Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Asher Brown’s Legacy: Anti-Gay Bullying Ban in Houston Public Schools

Asher Brown, bullied to death in September 2010

Houston, Texas – By a vote of 7 to 0, with two board members absent, the Houston Independent School District made LGBT discrimination and anti-gay bullying against policy for all students and employees in Houston public schools.  The action came in response to outrage over the “bullycide” suicide of 13-year-old Asher Brown, who took his own life after two years of intolerable harassment for his sexual orientation in Cypress-Fairbanks School District schools.  His parents have testified that they repeatedly contacted school officials about the violence focused on their gay son, but to no avail.  No school official or teacher intervened to stop the bullying and save Asher’s life. The gay teenager’s death in September 2010 sparked a state-wide effort to revise school policies to ban harm to LGBTQ students while on school property. The Dallas Voice picked up the story of the policy change from the Facebook page of HRC board member Meghan Stabler, and is covering developments in Houston and Harris County.

The policy revision reads, in part: “A substantiated charge of harassment against a student or employee shall result in disciplinary action. The term “harassment” includes repeated, unwelcome, and offensive slurs, jokes, or other oral, written, graphic, or physical conduct relating to an individual’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability or handicap, or age, sex, marital status, veteran status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational or work environment.”

Houston School Board Member Larry Marshall said that the revision will make district schools safer for all children, especially LGBT students: “I think this recommendation clearly signals to principals that when you enter a school building you are on our turf, and on our turf we are going to treat everyone with dignity and respect. I think that administrators need to thoroughly understand that anything else will not be tolerated.”

Because the Houston ISD is the seventh-largest school district in the nation, the action of the district school board to ban discrimination and bullying against LGBT students will exert substantial pressure on other school systems to revise and enforce fair treatment of all children.  Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, for example, the district where Asher Brown attended school, has not yet changed its policy towards LGBT student bullying and harassment.  Nothing will bring Asher back to his family and his friends.  The horror of his death will remain.  But actions like this policy revision, and vigorous education and enforcement of the ban will help ensure that no other family or school need go through the agony that surrounded the fragile life and death of a gentle teenager who just wanted to live an authentic life and be able to get a good education at the same time.

June 24, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, gay bashing, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Houston Independent School District, Human Rights Campaign, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Asher Brown’s Legacy: Anti-Gay Bullying Ban in Houston Public Schools

Asher Brown’s “Death By Bullies” Sparks Investigations, Demonstration

Asher Brown, Fox News 26 photo

Houston, Texas – Pressure is mounting for a fuller investigation into the reasons for the suicide of Asher Brown. After hundreds of mourners and supporters gathered on Saturday outside Moore Elementary School to pay tribute to Asher and support his family, Harris County prosecutors are investigating to learn all they can about the role school bullying played in the 13-year-old gay boy’s suicide at his home on September 13. On October 4, CBS and AP reported the release of a new study establishing that anti-gay bullying is a major contributing factor to LGBTQ depression and suicide. According to the report of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, the mental health of LGBTQ youth is deeply impacted in many negative ways by the harassment and bullying they receive in school. “Our research makes it crystal clear that anti-LGBT bullying is a major reason that youth who don’t conform to gender rules or expectations have poorer mental health later in life,” study co-author Stephen T. Russell, a consultant with the Project, said in a press release. Asher Brown’s death has also sparked pressure on school boards and administrations to do more to make school experiences safer for children and youth. A demonstration is planned for Tuesday, October 5, outside Hamilton Middle School in Houston where Asher was a student to highlight the need for safe schools and for zero-tolerance of anti-LGBTQ discrimination and bullying because of the real or perceived sexual orientations and gender identities of teenagers. One of new initiatives calls for the passage of a law being called “Asher’s Rule” in memory of the gentle, small, and much-tormented gay youth who no longer could endure the hell he faced at school. The Facebook notice announcing the demonstration and vigil for safer schools in memory of Asher includes this appeal to the public: “Please join us to help educate the schools, the school district, the parents, the students to help make schools a safer place for kids. We all collectively hope and dream for Asher and all kids who are/were bullied…. that the world becomes a better place with what they would have hoped and dreamed it would be. We need more sensitivity and compassion… not bullying and meanness in this world. Please find ways to get kids help. We need these special kids to grow to adults.”

