Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Reverend Professor Peter J. Gomes, Eminent Gay Theologian, Dies at 68

(Fred Field/Harvard News Office photo)

Plymouth, Massachusetts – One of America’s best-known preachers and theologians, and arguably the most famous out gay scholar in the nation, Peter J. Gomes died February 28 of a brain aneurysm and heart attack. He was 68 years old. For three and a half decades, Gomes was a member of the faculty of Harvard Divinity School, and served as Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church as well as Plummer Professor of Christian Morals. A New York Times Bestselling Author, Gomes will be remembered as the person who put the Bible’s teachings within reach of an intelligent, progressive secular audience with his widely acclaimed book, The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart (HarperOne: 2002). The son of a Cape Verdean father and a Bostonian mother, Gomes graduated from Bates College in 1965 and Harvard Divinity School in 1968. As he rose to prominence in Harvard, African Americans rejoiced to have a scholar and preacher so well situated in the academy.  In recognition of the role he fulfilled in American black life, Henry Louis Gates featured Gomes in the Public Broadcasting System documentary,African American Lives 2. A life-long Republican until 2006 (having offered prayers at the inaugurations of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan), Gomes became a registered Democrat in order to vote for Deval Patrick, the first African American Governor in Massachusetts history. In 1991, Gomes shocked the public by coming out openly as a gay man during a campus controversy over homosexuality–a story he tells eloquently inThe Good Book. Upon announcing his sexual orientation in order to support Harvard gay and lesbian students, Gomes was targeted by a hail of criticism.  His defense of himself was forceful, measured, and laser-sharp: “Many of my critics, chiefly from within the religious community, asked if I read the same Bible they did, and if I did, how then could I possibly reconcile my position with that of scripture?  When arguments failed, anathemas were hurled and damnations promised.  The whole incident confirmed what had long been my suspicion.  Fear was at the heart of homophobia, as it was at the heart of racism, and as with racism,religion—particularly the Protestant evangelical kind that had nourished me—was the moral fig leaf that covered naked prejudice” [The Good Book, p. 166]. Throughout the rest of his life, Gomes combatted fear and advocated for the equality of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Among his other New York Times Bestselling books are The Good Life: Truths That Last in Times of Need (2003), and most recently The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What’s So Good About the Good News? (2007). Gomes suffered a stroke in December 2010, and was recently transferred to a rehabilitation center in his beloved hometown of Plymouth. News reports suggested that he was planning to return to Harvard this spring, and fulfill his career until his announced retirement in 2012. As the Harvard Crimson says, “He maintained a tremendous presence at Harvard as well as around the country.” More particularly for the LGBTQ community, Professor Gomes’s voice of faithful sanity and his incarnated presence as a person who was both black and gay will be sorely missed. Ave atque vale, Professor Gomes!  “Hail and fare you well!”

March 1, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Book excerpts, gay men, Harvard University, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, Massachusetts, Peter J. Gomes "The Good Book", Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Reverend Professor Peter J. Gomes, Eminent Gay Theologian, Dies at 68

Urine Attack at Harvard a Hoax? Piss Off!

Judge Judy says, "Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining!"

