Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

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

Gay Georgian Nearly Roasted Alive As He Slept

Carrollton, Georgia – A 43-year-old, disabled gay man was targeted  by arsonists as he slept in his bedroom. Christopher Staples, affectionately called “Brother” by acquaintances in this Appalachian foothills community, was lucky to escape with his life on Sunday, January 23, when his house was set ablaze in the predawn hours by charcoal fluid squirted into water pipe access holes in the home’s kitchen area.  The victim called the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department to report that about 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, while he was watching television and finishing a cigarette, someone threw a heavy rock with a note attached threatening his life for being gay. Staples and his family sounded the alarm for the Sheriff’s Department again at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, reporting that he had nearly burned alive, and that his small house was engulfed in flames. Staples, who has been open about his gay orientation for thirty years, told WSBTV 2 that the note read: “We know you’re gay. And God hates gays. You won’t be raping anybody in the county and God’s going to make sure that you burn in hell . . .My daddy will make sure you burn in hell.” Staples revealed further details on the note to the Georgia Voice. The note, he said, had algebra homework written on one side, and “On the other side in pencil, it called me an ‘AIDS infested faggot’ and ‘God hates gays’ and ‘God will make sure all gays burn in hell.” After Staples had gone to sleep, he was awakened by a repetitive “popping” noise which made him think someone was throwing rocks at the house again. When he pushed back the covers, his comforter was already melting, and the bed was wreathed in thick smoke. “The house was black. And all I could see was an orange glow behind my head,” Staples said in the WSB interview. Staples believes God “held his hand” led him to safety, according to the GA Voice. The Sheriff’s Department is heading the investigation, assisted by the FBI. Possible hate crimes angles are being considered, but the case for what most anywhere else would be automatically considered an anti-gay hate crime will prove difficult to make in Georgia, one of only five states that has no LGBTQ protections in its laws. The only way the crime could be prosecuted as a hate crime would be by invoking the federal Matthew Shepard Act, something unlikely in rural west Georgia. The Times-Georgian reports that a $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to arrests and convictions in the Staples case from the Georgia Arson Control Program. Initially, a Christian hate group was reported to have carried out the hit on the Carrollton native, but as the investigation proceeds, the identification of the perpetrators becomes less clear. Some local church groups have actually reached out to assist Staples, but whether out of a sense of Christian solidarity with the gay man, or in order to counter anti-Christian publicity is a matter of interpretation. On the whole, according to Staples’s family, gay outreach from around the country has outstripped the response of local straight groups and individuals. Now, two weeks after the attack, Staples is trying to put his life back together, and cope with the idea that someone tried to kill him in his sleep. “I know it happened, you look out there at my place and you see that,” Staples told the Times-Georgian. “But the severity of it hasn’t hit me. The fact that someone threw a rock through my window, told me they were going to kill me and then tried to do it is what doesn’t seem possible. I hear that whoever did this could get life in prison and I think, no way. But then my friends are like ‘Dude, someone tried to burn you alive.’ I mean, I still can’t grasp the thought of that. Why? I just don’t understand.”

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Arson, death threats, FBI, gay men, Georgia, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Georgian Nearly Roasted Alive As He Slept


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