October 4, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Asian Americans, Bullying in schools, gay teens, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Protests and Demonstrations, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Asher Brown’s “Death By Bullies” Sparks Investigations, Demonstration

Asher Brown, Dead at 13: “They Ripped Him Up & Tore Him Down Everyday”

Supporters of Asher Brown at the Outdoor Memorial Service on Saturday (Stephen V. Sprinkle photo)

Houston, Texas – Asher Brown’s uncle told a big gathering of mourners and family supporters on Saturday that school bullies “ripped him up and tore him down everyday.”  A crowd of hundreds blanketed a Houston park beside Moore Elementary School to express grief over the death by bullying of 13-year-old gay boy, Asher Brown.  Bright balloons floated in the air as the line of friends patiently waited to sign the memorial book and get a chance to speak to David and Amy Truong, Asher’s parents.  His uncle, a Christian minister, MC’ed the memorial service.  “The bullies picked on my nephew because of the way he dressed, how he talked, and the fact he was small.  He was a David among Goliaths,” Rev. Truong told the large crowd.  “But Asher’s heart was so big! His heart made him a giant.”  Asher’s school friends, the few who stood by him no matter what, were present and spoke.  One of them said there was a “Bully Free Zone” sign at Hamilton Middle School where Asher faced torment every day for being different, for being gay, and for being vulnerable.  His friend said that the sign meant nothing.  Nothing was done by anyone to protect Asher, himself, or any other target of ridicule at Hamilton. the Truongs had repeatedly tried to get school officials to help their son, but the school basically ignored their calls and emails. Initially, a spokesperson for the school district denied that any appeals had come to the school about Asher and the severe bullying he was facing there.  Now the Cy-Fair Independent School District is acknowledging that “some communication” concerning Asher did indeed come from his parents.  The gay teen shot himself in his Dad’s closet on September 23 after bullying became unendurable for him.  When David Truong, Asher’s Dad,  found Asher lying on the floor of his closet, he thought at first that his son had fallen asleep reading a book–and then he saw the blood.  Referring to Asher’s six friends who spoke at the outdoor memorial service, David Truong said, “These kids are the true heroes of this whole thing.  They are speaking out, and we need to support them.”  Jolanda Jones, a city councilwoman in attendance told the crowd that she and Mayor Annise Parker were taking this senseless killing in Houston as a “call to action” for passage of a zero tolerance anti-bullying law that will be named “Asher’s Rule” as a fitting memorial to a good boy who just wanted to live his life–though bullies wouldn’t let him.  Many supporters from the LGBTQ community came to show their support for safe schools for all children, and to support Asher’s family.  Asher’s uncle declared that “gay and straight alike are perfect in God’s sight.  God doesn’t make any mistakes.”  What happened to his nephew was not going to be dismissed as simply a “gay issue.”  “This is a hate issue, and we are not going to rest until all children are safe from hate at school,” he said.  For more photos of the Asher Brown Memorial Service, click here.

October 2, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Asian Americans, Bullying in schools, gay teens, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Legislation, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Texas | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Asher Brown, Dead at 13: “They Ripped Him Up & Tore Him Down Everyday”

Houston Churches Break Cycle of Gay Hate: “Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Sunday,” Feb. 20

