Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Man Charged with Hate Crime in Brutal Colorado Gay Beating

Jared Olson, victim of anti-gay hate crime, before and after the Labor Day Weekend assault.

Jared Olson, victim of anti-gay hate crime, before and after the Labor Day Weekend assault.

Denver, Colorado – After several weeks, a 20-year-old suspect in the savage beating of an openly gay man outside a hookah lounge has been formally charged with an anti-gay hate crime.  Tilo Sandoval, who turned himself in to police for attacking 23-year-old Jared Olson, was charged Thursday with second-degree assault, third-degree assault and bias-motivated crime, according to 9News.com.

The assault took place around 2 a.m. on September 2 outside Denver’s popular Sam’s Hookah Lounge at the corner of Alameda Avenue and Zuni Street.  Olson told police that he and his friends left the lounge to get in their car when two men, one of them Sandoval, approached them, cursing them and shouting anti-gay slurs.  Olson says that Sandoval yanked open the car door, yelling epithets, and hit him so hard that it dislodged some of his teeth.  KDVR.com reports Olsen’s account of what happened:  “They were just cussing at us and slurring, then one guy walked to my door and opened it and hit me in the face,” Olsen said. “We drove off right after that.”  Besides losing and chipping his teeth, Olson’s face sustained severe injuries which, though not life-threatening, will likely require plastic and reconstructive surgery. The cost of the surgery to set his face right again may cost as much as $50,000–a health care crisis for Olson who does not have insurance to cover the expenses. Commenting on the attack on her son, Melody Olson told KDVR, “It’s so disheartening and disgusting that anyone would do that to anybody. Not just my child, but anybody’s. And it’s just because they don’t approve of (their sexual orientation).”  

The severity of his wounds shocked Olson, he told 7News.  “I didn’t think that I looked that bad, until my mother had taken the picture and shown me. I didn’t think it would ever happen to me. I thought people were more sensible than that in this day in age,” he said. “I just remember looking over, and looking up at the guy and getting hit square in the face right here. And you can clearly tell my nose is like over here,” said Olson.

Tilo Sandoval, charged with bias motivated hate crime against Olson.

Tilo Sandoval, charged with bias motivated hate crime against Olson.

Scott Levin, Mountain States Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed his dismay and outrage over the attack against Olson.  In a prepared statement, Levin said:  “The Anti-Defamation League is disheartened to learn of this tragic instance where a victim was allegedly targeted because of his sexual orientation. We applaud law enforcement officials for taking quick and decisive action to investigate whether this was a bias-motivated attack, and if the evidence supports it, we urge them to prosecute this crime to the full extent permitted under Colorado’s hate crimes law.”

Levin went on to say, “Hate crimes have an impact far beyond the individual victim of the crime. When a victim is chosen because of his or her sexual orientation, other members of that group feel unsafe and unwelcome. Hate crimes resonate throughout the victim’s community and threaten the safety and well-being of every member of that group. ADL calls upon the Denver community to speak out loudly against hate crimes and declare Denver no place for hate.”

Sandoval has been released on $30,000 bond. While the hate crimes charges are in place now, it will be up the Denver District Attorney to determine how to prosecute the case, and whether this particular situation meets the criteria of the Colorado Bias Crimes Law.

September 26, 2013 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Colorado, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latinos, LGBTQ, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gay New Mexico Teen Is Latest Victim of School Bullying

Carlos Vigil,17,  tormented to death by bullies during his senior year in high school.

Carlos Vigil, 17, tormented to death by bullies during his senior year in high school.

Albuquerque, New Mexico – A gay New Mexico teenager took his life, despairing after years of incessant bullying by classmates.  Carlos Vigil, 17, posted a heart-wrending Twitter post on Saturday, July 13, finally crumbling under the weight of the epithets and ridicule his classmates put on him.  The tweet, posted as a screen capture by EveryJoe.com, reads in part: “I’m sorry to those who I offended over the years.  I’m blind to see that I, as a human being, suck.  I’m an individual who is doing an injustice to the world and it’s time for me to go. . . I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to love someone or have someone love me.  I guess it’s best, though, because now I leave no pain onto anyone.  The kids in school are right, I am a loser, a freak, and a fag and in no way is that acceptable for people to deal with.  I’m sorry for not being a person that would make someone proud.”

