Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Transgender Black Woman Murdered in Tampa, Tenth Trans Hate Killing of 2015; Where is the Cisgender Outrage?

Image by Lexie Cannes

Image by Lexie Cannes State of Trans

Tampa, Florida – The lifeless body of trans woman India Clarke (25) was found near a community center basketball court this week. Cause of death is unknown as of this writing, though her upper body bears signs of bludgeoning with a blunt instrument. Clarke is the 10th transgender person murdered this year, according to some sources. If the past experience of the transgender community is any suggestion of the real number of hate crime homicides against trans people, especially trans women of color, 10 is probably a severe undercount, just the tip of a deadly ice berg. With social outrage over the unjust deaths of so many cisgender Americans over the past year, all of it so very necessary to spur fundamental change on matters of racial injustice, the absence of outcries against the decimation of the transgender community is so obvious as to be revelatory. Where is the cisgender outrage over transphobic hate crime murders?

The story line of murders perpetrated against transgender women of color is monstrously similar. In its press release on the killing of Ms. Clarke, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), headquartered in New York City, recounted the names of the 2015 victims of transphobic hatred we currently know:

1) Papi Edwards, black transgender woman, shot to death in Louisville, Kentucky, January 9.

2) Lamia Beard, black transgender woman, shot to death in Norfolk, Virginia, January 17.

3) Ty Underwood, black transgender woman, shot to death in Tyler, Texas, January 26.

4) Yazmin Vash Payne, black transgender woman, fatally stabbed in Los Angeles, California January 31.

5) Taja Gabrielle de Jesus, latina transgender woman, stabbed to death in San Francisco, California, February 1.

6) Penny Proud, black transgender woman, shot to death in New Orleans, Louisiana, February 10.

7) Kristina Gomez Reinwald, latina transgender woman, found murdered in Miami, Florida, February 15.

8) London Chanel, black transgender women, stabbed to death in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 8.

9) Mercedes Williamson, anglo transgender woman, fatally stabbed in George County, Mississippi, May 30.

Two other gender-non conforming persons have been murdered during the calendar year, anglo Bri Golec, stabbed  to death in Akron, Ohio, and black Maya Hall, shot to death in Fort Meade, Maryland. The NCAVP is still investigating these killings to determine whether a transphobic motive lay behind their deaths.

NCAVP spokesperson Chai Jindasurat, decried India Clarke’s savage murder:

“India Clark’s death is a tragedy, which is made worse by egregious misgendering by local police and media. We must honor India Clarke, and all of the transgender women, especially teams women of color,” Jindasurat continued, “killed in this epidemic by supporting the leadership of transgender women, public awareness and respect campaigns, speaking out against this violence, and protecting transgender people from harassment and discrimination.” 

Trans blogger Lexie Cannes notes the pattern playing out in Ms. Clarke’s homicide, made familiar by the well rehearsed outline of reports of transphobic murder in the mainstream media. She echoes the troubling findings of bloggers Monica Roberts and Carlos Maza who misguidedly, perhaps intentionally misidentifying the gender expression and identity of the victims as “men in dresses.” Cannes quotes Maza at some length:

“The cycle at its worst seems to be the same: a transgender person is found dead,” Maza writes, “law enforcement officials fail to acknowledge the victim’s gender identity, and local news outlets follow law enforcement’s lead, misgendering the victim despite often knowing how the victim wished to be publicly identified.

But failing to report the way Clarke is publicly identified,” Maza continues, “deprives audiences of the information they need to understand her death in the broader context of violence against transgender women. In instances where misgendering is intentional, it’s a statement that her gender identity is little more than a deceptive costume, not worthy of being taken seriously.” 

So, where is the outrage from cisgender activists, ministers, and other citizens? Sadly and tellingly, the larger context of the way transgender victims of hate violence are misidentified and hammered in the mainstream press betrays a cultural dehumanization unworthy of the American spirit. Are trans people, especially trans people of color, partakers of a common humanity with us all? Until cisgender America faces their own transphobia, the brutality and dehumanization of our sisters and brothers will continue. This, in the opinion of the Unfinished Lives Project Team, is every bit as wrong as racism, and is racisms secret ally in staining the American conscience.

July 23, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Beatings and battery, cisgender people, Florida, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBTQ, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Heartland Terrorist/Homophobe Threatens Gay Bar With Anthrax

Eric Reece Wiethorn, admitted sending hate letter purporting to be filled with deadly anthrax to a gay bar as "God's judgement" against LGBTQ people. [Ames PD photo]

Eric Reece Wiethorn, 49, admitted sending a hate letter purportedly filled with deadly anthrax to a gay bar as “God’s judgement” against LGBTQ people. [Ames PD photo]

Ames, Iowa – Last Thursday, April 9, police officials announced the arrest of a man who sent a threatening letter that purported to be filled with anthrax to a local gay bar, according to the Des Moines Register. Police arrested 49-year-old Eric Reece Wiethorn of Ames, and charged him with first-degree harassment for sending the letter filled with white power to the Blazing Saddles Bar, forcing it to close. Police, firefighters and an emergency medical containment team in hazmat suits rushed to the scene. The white substance turned out to be harmless, non-toxic Gold Bond powder, but the threat sent a shock wave through the community, especially to LGBTQ Iowans.

