Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Bashing Costs New Jersey Burger King $3.15 Million

Union City, New Jersey – “They thought they were going to die.” James Fine, attorney for a gay couple attacked in 2007 at the Union City Burger King, said to NJ.com, that the large award granted to his clients was more than justified, given the severity of the assault: “The manager and a group of angry restaurant employees chased the couple and then mercilessly kicked, beat and spat upon the two men while screaming hate-filled anti-gay invectives.” Peter Casbar, 43, and Noel Robichaux, 46, got into a dispute at the local fast food restaurant which turned ugly, and then escalated as the couple fled out into the street. What had begun as a disagreement over an order at the counter exploded into a full-blown gay bashing.  LGBTQ Nation reports that the gay men refused to take the hate crime attack lying down, and filed a suit under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination against Food Service Properties Corporation and Union City Restaurant Corporation which own seven Burger Kings including the one at 3501 Bergenline Avenue where the crime took place. Two employees of the restaurant, Christopher Soto and Angel Caraballo, have pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated assault against Robichaux and Casbar. The harshness of the violence was compounded for the gay men because of the hatred expressed against their sexual orientation, as a psychologist testified in the civil court case. The multi-million dollar size of the monetary award, which included $1.7 million in punitive damages, indicates the gravity with which the jury took the attack.  According to NJ.com, the jury returned the verdict and damages within three hours of entering the jury room last Wednesday.  At first, the plaintiffs were overcome with emotion by the court action. Attorney Fine said they were unable to speak. Joseph R. Donahue, another attorney representing Robichaux and Casbar, said to reporters, “The jury took this beating of our clients very seriously. I think it is a very big case and we are very pleased.” Attorney Fine concurred, “Violence against anybody, including gay people, cannot be condoned. The jury spoke to the issue.”

February 27, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Burger King, gay bashing, gay men, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, New Jersey, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Houston Churches Break Cycle of Gay Hate: “Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Sunday,” Feb. 20

Houston, Texas – When school bullying drove 13-year-old Asher Brown to take his own life on September 23, the horror and despair of so many LGBTQ youth was laid bare for Houston to see. LGBTQ teen suicide, a crisis for any society, hit leaders of Houston’s gay-affirming religious communities particularly hard. Now, the Houston Chronicle and the Dallas Voice report that 22 area churches are doing their part to break the cycle of religion-based negativity toward homosexuality by inaugurating “Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Sunday” this week.  On Sunday, February 20, churches from a broad range of traditions make it public that their doors and fellowships are fully open and affirming of LGBTQ youth, their families, and loved ones. The connection with the suicide of young Asher Brown is important, since at the time public rallies and memorials in his memory were taking place, the visual absence of churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques was telling. Surely hundreds of people from faith communities attended these public memorial events, but there was no organized presence on the part of religious communities–a glaring absence that communicated a message of neglect or disapproval that concerned religious leaders are eager to dispel. The Houston Chronicle details grim statistics about how religion is perceived to reinforce LGBTQ youth attitudes of alienation from faith communities. The Chronicle reports that a recent survey by the Public Research Institute showed that less than 20 percent of Americans believe faith communities do a “good job” on the issues of homosexuality and gender expression. Almost half of those surveyed said that the religious message on the topic was “negative,” and fully 40 percent said that the intolerant attitudes of religious communities contributed “a lot” to the disapproval and condemnation of LGBTQ people in this country. The most damning statistic associated with these issues referred to teen LGBTQ suicides: two out of three Americans in the survey said that religion contributed heavily to increasing rates of suicide among gender non-confroming, queer, and gay youth. Robert P. Jones, executive officer of the Public Research Institute, underlined the long history of anti-LGBTQ messages coming from America’s houses of faith: “Religious Americans historically have had negative attitudes about gays and lesbians.” In response to the crisis of teen despair in public and private schools in the metro area, the Houston Clergy Council devised “Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Sunday” as a means of getting out the word that God and the faith community do not hate, reject, or despise LGBTQ youth–quite to the contrary, these affirming churches welcome gender non-conforming people and their families every day.  The masthead of the Facebook page announcing the project reads, “Is your teenager Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, a Questioning (GLBTQ) teen? Bring your teen to one of these affirming churches, and rest assured we won’t try to ‘fix’ them. We think they are awesome just the way they are!” The list of churches is impressive, including historic mainline denominations (Episcopal, United Church of Christ, Lutheran, and United Methodist), non-denominational communities, the Society of Friends (Quakers), Unitarians and Universalists, and the largest Metropolitan Community Church in the world.  There is even a lone courageous Baptist church with an open and affirming stance. The struggle with religious intolerance and hate speech from pulpits in Houston and around the nation will go on for a long time. Thousands of congregations in the Houston metro area deny the acceptability of homosexuality and gender non-conformity, declaring queer youth sinful or worse. But a cadre of deeply committed faith leaders and their communities are determined to get out the word in America’s fourth largest city that sexual minority youth are acceptable to God, and most certainly to them.  “Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Sunday” is tomorrow, February 20.

