Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is History: We Must Not Forget Its Cost

Washington, D.C. – Today marks the advent of full repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the 1993 law making gay and lesbian servicemembers liable for discharge if they admitted their sexual orientation.  While there will be celebrations and night watch parties throughout the nation marking this historic day in the struggle for LGBTQ equality, we cannot afford to forget the terrible cost anti-gay discrimination has wrought in the Armed Forces of the United States.  So, today, we lift up the lives and patriotic service of four gay men who died because of the ignorance and bigotry of other servicemembers, and the systemic bigotry of the services themselves which at best permitted these murders, and at worst encouraged them.

Seaman August Provost of Houston, Texas, was shot to death on duty in a Camp Pendleton guard shack, and his remains were burned to erase the evidence of the deed on June 30, 2009 in San Diego, California. He had recently complained to his family that a fellow servicemember was harassing him because of his sexual orientation.  He feared speaking with his superiors about the harassment because of the threat of discharge due to DADT.  His partner in life, Kaether Cordero of Houston, said, “People who he was friends with, I knew that they knew. He didn’t care that they knew. He trusted them.”  Seaman Provost joined the Navy in 2008 to gain benefits to finish school, where he was studying to become an architectural engineer.

Private First Class Michael Scott Goucher, a veteran of the Iraq War, was murdered near his home in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, on February 4, 2009 by an assailant who stabbed him at least twenty times. Known locally as “Mike on a Bike” by neighbors and friends, Goucher was an assistant organist for a congregation of the United Church of Christ, and Captain of the neighborhood Crime Watch.  He also was a selectively closeted gay man, hiding his sexual orientation from his community. Goucher survived deployment in Iraq, only to meet death at the hands of homophobes back home.

Private First Class Barry Winchell of Kansas City, Missouri, was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat as he slept in his barracks by a member of his unit at Fort Campbell, Kentucky on July 6, 1999.  Winchell had fallen in love with a transgender woman, Calpurnia Adams, who lived in Nashville, Tennessee.  In the fallout from his murder, President Bill Clinton ordered a review of DADT, which resulted in the addition of a “Don’t Harass” amendment to the policy, but little else. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, who represented Winchell’s parents in litigation with the U.S. Army, demanded to know who in the upper ranks of Fort Campbell knew of the murder and its subsequent cover up.  The commandant of the fort was promoted over the objections of many human rights advocates. Winchell’s story has been immortalized by the 2003 film, “Soldier’s Girl.”

Petty Officer Third Class Allen R. Schindler Jr. of Chicago Heights, Illinois was murdered on October 27, 1992 in a public toilet on base in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan. His killer was a shipmate who despised Schindler for being gay. He had been outed while on board the U.S.S. Belleau Wood, and was supposedly under the protection of his superiors until he could be separated from the service.  Schindler had called his mother to tell her to expect him home by Christmas.  Instead, the Navy shipped his savaged remains home to Chicago Heights before Thanksgiving.  The only way family members could identify his remains was by a tattoo of the U.S.S. Midway on his forearm.  Otherwise, he was beaten so brutally that his uncle, sister, and mother could not tell he was their boy.  Schindler’s murder was presented as a reason DADT should never have been enacted, but authorities in Washington brushed his story aside and enacted the ban against gays in the military anyway. Schindler’s story is told at length in Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims, authored by the founder of the Unfinished Lives Project, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle.

We at Unfinished Lives celebrate the repeal of DADT tonight with thanksgiving for the courage of lesbian and gay servicemembers who chose to serve their country in the military though their country chose not to honor them.  More than 13,500 women and men were drummed out of the service under DADT.  But in addition to the thousands who faced discharge and shame, we cannot forget, we must not forget, the brave souls who died at the hands of irrational hatred and ignorance–the outworking of a blatantly discriminatory policy that never should have blighted the annals of American history.  The four lives we remember here are representative of hundreds, perhaps thousands more, whose stories demonstrate the lengths to which institutions and governments will go to preserve homophobia and heterosexism.  We will remember with thanksgiving our gay and lesbian dead, for to forget them would be to contribute to the ills wrought by DADT.

September 20, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Bludgeoning, California, DADT, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Illinois, immolation, Kentucky, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, military, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Remembrances, Repeal of DADT, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, Stomping and Kicking Violence, Tennessee, Texas, transgender persons, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, Vigils, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is History: We Must Not Forget Its Cost

Unfinished Lives Book Debuts in DC and Dallas

Interfaith Peace Chapel on the Campus of Cathedral of Hope, Dallas, Texas

Washington DC – Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims, made its debut at the annual meeting of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy this past Friday. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle will kick off a series of book signing events nationally, beginning with a lecture, panel discussion, book signing and reception at the Interfaith Peace Chapel on the campus of the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, Texas, next Sunday, March 27. The Cathedral of Hope, a congregation of the United Church of Christ, is the world’s largest LGBTQ-predominant faith community. Members of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy, meeting at the headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, received the book with enthusiasm. Dr. Sprinkle was a guest at the 19th Annual Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Dinner, held at the National Building Museum on F Street. A stellar gathering of LGBTQ heroes and their allies celebrated the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and honored two mothers of gay servicemembers who were murdered because of their sexual orientation. Dorothy Hajdys-Clausen of Chicago Heights, Illinois, the mother of slain sailor Allen R. Schindler, and Pat Kuteles of Kansas City, Missouri, mother of murdered soldier Barry Winchell, were given a standing ovation.  A chapter on Schindler, “Hell to Pay on the Belleau Wood,” is in Unfinished Lives, and Winchell has been featured in this blog repeatedly. A panel discussion is planned for the March 27th book signing event at the Interfaith Peace Chapel in response to a short lecture by Dr. Sprinkle.  Dr. Keri Day, Assistant Professor of Theological Ethics and Director of Brite Divinity School’s Black Church Studies Program, Pastor Alex Byrd of Living Faith Covenant Church of Dallas, and Colonel Paul Dodd, U.S. Army  Chaplain (Ret) of Austin will be on the panel. The event is scheduled from 3:30 until 5:30 pm.  Dr. Sprinkle will be signing his book following the 9 am and the 11 am services at the Cathedral that morning in the Sources of Hope Bookstore. Cathedral of Hope is located at 5910 Cedar Springs Road in Dallas. For more information about the book signings on Sunday, March 27, contact Sue Schrader at sschrader@cathedralofhope.com, or Brian Parman at bparman@cathedralofhope.com.

March 20, 2011 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Cathedral of Hope, Forum on the Military Chaplaincy, gay men, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program, Illinois, Lesbian women, military, Military Chaplaincy, Missouri, Remembrances, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, Unfinished Lives Book Signings, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Unfinished Lives Book Debuts in DC and Dallas

   

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