Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Teen Lesbian Couple Remembered in Texas Prayer Vigil

Brite Divinity School Community at prayer for Mollie Olgin and Mary Chapa in Friday’s Prayer Vigil held on the school’s Memorial Garden.

Fort Worth, Texas – Mollie Olgin, 19, and Mary Chapa, 18, were remembered Friday by a Divinity School community, and their families and friends were prayed for in an outdoor Prayer Vigil on the school’s campus. Brite Divinity School gathered in Memorial Garden to pray for the recovery of Mary Chapa who remains in intensive care after being shot in the head, and for God’s blessing upon her girlfriend, Mollie Olgin, who died from her wounds.  The horrifying attack took place on the night of June 9-10 at a Texas State Park in Portland, Texas, on the Gulf Coast.  Police have not identified a suspect in the shootings yet. The motive for the attack remains unknown, and police are downplaying a possible hate crime aspect.  The likelihood that Olgin and Chapa were randomly chosen for the assault, however, is very slim.  Portland Police have suggested that this case bears the hallmarks of a “targeted attack,” though there is no evidence of robbery, either.

Organized by Brite’s Dean, Dr. Joretta Marshall, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, Director of Field Education, and Mr. Nathan Russell, a Master of Divinity degree student at Brite, the Prayer Vigil was well attended.  In addition to the prayers of the people shared by all present, Dean Marshall read a letter entitled “Pastoral Response and Invitation: June 29, 2012,” which has been sent out by Brite President D. Newell Williams to the Divinity School’s larger network of churches, trustees, alumni, and denominational stake holders.  While the Brite Prayer Vigil is one of as many as 13 vigils for the two young women, the “Pastoral Response” is believed to be the first and only theological appeal in regards to this outrageous and senseless attack.  Expressions of support have been pouring in to the Divinity School for its initiative in carrying out the vigil, among them a word from Lynn Mulder, parent of slain gay son Ryan Keith Skipper who died in an anti-gay hate crime murder in Wahneta, Florida in 2007.  Speaking for many other families and friends of hate crimes victims, Mulder wrote: “To all who attended, you have no idea how healing it will be to these families [of Mollie and Mary].  It has been five years since vigils were held in honor of my son, Ryan Skipper.”  Mulder went on to say, “Seeing these photos helps me still today as we all grieve yet another tragic and senseless loss of life.”

Here in full is the text of the Brite Prayer Vigil appeal read at the service on Friday:

A Pastoral Response and Invitation

June 29, 2012

“We believe in a God whose mercy and justice is without end. In the name of that God, we offer comfort to those who mourn and are outraged over the vicious attacks committed against two young women, Mollie Judith Olgin, 19, and Mary Christine Chapa, 18, last weekend in a Portland, Texas park. This incident follows other acts of violence such as the racist and homophobic hate graffiti in Arlington earlier in June. Such acts perpetrated against women and men in our country because of who they are, who they choose to love, or because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and someone took offense to their existence, reminds all of us that we live in a world that is dangerous to the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of many of us. We invite churches and pastoral leaders to speak out against this kind of injustice and violence, in the name of God.

 Often in our country, the name of God is used in our communities, in our churches, and from our pulpits to condemn or – at the very least – to encourage non-support of those who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Erroneous biblical interpretation connects with fear in ways that make it difficult for LGBT persons to flourish in our churches and in our communities. Hurtful and harmful rhetoric offered by some within the Christian community contributes to the likelihood of violence and reinforces in the minds of some that silence and closets are the best options for their lives. The result is that faithful members of the LGBT community continue to live in fear in their communities and hesitate to speak out on their own behalf or on behalf of others. Members of TLBG communities often avoid our churches because their souls are damaged by the perpetuation of silence or the messages of intolerance and sometimes hate.

We invite pastoral leaders to:

·         pray for the families, friends, and communities surrounding Mollie and Mary

·         pray for all who embody a gender identity or sexual orientation that invites fear because of the potential for violence done against them

·         pray for the souls of those who committed this act of violence and those who participate and support such violence in our world

·         speak out against violence and draw upon the resources of our faith – biblical, historical, ecclesial, pastoral – in ways that clearly claim God’s desire for those within the bisexual, transgender, gay, and lesbian communities to flourish

·         urge reporters, editors, broadcasters, bloggers, and other members of the news media to report incidents like these fully and fairly, informing the public of the human, social, and moral impact of such deeds of violence and injustice

·         create space for communities to gather in deeper and more meaningful conversation about how to be open and vital spiritual homes for all

Thank you for joining our commitment at Brite Divinity School to foster the life-giving and life-affirming grace of God in our communities. If there is any way that we can support the work in your church or community, please do not hesitate to call upon us.

