Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay, Lesbian, Transgender Murders Skyrocket; Highest Hate Crime Murder Rate Ever Recorded

Burke Burnett, 26, of Paris, Texas narrowly missed being murdered in an October 2011 anti-gay hate crime (Dallas Voice photo). Two of the three persons who assaulted him have received long prison sentences with hate crimes enhancements.

New York, New York – LGBTQH hate crimes murders in 2011 reached the highest number in recorded United States history, according to the annual report of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP). The frightening statistics of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender persons, and HIV-affected persons brutally murdered in homophobic hate crimes was released to the press on May 31. Among the highlights of the disturbing 2011 report:

  • The number of murders of LGBTQH people ROSE a full 11 per cent
  • 30 murders recorded; the highest number since the NCAVP has kept records
  • Transgender women, people of color, and gender variant youth are experiencing the most severe assault of violence against them
  • 87 per cent of these murders befell LGBTQH people of color
  • This high murder rate is the third year in a row (2009, 2010, and now 2011) that shows hate crimes killings rising
  • Youth and Young Adults were 2.41 times more likely to have been physically attacked in bias-related crimes than the general LGBTQH population
  • Transgender women comprised 40 per cent of the murder totals, making the second year in a row that Transwomen faced violence in outsized proportions to their numbers in the LGBTQH community

Even though the report shows a 16 per cent decrease in bias-related acts of violence against the LGBTQH community, an encouraging trend, the decrease is overthrown by the alarming jump in hate crimes murders. Detroit, Michigan, for example, showed a major increase in violence against transgender people, prompting Nusrat Ventimiglia of Equality Michigan to note that much of their budget was being consumed in response to the hike in the murder rate in the queer community. Rebecca Waggoner of OutFront Minnesota said that the outrage of youth murders and suicides demands more money and staff on the part of anti-violence programs nationwide to address the epidemic of death among gender variant young people.

Since the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law by President Obama in October 2009, the incidence of homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic murder has increased year by year, indicating that vigorous prosecution of killers is demanded by the U.S. Justice Department, the FBI, and all branches of state and local law enforcement.  NCAVP’s New York City Anti-Violence Co-ordinator, Chai Jindasurat, said to the media: “NCAVP’s findings are a call to policymakers, advocates, and community members that the prevention of violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected individuals needs to be a priority.” The report includes specific  policy changes that may reduce the increasing trend of these murders, including an increase in funding for LGBTQH anti-violence support and prevention, and a concentrated effort to bring an end of the homophobic, transphobic, and biphobic culture that fuels hate violence.

18 states do not currently include sexual orientation in their hate crimes statutes, and 22 states do not include gender identity or gender expression. This lack of state concern for LGBTQH victims of hate crime allows the suspects of anti-gay or anti-transgender acts to believe they can carry out their bias crimes against the queer community with impunity. Even when a state has a hate crimes law on the books, like Texas, the rarity of its use by local law enforcement and district attorneys emboldens homophobic killers to carry out their irrational violence without fearing prosecution.

 The media report condensing the massive 2011 NCAVP hate crimes report can be downloaded here.

June 4, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, bi-phobia, Bullycide, Equality Michigan, FBI, gay bashing, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Matthew Shepard Act, Michigan, Minnesota, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), New York, OutFront Minnesota, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transphobia, U.S. Justice Department | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay, Lesbian, Transgender Murders Skyrocket; Highest Hate Crime Murder Rate Ever Recorded

Transgender Woman Savagely Murdered in Detroit

East Detroit kill site where trans woman Coko Williams was brutally murdered (Detroit Free Press photo)

Detroit, Michigan – A 35-year-old trans woman was found murdered outside a Parkhurst neighborhood home on Tuesday morning. Because of the reputation of the area, and the stigma associating transgender women with sex workers, the killing of Coko Williams is being lost in the struggle of a neighborhood to survive.  Ms. Williams was found with her throat slashed and shot to death around 6:25 a.m. Tuesday in an area of East Detroit habituated by male and female prostitutes–one that could be justifiably described as “gritty.”  WWJ, the local CBS affiliate, reports that details are still emerging at this hour, but witnesses told police that the killers sped from the crime scene in a gold-colored vehicle.  No suspects have been identified at this time.

News coverage, like that done by Fox News 2, has been slanted toward the determination of Parkhurst residents to eliminate prostitution, drug sales, and violence from their area. Ms. Williams’ murder simply serves Fox as an example of the problems residents face. The Examiner presents Ms. Williams as a “man dressed as a woman,” showing the victim’s self-identification as inconsequential in an otherwise sensational story.  Both news sources illustrate the massive difficulty transgender people face overcoming the biased stereotypes that demean trans people everywhere, and denigrate the characters of trans victims of violence, such as Ms. Williams.

