Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Anti-Gay Racism Hits New Low; Pastor Lynches President Obama In Effigy For Supporting Gay Equality

Racism and homophobic bigotry on display in a Florida church’s front yard.

Gainesville, Florida – President Barack Obama hangs in effigy from a gallows with a gay flag in his hand in the front yard of a Florida church in a blatant grab for publicity–but Pastor Terry Jones is flirting with incitement to violence against blacks and gay people. The Smoking Gun blog says that the Obama effigy is also holding a baby doll in its other hand.  A trailer emblazoned with the motto, “Obama is Killing America” sits facing the road in front of the Dove World Outreach Center.  In an interview with Huffington Post, Jones said that the flag was to protest the President’s support for LGBTQ people, and the doll symbolized Mr. Obama’s position “on abortion.” As USA Today reported, Jones came to international attention for his “Burn a Koran” campaign in 2010 and 2011 which inflamed anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S., imperiled the lives of American service members stationed around the world, and ignited Islamic protests against this nation throughout the world.  After Jones oversaw the burning of the Muslim holy book in 2011, three days of riots broke out in Afghanistan, with over 21 homicides including seven dead United Nations workers. Now, seeking the glory days of his past buffoonery, Jones is making a visual statement he says is protected by the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech.

Disavowing the obvious threat implied in the gallows installation, Jones says he only wishes President Obama to “die politically” for what he is “doing to America.”  While some constitutional scholars may agree, taking a cue from the 2011 legal victory of Westboro Baptist Church protecting the Topeka, Kansas church’s protests at military service members’ funerals, Jones is hypocritically cloaking his violent symbology in freedom of speech language. Local Floridians are not buying his diversionary tactics, however. WCJB TV-20  interviewed Gainesville neighbor Mary Mamatsios who said of the controversial pastor,  “He’s just over the edge and he has nothing better to do. He’s a total screwball.”  This view is widely held throughout the Sunshine State.

The extreme violence portrayed by Jones’s church by including a gallows and a hangman’s noose disturbs the peace of African Americans and LGBTQ folk alike.  Symbols matter, and the incitement to violence conjured up in the collective consciousness of the black community by the threat of lynching and the noose threatens to cross the legal line.  The U.S. Secret Service is not only aware of the controversial installation in the Dove Center’s yard, but are actively investigating Jones and the church for threatening the life and wellbeing of the President, according to the Broward Palm Beach New Times.  As Dr. James Cone, pioneer Black theologian, shows in his award-winning book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree (Orbis Books, 2011), nooses and lynching haunt the Black community due to the extermination by lynching of black men throughout the South during the “Strange Fruit” period of the 20th century. Stephen G.Ray Jr. of the Christian Century Magazine says Cone’s book “is a theological meditation on a dimension of the lethal oppression experienced by African Americans that has been formative for both the faith and civic posture of the black community for a very long time.” 

But the LGBTQ community also has legitimate concerns about security and safety, too.  The suffering of blacks and gay people as marginalized communities runs on parallel tracks in this latest controversy.  Since the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law by the President in October 2009, murders of LGBTQ people have risen sharply, this year reaching the highest number of hate crime homicides every seen in the USA. Gays and blacks are targeted by people who believe queer executions are justified by the Bible and the authority of church leadership. Like the African American fear of what a noose represents, the hanging of an effigy holding a rainbow flag in its hand conveys what bigots like Jones surely have in mind for LGBTQ people.

A parable: When a dog owner neglects to secure the pet pen, allowing a snapping dog to run free in the neighborhood, who is to blame if the dog digs up the rose beds, urinates on someone’s shoes and socks, kills two pet cats, and mauls a little girl?  The dog? No!  It was in the dog’s nature and conditioning to bite and tear.  The person who unleashed a dog he knew was likely to bite on the other hand sets up the condition by which injury and death may occur–and the dog owner is legally responsible for the damage his pet causes to life, limb and property. When demagogues like Jones and his more practiced homophobe, Rev. Fred Phelps, breathe out their hatred of LGBTQ people, they are also potentially inciting “whosoever will” to violence against gays, lesbians, bisexual people, and transgender people. The incitement to commit a bias crime is a crime of violence in its own right, as Rev. Dr. Mel White has pointed out time and again–and it has to be stopped.

June 9, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Florida, gay bashing, GLAAD, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, U.S. Secret Service | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Author of Gay Hate Crimes Book Wins International Silver Medal

Stephen V. Sprinkle receives the Silver Medal for excellence in Gay/Lesbian Non-Fiction at the 16th Annual IPPY Awards.

New York, New York – June 4th, Dr. Steve Sprinkle received the international Silver Medal for Gay/Lesbian Non-Fiction at the 16th Annual Independent Book Publishers Awards Gala in New York City. The Director of the Awards, Jim Barnes, praised Unfinished Lives for being a “brave book,” and “the only such book of its kind.” Barnes asked Dr. Sprinkle to say a few words about his motivation for writing it–the only author he asked to speak to the gathering all night. A photo album of the event are accessible on Facebook by clicking on this link. Dr. Sprinkle expressed his gratitude for increasing interest in the book: “Thanks to everyone for your continuing support of Unfinished Lives and the blog Of the Unfinished Lives Project, https://unfinishedlivesblog.com/.”

