore, approximately a half hour drive north of Tulsa.  Investigators have basically blown off the incident, leaving Nelson emotionally wounded in addition to his physical injuries (see photo at left). EDGE reports that Nelson is struggling to cope with the combination of brutal attack and police indifference to a hate crime against him.  “I keep calling them and leaving voice mails but I never hear anything back,” Nelson said during an EDGE interview. “No one ever returns my calls, which has me wondering if they’re kind of trying to let this thing die out and go away, or if they are going to do anything about it.” Media coverage outside the gay blogosphere has been sparce.  Besides the EDGE report, which according to Michael Lavers grew from a tip given by one of their readers, only one other story has appeared in the news media.  Oklahoma lawmakers aver that laws protecting LGBT people are not needed in their state, and in a notorious move by State Senator Steve Russell, legislation has been introduced to circumvent the James Bryd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law by President Obama in October 2009.  The Oklahoma House of Representatives has not yet voted on the bill, which passed the State Senate last month.  Nelson’s case is a clear reason why protection statutes for LGBT Oklahomans is urgently needed.  Nelson’s three attackers who remain unapprehended by local police as of this writing, assaulted him while screaming “You are going to die!” and “Faggot!” leaving him with multiple bruises and cuts on his face and over his body.  Days later, his antagonists broke into Nelson’s apartment and scrawled “Fag” on the walls. Though Nelson reported the beating to Claremore police, no police report of the attack was filed until Nelson called in law enforcement for the break-in.  Then, in what may have been an attempt to cover their tracks, the police insisted that Nelson file separate reports on both crimes.  The whole ordeal has shaken Nelson, but as he told EDGE, he has had to face homophobia all his young life. “I’ve been called names all my life, even by my family members; and after a while I learned to get numb from it,” he said. “I just got numb from a lot of things. I’m happy with myself and that’s all that matters.” LGBT Oklahomans grow tough in the Sooner State.  They have to.

April 27, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, death threats, gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, home-invasion, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, Oklahoma, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Slurs and epithets, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Florida Lesbian Murdered by Girlfriend’s Father

Jerry Lee Seger, accused of the murder of his daughter's lesbian lover

Lakeland, FL – A man has been arrested Saturday for the murder of his daughter’s lesbian lover whose lifeless body was found in a foreclosed home.  Real estate agents discovered the body of 24-year-old Courtney Bright last Thursday as they opened the property to show it to a prospective buyer.  The Polk County Coroner reports that the victim had been strangled to death on Tuesday or Wednesday.  Jerry Lee Seger, 40, has been charged with first-degree murder and is being held in the Polk County jail without bond, according to My Fox Tampa Bay. Bright had been in a romantic relationship with Seger’s 23-year-old daughter, Ashley Dunn, for approximately three years.  Dunn had been arrested Tuesday of last week for dealing in stolen property on a Jackson County warrant.  As has been the case in other Polk County LGBT murders, notably the brutal slaying of Ryan Keith Skipper in 2007, the Polk County Sheriff’s Department is constructing a non-gay-related scenario for the crime.  Polk County, a largely rural locale situated between Tampa and Orlando in the center of the state, is notorious for poor treatment of its LGBT residents.  Revenge against Bright for his daughter’s arrest is the story being floated to the press.  Bright’s friend, Bobbi Johnson, however, isn’t buying the Sheriff’s theory.  Johnson told My Fox Tampa reporter Alcides Segui, that Bright was like a daughter to her.  “She was a sweetheart. She would do anything in the world for you,” she said.  “I know [Seger] was upset because Ashely was arrested,” Johnson said. “That’s not why he killed her. He killed her because they were lesbians.” The Sheriff’s Department theory relies on hearsay from a friend of Seger’s, much like their 2007 theory that Skipper was killed on a lonely Wahneta, FL road because of hearsay reports about drugs and a check-kiting scheme that was later totally debunked, but too late to keep the young man’s character from being besmirched in the press, and also too late to prevent the story from going national.  Skipper’s murderers, Joseph “Smiley” Bearden and William “Bill Bill” Brown were found guilty and are serving their sentences with no hope of parole. Veteran Florida LGBT activists and allies familiar with the Skipper case are watching the Bright murder case closely for signs of the same anti-gay spin from the local authorities.  Scott Hall, founder of the South Florida-based Gay American Heroes Foundation, says, “We must hold those who attack and murder us responsible and call it what it is… a hate crime!”