February 19, 2011 Posted by | Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, gay men, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Houston Clergy Council, Internalized homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Popular Culture, Public Theology, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, soft homophobia, suicide, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Houston Churches Break Cycle of Gay Hate: “Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Sunday,” Feb. 20

Fr. Matthew Kelty, OCSO, Passes Away: Out Gay Monk was Thomas Merton’s Confessor


Fr. Matthew Kelty, OCSO, Monk of Gethsemani (1915-2011)

Trappist, Kentucky – The most widely known and beloved monk of the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani died peacefully among his brothers today in the Kentucky Hill Country.  Fr. Matthew, né Charles Richard Kelty Jr., was born in South Boston, Massachusetts in 1915. Educated in the public schools of Milton, Massachusetts, he followed his vocation to the religious life, attended the seminary of the Society of the Divine Word in Techny, Illinois, and was ordained a Roman Catholic Priest in 1946.  Fr. Matthew served as a writer for the magazine of the order, and became a Divine Word missionary in Papua, New Guinea from 1947 to 1951. Sensing all the while that his vocation was to the contemplative life, Fr. Matthew petitioned to enter the Abbey of Gethsemani in February 1960.  “A natural love for the monastic life drew me to Gethsemani and fulfilled a lifelong dream,” he said.  At Gethsemani, Fr. Matthew did many things. He once said, “Over the past decades, I have served in various capacities: master of the brothers, shoe shop, tailor shop, vocations office, and retreat house. Monastic life is everything I wanted, my happiness. All dreams fulfilled. But the fulfillment came slowly. Following your dreams and not giving up is my best recommendation.” Two interludes in his life are most worth mentioning.  First, Fr. Matthew served as Prior of Holy Mother of God Monastery in Henderson, North Carolina, a small foundation near Oxford that the Trappists took over from Benedictines in the 1970s. In those days, when I first met Fr. Matthew, he was ebullient, funny, and a committed motorcycle driver.  I can see him in my mind’s eye, zipping down the two-lane state roads, with his habit’s black scapular streaming behind him in the slip stream. I remember he loved and tended peacocks and pea hens that roosted in the pine trees bordering the chapel grounds, and he shared afternoon strolls with his dog and an obstreperous billy goat named “Philip Morris.”  It was during this period that Fr. Matthew protested the war in Vietnam in a most monastic way: he and his dog walked for peace all the way from North Carolina to Washington, D.C. His journey was carried widely in the media.  Standing on the banks of the Potomac River, looking over at the stately marble buildings of government, Fr. Matthew said that Washington looked to him like “frosting over so much burnt cake.” Second, Fr. Matthew received permission from Gethsemani to return to his beloved Papua, but this time as a hermit.  He lived on the coast, loved the Papuans, and sewed clothes for his living as a tailor.  During his hermitage, Fr. Matthew married Lady Poverty.  Upon his re-entrance to Gethsemani, he wrote his spiritual autobiography, Flute Solo. It was in this book that he revealed his homosexuality as a celibate monk.  Many years ago, I nervously came out to Fr. Matthew when I was on one of many retreats to the Abbey.  He was so pastoral, loving, and understanding.  He affirmed his own gayness, and mine, and advised me to live my dreams.  He also helped change my life.  “I will pray for you every day, Stephen,” he said, “as I say mass.”  And I believe he did. Every day. Without fail. Fr. Matthew served as Thomas Merton’s confessor from the days of his entrance to the Abbey and Merton’s death in 1968. He always said Merton was the finest monk of Gethsemani, because he knew that in order for God to get a hearing, you had to have cunning enough to use other means to do it.  Fr. Matthew must have taken those words to heart, for he will be best remembered and loved as the Guest House Chaplain and post-Compline preacher for years.  His homilies are online for readers at the Abbey website.  There are many ways God has of blessing the human race with gayness.  Fr. Matthew was the queerest person I ever met, or am likely to meet.  He hid nothing. He lived as a true child of his tradition, out in the open where God, the pea fowl, and the hierarchy could see. “Who wouldn’t want to live here?” he asked me one day when I was on a Fall retreat at the Abbey. “I am surrounded by good men, and get to wear beautiful clothes!” Now his transition is complete. He is with beloved Jesus, whom he loved as a consort and ascetic for 51 years.  Not bad for an Irishman, eh?.  Requiescat in pace, Padre.  ~ Stephen Sprinkle, Unfinished Lives Project Team Member