Ending his tweet, Carlos texted, “I am free now.”  His father, who ironically had only recently returned from a conference in North Carolina where he had spoken out against anti-gay bullying in schools, saw the tweet, and rushed home, too late.  Carlos was sped to the University of New Mexico Medical Center in a coma.  Late Sunday night, his parents requested that doctors remove life support from their son, after his organs had been harvested to benefit others.

The pathos and horror of anti-gay bullying scream out from the story of Carlos Vigil.  His mother said to reporters that her boy had been bullied in some form or another for being perceived as different and effeminate since he was eight years old.  Lately, she said, Carlos had been dogged by hateful speech about his sexual orientation, his acne, his glasses, and his weight.  He and his family tried valiantly to withstand the bullying, complaining to school officials, and transferring from a nearby high school to Valley High where the latest wave of bullying crashed over him.  Carlos had counseled and consoled others who were verbally attacked, and his parents were constantly checking in to ask how he was doing.  He had spoken out against bullying himself.  But according to the New York Daily News, no one guessed at the depth of his own personal anguish until his sudden, untimely death.  Eddie Vargas, sports director of Warehouse 508, an Albuquerque youth entertainment and arts center that Carlos helped to establish, said, “It’s an eye-opener that it can happen to anybody. The people we think are the most confident can also be the ones who are hurting the most.” 

We should no longer be surprised that gay youth like Carlos who show compassion for the hurts of others often swim in oceans of despair that they alone are helpless to overcome.  Carlos had deeply supportive parents who loved him just the way he was.  But the depth of the pain of a youth who had been bullied since the third grade was beyond usual measures of love, support, and affection.  Prevention is the best remedy for the multitude of LGBTQ and gender variant youth who take their own lives as a consequence of the rejection and hate speech to which they are subjected in school among their peers.  Teachers and administrators, clergy, health professionals, lawmakers, and cultural icons must act decisively to stem the tide of gay teen suicide by refusing to see LGBTQ youth as “the problem,” and, while knowing and acting on the signs of youth in trouble, must defend vulnerable boys and girls by making any hint of school bullying a serious offense.  Bullies need help, too.  So do the families of bullies who often enact what they hear at home, or act out from experiences of torment themselves.

Now, Carlos’s family is asking for everyone to work hard to prevent another useless, senseless death like his.  Early this morning, apparently unable to sleep well, his father and mother tweeted this note on their son’s Twitter account: “Carlos is finally at peace! Thank you everyone for your support and prayers. Please don’t forget what he wanted STOP THE BULLYING!”

If anyone is in need of a listening, sympathetic ear, call the Trevor Project Helpline, 24/7, to speak to a real person who will reach out to you: 1-866-488-7386.  Don’t wait! Call Now!

July 17, 2013 Posted by | Bullycide, Bullying in schools, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, Internalized homophobia, Latinos, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, New Mexico, Slurs and epithets, suicide, Trevor Project | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay New Mexico Teen Is Latest Victim of School Bullying

Gay University Student Attacked, Raped, Barely Escapes with His Life

Keire Gartica, 25, Gay Hate Crime victim, recovering from his wounds.

Corpus Christi, Texas – A gay university student says he was captured, beaten for hours, raped, and would surely have died if he had not escaped his assailants through a window.  Keire Gartica, 25, a Texas A&M Corpus Christi Political Science student, was found naked and bleeding from multiple wounds on Thursday after his harrowing escape.  The police took him to a hospital where he was treated and released.  Gartica says his attackers, two Hispanic men in their 20s or 30s, held him hostage and repeatedly assaulted him, calling him racial and homophobic slurs, after he came by their house on Elizabeth Street to repay a $5 debt he owed them.