This is not the first time the bar has been targeted by threats, but the owner, Robert Eikleberry, acknowledged that the anthrax bluff and accompanying note has been by far the most drastic. Eikleberry told the Register that Blazing Saddles, one of the oldest gay bars in operation in the state of Iowa, has been “the biggest target in town” for years. He described his reaction to the incident to EDGEBoston“I opened it up, white powder popped out, and it was an inflammatory letter. ‘Hate fags, gonna blow this up, gonna blow that up, gonna roast you all after pride’,” he said.

As Gay Star News reports the story, Eikleberry elaborated on terrorist-like threats Wiethorn aimed at him and the patrons of his bar. The message of the letter was, in part, “It’s time for all the faggots and dykes to die on Capital Pride night! Your secret enemies are going to blow up your destination for going to hell tonight, and we’re going to eat roast faggot the following morning. This is your punishment for sinning against God, and hopefully you’ll die from the anthrax on this letter!” Eikleberry went on to say that when the white powder came out at him from the envelope, he called the police immediately. “I opened the mail up thinking it was a thank you letter, it turned out to be a hate letter,” he said.

Police swiftly launched an investigation into the terror threat against the bar and the LGBTQ community, and identified Wiethorn as their top suspect. Under interrogation, Wiethorn admitted sending the letter. He is being held in the Polk County Jail on $2000 bond pending trial.

April 16, 2015 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anthrax threat, Anti-LGBT hate crime, death threats, Gay Bars, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Iowa, LGBTQ, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rainbow Flag Burning in Omaha: Hate Crime, Stupid Mistake, or Both?

Lesbian spouses Ariann Anderson and Jess Meadows-Anderson speak with WOWT 6 reporter about their brush with hatred and flag burning in their quiet Omaha neighborhood.

Lesbian spouses Ariann Anderson and Jess Meadows-Anderson speak with WOWT 6 reporter about their brush with hatred and flag burning in their quiet Omaha neighborhood.

Omaha, Nebraska – A 23-year-old man sits in jail today, charged with felony arson for burning his Lesbian neighbors’ Rainbow flag, and for resisting arrest after he stole the flag from their porch Sunday morning. WOWT reports that Cameron Mayfield, who lives down the street within eyeshot of Ariann Anderson and Jess Meadows-Anderson, grabbed their pride flag, set it afire, and drove down the street in an act the couple says was a hate-filled attack on them.

Around midnight Sunday morning, the two spouses were awakened by what they first thought was an attempt to break in their home. They checked to see that their daughter was unharmed, and then caught sight of the source of the commotion. Looking out their window, they say a familiar van racing down the street with someone brandishing what looked like a burning stick out of the van’s driver side window. It took some moments before the Meadows-Andersons realized that the “burning stick” was once their Rainbow pride flag they flew from their porch.

The women say that the crime rattled them, not so much because they feared the act of burning their pride flag itself. It was the hate behind the act that continues to disturb them. “It goes beyond vandalism or a threat,” they said to WOWT. “That’s a direct attack.” In another interview with KETV, Jess Meadows-Anderson said, “The actual act itself isn’t terrifying or anything like that, but the intent is.”

“That flag has been hanging on the back of our house, on the back deck, for five years,” Meadows-Anderson told KETV News. “In light on the ruling that we are all waiting for, we decided to move it to the front porch as of last Thursday. This is the first time we’ve had anything like this happen.”

The ruling that they are awaiting, of course, is for the judicial system to strike down Nebraska’s same-sex marriage ban, making it legal for a same-sex couple to be married in the Corn Husker State. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Joseph Batailon issued an injunction striking down the state’s ban enacted in 2000, according to LGBTQNation. In 2011, the Meadows-Andersons were legally married in a large ceremony in Iowa, but they intend to marry in Nebraska when it becomes legal to do so.

The couple’s focus on love and happiness makes the flag theft and burning by their young neighbor all the more unsettling to them. Ariann Anderson says she has no recollection of any run in with Cameron Mayfield before, but his father told WOWT News that his son had mentioned a previous encounter with Anderson that bothered him. Mayfield’s father also said that the night before his son burnt the flag, the young man was drinking heavily and dwelling too much on losing his job.

The Lesbian couple say they almost feel sorry for their young neighbor, since this felony will follow him for a long time, and complicate his life. But, on the other hand, they also say that this act of discord and hate makes them wonder who else out there has it in for them and their family. Rather than be intimidated by the attack on their personhood, the couple has replaced the destroyed Rainbow flag with an even larger on that now proudly waves from their front porch in the same bracket the other one occupied before Sunday morning.

The good news in all of this is that the Omaha police acted quickly, and within 45 minutes they had located Mayfield’s van and made the arrest. Though the District Attorney has not yet said that this incident was a bias-motivated crime, police are investigating as if it were one. Mayfield’s father, on the other hand, says that he can’t imagine that his son would act out of hatred against neighbors who live only 10 houses down the street.

