Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Eight Horses Burned Alive in Ohio Anti-LGBT Hate Crime

Ruins of the barn where eight horses perished in flames (Advocate photo).

McConnelsville, Ohio – Eight quarter horses, one of them a week-old foal, perished in a barn fire on Monday in what a fire marshal is calling arson but neighbors are calling an anti-gay hate crime.  Brent Whitehouse, a gay insurance company owner who loved and trained horses, awoke late Sunday night to the roar of fire in his barn where his beloved horses were stabled.  He immediately called 911, but it was too late to save them, according to the Zanesville Times Recorder.  “I just don’t understand someone wanting to kill innocent animals,” Whitehouse said to Zanesville reporters. “It’s like killing a child. Those horses never did anything to hurt anyone.”  He is still in shock about the horrible incident that took the lives of Elvis, Barney, Floyd, Love, Bella, Ethel, and Princess and her month-old foal, Buddy.  Love was pregnant, and about to drop her foal, he said.  Whitehouse tried to break open the door of the inferno, while he heard kicking and screaming inside the barn.  It was impossible to free the horses. The heat was so intense, it melted a tractor inside the structure.  Volunteer firemen from the M&M Fire Department in Morgan County responded to the 911 call and fought the flames for two hours before bringing the fire under control.  Neighbors told the Times Recorder that they could see the flames licking the sky for miles away from the Whitehouse farm. A spokesman for the fire marshal’s office, Shane Cartmill, said that soon after arriving at the scene, they knew a crime had been committed.  Ugly epithets were painted on what was left of the barn, “Burn in Hell,” and “Fags and freaks” could be made out on the smoldering walls still standing.  The horses were valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the impact of the crime runs far deeper than economic loss.  “The horses cannot be replaced,” Whitehouse said, because of all the love and training that went into each one of them. “Whoever did this had to walk right by all those horses, including the baby,” he went on to say, “and didn’t care that they were killing a gentle, loving animal.”  His friends have no doubt this was a hate crime associated with Whitehouse’s sexual orientation.  “They obviously don’t know him very well,“ his friend Bobbie Nelson said to The Advocate, “because he’s a sweet-hearted person and how he lives his lifestyle is nobody’s business but his own.”  The Human Rights Campaign was alerted to the possibility of a hate crime early, according to Jeremy Penrod, Deputy Field Director.  Penrod believes that the Matthew Shepard Act will likely not apply to this crime, because it was a crime against property, and not against someone’s life and limb.  HRC is coordinating efforts to support Whitehouse through Stonewall Columbus and Equality Ohio.  Citizens of Morgan County are responding with support of their own for a man loved and respected by his friends and neighbors.  The investigation of the horrific crime is proceeding, with LGBTQ advocacy groups closely monitoring the responses of fire and police officials. Whitehouse still cries when he remembers the tiny foal, Buddy. As he told the Times Recorder, “He was only a week old.  I just had him and his mother in the arena and he was coming up and smelling me and checking me out. He was cute as a button.”

April 26, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Arson, gay men, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, immolation, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, Ohio, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Transgender Protection Passes in Dallas County!

Rafael McDonnell celebrates the passage of full Transgender protections for Dallas County Employees on the steps of the County Administration Building. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School is to his right. (c.d. kirven photo)

Dallas, Texas – By a vote of 3 to 2, the Dallas County Commissioners Court passed employment protection for Transgender people who work for the county.  After a five-week struggle, both sexual orientation AND gender identity and expression are now protected classes under the law for the county’s approximately 7,000 workers. According to the Dallas Voice, the vote of 3 in favor of Court Order 21, and 2 opposed fell along party lines, with Democrats Judge Clay Jenkins, John Wiley Price, and Dr. Elba Garcia in the majority, and Republicans Maurine Dickey and Mike Cantrell in the minority.

