Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

California Boy Bullied for Being “Fag Cheerleader”; Takes His Own Life

Ronin Shimizu, 12, fell victim to bullying for being a "fag": the only boy on his middle school cheerleading squad.

Ronin Shimizu, 12, fell victim to bullying for being a “fag”: the only boy on his middle school cheerleading squad.

Folsom, California – 12-year-old Ronin Shimizu took his own life because he couldn’t bear the bullying anymore. KXTV reports that after incessant bullying for being a “fag” and loving cheerleading so passionately, this young person became yet another in the growing number of children who found rumor and bullying online and in school too much to take. His parents repeatedly warned local school officials that Ronin was being incessantly targeted by bullies. It had gotten so bad in the sixth grade that Brandon and Danielle Shimizu withdrew their son from Middle School, and schooled him at home. But the accusations of homosexuality and denial of his masculinity for being a cheerleader followed him, and in the end overwhelmed him.

In the wake of Ronin’s suicide, officials of Folsom Middle School, and of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District, expressed grief and regret at his passing–too late. Whatever steps they took to stem the tide of cruel bullying were ineffective. According to Gay Star News, Ronin was targeted because he was the only boy on the cheerleading squad. Hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil for Ronin on December 4 in his neighborhood. A sixth grade member of the Vista Junior Eagles Cheerleading Squad, Riley Coleman, broke down in tears as she said, “He was bullied very badly. It is not OK to bully people.” Cynthia Brown, a concerned parent from the neighborhood told KXTV Channel 10, “He was just a sweet child. For him to feel that hopeless is heart-breaking.” 

Ronin’s parents issued a statement on December 6 as a moving tribute to their son, and a warning to the community about the seriousness of youth suicide from bullying:

“The tragic loss of our son has and will forever change our life. The love and support that we received from family, friends and the Folsom community has been immeasurable and words cannot begin to express our gratitude through this most difficult grieving process. The people close to our family know exactly who Ronin was, but since the story of this tragedy has spread worldwide, we want to take a minute to let the world know who he was. Ronin was one of the most loving, compassionate, empathetic, artistic and funny kids to grace this earth. Ronin was a child who was not afraid to follow his heart, and we as his parents did everything in our power to allow him to pursue his passions, while protecting him from the minority that could not understand the specialness he possessed. As you already know, Ronin loved to do Cheer, but he also loved art, fashion, being a Scout and most recently crew/rowing. It is true that because of his specialness, Ronin was a target of bullying by individuals that could not understand or accept his uniqueness. Ronin was not just a target of bullying because of his participation in cheer, but for him just being Ronin. We as his parents always knew that he would make an impact on the world, we just thought it would be in something like fashion design or art related. We had no idea that God and Buddha had a more important role for him, and we as his parents will make it our mission in life to turn this tragedy into something positive and hopefully prevent another senseless tragedy. In closing, please remember that education in regards to bullying prevention does not only need to occur in our schools but also in the home.” ~ Danielle and Brandon Shimizu

There is help for families battling school bullying. A Sacramento-based non-profit, B.R.A.V.E. Society, “Bullies Are Actually Violating Everyone,” offers solution focused resources for parents and school officials to help stem the rising tide of pre- and teenage suicide.

December 8, 2014 Posted by | Asian Americans, B.R.A.V.E. Society, Bullying in schools, California, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Mistaken as Gay, Vigils | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cyber Bullied Teen Dies After “Secret” Video Goes Viral; Boy’s Family Stonewalled by School System

Matthew S. Burdette, 14-year-old victim of cyber bullying and cyber voyeurism.

Matthew S. Burdette, 14-year-old victim of cyber bullying and cyber voyeurism.

San Diego, California – The family of a teen who took his life after a secret video of him in the school Men’s Room went viral on the web say bullying drove him to it–but his school refuses to communicate with them about it.  Matthew S. Burdette, 14, fell victim to a classmate at University City High School who allegedly videoed Burdette masturbating in the toilet by holding a phone over the top of the stall, and then blasted the images on the internet, according to ABC 10. Matthew left a note to his family detailing a storm of bullying targeting him as the reason for his fatal despair.  His aunt, Laura Burdette Mechak, said her nephew just couldn’t take the bullying anymore–but since she and his parents knew nothing of the video, they had no idea why Matthew took his life. He was a popular boy, working on his Eagle Scout rank, a member of the water polo team, and well-liked by everyone, so far as they knew. Then something happened at high school that he didn’t want to talk about. Mechak told ABC 10 about the contents of her nephew’s suicide note, “He said, I can’t do school anymore. I have no friends. I don’t want to kill myself but I have no friends.”