KRIS TV News reports that police are treating the investigation as a simple assault until the District Attorney makes a determination on hate crimes charges.  Gartica, in the meanwhile, has left Corpus Christi for his home in another locale to recover from his wounds.  According to his Facebook page, authorities are “dragging their feet,” and police have not yet interviewed him about the heinous hate crime which took place almost a week ago.  On Sunday, Gartica posted: “I was the victim of a heinous hate crime that has rendered me a shell of myself. Action ten news in Corpus is covering the story and I conducted an extended interview that airs tonight at ten. There is also footage of me immediately after my escape thursday night on the action ten site… the people responsible for this will be held accountable and brought to justice.”

The attack was prolonged and brutal.  Gartica told KZTV 10  reporters that he was forced to clean the house naked by his assailants, who beat him with a belt buckle, glass cups, a frying pan, a pistol, and their fists while he complied in fear of his life.  At one point, an attacker threw bleach in his eyes, blinding him. The men debased him racially, and violated him sexually with a variety of items.  Gartica is certain he would not be alive today if he had not taken a chance and jumped out of a window.

Now Gartica, shaken by his ordeal, has lost his sense of security. He says he will not feel safe again until his attackers are apprehended and are behind bars.  As he said in a telephone interview for Six News, “I don’t feel right at all. It’s hard to fathom that this actually happened. It doesn’t seem like this actually happened.”  Though Gartica is appreciative of the outpouring of support for him by friends and classmates all over the state of Texas, he posted on his Facebook page,“It has been almost a week. I just feel powerless.”

March 14, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latinos, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, rape, Sexual assault, Slurs and epithets, Texas, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Anti-Gay Rapist Sought by New York City Police

Suspect Julius "Stinky" Wright (NYPD photo)

Brooklyn, New York – “Stinky” is as “Stinky” does (allegedly, at least).  The New York Police Department is searching for suspected hate crime perpetrator, Julius “Stinky” Wright, 21, for a sexual assault in the Bedford-Stuyvesant district on a 24-year-old Hispanic male.  The Advocate reports that Wright confronted the Hispanic around 3 a.m. on September 5 with a fake firearm, and demanded to know his sexual orientation.  Wright then allegedly cursed the Hispanic with homophobic slurs, and berated him for being weak.  Social justice advocates report that the assailant then brutally sodomized his victim.  The New York Daily News posted that the suspect stole his victim’s cell phone, and ran from the scene. The victim was transported to Woodhull Medical Center where he was treated for his injuries, and was later released.

City Council Member Al Vann who represents the district where the crime occurred was joined in a statement by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn: “We are disgusted and horrified to hear about this incident. Hate crimes hurt everyone, and any act of violence against one member of the LGBT community is an act of violence against us all. Too often we hear about acts of violence committed against LGBT people in our city. We must put an end to the intolerance that breeds this hatred. New York City prides itself on diversity and acceptance of all its residents and this act goes against the very fiber of what our city stands for.”

The NYPD is asking anyone with information about the whereabouts of Wright to contact them immediately at 1-800-577-TIPS.

September 26, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Brooklyn, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, LGBTQ, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, rape, Sexual assault, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Anti-Gay Rapist Sought by New York City Police

Lesbian Youth Activist Attacked in Downtown Portland

Kayla Stone, bashed on the streets of Portland (Just Out image)

Portland, Oregon – A 21-year-old musician and LGBTQ youth activist was brutally assaulted July 3 in what Portland Police are calling a bias-motivated crime.  Most concerning to the local LGBTQ community is that Kayla Stone appealed for help, and initially got none.  Stone, who plays guitar and sings for a local art gallery and for a home offering services to queer and transitional youth, is well-known in the LGBTQ scene in Portland.  She reported to Just Out that the night before the violence, she had performed at a local club when a group of Latinos menaced her as she left the venue, followed her for three blocks down the street, and called her an epithet.  Stone denounced the group, verbally defending herself, and they went away. The next night, on Sunday, sometime between 1 and 2:30 am, as she came back to the area to meet her date, the same group attacked her without provocation as soon as they recognized who she was. The assault was swift and brutal, and the shaken lesbian remembers little about the violence except the description of the first man to punch her in the face.  He had a teardrop tattoo underneath one of his eyes, Stone recalls.  But though the whole group struck out at her, leaving her face a bloody wreck, she fought back and refused to fall to the ground.  As she related to Just Out, “It was really intense for me, because it was like, wow, even though Rosa Parks is dead, these people that stood up against prejudice and racism are dead, I’m not. And I feel very thankful to not be. Because with how many people there were that night, I can’t believe I didn’t go down on my knees.”

