Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Heartland Terrorist/Homophobe Threatens Gay Bar With Anthrax

Eric Reece Wiethorn, admitted sending hate letter purporting to be filled with deadly anthrax to a gay bar as "God's judgement" against LGBTQ people. [Ames PD photo]

Eric Reece Wiethorn, 49, admitted sending a hate letter purportedly filled with deadly anthrax to a gay bar as “God’s judgement” against LGBTQ people. [Ames PD photo]

Ames, Iowa – Last Thursday, April 9, police officials announced the arrest of a man who sent a threatening letter that purported to be filled with anthrax to a local gay bar, according to the Des Moines Register. Police arrested 49-year-old Eric Reece Wiethorn of Ames, and charged him with first-degree harassment for sending the letter filled with white power to the Blazing Saddles Bar, forcing it to close. Police, firefighters and an emergency medical containment team in hazmat suits rushed to the scene. The white substance turned out to be harmless, non-toxic Gold Bond powder, but the threat sent a shock wave through the community, especially to LGBTQ Iowans.

This is not the first time the bar has been targeted by threats, but the owner, Robert Eikleberry, acknowledged that the anthrax bluff and accompanying note has been by far the most drastic. Eikleberry told the Register that Blazing Saddles, one of the oldest gay bars in operation in the state of Iowa, has been “the biggest target in town” for years. He described his reaction to the incident to EDGEBoston“I opened it up, white powder popped out, and it was an inflammatory letter. ‘Hate fags, gonna blow this up, gonna blow that up, gonna roast you all after pride’,” he said.

As Gay Star News reports the story, Eikleberry elaborated on terrorist-like threats Wiethorn aimed at him and the patrons of his bar. The message of the letter was, in part, “It’s time for all the faggots and dykes to die on Capital Pride night! Your secret enemies are going to blow up your destination for going to hell tonight, and we’re going to eat roast faggot the following morning. This is your punishment for sinning against God, and hopefully you’ll die from the anthrax on this letter!” Eikleberry went on to say that when the white powder came out at him from the envelope, he called the police immediately. “I opened the mail up thinking it was a thank you letter, it turned out to be a hate letter,” he said.

Police swiftly launched an investigation into the terror threat against the bar and the LGBTQ community, and identified Wiethorn as their top suspect. Under interrogation, Wiethorn admitted sending the letter. He is being held in the Polk County Jail on $2000 bond pending trial.

April 16, 2015 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anthrax threat, Anti-LGBT hate crime, death threats, Gay Bars, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Iowa, LGBTQ, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Homophobic Death Threats Against Gay Seattle Mayor, Councilwoman Draw Hate Charges

Michael Munro Taylor, 32, accused of threatening to assassinate Seattle's first openly gay Mayor.

Michael Munro Taylor, 32, accused of threatening to assassinate Seattle’s first openly gay Mayor.

Seattle, Washington – Openly gay Mayor Ed Murray and Councilwoman Kshama Sawant were targeted with a cascade of hate-filled, anti-gay messages on Facebook on January 14–just nine days after they were sworn into office in Seattle.  Now, a Magnolia man stands accused of cyberstalking and hate crimes because of his alleged homophobic tirades and threats, according to Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch.  SPLC reports that King County prosecutors charge Michael Munro Taylor, 32, with threatening the life of Mayor Murray, the city’s first openly gay mayor, and Sawant, an outspoken socialist, in a torrent of incriminating emails sent to the city officials.

Seattle Post Intelligencer, in a major post on the crimes, reports that one of the messages sent to Mayor Murray’s Facebook page referred to the assassination of Harvey Milk, the San Francisco gay city supervisor murdered in 1978 alongside his mayor by a disgruntled former supervisor.  In court papers, King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Gary Ernsdorff stated: “The posting included many homophobic slurs, a description of killing babies, rape and death references, and several menacing references to Harvey Milk.”  The court papers go on to allege that Taylor’s messages urged Mayor Murray to kill himself, and bristled with “frightening and rage-filled” screeds calling for feminists to be raped, Mexican babies to be exterminated, and police to be killed.
The Mayor’s Office contacted Seattle Police, who traced the messages to Taylor’s Facebook page.  Taylor was taken into custody on January 16, and is being held on $600,000 bond.  He is charged with malicious harassment under the state’s hate crimes law, two counts of cyberstalking, and a further count of harassment.  He is to be arraigned on February 5 at the King County Courthouse in Seattle.

