Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Hairstylist Brutally Attacked In Baltimore: Christmas Hate Crime Suspected

Christmas gay bashing victim Kenni Shaw, 30, before and after attack. (Instagram image posted by the victim.)

Christmas gay bashing victim Kenni Shaw, 30, before and after attack. (Instagram image posted by the victim.)

Baltimore, Maryland – A popular gay hairstylist was savagely beaten by a gang of men outside an East Baltimore liquor store on Christmas night.  The motive?  Kenni Shaw, the victim of the attack, has no doubt that the random attack was because of his perceived sexual orientation. Police are still investigating the alleged anti-gay hate crime in the “Charm City.”

According to the Baltimore Sun, Shaw, 30 years old, was simply walking past the East Baltimore beverage shop near his home at approximately 9 p.m. on Christmas when the assault started.  Shaw said he tried to beg his attackers to stop, but the blows kept coming so hard and fast he couldn’t get the words out of his mouth. The punches pinned him to the pavement. ”I was just beaten in my face. Nothing was taken. No words were exchanged before the incident, so to me, I think it was a hate crime,” Shaw told The Sun.  People in his neighborhood had previously called him “faggot,” but Shaw, a six-foot-tall cosmetologist and hairstylist, never believed homophobic attitudes would issue in such violence.

His mother, Sheila Shaw, told The Sun that Kenni had immediately called her.  “I can’t even describe that moment for me. I thought my world was ending,” she said. “No parent wants to get that phone call. The tone of his voice … I thought, ‘He’s strong enough to make the phone call, but I’m probably going to lose my son.’”  When she rushed to the hospital and finally got to see her son, Ms. Shaw said she could hardly recognize who he was.

While he was on the phone, paramedics came to transport him to Johns Hopkins, the famed Baltimore hospital, where he was treated for his wounds.  Despite the bruises, cuts, and lacerations on his face and knees, there were no fractures. Shaw suspects that bystanders called for help, an indication that not all residents of the neighborhood agree with anti-gay violence.

Shaw said to WBFF Fox News 45 that he was simply glad to be alive. During his recovery at his mother’s home in Baltimore County, Shaw posted an Instagram photo of himself, before and after the assault, showing the horrific effects of the attack. According to Pink News, hundreds of responses supporting the hairstylist poured in from around the country and the world. As he healed from the physical injuries of hate, Shaw decided to speak out against the homophobia that victimizes so many in Baltimore. “It makes me angry and upset, but at the same time, I am here and I made it through,” he told The Sun. “I just want to stand and make sure I have a voice, so this doesn’t happen again to a loved one or anyone.”  His relatives are standing strong with Shaw, as well, supporting his outspoken efforts to stop anti-gay hate crimes in their community.

“This needs to be spoken to because somebody needs to take a stand,” he said. “Hate crimes happen every day.”

Shaw firmly believes that anti-gay bias motivated his attackers, spoiling the Christmas spirit for him, his family, and the City of Baltimore.  Police have been receptive to Shaw’s allegations, and say that, even though they are not ready to assign a motive to the assault at this time, they have already received several “good leads” in the case.  When arrests are made, Baltimore Police say that they will communicated with the Attorney General of the state to determine the nature of the charges they will file.

Meanwhile, Shaw says he will not stop speaking out.  In an interview with The Sun, he told reporters, “I’m glad I could share my story and people could empathize with the story, because I’m getting a lot of feedback from people who have been through it or who have had family members who have been through it,” Shaw said. “I’m glad I could be a spokesman, because a lot of people don’t make it through situations like this.”

December 28, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Maryland, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Searching for LGBTQ Justice this Christmas 2012

"Magi," J.C. Leyendecker, 1900.

“Magi,” J.C. Leyendecker, 1900.

“We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

“O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.”

When the Reverend John Henry Hopkins Jr. wrote the lyrics for the universally loved, “We Three Kings,” in 1857, the term “homosexual” had not yet been coined, and would not be for another twelve years.  We know now that “homosexuality” was a socially created term, invented by European social scientists in the latter 19th century to describe a new species of person.  “Homosexuals” were a problem on the scene of the Industrial Revolution.  Men (especially, at the time) were singled out and scrutinized because they were not procreating, adding children to the labor forces of the era that manned the “dark Satanic mills” of Northern and Western Europe and the United States.  From the invention of homosexuality by the medico-political regimes of the age, gay men and lesbians were problems society had to examine, quarantine, and cure.  So, there never was a time that “homosexuality” as a term was not biased against the humanity and dignity of same-sex loving people.