In the meantime, the Meadows-Andersons have the more pressing problem of explaining to their daughter why this happened on their quiet street. And Cameron Mayfield awaits trial for the charge of 2nd degree felony arson.

Was this an anti-LGBT hate crime, or a stupid mistake under the influence of alcohol? We at Unfinished Lives Blog suspect it is pretty much equally both. Anti-LGBTQ hatred is far from over in this country, no matter what surveys may say. People in Omaha know that, now.

March 3, 2015 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Arson, GLBTQ, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbians, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, Nebraska, Omaha, Rainbow flag, Rainbow flag burning, vandalism | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Anti-Gay NC Church Members Indicted for Kidnapping and Assaulting a Gay Man

Matthew Fenner, Gay Christian, kidnapped, beaten, and strangled to free him from "demon possession."

Matthew Fenner, Gay Christian, kidnapped, beaten, and strangled to free him from “demon possession.”

Spindale, North Carolina – Five members of a controversial church in rural Western North Carolina have been indicted for felony anti-gay kidnapping and assault on a 21-year-old gay man. A grand jury indicted Justin Brock Covington, Brooke McFadden Covington, Robert Louis Walker Jr. and Adam Christopher Bartley on second degree kidnapping and assault charges. A fifth person, Sarah Covington Anderson, was indicted on Monday, December 8 on second degree kidnapping as well as simple assault and assault by strangulation, according to QNotes. Matthew Fenner, currently an anthropology student a the University of North Carolina, told the Associated Press that he was surrounded by members of the Word of Faith Fellowship and attacked on January 27, 2013. Fenner brought the charges against his assailants, he said, because he was one of several others who had been victimized by the church in recent years, and his attackers made him fear for his life. As Fenner said to WRAL News“The line between religion and abuse, they are crossing it quite severely. That’s why I’m doing this. They have to know you cannot hurt people.” An attorney for the five indicted church members claims that Fenner’s charges are unfounded and “a complete fabrication.”

In a period of self-questioning and self-doubt about his sexual orientation, Fenner and his mother joined the 750-member Rutherford County church and started to attend the church’s school, he said.  “My mom and I were always really close and I just thought maybe I can keep an open mind and see if it works — see if I can change. Obviously, that was really a stupid decision because you can’t change who you are. But in my mind it seemed like the right thing to do,” he told the AP. Fenner worked as a tutor and attended church services. He said that when church members began to suspect he was gay, incidents of harassment began against him.

The church has become a flash point of controversy in the Spindale community, exercising strong influences upon the social and political life of this small town 63 miles southeast of Asheville. WRAL reports that former church members say the congregation’s leadership tries to control many aspects of its membership’s lives, including personal dressing habits, where to live and work, and when to have sexual relations with their spouses. In 2012, another gay man, Michael Lowry, accused members of the church with assaulting him for being gay, but later recanted his claims, a pattern of abusive control sometimes seen when individuals are intimidated for bringing charges against anti-gay congregations. Lowry, no longer a member of the church, now says he was manipulated into retracting his accusations. National gay and lesbian rights advocacy groups have criticized the Word of Faith Fellowship for abusing several young men for being gay whose parents were members of the church. Control over members thoughts and ideas even caused Fenner’s own mother and brother, who are members of the church, to disbelieve his account of the attack, and to testify against him in court proceedings. But Fenner would not be dissuaded from pressing for justice in his case, even though it took nearly two years for authorities to take him seriously and bring the indictments against his alleged assailants.

Suspects indicted for attacking, kidnapping Matthew Fenner. Left to right: Sarah Covington Anderson, Robert Louis Walker Jr., Justin Covington, Adam Bartley and Brooke Covington.

Suspects indicted for attacking, kidnapping Matthew Fenner. Left to right: Sarah Covington Anderson, Robert Louis Walker Jr., Justin Covington, Adam Bartley and Brooke Covington.

The church practices “deliverance,” a ritual including “blasting,” high-pitched screaming prayers and thumping suspected gay people to liberate them from their “demons of homosexuality.” Fenner testified that three members of the church asked him to join them at the back of the sanctuary at the evening service on January 27, 2013, but were soon joined by 15 to 20 other church members who commenced the attack upon him. They held him against his will for over two hours, forcing him into a chair and threatening him with confinement in the sanctuary if he did not “confess his sins.”  Justin Brock Covington, Brooke McFadden Covington, Robert Louis Walker Jr. and Adam Christopher Bartley allegedly beat him physically and forced him down into the chair while other members surrounded and screamed at him to stop resisting. In a police affidavit, Fenner testified, “By this point, Sarah [Covington Anderson] began to tell me how much she couldn’t stand to be around me and that I was disgusting because of my sexual orientation. I told her that I was sorry that I didn’t know what she wanted me to tell her and to which she then slapped me with a great amount of force across my left cheek. At this point I was really starting to get scared.” He identified Covington Anderson as the assailant who strangled him about the neck. As Fenner told WSPA Channel 7 News“My head was like being flung back, my vision was going brown and black. I couldn’t breathe and I’m sitting here thinking if I don’t get out of this, I’m probably going to die.” 