In the meantime, with prayers for all and with grace sufficient to continue the work of embodying justice in our world in God’s name,

Joretta L. Marshall

Executive Vice President and Dean

Brite Divinity School”

June 30, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Brite Divinity School, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Teen Lesbian Shootings Spark Urgent Calls From Advocacy Groups to Solve the Crime

L to R: Mary Chapa, 18, and Mollie Olgin, 19, gunned down in what many believe was an anti-lesbian hate crime in Coastal Texas.

Austin, Texas and Washington, D.C. – The savage shooting of two Coastal Texas lesbian teens has drawn national attention from major human rights advocacy groups, adding pressure to local law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Justice to bring a killer to justice.  On Saturday morning, the motionless bodies of Mollie Olgin, 19, and Mary Chapa, 18, were found in the tall grass of a popular bayside park in Portland, Texas, where an attacker left them sometime after midnight on Friday (for details, see coverage in Unfinished Lives Blog). Olgin died as a result of a gunshot to her head.  Chapa was rushed to a local hospital for emergency surgery, and remains in serious but stable condition. No suspect or suspects have been identified in the investigation so far. Local authorities have been slow to suggest a motive for the brutal attack. Many believe an anti-lesbian motive lies behind the brutality of the assault, however.  The couple had been in a love relationship for over five months at the time of the killing and assault, according to their friends and co-workers.

The Washington, D.C. based Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights and education group, and Equality Texas (EQ TX), based in Austin, are calling on local officials to find the killer and prosecute this case with all possible speed. In a joint statement issued today from Austin, spokespersons for these groups put their wishes in unmistakable terms.

Equality Texas issued the following statement after speaking with the Community Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Justice:

“Equality Texas joins with the Human Rights Campaign in urging a swift and thorough investigation of this crime. We applaud the Department of Justice Community Relations Service for quickly offering their assistance.  Community members are welcome to join a candlelight walk and vigil this Friday, June 29 at 6 p.m. at Violet Andrews Park, 305 Wildcat, Portland, TX 78374.”

The Human Rights Campaign has reached out to local law enforcement officials as well as the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI. HRC President Chad Griffin released the following statement:

“I want to express my sincerest condolences to the families and friends of the victims of this horrific crime. Two young lesbian women were shot and one lost her life. Regardless of the motivation behind this tragedy, we must send a strong message that violence against anyone is never acceptable. We have reached out to law enforcement officials at both the federal and local level, and hope to see a thorough investigation. These women, and all victims of violent crimes, deserve nothing less.”

June 26, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Equality Texas, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, U.S. Justice Department, Vigils, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Teen Lesbian Girlfriends Shot In “Targeted Attack”; One Dead, One Survives

Investigators near the scene of a double shooting of lesbian teen couple at a popular park. One girl is dead, the other is in serious but stable condition [Kiii News 3 image].

Portland, Texas – The bodies of two teen girlfriends were found shot in the head just below a scenic bayside overlook on Saturday. The city of 15,000 souls on picturesque Nueces Bay on the Texas Gulf Coast is reeling from the news of homicide and possible hate crimes, events that residents are having a hard time acknowledging to have happened in their quiet neighborhoods.Portland Police Chief Robert Wright announced that the victims have been identified as Mollie Judith Olgin, 19, and Mary Christine Chapa, 18.  Olgin died from her gunshot wound.  Chapa was rushed to a local hospital, and survives in what officials report as “serious but stable condition.” No motive has been determined for the shootings. KRIS-TV says that friends of the two girls maintain they had been in a quiet, closely guarded love relationship for around five months at the time of the attack.