Though the Commissioners Court voted to include sexual orientation as a protected class in March of this year, advocates in the LGBTQ community called for a fully inclusive protection statute in the county, specifically naming gender expression and gender identity. Rumors swirled for the last two weeks, because what seemed to many as an obvious move on the part of county commissioners was thrown into doubt when open opposition on the political and religious right wing began to be voiced.  As late as this morning, LGBTQ leaders were warned that there would be vocal opposition to the inclusion of Transgender people in the statute, and to expect it to get “loud and nasty.” The courtroom braced for a strong debate, as citizens took up every seat, and many stood along the walls, waiting for the main event of the agenda, Court Order 21. Speakers rose to the podium for a full half hour, the amount of time allocated by the court for speakers to any issue. The commissioners extended the time to accommodate all who had registered in advance to speak to the issue.  Not a single speaker spoke in opposition to the proposal. Speeches in favor of the passage of Court Order 21 were clear, well-reasoned, respectful, and firm, all calling for justice to be done and equality to be extended to everyone in Dallas County.  Ms. Rebecca Solomon, Banking Officer for Bank of America in Dallas, appealed to the business sense of the court, reminding them of the many Fortune 500 companies in Dallas County that have full gender expression and gender identity protections in their Human Resources regulations. She said, “As a transgender person, I have vowed never to work in an environment in which my economic security is at risk because of who I am.  Dallas County needs to catch up with the rest of the country.”  Attorney Cece Cox, Executive Director of the Resource Center of Dallas, reminded the court that the issue before them was one of workplace fairness, and should not be swayed by beliefs that disapproved of classes of people.  Jesse Garcia, longtime Latino gay leader in the city and county, spoke out passionately for justice to be done, and for full inclusion of Transgender people under the law. African American lesbian leader, c.d. kirven, invoked the years of struggle LGBTQ people have endured in this country and in North Texas, saying that it was time for the “war” on people of difference in this culture to be over. Patti Fink of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance (DGLA), said that it was time for the commissioners to exercise leadership on this issue, and vote for equality. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School, Theologian-in-Residence of the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, concluded the speeches of the day, arguing that progressive religious communities fully supported equality, justice, and inclusion for all, and stated, “God created all, male and female, in the image and likeness of the divine. My interpretation of the book of Genesis on this matter suggests that Transgender people are at the heart of God’s love and God’s will, and are fully included when God pronounces the whole of creation ‘very good’ at the conclusion of the divine work.” He continued, “I look forward to the honorable members of this court doing the right thing, the just thing, and voting ‘Yes’ on Court Order 21.”

As dozens of Transgender men and women held their breath, Commissioners Dickey and Cantrell announced their intentions to vote ‘No’ on the proposal.  Dr. Elba Garcia said she was voting in favor of full inclusion, calling it an act of “justice,” and a step toward catching up with the rest of the world. John Wiley Price, citing medical advice he had sought out, agreed with Dr. Garcia that this vote was about doing the right thing.  He called the question, and Judge Clay Jenkins counted the votes necessary to make Transgender protections a reality for the many gender variant people who serve the county. A roar of approval rose from the crowd in the courtroom, and the celebration continued outside on the steps of the Dallas County Administration Building.  Rafael McDonnell, who tirelessly worked for passage of the court order, exuded joy as he thanked all the supporters and the county commissioners who made today’s victory for equality a reality.  The vote will have impact across Texas and the nation, given the leading position the Lone Star State holds in size and reputation as a conservative bastion. Dallas County is now ranked the ninth most populous county in the United States at over 2,400,000 people. It now joins Texas municipalities such as Dallas city, El Paso, Austin, and Houston in full protection for both sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression for employees.

April 26, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Bisexual persons, Brite Divinity School, Dallas Commissioners Court, Dallas County Texas, Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, gay men, GLBTQ, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Lesbian women, Politics, Resource Center of Dallas, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Transgender Equality, transgender persons | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Transgender Protection Passes in Dallas County!

Second Man ID’ed in Austin’s Lesbian-Related Double Murder

Norma Hurtado (l), and Maria Hurtado, daughter and mother, slain on Monday.

