Seattle, Washington – Openly gay Mayor Ed Murray and Councilwoman Kshama Sawant were targeted with a cascade of hate-filled, anti-gay messages on Facebook on January 14–just nine days after they were sworn into office in Seattle. Now, a Magnolia man stands accused of cyberstalking and hate crimes because of his alleged homophobic tirades and threats, according to Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch. SPLC reports that King County prosecutors charge Michael Munro Taylor, 32, with threatening the life of Mayor Murray, the city’s first openly gay mayor, and Sawant, an outspoken socialist, in a torrent of incriminating emails sent to the city officials.
Omaha, Nebraska – A straight friend of two gays stepped up to defend them from harassment by three belligerent men, and received a thrashing for it. Refusing to retaliate, Ryan Langenegger stood his ground, battered and bloody, and asked his assailants the one question all fearful, homophobic people should have to answer: “Why?”
KMTV Action News 3 reports that Langenegger, who self-identifies as heterosexual, and his out gay friends, Josh Foo and Jacob Gellinger, had dropped into Omaha’s popular Old Market late Saturday night to grab a bite to eat at PepperJax Grill when the three alleged homophobes approached their table. Gellinger who was wearing a dress that evening was the initial target of the most vocal of the men, who called him “disgusting” and the others “faggots.” Attempting to avoid a confrontation, Gellinger, Foo, and Langenegger left the grill, but their three harassers followed them outside and intensified their name-calling. According to Huffington Post, Langenegger stepped between the belligerents and his friends, saying that they should just leave the gay men alone. One of the verbal assailants then punched Langenegger so hard it chipped two of his teeth, deeply gashed his brow between his eyes, and left his face a bloody wreck.
Josh Foo wrote up his own account of what happened on his Facebook page, expressing appreciation for the courage of his straight friend. Referring to a photo of Langenegger taken soon after the assault, Foo posted: “This photo was taken soon after Ryan stood up for my friend and I after being called ‘faggots’,’disgusting’, etc. by a group of men at a restaurant who then followed us outside. We did not provoke this in anyway and also did not retaliate after the assault. Ryan, after being hit, paused and looked at the men and asked ‘Why’? which was the question we were all wondering since we did not do anything wrong besides be ourselves. What Ryan did meant a lot to me and I thank him for standing up for his friends and accepting them for who they are in everyway. He’s a great friend. The world needs more people like him.”
In an interview with KMTV 3, Langenegger called the entire incident “sad, very sad,” going on the say that he sees this sort of harassment against gay people all the time in Omaha. Asked if he thought standing up for his friends was worth the beating he took, Langenegger said “yes!” with no hesitation, adding “It just makes no sense this day and age and in Omaha, for all of this stuff to still be happening and out in the streets.” He hopes that the news of this unprovoked attack will serve as a wake-up call to the LGBTQ community.
Meanwhile, authorities are seeking leads in the case. In the face of unreasoning hatred, Ryan Langenegger’s one-word question demands an answer on behalf of us all: “Why?” May Mr. Langenegger’s tribe increase everywhere, until homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia have vanished from among us.
New York City, New York – A 21-year-old transgender woman of color was removed from life support after five desperate days in a coma from a savage hate crime attack in Harlem. Islan Nettles, an aspiring fashion designer, was assaulted by a man allegedly enraged when he learned that Ms. Nettles was not a biological male. She and her transgender friends were walking near 148th Street and Eighth Avenue on Saturday night when the barbaric attack took place at around 11 p.m.. One of her friends ran for help to a nearby police precinct as Ms. Nettles struggled for her life with the assailant, shouting transphobic and homophobic epithets, on top of her in the street, according to NY1. She was rushed to Harlem Hospital where she was initially reported as conscious, but soon fell into a coma from which she never woke up. NYPD reported that Ms. Nettles was determined brain dead, and she was removed from her ventilator on Thursday.
New York Police are investigating the assault as a bias-driven hate crime. Mayoral candidate, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer issued statements decrying this latest violent incident involving LGBTQ New Yorkers, according to The Gothamist. De Blasio said, “This is a horrifying and painful moment for our city. Ms. Nettles’ murder was crime rooted in hate and ignorance. My heart goes out to her family and her friends as they come to terms with this inexplicable act of violence.” De Blasio continued, “Make no mistake: The denial of fundamental rights to transgender New Yorkers fuels the appalling violence this community continues to face. That must end. Delivering justice here requires we investigate this hate crime and hold the perpetrator or perpetrators fully responsible. But it also demands we finally affirm the rights of transgender New Yorkers as full and equal members of our city, state and country.” Stringer added his outrage at the crime, “The savage beating death of a transgender women in Harlem this past weekend was an appalling and unacceptable crime that has no place in New York City. We pride ourselves on tolerance and generosity toward others in this City, but the murder of Islan Nettles is a reminder of how far we still have to go in ensuring that all New Yorkers can walk the streets with dignity and safety.”
A suspect named Paris Wilson, 20, was arrested by police and charged with the beating. Wilson was initially charged with misdemeanor assault in the third degree and harassment in the second degree. Since Ms. Nettles’ death, upgraded charges are expected on Friday. The Black Youth Project called the murder “horrible,” and lamented the awful waste of a talented young transgender woman’s life. Ms. Nettles, who worked for a time at Ay’ Medici, a Harlem design house. On her LinkedIn page, she wrote movingly of her love of fashion design: “Fashion became a definite decision for my life after my first show with my hand designed garments in high school at the 11th grade.”
Ms. Nettles’ hate crime murder is the second fatality in a wave of violence against New York City’s LGBTQ community that has racked up record numbers of violent attacks each year for the last three years in a row.