When her assailants backed off and left her standing, Stone limped to The Escape, an all-ages gay bar, for help. Though there were witnesses to the assault who saw the whole attack, none of them offered to help or call police.  Stone says that in the aftermath of the attack, while she was struggling to get to The Escape, two police cruisers passed her by, and though she was obviously bloody and unsteady from being bashed, the officers did not help her.  Only when someone at the bar called 911, did police respond to her situation. Stone was taken to a hospital, but refused to be stitched up for fear that her injuries would be minimized by the authorities if she let Emergency Room personnel finish their treatment.  Instead, she asked a friend to take photos of the cuts, bruises, and lacerations she received from her bashers. Stone is a committed activist who is no stranger to discrimination. Reflecting on her assault, she says that being targeted for anti-LGBTQ hate crimes is part of the cost of being different. “I’m not trying to justify anything that occurs, but the point is that the revolution is not glamorous,” Stone said. “It means continuing to do what you say you’re going to do no matter what.”

Portland’s LGBTQ community has suffered a rash of gay and queer bashings in recent weeks. Two gay men were assaulted near the Hawthorne Bridge, and a Newport man was beaten as he tried to stop a an anti-gay attack.  The Stone case is now being treated as an anti-gay crime by Portland police, though the lack of evidence and witnesses agreeing to testify hamper the investigation. Courage and commitment to change homophobic and heterosexist patterns in society, like that exhibited by brave Kayla Stone, may yet break the cycle of violence against sexual minorities in the Portland area.

July 13, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Oregon, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Queer, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Anti-Gay Murder Spikes Up 23% in 2010, Report Says

Mother of murdered Puerto Rican Transwoman, Ashley Santiago Ocasio, in April 2010 (Israel Gonzales photo for Primera Hora)

New York, New York – Alarming 2010 statistics from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) released today show a 23% increase in the number of confirmed murders of LGBTQ and HIV-Positive people in the United States.  The report documents the second highest increase in anti-gay murder in the organization’s history. Transgender people and queer people of color are the most targeted populations in America for “severe hate violence,”according to the media summary.  In addition to these staggering statistics for hate crimes murders, there has been a documented increase of hate violence against LGBTQ communities of 13% over 2009.  The NCAVP is the most comprehensive aggregator of anti-gay hate crimes statistics in the nation, serving as an important counterpoint to the Federal Bureau of Investigation stats issued annually as well.

In a national audio press conference today, the NCAVP released its report Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States in 2010. NCAVP collected data concerning hate violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected people, from 17 anti-violence programs in 15 states across the country including: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin. While the report shows the crisis of violence against sexual minority communities in the United States, the numbers of non-reporting states indicates that the actual number of cases of hate crimes against LGBTQ people is much, much higher than these statistics alone.

The NCAVP report quoted anti-violence experts from around the nation to highlight the severity of the losses for the last year: “This increase in murders signals a pattern of severe, ongoing violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities,” said Jake Finney from L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center in Los Angeles, California. “Transgender individuals and people of color face multiple forms of discrimination on the basis of race, gender identity and other factors, which can make them more vulnerable to severe violence,” said Maria Carolina Morales from Community United Against Violence in San Francisco, California. “Additionally, the general public, law enforcement, and the media may be less inclined to address, prevent and respond to violence against these communities, making this violence seem invisible and ignored.” 