Their friends from Ingleside High School and the neighborhood Taco Bell fast food restaurant where Olgin worked are distraught over the attack.  Samantha Garret, Olgin’s roommate, told KRIS-TV reporters, “You always hear, ‘They never did anything wrong. Why was it them? They were so innocent.’ In all actuality, Mollie and Christine were innocent. They never did anything wrong.” Olgin and Chapa had been discrete about their blooming relationship according to their close friends.  They wanted to avoid anti-gay negativity in their Coastal Texas town. While no one has yet suggested the attack was an anti-lesbian hate crime, it is on everyone’s mind as the community seeks to cope with the horror at the popular Violet Andrews Park where the couple was found by two sight seers around 9 a.m. on Saturday. Their motionless bodies lay just below the observation deck overlooking the bay, in an area of knee-high grass. Shell casings from a high caliber handgun were found at the scene, but the murder weapon has not been located. Local residents said they heard two loud cracks around midnight on Friday, but dismissed the noises as firecrackers. Kiii TV3 reports that authorities are pressing forward in an investigation of murder and aggravated assault in the case, with no mention yet of a hate crime motive.

Originally tight-lipped about the ongoing investigation, Portland Police Chief Wright admitted to KRIS-TV reporters that the case showed the hallmarks of a “targeted attack.” Investigators surmise that their assailant walked the couple down into the grassy area before shooting them.  The tall grass has frustrated attempts to recover any footprints. Added patrols are being added to area parks in the aftermath of the shootings. MSNBC reports that the friends of the couple are now concentrating on praying for Chapa’s recovery, and on collecting blood for her transfusions.  At the time EMS personnel arrived at the scene, officials say, Chapa could communicate, but no word on any account of the attack she might have given police has yet made the media.

June 26, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Texas | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Anti-Gay Hazing Aboard Nuclear Submarine Leads To Top Non-Com Dismissal

USS Florida already had a “culture of homophobia” prior to the harassment of a crew member suspected of being gay.

Norfolk, Virginia – With little or no privacy, and nowhere to escape from his anti-gay torment, a sailor targeted for harassment aboard nuclear submarine USS Florida (SSBN/SSGN – 728), became the center of a homophobic hazing case that has created a public relations nightmare for the U.S. Navy. The Associated Press revealed that the Navy released its report in March detailing months of anti-gay taunts against the unnamed submariner–leading to the dismissal of the Chief of the Boat, the submarine’s top non-commissioned officer.  Master Chief Machinist’s Mate Charles Berry was fired by Captain Stephen Gillespie “for dereliction of duty” related to his failure to report and advise the commanding officer of the boat on issues arising among enlisted men.

The targeted sailor whose identity and sexual orientation have not be released in the investigative report, suffered incessant anti-gay jokes, was subjected to anti-gay epithets and nicknames, and was the victim of an alleged attempted rape at knife point by a  man while the Florida was in a foreign port of call–Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Prior the the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the sailor was constantly taunted to “come out of the closet” as a gay man and jeered at for having a Filipino boyfriend, the ethnicity of the attempted rapist. He was labeled “Brokeback” for the famous gay-themed motion picture, Brokeback Mountain. The Navy report said that the sailor endured the harassment because he thought it would cease at some point.  After eight months of constant homophobic harassment in 2011, the sailor finally passed along a note for help, saying that the combination of the attempted rape, the hounding, and the constant pressure put on him by crew members was driving him to suicide, or to an act of violence against his tormentors.

The Navy report says that sailors who participated in the hazing did not appreciate the psychological harm their actions caused their shipmate. The report also states that Chief Berry did not participate in the anti-gay hazing of the sailor, but did not report what was going on to his superior officers, either. As background to the embarrassing revelations of anti-gay abuse, the report also detailed that the Florida had developed a whole culture of heterosexist and homophobic prejudice, and detailed a number of examples.

In response, the Navy ordered training and counseling up and down the line to prevent anything like this from happening again. Besides the chief of the boat, several junior crew members who participated in the anti-gay harassment have also faced disciplinary actions, including loss of rank and pay.  In its March 30 statement to the public, the Navy said: “The Navy’s standards for personal behavior are very high and it demands that sailors are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. When individuals fall short of this standard of professionalism and personal behavior, the Navy will take swift and decisive action to stop undesirable behavior, protect victims and hold accountable those who do not meet its standards.” 