January 25, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, cyberstalking, gay men, GLBTQ, harassment, Harvey Milk, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Seattle, Slurs and epithets, Washington State | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Homophobic Death Threats Against Gay Seattle Mayor, Councilwoman Draw Hate Charges

Nebraska Straight Hero Stands Up for Gay Friends and Takes a Beating

Ryan Langenegger, straight friend who took a beating standing up for gay friends in Omaha.

Ryan Langenegger, straight friend who took a beating standing up for gay friends in Omaha.

Omaha, Nebraska – A straight friend of two gays stepped up to defend them from harassment by three belligerent men, and received a thrashing for it.  Refusing to retaliate, Ryan Langenegger stood his ground, battered and bloody, and asked his assailants the one question all fearful, homophobic people should have to answer:  “Why?”

KMTV Action News 3 reports that Langenegger, who self-identifies as heterosexual, and his out gay friends, Josh Foo and Jacob Gellinger, had dropped into Omaha’s popular Old Market late Saturday night to grab a bite to eat at PepperJax Grill when the three alleged homophobes approached their table.  Gellinger who was wearing a dress that evening was the initial target of the most vocal of the men, who called him “disgusting” and the others “faggots.”  Attempting to avoid a confrontation, Gellinger, Foo, and Langenegger left the grill, but their three harassers followed them outside and intensified their name-calling.  According to Huffington Post, Langenegger stepped between the belligerents and his friends, saying that they should just leave the gay men alone.  One of the verbal assailants then punched Langenegger so hard it chipped two of his teeth, deeply gashed his brow between his eyes, and left his face a bloody wreck.

Josh Foo wrote up his own account of what happened on his Facebook page, expressing appreciation for the courage of his straight friend.  Referring to a photo of Langenegger taken soon after the assault, Foo posted: “This photo was taken soon after Ryan stood up for my friend and I after being called ‘faggots’,’disgusting’, etc. by a group of men at a restaurant who then followed us outside. We did not provoke this in anyway and also did not retaliate after the assault. Ryan, after being hit, paused and looked at the men and asked ‘Why’? which was the question we were all wondering since we did not do anything wrong besides be ourselves. What Ryan did meant a lot to me and I thank him for standing up for his friends and accepting them for who they are in everyway. He’s a great friend. The world needs more people like him.”  

In an interview with KMTV 3, Langenegger called the entire incident “sad, very sad,” going on the say that he sees this sort of harassment against gay people all the time in Omaha.  Asked if he thought standing up for his friends was worth the beating he took, Langenegger said “yes!” with no hesitation, adding “It just makes no sense this day and age and in Omaha, for all of this stuff to still be happening and out in the streets.”  He hopes that the news of this unprovoked attack will serve as a wake-up call to the LGBTQ community.

Meanwhile, authorities are seeking leads in the case.  In the face of unreasoning hatred, Ryan Langenegger’s one-word question demands an answer on behalf of us all:  “Why?”  May Mr. Langenegger’s tribe increase everywhere, until homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia have vanished from among us.

October 30, 2013 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Asian Americans, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Nebraska, Slurs and epithets, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Nebraska Straight Hero Stands Up for Gay Friends and Takes a Beating

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

Lesbian Council Speaker Offers Free Gay Self-Defense Classes in Response to New York City Hate Crimes

Center for Anti-Violence Education will offer free self-defense classes to LGBTQ adults.

Center for Anti-Violence Education will offer free self-defense classes to LGBTQ adults.

New York City, New York – Lesbian mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn, the outspoken Speaker of the New York City Council, announced that free self-defense classes will be available to the LGBTQ community following an alarming spike in anti-gay hate crimes in the city.  Quinn made the announcement Sunday at the 21st Annual Queens Pride Parade held in Jackson Heights, according to CBS 2.

The New York queer community is returning to a sense of the significance of Pride it has not known for many years because of the recent rise in anti-LGBTQ violence throughout the five boroughs.  Quinn noted the severity of the hate crimes in her remarks following the Queens Parade: “This is the kind of violence and frequency and in severity we haven’t seen in a really long time. It isn’t safe to be gay everywhere in New York City.”  The classes, which will concentrate on diffusing smart aleck harassment more than actual hand-to-hand skills, will commence this weekend, free of charge, compliments of the City of New York.  Quinn became a supporter of the idea of LGBTQ self-defense classes after queer activist Ed Lovendusky, himself a victim of a recent gay bashing in Hell’s Kitchen by a group of homophobic men, called upon the city of provide them.