Houston, Texas – When school bullying drove 13-year-old Asher Brown to take his own life on September 23, the horror and despair of so many LGBTQ youth was laid bare for Houston to see. LGBTQ teen suicide, a crisis for any society, hit leaders of Houston’s gay-affirming religious communities particularly hard. Now, the Houston Chronicle and the Dallas Voice report that 22 area churches are doing their part to break the cycle of religion-based negativity toward homosexuality by inaugurating “Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Sunday” this week.  On Sunday, February 20, churches from a broad range of traditions make it public that their doors and fellowships are fully open and affirming of LGBTQ youth, their families, and loved ones. The connection with the suicide of young Asher Brown is important, since at the time public rallies and memorials in his memory were taking place, the visual absence of churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques was telling. Surely hundreds of people from faith communities attended these public memorial events, but there was no organized presence on the part of religious communities–a glaring absence that communicated a message of neglect or disapproval that concerned religious leaders are eager to dispel. The Houston Chronicle details grim statistics about how religion is perceived to reinforce LGBTQ youth attitudes of alienation from faith communities. The Chronicle reports that a recent survey by the Public Research Institute showed that less than 20 percent of Americans believe faith communities do a “good job” on the issues of homosexuality and gender expression. Almost half of those surveyed said that the religious message on the topic was “negative,” and fully 40 percent said that the intolerant attitudes of religious communities contributed “a lot” to the disapproval and condemnation of LGBTQ people in this country. The most damning statistic associated with these issues referred to teen LGBTQ suicides: two out of three Americans in the survey said that religion contributed heavily to increasing rates of suicide among gender non-confroming, queer, and gay youth. Robert P. Jones, executive officer of the Public Research Institute, underlined the long history of anti-LGBTQ messages coming from America’s houses of faith: “Religious Americans historically have had negative attitudes about gays and lesbians.” In response to the crisis of teen despair in public and private schools in the metro area, the Houston Clergy Council devised “Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Sunday” as a means of getting out the word that God and the faith community do not hate, reject, or despise LGBTQ youth–quite to the contrary, these affirming churches welcome gender non-conforming people and their families every day.  The masthead of the Facebook page announcing the project reads, “Is your teenager Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, a Questioning (GLBTQ) teen? Bring your teen to one of these affirming churches, and rest assured we won’t try to ‘fix’ them. We think they are awesome just the way they are!” The list of churches is impressive, including historic mainline denominations (Episcopal, United Church of Christ, Lutheran, and United Methodist), non-denominational communities, the Society of Friends (Quakers), Unitarians and Universalists, and the largest Metropolitan Community Church in the world.  There is even a lone courageous Baptist church with an open and affirming stance. The struggle with religious intolerance and hate speech from pulpits in Houston and around the nation will go on for a long time. Thousands of congregations in the Houston metro area deny the acceptability of homosexuality and gender non-conformity, declaring queer youth sinful or worse. But a cadre of deeply committed faith leaders and their communities are determined to get out the word in America’s fourth largest city that sexual minority youth are acceptable to God, and most certainly to them.  “Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Sunday” is tomorrow, February 20.

February 19, 2011 Posted by | Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, gay men, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Houston Clergy Council, Internalized homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Popular Culture, Public Theology, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, soft homophobia, suicide, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Houston Churches Break Cycle of Gay Hate: “Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Sunday,” Feb. 20

Black R.I. University Student Hangs Self; Anti-Gay Harassment Suspected

Providence, Rhode Island – a Black, Gay Johnson and Wales University sophomore hanged himself in his dormitory room on Wednesday, September 29.  Raymond Chase, 19, was a well-regarded, openly gay student.  Vice President of the university, Ronald Martel, emailed the student body on Thursday to inform them of Raymond’s suicide: “Today I contact you with the deeply sad news of the passing of Raymond Chase, sophomore, 19, culinary arts major. The campus community is mourning the loss of this vibrant young man who leaves many JWU friends and teachers, and a loving family of Monticello, New York.”  As Steve Rothaus of the Miami Herald and Gay South Florida writes, Campus Pride, the nation’s largest LGBT university and college advocacy group, issued a statement of concern immediately upon learning of Raymond Chase’s suicide.  Shane Windmeyer, founder and Executive Director of Campus Pride, said to the press: “The loss of Raymond this week is the second college LGBT-related suicide in a week and the fifth teenage LGBT suicide in three weeks. The suicide of this openly gay young man is for reasons currently unknown; however, the recent pattern of LGBT youth suicides is cause for grave concern. Campus Pride demands national action be taken to address youth bullying, harassment and the need for safety and inclusion for LGBT youth at colleges and universities across the country. We must not let these tragic deaths go unnoticed.  Together we must act decisively to curb anti-LGBT bias incidents, harassment and acts of violence.”  Just last week, Campus Pride released a comprehensive report to lawmakers in Washington on anti-LGBTQ harassment and violence on college and university campuses in the United States.  Released through its Q Research Institute for Higher Education, the report, entitled, “2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People,” drew attention to disturbing statistics such as: Nearly a quarter of LGBQ faculty, staff and students experience harassment on the nation’s campuses.  Of these, 83% say that their sexual identity is the reason for the abuse.  Transgender faculty, staff and students experience an even higher rate of harassment–39%.  Of these transgender people, 87% say their gender identity and/or expression is the reason.  33% of LGBQ faculty, staff and students, and 38% of transgender faculty, staff and students say that they have seriously thought of leaving their schools because of the abusive atmosphere.  43% of all LGBQ folk and 63% of all transgender people on campus say they hide their sexual difference to lessen the intimidation and danger.  The full report can be accessed in pdf form by clicking here. In response to the suicides of Raymond Chase, Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, and Billy Lucas, Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education issued this statement on October 1: “This week, we sadly lost two young men who took their own lives for one unacceptable reason: they were being bullied and harassed because they were openly gay or believed to be gay. These unnecessary tragedies come on the heels of at least three other young people taking their own lives because the trauma of being bullied and harassed for their actual or perceived sexual orientation was too much to bear. This is a moment where every one of us – parents, teachers, students, elected officials, and all people of conscience – needs to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms. Whether it’s students harassing other students because of ethnicity, disability or religion; or an adult, public official harassing the President of the University of Michigan student body because he is gay, it is time we as a country said enough. No more. This must stop.”