This week, Vice Admiral John Richardson who commands the Norfolk-based submarine force, issued a blog post in response to the scandal this incident had created in the submarine service in which he focuses attention on the importance of character in Navy life. “A violation by one seems to be a violation against all,” the admiral wrote.

The USS Florida, an Ohio-class nuclear submarine homeported at Naval Submarine Base King’s Bay, Georgia, participated in action against Libyan forces loyal to Col. Muammar Gaddafi in March 2011 by launching scores of Tomahawk missiles, the only one of the four Ohio-class SSGNs available to serve in Operation Odyssey Dawn. Apparently, the senseless anti-gay torment of the sailor in question was going full tilt during the period of combat operations.

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), Georgia, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, military, rape, Slurs and epithets, U.S. Navy, Virginia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Susan Sarandon is Trevor Project’s 2012 Hero Award Winner

Susan Sarandon, The Trevor Project’s 2012 Hero Award honoree [New York Daily News photo].

New York, New York – Oscar winning actress, Susan Sarandon will be honored by The Trevor Project as their 2012 Hero Award Winner.  Stanley Tucci, President of MTV, will be presenting the award Monday, June 25th, at “Trevor Live,” the LGBTQ teen suicide prevention group’s high profile benefit event.

Sarandon, famed for her artistry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show [“Dammit, Janet!”], The Hunger, and Thelma & Louise, is being honored for her forthright advocacy for marriage equality, publicly opposing homophobia in the media, speaking out to save the lives of LGBTQ teens from bullying and suicide, and her gifts to HIV/AIDS research and treatment. Speaking for the Trevor Project, Abbe Land, Trevor’s Executive Director and CEO, said: “The Trevor Project is proud to honor Susan Sarandon with the Trevor Hero Award. As a straight ally, Ms. Sarandon has a long history of working to raise awareness of the importance of treating everyone fairly and ensuring same basic civil and human rights for all.” Ms. Land continued, “Our honorees know through their work with The Trevor Project that it only takes one resource – one friend, one ally, one parent – to help save a life. We are proud to honor Susan Sarandon with the Trevor Hero Award.”

Responding to the news she was Trevor’s 2012 Hero honoree, Ms. Sarandon said: “It is truly an honor to be recognized by The Trevor Project as a Trevor Hero. All people deserve respect, and young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender deserve to know that there are people who care for them and who are fighting to make this world a better and more accepting place for them.”  When she accepts the award, Ms. Sarandon will join the company of other celebrity advocates such as Daniel Radcliffe, Lady Gaga, and Neil Patrick Harris.

Every day, the Trevor Project saves the lives of young LGBTQ people struggling to reconcile their authentic selves with a world that is often hostile and rejecting.  The Trevor Helpline is the premier 24/7 online and phone counseling service dedicated to saving the lives of youth from suicide. An innovator in suicide prevention, The Trevor Project has been recognized by President Obama as a Champion of Change. For more information, go to the Trevor Project’s website, accessible here.

June 23, 2012 Posted by | GLBTQ, Heterosexism and homophobia, HIV/AIDS, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Marriage Equality, Media Issues, New York, Social Justice Advocacy, Trevor Project | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Susan Sarandon is Trevor Project’s 2012 Hero Award Winner

Lesbians Targeted in Hate Crime Vandalism; 5 Teenagers ID’ed As Perps

Lesbian family SUV defaced by anti-gay slurs in hate crimes vandalism spree in Arlington, Texas.

Arlington, Texas- At least 13 persons and businesses were vandalized on June 10 in what police are calling hate crimes.  Acting Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson, five suspects ranging in age from 16 to 18 years of age have been identified in the hateful spray painting spree that singled out at least one lesbian family with homophobic slurs.  The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the eldest suspect, Daniel Damian Sibley, 18, of Arlington, was arrested on Tuesday and is being held on a $2,500 bond in the Arlington City Jail.  Sibley, a fresh-faced youth, posted that he is a Texas Christian University (TCU) physical therapy major. Attorneys for the other four suspects have told police that they will be turning their clients over to authorities immediately.  The suspects are being charged with graffiti defacement, valued at between $1,500 and $20,000, crimes that are considered felonies in Texas.  The hate crimes enhancement, should it be added to the charges, will increase the penalties of suspects who are found guilty.