Among the findings of the report released today:

  • 27 murders of LGBTQ people were documented for 2010, a 23% increase over the 22 reported in 2009
  • 70% of these 27 murders were of transgender and queer people of color, showing an outsized incidence of violence associated with race, gender identity and expression, and poverty
  • 44% of the total of survivors and victims were transpeople and people of color
  • Transgender and queer people of color were much less apt to receive adequate medical attention and sufficient police protection
  • Transgender women made up 44% of the victims of murder in 2010, yet they represent on 11% of survivors
  • Transgender women, especially transwomen of color, were far likelier to have received injuries from violent attacks this past year, and far less likely to have received medical attention for their injuries
EDGE Boston reports that where controversies over same-sex marriage or state struggles over marriage amendments occur, the incidence of hate violence against sexual minorities rise exponentially. Colorado Anti-Violence Program’s spokesperson, Sandhya Luther told EDGE’s Michael K. Lavers, “We are aware the polarization of discussions will lead to more anti-LGBTQH violence.” Of particular concern are the 18 murders of LGBTQ Puerto Ricans recorded over the last year and a half. These latinate killings have been particularly brutal, and local activists and human rights advocates have called upon the U.S. Justice Department to intervene in the Territory to offset the apparent lack of local law enforcement to investigate these murders fairly.

July 12, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, FBI, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), New York, Puerto Rico, Racism, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, U.S. Justice Department | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Transgender Protection Passes in Dallas County!

Rafael McDonnell celebrates the passage of full Transgender protections for Dallas County Employees on the steps of the County Administration Building. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School is to his right. (c.d. kirven photo)

Dallas, Texas – By a vote of 3 to 2, the Dallas County Commissioners Court passed employment protection for Transgender people who work for the county.  After a five-week struggle, both sexual orientation AND gender identity and expression are now protected classes under the law for the county’s approximately 7,000 workers. According to the Dallas Voice, the vote of 3 in favor of Court Order 21, and 2 opposed fell along party lines, with Democrats Judge Clay Jenkins, John Wiley Price, and Dr. Elba Garcia in the majority, and Republicans Maurine Dickey and Mike Cantrell in the minority.

Though the Commissioners Court voted to include sexual orientation as a protected class in March of this year, advocates in the LGBTQ community called for a fully inclusive protection statute in the county, specifically naming gender expression and gender identity. Rumors swirled for the last two weeks, because what seemed to many as an obvious move on the part of county commissioners was thrown into doubt when open opposition on the political and religious right wing began to be voiced.  As late as this morning, LGBTQ leaders were warned that there would be vocal opposition to the inclusion of Transgender people in the statute, and to expect it to get “loud and nasty.” The courtroom braced for a strong debate, as citizens took up every seat, and many stood along the walls, waiting for the main event of the agenda, Court Order 21. Speakers rose to the podium for a full half hour, the amount of time allocated by the court for speakers to any issue. The commissioners extended the time to accommodate all who had registered in advance to speak to the issue.  Not a single speaker spoke in opposition to the proposal. Speeches in favor of the passage of Court Order 21 were clear, well-reasoned, respectful, and firm, all calling for justice to be done and equality to be extended to everyone in Dallas County.  Ms. Rebecca Solomon, Banking Officer for Bank of America in Dallas, appealed to the business sense of the court, reminding them of the many Fortune 500 companies in Dallas County that have full gender expression and gender identity protections in their Human Resources regulations. She said, “As a transgender person, I have vowed never to work in an environment in which my economic security is at risk because of who I am.  Dallas County needs to catch up with the rest of the country.”  Attorney Cece Cox, Executive Director of the Resource Center of Dallas, reminded the court that the issue before them was one of workplace fairness, and should not be swayed by beliefs that disapproved of classes of people.  Jesse Garcia, longtime Latino gay leader in the city and county, spoke out passionately for justice to be done, and for full inclusion of Transgender people under the law. African American lesbian leader, c.d. kirven, invoked the years of struggle LGBTQ people have endured in this country and in North Texas, saying that it was time for the “war” on people of difference in this culture to be over. Patti Fink of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance (DGLA), said that it was time for the commissioners to exercise leadership on this issue, and vote for equality. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School, Theologian-in-Residence of the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, concluded the speeches of the day, arguing that progressive religious communities fully supported equality, justice, and inclusion for all, and stated, “God created all, male and female, in the image and likeness of the divine. My interpretation of the book of Genesis on this matter suggests that Transgender people are at the heart of God’s love and God’s will, and are fully included when God pronounces the whole of creation ‘very good’ at the conclusion of the divine work.” He continued, “I look forward to the honorable members of this court doing the right thing, the just thing, and voting ‘Yes’ on Court Order 21.”