April 27, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Florida, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Lesbian women, Media Issues, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Strangulation, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Grief and Outrage Over Transgender Murder in Puerto Rico

Ashley Santiago's family learns of her murder; Israel González photo for Prima Hora

Corozal, Puerto Rico – The Washington Post reports that scores of sobbing mourners wearing tee shirts emblazoned with the likeness of Ashley Santiago Ocasio attended her funeral Friday in the central mountain town of Corozal.  Her mother, Carmen Ocasio, told reporters from Prima Hora that her 31-year-old transgender daughter had no enemies she was aware of, no one she could imagine taking her life.  “I lost my daughter,” she said. “I’m in shock. Why would someone kill Ashley, why?”  Authorities are still searching for a lead in the case, but as the LGBT community in Puerto Rico has come to expect, authorities have not invoked the 2002 hate crime statute that would send a convicted killer to prison for life.  Though the drumbeat of pressure is mounting for prosecutors to apply the unused hate crimes law to LGBT victims, prospects for doing so in this case do not look promising.  Pedro Julio Serrano, spokesperson for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Puerto Rico, points out that five recent crimes should have been designated terror-attacks against not only the victims, but the entire LGBT population.  Hate crimes against members of the sexual minority are “message-crimes,” meant to drive the LGBT community into fear and hiding.  As Serrano notes, one of the five recent cases was the November 2009 decapitation, dismemberment, and immolation of gay teen Jorge Steven López Mercado in Caguas.  A charge of first-degree murder has been filed against the youth’s alleged killer, but the hate crime statute has not been invoked even in a slaughter so gruesome as this.  In the Santiago case, police are speculating that robbery may have been a motive in the slaying of the popular, attractive beauty salon owner.  Two evidentiary aspects of the investigation so far seem to argue against a robbery motive alone, however.  First, Ms. Santiago’s home showed no signs of breaking and entering.  Someone she knew probably carried out the murder. Even though her automobile was taken from the scene, as Pedro Serrano observed to the Post, “The law is very clear and we’re asking authorities to investigate without prejudice. Even if Ashley’s death was also a robbery, there could be the angle of hate. We need that to be investigated,” Serrano emphasized to the Post.  The chief investigator has promised to used the Puerto Rican hate crimes law “if the evidence warrants it.”  The second aspect of the murder that suggests Serrano is right, that hate against Ms. Santiago was probably a factor is the extreme nature of the crime scene.  There was so much blood, so widely pooled and spattered, that police believed from the beginning of the investigation that the victim had been stabbed multiple times, hardly likely for a robbery alone.  The overkill typical of anti-LGBT crimes is clearly present in the Santiago slaying. The community of Corozal is stunned in the wake of their most notorious murder.  Ms. Santiago was well-liked in town, confident that her transition was the fulfillment of herself as a person.  She had commenced hormone therapy, and had undergone breast surgery, according to Serrano.  The usually neglected Transgender Community on the Caribbean island paradise is waiting for a break in the case, and firmly demanding justice for their sister Ashley.

April 27, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Decapitation and dismemberment, funerals, gay teens, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Grief and Outrage Over Transgender Murder in Puerto Rico

Unfinished Lives Gets Social

Recently here at the Unfinished Lives Project we have been working on increasing our online presence in order to become more public and more intentionally activist. Still one of the biggest reasons to better connect with our readers.