Austin, Texas – Austin police have identified a second man involved in Monday night’s double murder of a lesbian athlete and her mother in Southeast Austin. KXAN reports that authorities made the announcement on Wednesday, and are currently trying to decide the role this second suspect played in the brutal shooting of the two women by José Alfonso Aviles, disgruntled father of the lesbian’s teenaged girlfriend. Both Norma Hurtado and Maria Hurtado, 24 and 57 respectively, died in the attack.  Aviles was infuriated about the same-sex dating relationship his daughter had with Ms. Hurtado, and had threatened both Ms. Hurtado and her family with harm prior to the double homicide.  As police reconstructed the killing, Aviles and the second suspect drove to the Hurtado home on Monday evening, knocked on the door of the residence, and as Ms. Hurtado and her mother answered the door, Aviles allegedly opened fire. Both suspects then fled into the night. At the time of the attack, Ms. Aviles, daughter of her lover’s assailant, was in the back of the Hurtado residence and heard the shots fired. She discovered the bodies on the floor, and called 911. Both daughter and mother were pronounced dead at the scene. José Aviles fled to the San Antonio area where U.S. Marshals arrested him on Tuesday.  He has been charged with capital murder, and is being held in the Bexar County Jail without bond.  We Are Austin reports that friends gathered at the Hurtado home Tuesday evening to comfort each other and to remember the slain women.  Norma Hurtado was a renowned soccer player in the Millennium League, and was considered one of its best players.  On Thursday, April 21, a Community Candlelight Vigil in memory of the slain women is planned at the offices of OutYouth, 909 East 49 1/2 Street in Austin, beginning at 8 p.m.  The public is encouraged to attend. Speaking on behalf of the faith communities of Austin, Rev. Karen Thompson, senior pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Austin, decried the attack prompted by a father’s anger at the lesbian relationship between Ms.Hurtado and Ms. Aviles. “It is always, always heartbreaking when ignorance and hatred lead to this kind of violence,” she said. “But today, on this Thursday of Holy Week, the heartbreak and sadness are multiplied by a terrible irony. As our GLBTQ brothers and sisters gather together to mourn two more senseless deaths, Christians all over the world will be gathering to observe Maundy Thursday. Maundy Thursday, the day on which our tradition holds that Jesus had a last supper with his disciples and gave them a new mandate, ‘A new commandment I give you, that you love one another.'”

April 21, 2011 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Austin Police Department, death threats, gay bashing, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, Lesbian women, multiple homicide, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, Texas, Vigils, women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Second Man ID’ed in Austin’s Lesbian-Related Double Murder

Lesbian Lover and Mom Shot Dead by Girlfriend’s Enraged Father

Lesbian murder victim, Norma Hurtado

Austin, Texas – A lesbian and her mother were gunned down in Southeast Austin Monday evening by a teenager’s father, furious over his daughter’s queer relationship.  Norma Hurtado, 24, and her mother, Maria Hurtado, 57, were shot to death in their home, while Norma’s 18-year-old lover, the gunman’s daughter, was in the back of the house.  José Alfonso Aviles, 45, and an unidentified second man, allegedly knocked on the door of the Austin residence in the 7100 block of Dixie Drive, and when the Hurtados answered the door, Aviles opened fire.  Witnesses told police they saw two men flee the scene in a Nissan. Both Norma and Maria were killed in the hail of bullets. Aviles was apprehended in the St. Hedwig section of San Antonio on Tuesday where he surrendered to officers of the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force.  An investigation of a green Nissan turned up a pistol thought to be the murder weapon. Aviles has been charged with capital murder and is being held in the Bexar County Jail without bond.  Details of the murder are slowly coming to light as the investigation proceeds. Norma Hurtado and the Aviles girl (whose name is not being released ostensibly because of her age) had been in a dating relationship for several months, much to the chagrin of Aviles.  According to an arrest affidavit made available to KVUE News, witnesses testified to police that Aviles had threatened Norma Hurtado and her family over the lesbian relationship. Lt. Gena Davis of the Austin Police Department told KVUE, “We do know that the father had threatened harm toward Norma previously. This has been a dispute between these two individuals and subsequently we have suffered a horrific act of violence in our community.”

