Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Texas Grandmother Attacks Gay Man With Her Cane; Arrested for Hate Crime

Alleged gay basher, cane-wielding Wanda Derby, 71, arrested for brutally beating a gay man in Richland Hills, Texas while calling him homophobic slurs (Richland Hills PD photo).

Richland Hills, Texas – A 71-year-old grandmother allegedly beat and choked a gay man with her cane, calling him a “faggot” and falsely accusing him of having AIDS.  Wanda Derby of Richland Hills, a suburb of Fort Worth, unleashed her homophobic attack on Wednesday night against a 25-year-old  gay man her son moved in with last week, according to NBCDFW.com.  Derby and her son had been “having issues” for several days, and her son decided to move in with the man and his family who also live in the neighborhood.  Tensions had been mounting for weeks, according to the victim.  Derby allegedly posted several times on Facebook that her son’s friend had AIDS and was going to die from it.  The victim of the attack says he had to reassure his friends the accusation was not true, and that he was disease free.

The victim, who preferred to be unidentified in two news sources but is openly named in a third, says the Wednesday night attack was unprovoked. Derby, he said, struck him with her wooden cane, choked him with the crook of the cane, and then attacked other family members, including the victim’s mother, whom she allegedly slapped in the face.  Derby repeatedly yelled homophobic slurs as she carried on the attack. “I was very offended,” the victim said to MSNBC. “You just don’t go around calling people names because. It’s just not normal.”  he continued, “We finally got the cane and got it away from her and threw it on the ground. And then that’s when I ran around and got inside the house. And then we started trying to shut the door. And she was like, full force, coming.” 

Detective Tye Bell of the Richland Hills Police told the Dallas Voice that the victim suffered multiple bruises on his torso and marks on his neck from the cane.  He was treated by the Richland Hills Police on the scene.  “[Derby’s] statements were very biased toward sexual preference and that gave us the probable cause to file that as a hate crime,” Bell said to Voice reporters.  Derby was arrested Wednesday and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon that may be enhanced due to a hate crimes charge.  Without the hate crimes enhancement, Derby could serve a maximum of 20 years in prison, if found guilty.  With the hate crimes enhancement, she could face a life sentence.  After posting $11,500 bail, she was released on Thursday afternoon from the Richland Hills jail.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that just hours before the gay bashing, Derby wrote on her Facebook page: “My son Steven is no longer my son. He has sided with the idiots next door and I guess he [thinks] they will take care of him. He will never get another thing from me or his dad. We have washed our hands of him.”  Derby was a longtime financial officer of the Mental Health Mental Retardation Association of Tarrant County, and worked for two years at the American Red Cross of Greater Dallas, according to her posts on Facebook.

The victim of Derby’s hate crime, who is an actor, says she deserves to be taught a lesson, and he hopes she receives the full penalty of the law.  He went on to tell the Dallas Voice that he was proud of being gay. “She’s not going to make me feel bad for who I am,” he said. “I’m not changing my lifestyle because someone feels I am a disgrace.”

March 30, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Slurs and epithets, Texas, women | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gay Washington Teen Dies in Response to Cyber- and School Bullying

Rafael "Rafa" Morelos, 14-year-old openly gay middle school student took his own life because of incessant bullying.

Cashmere, Washington – New light is being shed on the bullycide of a 14-year-old gay boy, victimized online and in school because of his sexual orientation.  Rafael Morelos, a student at Cashmere Middle School, hanged himself  from an irrigation bridge not far from his home on January 29, a cold Sunday in central Washington state.  His older brother found his lifeless body.  The small agricultural community of 3,060 east of Seattle continues to be in mourning because of his loss.  It is another community that believed anti-gay bullying just didn’t happen among people of stolid, conservative values like them.  Rafael’s suicide has dispelled that illusion.

By all accounts, Rafael was a boy who was easy to like.  He had been out and open about his homosexuality, and had overcome depressive bouts that had caused him to cut himself.  But conservative attitudes, especially among school counselors, made it difficult for Rafa (as his friends called him) and other gay students to find a professional they could trust.

