Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Detroit Trans Teen’s Remains Found Burned Near Interstate

Michele "Shelley" Hilliard, 19, had to be ID'ed by a tattoo on her upper arm.

Detroit, Michigan – The charred torso of a missing teen transwoman of color was identified this week in the Wayne County morgue where it had been stored for weeks, and left unidentified.  The remains were collected near Interstate 94 on Detroit’s east side.  Michele “Shelley” Hilliard, 19, was last seen on October 23 at 1:20 a.m., and was reported missing, according to the Detroit Free Press.  Though her facial features and fingerprints were destroyed by fire, investigators were able to make a positive identification because of a distinctive tattoo depicting cherries inked into her upper right arm.  Her mother, summoned by the Wayne County Examiners Office, also confirmed the identity of her child from the tattoo on the burnt remains. Police are now investigating Ms. Hilliard’s death as a homicide.  There is no word about whether a transphobic hate crime is suspected by the authorities, but the disappearance coupled with the attempted immolation of the remains is a familiar signature of anti-trans hate crimes.  Equality Michigan is aiding the Detroit Police Department in their investigation, according to CBS Detroit.  Michigan’s hate crimes law does not include LGBTQ persons as protected classes, making it harder to compel law enforcement to regard violence against the queer community as hate crimes.

In little more than two weeks, three gay men, Steven Iorio from Pennsylvania, Burke Burnett of Texas, and Stuart Walker from Scotland were either attacked by homophobes wielding fire as a weapon, or had their remains immolated after death. Now the immolated remains of transgender Shelley Hilliard are discovered on a Detroit Interstate service road, raising the question of how often fire is employed as a weapon of transphobic/homophobic terror.  As Philip M. Miner of the Center for Homicide Research points out for the Huffington Post, while between 600 and 700 people are killed by arson every year in the United States, fully 26 per cent of this total is from the gay and transgender community.  Miner observes that the use of fire and arson as hate crimes weapons against the LGBTQ community is normally thoroughly planned out ahead of time. He writes: “Attacks involving arson are especially brutal. Meticulous care is taken in carrying them out. The violence is heaped on . . . [Anti-LGBTQ arson attacks] are wrought with meaning,” Miner continues. “The offender wants there to be no doubt that this violence was intentional. In the case of hate crimes, it’s a warning. This is what happens when you are gay. This is what these people get — what they deserve.” 

Equality Michigan points out in its report on transgender hate violence, “During the first half of 2011, Equality Michigan received reports of 83 incidents of violence or intimidation targeting gay and transgender residents that are considered hate crimes under the [federal] Shepard-Byrd Act. However, because the statewide hate crime law is not comprehensive, incidents against gay and transgender Michiganders that are clearly motivated by anti-gay or anti-transgender bias are ignored as hate crimes.”  As a case in point, advocates are watching the Hilliard case especially closely.

Michele “Shelley” Hilliard was nicknamed “Treasure.” The irony of her murder, a young transwoman who had courage enough to transition into the authentic person she truly was, is that only now do we begin to understand the treasure we have lost in her passing.

November 11, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Arson, Burning and branding, Center for Homicide Research, Equality Michigan, gay bashing, gay men, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Law and Order, Legislation, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Detroit Trans Teen’s Remains Found Burned Near Interstate

Breaking: Alleged East Texas Gay Bashers Charged with Hate Crimes

Burke Burnett, gay bashing victim, shows bandaged burns and cuts (Advocate photo)