October 2, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, Campus Pride, gay teens, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, Johnson and Wales University, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Black R.I. University Student Hangs Self; Anti-Gay Harassment Suspected

Gay Houston Boy Bullied To Death: Shoots Himself After Unbearable School Torment

Houston, TX – An eighth grader took his life on September 23 as a consequence of unbearable bullying in his school.  School officials deny any knowledge of the boy’s mistreatment, an allegation that the boy’s parents vehemently deny.  13-year-old Asher Brown, a bright student at Hamilton Middle School on the outskirts of Houston, shot himself in the head after at least two years of torment from bullies who taunted him for being small for his age, for not wearing designer clothing, and for being “gay.”  According to the Houston Chronicle, Asher’s stepfather found him dead at about 4:30 pm from a gunshot wound on the floor of a closet in their Cypress, Texas home.  He had used a 9mm Beretta pistol his stepfather kept hidden in a closet drawer.  His parents, Amy and David Truong, say that bullies in gym class took advantage of his small stature, and performed mock male-on-male sex acts on him to humiliate their son.  In the most recent case of harassment, Asher told his parents that a student tripped him coming down the stairs, causing him to spill his books on the floor.  When he stooped down to collect them, the bully kicked the books out of his reach, kicked him down the rest of the stairs, and taunted him. His stepfather said to Queerty, “I thought he was laying there [on the floor of the closet] reading a book or something,” he says. “My son put a gun to his head because he couldn’t take what he was hearing and the constant teasing.”  His mother related how anti-gay harassment troubled her son: “They called him different names for being homosexual,” she says. “He just had enough.”  There are conflicting reports about Asher’s coming out process as a gay boy.  According to Queerty, one report suggests that he came out to his parents back in the summer, and found them to be loving and understanding at that time.  Another report contends that he came out to his stepfather David the night before his suicide.  Asher found comfort in a group of other students who were ostracized for one reason or another at school.  In a school culture where officials seemed to care a great deal about dress code and tardiness, but nothing at all about bullying, the pressure got greater than Asher could bear.  The Truongs contend that they have called and emailed Houston Cy-Fair Independent School District officials pleading with them to watch their son.  Kelli Durham, spokesperson for the school, at first denied that any such communication ever took place.  Later, walking back her claim, Durham indicated that she did get an email from the Truongs about Asher, but it wasn’t about mistreatment by bullies.  The Truongs responded to the denials of the school system with anger. “That’s absolutely inaccurate — it’s completely false,” Amy Truong said. “I did not hallucinate phone calls to counselors and assistant principals. We have no reason to make this up. … It’s like they’re calling us liars. “David Truong said, “We want justice. The people here need to be held responsible and to be stopped. It did happen. There are witnesses everywhere.”  The Cy-Fair School District has a history of gay student harassment, as the Unfinished Lives Project reported in November 2009, with a violent attack against a gay youth at Langham High School.  The night before his suicide, Asher seemed sad to his parents.  They asked him about it, but he said he was “fine.”  The next day, he was dead.  Now the Truongs are appealing to other families and friends to go beyond “fine” whenever they suspect depression from a child who has been bullied in school.  They believe that the senseless loss of life due to school bullying and gay teen suicide must stop, and so do we at the Unfinished Lives Project.  Asher may have taken his own life, but the hate-motivated bullying in his school and the attitude that permitted it to go on there constitutes as clear a case of anti-gay hate crime as we have seen. According to the Houston Chronicle, Asher’s mother sent out his message to the bullies who tormented her son: “I hope you’re happy with what you’ve done. I hope you got what you wanted and you’re just real satisfied with yourself.”  A memorial service for Asher is planned for Saturday, October 2, beginning at 10 am in the park beside Moore Elementary School, 13734 Lakewood Forest Drive in Houston.  The public is invited to attend.