Openly lesbian NYC Council Speaker, Christine Quinn.

Openly lesbian NYC Council Speaker, Christine Quinn.

The first self-defense class for LGBTQ adults will be held June 8 at the LGBT Center, 208 W. 13th Street in Manhattan, led by the Center for Anti-Violence Education.  On June 12, the second class will be offered at the Hudson Guild Elliott Center. The Center for Anti-Violence Education (CAE), whose headquarters are in Brooklyn, has been actively empowering LGBTQ people in New York City to feel safer and stronger for over 38 years, with an emphasis upon women and youths.  On its website, the CAE says its mission is to develop and implement “comprehensive violence prevention programs for individuals and organizations. Through a combination of education, physical empowerment, and leadership development, CAE provides underserved communities throughout the New York metropolitan area with skills to break cycles of violence.”

The classes are designed to make members of the queer community in New York City feel safer and more secure at a time when many are feeling powerless in the face of rising numbers of reported hate crimes against LGBTQ folk. Speaker Quinn said to NBC 4, “No one should be made to feel unsafe because who they are or who they love. The spate of bias attacks against LGBT New Yorkers in recent weeks is unacceptable and must end now.”

June 4, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Center for Anti-Violence Education (CAE), Christine Quinn, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, New York, New York City, Self-defense classes for LGBTQ people, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Outbreak of Anti-Gay Attacks in Brooklyn and Queens, New York Continues Trend of Homophobic Violence

Kevin Kiadii, 25, assaulted Wednesday in Brooklyn's Prospect Park for his sexual orientation.

Kevin Kiadii, 25, assaulted Wednesday in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for his sexual orientation.

Brooklyn, New York – Since Sunday of last week, there have been two anti-gay bias attacks reported in Brooklyn, and another hate crime assault in Queens, according to various news sources.  On Wednesday night, openly gay Kevin Kiadii, a 25-year-old freelance makeup artist and a male friend were assaulted in Prospect Park, CBS 2 reports.  Kiadii, notable for lodging a sexual misconduct suit against ex-Elmo voice artist, Kevin Clash (see NewsOne story), was randomly chosen for harassment and assault by a group of five teens who were allegedly drunk and/or high.  When the most aggressive of the teenagers, the one also displaying the most intoxication, confronted Kiadii with homophobic slurs, the gay man offered the youth a soda as an attempt to diffuse the situation.  Undeterred, the assailant took a “fighting stance,” in Kiadii’s words, and when Kiadii told him to back off, the youth jumped at Kiadii and said “‘I’m going to [expletive] you up’ and do this and ‘you F and [expletive].'” Kiadii took a perfume bottle from his bag and wielded it like a can of pepper spray to back off his attackers.  “One of the dudes tried to kick me in the face, but just missed and he got me in my shoulder,” Kiadii said.  Kiadii managed to get off a 911 call to police, handed his phone to a bystander, and wrestled with his main attacker, who left Kiadii with an injured hand, cuts and bruises.  Speaking to the New York Post, Kiadii said his ploy with the spray bottle of perfume may have prevented something much worse from happening to him.  “If it wasn’t for my Dior bottle, I’d be in so much damage,” he said.

The police responded quickly, arresting four youths ranged in age from 13 to 18 years of age, and a fifth suspect who is 21. Charges have been filed against the teens and the 21-year-old for harassment as a hate crime, and the prime assailant faces charges of aggravated assault as a hate crime, according to The Advocate.  Expressing his appreciation for the swift action of the police, Kiadii is thankful that he was not more seriously hurt.  Still, the assault has left him shaken but determined to broadcast what he had to face, so that others will not have to endure an anti-gay attack like his.  “I’m appalled. I’m in awe,” Kiadii told CBS 2. “I just really want my story told because I know there a lot of people in the city who deal with stuff like this.” 

Police sketches of Brooklyn subway gay basher and Queens suspect who attacked a woman while shouting anti-gay slurs.

Police sketches of Brooklyn subway gay basher (l) and Queens suspect (r) who attacked a woman while shouting anti-gay slurs.