Cambridge, Massachusetts – A Harvard dean is now claiming that the reported dousing of LGBT books in the Harvard University Lamont Library was an “accident” done by library staff who happened to have a bottle of urine in the stacks right where the LGBT and same-sex marriage books were shelved. The Advocate is covering the story for the LGBT press, and carried the “explanation” of the dean, Evelyn Hammonds.  Dean Hammonds, who had initially reported the serious nature of the situation, and stressed to the Harvard Crimson that the university takes anti-gay expressions with the utmost gravity, now says that an investigation has uncovered that a library worker (unnamed) discovered a bottle of what appeared to be urine on the shelf, and spilled it on the books accidentally. Officials are at pains to repeat that this was not a hate crime.  Harvard’s Marco Chan, co-chair of the campus Queer Students and Allies, has asked what is in our opinion the crucial question: what was a bottle of pee doing in the Lamont Library anyway?  To that question, we pose another: why did it take officials two weeks to determine that the staining of better than thirty books with urine, worth thousands of dollars, was simply an accident?  Further, how was it that the bottle of urine was strategically placed in the LGBT and same-sex marriage section of the library, when there were so many other places it could have been? Will the dean and the university authorities now claim that the location of the spillage was all an unfortunate coincidence?  And, further than that, what sort of shenanigans were going on with a bottle of pee that got it dumped on library shelves to begin with?  Who was the responsible party? Has someone come forward, and what have they told investigators that has made them “about face” on the hate crimes investigation after two whole weeks?  While admittedly the truth is often stranger than fiction, the details of this “accident” or hate crime have not been told in such a way as to make the claim of accidental urine spillage in the Lamont Library credible.  Harvard University has, like all bastions of higher education in the United States, a long history of heterosexism and homophobia, even persecution of gays and lesbians on campus, as books such as Harvard’s Secret Court by William Wright (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2006) and The Crimson Letter: Harvard, Homosexuality, and the Shaping of American Culture by Douglass Shand-Tucci (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2004) have shown. Rev. Dr. Peter Gomes has related the oppression of gay and lesbian students on campus at Harvard in more recent years in his gripping account of his own public coming out story in his best-seller The Good Book (HarperOne, 2002).  The current presence of bias-driven anti-LGBTQ elements on the Ivy League campus is clear to the Harvard University administration, and in covenant with their present student body, and given their culture-setting status in this country, it seems to us that more is owed to the American public and to the LGBTQ community than a lame claim that vandalizing queer books in an historic library was no more than an unfortunate accident.  As television personality Judge Judy Sheindlin says to incredible witnesses in her courtroom, “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining!”  It is past time for Harvard officials to quit pissing around and tell the truth about this crime.

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, book desecration, Harvard University, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Massachusetts, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, Uncategorized, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, vandalism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Harvard Gay Books Soaked in Urine: Police Investigate Hate Crime

Cambridge, Massachusetts – Harvard University Police are investigating a urine-stained attack against the LGBT book collection held in the Harvard Lamont Library. Forty (40) books were found “doused in urine” the week of November 24, according to the New York Daily News.  The report became public on this past Friday. The books were all dealing with LGBT issues and same-sex marriage.  Because of the nature of the subject matter in the books, the Harvard Police Department (HUPD) is investigating the attack as a bias-related hate crime. HUPD spokesperson, Steven G. Catalano, told the Harvard Crimson, “The HUPD has zero tolerance for any bias-related incidents or crimes.” Harvard College Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds also decried the crime to the Crimson, saying, “Harvard College will not tolerate acts of vandalism, especially those that appear to be motivated by hate or bias. [As] a community, we will continue to affirm our shared values of dignity and respect for everyone in our community.” According to sources at Harvard University, the books were worth thousands of dollars, and are damaged beyond repair.  Beth S. Brainerd, Harvard Library spokesperson, told the press that the books would have to be discarded. “Once the urine is poured, they can’t really fix [the books],” she said in a Crimson interview. Library staff reportedly found a bottle beside the ruined books on Level B of the historic Lamont Library, once filled with what appeared to urine. They threw the bottle and its contents away, believing it to be a health hazard. Harvard University LGBT leadership was quick to respond to the news of the desecration of the books. Senior at Harvard, Marco Chan, co-chair of Harvard College Queer Students and Allies, said to the Crimson, “I am very outraged. It is hard to conceive this as a coincidence when there are 40 books on the same subject. The message that this incident sent to me is that we need more resources not only for the LGBT community but also targeted towards other people.” The Lamont Library at Harvard was the first in the United States designed specifically for use by undergraduate students. Opened in 1949, the Lamont is a popular venue for study and research on the campus. The strike against the LGBT book collection is a serious incident in the struggle for human rights. Hate crimes against book collections in Germany presaged an intensification of violent Anti-Semitism, for example. Outrage by bias groups often targets books first, and then people. No reported leads exist as the Harvard University Police Department continues to investigate the book desecration.

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, book desecration, Harvard University, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Social Justice Advocacy, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, vandalism | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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