Covered in bruises on his collarbone, neck, chest, and shoulders, Fenner finally got free of the assault, and ran to his grandmother’s home. His own mother refused to believe his account of what had happened to him. But Brent Childers of the North Carolina-based advocacy group, Faith In America, has no doubt that what unfolded on that night was nothing less than religious-based bigotry. “It’s pretty clear to me,” Childers told WRAL, “that these individuals wanted to inflict pain on Matthew because of his sexual orientation.”

Josh Farmer, the church’s attorney, says he looks forward to a jury trial to demonstrate that no one carried out any physical harm to Fenner. But that is not preventing this determined young man from pressing forward with the case because he knows it is the right thing to do. “This is the only way that I can get my voice out there to say look, this kind of stuff is happening. It happened to me and it just kind of sheds some light onto the things that are going on in there and that people do know, but can’t really have the facts to go with it,” Fenner said to reporters from WSPA Channel 7.

December 15, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-Gay Hate Groups, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Faith In America, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, kidnapping, LGBTQ, North Carolina, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Strangulation, Word of Faith Fellowship | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Anti-Gay NC Church Members Indicted for Kidnapping and Assaulting a Gay Man

Gay NC Veteran Burned, Beaten, Dies: A Special Comment

Stephen Patrick White, burned and beaten to death, and his alleged assailant, Garry Gupton (insert photo).

Stephen Patrick White, burned and beaten to death, and his alleged assailant, Garry Gupton (insert photo).

Greensboro, NC – A gay veteran of Iraq who was savagely attacked, beaten, and set on fire by a younger man who checked into a hotel with him finally succumbed to his injuries on Saturday. Stephen Patrick White, 46, a well-regarded member of the gay community in Piedmont North Carolina and a patron of Club Chemistry, a popular gay bar in Greensboro, was fatally assaulted by Garry Joseph Gupton, 26, a city employee of the Water Services Department. The two met, according to witnesses at Chemistry, and left the club together late on November 8, as this blog previously reported. They checked in to the Battleground Inn.

White’s injuries were horrendous. He suffered burns over 52 percent of his body, and had large portions of his arms amputated in an attempt to save his life. Gupton was arrested on the scene and charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. The City Water Services Department subsequently fired Gupton from his job as a consequence of the investigation. Now, Gupton is charged with first degree murder. Q Notes reports that the Greensboro police are saying that there is no evidence of a hate crime in this case. The Q Notes report includes this statement from a Greensboro PD spokesperson:

“He (Gupton) never verbalized to us that he intended to kill somebody,” said Susan Danielsen, a Greensboro police spokeswoman. . . . There’s absolutely no evidence to indicate that this is a hate crime.”

She added: “We’re not sure what caused Mr. Gupton to act so violently. This is not a crime motivated by hate.”  

But Danielson could not refrain from adding that while the Greensboro PD are “sure this is not a hate crime,” they have no other explanation for Gupton’s heinous acts, including his use of fire in his deadly attack on White.  “We’re not sure what caused Mr. Gupton to act so violently,” Danielson went on to say to Q Notes. Then, as if she had opened a door she did not want to open, Danielson concluded, “This is not a crime motivated by hate.” 

At this point, all the public has to go on is the assurance of the police that a brutal attack against a gay man who was naked in a hotel room that included a weapon often reserved particularly for the “purification” of “sodomites,” fire, was not a hate crime. Police in the Tarheel State are not permitted to investigate bias-motivated crimes of violence against LGBT people anyway, since the state has refused to include them in its hate crimes statutes. Nonetheless, the police seem eager to rule out hate crime in this instance.

Let us say for the time being they are correct. There was no hate against homosexuality expressed in this crime, explicitly. This, the police are suggesting, was a consensual sexual situation gone terribly bad. Still, the public is left to ask who brought the flammable material into the room? Why was fire used in this case–a give-away for extreme passions and, yes, hatred of the victim targeted in attacks involving burning someone, in this instance as in the instances of thousands of other gay men and lesbians, to death?

However this crime went down in the Gate City, an entire LGBT community is left fearful, shocked, and wondering. Chris Srgo, Executive Director of Equality North Carolina, vocalized the anguish of the statewide community in a statement on Saturday:

“Stephen White’s death is a tragic loss for the Greensboro community and North Carolina. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Stephen’s family. Equality NC promises to follow this investigation closely to ensure that it is thorough and justice is served. The loss of a community member is always tragic, but this loss is unacceptable. As fellow citizens of Greensboro, my husband Ryan and I mourn tonight and stand in solidarity with the LGBT community in Greensboro.” 