Police are also searching for an unidentified Brooklyn suspect who punched a 27-year-old gay man twice in the face on the J Train at approximately 11:45 p.m. last Sunday, May 26.  The assailant hurled anti-gay slurs at his victim as he carried out the attack, according to DNAinfo.  The suspect fled out the back of the subway car to escape arrest.  Police described the suspect as a man in his mid-to-late-20s, 6 feet tall, with dark hair tied in a bun. He was last seen wearing a blue denim jacket, police said.  The New York Police Department Hate Crimes Task Force is carrying out the investigation.  The subway assault and investigation were announced by the New York Police Department on Friday of this week.  Also reported this week was an earlier bias-related attack upon a woman in Queens on March 17 of this year.  Police say that the suspect approached a 49-year-old woman, cursed her with homophobic epithets, and punched her in the face before fleeing the scene.  He is described as between the ages of 20 and 25, five feet four inches tall, 140 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair.  At the time of the assault, the attacker was wearing a small mustache.  The suspect reportedly has been sighted in the area of the 115th Police Precinct.  No explanation has been given for the lateness of the report on the Queens attack as of this report.

Anti-gay violence is spiking alarmingly throughout New York City.  Better than 30 incidents of anti-LGBT hate crimes have been reported this year, one of them a fatal shooting, easily doubling last year’s statistics for anti-gay attacks during the same time period.

June 2, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Brooklyn, Gang violence, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, New York, New York City, Queens, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Outbreak of Anti-Gay Attacks in Brooklyn and Queens, New York Continues Trend of Homophobic Violence

Police Crack Down on Anti-Gay Attackers in New York City; Arrests Made

New Yorkers refuse to be terrorized by spate of anti-gay hate crimes.

New Yorkers refuse to be terrorized by spate of anti-gay hate crimes.

New York City, New York – Three arrests of alleged homophobic attackers, and growing resolve among LGBTQ New Yorkers shows determination to stand strong against gay bashing in New York City, the cradle of the Gay and Queer Rights Movement.  The NYPD announce the arrest of a teenage suspect in the most recent assault on a gay man in Hell’s Kitchen early Saturday morning.  After noted queer activist, Eugene Lovendusky, 28, his boyfriend, and a third friend were harassed as “faggots” by a group of 9 or 10 slur-yelling youths, Lovendusky was hit in the jaw, and his glasses knocked off his face.  When his boyfriend moved in to help Lovendusky, the assailant reported said, “Do you want to be next, faggot?”, according to the New York Post.  Lovendusky placed a 911 call to police almost immediately after the group left the scene.  Responding quickly, NYPD officers apprehended Manuel Riquelme, 19, of East Harlem at a pizzeria on 40th and 9th Avenue.  Riquelme and the other teens who participated in harassing Lovendusky were recounting their bashing success when police arrested the assailant, charging him with assault as a hate crime, and second degree aggravated harassment as a hate crime.  No bail has been set.

Police previously arrested Gornell Roman, charging him with a hate attack upon Philadelphia party promoter, Dan Contarino, on Monday, May 20.  After an argument ensued between Roman and Contarino about Contarino’s sexual orientation, Roman became enraged, hurling slurs at the gay man, and then beating him unconscious.  Roman, a resident of the Bowery Mission with an extensive arrest record, was collared by New York Police officers on Wednesday, and faces a count of assault as a hate crime, and aggravated harassment as a hate crime, according to the Associated Press.

Both of these latest gay bashings in New York City took place shortly after the murder of openly gay Mark Carson in Greenwich Village, who succumbed to a pistol shot, point blank to his face.  Alleged gunman Elliott Morales, 33, laughed and bragged about his deadly attack on Carson in what amounted to a confession to his arresting officers.  He is charged with bias motivated murder and criminal possession of a weapon, and is being held without bail.

City officials have been speaking out against the spate of anti-gay hate crimes and harassment of LGBTQ people throughout Manhattan in recent days.  One of the most outspoken is lesbian Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, who is running for mayor.  She  spoke to the New York Post after the attack on activist Lovendusky about her own perspective on these disturbing hate crimes plaguing New York City.  “I thought most of the really horrible days of hate crimes were behind us,” she said. “I had a conversation with [Commissioner] Kelly last week requesting more police resources for the West Side, and it’s the exact same conversation I had in the 1990s with the first deputy police commissioner.”  When told about Lovendusky’s call for self-defense training for queer folk in the city, and beefed up security at clubs throughout Manhattan, Quinn voiced her approval of the ideas.  “This is kind of strength that these survivors have,” she said. “They [the anti-gay attackers] think they’re going to cause fear so profound that people will be terrified back into the closet. They don’t know that the fear they try to engender is met with deeper and bigger strength.”