Christmas 2012 offers us a stunning perspective of change.  In Europe, even as Pope Benedict XVI inveighs against gay relationships, much of the continent has embraced its LGBTQ citizens and secured their rights to live and love as the fully worthy human beings they always have been.  In the United States, major strides have been taken against anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been fully repealed, allowing fully open service in the U.S. military by LGBTQ servicepeople, and this election cycle has brought the election of the first openly lesbian U.S. Senator (Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin), three new states that have made same-sex marriage legal (Maryland, Maine, and Washington), and, for the first time, a state has refused to enact anti-LGBTQ bias into a state constitution by a public referendum (Minnesota).  But, on the other hand, the murder of LGBTQ people has never been higher, tensions across the nation concerning upcoming Supreme Court rulings on Prop 8 and the constitutionality of DOMA are mounting, and there is no comprehensive federal protection for LGBTQ persons in the labor force.  What are we to make of this moment in the struggle for human rights and full equality, then?

President Barack Obama who came out publicly for marriage equality in May 2012 said in an interview with Pink News“One of the things that I’m very proud of during my first four years is I think I’ve helped to solidify this incredibly rapid transformation in people’s attitudes around LGBT issues — how we think about gays and lesbians and transgender persons.” We are engaged in changing the minds of our fellow citizens about who LGBTQ people are, as the President suggests.  Instead of being a suspicious “species,” a variation of some straight ideal for human kind, we are neighbors, friends, relatives, loved ones, co-workers–in other words, everyday people as worthy of respect and acknowledgement as anyone else.  And, as the President says, we are closer to changing the collective American mind in this direction than ever. Speaking of his own daughters, President Obama said, “You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.”  Looking back across the last four years of his presidency, Mr. Obama observed that the United States is “steadily become a more diverse and tolerant country.
There’s been the occasional backlash, and this is not to argue that somehow racism or sexism or homophobia are going to be eliminated or ever will be eliminated,” he went on to say. “It is to argue that our norms have changed in a way that prizes inclusion more than exclusion.”  

Magi, and activists, and clergy, and just plain people of good conscience still seek the Light of justice for LGBTQ people in this country and around the world. As we lean forward toward Bethlehem this Christmas season, may the searchers find courage in each other, and in the power of an idea whose time has come.

Merry Christmas to the Friends and Fans of Unfinished Lives!

December 22, 2012 Posted by | Christmas, DOMA, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), Employment discrimination, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, Pope Benedict XVI, President Barack Obama, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, U.S. Supreme Court, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Searching for LGBTQ Justice this Christmas 2012

Happy Hanukkah 2012: Hope in the Unlikeliest of Places

chanukah_lightsTo you and yours from the Unfinished Lives Project Team, sincere wishes for a Happy Hanukkah!  This year, the Jewish Festival of Lights begins at sundown on Saturday, December 8, and concludes at sunset on Sunday, December 16.  There is a natural connection between the story and values of Hanukkah, and the hopes of LGBTQ people around the world for freedom and full equality.

For one thing, Hanukkah symbolizes the successful fight for freedom.  It is the remembrance of the rebellion of Matathias and his sons (the Maccabees) against Antiochus, the Syrian tyrant of the Greek Empire, in 168 BCE. Jews expelled the Syrians from Jerusalem and reclaimed the Holy Temple.  The struggle for LGBTQ human rights began with a rebellion of sorts, too, in the streets and gay bars of Greenwich Village, New York City, in late June 1969.  The freedom we seek may be a long time coming, Hanukkah teaches us, but it is coming, indeed.

Another Hanukkah value LGBTQ people and allies should cherish is that hope springs up in the unlikeliest of circumstances, and often looks insignificant at the time. In that respect, Hanukkah shares a common theme of hope with the celebration of Christmas. Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, in a FOX News interview, said recently: “While Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas, each tells a story of finding greater hope and salvation than one could reasonably expect, and of doing so in the most unlikely of places. Whether in a little jar of oil that lasted longer than it should have or through a newborn baby delivered in a Bethlehem, we are reminded that good things do come in very small packages when we open our eyes and our hearts enough.”

When LGBTQ people work for justice FOR ANYONE, they are carrying out the central message of Hanukkah, whether they realize it or not. Rabbi Hirschfield went on to say: “One could certainly argue that the most important Hanukkah practices are whatever acts help us find the light in our lives and in our world, empower us to help others do the same, and celebrate those moments when we have done so. Hanukkah really is an amazing holiday – one that testifies to peoples’ ability to create light where there is darkness, bring hope when most despair, and not only await the future, but create it.”

Hasten the coming of the Light!  We who believe in Justice cannot rest.  We who believe in Justice cannot rest until it comes…Happy Hanukkah!