Here are all the ways to connect with Unfinished Lives:

our new email address is:  info [at] unfinishedlivesblog [dot] com

Please spread the word and tell your friends. We would love it if you could link to us on your blog, your facebook page, follow us on networked blogs and retweet our posts, and in any other way you can think of helping spreading the word it would be greatly appreciated.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | A Welcome Message, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Unfinished Lives Gets Social

Black LGBTQ Affirming Church in Dallas Acts to Counter Religious Homophobia

Apostle Alex Byrd, Senior Elder and Pastor, Living Faith Covenant Church

Dallas, TX – In response to a vitriolic anti-gay sermon preached at a major Black preaching conference at a Dallas Black mega-church, Apostle Alex Byrd’s flock boldly resolves not to back down. In a congregational meeting on April 18, Living Faith Covenant Church, a predominantly Black and LGBT church, voted officially to oppose religious homophobia and promote dialogue on behalf of LGBTQ and SGL (Same Gender Loving) people of color.  On Monday, April 12, 2010, Prophetess Janet Floyd, a featured preacher at the Urgent Utterances Conference, denounced gay and lesbian people, vigorously declaring that members of the sexual minority, regardless of their church affiliation, had “demons” that needed to be “cast out” of them by God.  The conference, jointly sponsored by a coalition of churches and Black Church scholarly groups, including Vanderbilt University Divinity School’s Black Church studies institute, was a three-day event hosted at the high-profile Friendship-West Baptist Church, pastored by one-time candidate for the presidency of the NAACP, Dr. Frederick Douglas Haynes III.  Black church leaders from around the nation attended the conference on Monday night, including students from Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN and Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, TX.  In the second sermon of the evening, the prophetess claimed that God sent a “storm” upon the nation, in the form of Hurricane Katrina and the Columbine High School shooting tragedy.  As Rev. Floyd launched into her indictment of “demon-possessed” LGBT people, some 20 attendees walked out of the service in silent protest against pulpit homophobia.  From eyewitness reports, the whole Brite Divinity School contingent and half of the Vanderbilt students walked out of the service.  News quickly spread throughout the Metroplex and around the internet.  A Rally for Love to pray for all parties affected by the sermon and to frame a response calling for dialogue and accountability gathered on Wednesday evening, April 14, jointly hosted by Living Faith Covenant Church and Promise Metropolitan Community Church.  A multi-racial gathering of forty LGBTQ people and their allies decided to form a coalition to call on Dr. Haynes, the conference, and Friendship-West Church to distance themselves from the homophobic content of the sermon.  Apostle Byrd issued a communication to Dr. Haynes, but at the time of this writing there has been no response to Byrd’s appeal.  Taking the next step, the Living Faith congregation officially issued their resolution, “Commitment to Non-Violent Resistance to Spiritual Abuse” (full text of the Resolution may be accessed here).  Briefly, the resolution calls on Black affirming Christians to “stand in solidarity with the more than 20 courageous individuals who stood up and left in peaceful protest during Reverend Janet Floyd’s sermon,” and to “acknowledge the spiritual, psychological, emotional, and social harm from ill-informed preaching, whether well-intended or malicious, inflicted upon many of our LGBTQ and SGL brothers and sisters.”  The SGL affirming congregation, affiliated and backed by The Fellowship, an international movement of radically inclusive Christians headed by San Francisco Bishop Yvette Flunder, both endorses the Black Church tradition of the freedom of the pulpit and at the same time criticizes any action or speech from the pulpit that demeans, demonizes or harms people because of their race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, class or disability.  In the event that efforts at dialogue with other religious leaders fails to produce meaningful responses, the resolution concludes, “we will engage in peaceful and non-violent resistance for the dignity and value of all of God’s creation, including LGBTQ and SGL individuals within the Community of Faith.”  Significantly, a church and movement deeply and proudly rooted in the African American Church tradition and community now has joined the issue of active and passive homophobic speech in Black churches,helping to debunk the usual claim made by some Black Church leaders that LGBTQ rights is an expression of white racism and exclusively a “white man’s issue.”  Apostle Byrd’s congregation, The Fellowship, and supporters from last week’s Rally for Love have made it clear that “spiritual abuse” aimed at LGBTQ people from any source will

