Montgomery County, Texas – The body of a gay man was found murdered in a stand of trees in Montgomery County, north of Houston, on Saturday. His truck was also found at the scene by Sheriff’s Deputies, burned. Authorities told KTRK Television 13 that the victim, identified as 28-year-old Marc Pourner of Spring, Texas, may well have been restrained prior to his murder.
The victim’s father, Mark Pourner, who identified the corpse of his missing son on Saturday, told journalists that Marc was a well-liked bookkeeper for Randall’s Food Market, “a good friend to many and a man with a big heart.” Speaking to an interviewer for KTRK, Marc’s father said that the “speed and cold efficiency” with which his son had been killed indicated to him and the family that whoever did this had killed before, and, in all probability, would kill again. When questioned about a possible motive, he said that the family believed this was a hate crime murder, and that his son was openly gay.
Pourner’s roommates and friends grew worried after receiving a “disturbing phone call” Thursday night, and when he did not report for work last Friday, they alerted the authorities. About Magazine News reports that “a person of interest” tipped off the Sheriff’s Department, leading to the discovery of the body. The corpse showed evidence of blunt force trauma to Pourner’s head, and signs of having been tied and gagged. A source described as close to the investigation says that an arrest in the case is near at hand.
Speaking to Project Q on behalf of the Sheriff’s Department, Lt. Brady Fitzgerald described the investigation and the area where Pourner’s body was discovered:
“We responded to that area and we located the burned vehicle. The body was close to the vehicle in a pathway,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s a residential area that is sparsely populated. It was thick in the woods where they discovered the vehicle itself and the body. It would obviously have to be intentionally placed there.” When questioned about the details of the investigation, Fitzgerald went on to say, “We are still looking into the case. If he was murdered in reference to him being gay, it would be a hate crime and that’s the way it would be investigated if that was a motive.” Though he would not affirm that an arrest was imminent, Fitzgerald did tell Project Q that there was no evidence that Pourner had been robbed.
An online campaign has been started to pay for the expenses of the funeral.
This homicide takes place in the context of a heated election in nearby Houston focusing attention on the LGBT community, and in the wake of a series of violent attacks against gay men in Dallas that have taken place within the last month. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, founder and director of the Unfinished Lives Project, said, “It would be folly for Texas authorities to divorce this savage, anti-gay homicide from the homophobic and transphobic campaign against the HERO ordinance in Houston, and from the fallout after the Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage in late June of this year. The LGBT community in Houston is on high alert following the demeaning heterosexist election, and the possible correlation between this killing and the outbreak of anti-LGBTQ violence in Dallas is coincidental only to those who intentionally look the other way.” Sprinkle went on to say that physical violence spikes after media attention like the Marriage Equality decision and the defeat of the equal rights ordinance in metro Houston.
Last week the Fright-Right overwhelmed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) with a campaign Mayor Annise Parker called, “a wad of deliberate, fear mongering lies.” In the first major test of LGBTQ equality since the Supreme Court of the United States made marriage equality the law of the land, justice advocates living behind the Red State Line were unable to dispel the ugly toilet myth that Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance was a ploy by sexual predators to invade women’s bathrooms with rape on their minds. The conservative pulpits and the media-for-hire scared enough of the electorate in the country’s fourth largest city to deal a telling blow against the illusion that non-hetero equality is a settled issue in Red State America.
Meanwhile, in Dallas, the carnage of rising violence against the LGBTQ community rages on, seemingly unabated, though activists, local merchants, and the powerful Tavern Guild in the Cedar Springs/Oak Lawn “Gayborhood” have at long last joined hands in a united front to oppose it. Since the unsolved murder of transgender woman of color, Ms. Shade Shuler, in the Medical District in late July of this year, there have been more than ten savage attacks on LGBT people, with a car jacking at gunpoint a block from one of Dallas’s most frequented gay bars, and a severe beating elsewhere in the community just this past Sunday night. Ironically, the two latest assaults took place mere hours after a major street protest marched through the streets demanding for an end to the violence. Young gay men are being actively and consistently hunted in the Gayborhood of Big D for the first time in many years, and the as-yet-unidentified queer hunters have used ball bats, fists, box cutters, and pistols to shock the community into what the post-SCOTUS Marriage Equality Decision era is beginning to look like below the Mason-Dixon Line.
The message the opponents of LGBTQ equality want to deliver is fear. Fear of bodily harm on the streets of one of the most vibrant gay neighborhoods in the Lone Star State, and fear of perverts in the rest rooms of one of America’s most diverse and inclusive cities. This is what the backlash against LGBTQ justice is shaping up to look like. The truth is, no matter what the Supremes have ruled in June, nothing definitive is settled yet on the matter of equality for non-normative sexual and gender-expressive minorities in the USA. Many autopsies will be done on the HERO vote in Houston and the campaign that led up to it. Suffice it to say that the Reactionary Right is simply better at stirring up their voter base with fear than progressives. We may believe reason will be the victor in the long term, but reason cannot take out of people what irrationality put in them to start with.