The Dallas Voice broke the story in North Texas.  The Austin Police have not classified this case as a hate crime. Reporter John Wright opined that though Austin has a lesbian District Attorney, she is unlikely to pursue a hate crime angle in the double homicide.  Although Texas has a hate crime statute on the books that lists “sexual preference” as a protected class, it offers no sentence enhancement in cases of capital murder.  Texas is notorious for leaving its gay/lesbian hate crimes law uninvoked in seemingly obvious cases of homophobia such as this one.  Texas D.A.’s reason that the hate crimes law raises the bar of proof, burdening a prosecutor who is likely going for the death penalty anyway. An attempt is being made to tamp down the story, reminiscent of other LGBTQ hate crimes investigations where the authorities want to minimize the sexual orientation motive for a murder that otherwise bears all the classic marks of an anti-lesbian honor killing.  Your News Now (YNN) reports APD’s Lt. Davis as saying, “This was a very isolated incident. There is no fear to the community.” Austin, long considered “safe” for LGBTQ people, has in recent months experienced a spate of anti-gay and lesbian violence, including attacks on gay softball players and on gay community leaders outside popular gay bars. The nature of murder aimed at lesbians and gay men by straight killers may seem “isolated” as the police wish to portray it, but the brutality, rage, and callousness of the crimes bespeak a message to the whole LGBTQ community of Travis County and Central Texas. The Unfinished Lives Project Team would be very surprised if lesbians and gay men in Austin are buying the line the APD is trying to sell them.  Austin is no longer safe and secure for its LGBTQ population.

April 20, 2011 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Austin Police Department, death threats, gay teens, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, home-invasion, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, multiple homicide, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Texas, women | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Unfinished Song” by Matt Bridges Hits YouTube! Inspired by LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims

This song is so inspiring it will bring tears to your eyes, Friends! I’m asking all my friends to help this YouTube go viral, for the sake of all LGBTQ hate crimes victims everywhere. What better deed could you do this Easter Season? So, watch the video, and share the link!  Thanks a million, Steve Sprinkle

“Unfinished Song” was written by Matt Bridges and was inspired by Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications, 2011), a new book authored by Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, who teaches at Brite Divinity School on the campus of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. The book, which is being heralded as a “game changer” on the issue of LGBTQ hate crimes, chronicles the ‘unfinished lives’ of several LBGTQ people who were killed primarily because hatred of their sexual orientation and gender expression. This video was engineered by Bob Wilcox with illustrations and visual content produced by Dan Peeler and Charlie Rose of Peeler-Rose Designs – Dallas. Images © 2011 Peeler-Rose Designs/© 2011 Stephen Sprinkle; Music and lyrics © 2011 Matt Bridges. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

April 20, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Asian Americans, Book Tour, Bullying in schools, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Lesbian women, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Remembrances, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, song, transgender persons, transphobia, Unfinished Song | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kobe Bryant Fined $100K For Anti-Gay Slur: A Special Comment