Coko Williams was well-known and well-liked, according to the Trans Women’s Anti-Violence Program. A friend of Ms. Williams who identified herself as Dada told TWAVP that she had known Ms. Williams for fifteen years. Though she was “a loner,” Ms. Dada said, “She was really a sweet, quiet girl. She was never shady or nasty. She wasn’t that type of girl at all. She was always respectful of herself and to other people. It’s sad for her to go out the way she did.”  Her friends told authorities that supported herself as a hair stylist.

Equality Michigan’s Director of Victim Services, Nursrat Ventimiglia, issued an extensive statement to the press, combatting the disinformation surrounding Ms. Williams’ hate crime murder, and calling upon the Detroit Police to apprehend her killers with all possible speed. “It has been widely reported,” Ventimiglia said, “that the area in which this crime occurred is known for sex work. To be clear, it is unknown at this time whether Ms. Williams was engaged in sex work at the time of her killing, however, it is clear that sex workers are often targets of severe violence. Further, transgender women are far too often victims of the most severe violence.”

Ventimiglia then detailed the crisis of transgender violence rocking Detroit and the nation: “Our most recent report through the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States in 2010, documented 27 anti gay, transgender and HIV positive murders, the second highest yearly total ever recorded by the coalition, and transgender women made up 44% of the 27 reported murders in 2010 while representing only 11% of total survivors and victims. Among transgender murder victims, 42% of transgender women killed last year were engaged in sex work at the time of their murder. Equality Michigan and the NCAVP denounce violence against sex workers and seek to raise awareness of the violence faced by gay and transgender sex workers as well as transgender women.”

The investigation is ongoing.

April 5, 2012 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Equality Michigan, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Media Issues, Michigan, Slashing attacks, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Detroit Trans Teen’s Remains Found Burned Near Interstate

Michele "Shelley" Hilliard, 19, had to be ID'ed by a tattoo on her upper arm.

Detroit, Michigan – The charred torso of a missing teen transwoman of color was identified this week in the Wayne County morgue where it had been stored for weeks, and left unidentified.  The remains were collected near Interstate 94 on Detroit’s east side.  Michele “Shelley” Hilliard, 19, was last seen on October 23 at 1:20 a.m., and was reported missing, according to the Detroit Free Press.  Though her facial features and fingerprints were destroyed by fire, investigators were able to make a positive identification because of a distinctive tattoo depicting cherries inked into her upper right arm.  Her mother, summoned by the Wayne County Examiners Office, also confirmed the identity of her child from the tattoo on the burnt remains. Police are now investigating Ms. Hilliard’s death as a homicide.  There is no word about whether a transphobic hate crime is suspected by the authorities, but the disappearance coupled with the attempted immolation of the remains is a familiar signature of anti-trans hate crimes.  Equality Michigan is aiding the Detroit Police Department in their investigation, according to CBS Detroit.  Michigan’s hate crimes law does not include LGBTQ persons as protected classes, making it harder to compel law enforcement to regard violence against the queer community as hate crimes.

In little more than two weeks, three gay men, Steven Iorio from Pennsylvania, Burke Burnett of Texas, and Stuart Walker from Scotland were either attacked by homophobes wielding fire as a weapon, or had their remains immolated after death. Now the immolated remains of transgender Shelley Hilliard are discovered on a Detroit Interstate service road, raising the question of how often fire is employed as a weapon of transphobic/homophobic terror.  As Philip M. Miner of the Center for Homicide Research points out for the Huffington Post, while between 600 and 700 people are killed by arson every year in the United States, fully 26 per cent of this total is from the gay and transgender community.  Miner observes that the use of fire and arson as hate crimes weapons against the LGBTQ community is normally thoroughly planned out ahead of time. He writes: “Attacks involving arson are especially brutal. Meticulous care is taken in carrying them out. The violence is heaped on . . . [Anti-LGBTQ arson attacks] are wrought with meaning,” Miner continues. “The offender wants there to be no doubt that this violence was intentional. In the case of hate crimes, it’s a warning. This is what happens when you are gay. This is what these people get — what they deserve.” 

Equality Michigan points out in its report on transgender hate violence, “During the first half of 2011, Equality Michigan received reports of 83 incidents of violence or intimidation targeting gay and transgender residents that are considered hate crimes under the [federal] Shepard-Byrd Act. However, because the statewide hate crime law is not comprehensive, incidents against gay and transgender Michiganders that are clearly motivated by anti-gay or anti-transgender bias are ignored as hate crimes.”  As a case in point, advocates are watching the Hilliard case especially closely.

Michele “Shelley” Hilliard was nicknamed “Treasure.” The irony of her murder, a young transwoman who had courage enough to transition into the authentic person she truly was, is that only now do we begin to understand the treasure we have lost in her passing.

November 11, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Arson, Burning and branding, Center for Homicide Research, Equality Michigan, gay bashing, gay men, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Law and Order, Legislation, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Detroit Trans Teen’s Remains Found Burned Near Interstate

   

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