Prophetess Janet Floyd

be publicly, compassionately and firmly opposed.  Apostle Byrd understands the mindset of heterosexist/homophobic ministers.  In an interview with Operation Rebirth, he said, “For the majority of preachers who bash [gays], I’d say the root is sincere compassionate ignorance. They truly want to see people saved and in their understanding, they believe homosexuality is wrong. They have to send that message so people will ‘come out’ of it. It’s a hard task for them to do. The more resistance from the homosexual(s), the more they preach it. They are ignorant, but sincere. They are ignorant in understanding the homosexual as a person. They’re ignorant in their understanding of the general context, cultural climate, history, language and translation of scripture. They are ignorant in how to appropriately apply historical text to the current needs of our society, with its likenesses and differences. But ignorance isn’t a bad thing…it simply means, ‘I don’t know.’   But stupidity IS bad. It says ‘I don’t know, and I don’t care to find out.'” While some report encouraging pulpit statements made by Dr. Haynes at Friendship-West’s April 14 evening worship service opposing the demonization of LGBTQ people, as of this date nobody from Dr. Haynes’s office, from the leadership of Friendship-West Baptist Church, or from the Urgent Utterances Conference Leadership has officially distanced themselves or their organizations from the homophobic content of Prophetess Floyd’s sermon.

April 20, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Bisexual persons, gay men, Lesbian women, Racism, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Brutal Stabbing Death of Puerto Rican Transwoman Possible Hate Murder

Corozal, Puerto Rico – Ashley Santiago’s mother pressed police to investigate why she had not heard from her daughter since Sunday, April 18.  When law enforcement entered Santiago’s home on April 19 in Corozal, a municipality just 25 miles southwest of San Juan, they found her naked body in a large pool of blood collapsed on the kitchen floor.  She had been stabbed 14 times, according to the report of authorities to El Nuevo Día.  Police also reported that they could not find Santiago’s 2009 Toyota Corolla parked outside her home.  EDGE Boston picked up the story overnight, and has flashed it across the United States’ LGBT blogosphere.  Santiago, 31, was a popular hair stylist at a local salon. Echoes of the savage dismemberment-killing of gay teen Jorge Steven López Mercado in November 2009 still reverberate around the island.  His alleged murderer, Juan A. Martínez Matos, has yet to stand trial for the beheading, butchery, and attempted immolation of his victim.  After several postponements, Martínez Matos is docketed to stand trial for the murder of López Mercado in Caguas on May 3.  While law enforcement officials have not yet designated Santiago’s murder as a hate crime due to the perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and expression of the victim, LGBT activists across the region are calling on police to invoke Puerto Rico’s seldom-used hate crimes statute which covers anti-LGBT hate crimes.  Pedro Julio Serrano, noted San Juan activist who represents the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Puerto Rico, told EDGE, “The authorities have a legal obligation to investigate this hate angle. We urge the police and the prosecutor to appropriately investigate this murder; to determine whether it was motivated by prejudice and if there is enough evidence to classify it as a hate crime at this moment.”  As Transrespect Versus Transphobia, a TVT monitoring agency in Europe reports, a transperson’s murder is reported every third day throughout the world, on average. for the last year and a half.  Authorities acknowledge, however, the deep under-reporting of the actual number of transphobic murders.

April 20, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, home-invasion, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Brutal Stabbing Death of Puerto Rican Transwoman Possible Hate Murder

Judge Rules Mistrial in Duanna Johnson Civil Rights Case: One Juror Hangs Federal Jury