September 29, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, funerals, gay teens, gun violence, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Slurs and epithets, suicide, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gay Bashing and the Bible: The Issue That Won’t Go Away

Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, MCC Global Leader, one of many ministers calling for the reinterpretation of the Bible (Adam Bouska photo).

Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, MCC Global Leader, one of many ministers calling for the reinterpretation of the Bible (Adam Bouska photo).

Dallas, Texas – Gay bashing associated with death-dealing interpretations of the Bible is not over—not by a long stretch. In the tonier precincts of North American society, queer and straight trend setters deal with the old “scripture wars” as if they are tired remnants of a fight no longer worth dignifying with comment. But nothing could be further from the truth for millions of LGBTQ people in North America and around the globe, especially the young, who are routinely being judged as “abominations” by Christians and Jews who fatally misinterpret scripture.

Three current articles on Huffington Post and elsewhere on the web are bringing the issue of the harm bad interpretations of Bible passages from the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Testament into sharp focus. The publication of Matthew Vine’s book, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships (Convergent Books 2014), a passage-by-passage refutation of homophobic interpretations of the six or seven “clobber passages” so often marshaled to denigrate and dehumanize queer people and their relationships, has raised a fire-storm of howling protests by conservatives on the web. Michael Brown, the right wing pundit, is in high dudgeon over the decision of a previously reliable gay bashing, evangelical press conglomerate, the WaterBrook Multnomah Group, to publish Vine’s book and to defend it in the evangelical community. In Brown’s screed, “A Shameful Day in Evangelical Christian Publishing,”[1] he condemns anyone who would defend interpretations of the Bible that contravene the total damnation of LGBT people. Brown decries the defense publisher Stephen W. Cobb[2] makes of Vine’s book, writing, “Have we totally lost our bearings as the people of God? Are we now debating the undebatable and trying to sanction the unsanctionable?”

Brown cannot imagine that the time honored, blood soaked history of interpreting the Bible as a “no homo” bulwark against what evangelicals used to solidly oppose as an abomination is now being contested in his own community of faith. Declaiming anyone who challenges these clobbering passages as a traitor, Brown writes: “…Those who want to revise biblical sexuality and morality have moved away from the Word of God….They have muddled the waters of the faith, and brought reproach on the gospel, further confusing a very lost society, and become propagators of deception in the church. And they will answer to God for all this one day.”

On the moderate and liberal Christian front, the issue of harm done by Bible bashing and misinterpretation is back on the front burner, too. Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, global leader of the Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC), challenges world church leaders such as Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to distance the church from using scripture and tradition to bring about the deaths of African LGBTQ people like David Kato of Uganda. Dr. Wilson writes on behalf of queer people of faith in the Huffington Post[3]: “Archbishop Welby, … Will you use your power to defend those who writhe under the heel of Christians who selectively cite the Bible? Or will you huddle by the fire in the courtyard and deny us over and over? Remember, it was Jesus himself who said, ‘When you have done it to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done it unto me.’”

None of the current voices in the “gay bashing and the Bible” debate carry more moral energy, however, than the Easter article published in the Huffington Post by Jane Clementi, “Loving All God’s Children Equally.”[4] Clementi is the mother of Tyler Clementi who committed suicide in September 2010, after his intimate encounter with another young man was broadcast to the world by his Rutgers classmates who spied on him in his own dorm room. Reconsidering the experience of church through the eyes of her child who died from the shame and horror of anti-gay bullying, Clementi writes:

After Tyler’s death, in the silence of my shattered world, as I looked deeply into God’s Word and listened, God continually and clearly spoke of His unconditional love for all and how we should exhibit God’s love to others with kindness and compassion, always seeking unity, giving life, being respectful and welcoming with hospitality and inclusion, always allowing everyone to be at peace with who they are and how God has created them, perfectly and wonderfully made in God’s image. Why have we lost this message? The church must start to embrace these truths and stop preaching hate.