Since Matthew’s death in November 2013, his family has repeatedly tried to get answers from the school, but to no avail.  His aunt and his father took the suicide note with them to the school, and asked officials what they knew about whatever had driven their beloved Matthew to such despair.  The school dropped a cloak of secrecy over the incident for months, and refused to share information with the Burdettes.  The distraught family only pieced together what had happened to Matthew after classmates blew the whistle on the school, and revealed the existence of the excruciatingly embarrassing video.  Mechak said, “Kids came forward to help them figure out what was going on.”  They told Matthew’s parents that after his antagonist spied on him over the stall, the student put the video he shot on Snapchat, Vine, and other sites on the web.  “It went viral. It went beyond his school. It went to other schools in California,” Mechak said. “Kids in the neighborhood who didn’t go to Matthew’s school had heard about it and seen the video that was taken of him.”  Then the weeks of brutal taunting and bullying started.

The bullying was unrelenting, according to Mechak, though Matthew hid his crisis from the family.  “Kids saw this video and began to tease Matthew mercilessly — they teased him, they harassed him. They made his life miserable over a two-week period,” she said. Then, he took his life.

Matthew’s parents demanded to know what the school had done about the boy who videoed their son.  Mechak says that she and they bear no ill will toward the kid who ignited all this sorrow.  It was only after the San Diego Police Department told them that the unnamed juvenile had been arrested and confessed to taking the video, and the District Attorney refused to supply the family with any more information about the case that the Burdettes secured an attorney to file a claim against the San Diego Unified School District, and bring their side of the story to the public.  “I don’t have hatred for the kid who took this video. He was a dumb kid who did a dumb thing. But these kids don’t get it. They don’t realize how big the cyber bullying world is,” Mechak told ABC 10.

sdusd-signThe Los Angeles Times reports that Matthew’s parents, Timothy and Barbara Burdette have filed a $1 million claim against the school system, alleging that a teacher, a school administrator, and possibly other school employees knew about the incriminating video and its creator, and did nothing to protect or help their son. In the claim, the Burdettes say that they are now “forced to bear the death of their son for the rest of [our] lives.”  The school system rejected their claim, so the family now has six months to file a lawsuit.  Their attorney says the school failed Matthew on several counts, and that the creator of the video may be guilty of breaking California’s anti-bullying law.  The District Attorney says that their will be a hearing for the young man who ignited this whole incident on July 23.

This past Monday, the San Diego Unified School District issued a statement expressing sympathy for the family, but continuing to stonewall them at every turn.  In part, the press release reads: “At San Diego Unified, the safety and well-being of our students is a top priority. The district also adheres to the privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations related to students, families and ongoing investigations.”

Bullying in schools remains at epidemic levels throughout California and the United States.  Matthew Burdette’s case shows that even athletic and well-regarded teens can fall victim to suicidal despair, whatever their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and presentation may be.  It is imperative that parents and friends know the warning signs of the onset of suicidal thoughts in teenagers.  The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), among others, have excellent online resources to help teens and families.  Their teen suicide prevention information may be accessed here. 

July 16, 2014 Posted by | Bullycide, Bullying in schools, California, cyber voyeurism, harassment, National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), San Diego Unified School District, suicide, teen suicide | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

French Homophobia Skyrockets 78%; Forces Reassessment of LGBTQ “Progress”

Paris victim Wilfred de Bruijn, "the face of homophobia in France," and French anti-gay marriage protestors.

Paris victim Wilfred de Bruijn, “the face of homophobia in France,” and French anti-gay marriage protestors.

Paris, France – The number of documented homophobic attacks is ballooning out of control, says a report published by the French anti-homophobia watchdog, SOS Homophobie.  Since the passage of France’s pro-LGBTQ marriage law, advocates have been shocked by a rise of 78 percent in violent crimes against gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual residents in France during 2013.  The ominous meaning of this spike in violence in a supposedly “enlightened” European culture is forcing advocates, activists, and government officials to rethink narratives of progress on the issue of human equality.

SOS Homophobie, the only organization with reliable statistics on attacks against LGBTQ people in France, says that a violent physical attack against queer people is occurring no less than once every two days, and increase of 54 percent since 2012, but this statistic does not reflect the whole story.  The SOS Helpline received an astounding 3,500 calls in 2013, as opposed to 1,977 in all of 2012, registering an overall increase in anti-gay hate crime of the reported 78 percent.  “In the last twenty years the number of reports of incidents [of homophobia] received by our association have not stopped growing, but in 2013 they exploded,” notes the most recent SOS Homphobie report.  The report also found that the number of anti-gay insults online rose from 656 in 2012 to 1,723 cases in 2013, and the number of incidents that occurred in a school increased by 25 percent.

