New York City, New York – A 21-year-old transgender woman of color was removed from life support after five desperate days in a coma from a savage hate crime attack in Harlem. Islan Nettles, an aspiring fashion designer, was assaulted by a man allegedly enraged when he learned that Ms. Nettles was not a biological male. She and her transgender friends were walking near 148th Street and Eighth Avenue on Saturday night when the barbaric attack took place at around 11 p.m.. One of her friends ran for help to a nearby police precinct as Ms. Nettles struggled for her life with the assailant, shouting transphobic and homophobic epithets, on top of her in the street, according to NY1. She was rushed to Harlem Hospital where she was initially reported as conscious, but soon fell into a coma from which she never woke up. NYPD reported that Ms. Nettles was determined brain dead, and she was removed from her ventilator on Thursday.
New York Police are investigating the assault as a bias-driven hate crime. Mayoral candidate, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer issued statements decrying this latest violent incident involving LGBTQ New Yorkers, according to The Gothamist. De Blasio said, “This is a horrifying and painful moment for our city. Ms. Nettles’ murder was crime rooted in hate and ignorance. My heart goes out to her family and her friends as they come to terms with this inexplicable act of violence.” De Blasio continued, “Make no mistake: The denial of fundamental rights to transgender New Yorkers fuels the appalling violence this community continues to face. That must end. Delivering justice here requires we investigate this hate crime and hold the perpetrator or perpetrators fully responsible. But it also demands we finally affirm the rights of transgender New Yorkers as full and equal members of our city, state and country.” Stringer added his outrage at the crime, “The savage beating death of a transgender women in Harlem this past weekend was an appalling and unacceptable crime that has no place in New York City. We pride ourselves on tolerance and generosity toward others in this City, but the murder of Islan Nettles is a reminder of how far we still have to go in ensuring that all New Yorkers can walk the streets with dignity and safety.”
A suspect named Paris Wilson, 20, was arrested by police and charged with the beating. Wilson was initially charged with misdemeanor assault in the third degree and harassment in the second degree. Since Ms. Nettles’ death, upgraded charges are expected on Friday. The Black Youth Project called the murder “horrible,” and lamented the awful waste of a talented young transgender woman’s life. Ms. Nettles, who worked for a time at Ay’ Medici, a Harlem design house. On her LinkedIn page, she wrote movingly of her love of fashion design: “Fashion became a definite decision for my life after my first show with my hand designed garments in high school at the 11th grade.”
Ms. Nettles’ hate crime murder is the second fatality in a wave of violence against New York City’s LGBTQ community that has racked up record numbers of violent attacks each year for the last three years in a row.
New York City, New York – Nelson Falu, 20, was sentenced by the Bronx Supreme Court to seven years in prison for his role in a horrendous 2010 gay torture case that rocked the Big Apple for weeks. Falu is the first of eight Latin King Goonies to face justice for his role in the sexual torture of three persons the gang believed to be gay. According to Gay Star News, Prosecutor Theresa Gottlieb told the court on August 9 that Falu’s victims would rather have a plea bargain settle the issue rather than be forced to “relive” the horrors they endured at the hands of the Goonies in October 2010.
Falu and seven other Goonies tortured a 17-year-old gang recruit they assumed was gay, and then lured another 17-year-old and a 30-year-old man they assumed was having gay sex with the teens into their Bronx safe house that served as a makeshift dungeon, where they were sexually tortured, as well. As reported by Unfinishedlivesblog.com, the Goonies fell upon their victims like wolves, sodomizing one of the 17-year-olds with the wooden handle of a toilet plunger, solely because they suspected them of being gay. The victims were berated with homophobic slurs and burned with cigarettes, beaten with chains, and repeatedly sodomized with a wooden bat for hours. The suspects were arrested and charged with with sodomy, abduction, imprisonment, menacing, assault, and robbery as bias motivated hate crimes.
LGBTQ Nation quoted Mayor Michael Bloomberg as saying at the time of the arrests of the Goonies, “Like many New Yorkers, I was sickened by the brutal nature of these crimes and saddened by the anti-gay bias that contributed to them. The heartless men who committed these crimes should know that their fellow New Yorkers will not tolerate their vicious acts, or the hatred that fuels them.”
Falu, who was 18 at the time of his crimes, and two other gang members accepted plea deals in June. It remains to be seen if the five others will accept plea bargains, or face trial in court.
Dallas, Texas – Jimmy Lee Dean deserves help from the North Texas LGBTQ community. In July 2008, he was brutally attacked by two young men bent on robbing and savaging a gay man in the storied Cedar Springs neighborhood. The heroic act of bouncers from a nearby bar, and a local passerby saved Jimmy Lee from dying, then and there. But the injuries he sustained that night ruined his life.
Now, his face a wreck from failed surgeries, Jimmy Lee Dean has reached out to the LGBTQ community in his longtime Dallas home. But despite coverage by the Dallas Voice commemorating the Fifth Anniversary of the attack that nearly stole his life away, and an Indiegogo campaign to raise the money to set his ravaged face right again, only three anonymous funders have risen to the challenge, and reached out to Jimmy Lee. What is going on here? Besides the usual American aversion to remembering difficult events for longer than a news cycle, or perhaps background problems with this particular case-gone-cold, could there be something else preventing LGBTQ people from responding positively to the pleas of a home-grown hate crime victim who barely escaped with his life?