As dozens of Transgender men and women held their breath, Commissioners Dickey and Cantrell announced their intentions to vote ‘No’ on the proposal.  Dr. Elba Garcia said she was voting in favor of full inclusion, calling it an act of “justice,” and a step toward catching up with the rest of the world. John Wiley Price, citing medical advice he had sought out, agreed with Dr. Garcia that this vote was about doing the right thing.  He called the question, and Judge Clay Jenkins counted the votes necessary to make Transgender protections a reality for the many gender variant people who serve the county. A roar of approval rose from the crowd in the courtroom, and the celebration continued outside on the steps of the Dallas County Administration Building.  Rafael McDonnell, who tirelessly worked for passage of the court order, exuded joy as he thanked all the supporters and the county commissioners who made today’s victory for equality a reality.  The vote will have impact across Texas and the nation, given the leading position the Lone Star State holds in size and reputation as a conservative bastion. Dallas County is now ranked the ninth most populous county in the United States at over 2,400,000 people. It now joins Texas municipalities such as Dallas city, El Paso, Austin, and Houston in full protection for both sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression for employees.

April 26, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Bisexual persons, Brite Divinity School, Dallas Commissioners Court, Dallas County Texas, Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, gay men, GLBTQ, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Lesbian women, Politics, Resource Center of Dallas, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Transgender Equality, transgender persons | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Transgender Protection Passes in Dallas County!

Second Man ID’ed in Austin’s Lesbian-Related Double Murder

Norma Hurtado (l), and Maria Hurtado, daughter and mother, slain on Monday.

Austin, Texas – Austin police have identified a second man involved in Monday night’s double murder of a lesbian athlete and her mother in Southeast Austin. KXAN reports that authorities made the announcement on Wednesday, and are currently trying to decide the role this second suspect played in the brutal shooting of the two women by José Alfonso Aviles, disgruntled father of the lesbian’s teenaged girlfriend. Both Norma Hurtado and Maria Hurtado, 24 and 57 respectively, died in the attack.  Aviles was infuriated about the same-sex dating relationship his daughter had with Ms. Hurtado, and had threatened both Ms. Hurtado and her family with harm prior to the double homicide.  As police reconstructed the killing, Aviles and the second suspect drove to the Hurtado home on Monday evening, knocked on the door of the residence, and as Ms. Hurtado and her mother answered the door, Aviles allegedly opened fire. Both suspects then fled into the night. At the time of the attack, Ms. Aviles, daughter of her lover’s assailant, was in the back of the Hurtado residence and heard the shots fired. She discovered the bodies on the floor, and called 911. Both daughter and mother were pronounced dead at the scene. José Aviles fled to the San Antonio area where U.S. Marshals arrested him on Tuesday.  He has been charged with capital murder, and is being held in the Bexar County Jail without bond.  We Are Austin reports that friends gathered at the Hurtado home Tuesday evening to comfort each other and to remember the slain women.  Norma Hurtado was a renowned soccer player in the Millennium League, and was considered one of its best players.  On Thursday, April 21, a Community Candlelight Vigil in memory of the slain women is planned at the offices of OutYouth, 909 East 49 1/2 Street in Austin, beginning at 8 p.m.  The public is encouraged to attend. Speaking on behalf of the faith communities of Austin, Rev. Karen Thompson, senior pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Austin, decried the attack prompted by a father’s anger at the lesbian relationship between Ms.Hurtado and Ms. Aviles. “It is always, always heartbreaking when ignorance and hatred lead to this kind of violence,” she said. “But today, on this Thursday of Holy Week, the heartbreak and sadness are multiplied by a terrible irony. As our GLBTQ brothers and sisters gather together to mourn two more senseless deaths, Christians all over the world will be gathering to observe Maundy Thursday. Maundy Thursday, the day on which our tradition holds that Jesus had a last supper with his disciples and gave them a new mandate, ‘A new commandment I give you, that you love one another.'”