February 18, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, gay men, Kentucky, Remembrances, Roman Catholic Church and Homosexuality, Social Justice Advocacy, Thomas Merton | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How to Remember a Gay Hate Crimes Victim: 12 Years After Murder, Billy Jack Gaither’s Memory is Alive

Billy Jack Gaither

Montgomery, Alabama- Billy Jack Gaither’s memory will not die.  A determined group of family, friends, and human rights advocates see to that annually, and on Sunday, February 2o, the 13th Annual Vigil for Victims of Hate and Violence will take place on the steps of the Alabama State Capital Building.  Billy Jack, 39, died February 19, 1999 on the banks of Peckerwood Creek at the hands of two local men who hate him for being gay. Steven Mullins and Charles “Charlsey” Butler had no other motive for the grisly murder. They killed Billy Jack with a pick ax handle, and then burned his body on a pyre of old tire carcasses as an expression of their disdain for him and for all LGBTQ people as human beings. “Charlsey” and the “Skinhead” wanted this gentle, loving Alabamian from Sylacauga dead, immolated, and forgotten. But Billy’s family, especially sisters Kathy Jo and Vickie, and allies such as Dr. Beverly Hawk of the University of Alabama – Tuscaloosa and David Gary of Birmingham, have doggedly refused to let the killers win. They established the Billy Jack Gaither Humanitarian Award, to be presented annually at the Vigil to persons of outstanding social conscience and action. This year, the Vigil will commence at 3 p.m. with music by The Shouting Stones, and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Choir. Professor Gwen Thomas of Auburn University is the featured speaker. The Fourth Annual Billy Jack Humanitarian Award will be given to the Rev. and Mrs. Robert Graetz. Graetz was the white pastor of the predominantly black Trinity Lutheran Church in Montgomery during the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. A personal friend of Rosa Parks, the Rev. Graetz was ostracized by whites for his support of the non-violent civil rights movement.  His auto tires were slashed. The home he shared with his wife Jennie and their family was bombed three times, but thankfully the largest and last of the bombs was a dud, and did not go off. For Billy Jack to be remembered by awarding good works such as the courageous witness of the Rev. Graetz and his wife Jeanie is wonderful in itself. The award this year certainly embraces the LGBTQ and African American communities, and brings them into further dialogue as they struggle for justice together. But the planners and board members who refuse to forget Billy Jack are doing more than staging an event and presenting a named award–they are frustrating the intentions of hate crime killers like Mullins and Butler everywhere.  They are bringing good people into an educational circle of hope and justice.  They are sending a beam of light into the darkest regions of the human soul, the places where bigotry and hatred are incubated.  So, once again, Billy Jack is remembered, celebrated, and beloved. Billy Jack’s memory is evergreen in Sweet Home Alabama.  His killers languish forgotten serving life sentences in prison. Well done, Alabamians! [Billy Jack’s story, “Southern Gothic,” is told in the newly published Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims. Follow this link for more information: http://www.amazon.com/Unfinished-Lives-Reviving-Memories-Victims/dp/1608998118/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1298017444&sr=1-2].