Justice and Interior ministries have been caught napping by these startling numbers, according to EDGEBOSTON.  An ideology of “inevitable progress” on matters of human rights has caused Gallic cultural leaders to be blindsided by the shift towards anti-gay rhetoric and physical violence since the legal embrace of same-sex marriage.  “There’s no doubt the rise in homophobic acts was linked to the context of the opposition against gay marriage,” Gregory Premon, spokesperson for SOS Homophobie, said to The Local. “Homophobic words and statements became trivialized during this period and helped legitimize insults and homophobic violence.”

A Dutch resident of northern Paris, who was punched and kicked senseless on a street near his home last month, has become the “face” of this new wave of anti-gay violence in France.  Wilfred de Bruijn’s skull was fractured in five places and he lost a tooth in the attack, according to The Independent.  He and his boyfriend Olivier were walking arm-in-arm at the time of the savage assault. “I woke up in an ambulance covered in blood, missing tooth and broken bones around the eye,” Mr. de Bruijn told The Local. “I’m home now. Very sad. Olivier takes care of me. Forbidden to work for at least 10 days.”  

Mr. de Bruijn places the blame for the attack upon the shoulders of anti-same sex marriage protestors, and a group has taken credit for the brutal act. Le Printemps Français (“The French Spring”), whose membership is believed to be largely comprised of hardline Catholics and royalists, now boasts that it sanctioned and carried out the assault against Mr. de Bruijn and his lover.  The shift from anti-LGBTQ marriage to a more general disgust against all queer and gender variant people is becoming more and more obvious.  As Mr. de Bruijn said to The Independent, “The [anti-gay-marriage campaigners] know very well what can happen if you repeat, repeat, repeat that these people are lower human beings. Of course, it will have a result.”

Though the French government has reacted with outrage to the news of the attacks on Messieurs de Bruijn and Olivier, and another recent gay victim, Mr. Raphael le Clerca in Nice, confidence in governmental authority to cause social change in such a charged environment has been seriously shaken in what was once a bastion of culture and forward thinking.  In the U.S. context, as well, the rise in Western European homophobia and heterosexism is not to be taken lightly.

Geography of homophobic Tweets in the USA in 2013 (source: The Atlantic Magazine).

Geography of homophobic Tweets in the USA in 2013 (source: The Atlantic Magazine).

While the Marriage Equality movement is advancing on the judicial front, most recently in the southern and western states of Arkansas and Idaho, it cannot be ignored any longer that incidents of anti-LGBTQ violence, especially against gay men and transgender people, has risen each year since the passage of the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in October 2009.  The heat of anti-gay rhetoric from the Religious Right Wing has intensified, and homophobic Christianist preachers like Scott Lively have pressed their hate agenda abroad wherever they have gotten the chance, in Russia and the Slavic countries of the former Soviet Union, and in Central Africa, for example.  While the attention of U.S. advocacy groups is upon Marriage Equality and a looming struggle in the U.S. Supreme Court, anti-LGBTQ attitudes have largely gone unaddressed, thanks to a blind belief in “inevitable social progress,” the irrelevance of domestic religious bigotry, and trust that the younger generations of Americans will finally tip the balance towards tolerance throughout the U.S. population.

We know, however, who is killing LGBTQ people in such alarming numbers in the U.S.A.: the very young who are supposedly their saviors.  The persons who murder and maim queer folk in the United States are predominantly young men from 17 to 35 years of age.  We also know that the under appreciated cultural power of religion to spawn false narratives of government oppression of “religious freedom” lies just below the surface of American society.  And American public and private schools are hotbeds of un addressed bullying and violence against gender variant youth, with outrageous consequences for vulnerable children every week in these United States.

The Marriage Equality movement is not essentially about changing foundational attitudes towards people of difference.  It is about stretching societal and cultural boundaries just enough to let same sex couples inside, where they can enjoy a similacrum of “normal life.”  Marriage is a conservative issue in American life, and always has been.  The serious and radical work of changing hearts and minds to accept challenging differences in society remains to be done, and cannot be ignored if Americans do not want to face the crisis their French allies are currently facing “just across the Pond.”

It is past time Americans take to heart the trenchant remarks of a French government spokesman outraged by the recent rise of homophobia in France: “The hatred and homophobic remarks have no place in our country and are punishable by law. The government strongly condemns these acts. These outbursts are unacceptable. When the most basic civil rights of our citizens are attacked, the authority of the state is at stake.”

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Anti-Gay Hate Groups, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bullying in schools, France, French homophobia, gay bashing, gay men, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, Matthew Shepard Act, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Scott Lively, SOS Homophobie, transgender persons, transphobia, U.S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on French Homophobia Skyrockets 78%; Forces Reassessment of LGBTQ “Progress”

Gay Hate Crimes Blog Breaks the Half-Million Visitor Barrier: Unfinished Lives Blog Makes History

Rainbow spanglesDallas, Texas- Unfinishedlivesblog.com, a cyber site of public discourse on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and their victims, broke through the 500,000 visits barrier on October 3.  Begun by a theologian and amateur blogger, the website has developed a world-wide readership and a strong following in the United States.  Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, the Founder and Director of the Unfinished Lives Project, hailed the moment as a demonstration of what a few dedicated people can do to shift the public conversation on LGBTQ hate crimes.  “It is humbling to realize how many people read and comment on a project that began as a labor of love,” Dr. Sprinkle said.  “We on the Unfinished Lives Project Team are deeply gratified by the loyalty of our readership.”