Of course, it is wrong to suggest that an obvious marker for homophobia (perhaps internalized homophobia), the use of the torch to burn a gay man (where the despicable term “faggot” originates–the burning at the stake of gay men as if they were dry wood), inevitably leads to the conclusion that Stephen White was attacked so savagely because of his sexual orientation. Yet, is it not also a mistake of equal magnitude to conclude that because the suspect, Gupton, never verbalized that he intended to kill someone that night, he simply went berserk, and finding flammable liquids at hand, thought to use fire as a way to punish his naked pick up for the night?

The North Carolina state motto is “Esse Quam Videri” (“To Be Rather Than To Seem”). Perhaps it would do investigators and lawmakers in Tarheelia well to move beyond what they seem to want to believe in this instance-to the point that they refuse to investigate or legislate even the possibility of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes-, and to answer the nagging question about the motive for the use of fire to kill another gay man the Old North State.

November 19, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Equality North Carolina, gay veterans, GLBTQ, Greensboro, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, LGBTQ, North Carolina, Special Comments | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gay NC Veteran Savagely Burned, Beaten, Robbed in Downtown Hotel By City Employee

Garry Joseph Gupton, 26, doused his gay victim with fire and beat him into unconsciousness.

Garry Joseph Gupton, 26, doused his gay victim with fire and beat him into unconsciousness.

Greensboro, NC – A decorated gay veteran wounded in Iraq was beaten with a phone, pieces of furniture, a large television, and then set afire by a city employee he met at a local gay bar. 46-year-old Stephen White, a regular customer at Greensboro’s popular gay venue, Chemistry, was discovered naked, savagely beaten, and burned over 52% of his body at the Battleground Inn at approximately 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, November 9, according to Q Notes. Garry Joseph Gupton, a 26-year-old Greensboro city employee, was arrested at the scene and charged with the near-fatal attack. Police are saying that assault was carried out “with intent to kill.” Employees of the bar say that Gupton met White Saturday night and they took a cab from the club. Since White is a well-known patron of Chemistry, everything seemed “normal.” In the aftermath of the attack, the gay community is left speculating that Gupton came hunting for an openly gay man to kill. White’s hand and a portion of his arm had to be amputated because of the severity of his burns at Wake Forest Medical Center in Winston-Salem. He remains in critical care. Hospital officials say that White faces months of surgery, skin grafting, and rehabilitation.

WFMY Television reports that Gupton, a member of the Greensboro City Water Resources crew, has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, and inflicting serious injury with intent to kill. He was initially being held on $150,000 bond pending further charges. At his first court appearance on Wednesday, Gupton’s bond was increased to $250,000, and he asked for a court appointed attorney to be assigned to him.

White’s friend, Riki Dublin, told WFMY that the brutality of the attack on the Iraq War veteran staggers her imagination. “I am just in awe of the magnitude of the hate that is involved and I truly do not believe this man has a soul. Cause you, I just couldn’t ever imagine any human treating another human like that,” she said. After announcing a fundraiser for White, who does not have insurance, Dublin went on to say, “It’s hard. When you send your son off to war and he comes back, and he comes back injured but he comes back alive and then he is brutally attacked… here on our own dirt, it’s hard to fathom.” The fundraiser was scheduled for the following Saturday to defray White’s massive medical bills.

Stephen White, decorated Iraq War veteran, victimized by savage attack.

Stephen White, decorated Iraq War veteran, victimized by savage attack.

The owner of Chemistry, Drew Woffard, also stepped up, calling upon the Greensboro community to support White, according to The Advocate. In a statement issued to Q Notes, Woffard announced a November 15 benefit at the club, and said, “Stephen has a long road ahead of him but he is a fighter and he is definitely not alone. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we are all fighting for him. Also I remind you to please use caution when leaving our bar or any bar with someone you don’t know. I never would have dreamed something like this would happen here in Greensboro… but let’s make sure it never happens again.” 

The Advocate went on to report that no agency yet plans to charge Gupton with a hate crime, and investigators are not bothering to do so. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force notes that North Carolina’s hate crimes statutes do not include LGBT persons as a protected class. Victims of anti-gay violence like White are left exposed, since North Carolina’s law does not address violence perpetrated against persons because of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

If there ever was a case that screamed “hate crime,” this horrific attack does. The use of fire as a weapon in anti-LGBTQ violence has a long and fearsome history, dating back to the Spanish Inquisition. Scholars have noted a decided uptick in cases of bias-driven hate crimes against lesbians and gay men incorporating fire as a deadly weapon. As Stephen White struggles to recover from this heinous act of violence, and Garry Gupton awaits justice to be meted out as it can be in a state that ignores anti-LGBT crimes, the gay community in the Tarheel State is left to ponder what form of murderous intent would set a young man like Gupton to stalk and purge one of their own with fire.

November 13, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, gay men, gay veterans, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, LGBTQ, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, North Carolina | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gay Hate Crime Killer Denied Parole for Eighth Time in Texas

Paul Broussard (l) as he appeared in 1991, and Jon Buice in prison uniform [Equality Texas photo image].

Paul Broussard (l) as he appeared in 1991, and Jon Buice in prison uniform [Equality Texas photo image].