Los Angeles, California – Kobe Bryant, controversial star of the Los Angeles Lakers, has been fined $100,000 for an anti-gay slur he mouthed on live television at a referee.  As E! Online reports, the National Basketball Association (NBA) fined Bryant after investigating the incident.  Bryant, angry at being given a technical foul by Referee Bennie Adams, called the ref a “fucking faggot” in such a way that it was captured live by the camera at last night’s Lakers game with the San Antonio Spurs. NBA Commissioner David Stern swiftly disciplined the five-time national champion guard, saying to Free Republic”Kobe Bryant’s comment during last night’s game was offensive and inexcusable. While I’m fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated. … Kobe and everyone associated with the NBA know that insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society.” The action of the NBA drew praise from LGBTQ rights advocacy groups who had protested the use of the slur.  In a statement Bryant issued through the L.A. Lakers organization, Bryant had tried to defuse the anger of gay rights groups by saying that he didn’t mean anything by it. “What I said last night should not be taken literally. My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period,” Bryant averred. ”The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone.” Who does he think he’s fooling? The Human Rights Campaign said to TMZ Sports“What a disgrace for Kobe Bryant to use such horribly offensive and distasteful language, especially when millions of people are watching.” The HRC has a point.  Language has consequences. Words can ignite lethal acts. Especially for groups who face threats of physical, social, and spiritual violence daily, as LGBTQ people do. The people who say to queer folk, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” simply do not live in the same psycho-social universe that the rest of us do. The linkage between anti-gay slurs and epithets, and acts of bias-driven violence has been well-establshed by law enforcement. One of the unmistakable markers looked for by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to help determine if an assault should be investigated as a hate crime is the use of derogatory, anti-LGBTQ language during the committal of the crime. And the link between verbal attacks on queer folk and hate speech is clearly an organic one. Bryant’s disdain for gays and lesbians was openly on display for the world to see and hear, reinforcing cultural and religious bias against gender variant and same sex loving people.  HRC went on to say, “Hopefully Mr. Bryant will recognize that as a person with such fame and influence, the use of such language not only offends millions of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] people around the world, but also perpetuates a culture of discrimination and hate that all of us, most notably Mr. Bryant, should be working to eradicate.” Youth worship NBA stars like Bryant.  They model themselves after their heroes in fashion, prowess, and, pertinent for this inquiry, in opinion. The sports shoe industry has know that for a very long time. At the very least, Bryant’s verbal foul supports a culture of discrimination and intimidation that has kept gay and lesbian athletes deeply closeted for decades, making the sports closet arguably the most pernicious in American life today.  One has only to reflect on the rarest of all queer celebrities: out professional sports figures. So, the Unfinished Lives Project Team stands with HRC President, Joe Solmonese when he said today, “We applaud Commissioner Stern and the NBA for not only fining Bryant but for recognizing that slurs and derogatory comments have no place on the basketball court or in society at large. We hope such swift and decisive action will send a strong and universal message that this kind of hateful outburst is simply inexcusable no matter what the context.” It is past time to require professional sports teams and coaching organizations to do sensitivity and diversity training inclusive of LGBTQ concerns. Kobe Bryant apparently doesn’t know better until he gets caught.  The Lakers went on to win the game.  Kobe lost, big time. We at Unfinished Lives believe in order for things to get better in the locker room and on the court, athletes must be taught what is at stake when they “foul” the air.

April 14, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, California, FBI, gay bashing, gay men, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, Kobe Bryant, Lesbian women, National Basketball Association (NBA), Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Queer, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Kobe Bryant Fined $100K For Anti-Gay Slur: A Special Comment

“Unfinished Lives” Book Tour Rolls Through North Carolina

 

Stephen Sprinkle signs "Unfinished Lives" book at Barton College, Wilson, North Carolina (Keith Tew photograph)