Originally intended to support the publication of Dr. Sprinkle’s award-winning book, Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications, 2011), Unfinishedlivesblog.com grew far beyond its initial purpose.  Covering the stories of hate crime murder victims, acts of violence against the queer community, and items of political, theological and cultural interest affecting the LGBTQ community, the blog has logged over 580 stories and posts since its inception in June 2008. Ryan Valentine, Deputy Director of the Texas Freedom Network and an early endorser of the blog, voiced his continuing appreciation of the ongoing work of the website and the Unfinished Lives Project:

“I am writing to commend – in the highest possible terms – Dr. Stephen Sprinkle and his Unfinished Lives project. My support springs from the conviction that his work calling attention to the “slow-rolling holocaust” of LGBT hate crimes in this country has a particular urgency in the struggle for civil rights in contemporary America. As society and the media turn a blind eye, someone must tell these stories.”  

In response to a post criticizing anti-gay hazing in colleges and universities, an anonymous commentator thanked the Unfinished Lives Project for aiding a social advocacy group in their justice work:  “We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your site provided us with valuable information to work on. You’ve performed a formidable activity and our entire group will probably be grateful to you.”  

Ryan Keith Skipper

Ryan Keith Skipper

Perhaps most moving have been the messages of support for the work of this site from the parents and loved ones of hate crimes victims.  In response to a memorial post for Ryan Keith Skipper (1981 – 2007), a gay man brutally murdered in Polk County, Florida, his stepfather, Lynn Mulder, posted this note: “Ryan had overcome many obstacles in his life and reconciled many conflicts that our society placed in his path. He was comfortable with who he was and as his parents we were proud of that accomplishment. Ryan has not been forgotten and we still love him. Thank you all for remembering and caring, especially on his birthday.”  Lynn and Pat Mulder have become two of the most passionate and effective advocates for LGBTQ youth in America.

“I know that the work of Unfinished Lives Blog is far from over,” Sprinkle said.  “The numbers of LGBTQ hate crimes murders have reached historic highs every year since 2009.  An epidemic of deadly violence is claiming the lives of transgender youth, especially m to f trans youth of color, throughout the United States.  Bullying in schools has led to untold numbers of desperate acts on the part of LGBTQ school-aged youth, as well.  And the recent alarming uptick in anti-gay acts of violence in New York City may be pointing to an ominous trend that will spread throughout the nation.”  After a pause to collect himself, Sprinkle said, “We cannot suspend, even for a moment, our efforts for full justice and equality for queer folk everywhere.  Lives depend on it.”  

So, for Sprinkle and the volunteer Unfinished Lives Project Team, a half-million visitors to this labor-of-love site is a hallmark of a work for Justice-sake that cannot rest–but along the way, the Team says a hearty “Thank You!” to every reader of this blogsite, now and in the days and years to come!

October 3, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, LGBTQ Community, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Unfinished Lives Book, Unfinished Lives Project, Unfinishedlivesblog.com | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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 Hate Crimes Blog Celebrates Fifth Anniversary

Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, Unfinishedlivesblog.com founder and director, speaks at Dallas Day of Decision Rally last week [Robbie Miller photo].

Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, Unfinishedlivesblog.com founder and director, speaks at Dallas Day of Decision Rally last week [Robbie Miller photo].

Dallas, Texas – Unfinishedlivesblog.com, the premier amateur academic blog dealing with anti-LGBTQ hate crimes in the United States, marks its fifth birthday today.  Conceived on the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in 2008, the blog and its umbrella parent movement, The Unfinished Lives Project, sought to change the national conversation on acts of physical violence against the queer community.  A part-time labor of love, written as time permits between teaching responsibilities, speaking opportunities, and educational events around the nation, this cyber effort continues to widen and deepen the circle of readers worldwide who remember  and advocate for LGBTQ hate crimes victims. With nearly 500,000 visitors to date, Unfinished Lives Blog has reached more minds and hearts than its originator, Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, could have possibly foreseen half a decade ago.