School and town officials still do not want to say that anti-gay bullying played a major role in Rafael’s death.  But scores of his classmates told his mother that the bullying was incessant.  Huffington Post reports that the school locker room was a place of painful conflict for Rafael.  Quoting the Wentachee World, Huffpo highlights a couple of witnesses to some of the worst incidents of harassment and physical violence. One friend said, “He told me he got shoved and punched in the face in P.E. in the locker room at Cashmere.”  Another added, “He was tired of people saying that his little brothers would follow in his footsteps and be gay, too.”  Another friend said that the harassment extended to the internet.  A bully set up a Facebook page just so she could taunt Rafael online for being gay.  His mother Malinda Morelos told Q13 Fox News that she knew he was not acting as if he felt up to par, but she had no idea that he was being bullied for being gay at school.  After a candlelight vigil attended by over 100 youth and others, she said, “He never told me nothing. He did not tell me he was being bullied. He had a dark side inside him that he never told me his feelings anymore. I thought it was just him being a teenager, and I just didn’t know why.”

The Seattle Times says a person from a nearby town collected over 750 signatures for a Change.org petition calling upon Cashmere school officials to enforce their zero tolerance policy on anti-gay bullying.  LGBTQ advocates from around the nation are pressing local and state officials for action to prevent other senseless bullycides. On April 7, the Seattle Men’s Chorus, known for its many gay members, will give a benefit concert in Rafael’s memory.  The concert will be preceded by a program on diversity and tolerance.  Cashmere Schools Superintendent Glenn Johnson told the Times: “The bottom line is we lost a kid — and that’s of concern no matter what the reason is. The reality is that we take that very seriously and we want to get better as a community,” Superintendent Johnson continued. “We need to learn and heal together.”

His mother is left with her memories and a journal retrieved from his school locker where he spoke lovingly about his friends and a special person in his life.  On his iPod, Rafa left a short, poignant goodbye shortly before he died: “Sawwy, guys, but I love you guys.”  As his mother said to mourners at the candlelight vigil in memory of her dear son, “Sometimes he acted strong but, inside, he was dying little by little.”

March 29, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bullycide, Bullying in schools, gay teens, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Social Justice Advocacy, Vigils, Washington State | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Washington Teen Dies in Response to Cyber- and School Bullying

Gay Man Shot at DC IHOP; Female Suspect Arrested for Possible Hate Crime

24-hr. IHOP Restaurant in Columbia Heights where a gay man was gunned down in a possible hate crime March 11.

Columbia Heights, District of Columbia – Metro Police announced Monday that a woman has been arrested for the shooting of a gay man in a local IHOP restaurant.  DC Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and DC Mayor Vincent Gray told reporters that LaShawn Carson, 27, resident of the District, has been arrested for the March 11 shooting in what is being called an anti-gay hate crime.  The Washington Times reports that investigating officers say anti-gay epithets were used by the suspect during the attack, leading police to investigate the shooting as a possible hate crime.  Two groups of customers engaged in a disturbance at approximately 6:30 a.m. on the 11th at the Columbia Heights IHOP leading to blows being exchanged and water glasses being thrown.  Carson was hit in the face in the altercation, backed away, and then opened fire inside the restaurant, yelling epithets at her victim, according to CBS DC.   The victim survived, but still has a bullet lodged in his liver.

DC Council Member for District 1, Democrat Jim Blair, commenting on Carson’s arrest, said, “What a relief this is. This was a horrendous hate crime that singled someone out on the perception they were part of a particular group.”  The suspect was arraigned on Monday, and will have a preliminary hearing on Thursday. Until authorities can determine if they wish to charge Carson with a hate crime, she is being held without bond.  At present, she has been charged with aggravated assault while armed.   A surveillance video confirmed who fired the shot.  Other persons have been identified in the video, but at no one else has been arrested in connection with the possible hate shooting.  Officials are assuring the public that this incident has no relationship with the rash of physical violence against DC gays, lesbians, and transgender persons.

March 27, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, gay men, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Metropolitan Police (D.C.), Slurs and epithets, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Man Shot at DC IHOP; Female Suspect Arrested for Possible Hate Crime

Gay Ohio Teen in Coma After Post-Bullying Suicide Attempt

Austin Rodriguez, 15, overdosed on prescription pills because of incessant bullying due to his sexual orientation.