December 8, 2012 Posted by | GLBTQ, Hanukkah, LGBTQ, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Uncategorized | , , , , | Comments Off on Happy Hanukkah 2012: Hope in the Unlikeliest of Places

Suspect in Gay Murder Arrested in North Texas Homicide; Confesses to the Crime

Nathanael Gehrer, confessed to the murder of Carrollton gay man, Dustin Reeb. [Police mugshot]

Nathanael Gehrer, confessed to the murder of Carrollton gay man, Dustin Reeb. [Police mugshot]

Carrollton, Texas – A 25-year-old suspect has been arrested in the murder of a gay community theater mainstay, and has confessed to the crime.  Carrollton Police spokesman, Officer Jon Stovall, told the Dallas Voice that the crime “was not a random attack.”  In a statement released to the press, the Carrollton Police Department says: “The Carrollton Police Department has charged Nathanael Gehrer, a 25-year-old resident of Wilmer, Texas with the November 30, 2012 murder of [a] Carrollton resident. The victim, believed to be 22-year-old Dustin Reeb, has not yet been positively identified by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office due to alias names that he had been using. The offense occurred inside the victim’s residence in the 2100 block of Placid Drive. Gehrer was arrested by Carrollton Detectives on December 4, 2012 and is currently being held in the Carrollton Municipal Jail. It is believed that Gehrer had been a social acquaintance of the victim.”

The murder victim, Dustin Reeb, aka Shaun Walsh, a well-known and highly respected member of the Dallas community theater community, was found in his Carrollton home by his housemate on Friday evening, brutally murdered. The scene prompted Reeb’s pastor, the Rev. Colleen Darraugh, to report that blood was spattered throughout the home, damaging clothing and furnishings, and requiring massive cleanup.  Rev. Darraugh and the members of the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas, a Carrollton congregation attended by both Reeb and his housemate, has organized a fund to help defray the costs of the cleanup and the purchase of new furniture.  Darraugh told the Dallas Voice that knives were apparently used in the fatal attack.

A search of online court documents done by Dallas Voice reporters shows that Gehrer had been previously arrested for crimes such as trespassing, assault, and theft.  He had lived at a series of addresses in Dallas, including an address on Cedar Springs Road, in the heart of the gay community.

The North Texas gay community still awaits answers to nagging questions about the motive for the murder, which has shaken Carrollton, but barely received any coverage in the regional or statewide press.  The absence of this coverage prompts its own set of hard questions.  The Rev. Ed Middleton, pastor of First Community United Church of Christ, posted a comment on the Dallas Voice Instant Tea blog noting that virtually no press coverage on this crime has gone on beyond the work done by the Voice.  “Anyone wondering where the rest of the Dallas media is?” Middleton writes. “My God, they can spend five nights on the disapperance of some random person and drag the family before the cameras to get as many sobs as viewers can take, but let a basically good kid get savagely attacked and murdered and not a peep.”  The Dallas Voice promises more revelations on this case by Friday.

December 6, 2012 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, gay men, GLBTQ, LGBTQ, Media Issues, stabbings, Texas | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Brutal Murder of As-Yet-Unidentified Gay Man in Carrollton, Texas Raises Troubling Questions

HomicideInvestigation_689x387_ohu4MCarrollton, Texas – The body of a savagely murdered 22-year-old gay man was found by his housemate in his home in this Dallas suburb on Friday.  Police, who are classifying the investigation as a murder case, are not releasing his identity.  The victim, known by his circle of friends, fellow church members, and work associates as “Shawn,” was found by Tony Adams who shared a home with him in the 2100 block of Placid Drive. Adams discovered the body upon returning home from work. According to the Dallas Voice, the victim was a well-regarded actor in the Dallas arts community, along with Adams.

“Shawn’s” identity has been complicated because he was known by a stage name he had assumed in the theater, and enjoyed using the name as his own in real life. As of Monday, it is not clear whether “Shawn’s” family has been contacted about the homicide.

Both Adams and the victim attended the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas where Rev. Colleen Darraugh is the pastor.  Pastor Darraugh is quoted by the Dallas Voice as saying that blood covered much of the house. “Evidently it was a brutal beating,” she said, intimating that knives may have been used in the fatal attack. The MCC of Greater Dallas is collecting money to help Adams with the crime-scene cleanup, and with replacing clothing and furnishings that were destroyed in the crime. In an email sent to congregational members and friends, Pastor Darraugh wrote, in part:

“Tony Adams Schmidt is a friend and colleague who some of you know through his work on sound and lighting at Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas and others know through his acting, directing, sound and lighting work in community theatre.

“We regret to share with you that Tony’s housemate, Shawn – whom many of you also know – was brutally killed in their home. The police are actively investigating to apprehend the culprits and to find the motive for this extreme violence.

“We share in grief at the death of Shawn and pray for his family and all of his friends.

“We surround Tony with love and support, praying for him as he deals with his grief and the shock of finding such a horrific scene.”

The email goes on to detail how donations can be made online to the church’s Benevolence Fund.

The nature of the murder, whether it was related to the victim’s sexual orientation, and how the murder gained access to the home are open questions for the LGBTQ community of Dallas and its surrounding suburbs.  As the story unfolds, Unfinished Lives will continue to monitor police reports and the media to ensure this terrible crime does not disappear from the community’s sight.


December 4, 2012 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, MCC of Greater Dallas, Slashing attacks, stabbings, Texas, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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