“Adding the responsibility of writing, monitoring networks of news sources, and updating the blog seemed daunting at first,” Sprinkle admits.  “Nevertheless, communicating with such a wide audience of concerned people on the injustice of murder and assault against LGBTQ people simply because of irrational prejudice and hatred, has become an enormously energizing dimension of my life’s work. And, we at the Unfinished Lives Project have learned how to do this as we went along,” Sprinkle noted.  “Remembering the victims of homophobic and transphobic violence must become second nature to the LGBTQ community if it ever is to become a People among the Peoples of this country, and of the world family of Peoples.  We like to think that we are making some contribution to the maturation of the LGBTQ community by our work.” 

Five years on gives the Unfinished Lives Project a chance to revisit some of its more notable achievements.  Since 2008, the blog has:

  • Posted 564 articles to date on hate crimes and told the stories of hate crimes victims throughout America and the world
  • Contributed to the struggle to enact the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act into federal law in 2009
  • Provided local coverage of the Raid on the Rainbow Lounge and the events stemming from it in the summer of 2009
  • Pressed for the Repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell (DADT) in 2010
  • Covered the alarming rise in transgender hate crimes, with a special focus on transgender youth of color
  • Chronicled the alarming stories of LGBTQ youth bullied in schools throughout the nation
  • Gained readership in more than 183 nations, principalities, territories, and protectorates worldwide
  • Built and maintained a searchable website available free of charge for research on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes
  • Supported the publication of Dr. Sprinkle’s award-winning book, Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Murder Victims (Eugene, Oregon: Resource Publications, 2011)
  • Provided coverage of Unfinished Lives events in 9 states and the District of Columbia

1UnfinishedLivesSprinkle has continued to be Director and main writer for the blog, but says that he is indebted to the ongoing contributions of members of the Unfinished Lives Project Team.  “We could not be the player in the cyber world we are today without the hard work of friends like web masters Todd W. Simmons, Adam D.J. Brett, and the invaluable support of Sandra Jean Brandon,” Sprinkle said.  He also thanks the loyal readership that has lent their voices and advocacy to the struggle to eliminate hate crimes violence from society. “They are helping to change the national conversation on hate crimes,” Sprinkle said. “We are moving beyond dry statistics.  The stories of real human beings give life and passion to the ongoing effort to make our neighborhoods safe for love and life to bloom and flourish.”

The future offers opportunity to Unfinished Lives Blog as it enters its second decade of service.  LGBTQ hate crimes continue unabated in the United States, rising to record high numbers of murders each year since 2010.  Worldwide human rights efforts are spreading at breakneck speed, and the forces of repression and irrational hatred are mounting to squash them.  Unfinished Lives Blog intends to meet the challenges with creativity and passion.  In October 2013, the Unfinished Lives Project will visit the Republic of South Korea where Dr. Sprinkle’s book is being published in the Korean language by Alma, a division of Munhakdongne Publishing Group, to spread the word on hate crimes and hate crimes prevention. As Sprinkle says every time he is offered the chance, “We who believe in justice cannot rest.  We who believe in justice cannot rest until it comes!”

Happy Fifth Anniversary, Unfinished Lives Blog!  Here’s to many more!

June 30, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Brite Divinity School, Bullying in schools, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Independent Book Awards (IPPYs), LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Rainbow Lounge Raid, Social Justice Advocacy, South Korea, Texas, transphobia, Unfinished Lives Book, Unfinished Lives Project, Unfinishedlivesblog.com | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Hate Crimes Blog Celebrates Fifth Anniversary

Savage Anti-Gay Murder in NYC Highlights Increasing Danger for LGBT People

Mark Carson, 32, openly gay man shot to death in the face in NYC (Gay Star News photo).

Mark Carson, 32, openly gay NYC man fatally shot in the face (Gay Star News photo).

New York City, New York – A gay man shot to death at point blank range early Saturday morning became the fifth anti-gay hate crime to strike fear into Gotham City in recent weeks.  Mark Carson, 32, an openly gay yogurt shop worker from Brooklyn, who was walking with a companion in Greenwich Village, faced his harasser, who taunted his victim with homophobic slurs before fatally shooting him in the face, saying “You want to die here tonight?”.  The assailant was collared in a matter of a few blocks by a police officer who had the description of the shooter.  The officer seized the murder weapon along with the suspect.  Elliot Morales, 33, is in the custody of the NYPD, charged with second degree murder as a hate crime, and is being held in jail without bail.

After being goaded by a series of previous gay bashings in Midtown Manhattan in the Madison Square Garden area, some involving Knicks fans in full team attire, the LGBTQ and Allied community in the greater NYC metro area has erupted into angry, frightened protests.  The Associated Press reports that thousands took to the streets on Monday to cry out against Carson’s murder, making this the most powerful demonstration of anti-hate crime street activism since the days of Matthew Shepard, fourteen years ago. NYC Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, marched arm in arm with Edie Windsor, the key plaintiff in the case for Marriage Equality now before the Supreme Court of the United States.  Emotions on a spectrum from disbelief that such a brazen crime could occur in the City, through towering rage against the cold-blooded killing of a defenseless gay man in the heart of the most tolerant neighborhood in New York, to abject fear that the streets of the city are unsafe to walk openly for gay people.  Carson fell just blocks from the site of the birth of the Gay Rights Movement during the famous Stonewall Riots of 1969.