February 18, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Alabama, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, desecration of corpses, gay bashing, gay men, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

NC Man “Turns Straight,” Murders Gay Roommate with Ax and Shotgun, Blames Mucinex

Michael Anderson: "Mucinex made me do it."

Hickory, NC – In one of the grisliest murders the local Catawba County Sheriff’s Department can recall, a teen roommate uses the gay panic defense to justify his alleged ax-and-shotgun murder of an older gay man. Michael Anderson, 19, of nearby King’s Mountain, is accused of murdering 38-year-old Stephen Starr at about 4:45 a.m. on Monday in the Hickory house they shared. The Hickory Daily Record reports that Anderson, claiming he “turned straight” during alleged sexual advances by Starr, shot him with a shotgun and pistol, carved words into his body and wrote some others with a pen, before lodging an ax in the victim’s stomach. “He shot his roommate and took an ax to him,” Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid told the Daily Record. “It’s one of the nastiest crime scenes I’ve been to.” The words carved and written on Starr’s mutilated body were apparently so offensive that officials are not releasing what they were until the trial. Anderson announced the murder on his Facebook page between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., asking God to forgive him, and claiming that no one would be able to take him alive. In a bizarre twist The Box Turtle Bulletin says is reminiscent of the infamous “Twinkie Defense” used to deflect blame for the murder of gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk by a straight rival on the board, Anderson claims that he took too many doses of Mucinex DM, an over-the-counter congestion medication.  In a 911 recording released to the Daily Record on Tuesday, Anderson says that the pills “drove me mad”: “I Od’d on Mucinex DM. Dextromethorphan makes me feel a little weird and I took too many.” Anderson told the telecommunicator that he shot his roommate three times with a shotgun and pistol, then mutilated the corpse with an ax so brutally that Starr would not be able to be identified: “You’re not going to know who it is,” Anderson says on the recording. When asked why he killed his roommate, Anderson then says that it was because Starr was gay, and he was heterosexual.  “I met [Starr] and went to his house and he took me in and I turned straight again. And he wanted to touch me and stuff and I wouldn’t let him, and he kept trying. And I waited until he went to sleep and then I shot him three times. And I mutilated him very badly and I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Oh God, please help me.” Starr had likened his relationship to Anderson as a parental one, according to his Facebook page.  On February 6, Starr posted that he had a “new son,” a person he was trying to make a better human being.  So, Anderson’s account of being picked up at a gay bar and molested seems not to square with Starr’s understanding of the relationship, neither does Anderson’s suggestion that the encounter with his older gay roommate was recent and brief.  The two men apparently lived together for several days. As the case continues to sort itself out, it is well to remember that homophobia is a crooked phenomenon that erupts into violence in a variety of seemingly-irrational ways.  It is also important to remember that Starr is unable to answer charges of sexual advances. News reports are carrying only allegations from the self-interested point of view of the alleged killer.  The Unfinished Lives Team sees enough in this story to indicate that a possible anti-gay hate crime was committed by a desperate young man who is ready to blame over-the-counter cold medications and the victim for his actions, but not himself.

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Character assassination, gay bashing, gay men, gay panic defense, gay teens, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Internalized homophobia, Law and Order, Mucinex defense, North Carolina, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Torture and Mutilation | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sharon Groves Named HRC Religion and Faith Director

Dr. Sharon Groves

Washington, D.C. – The Unfinished Lives Project Team is happy to announce the appointment of Dr. Sharon Groves as Director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Religion and Faith Program, effective immediately.

