Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Young Lesbian Dies as Deadly Rash of Suicides Continues

Marin County, California – Though few details are available, 19-year-old Aiyisha Hassan, native of Marin County and former Howard University student, committed suicide last Tuesday.  Her friends believe that Hassan’s death is related to ongoing struggles she was having with her sexual orientation, even though she clearly identified as lesbian on campus.”She was having a lot of trouble with a lot of different things, but mainly her sexual identity and just trying to express that,” Lauren Morris, a 21-year-old fourth year student at Howard University, told Metro Weekly.    Morris confirmed that she and Hassan attended regular meetings of C.A.S.C.A.D.E., the Coalition of Activist Students Celebrating the Acceptance of Diversity and Equality, Howard University’s LGBT student group.  Students on the Howard campus believe that recent news about the struggle for LGBTQ human rights played a part in Hassan’s death. ”I absolutely think that this is connected in a way to the failure of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ to be repealed,” Sterling Washington told Metro Weekly. Washington, who is gay, is a co-founder of the Howard LGBT group. ”What happens in a large group trickles down to the junior members… so in this case it’s members of society so it affects youth in general,” he said. ”Those straight-identified youth who already had a proclivity, who already had from their parents, their socialization, this idea that gays are less than, it sort of gives them permission and facilities this whole bullying thing so that those that are most vulnerable to it sometimes see suicide as an out.”  Records at Howard University indicate that Hassan attended there for the 2008-2009 school year, before returning home to California.  She is the child of a prominent Marin County, California non-profit executive, Makini Hassan, director of Marin City Community Development Corporation, according to The San Francisco Chronicle Blog, SF Weekly.  The blog goes on to detail that the elder Hassan once headed Career Services for Goodwill Industries in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin Counties.  Aiyisha Hassan’s memorial is planned tomorrow, October 13, in Los Angeles, but the family is planning a Saturday memorial service in Marin County, as well.  Students at Howard University are rallying tomorrow to remember their classmate and friend with a candlelight vigil.  The death toll of LGBTQ youth and young adults is mounting with a deadly steadiness.  As of this writing, it is unclear whether bullying played a role in Hassan’s decision to end her life.  By some calculations, she is the eighth young LGBTQ person to take her own life in the past five weeks, and the second African American.

October 12, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bullying in schools, California, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Heterosexism and homophobia, Howard University, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Remembrances, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Transgender California Teen Dies in Fear of Bullying

 

Chloe Lacy before transitioning

 

Clovis, California – When Chloe Lacy decided earlier this year to transition from male to female in order to become who she really was inside, she feared what her peers would do.  Chloe, née Justin Lacy, told her family that she had nightmares about what people at Buchanan High School would do to her when they learned about her transgender identity, according to KMJN Radio News.  Her mother, Allison Murphy, told reporters for KFSN News, “Who wants to see a young man walking down the street with a dress on? In his eyes, that was the worst fear of all time, for someone to throw rocks at him, beat him up. It’s just the overall society judgment is what did this.”  Reflecting on the recent suicides of Tyler Clementi in New Jersey and Seth Walsh in California, Chloe’s stepfather said, “That’s what we’re creating as a society. We’re creating this incredible cloud of fear for these individuals and they feel they have nowhere to go.”  Chloe’s mother said that as far back as kindergarten, her child was expressing a different gender presentation than her biological gender.  During high school, Mrs. Murphy says that she forbade Chloe from coming out as transgender, for fear of harm.  Chloe struggled with what the steps of transition would mean to her, seeking therapy and support, but mostly living a lonely existence at home except for a group of girls at Buchanan High in Clovis where she found a sense of peace and acceptance.  After graduating from high school this past year, Mrs. Murphy says that Chloe moved away north to Eureka to begin a post-secondary education.  There, she started to wear women’s clothing more often, and shyly becoming the person she always knew she was.  Fear killed Chloe, fear of misunderstanding and bullying, according to her family.  Just a few days before her 19th birthday, on September 24 Chloe shot and killed herself inside her Eureka home where she was living for school. Her mother and stepfather say Chloe’s death reflects the deaths of other teens who have recently committed suicide due to bullying, according to KFSN News.  The Equality Forum, an LGBTQ history and news site, seven youths have committed suicide in recent months due to anti-gay and anti-trans bullying.  Chloe makes the seventh.  Both in Eureka and in Clovis, moves are afoot to remember Chloe in vigils and school assemblies.  The Murphys intend to be at all of these commemorative events they can, speaking out against intolerance and bullying against youth like their Chloe.