Morales, the alleged shooter, once charged with attempted murder in 1998, was filled with “homophobic glee,” laughing as he confessed to police that he pulled the trigger on Carson, according to the New York Daily News.   Morales was seen just 15 minutes before the attack, publicly urinating outside an upscale Greenwich Village restaurant beside the storied Stonewall Inn.  Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly candidly commented to the press that Carson had done nothing to antagonize his assailant, according to USA Today.  “It’s clear that the victim here was killed only because and just because he was thought to be gay,” Commissioner Kelly said.

The Daily News speculates that Morales’s homophobia had been ignited by the way Carson, a proud, out gay man, was dressed–in a tank top with cut off shorts and boots.  Prosecutors say that Morales shouted at Carson and his friend, “Hey, you faggots!  You look like gay wrestlers!”  According to his family, Carson was happy, well-adjusted, and loved the West Village where he met his death .  “He was a courageous person,” Carson’s brother, Michael Bumpars, said. “My brother was a beautiful person.”  

Makeshift shrine at the spot Mark Carson was shot to death in West Village.

Makeshift shrine at the spot Mark Carson was shot to death in West Village.

Naïve pundits have said that the increasing visibility and political success of LGBT people to gain mainstream acceptance have ushered in a new era of queer acceptance in American life.  Some have even declared the “victory” of the gay rights movement.  Such self-congratulations are premature.  Carson’s brazen murder by a totally unapologetic homophobe, coupled with the rash of LGBT youth suicides in schools across the nation, and reports of skyrocketing statistics of violence against transgender people of color, are giving the lie to the notion that the United States is safe for queer folk.  Some are now reversing their previous opinions, calling the violence evidence of a “backlash” against the recent success of Marriage Equality in New England, New York, the District of Columbia, and Minnesota.  Though New York State made same-sex marriage legal in 2011, NYC Police Commissioner Kelly revealed that though last year’s bias-crimes against LGBT people in the city numbered 13, the total now stands at 22 and counting.

June is Gay Pride Month in New York City.  Nerves are frayed.  Top city officials, politicians, and police top brass are scrambling to make this year’s celebration in Greenwich Village and around town safe.  New York City has earned the reputation of being the cradle of queer tolerance, and Mayor Bloomberg obviously wants to keep it that way.  Yet the violence in the streets of New York, now turned ominously fatal with Mark Carson’s grisly murder, may be a bellwether for things to come throughout the nation.  Morales, the alleged shooter, laughed and joked that he was proud to terrorize the LGBT community.  Foes of gay equality may be on the back foot because of the rapid acceptance of gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual people, particularly by younger Americans.  But homophobic, irrational hatred, the sort that maims and kills, has by no means gone away.  Nor does this recent spate of violence suggest a “backlash.”  When 38 states have written homophobia into their constitutions, or bolstered anti-gay statutes, this outbreak of harm can hardly be seen as anything but good, old fashioned American bigotry.  The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects (NCAVP) is closely monitoring events in New York and around the nation.  They advise non-confrontational efforts to diffuse potentially dire situations of violence.  Yet, the queer community has come too far to go back into the closet ever again.  To do so would dishonor the hopes, loves, and courage of openly gay men like Mark Carson.  Sharon Stapel, NCAVP’s executive director, said that these events must be understood in the context of a nation where basic equality is still denied to LGBT people. Her message to New York’s  gay community? “We want to give people tools that can de-escalate situations but also say, ‘You need to be yourself,'” Stapel said to ABC News. “We’re not telling people, ‘Take your rainbow sticker off.'”

May 21, 2013 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bullying in schools, Christine Quinn, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Marriage Equality, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), New York, New York City, Protests and Demonstrations, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Stonewall, Stonewall Inn, transgender persons, transphobia, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Savage Anti-Gay Murder in NYC Highlights Increasing Danger for LGBT People

Ryan Keith Skipper Would Be Thirty-two Today

Damien Skipper and his daughter Ryan at the grave site of Ryan Keith Skipper (photo courtesy of the family).

Damien Skipper and his daughter Ryan at the grave site of Ryan Keith Skipper (photo courtesy of the family).

Wahneta, Florida –  Had Ryan Keith Skipper not been murdered in one of the most heinous anti-gay hate crimes in the history of Florida, he would be celebrating his 32nd birthday today.  Losses like his change the world.  On March 14, 2007, two ne’er do wells, Joseph “Smiley” Beardon, and William “Bill-Bill” Brown slit his throat, stabbed him 20 times, dumped his body on a dark, rural road, stole and tried to fence his new car, and then unable to get any money for it, botched an attempt to burn up the vehicle on a boat ramp at Lake Pansy.  They said their motive was to rid the world of “another faggot.”