Huntsville, Texas – The convicted murderer of a Houston gay man has been denied parole for the eighth time by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Jon Buice, the member of the infamous “Woodlands 10” who dealt the fatal stab wounds to 27-year-old Paul Broussard, was returned to prison on Tuesday to finish out his 45-year sentence, after the Parole Board deemed him unfit for release, according to the Conroe, Texas Courier. Broussard and two friends were attacked by the gang of ten youths outside a Houston gay nightclub on July 4, 1991, and Broussard died as a result of his injuries. Court documents said that the Houston banker was beaten by a nail-studded two-by-four, repeatedly kicked with steel-toed boots, and stabbed three times before he succumbed.

All the assailants were convicted, and served various sentences in Texas for the crime. Because of Buice’s role in this particularly heinous anti-gay hate crime, he received the longest sentence, and is the only one of the Woodlands 10 still in prison. The case received national attention because of the brutality involved in Broussard’s cold blooded murder.

Buice, who has been described by his supporters as a “model prisoner,” was granted parole in July 2011, but because of new evidence presented to the Parole Board at the time, his reprieve was revoked before his release. That evidence has remained confidential to the board, but as in the case of his 2014 parole denial, whatever it was has kept him incarcerated. By special agreement, Buice will come up for review annually.

Broussard’s mother, Nancy Rodriguez, once again appeared before the board to encourage it not to grant parole to her son’s murderer. Every year, she travels from her Georgia home to Texas in order to keep Buice behind bars. “It’s something I do for my son’s memory and because I want justice,” Rodriguez said. Since 1992, Rodriguez has been aided by Victims Advocate Andy Kahan to ensure that Buice serves the majority of his sentence. In a statement to The Courier, Kahan said, “This was a particularly vicious, senseless crime that centered on hate. We appreciate the parole board taking the stand that convicted murders need to serve the majority of their sentence.”  Rodriguez and Kahan have set a goal to keep Buice behind bars for at least 27 years: one year in prison for every year of Broussard’s lifetime. “That was Paul’s entire life before Buice took it from him,” Rodriguez said to The Courier.

Kahan pointed out to the Parole Board that it is rare for release to be granted to convicted killers before serving out the most of their sentences. He said that the savagery of the crime was the reason the board chose to deny parole this time. Buice has served 22 years so far.

Gay activist Ray Hill, a chief advocate for Buice’s release, contends that Buice is reformed, and that a 45-year sentence is too long for a person who was 17 at the time of the crime. Buice’s lawyer, Tim Habem, refused to discuss the arguments he presented for his client’s parole, but vowed to return next year “for another swing at it.” 

Every Sunday, Nancy Rodriguez says she misses her son’s calls. Every Christmas, the holiday he always honored by coming home to see her, is especially hard. “[Paul] was a good student and a good son,” she said. “I just miss him.”

October 25, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Jon Buice, LGBTQ, Paul Broussard, stabbings, Texas, Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Woodlands 10 | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Hate Crime Killer Denied Parole for Eighth Time in Texas

Straight South Dakotan Assaulted for Defending Gay People

Drew Bartscher, 27, straight ally who spoke out against anti-gay hate speech, and was beaten because of it.

Drew Bartscher, 27, straight ally who spoke out against anti-gay hate speech, and was beaten because of it.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota – A straight man politely asked a couple outside a community tavern not to use anti-gay epithets in regard to gay people, and got punched in the face for his trouble. 27-year-old Drew Bartscher was out Saturday night, September 13, for a good time with friends when he overheard a couple disparaging gay people outside Wiley’s Tavern, according to KSFY ABC News. As Bartscher, a father of two little girls, told KSFY, “There was a couple behind me, and I heard a woman behind me. I heard this woman remark to apparently her boyfriend. I don’t know how to say it on-the-air. She said these ‘f-ing f-words,’ referring to homosexuals.” That is when Bartscher asked the couple courteously not to use language like that to describe gay people. The way he recalls it is that he said to the woman, “You really shouldn’t call anybody the f-word, that’s rude.” As he turned to go about his business, the woman’s boyfriend growled, “What the ‘f’ did you say to my girlfriend?” So, Bartscher said, “I turned to see what that commotion was. The next thing I know was my friends are scooping me up from the sidewalk.” 

KELO TV reports that Bartscher reported the assault immediately afterward to police, shortly after 2 a.m. on Sunday morning. Their investigation has turned up two other reports of the attack that night that corroborate Bartscher’s account of what happened to him. The couple who instigated the incident fled the scene, and no one has been detained for the crime so far. Bartscher posted photos of his face on Facebook, even though he was a bit embarrassed to show he had such a shiner. The caption he chose for the pictures reads, “Stand up for what you believe in. Love everyone.” He wasn’t advocating for himself when he spoke to the slur wielding woman, he says. “That makes me think about my friends and my family and if that was said to them, like, just how hurtful words can be.”