Duanna Johnson, slain transwoman

Memphis, TN – A federal judge in Memphis has ruled for a mistrial in the case of former Memphis Police Officer Bridges McRae, on trial for violating Duanna Johnson’s civil rights.  Memphis LGBT advocates are calling the decision “a failure of the justice system,” according to myeyewitnessnews.com.  Johnson, a transgender woman of color, was repeatedly punched and beaten by McRae with handcuffs wrapped around his knuckles and pepper-sprayed as she was being processed for a prostitution charge at a Memphis police station on February 12, 2008.  The beating was captured on a police surveillance tape, and reaction to the video prompted an immediate investigation resulting in the firing of McRae and a second officer, James Swain.  Johnson had filed suit against the city on the basis of the videotape and the testimony of witnesses who declared that the brutal beating was unprovoked.  Nine months later, as the New York Times reports, Duanna Johnson was shot to death with a bullet to the head on the night of November 9, 2008.  Johnson’s murder, which remains unsolved, prompted intense scrutiny on the original beating case, and charges were filed in federal court for violation of the transwoman’s civil rights.  Besides the controversial videotape of her beating, five witnesses testified in court that the attack on the 6’5″ 250 lb. Black transwoman was wanton, there being no reason for it in her behavior.  Will Batts of the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Center, who had watched the surveillance tape repeatedly, said to myeyewitnessnews.com, “[The beating] looked to be unprovoked. It looked to be excessive on the part of the police officer. It looked to be just an attack on someone in a police station with other people standing around. And it was just incredibly violent.” McRae’s attorney argued that his client was simply exercising necessary force to subdue Johnson, blaming her for resisting arrest.  Eleven jurors were convinced of McRae’s guilt.  One was not, however, and after the jury deadlocked, the judge declared the mistrial. The Memphis LGBT community refused to take the news lying down.  A rally in protest of the judge’s ruling will take place April 20 in front of the Federal Courthouse.  “Would it have been different if Duanna were not transgendered,” Batts asked in a press interview. “If it were just an average person from the suburbs that happened to be sitting in that jail room on that day and had this kind of response from the police, would the decision be different?”  Both the prosecution and the defense are to meet with the judge to determine a date for a new trial for McRae.

April 20, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, police brutality, Protests and Demonstrations, Tennessee, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Judge Rules Mistrial in Duanna Johnson Civil Rights Case: One Juror Hangs Federal Jury

Arrest in Transgender Woman’s Murder in Queens, NY

Rasheen Everett, arrested in Las Vegas (Anderson photo for the NY Daily News)

Queens, NY – the NY Daily News reports that police in Las Vegas, Nevada have arrested the man wanted in the strangulation murder of transgender woman Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar.  Rahseen Everett, 29, (pictured at left in custody) allegedly strangled Ms. Gonzalez-Andujar in her Queens apartment.  She was also 29 years of age.  Everett is an ex-convict who is wanted in connection with two attempted murders in Massachusetts.  After the alleged murder in Queens, Everett fled to Las Vegas, hiding out with an unidentified acquaintance.  Police have not released details of the arrest, or how the suspect was traced to Nevada.  Ms. Gonzalez-Andujar’s murder has angered and frightened members of the New York LGBT community, who are calling for the fullest possible penalty for her murderer.  According to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, A memorial service has been announced for her at the Metropolitan Community Church of Manhattan on April 24 from 2 pm to 3 pm.  The address is 446 W. 36th Street (between 9th & 10th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan).  A candlelight vigil is also planned in front of Ms. Gonzalez-Andujar’s Glendale Queens home on the same date, from 4 pm to 5 pm.  Stefanie Rivera, representing the SLP Collective, said, “We are still outraged at the hatred, transphobia and violence that persist to lead to the untimely deaths of more and more transgender and gender nonconforming people, particularly young transgender women of color.”  She pledged to combat the alarming trend of violence against all members of the sexual minority.  On its web site, the SLP Collective says its mission is “to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence. SRLP is a collective organization founded on the understanding that gender self-determination is inextricably intertwined with racial, social and economic justice. Therefore, we seek to increase the political voice and visibility of low-income people and people of color who are transgender, intersex, or gender non-conforming.” Ms. Gonzalez-Andujar’s body was found on March 30 some days after her death sprawled naked on her bed by a landlord who was prompted to open her apartment door by concerned friends.  One of those friends, Barbara Vega, told the News, “Everything in the apartment was destroyed. All her Marilyn Monroe pictures were destroyed.”

April 19, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Hate Crimes, home-invasion, Latino and Latina Americans, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Strangulation, transgender persons, transphobia, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Arrest in Transgender Woman’s Murder in Queens, NY