Outbreak of Anti-Gay Attacks in Brooklyn and Queens, New York Continues Trend of Homophobic Violence
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 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.
La Grande, Oregon – A 15-year-old gay teen who attempted suicide after being harassed by bullies on the internet was removed from life support late last week. Anti-gay bullying, which the young Jadin Bell faced for years, has been identified by his friends as the prime cause of his act of desperation.
Bell, a sophomore at La Grande High School, hanged himself from a playground structure at Central Elementary School, according to KATU News. A quick response from a passer-by rescued him. The youth was rushed to a local hospital and placed on life support. Hill was then transferred to a major Portland trauma center, where he had been clinging to life until the family determined that further heroic efforts to keep him breathing were in vain.
The La Grande community rallied to support Bell and his family with a vigil on January 25 which was attended by over 200 people, many of whom had great memories and good things to say about the gifted youth who loved cheerleading, and volunteered at a senior citizen’s care facility. But the undertone of the vigil was a mixture of frustration and denial–frustration that a second young person had fallen prey to bullying (a 16-year-old girl had taken her life in La Grande earlier in the year), and denial of the overarching reason Jadin Bell had hanged himself: anti-gay bullying. No mention of the anti-gay harassment Hill suffered on the internet and in person was made in the reportage surrounding the vigil, even though the cause was well known throughout the town of 13,000 in Northeastern Oregon.
In a Skype interview, Bud Hill, a friend and mentor of Bell, told KATU reporters that the family considers anti-gay bullying the aggravating issue in their son’s suicide. Hill, who has vowed to start a foundation in Jadin Bell’s memory, said that the youth’s sensitivity and kindness made him a target to school toughs. “He was different, and they tend to pick on the different ones,” Hill said.
Bell had avoided confronting his harassers, saying to his family that making their hateful attacks on him public would only make his torment worse. But in recent days, the family says, Bell had gone to school officials to complain of the verbal assaults on his sexual orientation. The superintendent had initiated an investigation into Bell’s allegations, which was proceeding at the time of the suicide attempt.
“Driven to suicide”: the phrase rolls too easily off the tongue. The horror of the loss of Jadin Bell is that he is one of so many. Every town and city in the nation is susceptible to become the next La Grande. The time to stop the homophobic violence preying on the youth of the nation is now, not after it is too late.
The Trevor Helpline operates the nation’s only 24/7 suicide and crisis hotline for gay and questioning youth. Don’t wait any longer. Call the Trevor Helpline: 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (1-866-488-7386).
Norfolk, Virginia – With little or no privacy, and nowhere to escape from his anti-gay torment, a sailor targeted for harassment aboard nuclear submarine USS Florida (SSBN/SSGN – 728), became the center of a homophobic hazing case that has created a public relations nightmare for the U.S. Navy. The Associated Press revealed that the Navy released its report in March detailing months of anti-gay taunts against the unnamed submariner–leading to the dismissal of the Chief of the Boat, the submarine’s top non-commissioned officer. Master Chief Machinist’s Mate Charles Berry was fired by Captain Stephen Gillespie “for dereliction of duty” related to his failure to report and advise the commanding officer of the boat on issues arising among enlisted men.
The targeted sailor whose identity and sexual orientation have not be released in the investigative report, suffered incessant anti-gay jokes, was subjected to anti-gay epithets and nicknames, and was the victim of an alleged attempted rape at knife point by a man while the Florida was in a foreign port of call–Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Prior the the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the sailor was constantly taunted to “come out of the closet” as a gay man and jeered at for having a Filipino boyfriend, the ethnicity of the attempted rapist. He was labeled “Brokeback” for the famous gay-themed motion picture, Brokeback Mountain. The Navy report said that the sailor endured the harassment because he thought it would cease at some point. After eight months of constant homophobic harassment in 2011, the sailor finally passed along a note for help, saying that the combination of the attempted rape, the hounding, and the constant pressure put on him by crew members was driving him to suicide, or to an act of violence against his tormentors.
The Navy report says that sailors who participated in the hazing did not appreciate the psychological harm their actions caused their shipmate. The report also states that Chief Berry did not participate in the anti-gay hazing of the sailor, but did not report what was going on to his superior officers, either. As background to the embarrassing revelations of anti-gay abuse, the report also detailed that the Florida had developed a whole culture of heterosexist and homophobic prejudice, and detailed a number of examples.
In response, the Navy ordered training and counseling up and down the line to prevent anything like this from happening again. Besides the chief of the boat, several junior crew members who participated in the anti-gay harassment have also faced disciplinary actions, including loss of rank and pay. In its March 30 statement to the public, the Navy said: “The Navy’s standards for personal behavior are very high and it demands that sailors are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. When individuals fall short of this standard of professionalism and personal behavior, the Navy will take swift and decisive action to stop undesirable behavior, protect victims and hold accountable those who do not meet its standards.”
This week, Vice Admiral John Richardson who commands the Norfolk-based submarine force, issued a blog post in response to the scandal this incident had created in the submarine service in which he focuses attention on the importance of character in Navy life. “A violation by one seems to be a violation against all,” the admiral wrote.
The USS Florida, an Ohio-class nuclear submarine homeported at Naval Submarine Base King’s Bay, Georgia, participated in action against Libyan forces loyal to Col. Muammar Gaddafi in March 2011 by launching scores of Tomahawk missiles, the only one of the four Ohio-class SSGNs available to serve in Operation Odyssey Dawn. Apparently, the senseless anti-gay torment of the sailor in question was going full tilt during the period of combat operations.