Wellsville, Ohio – An openly gay 15-year-old is struggling for his life in a coma after high school bullying drove him to attempt suicide.  The Advocate reports that Austin Rodriguez, student at Wellsville High School, collapsed on the kitchen floor in front of his mother after swallowing over 100 pills because he faced concentrated ridicule and harassment for being gay.  According to WFMJ TV, Rodriguez seemed lethargic to his mother last Friday evening, and then fell at her feet to the kitchen floor from taking a massive overdose of his own prescription drug.  She rushed him to a local hospital for treatment, where doctors then helicoptered him to Akron Children’s Hospital where he remains in a medically induced coma to protect his life.  Because of the extent of the damage to his lungs from the overdose, Rodriguez is in critical condition, but his doctors are guardedly optimistic that he will recover.

His mother is appealing to the Wellsville High School administration and to other schools in the Ohio Valley to change its policies toward LGBT students like her son.  In an interview for WFMJ, Bonnie Rodriguez said she had no idea her introverted, quiet son was being bullied to the degree he was until school friends came forward “out of the woodwork” to tell her stories of fear and pain after Austin was hospitalized. In the last eight months Austin had come out to her, and she said she shares a loving, “honest” relationship with her son.  “I actually didn’t know how bad it was for him in school until he actually did this,” Mrs. Rodriguez said. “And until friends came out of the woodwork saying we knew Austin was going through this, we thought he was handling it a lot better. We didn’t know what to do.”  Mrs. Rodriguez went on to say that Austin was happy and relieved at first because coming out to her had gone so well, but later he fell into a depression she was unable to get to the bottom of.  Now she knows the bullying at school was behind much of her son’s desperation, and he was unwilling to talk about it because he didn’t want to seem weak.

Schoolmates harassed Austin cruelly, forcing an already introverted boy to feel like an outcast.  His mother told reporters the extent of the bullying her son had to endure: “It was electronic, it was face to face bullying, they were hiding his gym clothes because they didn’t want him changing in the locker room with them,” she said. “They didn’t want him to eat by them, or in the school lunchroom.”  Mrs. Rodriguez hopes that no other family has to undergo what hers has to face, and her calls for action are beginning to be heard.  WTRF TV reports that the Wellsville High administration is investigating the situation that led Austin to attempt suicide.  There is no Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at Wellsville High, but administrators now say they are open to the establishment of one. Students say that Austin was bullied constantly because is came out as gay.  They also say that the school is not doing enough to address the problem of anti-gay bullying.  Principal Linda Rolley is fielding their complaints as the investigation proceeds.  Meanwhile, the next few days are crucial for Austin’s physical recovery.  The culture of harassment and violence that led to this hateful outcome, however, remains intact throughout schools in the Akron area.

March 23, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bullying in schools, gay teens, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Ohio, suicide | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hollywood Hate Crime Suggests City Unsafe for Gays

All is not well for gays in the City of the Stars.

Hollywood, California – Police are investigating a severe beating at one of the busiest corners in Hollywood this Sunday. According to CBS 2 News, three men approached a lone, 39-year-old Hispanic man at the corner of North Caheunga Boulevard and Yucca Street, asking him if he was gay.  When he said “yes,” the men attacked him so brutally that he lost consciousness.  They only stopped their assault when other people arrived on the scene, and moved in to help the victim.  The victim took a cab to the hospital where he was treated and released.  Police have only a vague description of the attackers. There has been no evidence to suggest there was a racial/ethnic dimension to the assault.  This appears to be a gay bashing, plain and simple, and police in the Hollywood Division of the LAPD are investigating it as such.

The attack took place around 1:30 am in the heart of Hollywood, a location where people have felt safe for years.  For a man to be assaulted so blatantly raises security concerns for residents.  Area resident Daniela Castro told CBS 2 reporters that she was shocked and disgusted that such a hate crime took place in her neighborhood.  “I hate that people have to think that way,” she said. “People need to be more open-minded.” Noting that she walks through the same intersection to and from acting classes, Castro said, “I really hope they get caught. If they keep doing that to people, it’s just not right.”