May 28, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Christine Quinn, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, New York, New York City, Slurs and epithets | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Police Crack Down on Anti-Gay Attackers in New York City; Arrests Made

Anti-Gay Hazing Aboard Nuclear Submarine Leads To Top Non-Com Dismissal

USS Florida already had a “culture of homophobia” prior to the harassment of a crew member suspected of being gay.

Norfolk, Virginia – With little or no privacy, and nowhere to escape from his anti-gay torment, a sailor targeted for harassment aboard nuclear submarine USS Florida (SSBN/SSGN – 728), became the center of a homophobic hazing case that has created a public relations nightmare for the U.S. Navy. The Associated Press revealed that the Navy released its report in March detailing months of anti-gay taunts against the unnamed submariner–leading to the dismissal of the Chief of the Boat, the submarine’s top non-commissioned officer.  Master Chief Machinist’s Mate Charles Berry was fired by Captain Stephen Gillespie “for dereliction of duty” related to his failure to report and advise the commanding officer of the boat on issues arising among enlisted men.

The targeted sailor whose identity and sexual orientation have not be released in the investigative report, suffered incessant anti-gay jokes, was subjected to anti-gay epithets and nicknames, and was the victim of an alleged attempted rape at knife point by a  man while the Florida was in a foreign port of call–Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Prior the the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the sailor was constantly taunted to “come out of the closet” as a gay man and jeered at for having a Filipino boyfriend, the ethnicity of the attempted rapist. He was labeled “Brokeback” for the famous gay-themed motion picture, Brokeback Mountain. The Navy report said that the sailor endured the harassment because he thought it would cease at some point.  After eight months of constant homophobic harassment in 2011, the sailor finally passed along a note for help, saying that the combination of the attempted rape, the hounding, and the constant pressure put on him by crew members was driving him to suicide, or to an act of violence against his tormentors.

The Navy report says that sailors who participated in the hazing did not appreciate the psychological harm their actions caused their shipmate. The report also states that Chief Berry did not participate in the anti-gay hazing of the sailor, but did not report what was going on to his superior officers, either. As background to the embarrassing revelations of anti-gay abuse, the report also detailed that the Florida had developed a whole culture of heterosexist and homophobic prejudice, and detailed a number of examples.

In response, the Navy ordered training and counseling up and down the line to prevent anything like this from happening again. Besides the chief of the boat, several junior crew members who participated in the anti-gay harassment have also faced disciplinary actions, including loss of rank and pay.  In its March 30 statement to the public, the Navy said: “The Navy’s standards for personal behavior are very high and it demands that sailors are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. When individuals fall short of this standard of professionalism and personal behavior, the Navy will take swift and decisive action to stop undesirable behavior, protect victims and hold accountable those who do not meet its standards.” 

This week, Vice Admiral John Richardson who commands the Norfolk-based submarine force, issued a blog post in response to the scandal this incident had created in the submarine service in which he focuses attention on the importance of character in Navy life. “A violation by one seems to be a violation against all,” the admiral wrote.

The USS Florida, an Ohio-class nuclear submarine homeported at Naval Submarine Base King’s Bay, Georgia, participated in action against Libyan forces loyal to Col. Muammar Gaddafi in March 2011 by launching scores of Tomahawk missiles, the only one of the four Ohio-class SSGNs available to serve in Operation Odyssey Dawn. Apparently, the senseless anti-gay torment of the sailor in question was going full tilt during the period of combat operations.

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), Georgia, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, military, rape, Slurs and epithets, U.S. Navy, Virginia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Gay Utah Teen Bullied To Death: Emergency Community Summit Called

Jack Reese, 18, latest victim of school bullying against LGBT students.

Ogden, Utah – Last Monday, another gay teenager from Utah took his life in response to intolerable bullying because of his sexual orientation.  Q Salt Lake reports that Jack Reese, 18, of Mountain Green is the latest casualty in the war on gay teenagers taking place in the nation’s schools.  With heartbreaking coincidence, Reese’s boyfriend, Alex Smith, spoke on Reese’s experiences with school bullying to a community event focused on the problem of bullying–without the knowledge that the love of his life had already taken his own life earlier that day. Details of Reese’s death have not been released to the public at this time.