The following is from Betsy Pursell, Vice President for Public Education and Outreach at HRC:

“I am very pleased to announce that Sharon Groves has been named as the next Director of the Religion and Faith Program at HRC.

“Sharon’s appointment comes following a several month, national search that garnished well over 80 well-qualified candidates.  Sharon was hired five years ago by Harry Knox and together they have built one of the strongest and most respected platforms in the country to mobilize and empower progressive clergy and lay leaders to work for LGBT equality. In her five years at HRC, Sharon has been instrumental in creating key resources such as Out In ScriptureGender Identity in Our Faith Communities, Putting Faith into Action: Building Marriage Equality One Day at a Time and LaFamilia, a Spanish-language resource to engage the Latina/o community in LGBT equality efforts. Sharon created the vision and implemented the plans for HRC’s highly successful Clergy Call program and was key in bringing together religious leaders in DC to support marriage equality.

“In addition, Sharon has become a respected and well-loved coalition builder as evidenced by the many unsolicited letters of support on her behalf with comments such as, ‘Sharon has been unfailing warm, supportive, gracious, efficient and prompt in every single dealing;’ ‘a consummate networker for justice;’ ‘great public face for the religious community;’ and ‘really understands the power and potential of religion in America.’  Those of us at HRC who have worked closely with Sharon couldn’t agree more, and I know that you will join me in congratulating Sharon on her well-earned and highly deserved promotion.”

Signed:// Betsy Pursell

Vice President, Public Education and Outreach

Human Rights Campaign

1640 Rhode Island Ave, NW

Washington, DC 20036


Office: 202-216-1512

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Bisexual persons, gay men, Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program, Lesbian women, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, transgender persons, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sharon Groves Named HRC Religion and Faith Director

NC Gay Couple Harassed for a Year, Then Burned Out of Home

WRAL photo and graphic

Clayton, NC – A gay couple anonymously hiding in a motel out of fear for their safety, were burned out of house and home on Friday. Neighbors say the gay men suffered at least three deliberate acts of anti-gay harassment for over a year – but the neighbors are too scared to identify themselves, either. So Johnston County law enforcement, working from a state arson statute that doesn’t allow for violence against gay men as a hate crime, have determined that the burnout was “just arson.” Like 9/11 was “just some plane crashes.”  Or like the murder of Ugandan gay activist David Kato was “just a robbery gone bad.”  North Carolina has not seen fit to include sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression as protected classes in its existing hate crimes laws. So, an act of blatant hate crime terror that holds a gay couple and their whole neighborhood in fear is playing with matches. That is all this deed will remain officially unless the U.S. Justice Department invokes the Matthew Shepard Act to rectify neglectful conduct by the Johnston County Sheriff’s Department. WRAL.com interviewed a frightened, anonymous neighbor, who is sure that the three incidents of harassment were related to anti-gay hatred: “A note with derogatory language was left in the mailbox, an anti-gay slur was written on the house with marker, and the tires of a car parked in the garage were slashed.” The gay men’s friend and neighbor continued, “I felt sick to my stomach. I felt so sorry for the two gentlemen. They lost everything. We do believe that this is a hate crime.” The couple was out of town when other residents in the Winston Pointe subdivision discovered the fire belching from the brick veneer home at 1:30 a.m. Friday and called the alarm in. Flames quickly engulfed the structure, gutting it and destroying all the couple’s possessions. The American Red Cross has stepped in to offer food, clothing, and insurance contacts to the victims. Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell says that the investigation has turned up no suspects yet. Bizzell acknowledged that he knew of two out of the three incidents of harassment against the gay men this past year, but he would not say which two.