Multi-Racial Response to Religious Gay Bashing at “Rally for Love” in Dallas

Apostle Alex Byrd calls for dialogue and accountability for religious homophobia

Dallas, Texas – Forty women and men from multiple racial ethnic backgrounds and several churches and LGBT activist groups rallied for prayer and protest, declaring that “spiritual abuse of LGBT people must stop” in pulpits everywhere.  The Rally for Love, swiftly organized by a coalition of Blacks, Native Americans, Latinos, Whites, LGBT churches, activist groups, and Brite Divinity School students and faculty, protested the homophobic sermon of Dr. Janet Floyd of Monroe, Louisiana, featured speaker at the Urgent Utterances Conference on Monday, April 12.  The conference gathered Black Church scholars from around the nation to meet for three days at Friendship West Baptist Church, a predominantly Black mega-church in South Dallas pastored by Dr. Freddie Haynes.  Galled by the claim that gays and lesbians are demonic, and that lesbians in particular have a demon that must be driven out, 12 students from Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, TX and half the student contingent of Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, TN walked out of the Conference worship service in silent protest.  J.W. Richard, of the Examiner.com, reports that the participants heard accounts from three witnesses to the “disparaging comments” made by the speaker, sister of Urgent Utterances organizer, Dr. Stacey Floyd-Thomas of Vanderbilt Divinity School: “Speaking on the Dallas Voice’s Instant Tea weblog, Brite Divinity student, Sam Castleberry, wrote that among the comments made by Dr. Floyd was one that the ‘lesbian demon should be exorcised’. Two more witnesses spoke at tonight’s rally event, including Pastor Jon Haack of Promise MCC, concurred with that account and included that Dr. Floyd’s sermon mentioned that the storm of Hurricane Katrina and the tragedy at Columbine High School were also of divine appointment.”  Theologians and pastors at the Rally for Love condemned such a faulty theology of God.  Norma Gann, Cherokee student at Brite, called for prayer for Dr. Floyd as she denied that as a lesbian Christian she had any demon to be cast out.  She said that the pulpit in a church is a “sacred space,” and the sermon she heard aimed at LGBT people had violated that sacred space.  Katherine Heath said that the vigor and volume of Dr. Floyd’s sermon delivery concerned her as she condemned lesbians and gay people from the pulpit.  Transgender minister at Living Faith Covenant Church, Minister Carmarion D. Anderson, called for the Rally to remember that “transgender people and many outside the church” were harmed by such religion-based bigotry.  Rev. Deneen Robinson, representing the Human Rights Campaign, Michael Robinson, noted African American LGBT activist, Manda Adams of First Congregational Church (UCC) in Fort Worth, and Blake Wilkinson of Queer LiberAction, also spoke out.  Apostle Alex Byrd, spiritual leader of Living Faith Covenant Church of Dallas, claimed both his heritage as a black man and a gay man, and then called for understanding, dialogue and accountability for anyone demeaning any group of people.  He noted that the Tuesday sessions and workshops at the Urgent Utterances Conference were more inclusive, “something that would make us all proud,” the Apostle said to the crowd.  But while he decried religious homophobia in any church, Apostle Byrd made it clear that preachers in the Black Church tradition were also “accountable for the way their message affects those who hear it.”  He pledged to press the issue with the conference leadership because those who were directly hurt needed a response.  The Examiner reports that “Conversations at tonight’s rally included an email conversation from Apostle Alex Byrd …, working in tandem with Bishop Yvette Flunder, Senior Pastor of City of Refuge United Church of Christ [San Francisco], to gain an official response from Friendship-West pastoral leadership. In the meantime, as prayers for healing were offered for themselves, Dr. Floyd, Dr. Haynes, and conference attendees and speakers, it was also clear that attendees of tonight’s rally were no longer going to subject themselves to what Pastor Haack termed, “spiritual abuse”, from the pulpit.”  Dr. Leo Perdue, faculty member at Brite and a Vanderbilt Ph.D., said that he was deeply concerned that such a deplorable sermon could be delivered at an event sponsored by his alma mater, and organized by a faculty member there.  He hoped Vanderbilt would quickly distance itself from Dr. Floyd’s sermon.  “Wherever it is done and whoever sponsors it, homophobia is wrong and must be opposed,” he said.  Participants organized to endorse Apostle Byrd’s communiqué to Friendship-West Church, and to commit themselves to work for justice “for the long haul” as Dr. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite and Michael Robinson said at the conclusion of the Rally.  An album of pictures taken at the Rally for Love by Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle and Sam Green may be found on Facebook

UPDATE: Excellent article on the Event by the Examiner

April 16, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Bisexual persons, gay men, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Louisiana, Protests and Demonstrations, Racism, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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