Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Transwoman in D.C. Shot to Death

Lashai McLean, 23, gunned down in Northeast D.C.

Washington, D.C. – A 23-year-old transgender woman was brutally shot to death in the early hours of Wednesday, according to the Advocate.  Lashai McLean, described by her family as a caring person whose acts of kindness made a difference in people’s lives, was reported shot in the vicinity of a shelter for homeless LGBT youth where she had sought housing in the past at 4:26 a.m., according to Washington Metro Police.  Though an anti-transgender bias has not yet been declared by authorities, the entire District of Columbia transgender community is on alert.  A $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators of this crime. Ms. McLean’s murder is an ominous continuation of a viral epidemic of transgender killings in D.C. and throughout the nation, especially targeting transwomen of color.  On the same night as Ms. McLean was shot down in cold blood, police acknowledged another shooting in a nearby neighborhood. The victim in this second shooting survived, but is in critical condition in hospital. Police have not officially linked the two shootings.  A large crowd of grieving family and friends gathered at the Transgender Health Empowerment (THE) office, the parent organization of the shelter where Ms. McLean had received assistance, as news swiftly spread throughout the transgender community. Fox News 5 quoted THE executive Earline Budd: “It’s been time and time again we’ve been getting calls here at Transgender Health Empowerment about stabbings. They’ve been shot and they’ve been beat up and I can just say that I can’t say Shay was involved in any illegal activities in terms of being there, but I can tell you clearly that area has a lot of violence and we work very closely to educate young ladies.”  Budd went on to say that transgender women are constantly in peril, and the city must do something to stop the killings and attacks. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray expressed dismay over Ms. McLean’s murder, and pledged to work closely with metro police to determine whether sexual orientation and gender expression were motivators for her slaying.  Mayor Vincent declared that violence such as this would not be tolerated in the district. Meanwhile, the incalculable human toll of Ms. McLean’s loss is compounding among her friends and family. Ms. McLean’s financé, Jason Coleman, told NBC Washington that he planned to marry her. “She was lovely,” he said. “I wanted to be with her the rest of my life. It just hurts my heart. It hurts me terrible. I don’t know what I’m going to do without her.”  Breaking News: Metro Weekly reports that a community vigil is planned at the site of Ms. McLean’s murder, on the 6100 block of Dix Street NE, Saturday, July 23 at 7 p.m. The public is invited to attend and remember a lady who was beloved in the district.

July 22, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gender identity/expression, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Vigils, Washington, D.C., women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

DADT Repeal Certification Friday, July 22nd, But at What Cost to LGBTQ Americans? A Special Comment

Pfc. Barry Winchell's grave

Both CNN and the San Diego Union-Tribune are reporting tonight that final certification of DADT repeal will take place Friday in Washington, D.C.  But our celebrations are sobered at the Unfinished Lives Project by the magnitude of the cost to the LGBTQ community in servicemembers’ lives and careers in order to get to this landmark moment. When Secretary Leon Panetta signs the documents of certification at the Pentagon, signifying that the chiefs of the Armed Services have previously reported to him that full and open service by gay, lesbian, and bisexual soldiers, sailors, marines, airwomen and airmen, national guardsmen and women, and coast guardsmen and women poses no threat or harm to the morale, unit cohesion, or mission readiness of the Armed Forces, a giant step toward full equality for LGBTQ people will be made.  Seventeen years of the most oppressive and blatantly discriminatory anti-gay policy in contemporary memory will be over; but not before the incalculable cost of the lives of queer servicemembers who died before seeing this day dawn. At the Unfinished Lives Project, we have invoked the names and stories of some of them: Petty Officer Allen R. Schindler, U.S. Navy; Pfc. Barry Winchell, U.S. Army; Pfc. Michael Scott Goucher, U.S. Army Reserve; Seaman August Provost, U.S. Navy.  May they and all the others they represent rest in peace! These patriots died outrageous deaths at the hands of hatred and unreasoning bias, enabled by a military culture that either encouraged violence against suspected LGB servicemembers, or at the very least turned a blind eye toward such violence. Celebration of repeal is in order, and celebrate we will. The dead are honored by this act of justice, signifying that they have not died in vain. But we will also be mindful that no stroke of a pen, even one so powerful as the one wielded by the Secretary of Defense, will eliminate homophobia and heterosexism in the Armed Services. Ships, barracks, and foreign fields of service will be haunted with the hatred that has been passed down from generation to generation of American military personnel. Backlash is in full swing, as we have seen most graphically among right-wing conservative military chaplains whose appeals to exempt their anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and teachings as freedom of religion served to be the last bastion of “homophobia-masquerading-as-liberty” in the armed services. Thankfully, as certification on Friday shows, the vast majority of servicemembers of all ranks reject discrimination for what it truly is: un-American. In memory of all our LGBTQ servicemembers (of all faiths and faith-free, as the case may be) who have died in part or in full because of the ravages of hate crimes, we dedicate a portion of Fr. Thomas Merton’s most famous poem, written in memory of his brother, John Paul, killed in action in World War II, entitled, “For My Brother, Reported Missing In Action, 1943” [The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton, New Directions, 1977, p. 35-36]:

When all the men of war are shot

And flags have fallen into dust,

Your cross and mine shall tell men still

Christ died on each for both of us.

For in the wreckage of your April Christ lies slain,

And Christ weeps in the ruins of my spring:

The money of Whose tears shall fall

Into your weak and friendless hand,

And buy you back to your own land:

The silence of Whose tears shall fall

Like bells upon your alien tomb.

Hear them and come: they call you home.

July 22, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Asian Americans, Bisexual persons, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, military, Military Chaplaincy, National Guard, religious intolerance, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, transgender persons, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, Vigils, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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