February 10, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Arson, gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, North Carolina, Slurs and epithets, U.S. Justice Department, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Alabama Lesbian Attacked by a Dozen, But She Alone Was Arrested

Laura Gilbert, lesbian injured in bar attack

Opelika, Alabama – A 25-year-old lesbian was assaulted by a dozen assailants outside a local bar after a birthday party last week in an alleged hate crime, but law enforcement officers arrested only her.  Laura Gilbert asserts that from the moment she went into The Villa, a bar on the outskirts of Opelika in Lee County, she felt uneasy. On February 2, Gilbert accompanied her friend from high school days, Sheila Siddall, to celebrate her birthday by singing karaoke.  Gilbert told WRBL News, “As soon as we walked in the bar, I felt uncomfortable, I felt everybody staring at us, but you know, it was her birthday, I didn’t want to ruin it for her.”  The victim says she had never been to the bar before, but had concerns that, as a lesbian, she would not be welcome there. Her fears were confirmed as the two women left the premises.  According to Gilbert and Sidall, a woman approached them and started a fight. The altercation grew to include a gang of ten women and two men.  One of the men shouted at Gilbert, “If you want to look like a man, you can get hit like a man!” Rather than being punched to the ground, Gilbert fought back to defend herself. Siddall immediately called 911, but the Lee County Sheriff’s Deputies who responded to the emergency call after the fight was over singled Gilbert out, arresting her for public intoxication and disorderly conduct. No one else has been charged or arrested. “They didn’t take our side of the story,” Gilbert told WRBL. “They took their side of the story, and then all of a sudden, they come up behind me and tell me to put my hands behind my back, that I’m going to jail.”  Though witnesses reported that many other participants in the attack were just as intoxicated as Gilbert, she was the only person charged and taken off to jail. The victim was badly bruised, and her eye was severely blackened in the assault, as photographs taken at the time attest. Now Gilbert and Siddall are pushing back, saying that the attack was motivated by anti-lesbian bias, and that this prejudice against Gilbert’s sexual orientation is the motive for law enforcement siding with the attackers.  Sidall, who is heterosexual, says that not only did the Lee County Sheriff’s Deputies neglect to take statements from her and her lesbian friend–the deputies were “laughing and cutting up” with the drunken perpetrators.  Sheriff Jay Jones says that the “hate crime box” was not checked off at the time of the incident, so that must mean that no hate crime occurred. Alabama, however, is one of only five states in the nation that has no hate crimes protections for LGBTQ people.  The Alabama hate crimes statute only recognizes bias against race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or physical or mental disability.  Sexual orientation and gender identity and expression are not protected under Alabama law, so it is doubtful that law enforcement officers would have acknowledged an anti-gay or lesbian hate crime that would not count in the state.  Sheriff Jones, when questioned by WRBL reporters said that it was clear “something” had happened to the lesbian at The Villa, and belatedly offered to investigate further and issue warrants if he deems they are due. The Dallas Voice reports that both Siddall and Gilbert have since filed separate reports on the attack, but that no one in law enforcement has bothered to interview them. Gilbert,who is recovering from her injuries, summed up her situation to WRBL reporters: “I’m an American just like the rest of us are. I have rights. I have the same rights as y’all do, supposedly, but people from here don’t look at it that way.”  States without protections for LGBTQ people typically report far fewer hate crimes incidents than those that do have such hate crimes laws. Comparable states in population like Alabama and Connecticut illustrate the point.  In 2009, Alabama reported only nine hate crimes statewide. Connecticut, during the same period, recorded over 200.  The Opelika bar attack is stirring debate on the need for “Sweet Home Alabama” to expand its hate crimes protections so that its residents may be justly treated–finally.

February 8, 2011 Posted by | Alabama, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, gay bashing, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets | , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Transwoman’s Murderer Gets 111-Year Sentence in Puerto Rico

Ashley Santiago, hate murder victim; Emmauel Ayala, insert (Primera Hora photo)

Bayamón, Puerto Rico – A man who confessed stabbing a 31-year-old transgender woman in her Corozal home has received a 111-year sentence for the crime. Emmanuel Adorno Ayala, 22 at the time of the murder, was sentenced by Judge Jesús Peluyera, according to Primera Hora.  Ayala admitted to authorities that he stabbed and slashed Ms. Santiago at least fourteen times. EDGE Boston reports that Ms. Santiago’s mother, Carmen Ocasio, weeping as she responded to the judge’s strong sentence, said, “This pain will remain with me the rest of my life.”  Ms. Santiago, a popular hairstylist in Corozal, was found naked in her apartment lying in a pool of blood. Officials arrested Ayala, and after his confession, sought a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether he was competent to stand trial. In November the court adjudged Ayala fit to stand trial for the heinous murder. Social justice advocates in Puerto Rico note that the severity of the sentence and the relative swiftness of the judge’s action are heartening developments in the U.S. Territory, which has been riven by numerous, grisly anti-LGBTQ murders in recent years.