Acting Chief Johnson told reporters from CBS 11 News that the nature of the slurs used to deface homes, vehicles, and at least one business prompted investigators to treat the cases as hate crimes from the beginning. Vulgarities concerning racial groups were also employed by the perpetrators. What broke open the case was a surveillance video showing clearly the five suspects spray painting their hate speech on a business early on the morning of June 10. “We are committed in Arlington to prevent all crime especially crime that was committed for no other reason than possibly toward hatred,” Chief Johnson told CBS 11. “We want to send a strong message to the community that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”

A gay family constituted by a lesbian couple and their child were targeted by the words “Faggot Queers” painted on the rear of their late model Subaru SUV. Police speculate that a decal on the rear window depicting two women holding each other’s hands, as well as the hand of a child, and a dog, probably prompted the vandalism.

Gay advocacy groups were swift to praise the Arlington Police Department for the professionalism and timeliness of the arrests. Thomas Anable of Fairness Fort Worth, a local LGBT rights group formed in the wake of the 2009 police raid on the Rainbow Lounge, a major gay bar in the city, commended the action of the police as “textbook perfect.”  Chad Griffin, the new President of the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C., the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, cheered the Arlington Police  for “responding swiftly and thoroughly.” 

June 21, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Fairness Fort Worth, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, vandalism | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Teen Blinded In Anti-Gay Middle School Attack

Kardin Ulysse, 14, blinded in anti-gay bullying attack at a Bergen Beach middle school (New York Daily News photo).

Brooklyn, New York – A 14-year-old student was blinded in one eye in a brutal anti-gay attack at his middle school in Bergen Beach. The June 5 attack was part of a pattern of hate attacks against Kardin Ulysse, whose parents chose Roy H. Mann Junior High School for their son because they thought it was the best school in the area, according to the New York Daily News.  Now, his father Pierre says he knows they were wrong. In excellent reporting, the NYDN graphically presents the outrageous outcome of the brutal attack that has led to two surgeries on Kardin’s eye already:

“My son is very upset. He says, ‘Daddy, am I ever going to be able to see again?’ ” Pierre Ulysse said Monday.

His son, Kardin Ulysse, 14, has undergone two surgeries on his right eye since the June 5 beatdown at Roy H. Mann Junior High School in Bergen Beach. It is unclear whether the bullies’ multiple punches or the broken shards of lens from his eyeglasses caused the damage to his cornea.

“The doctor says he needs a transplant,” Pierre Ulysse said. “For me to send him to school with two eyes and come back with one eye is really absurd.

“I want the world to know about this,” he added.

Kardin, an eighth-grader, was set upon by a pair of seventh-graders who were calling him a “f—–g f—-t,” a “p—-,” a “transvestite” and “gay,” according to a Department of Education occurrence report.

The NYDN further reports that authorities are considering charging the attackers with a hate crime, given the heinous nature of the assault. Hate crimes are a felony in New York.  At present, because the attackers are minors, they are charged with misdemeanors in Family Court.

Instinct Magazine reports that the Ulysse family has hired an attorney, and plans to sue the city for $16 million.  His parents say they want the whole world to know what happened at the school to their son, so that the “madness” of anti-gay bullying will stop.

The horror and irony of this fiendish attack is that Kardin Ulysse’s assailants used his supposed gayness as a pretext for their brutality because homosexuality was the worst epithet they could think of, and their suspicion served as the fictional justification for their assault. There is no evidence or admission that young Ulysse is in fact gay. Instead, he must be presumed to be otherwise. The mere suspicion of weakness or effeminacy is deadly in middle school culture in the United States, and this utterly unjustified attack is one more evidence that anti-gay bullying is a bias crime, and deserves to be treated as such by law enforcement and the courts.

June 19, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bullying in schools, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Mistaken as LGBT, New York, Slurs and epithets, U.S. Department of Education | , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Gay Teen’s Heartbreaking Suicide Note: Bullying Led to El Paso Youth’s Untimely Death

Brandon Joseph Elizares, 16: artist, poet, Shakespeare lover, gay boy. Bullying led to his suicide June 2.