Even days after the incident, Bartscher says his teeth still hurt, his head aches, and he is “a little sore” from the severity of the punch the woman’s boyfriend gave him. When asked if he would stand up for gay people again, given what happened to him, the soft-spoken South Dakotan said, “Yes, I would. And I will.” He says his parents instilled his values in him, values he hopes to pass along to his two little daughters.

Bartscher's black eye: "I would do it again," he says.

Bartscher’s black eye: “I would do it again,” he says.

Sioux Falls Police spokesman Sam Clemens responded to KSFY inquiries about the nature of this crime, saying, “If their sexual orientation or their race, or ethnicity come into play, and the crime is caused because of that, then it would be classified as a hate crime.” As a straight ally, Bartscher says one of the main reasons he spoke up was his friendship with people in the LGBT community. “Some of my best friends are either gay, bi, lesbian, and family too, so I don’t know. I didn’t even have to really think about it.”

Thomas Christiansen, vice president of the Sioux Falls Center for Equality, told KDLT News“Just to punch someone who was trying to say you shouldn’t use that derogatory term is pretty shocking.” He noted that hate crimes against LGBT people is a nationwide problem worsening in recent years, even with the passage of hate crimes protection laws for gay people regionally and federally. “The fact that she was using that term to address somebody when it is most associated with a derogatory term used against homosexuals, I think is inappropriate. When that slur turns into violence, [it] shouldn’t be tolerated,” Christiansen said.

Stories like this one, and a 2013 report of another straight ally, Nebraskan Ryan Langenegger, who took a beating defending his gay friends, one of whom was in women’s clothing, goes a long way toward restoring the faith of the LGBT Community in the goodness of the American public. But we have a long way to go before assaults like these two, involving straight allies speaking on behalf of their gay friends, come to a halt. Until then, the LGBT Community salutes them, and the millions of straight allies they have throughout the country.

September 20, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, GLBTQ, hate speech, LGBTQ, Nebraska, Sioux Falls, Sioux Falls Center for Equality, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, South Dakota, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Perp Sentenced for Beating Disabled Brother and Threatening Castration to “Push the Gay Out of Him”

(L to R) Lawrence Featheroff, Jamie Smith, and Brent Disbennet abused a disabled man for "sexual thoughts about men."

(L to R) Lawrence Featheroff, Jamie Smith, and Brent Disbennet abused a disabled man for having “sexual thoughts about men” (NBC4 image).

Lancaster, Ohio – A Central Ohio man charged with threatening to slice off his disabled brother’s genitals with a butcher knife for being gay, and repeatedly punching him to “beat the gay out of him,” has pleaded guilty to felonious assault and abduction.  On Monday, Fairfield County Judge Chris A. Martin sentenced Lawrence L. Featheroff to 30 months in prison and 3 years subsequent probation for bashing, tormenting, threatening, and beating the younger brother he agreed to care for, because of loathing his brother’s “sexual thoughts about men.”  Featheroff, 38, had taken charge of his disabled younger brother, Jason A. Meyers, 26 after reports of alleged abuse in a group home for developmentally disabled people.  According to The Columbus Dispatch, Meyers is developmentally disabled, but relatively high-functioning.

Featheroff virtually imprisoned Meyers in a house where they lived with an uncle and aunt, and Featheroff’s girlfriend. He admitted to the charges back in January when police, following a tip that abuse might be going on in the house, found Meyers suffering from a concussion, multiple facial bruises including an injured eye socket, and a sprained ankle.  The older brother, a convicted ex-con who had served time for domestic violence, said that his motive for the abuse was to intimidate his younger sibling into becoming heterosexual.  Gay Star News reports that Detective Brian Lowe testified at the sentencing hearing that Featheroff claimed he “wanted to toughen him up to push the gay out of him and make him a normal person.” 

Investigators uncovered a pattern of torture, physical and psychological abuse against the younger man by Featheroff, Featheroff’s girlfriend Jamie R. Smith, and Brent M. Disbennet.  The trio routinely punched and kicked Meyers, limited him to one small meal a day, and forced him to run up and down a hill carrying a heavy wooden railroad tie.  On at least one occasion, Featheroff held a butcher knife to Meyers’s genitals and swore that he would castrate him if he didn’t stop fantasizing sexually about men.  Meyers was removed by officials to a safe location and is now living in adult foster care.

The brothers were part of a family of eight siblings by different fathers who were removed from their mother’s care for reports of neglect or abuse.  The remaining siblings have banded together in a family group of their own. One of the other brothers is believed to have tipped off police about the abuse he feared was going on in his brother’s home.  At the sentencing hearing, some of the siblings showed up to support Featheroff, and claimed that Meyers could be difficult to live with.

Smith, 40, has pleaded not guilty to complicity to commit felonious assault and abduction.  Disbennet, 25, has admitted guilt for felonious assault.  Their court dates are pending.

April 17, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Disabled persons, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Ohio, Torture and Mutilation | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gay Student Condemned By Church Dies By Suicide

Ben Wood, 21, bullied by Church Youth Leader, takes his own life.

Ben Wood, 21, bullied by Church Youth Leader, takes his own life.