October 12, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bullying in schools, California, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, New Jersey, Remembrances, Slurs and epithets, transgender persons, transphobia, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Remembering Matthew Shepard on the 12th Anniversary of His Murder

Laramie, Wyoming – Matthew Shepard was brutally assaulted on a lonely ridge overlooking Laramie, Wyoming on this day twelve years ago. He died in a coma in Fort Collins, Colorado, with his family by his side.  Much has changed.  Much has not.  His hate crime murder has set the pattern by which all LGBTQ hate crimes murder victims are remembered, both for good and ill.  Good, in that many American’s are more keenly aware of the problem of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and the issues surrounding the struggle for human rights equality because of his death.  Millions of people around the world came to know about other hate crimes murder victims through the lens of Matthew’s story.  His family foundation, The Matthew Shepard Foundation, has done untold good advocating for justice, equality and the embrace of diversity in American life.  His mother, Judy Shepard, has become one of the most visible and effective spokespeople for human rights in our time–a true conscience for the nation.  It is no mistake that the long-awaited federal hate crimes law, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, is named in honor of Matthew, largely through the dogged persistence of this estimable woman who will not take “no” for an answer.  It was a proud day for all of us when President Obama signed the bill protecting LGBTQ Americans from bias-motivated crimes last October, inclusive of transgender people and disabled persons, as well.  But there is a downside to the way Matthew Shepard’s story is remembered in this country too, one neither he nor his family are guilty of–and one we must all act to redress.  The story of Matthew Shepard has tended to overshadow the remembrance of any other LGBTQ hate crimes victim, especially if that person was non-white, older and therefore less attractive, disabled somehow, or feminine in gender presentation.  This has been true of the many gender variant youth of color who have died in staggering numbers as the 21st century has dawned.  In the case of 15-year-old Sakia LaTona Gunn, an African American lesbian Aggressive, murdered at a bus stop in Newark, New Jersey, relatively few media stories on her outrageous murder broke into the national press compared to the thousands that flooded the channels when Matt died.  Much ink has been spilled over why this was so, but in order to honor Matthew, we must demand that ALL LGBTQ stories are told with the passion and respect his has been.  Finally, following Judy Shepard’s example, we must use this anniversary to cry out for Safe Schools for all children.  As she wrote on the Matthew Shepard Foundation blog in early October, “Our young people deserve better than to go to schools where they are treated this way. We have to make schools a safe place for our youth to prepare for their futures, not be confronted with threats, intimidation or routine disrespect. Quite simply, we are calling one more time for all Americans to stand up and speak out against taunting, invasion of privacy, violence and discrimination against these youth by their peers, and asking everyone in a position of authority in their schools and communities to step forward and provide safe spaces and support services for LGBT youth or those who are simply targeted for discrimination because others assume they are gay. There can never be enough love and acceptance for these young people as they seek to live openly as their true selves and find their role in society.”  In October 2008, I spoke at “Hope Not Hate,” an anniversary service for the city of Austin, Texas, commemorating the deaths of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., both unwitting martyrs to the cause of true equality in American life.  I said at that time, in part, “We who believe in justice cannot rest! We who believe in justice cannot rest until it comes! When a mother like Judy Shepard challenges us to send a different message to America than the one delivered by the men who killed her son, we must embrace that memory with all its pain, and break out of defeat into action.”  I believe more fervently in the work of erasing hatred today than ever.  Rest in Peace, Matthew, Sakia, and all our sisters and brothers.

~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Director of the Unfinished Lives Project

October 12, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, Colorado, gay men, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Matthew Shepard, Matthew Shepard Act, Matthew Shepard Foundation, Media Issues, Remembrances, Sakia Gunn Film Project, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, transgender persons, transphobia, Wyoming | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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