The gay community in the Hollywood area is on high alert already.  In October, a series of gay bashings took place in West Hollywood, according to the Los Angeles Times.  Authorities downplayed the anti-gay attacks at that time, reassuring the community that there was no evidence that the fall attacks were related to each other, and that there was apparently no upsurge in anti-gay violence in the city.  Now, with this disturbing gay bashing taking place in the heart of the city, gay activists are calling for immediate investigation and action to protect the large LGBTQ community.

March 18, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, California, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBTQ, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Hollywood Hate Crime Suggests City Unsafe for Gays

Dharun Ravi, Clementi’s Spying Roommate Found Guilty of Anti-Gay Intimidation

Dharun Ravi (l), found guilty of cyber-spying and bias intimidation against his gay roommate, Tyler Clementi (r).

New Brunswick, New Jersey – Dharun Ravi was found guilty today on the vast majority of counts for spying on his Rutgers roommate’s gay intimacies in 2010.  ABC News reports that Ravi remained emotionless as the jury brought back its verdict in one of the most closely watched anti-bullying trials in United States history.  He was found guilty of  invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering, and hindering arrest due to his actions setting up a spy-cam to record a gay tryst between his freshman roommate, Tyler Clementi, and a same-sex lover on September 19, 2010.  Ravi was also found guilty of prompting others to spy on Clementi during a second tryst on September 21, 2010, and of intimidating his roommate for being gay.  He was found not guilty of some subparts of the 15 counts of bias intimidation, attempted invasion of privacy, and attempted bias intimidation, but needed only to be found guilty of one part of each count to be convicted. Ravi, who is 20, could face a sentence of five to ten years for his crimes.  Because he is a citizen of India in the United States on a Green Card, he could also face deportation.

Behind the proceedings, the suicide of Tyler Clementi loomed like a dark cloud.  Clementi was distressed when he found out that he had been videoed in his own room and exposed for being gay. His death by drowning after leaping from the George Washington Bridge on September 22, 2010, and the connections between his suicide and Ravi’s use of the spy-cam to invade his privacy and intimidate him for his sexual orientation made international news.  Clementi’s death, one of a long list of gay intimidation suicides, burst on the national scene with long-delayed urgency, calling attention to the loss of so many young lives to school and university brutality and intimidation.

Over the course of the 12-day trial, Ravi’s defense team argued that he was not homophobic in action or intent, and that his actions were those of an immature person who saw a chance to make fun of someone different.  They also argued that Ravi’s use of a spy-cam was to monitor Clementi’s male guest, whom Ravi felt was “sketchy,” according to reports in USA Today.  The jury did not buy the explanation.  As the verdict was read, Ravi’s mother burst into tears, and his father took notes about the particulars of the findings.  Ravi will be sentenced on May 21.

Tyler Clementi’s family spoke briefly at a press conference following the verdict.  They praised the work of the court, and affirmed how important this trial was to them, though they did not refer directly to the verdict or the case.  The family will now be able to return to their Ridgewood, New Jersey home in the knowledge that some justice has finally been done for their shy, musically gifted son.

March 16, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bullying in schools, cyber voyeurism, gay teens, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, New Jersey, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Social Justice Advocacy, suicide | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gay University Student Attacked, Raped, Barely Escapes with His Life

Keire Gartica, 25, Gay Hate Crime victim, recovering from his wounds.

Corpus Christi, Texas – A gay university student says he was captured, beaten for hours, raped, and would surely have died if he had not escaped his assailants through a window.  Keire Gartica, 25, a Texas A&M Corpus Christi Political Science student, was found naked and bleeding from multiple wounds on Thursday after his harrowing escape.  The police took him to a hospital where he was treated and released.  Gartica says his attackers, two Hispanic men in their 20s or 30s, held him hostage and repeatedly assaulted him, calling him racial and homophobic slurs, after he came by their house on Elizabeth Street to repay a $5 debt he owed them.

KRIS TV News reports that police are treating the investigation as a simple assault until the District Attorney makes a determination on hate crimes charges.  Gartica, in the meanwhile, has left Corpus Christi for his home in another locale to recover from his wounds.  According to his Facebook page, authorities are “dragging their feet,” and police have not yet interviewed him about the heinous hate crime which took place almost a week ago.  On Sunday, Gartica posted: “I was the victim of a heinous hate crime that has rendered me a shell of myself. Action ten news in Corpus is covering the story and I conducted an extended interview that airs tonight at ten. There is also footage of me immediately after my escape thursday night on the action ten site… the people responsible for this will be held accountable and brought to justice.”

