Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Literary Lion, Gore Vidal (1925-2012)

“How marvelous books are, crossing worlds and centuries, defeating ignorance and, finally, cruel time itself.” Gore Vidal, Julian

Los Angeles, California – Gay intellectual and literary giant, Gore Vidal, died Tuesday at his home in the Hollywood Hills.  He succumbed to pneumonia after what his nephew, Burr Steers, called “a long illness.” Vidal was 86.

Charles McGrath of the New York Times writes in his obituary, “Mr. Vidal was, at the end of his life, an Augustan figure who believed himself to be the last of a breed, and he was probably right.”  Eugene Gore Vidal, born at the U.S. Military Academy where his father was an assistant football coach and flying instructor, grew up in the patrician environs of New York City. He dropped his first name so he would not be confused with his father, Eugene Vidal Sr.  His grandfather, Senator T.P. Gore of Oklahoma, tried to steer his grandson toward a life of politics.  Instead, Vidal pursued a literary career, eventually churning out more than 25 books, numerous celebrated essays, a raft of plays for theater, and many successful and lucrative screenplays for Hollywood.

By turns moody, brooding, trenchant, and uncommonly brilliant, Vidal was a star in the remarkable constellation of gay writers who transformed American life and set their stamp on gay culture throughout the world.  Vidal had a celebrated feud with Truman Capote, a rich friendship with Tennessee Williams, and wrote alongside James Baldwin, Allen Ginsberg, and Christopher Isherwood. His 1947 novel, The City and the Pillar, was the earliest fiction title in American literature to feature a fully gay character.

Vidal loved sex but rejected labels.  It was clear that his preference was for men, whom he cruised with abandon.  Yet, the only person he ever loved, to whom he dedicated The City and the Pillar, was Jimmie Trimble, a classmate of his at the exclusive St. Alban’s School, who died on Iwo Jima.

Vidal carried out a highly publicized antagonism with conservative maven, William F. Buckley Jr., who, in a fit of pique at being bested by Vidal’s razor tongue and superior wit, denounced him as a “queer” on national television. Vidal accused Buckley of libeling him (though at a later time he agreed that he was, indeed, gay), and the quarrel spilled over into print.  Buckley wrote in the August 1969 Esquire Magazine, “On Experiencing Gore Vidal,” with the subtitle, “Can there be any justification in calling a man a queer before ten million people on television?”  Vidal answered with a broadside of his own in the September edition, entitled “A Distasteful Encounter with William F. Buckley, Jr.,” with the subheading, “Can there be any justification in calling a man a pro crypto Nazi before ten million people on television?”  The cover of the magazine flashed the title, “The Kids vs. The Pigs” and a photo of a collegiate boy face-to-face with a live pig, to reflect the confrontation of youth and police at the Chicago Democratic National Convention–the nub of the argument between Vidal and Buckley.

Twice Vidal ran unsuccessfully for public office as a Democrat in New York. But his real charism was writing, and through that medium he left an indelible stamp on the creation and definition of what it means to be gay in American life. For many years, he lived abroad in Ravello, Italy, returning as needed to the States. He once said, “In America, the race goes to the loud, the solemn, the hustler. If you think you are a great writer, you must say that you are.”  Vidal followed his own advice.  He was never able to remain quiet about his own genius.  In large measure, he was right–both about himself and the American people. 

Gore Vidal was an outlaw prince amidst a band of queer princelings who changed the fortunes of the countless LGBTQ people who followed them.  From the era prior to World War II, when gayness was thought to be unspeakably dirty and verboten, to the 21st century when queer folk have become media darlings, Vidal and his associates wrote a whole new reality into existence–a more diverse and tolerant nation than the one into which they were born.  We owe him and them for that.  And we will not forget it.

August 1, 2012 Posted by | California, gay men, Gore Vidal, Remembrances | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Murdered African American Woman Remains Unidentified–Was She Lesbian?

“Jane Doe,” as rendered by Ellis County’s Sheriff’s Office, along with photos of tattoo markings on her decomposed body.

Ellis County, Texas – The decomposing corpse of an African American woman was discovered in a rural, wooded area of Ellis County on Monday, July 23. Get Equal Texas is organizing a massive campaign to identify her, and to seek out the person or persons who took her life. In a press release dated July 31, Get Equal states on its Facebook page: “She is approximately 5’4 inches tall and weighing approximately 115 pounds. She is believed to be of African-American heritage. She was wearing a black or dark gray tank top, blue jean shorts and white Nike tennis shoes with purple shoe laces. It is believed she may have disappeared on or after the early afternoon of July 17, 2012.”  The Ellis County Sheriff’s Office has released a forensic artist’s best guess about the likeness of “Jane Doe,” along with photographs of tattoo markings on her corpse.

Sheriff’s Department Investigator Joe Fitzgerald reported to the Dallas Voice that “Jane Doe” had connections to Dallas and Irving, and was probably a member of the LGBTQ community. Tell-tale trauma evidence on the corpse indicates she was murdered at another location and then brought out to the Ellis County woodlands, a desolate stretch of sparsely populated countryside south of Dallas. “Someone killed her and threw her to the side of the road,” Fitzgerald said. He went on to say that investigators were disturbed that no missing person’s report has described a woman with the characteristics of the deceased.

C.D. Kirven, well-respected activist and member of Get Equal’s Board, said, “If this was a lesbian woman, this makes a third lesbian woman of color brutally attacked in Texas within a month’s time. As a member of the LGBT community and a woman of color, this is not just an attack on this woman but on me and others in my community.” 

Examiner.com draws a possible connection with the brutal murder and assault on two lesbian teenagers of Latin descent earlier in the summer on the Texas Gulf Coast. Mollie Olgin, 19, died of a gunshot to the head in a Portland, Texas State Park.  Her girlfriend, Mary Kristene Chapa, 18, survived her wounds, and has recently been discharged from hospital to recover and rehabilitate. Noting that police have still arrested no one for the attack on Olgin and Chapa, the Examiner post goes on to speculate:  “It very well could be that all three of these violent crimes are related. This is why a warning should go out in the Texas area for it seems that our gay sisters are becoming targets for dangerous individuals whether the police wish to admit to this insight or not.” The post goes on to call upon all members of the LGBTQ community to assist in spreading the artist’s sketch of the Ellis County “Jane Doe” and to warn women to be on their guard for a killer or killers of lesbian women of color still at large in Texas.

“The anonymous nature of this killing demands an all-out effort on the part of the LGBTQ community in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex to recover the identity of this woman whose death is the very definition of an ‘unfinished life,'” said Stephen Sprinkle, Founder and Director of the Unfinished Lives Project, which tells the stories of little known or forgotten LGBTQ hate crimes murder victims.

Officer Fitzgerald asks anyone with information on the identity of the victim or the circumstances of her death to call the Ellis County Sheriff’s Department at 972-825-4928. 

August 1, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, GET EQUAL Texas, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Lesbian teens, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Uncategorized, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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