April 21, 2011 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Austin Police Department, death threats, gay bashing, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, Lesbian women, multiple homicide, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, Texas, Vigils, women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Second Man ID’ed in Austin’s Lesbian-Related Double Murder

“It Gets Better” Makes Us All Stronger! A Special Comment by Dr. Stephen Sprinkle

Dr. Stephen Sprinkle and Dan Savage (Unfinished Lives Project Director, Dr.Sprinkle, was an early contributor to the "It Gets Better Project").

When Dan Savage and Terry Miller conceived of the “It Gets Better Project,” the goal they had was a hundred videos.  Now there are over 10,000 of them, and the videos have been viewed over 40,000,000 times to date—and growing!  Dan has said that had there been 20 videos online, and one life saved, it would have been worth it.  We know now that many, many teenage lives have been given new hope, and also that young lives by the hundreds have been saved by this visionary project.  As the Jewish Talmud teaches, Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 37a).  The IGB Project, and now the New York Times bestselling book by the same name has already saved a galaxy of worlds by this rabbinic measure.

But the IGB project and book have gone one better than this, if such a thing might be possible.  Dan, Terry, and the worldwide host of contributors to this positive effort have changed the world irrevocably, queer and straight alike.  Here are two of the ways I see.

First, the “coming out story,” a staple of LGBTQ life, has been transformed into a declaration of how the queer community is overcoming shame, persecution, and victimhood—and coming on strong.  For two generations since Stonewall, the coming out story has been a way LGBTQ people shared their struggles and established solidarity with each other.  Most of these stories were accounts of struggle, hurt, and survival. Queer folk got to see they were not alone and isolated—we heard the battles others fought, and compared scars—and that was powerful for all parties, because these stories allowed us to see that there were others like us in this difficult world—that we resisted and lived on into a new life together, no longer alone.  But IGB went a crucial step further: as thousands of us were empowered to speak directly to queer teenagers with a positive message of hope and power, “It really does get better, and this is how it got better for us,” we got to overhear ourselves rehearsing stories of strength and success—not just repetitions of woe and endurance.  IGB powered up the queer community to tell the whole world how we are defeating opposition in fine style thousands of different ways everyday.  The message is, “We are no one’s patsies anymore, thank you! And we are ready and able to make things improve for ourselves and our teens every day, until it gets better for all of us!”  IGB changed the coming out story into the overcoming stories of a powerful queer people who will never settle for victimhood again.  In my religious tradition, as a queer Baptist preacher, that makes me want to shout, Hallelujah!

Second, IGB empowered our straight allies to come out strong, too.  From President Obama to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  From Prime Minister David Cameron to Lutheran Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson. From moms and pops, school teachers who taught us, and straight employers who hired us.  Our allies joined the queer community to make the message of zero tolerance for school bullying perfectly queer.  I know the term “queer” rankles some genteel sentiments, but to see the way our straight allies have taken the term and wrapped themselves in it for our sakes should dispel the last reservations we have about the word and about how the LGBTQ movement for human rights and equal dignity will grow and eventually prevail.  Straight queer allies by the hundreds of thousands are rising up against bullying, het privilege, and the culture of violence that imperils not only gender non-conforming youth, but all youth everywhere.  By ourselves, LGBTQ people are not numerous enough to change the het world.  But IGB shows youth and adults in our LGBTQ communities—out or closeted—that growing numbers of queerly empowered straight allies are joining us to transform the world we all share.  This is no panacea, of course.  My generation may not live to see it, especially in the churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques where old prejudices linger with desperate power.  But even there, straight allies are queering religion with us.  When the annals of these years are written, I believe the IGB Project will feature prominently in the story of how all us queers, LGBTQ and straight, overcame together. Like the Black Gospel refrain goes, “Over! Over! My soul looks back and wonders how I got over!”