El Paso, Texas – Brandon Elizares came out to his mother when he was 14. “I’m still me. I’m Brandon. Nothing has changed, except I like boys,” his mother, Zachalyn Elizares remembers. Bullied relentlessly for being gay, he Andress High School sophomore barely made it to 16. News of his plaintive farewell note hit the media Thursday, compounding the impact of his June 2 death from an overdose of pills. “My name is Brandon Joseph Elizares,” he wrote, “and I couldn’t make it. I love you guys with all my heart.” His younger brother found Brandon’s body in his room, where the note was left along with a careful display of all his school awards and his art work, according to the KVIA-TV News 7, the local ABC affiliate.  His mother commented on the rest of the note’s content: “He wrote that he was sorry, that he felt like he had to hide under his skin from being who he was because it made him feel terrible.” 

His mother and his friends painted a grim picture of Brandon’s last days at Andress High. The precipitating hate message that seemed to tip Brandon over the edge was a text message on Friday from a boy who threatened to fight him for being gay.  The El Paso Times reports that Brandon had attended Andress for only about two months, having transferred from Chapin High School where the anti-gay bullying had become intense. The bullying followed him to his new school.  Taunts and threats plagued him, though Brandon tried to put a brave face on things for his mother.  “I know it’s hard being a teenager, and it’s especially hard being a gay teenager,” Zachalyn Elizares told reporters, “but I didn’t realize how hard it was. Knowing when to step in is always difficult.” When Brandon told her students threatened to shoot him and to set him on fire, she dove in to rouse school officials first at Chapin and then at Andress to the problem. Brandon reported the bullying to school authorities, and they did reprimand some of his tormentors in the school–but they didn’t notify the bullies’ parents, according to Ms. Elizares.  “I don’t know if they didn’t take it seriously unless it turned physical,” she said. “Parents should know what their kids are doing, especially if they’re being taught these things at home.”

His mother doesn’t want anyone to face prosecution for her son’s death by suicide.  She says he made a choice. But it is clear to her, to Brandon’s friends, and to El Paso community leaders that bullying led to Brandon’s suicide.  Instead of retribution, Ms. Elizares hopes the parents of bullies and their victims across the nation will learn from her awful loss. Parents, she says, must become more aware of what their children are doing in school, whether they are bullying others, or are the target of bullying. “You can’t fix anything if you don’t know what the problem is,” she said.

Brandon’s story is going viral around the nation.  Many are learning about him, his challenges, and the courage of his family. Though news outlets usually refrain from reporting on suicides, the special circumstances surrounding Brandon’s death have caused many media organizations to make an exception.  Homophobic bullying has to be exposed in order to effectively confront it.

Meanwhile, Zachalyn Elizares and her surviving son and daughter are doing the best they can.  Brandon was a premie, just three pounds when he was born, she remembers.  He was her first child, born when she was just 16 herself, a very young mother in Hawaii. She said to the El Paso Times, “I literally had to grow up with him.”  As a military family, the Elizares clan moved to El Paso. She intends to take her son’s body back to Hawaii for burial next week. A memorial service is planned on Friday, June 15 at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church, beginning at 7 p.m. El Paso’s PFLAG Chapter is sponsoring the service, and is collecting a fund to help with expenses. The hurt his mother feels breaks through from time-to-time, tears bleeding through the laughter and smiles she tries to show the world. “He worried about everyone else before himself,” she said. “He would say, ‘It’s OK, it doesn’t bother me.’ My son had a right to live how he wanted to live.”

June 15, 2012 Posted by | Bullycide, Bullying in schools, gay teens, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, military, PFLAG El Paso, suicide, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Anti-Gay Sect Leader Pleads Guilty for Murdering 4-Year-Old Boy and Adult Woman

Jadon Higganbothan, 4, (l) shot for allegedly being gay, and Antoinette McKoy, 28, (r) murdered for being unable to bear children.

Durham, North Carolina – The leader of an anti-gay sect has pleaded guilty to murder for killing a 4-year-old boy because he thought the toddler was gay, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Peter Lucas Moses, 27, the leader of a polygamous group known as the “Black Hebrews,” has agreed to testify against his mother, brother, and sister in order to avoid the death penalty for himself. He faces two life sentences for the murders of Jadon Higganbothan, 4, and Antoinette Yvonne McKoy, 28, if convicted of the crimes.