LGBTQ communities have long known that violence against its residents is meant to be a terror-message for all LGBTQ people. The truth is that, no matter the success of federal anti-bias hate crime legislation six years ago with the enactment of the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Law, assaults and murders of transgender women of color and gay men are registering historic highs today, with no sign of slacking off. So many alleged hate crimes against these very populations in Dallas are a bellweather the nation cannot afford to ignore. Hate crime violence is not simply a local problem in the streets of Big D. It is a symptom of a mounting backlash that seems to be growing in intensity wherever the noise machine of the Fright-Right can find willing bad actors to do its bidding. It will not stop in Houston and Dallas, or in Red State America, until this whole society comes to grips with how susceptible all of us are to messages of fear.
The large human rights advocacy groups must take heterosexist, homophobic, transphobic fear mongering seriously, and get out on the streets like the progressives of Houston and the street activists of Dallas. This is the hard grassroots work of converting hearts and minds in the face of unreasoning, deliberate fear. Local and state governments must join hands with merchants, opinion leaders, and residents of every county, town, and city where lives and livelihoods are at stake, to combat the cynical fearfulness being propounded by a dedicated and well-funded few who hope to stampede equality back into the darkness of the benighted past.
This is not where we Texas progressives thought we would be after SCOTUS ruled in favor of the rights of all of us to exist, love, and marry whom we choose. The call back to the hard work of relationship building and confronting fright with the force of our persons and integrity, from local elections to national elections, is not the message the LGBTQ and allied communities wanted to hear, but that seems to be the take-away from Houston and Dallas for those who have ears to hear. So, if the Right is better at Fright, we must triumph through love, effective deeds of love done the hard way. Only love can cast out fear in the end.
Wilton Manors, Florida – A gay resident of Wilton Manors was assaulted by a slur-shouting attacker who pelted him with rocks this past Tuesday. Police are searching for a Hispanic man with a shaved head who stoned his victim about 12:40 a.m. on September 16 as his gay target walked home along Wilton Drive, the main street in what has been described as the “second gayest city in America.” Residents are outraged and frightened. They believed until recently, as others who live in America’s “gay meccas,” that anti-gay attacks “couldn’t happen here.” They can, and do.
Local 10 News reports that the victim, currently too terrified to make a statement on tape, was walking to his residence when the assailant approached him on foot, shouting anti-gay epithets and throwing rocks he picked up along the street. One of the stones hit the victim in the stomach. NBC 6 says that the victim hurried away toward his apartment with his attacker close behind, still shouting slurs and throwing rocks. When the victim got to his home, the attacker got in a gold colored Honda Accord and rushed from the scene. At the time of this report, authorities are searching for leads in what they are describing as a hate crime case. The gay victim whose identity remains concealed for the sake of protection, has made a formal complaint.
This latest attack has reverberated strongly throughout the South Florida Gay community. Well it should. This is the second violent attack against gay men in Wilton Manors since June. On June 16, two gay men were run down by a driver who struck and injured them in a hit-and-run incident that is described as “no accident” by Miami attorneys. CBS Local reports that the hit-and-run left one victim limping and in need of a cane long after the attack. In an age of Marriage Equality successes in the courts, the idea that LGBTQ people are not safe in their most cherished “gayborhoods” is shocking. But, as residents of other large centers of gay and lesbian population have discovered, anti-gay attacks have not abated in this country. Instead, they are alarmingly on the rise.
The Wilton Manors Mayor and officials of the local gay and lesbian center have called for a complete and swift investigation, and the apprehension and arrest of the assailant in this latest case of bias-motivated crime in the heart of one of the nation’s strongest gay and lesbian cities. But the story of attacks like this one have largely remained local, and are receiving little regional and no national attention. Meanwhile, homophobic violence rages on in American cities and towns. It remains to be seen if an attack of virtually biblical proportions, a stoning no less, will help awaken the public to the epidemic of hate violence being perpetrated against LGBTQ people in the USA at record levels.
Baltimore, Maryland – The discovery of the body of Mia Henderson, slain transgender woman of color, in Northwest Baltimore signals an alarming increase in the numbers of violent attacks on gender variant and transgender persons. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) and TransGriot, a blog dedicated to raising issues pertinent to the African American transgender community, note that Ms. Henderson’s murder this week is the fifth report of a trans person murdered since June nationally, and the second for Baltimore during the same time span.
Henderson, 26, the sibling of NBA star Reggie Bullock of the Los Angeles Clippers, was found dead in an alley Wednesday morning. Gay Star News reports that her body had suffered “severe trauma,” according to Baltimore Police Department sources, resembling the savagery that took the life of Kandy Hall, 40, in early June, also in Baltimore. No suspects have yet been identified in either of the homicide investigations.
The most recent annual NCAVP report on anti-LGBTQ violence in the United States signals a troubling spike in the number of violent attacks on transgender persons, especially male to female transgender women (M to F), and persons of color. The 2013 report details that “almost three quarters (72%) of [LGBTQ] homicide victims were transgender women, and more than two-thirds (67%) of homicide victims were transgender women of color, yet transgender survivors and victims only represent 13% of total reports to NCAVP.” The report goes on to say that transgender victims are more at risk of injuries, and ethnic/racial minority transgender persons were more likely to be harmed in shelters than the population at large. From the report: “Transgender men were 1.5 times more likely to experience injuries as a result of hate violence and 4.3 times more likely to be the target of hate violence in shelters when compared with other survivors. Transgender people of color were 1.8 times more likely to experience hate violence in shelters.”