Raleigh, North Carolina – The Unfinished Lives Book Tour is visiting cities, churches, and campuses throughout the Old North State, and buzz is growing on the book wherever it goes.  Dr. Sprinkle commenced at the home of the Reverends Phil Jones and Cathy Cralle-Jones in Cary on April 9, where a packed house heard the story of how Unfinished Lives came to be. “I survived an anti-gay hate crime threat myself in 2000,” Dr. Sprinkle told the gathering of well-wishers for the book.  “That near-brush with physical violence just because I was gay set me on the journey to learn as much as I could about other stories of hate crimes victims in the United States,” he said. Representatives of St. Paul’s Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Hillyer Memorial Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, Covenant Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Cary, Hopewell United Methodist Church in Sampson County, and the Graduate School at North Carolina State University engaged Dr. Sprinkle in a lively Q & A on hate crimes in America.  On Sunday, April 10, Dr. Sprinkle preached for the 9 and 11 a.m. services at St. Jude’s Metropolitan Community Church in Wilmington, an LGBTQ-predominant congregation founded after the brutal 1990 disembowelment slaying of lesbian carpenter, Talana Quay Kreeger, “Talana with the wild, blonde hair.”  No church in the city would allow Kreeger’s funeral because of the negativity toward her homosexuality, though she was the innocent victim of a horrendous hate crime.  Coastal Carolina queer folk vowed never to depend on a straight Christian congregation again to allow a funeral for one of their own. Local visionary activist, social worker Tab Ballis, introduced Dr. Lou Buttino, head of the UNC-Wilmington Film Studies Department, and announced that “The Park View Project” documenting the murder of Talana Kreeger, would be seen to completion by the eminent filmmaker. Reverend John A. McLaughlin, pastor of St. Jude’s, welcomed Dr. Sprinkle on behalf of the city of Wilmington. In the afternoon, representatives of St. Jude’s and First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Wilmington, and Winterville Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) joined Dr. Sprinkle for a book signing at Two Sisters Bookery in the historic Cape Fear Riverfront Cotton Exchange. On Monday, April 11, Dr. Sprinkle spoke at the NC State University GLBT Center “Lunch and Learn” event, and signed copies of his book. Center Director Justine Hollingshead and Emeritus Professor Bill Swallow hosted Dr. Sprinkle at State, where members of the Wolfpack Football Team were in attendance for the talk. This was Dr. Sprinkle’s second appearance at the NC State GLBT Center. In the afternoon, Dr. Sprinkle and Rev. Phil Jones went to Wilson to deliver a lecture and sign books at Barton College.  Dr. Sprinkle was hosted by Dr. Joe Jones, and greeted by members of the Religion and Philosophy, Sociology, Social Work, and English faculties of the college. He spoke on “Honor and Educate: How the Community of the Dead Shapes LGBTQ Community.”  Students, faculty, and staff asked many probing and pertinent questions about the nature of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and the linkage with religious intolerance. On Tuesday, April 12, Rev. Jones and Dr. Sprinkle traveled to Duke University Divinity School in Durham for a book signing sponsored by Cokesbury Bookstore. Dr. Stanley Hauerwas, renowned theological ethicist, called “America’s best theologian” by Time Magazine, attended, and got his copy of Unfinished Lives. “These stories need to be gotten out there,” Dr. Hauerwas said. He presented Dr. Sprinkle with a signed copy of his 2005 book, Cross-Shattered Christ: Meditations on the Seven Last Words. Later in the afternoon, the tour went to the LGBTQ Center on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where Dr. Sprinkle and Rev. Jones were greeted by Terry Phoenix, Center Director. A topic of discussion was the April 4 torture attack on gay UNC student Quinn Matney, who claimed he was branded by a super-hot metal instrument while being held down by his assailant. “Here is a taste of hell for you, you fucking faggot!”, the UNC student said his attacker shouted while torturing him, as reported to the Daily Tarheel. Before departing Chapel Hill, Dr. Sprinkle introduced his book to Dr. Rick Edens and Dr. Jill Edens, co-pastors at the 800-member United Church, a congregation of the United Church of Christ. Dr. Sprinkle plans to contact RDU leaders on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program on Wednesday, before returning to Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth.  The book tour is making friends and news everywhere it goes.  A four-session series on the book is planned for Houston during Pride Month, in June, and a six city national tour in the Fall.  Stay tuned for more on Unfinished Lives!

April 12, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Barton College, Beatings and battery, Bisexual persons, Book Tour, Bullying in schools, Burning and branding, Cokesbury Books, Covenant Christian Church, death threats, desecration of corpses, Duke Divinity School, Evisceration, First Christian Church Wilmington, funerals, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program, It Gets Better Book, It Gets Better Project (IGBP), Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Matthew Shepard Act, NC State GLBT Center, NC State Graduate School, North Carolina, Park View Project, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Public Theology, Queer, Racism, rape, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, School and church shootings, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, St Jude's MCC, stabbings, stalking, Stanley Hauerwas, Stomping and Kicking Violence, Strangulation, suicide, Torture and Mutilation, transgender persons, transphobia, Two Sisters Bookery, U.S. Navy, UNC-Chapel Hill LGBTQ Center, UNC-W Film Studies Program, Unfinished Lives Book Signings, United Church of Chapel Hill, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “Unfinished Lives” Book Tour Rolls Through North Carolina

Guest Post – of Queers and Steers – A Manifesto of a Queer Womyn

Our Project Director, Steve Sprinkle, is out on his book tour in North Carolina this week. However we don’t wish to live y’all bereft of content so here is an incredible guest post by Mary our dear friend and supporter:

“Of Queers and Steers – A Manifesto of a Queer Womyn,” by Mary Warejcka

Have you liked Unfinished Lives on Facebook yet?

NB – Mary is a dear friend and, as you will see, a powerful writer.  This is an essay she has given me permission to post, and it is a moving testimony to queer life.  Read, marvel, and enjoy!  ~ Steve Sprinkle

April 12, 2011 Posted by | Book Tour, Queer | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Guest Post – of Queers and Steers – A Manifesto of a Queer Womyn

“It Gets Better” Makes Us All Stronger! A Special Comment by Dr. Stephen Sprinkle

Dr. Stephen Sprinkle and Dan Savage (Unfinished Lives Project Director, Dr.Sprinkle, was an early contributor to the "It Gets Better Project").