Jimmy Lee tells the story of his need on the Indiegogo campaign home page he originated two weeks ago. Here is his statement, as he wrote it, in its entirety:
“On July 17, 2008 I was the victim of a hate crime in Dallas, Texas. Through the kind act of everyday people like you, I did not die that night. The criminals were stopped, prosecuted and the good people of Texas provided $50,00.00 from their crime victims fund to repair my physical damages and any phycological [sic] help that might be needed.
“Problems started when I left Parkland County Hospital intensive care unit. Up to that point everything seemed to be going ok. Then After some 16 visits to the Oral Surgery Clinic, 2 surgeries and one attempted surgery that never took place and 27 visits to Parkland crisis center I am in the same phycical [sic] situation as at the crime scene.
“Work done in the second surgery at Parkland Hospital has all come undone. My jaw and cheek bone are no longer attached. Teeth have never been dealt with. No one has followed up on my broken back. I have headaces [sic] every other day. My eyes are having problems. I walk with a causious gate [sic]. I get light headed all the time. I don’t reallly go anywere because of the facial disfigurments and the way I look when I eat.
“I never asked for what happend. It could have been anyone of us at that spot at that time.
“My dreams and identity are gone along with my alillity [sic] to smell, but maybe there are medical procedures that might restore me to a point where I can have some kind of a normal life.”
The anti-gay hate crime attack on Jimmy Lee in the heart of the “Gayborhood” was an outrage. The two defendants in the case, Jonathan Gunter and Bobby Singleton, were brought to justice. Gunter received a 30 year sentence, and Singleton got 70 years. Jimmy Lee Dean moved away from Dallas to try and put his life back together, but his orphaned story has largely been unremembered and unattended, despite the efforts of a few LGBT activists who went court in support of Jimmy Lee, and the efforts of the Dallas Voice editors and staff.
Who knows if Jimmy Lee’s assailants will serve their whole sentences–sentences achieved by the Dallas D.A.’s Office without hate crime enhancements for the usual reasons that hate crimes are hard to prove in Texas? But what Jimmy Lee is asking for is something more tangible than answers to opaque questions of law and right and wrong. He is asking for financial help. And, as of this writing, only three donors out of the thousands and thousands of queer folk in North Texas have done anything. The Indiegogo fund stands at $100.00.
Shaming, of course, does little or no good. But the broader question behind the non-response to the pleas of a bona fide hate crimes survivor is whether there is anything like an LGBTQ community to appeal to in the first place? Has the loose association of interest groups and tavern patrons, the merchants and real estate developers in Dallas who are happy to claim to be progressive LGBTQ community members when it suits their self-interest, actually never matured into a community at all? Is the reason for the non-response to the call of a former member of the Gayborhood for help actually because there was no real LGBTQ community in Dallas to begin with? And, what are the signs that a gathering of people on the margins of heterosexual society have begun to attain the seriousness and sacrifice for their own people that denotes a community of character and concern?
Whether Jimmy Lee’s appeal finds its way into the generous heart of queer Texans remains to be seen. LGBTQ Texans are an able bunch, once they are motivated. But hate crimes victims are at least one important litmus test of a true community, as African Americans, Jews, and Buddhist commemorators of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can attest from their own histories of struggle and resistance. A community begins to become serious and exist in the real world when it starts to take care of its own whenever they meet crisis and disaster. Until then, it is a fair-weather association, at best.
~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Founder and Director of the Unfinished Lives Project
Seattle, Washington – A 37-year-old gay man was attacked early Monday morning by a gang of women and men who yelled anti-gay slurs as they ran him down in the gay-friendly Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. KOMO News 4 reports that police are calling the attack a bias-driven hate crime.
Jason Jacobs told reporters and the Seattle Police Department that he was walking down the street in his own neighborhood a bit past midnight on Monday when two women and three men called out slurs about his sexual orientation, chased him down, and assaulted him with fists and kicks until he lay unconscious with a fractured eye socket, a broken nose, a major concussion, and two cracked ribs. Jacobs says he did not get a good look at his assailants, but knows other witnesses did–if they will only come forward. The attack took place in front of a Starbucks Coffee Shop, but only one witness has come forward to file a report with the SPD. Jacobs’ cries for help drew the witness to respond out of a feeling that, if he were subjected to such an attack, he would want someone to reach out to him. The witness stayed with Jacobs until an ambulance arrived to transport him to a local hospital.
Jacobs says that his pink shirt and shoes may have first attracted the attention of the gang of women and men, the Huffington Post reports. “Hopefully somebody saw something,” Jacobs told KIRO News. “Hopefully we can get some justice.” On Tuesday, he returned to the scene of his attack, seeking to encourage others to come forward and help police with the investigation. Looking at the stains of his own blood still on the sidewalk, Jacobs says that he has lost the feeling of safety and security he once had in the Capitol Hill area.
Seattle Police have assigned this case to their bias crimes division. In their report, investigators describe the three men suspected of the crime as being in their 20s and of “unknown race,” while the two women were described as “Hispanics” with dark hair. As of this writing, no arrests have been made.