“Sadly, as I look back — almost as if through Tyler’s eyes — I see things so very differently now. Looking through the eyes of a far-less-mature believer, a child with many uncertainties, and a vulnerable youth with much less confidence in how his sexual orientation fit into God’s plan or God’s kingdom, I now see the harm and pain that is caused by the misinterpretation of scripture that homosexuality is a sin.

“Regrettably, Tyler received a clear message from our faith community, whether it was in youth group, Sunday school, the infrequent short sentences that were spoken on rare occasions in the sermon, or maybe even the silence — the shameful, silent disapproval and judgment of how God created him to be different. But Tyler got the message loud and clear, and clearly that is not a message of love for a young person sitting in the pews next to you.”

For Jane Clementi, the matter of scriptural interpretation is not about the finer points of the ancient languages, or doctrinal and moral purity, or even about the unity of church fellowships and ideologies. It is simply about life and death—the life and death of victims of lethal assumptions about the Bible. She concludes her call to the churches on Easter Sunday:

“We must reexamine those six scriptural passages with open hearts and minds and understand that what Paul was saying to first-century Christians does not translate to what we understand today in 2014 about loving, committed same-sex relationships. We must stop judging; we must stop imposing shame. The church, the Body of Christ, needs to acknowledge that homosexuality is not a sin. The church should apologize, put up a rainbow flag on their church sign and welcome all to God’s family. That is how to love our gay Christian brothers and sisters: Love them like God does.”

BashersJane Clementi’s crie de coeur should touch a nerve of concern and compassion, and help LGBTQ people and their allies to re-engage the issue of how the Bible is used in relation to queer people. This issue is not going away. When even one child or gay adult in the USA or around the globe falls into despair because of shame and condemnation linked so intimately with how communities of faith use the Bible, that is one person too many. The use of the Bible, any portion of it, for purposes of dehumanizing and demeaning LGBTQ people must no longer be tolerated by communities of faith, biblical scholars, preachers, priests, rabbis, and theological seminaries. Marriage equality, no matter how currently successful an issue for human rights, will not secure a safe future for queer people until the theological justifications for violence against them are faced squarely and changed to interpretations of life, tolerance, and acceptance.

Evangelical Christians are no longer of one mind about same-sex loving people. The distress of Michael Brown and other right wing purists to the contrary, dissenting evangelical voices are opening their Bibles to new, exciting interpretations that make room for life and varieties of human experiences. Faithful queer religious leaders like Nancy Wilson are chiding their heterosexual counterparts to read their Bibles in the contexts of love and acceptance, and some of them are doing so with new attention to how the “Church’s Book” can become the word of life again. Jane Clementi’s appeal to church and synagogue to open their scriptures to a more just, inclusive, and loving embrace of LGBTQ people puts the reinterpretation of the Bible on the side of marginalized people everywhere—where it should have been all along. It is simple, Clementi reminds all of us: as simple for the faith community of today as it has always been for readers of the Bible throughout history who opened the Book and found the words of life there—not death.

[1] Michael Brown, “A Shameful Day in Evangelical Christian Publishing,” http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/in-the-line-of-fire/43537-a-shameful-day-in-evangelical-christian-publishing. Accessed 4/18/14.

[2] Stephen W. Cobb, “Why Publish God and the Gay Christian?” http://www.convergentbooks.com/why-publish-god-and-the-gay-christian/. Accessed 4/21/14.

[3] Nancy Wilson, “A Tale of Three Bishops,” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-dr-nancy-wilson/a-tale-of-three-bishops_b_5162843.html?utm_hp_ref=religion. Accessed 4/21/14.

[4] Jane Clementi, “Loving All God’s Children Equally,” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jane-clementi/loving-all-gods-children-equally_b_5176554.html. Accessed 4/21/14.