The attack was prolonged and brutal.  Gartica told KZTV 10  reporters that he was forced to clean the house naked by his assailants, who beat him with a belt buckle, glass cups, a frying pan, a pistol, and their fists while he complied in fear of his life.  At one point, an attacker threw bleach in his eyes, blinding him. The men debased him racially, and violated him sexually with a variety of items.  Gartica is certain he would not be alive today if he had not taken a chance and jumped out of a window.

Now Gartica, shaken by his ordeal, has lost his sense of security. He says he will not feel safe again until his attackers are apprehended and are behind bars.  As he said in a telephone interview for Six News, “I don’t feel right at all. It’s hard to fathom that this actually happened. It doesn’t seem like this actually happened.”  Though Gartica is appreciative of the outpouring of support for him by friends and classmates all over the state of Texas, he posted on his Facebook page,“It has been almost a week. I just feel powerless.”

March 14, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latinos, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, rape, Sexual assault, Slurs and epithets, Texas, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Cameron: “Homosexuality is unnatural” — This is why we must continue to fight back!

CNN – Kirk Cameron, ’80s teen idol, tells America that same-sex love is “unnatural” and “ultimately destructive to the foundations of civilization.”  Cameron, one time star of TV sitcom, “Growing Pains,” told CNN’s Piers Morgan on Friday that God is opposed to homosexuality and to same-sex marriage.  The theological justification of oppression against LGBTQ people is at the root of much of the anti-gay discrimination and violence in our society, and Cameron uses his celebrity to promote religious bigotry.  In response to Morgan’s question about marriage equality, Cameron said, “Marriage was defined by God a long time ago. Marriage is almost as old as dirt, and it was defined in the garden between Adam and Eve — one man, one woman for life till death do you part. So I would never attempt to try to redefine marriage. And I don’t think anyone else should either. So do I support the idea of gay marriage? No, I don’t.”

Cameron, a once-upon-a-time atheist, underwent a Christian conversion, and has become a leading voice in condemning gay and lesbian equality.  Now the father of six children, the child star said to Piers Morgan that if one of his children told him he was gay, he would have a long, serious talk with his boy.  “I wouldn’t say ‘That’s great, son, as long as you’re happy,'” Cameron said. “There are all sorts of issues we need to wrestle through in our life… Just because you feel one way doesn’t mean we should act on everything we feel.”

Since becoming an Evangelical Christian activist, Cameron has often attacked gay and lesbian equality on religious grounds.  GLAAD Senior Director of Programs, Herndon Graddick, was swift to call Cameron out for his bigoted remarks.  Graddick said to TMZ that Cameron is “out of step with a vast majority of Americans, particularly people of faith who believe that their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters should be loved and accepted based on their character and not condemned because of their sexual orientation.” GLAAD has mounted a campaign to monitor Cameron’s public statements and appearances, and vows to inform outlets of his anti-gay extremist views.

LGBTQ people of faith have a special mission to blunt the force of faith-based bigotry, like the sort espoused by Kirk Cameron. Openly gay Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson points out, “Religion in general still presents the greatest obstacles we face in full equality. Ninety-five percent of the oppression that we know in our lives comes from the religious community.”  Robinson went on to say that progressive clergy form an important link between gay people and the majority of religious people who are still making up their minds about human rights.

The Unfinished Lives Project knows that religious intolerance toward LGBTQ people contributes to the atmosphere of violence that makes being queer in America a dangerous proposition.  Bigotry like Kirk Cameron’s can make homophobic people feel that their loathing of gay people should be acted upon in violent ways.  More importantly, such vocal extremism can make otherwise good religious people support oppression and look the other way when harm strikes their neighbors.  Cameron may have a First Amendment right to free speech, but he and other celebrity homophobes must never be left unchallenged, if anti-gay violence is to be defeated in our society.


March 3, 2012 Posted by | CNN, GLAAD, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, Kirk Cameron, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments


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