February 7, 2011 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Hate Crimes, home-invasion, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Transwoman’s Murderer Gets 111-Year Sentence in Puerto Rico

Landmark Transgender Study Reveals Staggering Degree of Discrimination

Collage courtesy of Transgender Day of Remembrance

Washington, DC – You will change the way you perceive transgender people, and rethink how you advocate for our sisters and brothers after you read the findings of the largest national study of transpeople and gender non-conforming people ever done.  The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce released “Injustice at Ever Turn” on February 4, a massive study of 6,450 respondents. Sixty-three percent (63 %) of all respondents reported a serious act of discrimination because of their gender identity or gender presentation and expression. Twenty-three percent (23%) experienced a “catastrophic level of discrimination” according to the report, meaning they had faced significant acts of bias and harm in at least three of these categories:

  • Sexual assault due to bias
  • Physical assault due to bias
  • Job loss due to bias
  • Eviction from residence due to bias
  • School bullying/harassment severe enough to cause dropout
  • Homelessness because of gender identity/expression
  • Denial of medical care/service due to bias
  • Incarceration due to gender identity/expression
  • Loss of relationship with partner or child due to gender identity/expression

Among the findings: forty-one percent (41%) of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to a mere 1.6% of the general population; one in five experienced homelessness due to their gender expression/identity; transpeople are four times more likely to live in extreme poverty (income of $10,000 annually, or less) than Americans at large; and respondents were twice as likely to be unemployed than the general population. The combination of transgender discrimination and structural racial bias proved especially devastating in the lives of respondents. The study concludes, in part:

“It is part of social and legal convention in the United States to discriminate against, ridicule, and abuse transgender and gender non-conforming people within foundational institutions such as the family, schools, the workplace and health care settings, every day. Instead of recognizing that the moral failure lies in society’s unwillingness to embrace different gender identities and expressions, society blames transgender and gender non-conforming people for bringing the discrimination and violence on themselves.”

It is astounding that seventy-eight percent (78%) of those responding reported to the study that they feel more confident and comfortable at work, and more satisfied with their job performance after transitioning than they felt before–despite the levels of discrimination they constantly face in the workplace. As a survey respondent testified: “My mother disowned me. I was fired from my job after 18 years of loyal employment. I was forced onto public assistance to survive. But still I have pressed forward, started a new career, and rebuilt my immediate family. You are defined not by falling, but how well you rise after falling. I’m a licensed practical nurse now and am studying to become an RN. I have walked these streets and been harassed nearly every day, but I will not change. I am back out there the next day with my head up.”

“Injustice at Every Turn” is a wake up call to the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community, who have an uneasy history with transgender people since the days of the Stonewall Rebellion in New York City in 1969. Transpeople were integral to the liberation movement that propelled queer folk toward freedom, yet gender non-conforming people, especially transpeople of color, remain among the most misunderstood and neglected segments of the LGBTQ community in the United States. The incidence of hate crimes perpetrated against the transgender population, witnessed to each year by the national Transgender Day of Remembrance, is finally being documented thanks to the passage of the Matthew Shepard Act law–and the statistics are daunting.

No one should suffer discrimination based on gender identity or expression in the United States. The passion for justice must respond to the findings of this groundbreaking study.  For an executive summary of the “Injustice at Every Turn,” click here.

February 5, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, gay men, gender identity/expression, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Latino and Latina Americans, Lesbian women, Matthew Shepard Act, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Racism, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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