Asheville, North Carolina – William “Ben” Wood was 21 when he died on the floor of his dorm at UNC-Asheville.  Friends who found him said that he was drawn up in a fetal position on May 8, 2013, having slashed open his veins.  The loss of this sensitive, justice-seeking young gay man is a tragedy by most accounts–his friends and school mates say he was a fine student, but in recent months his grades and school performance had plunged.  The university junior couldn’t deal with the prospect of going back to his neighborhood in Asheville without being a student any longer, according to his mother’s account in the Reconciling Ministries Network Blog.  As a teen, he had been irreparably wounded by a Youth Leader at his home church as he prepared to go on a Mission trip with his friends from the United Methodist Youth Fellowship.

His mom, Julie Wood, recounts how the misguided Youth Leader singled out her son for being gay in front of his peers.  The leader said, You all know, we all know, that Ben is gay.  Who here is comfortable being around him?”  Demanding a response from each youth in the group, the Leader then said, “Do you understand that Ben is going to hell?”  Once again, the Youth Leader pressed each youth for an answer about Ben.  Crushed, exposed, and broken by the experience, Ben came home while his UMYF friends left on the bus for the Mission Trip.  His mother, who stalwartly contends that their home church is a loving and supportive place, says that this was the trigger experience she believes led to the suicide of her son a few agonizing years later.  Mrs. Wood writes:

“Ben was told that he was not worthy of going on the mission trip.  He had been shamed, humiliated, and betrayed.  He was told that he did not deserve to be a part of the group.  He was no representative of God. 

Out of our front window, I saw the goldish colored Caviler abruptly whip into our driveway.   Ben ran up the porch steps and stood in the doorway.  One look, and I knew, something horrible had happened.  The flushed sides of his cheeks quivered as did his lip.  His breathing was rapid and his eyes just about to spill over. 

The church bus was loaded with Ben’s friends to go on that mission trip while my betrayed and broken son, walked alone around Salem Lake.   He must have felt so very abandoned and isolated. 

While he never lost his compassion for others, I think that this was the day that he gave up on people and God.” 

Skeptics may argue that there is no clear correspondence between the suicide of a young gay man years after the shaming incident that took place in a church youth group in his teens.  Others will say that the church is basically a loving and supportive place, but is put in a hard situation by teachings like those of the United Methodist Church that send an ambiguous, essentially rejecting message about lesbians and gay people.  On the one hand, the social teachings of the church say that every person, including “homosexuals,” is of “sacred worth.”  On the other, the United Methodist Church stubbornly rejects homosexuality as “incompatible” with Christian teaching–denying ordination and marriage to LGBT people, and defrocking their clergy who carry out same-sex marriage ceremonies, or who live openly as lesbian or gay people.

So, who stands guilty of Ben Wood’s death?  The Youth Minister who was applying what he believed the teachings of his church on homosexuality to be?  Ben’s so-called “friends” who one-by-one (under pressure from an adult leader, of course) abandoned Ben to shame and broken heartedness?  The theologians and clergy of the church, who cannot seem to reconcile the love of God on the one hand, and social heterosexism and homophobia on the other?  And what of Ben’s own responsibility to transcend the suffering of his youth–though this latter argument is little more than blaming a victim for his own demise?

Bens’ obituary says he was a genuine, complex, and worthwhile human being.  The Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel  records that Ben “was a member of Sedge Garden United Methodist Church and was a Junior at UNC-Asheville. Ben had a kind and loving soul, with a great sense of humor. He was particularly compassionate to the needs and struggles of others more than himself and was a great journalist. To his younger sisters, Ben was a great big brother who shared lots of walks in the creeks and scavenger hunts with their stuffed animals.”  The obituary goes on to say that three clergy spoke at his funeral, and that his own maternal grandfather was a clergyman.  But Ben found so little hospitality and comfort from the churches around him and the clergy who served them that he could not and did not reach out to them in his darkest hours.  So, a sensitive, socially conscious young man, who happened to be gay and Christian, took his own life.

Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, Professor of Practical Theology at Brite Divinity School, and a native North Carolinian himself, issues this opinion and prayer for other young LGBT persons: “The churches and their leadership have much to answer for in the deaths of young people like Ben Wood.  While we may not be able to point to a smoking gun linking the suicide of young persons condemned by church teachings to the culpability of the churches, there is no doubt that Christian heterosexism and homophobia contribute to the climate that denigrates LGBTQ people and creates undue suffering in their lives.  Indeed, there are progressive and welcoming churches and clergy, and for them we give thanks.  But they are too few, and the silence of church people about the prejudice condemning LGBTQ folk is a major contributing factor in the horror of spiritual violence against them.”

Dr. Sprinkle concludes:  “Let us be crystal clear about this: the heterosexism and homophobia Ben Wood experienced in his life is a Christian heresy–one the churches and clergy of every stripe must find the courage to repent of and repudiate.  And we must do everything we can to make amends to youth like Ben, and to their families.”

February 7, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Brite Divinity School, Bullycide, gay men, gay teens, GLSEN, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, North Carolina, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, United Methodist Church | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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