In a press release by the Independent Book Publishers Awards, sponsored the the Jenkins Group, the international reach of the IPPYs is evident: “Independent publishers are extremely diverse, in both style and geography. This year’s IPPY competition attracted 5,200 entries, and the 372 medalists represent 44 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia, seven Canadian provinces, and ten countries overseas. Launched in 1996 as the first unaffiliated awards program open exclusively to independent, university, and self-published titles, the IPPY Awards contest rewards winners in 74 national, 22 regional, and five e-book categories with gold, silver and bronze medallions and foil seals for their book covers.”  The Independent Publisher, a blog featuring the avant guard role independent presses play in launching distinctively different books annually, made this observation about the 16th Annual Awards for 2012: “This year’s entry totals are the biggest ever, with 4,813 print book entries, 390 e-book entries, and an average category size of 50.  The largest category was Memoir, with 213 entries; the smallest was Classical Studies, with just 8 entries. IPPY medals go to entrants from 44 U.S. states plus D.C., 7 Canadian provinces, and 10 countries overseas.”

“Independent publishers are growing in number, and the quality of their work is increasing,” says awards director Jim Barnes. “One element driving the high rate of excellence is participation from university presses. This year, 29 medalists came from university presses and 9 came from museums. Their elevated level of writing, editing, design and production raises the bar and inspires us all.” E-Books were recognized in five categories this year, as well.  Author and publisher enthusiasm for this publishing medium means that more categories of E-Book awards will be featured in next year’s IPPYs.

Sprinkle said that he owed the night to the ongoing memories of the 13,000 queer folk whose hate crimes murders have been documented since 1982, and especially to the memories of the fourteen women, men, and youth who lost their lives to unreasoning hatred just because of who they loved and how they presented their existential understanding of gender.  Unfinished Lives may be accessed on the Unfinished Lives Blog, on Amazon.com, and Wipf and Stock Publishers.

June 7, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Independent Book Awards (IPPYs) | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gay, Lesbian, Transgender Murders Skyrocket; Highest Hate Crime Murder Rate Ever Recorded

Burke Burnett, 26, of Paris, Texas narrowly missed being murdered in an October 2011 anti-gay hate crime (Dallas Voice photo). Two of the three persons who assaulted him have received long prison sentences with hate crimes enhancements.

New York, New York – LGBTQH hate crimes murders in 2011 reached the highest number in recorded United States history, according to the annual report of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP). The frightening statistics of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender persons, and HIV-affected persons brutally murdered in homophobic hate crimes was released to the press on May 31. Among the highlights of the disturbing 2011 report:

  • The number of murders of LGBTQH people ROSE a full 11 per cent
  • 30 murders recorded; the highest number since the NCAVP has kept records
  • Transgender women, people of color, and gender variant youth are experiencing the most severe assault of violence against them
  • 87 per cent of these murders befell LGBTQH people of color
  • This high murder rate is the third year in a row (2009, 2010, and now 2011) that shows hate crimes killings rising
  • Youth and Young Adults were 2.41 times more likely to have been physically attacked in bias-related crimes than the general LGBTQH population
  • Transgender women comprised 40 per cent of the murder totals, making the second year in a row that Transwomen faced violence in outsized proportions to their numbers in the LGBTQH community

Even though the report shows a 16 per cent decrease in bias-related acts of violence against the LGBTQH community, an encouraging trend, the decrease is overthrown by the alarming jump in hate crimes murders. Detroit, Michigan, for example, showed a major increase in violence against transgender people, prompting Nusrat Ventimiglia of Equality Michigan to note that much of their budget was being consumed in response to the hike in the murder rate in the queer community. Rebecca Waggoner of OutFront Minnesota said that the outrage of youth murders and suicides demands more money and staff on the part of anti-violence programs nationwide to address the epidemic of death among gender variant young people.

Since the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law by President Obama in October 2009, the incidence of homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic murder has increased year by year, indicating that vigorous prosecution of killers is demanded by the U.S. Justice Department, the FBI, and all branches of state and local law enforcement.  NCAVP’s New York City Anti-Violence Co-ordinator, Chai Jindasurat, said to the media: “NCAVP’s findings are a call to policymakers, advocates, and community members that the prevention of violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected individuals needs to be a priority.” The report includes specific  policy changes that may reduce the increasing trend of these murders, including an increase in funding for LGBTQH anti-violence support and prevention, and a concentrated effort to bring an end of the homophobic, transphobic, and biphobic culture that fuels hate violence.

18 states do not currently include sexual orientation in their hate crimes statutes, and 22 states do not include gender identity or gender expression. This lack of state concern for LGBTQH victims of hate crime allows the suspects of anti-gay or anti-transgender acts to believe they can carry out their bias crimes against the queer community with impunity. Even when a state has a hate crimes law on the books, like Texas, the rarity of its use by local law enforcement and district attorneys emboldens homophobic killers to carry out their irrational violence without fearing prosecution.

 The media report condensing the massive 2011 NCAVP hate crimes report can be downloaded here.

June 4, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, bi-phobia, Bullycide, Equality Michigan, FBI, gay bashing, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Matthew Shepard Act, Michigan, Minnesota, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), New York, OutFront Minnesota, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transphobia, U.S. Justice Department | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay, Lesbian, Transgender Murders Skyrocket; Highest Hate Crime Murder Rate Ever Recorded

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