WRAL-TV reports that members of the Black Separatist cult addressed Moses as “Lord,” and lived together in a house in Southeast Durham. In October 2010, because he believed he saw Higganbothan touch one of his sons “inapproriately” (the boy had allegedly spanked Moses’ son on the bottom), he ordered the boy’s mother to take him into the garage, where Moses shot the child in the head.  The women in the group had arranged computer speakers in the garage to play the Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew loudly enough to drown out the sound of the gunshot.  Two months later, when Moses found out that his consort McKoy could not have children and had decided to escape the cult, he shot her to death in a bathroom of the house.  On June 8, 2011, investigators found the bodies of Higganbothan and McKoy buried in trash bags in the basement of another house belonging to the sect.  Moses’ fingerprints were found on the tape used to secure the trash bags, and his handgun was proven to have been used in both murders.

The father of the little boy, Jamiel Higganbothan, told WRAL-TV News that he was furious the District Attorney had offered Moses a plea deal to save his life. “Me and my family wanted the death penalty,” Higganbothan said after the deal was announced. Moses’ brother, P. Leonard Moses, his sister, Sheila Moses, and his mother, Sheilda Harris, have been charged with accessories to the murder of Antoinetta McKoy. Jadon’s mother, Vania Sisk, and two other women who lived with Peter Moses, Larhonda Renee Smith and Lavada Quinzetta Harris, have been charged with murder in McKoy’s killing, and as accessories to the murder of the little boy.

The Black Hebrews, according to the SPLC, have roots going back to Black Separatist  and Black Nationalist movements in the 19th century.  They hold that they, not the Jews, are the true descendants of the Israelites in the Hebrew Bible.  While most members of the modern movement in the United States are non-violent, a growing number of cells have become increasingly anti-Semitic, anti-gay, and prone to violence. They hold that modern Jews are imposters. These extremists also condemn whites for enslaving Blacks, and say that they are worthy of death or slavery because of it.

June 14, 2012 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Anti-Semitism, Black Hebrews, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Mistaken as LGBT, North Carolina, religious hate speech, religious intolerance | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Anti-Gay Sect Leader Pleads Guilty for Murdering 4-Year-Old Boy and Adult Woman

Gay El Paso Teenager Tormented To Death By School Bullies

Brandon Elizares, 16, committed suicide after two years of homophobic bullying.

El Paso, Texas – A 16-year-old gay boy took his life in response to two years of relentless bullying at school in El Paso.  Saturday, his mother left Brandon Elizares at home for a short while to run errands, only to find him dead upon their return, according to KFOX14 TV.  Elizares, who could not bear to live in the closet any longer, had come out to family and friends. The response from his own family was mixed. Most family members supported Brandon,  but some made it clear to him that they did not approved of his “lifestyle.”  At Andress High School, the 2,000 student senior high school he attended on the northeast side of El Paso, however, the response to his sexual orientation was brutal, unrelenting bullying.  His mother, Zachalyn Elizares, says that the torment her son received from schoolmates pushed him to suicide. “He got bullied simply for being gay,” Elizares said to KFOX. “He’s been threatened to be stabbed. He’s been threatened to be set on fire.”

Brandon’s mother said that officials at Andress High School had worked aggressively to stem the bullying, but in the case of her son, it was not enough. “They’ve reprimanded several kids and they did everything that they could,” she said. Brandon’s friends told Elizares that he had been insulted for being gay just before the weekend, and that at least one of his tormentors had threatened to fight him when they saw each other on the following Monday, according to the Dallas Voice. Elizares believes the threat of physical violence was what drove her son to take his own life. “My son had every right to live his live the way that he wanted to, without having to fear that people would call him names or threaten to beat him up,” she said.

Although officials of the El Paso Independent School District could not comment on this specific case, they affirmed to KFOX14 that they have a strong anti-bullying program in place and working in their schools, including Andress High. Brandon Elizares death from homophobic bullying underlines the problems schools face when a culture of intimidation has taken hold in a locale. Debra Carden, EPISD’s bullying committee leader, noted to KFOX14, “What a bully is looking for is to try and scare you into not reporting it, so that nothing is done.” She issued an appeal to students, parents, and friends to report any actual or suspected incidents of school bullying immediately.

June 11, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bullycide, Bullying in schools, gay teens, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, suicide, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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