Ryan was deeply loved by his mom, Pat, stepdad, Lynn, older brother, Damien, and a whole host of friends.  He also left a brokenhearted lover and two distraught housemates who loved him like a brother.  Lies on the part of the killers, and compound falsehoods by the Sheriff of Polk County kept Ryan’s murder from reaching the world as it should have.  Other LGBTQ lives were lost because Ryan’s full story was suppressed by rumor, unsubstantiated allegations about his character, and crass, anti-gay politics.  His parents took up the cause of justice for their son, and have become two of the most effective advocates for LGBTQ equality and anti-bullying in America. Beardon and Brown were separately convicted, and are now serving life in prison.  Nothing takes the sting of loss away, but many good people have stepped into the breach to ensure that Ryan will never be forgotten, and that his death will not be in vain.  Lesbian Filmmakers Vicki Nantz and Mary Meeks produced and filmed a 72-minute documentary about Skipper’s murder entitled Accessory to Murder: Our Culture’s Complicity in the Death of Ryan Skipper, that premiered in January 2008.  In 2011, Ryan’s story was published in a book dedicated to keeping the memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Murder Victims alive and before the public, entitled Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications).  The Gay American Heroes Foundation has memorialized Ryan, as well, and seeks to include him in a national monument to the victims of LGBTQ Hate Crimes.

But by far the most wonderful remembrance of Ryan has been done by his older brother Damien and wife, who gave Ryan’s name to their baby girl.  Uncle Ryan now has a living memorial in the person of his thriving, laughing, vital niece, Ryan Skipper.  The story of Ryan Keith Skipper is, like the stories of so many other anti-gay murder victims throughout the nation, a story of life, not death.  Every time little niece Ryan runs and plays, or anyone retells the story of her Uncle Ryan, the intentions of his killers is foiled again. We remember Ryan today, not in sorrow, but in gratitude–and in dedication to the spread of justice and equality for all people, gay, transgender, bisexual, and straight alike.  Rest peacefully, Ryan.  We have not forgotten you!  For we who believe in Justice cannot rest. We who believe in Justice cannot rest until it comes!

April 28, 2013 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Florida, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Remembrances, Slashing attacks, stabbings | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Lesbian Savagely Beaten Unconscious Defending Girlfriend’s Bullied Son

Sondra Scarber, lesbian parent, beaten unconscious by a homophobic father for speaking up for her girlfriend's child.

Sondra Scarber, lesbian parent, beaten unconscious by a homophobic father for speaking up for her girlfriend’s child. [WFAA image].

Mesquite, Texas – A lesbian who spoke up to stop school playground bullies from harassing her girlfriend’s 4-year-old son was attacked for her sexual orientation by an enraged man February 17.  When Sondra Scarber, 27, spoke to the father of a boy who was bullying her lover’s little boy, the man recognized that she was a lesbian.  He assaulted her, shouting homophobic insults, so quickly and savagely that Scarber told WFAA she did not even have time to take her hands out of her pockets to defend herself from his blows.

Scarber’s girlfriend, Hillary Causey, recalled for WFAA the horror of watching her love thrashed mercilessly.  The couple, who have been known each other since childhood, and who have been a couple for the past three years, took their child Jaxon to Seaborn Elementary School’s playground around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 17, for an outing. When other boys began pushing and shoving the little boy, whom the couple are rearing together, Scarber spoke to a father of one of the harassing boys: “Sondra said, ‘Can you please keep your hands off of him, he’s only four,’” Causey said.  Only when the man realized that the woman speaking out for her child was a lesbian, he went ballistic, shouting epithets and striking Scarber unconscious.  As the Dallas Voice reports, the assailant ignored Scarber’s pleas: “All she kept saying,” Causey recalled, was, “‘I’m a female. I’m a female.’ She never even had time to take her hands out of pockets to try and block herself.”  

Scarber fell unconscious, with a broken jaw and multiple bruises.  Emergency surgery had to repair her jaw with a metal plate, and she faces months of rehabilitation and recovery from her physical injuries, not to mention her psychological wounds from the attack.  The assailant is still at large.