So, Dan and Terry, and the tens of thousands who have rallied to the cause of a safer world for youth to grow up in, a salute to you!  The children will rise up to call you “blessed.”  And so does this mighty queer Baptist preacher from Texas, too!    ~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Brite Divinity School, and Unfinished Lives Project Director

April 3, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, Dan Savage, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, It Gets Better Book, It Gets Better Project, It Gets Better Project (IGBP), Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Popular Culture, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, Stonewall Inn, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “It Gets Better” Makes Us All Stronger! A Special Comment by Dr. Stephen Sprinkle

Another Delay in Notorious Dallas Gay Dismemberment Trial

Seth Winder, charged with the dismemberment of gay Latino, Richard Hernandez

Dallas, Texas – The first-degree murder trial of Seth Winder, charged with the grisly dismemberment of openly gay Dallasite, Richard Hernandez, has been postponed for another four months, according to reports received from the Dallas Voice. Winder was finally to stand trial on January 24 for the September 2008 slaying of the gentle, well-liked Hernandez, a resident of North Dallas who worked as an Associate for Wal-mart. The Denton County District Attorney’s Office announced the delay of trial until May 23, in response to the petition of Winder’s defense attorney, Derek Adame. This postponement of the trial date puts the commencement of justice for Richard Hernandez to a full two-and-a-half years since the visceral organs of the victim were discovered in his apartment bathtub.  The Voice notes that the May trial date itself is considerably in doubt at this point.  The events following the arrest of Seth Winder for the murder of Hernandez are a case study in the muting of a Latino gay murder in the Southwest. The forensic details of the crime are gruesome in the extreme. Though the sensational aspects of a dismemberment seem to lend themselves to media and LGBTQ community attention, a strange pall has fallen over this story for years. Dallas-Fort Worth television and radio news are filled with regular stories of mayhem, yet this bloody, outrageous crime has received relatively little attention in local media, with the exception of coverage by the Dallas Voice. Controversy has dogged this story since its inception. Winder, arrested with blood-stained evidence in his possession, has been variously described as mentally disabled and homicidal, even by his own family. Winder’s father’s girlfriend, Karen Dilbeck, threw a spanner in the works by authoring and publishing a book-length account of the crime and a pastiche of her husband’s mental state at the time of the murder. Because of a spate of publicity that might have affected a trial, justice was postponed in the wake of the book’s publication. Psychological experts have pronounced on Winder’s capacity to understand right and wrong, and his ability to stand trial for the murder. Friends of Hernandez have repeatedly called on officials to bring the case to a speedy trial, contending that Winder knew what he was doing when he allegedly cut his victim to pieces. A&E’s The First 48 attempted to revive interest in the story, but failed. Today’s news of yet another postponement works to dampen the community awareness of the story further. Gay men who habituate the Oaklawn-Cedar Springs entertainment district where the gay community of Dallas congregates seem to have no recognition of the name of Richard Hernandez or the heinous murder that has been likened to Richard Harris’s “Hannibal the Cannibal” best-seller and major motion picture, The Silence of the Lambs. Why such little interest or knowledge of the crime exists in Dallas in 2011 is cause for major concern. This is the hallmark of a gay hate crime being covered over by community neglect and denial, especially when the victim is non-White and past the Twink stage. In the end, the LGBTQ community has the responsibility for keeping the memory of Richard Hernandez alive both so that justice may be finally rendered in this terrible case, and also for the sake of the Dallas LGBTQ community’s social identity.  It is sadly no surprise that major media such as Belo Corporation’s newspaper and television station de-emphasize the plight of gay and lesbian Texans due to hate crimes.  They have been doing so for generations. But the local queer community, with the happy exception of the Dallas Voice, has dropped the ball for a series of reasons community leaders would do well to understand and counteract, if the LGBTQ voices in Dallas and North Texas are ever to be taken seriously by a neglectful heterosexist majority in this city and county.  Meanwhile, the justice Richard Hernandez’s friends seek is deferred.  And justice deferred is justice denied.

January 11, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Decapitation and dismemberment, desecration of corpses, Evisceration, gay men, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, stabbings, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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