April 21, 2014 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bullycide, Bullying in schools, gay bashing, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, religious intolerance, Tyler Clementi | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Outbreak of Anti-Gay Attacks in Brooklyn and Queens, New York Continues Trend of Homophobic Violence

Kevin Kiadii, 25, assaulted Wednesday in Brooklyn's Prospect Park for his sexual orientation.

Kevin Kiadii, 25, assaulted Wednesday in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for his sexual orientation.

Brooklyn, New York – Since Sunday of last week, there have been two anti-gay bias attacks reported in Brooklyn, and another hate crime assault in Queens, according to various news sources.  On Wednesday night, openly gay Kevin Kiadii, a 25-year-old freelance makeup artist and a male friend were assaulted in Prospect Park, CBS 2 reports.  Kiadii, notable for lodging a sexual misconduct suit against ex-Elmo voice artist, Kevin Clash (see NewsOne story), was randomly chosen for harassment and assault by a group of five teens who were allegedly drunk and/or high.  When the most aggressive of the teenagers, the one also displaying the most intoxication, confronted Kiadii with homophobic slurs, the gay man offered the youth a soda as an attempt to diffuse the situation.  Undeterred, the assailant took a “fighting stance,” in Kiadii’s words, and when Kiadii told him to back off, the youth jumped at Kiadii and said “‘I’m going to [expletive] you up’ and do this and ‘you F and [expletive].'” Kiadii took a perfume bottle from his bag and wielded it like a can of pepper spray to back off his attackers.  “One of the dudes tried to kick me in the face, but just missed and he got me in my shoulder,” Kiadii said.  Kiadii managed to get off a 911 call to police, handed his phone to a bystander, and wrestled with his main attacker, who left Kiadii with an injured hand, cuts and bruises.  Speaking to the New York Post, Kiadii said his ploy with the spray bottle of perfume may have prevented something much worse from happening to him.  “If it wasn’t for my Dior bottle, I’d be in so much damage,” he said.

The police responded quickly, arresting four youths ranged in age from 13 to 18 years of age, and a fifth suspect who is 21. Charges have been filed against the teens and the 21-year-old for harassment as a hate crime, and the prime assailant faces charges of aggravated assault as a hate crime, according to The Advocate.  Expressing his appreciation for the swift action of the police, Kiadii is thankful that he was not more seriously hurt.  Still, the assault has left him shaken but determined to broadcast what he had to face, so that others will not have to endure an anti-gay attack like his.  “I’m appalled. I’m in awe,” Kiadii told CBS 2. “I just really want my story told because I know there a lot of people in the city who deal with stuff like this.” 

Police sketches of Brooklyn subway gay basher and Queens suspect who attacked a woman while shouting anti-gay slurs.

Police sketches of Brooklyn subway gay basher (l) and Queens suspect (r) who attacked a woman while shouting anti-gay slurs.

Police are also searching for an unidentified Brooklyn suspect who punched a 27-year-old gay man twice in the face on the J Train at approximately 11:45 p.m. last Sunday, May 26.  The assailant hurled anti-gay slurs at his victim as he carried out the attack, according to DNAinfo.  The suspect fled out the back of the subway car to escape arrest.  Police described the suspect as a man in his mid-to-late-20s, 6 feet tall, with dark hair tied in a bun. He was last seen wearing a blue denim jacket, police said.  The New York Police Department Hate Crimes Task Force is carrying out the investigation.  The subway assault and investigation were announced by the New York Police Department on Friday of this week.  Also reported this week was an earlier bias-related attack upon a woman in Queens on March 17 of this year.  Police say that the suspect approached a 49-year-old woman, cursed her with homophobic epithets, and punched her in the face before fleeing the scene.  He is described as between the ages of 20 and 25, five feet four inches tall, 140 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair.  At the time of the assault, the attacker was wearing a small mustache.  The suspect reportedly has been sighted in the area of the 115th Police Precinct.  No explanation has been given for the lateness of the report on the Queens attack as of this report.

Anti-gay violence is spiking alarmingly throughout New York City.  Better than 30 incidents of anti-LGBT hate crimes have been reported this year, one of them a fatal shooting, easily doubling last year’s statistics for anti-gay attacks during the same time period.

June 2, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Brooklyn, Gang violence, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, New York, New York City, Queens, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Outbreak of Anti-Gay Attacks in Brooklyn and Queens, New York Continues Trend of Homophobic Violence

   

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