Causey and Scarber have called on the police to investigate the attack as a hate crime, since the attacker flew into a rage about the couple’s sexual orientation.  The Mesquite Police Department, who say that they want to apprehend the suspect, refuse to designate the case as an anti-gay hate crime.  Local gay advocacy groups are pushing for the Mesquite authorities to press the case as a hate crime. Daniel Cates, organizer for the Dallas Chapter of GetEqual, has called for the community to call the Mesquite Police Department “until the phone rings off the wall” to protest the downplaying of the crime.  The Resource Center of Dallas, one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ service centers, issued this statement to the press, which we quote in full:

“Resource Center Dallas denounces the brutal attack of Sondra Scarber at the hands of a man who assaulted her based on her sexual orientation, as first reported February 28 by WFAA-TV (Channel 8). As reported, the circumstances of this case indicate a hate-motivated crime, and that should dissuade the Mesquite Police Department from lessening the severity of any potential criminal charges.

The incident is another example in which words and thoughts lead to destructive actions against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. The reported violence included anti-gay slurs, followed by violent acts against a lesbian. Had Sondra’s partner not been present, her injuries could have been far more severe.

Anti-gay violence is a serious public health issue.  According to the FBI’s 2011 Hate Crime Report—the most recent available—49 of the 152 hate crimes committed in Texas that year were motivated by anti-gay bias. Nationally, nearly 21 percent of the 6,222 hate crimes committed that same year were motivated by sexual orientation.

The Center calls on the Mesquite Police Department and Chief Derek Rodhe to thoroughly investigate and swiftly arrest the suspects responsible. As leaders in the LGBT community, Resource Center Dallas will be closely monitoring the situation to ensure that justice is carried out.”

Scarber told WFAA that her face is so bruised and swollen, and her jaw so tightly wired shut, that she cannot do much of anything for herself.  “It’s hard for me to stay strong when I see myself in the mirror,” she said. She and Causey have the comfort that their little boy was spared from the bullying that nearly hurt him.  And, they have each other. They are grateful that Scarber is alive.

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bullying in schools, gay bashing, GET EQUAL Texas, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Resource Center of Dallas, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Gay Teen’s Home Defaced By Homophobic Vandals: “God Don’t Love You”

Pace, Florida – A gay Florida teenager found his trailer home covered inside and out with homophobic slurs, swastikas, and obscene images upon returning home on February 3.  Jesse Jeffers, 18, who is openly gay, says it was an act of retaliation that focused on his sexual orientation. When Jeffers and his boyfriend came back to his mobile home in Pace, a town of 7,400 in the Panhandle of Florida, near Pensacola, they were angered and astonished by the vandalism.  Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Deputies are calling the act an anti-gay hate crime because it centered on Jeffers’ identity as a gay man, according to the Pensacola News Journal.

Jesse Jeffers, gay teenager, outside his vandalized trailer home.

Jesse Jeffers, gay teenager, outside his vandalized trailer home.


Jeffers, who had moved into the trailer adjacent to his mother’s home three months prior to the vandals’ attack, says that he knows who did this to him. At least one person had threatened him before the attack.  Huffington Post reports that the gay teen, who is working on his GED certificate, has been the target of homophobic bullying in Santa Rosa County schools for years.  The hatefulness of the act has caused Jeffers to fear living in his home any longer, and has taken up residence with his mother again. Though a neighbor’s surveillance camera supposedly caught the vandals in the act, and authorities have promised that warrants will probably be issued in the hate crime case “soon,” Jeffers is cautious and fearful for his safety.  “I don’t know if they’re going to do it again,” Jeffers told the Huffington Post. “Or if there are copycats. It’s basically a small town with a bunch of rednecks.”Until the perpetrators are caught and convicted, and some form of restitution kicks in, Jeffers fears he will have to endure the disapproval of his community.  He cannot afford to repair the damage and repaint the trailer. The glaring slurs, swastikas, and images spray painted on his trailer have made it “a tourist attraction,” according to Jeffers.  “Everybody drives by every day and stops and looks,” he said.

Even religion was employed by the vandals in their attempt to terrorize the teen.  Inside the mobile home, near the large red swastika on the ceiling and the defaced drapery, Jeffers’ attackers scrawled “God don’t love you,” employing a heart sign in place of the word “love.” Jeffers shows considerable maturity in the face of such religious-based bigotry.  As he told the Pensacola News Journal, “Sexuality doesn’t matter. God loves you either way.”

One of the proofs of God’s approval is the vigorous assistance of an LGBT-friendly church in the area that is raising funds to help with the cleanup of Jeffers’ home.  News of the attack is spreading since the News Journal first published its story in early February. Donations and offers of assistance have been accumulating from sympathetic people from the region and around the country since the vandals shattered the teen’s sense of security.  “There’s a bunch of nice people out there that I didn’t even know existed that care,” Jeffers said to Huffington Post.

Meanwhile, the perpetrators are still at large, and the investigation is proceeding.  Jeffers may prove to be one of the luckier members of the LGBT community in the Sunshine State. Florida officials report that in 2011, for the first time in history, the number of physical assaults against gay and lesbian people was larger than the number of cases of property damage.


February 18, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bullying in schools, Florida, gay teens, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, vandalism | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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