When Dan Savage and Terry Miller conceived of the “It Gets Better Project,” the goal they had was a hundred videos.  Now there are over 10,000 of them, and the videos have been viewed over 40,000,000 times to date—and growing!  Dan has said that had there been 20 videos online, and one life saved, it would have been worth it.  We know now that many, many teenage lives have been given new hope, and also that young lives by the hundreds have been saved by this visionary project.  As the Jewish Talmud teaches, Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 37a).  The IGB Project, and now the New York Times bestselling book by the same name has already saved a galaxy of worlds by this rabbinic measure.

But the IGB project and book have gone one better than this, if such a thing might be possible.  Dan, Terry, and the worldwide host of contributors to this positive effort have changed the world irrevocably, queer and straight alike.  Here are two of the ways I see.

First, the “coming out story,” a staple of LGBTQ life, has been transformed into a declaration of how the queer community is overcoming shame, persecution, and victimhood—and coming on strong.  For two generations since Stonewall, the coming out story has been a way LGBTQ people shared their struggles and established solidarity with each other.  Most of these stories were accounts of struggle, hurt, and survival. Queer folk got to see they were not alone and isolated—we heard the battles others fought, and compared scars—and that was powerful for all parties, because these stories allowed us to see that there were others like us in this difficult world—that we resisted and lived on into a new life together, no longer alone.  But IGB went a crucial step further: as thousands of us were empowered to speak directly to queer teenagers with a positive message of hope and power, “It really does get better, and this is how it got better for us,” we got to overhear ourselves rehearsing stories of strength and success—not just repetitions of woe and endurance.  IGB powered up the queer community to tell the whole world how we are defeating opposition in fine style thousands of different ways everyday.  The message is, “We are no one’s patsies anymore, thank you! And we are ready and able to make things improve for ourselves and our teens every day, until it gets better for all of us!”  IGB changed the coming out story into the overcoming stories of a powerful queer people who will never settle for victimhood again.  In my religious tradition, as a queer Baptist preacher, that makes me want to shout, Hallelujah!

Second, IGB empowered our straight allies to come out strong, too.  From President Obama to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  From Prime Minister David Cameron to Lutheran Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson. From moms and pops, school teachers who taught us, and straight employers who hired us.  Our allies joined the queer community to make the message of zero tolerance for school bullying perfectly queer.  I know the term “queer” rankles some genteel sentiments, but to see the way our straight allies have taken the term and wrapped themselves in it for our sakes should dispel the last reservations we have about the word and about how the LGBTQ movement for human rights and equal dignity will grow and eventually prevail.  Straight queer allies by the hundreds of thousands are rising up against bullying, het privilege, and the culture of violence that imperils not only gender non-conforming youth, but all youth everywhere.  By ourselves, LGBTQ people are not numerous enough to change the het world.  But IGB shows youth and adults in our LGBTQ communities—out or closeted—that growing numbers of queerly empowered straight allies are joining us to transform the world we all share.  This is no panacea, of course.  My generation may not live to see it, especially in the churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques where old prejudices linger with desperate power.  But even there, straight allies are queering religion with us.  When the annals of these years are written, I believe the IGB Project will feature prominently in the story of how all us queers, LGBTQ and straight, overcame together. Like the Black Gospel refrain goes, “Over! Over! My soul looks back and wonders how I got over!”

So, Dan and Terry, and the tens of thousands who have rallied to the cause of a safer world for youth to grow up in, a salute to you!  The children will rise up to call you “blessed.”  And so does this mighty queer Baptist preacher from Texas, too!    ~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Brite Divinity School, and Unfinished Lives Project Director

April 3, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, Dan Savage, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, It Gets Better Book, It Gets Better Project, It Gets Better Project (IGBP), Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Popular Culture, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, Stonewall Inn, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “It Gets Better” Makes Us All Stronger! A Special Comment by Dr. Stephen Sprinkle

   

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