Port Bolivar – Suspicions are mounting in the double murder of a Texas Lesbian couple whose bodies were discovered by a dumpster in Port Bolivar. KHOU Houston reports that the corpses of Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson, both 24, were found dumped beside a trash dumpster outside of Fisherman’s Cove store by a beer deliveryman taking out garbage early on March 7. Galveston Sheriff’s Department officials say that the young women were in a romantic relationship. Details of the murders remain scarce, but officials have said that each of the victims was killed in a different way, and that the lack of blood at the scene suggests they were murdered at another location, after which their bodies were taken to the dumpster site.
KTRK Eyewitness News says that the young lesbians who lived with their great grandmother had gone to Galveston for Mardi Gras. Jackson, who is described by her relatives as loving her partner Cosby, leaves behind a five year old daughter. The child considered Cosby and Jackson as her parents. The families of both women are desperate for answers. They are pleading for informers to come forward and give authorities leads as to who killed their loved ones. McDade Cosby, Britney’s sister, begged the public via KTRK, “Just come forward, just to give us closure as a family. Just come forward, ’cause we need closure at this point.” Crystal’s sister, Lequita Jackson, sobbed as she decried the murder, “What did they do to you to kill my sister? You beat my sister up and you just, you messed her up to the point she can’t breath no more.”
Police are searching for Britney Cosby’s 2006 Silver Kia Sorrento that appears to have been stolen. Authorities believe whoever took the vehicle may be the key to this grisly double murder. In an update on the case, a police sketch of a prime suspect in the murders has been released to the press.
The quiet beach town is rattled and on edge from the news of the murders. Residents say they do not feel safe. “Unbelievable, it’s scary,” Nancy Palley, a Port Bolivar citizen, said to Huffington Post. “You know, I told my husband we are making sure to lock our doors today. I’m not coming home to find someone in my house.” Though an explicit statement that these killings are an anti-gay hate crime, that possibility looms large in the minds of the public and law enforcement. This case recalls the double shooting of two lesbians in Portland, Texas, a Corpus Christi area town, in 2012. Mollie Olgin, 19, was found dead at the scene of a gunshot wound, and her partner, Mary Christine Chapa, 18, was grievously wounded but survived. No one has been arrested in the Portland murders.
San Diego, California – A gay man who was brutally beaten with a ball bat across the face in the Hillcrest Neighborhood of San Diego used to feel gay people were safe in San Diego. No more. Dwayne Wynn, walking along the sidewalk at midnight Monday was targeted for being gay by three men who pulled up behind him in a truck and ambushed him with a ball bat, crushing his eye socket and smashing his ribs. 10News.com interviewed a tearful Wynn in his home, still obviously shaken by his ordeal. Wynn told News10 that he heard an anti-gay slur shouted behind him, and then was struck full in the face with the bat. “The last thing I see is a baseball bat being swapped right across the face,” he said. “I was laying there,” said Wynn. “I was covered in blood and I could hear them literally high fiving each other as they’re walking to their truck.” It all happened so quickly that Wynn could not get an accurate description of the men who assaulted him or the vehicle they were driving. “I thought I was dead,” he said, trembling from emotion. “I’ve never been that scared in my entire life. I literally thought I was going to die. I thought they were going to kill me. They were beating me that bad.”
The spree nature of the attack in the heart of Hillcrest, the San Diego neighborhood noted for “tolerance and acceptance” sends a wake up call to the residents of the large, active LGBTQ community there, reminding them that diversity is not the same thing as equality. “They just didn’t stop and they thought it was a game,” Wynn said, according to EDGE. “They thought it was fun.”
Unfinished Lives author, Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, commented that major metropolitan LGBTQ communities have been lulled into a sense of complacency by recent news of marriage equality victories throughout the nation. “Cities like San Diego pride themselves in diversity and tolerance,” Sprinkle said, “but that doesn’t mean queer folk are safe anywhere they live. Just because you live in a bubble, you do not live in a culture that accepts and defends your right to exist and be secure from harm.” Sprinkle, an LGBTQ hate crimes expert, noted that a prominent gay bookstore in Hillcrest was contacted to host a book signing and discussion on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes for the upcoming Martin Luther King Weekend, but the store management declined since the issue did not seem pressing. “Now, with this gruesome crime in the heart of the ‘gayborhood,’ perhaps anti-gay hate crimes are a bit more real in San Diego,” Sprinkle observed. “We are thankful complacency has not cost anyone his or her life there,” he said.
The Hillcrest neighborhood, just north of famous Balboa Park, hosts the largest civic celebration in San Diego each year, the Pride Festival, drawing thousands. Dwayne Wynn used to feel safe and secure in his neighborhood. Now, he and many others do not, due to a group of homophobic men who are still at large, hunting down gay men.