According to Ogden OUTreach, a local LGBT youth service organization, the rate of gay teen suicide in Utah is fully 8 times the national average.  A North Utah mother of a gay son appeals to parents in the community the community in the wake of Reese’s bullycide to wake up and take action against the epidemic of suicide sweeping so many queer youth away.  Allison Black writes to her fellow parents, in part: “Our local community and churches do not always make it easy to openly accept our LGBT (lesbian, gay, transgender, and bi-sexual) friends, family members, and loved ones.  The bullying and suicides need to stop. Parents please do not let outside influences tell you that your gay child is evil or broken.  Follow your heart.”

The Rev. Marian Edmonds, director of Ogden OUTreach, says that in an “off-the-record” comment by a local official, a gay teen takes his or her life at the rate of once a week, though it does not get reported that way to the press.  In a statement to the media, Edmonds said: “The youth I work with all know either a victim of bullying, the loss of a friend to suicide, and most often, both. These youth are bright, creative and loving, yet too often face daily abuse from rejecting families, bullies at school and the loss of their church family. It is time for local schools to incorporate proven techniques for eliminating bullying and homophobia, for churches to preach love and acceptance, and for parents and families to love and accept their children. Each loss of life is a loss for all of us, and it must stop now.”

An emergency community summit aimed at stopping the spread of gay teen suicides due to bullying has been called in Ogden for May 1.  Speakers will include parents from Ogden PFLAG, local opinion leaders, faith leaders, and active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the predominant religious influence throughout the area.  At Alex Smith’s request, a candlelight vigil will be held at the end of the summit in memory of Reese. Rev. Edmonds decries the situation that is robbing Ogden and North Utah of its young people.  “Each loss of life is a loss for all of us, and it must stop now,” she said. Liz Owen, director of PFLAG national, summed up the challenge facing us all: “Sadly, the death of Jack Reese is a reminder that there is still much work to be done.”

April 29, 2012 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bullycide, Bullying in schools, gay teens, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Social Justice Advocacy, suicide, Utah, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Gay Iowa Teen Driven to Suicide by Bullying

Kenneth Weishuhn, 14, bullied to death by his schoolmates for being gay.

Primghar/Paullina, Iowa – An out gay teen took his life in Northwest Iowa on Saturday night because bullying in his high school had become intolerable for him.  Kenneth Weishuhn was just 14 years old.  After coming out as gay barely a month ago, the torrent of anti-gay harassment overwhelmed his gentle spirit. KTIV News reports that he had not anticipated how hated he would become after revealing his sexual orientation to his friends.  His sister Kayla told reporters that her brother was constantly harassed and bullied by boys in her class at South O’Brien High School where Kenneth was a freshman. “People that were originally his friends, they kind of turned on him,” she said.  Bullies set up an anti-gay Facebook page targeting Kenneth.  Then, Kenneth started receiving death threats on his phone.  “A lot of people, they either joined in or they were too scared to say anything,” Kayla concluded.

His mother Jeannie Chambers asked him about the menacing phone calls, but believed Kenneth was handling them well enough. Still, there were warning signs that the pressure was getting to much for the 14-year-old. EDGE On the Net reports that Kenneth told his mother “Mom, you don’t know how it feels to be hated.” Though the school was aware of the bullying and issued a warning to his tormentors, it seemed to do no good. Nothing stopped.  Kenneth’s mother says the school never contacted her about the problem.  Now she is contemplating bringing legal action against the students she feels drove her son to suicide.

The towns of Paullina and Primghar, approximately 50 miles from Sioux City, are having to come to grips with the ugliness of homophobia and hate crime, issues these communities of largely German Lutheran ancestry never thought they would have to face. Counselors have been working with Kenneth’s schoolmates who are devastated by the suicide of their friend.  Many saw him as a loving, loyal friend, and cannot understand how hateful other students have been.  His friends have created a tribute video to express their love and grief at his passing. According to Channel 4 News, authorities are investigating both the in-school and online bullying that targeted Kenneth for being gay.

Kayla says that she has lost her best friend, the only person she could completely trust. Hatred built to a point of no return, she believes. “Things get started, and then they get out of hand,” she told interviewers for Channel 4. “Then they go too far, and you can’t stop it.  He is gone now, and he is not coming back.”  Kenneth’s funeral was conducted on Thursday at Grace Lutheran Church in Primghar.

April 18, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Bullying in schools, death threats, gay teens, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Iowa, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, suicide | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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