Paris, Texas – Three alleged gay bashers in the horrific Reno gay bashing case will face hate crimes enhancement charges, as reported by the Paris Times and the Dallas Voice. A Lamar County Grand Jury on Thursday indicted James Mitchell Lasater III, 31, of Paris, Micky Joe Smith, 25, of Brookston,and Daniel Shawn Martin, 33, of Paris with one count each of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and two counts each of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury. Additionally, Lasater and Smith were charged as repeat offenders. Because aggravated assault is classified as a second-degree felony offense, the alleged offenders were eligible under the Texas Hate Crimes statute for hate crimes enhancements, and that is exactly what the grand jury elected to do.  On October 30 in the early morning, 26-year-old Burke Burnett was savagely attacked by three suspects whom witnesses say were yelling anti-gay slurs as they beat Burnett senseless, stabbed and slashed his body with a broken beer bottle, and then heaved him bodily into a burning trash barrel. Burnett suffered stab wounds resulting in over 30 stitches, deep bruises and contusions, and second-degree burns over a good portion of his torso, legs, and arms.

The Dallas Voice broke the story with graphic photos of Burnett’s injuries embedded in the article, and the story took hold in national mainstream media.  Burnett has been interview around the nation, as horror and interest increased in the story. Burnett told the Dallas Voice he is pleased with the course of the investigation, the arrests, and now with the efforts of the Lamar County District Attorney.  WFAA Television reported Burnett came out when he was 15, and learned of the hate crime murder of Matthew Shepard, the University of Wyoming student slain in Laramie in 1998.  “Matthew Shepard is one of the reasons I came out of the closet,” Burnett told WFAA. “I’m so glad my fate did not end up like his.” He has no doubt about why he was targeted for violence, since the trio knew his was gay.  As he sat in a chair at a private Halloween party in Reno, a small town near Paris, Texas, the men attacked him from behind. Burnett said, “I ended up getting stabbed, burned and beaten pretty badly and I’m convinced they were trying to kill me.”

Since few hate crime attacks against Texans are actually charged under the state hate crimes law, the decision of law enforcement and the grand jury to go forward with hate crimes charges against Burnett’s alleged bashers is significant.  Since “sexual preference” was included as a protected category in the state statute in 2001, better than 2500 hate crimes have been committed, by fewer than twelve have actually been charged as such. Now that the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act became federal law in 2009, allowing the Department of Justice and the FBI to involve themselves in investigating and prosecuting anti-LGBT hate crimes around the nation, Texas officials seem to have felt pressure to act more transparently and boldly on hate crimes cases in the Lone Star State.

November 11, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, FBI, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, stabbings, Texas, U.S. Justice Department, Wyoming | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2 Arrested in Savage Gay Bashing Case in East Texas: Breaking News

James "Tray" Lasater III, and Daniel Martin (l to r; Lamar County Sheriff's Department photo)

Reno, Texas – Two local men were arrested this morning for the barbaric beating and burning of a gay man at a party in Reno, Texas this past Sunday.  Dallas Voice broke the story this morning, reporting that Reno Police Chief Jeff W. Sugg announced the arrests of James “Tray” Laster III, 31, and Daniel Martin, 33, for their role in one of the most savage anti-gay attacks in recent East Texas history.  26 year old Burke Burnett was slashed on his forearm and his back with a broken beer bottle, he was punched and beaten, and then heaved into a burning metal barrel in the early morning hours of  October 30. Narrowly escaping with his life, thanks to the action of girlfriends on the scene, Burnett was given over 30 stitches to close the wounds, and his second-degree burns were treated.  But the psychological trauma of the attack will take much longer to heal.

Burnett and his friends say they have no doubt that homophobia fueled the assault.  The assailants shouted gross obscenities and anti-gay epithets as they pressed their attack against Burnett.  But whether the men will be prosecuted under the state’s hate crime statute is in doubt.  The main charges lodged against the suspects, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and aggravated assault inflicting serious bodily injury, area first degree felonies that could carry a sentence of five to 99 years, if the men are convicted.  But the Texas hate crime law, though it does include “sexual preference” as a category, will not offer a sentence enhancement if the crime is determined to be a first degree felony.  The Dallas Voice opined yesterday that it was unlikely that the hate crime charge would be pressed in this case, though that call remains with the Lamar County District Attorney Gary Young. LGBT activists and allies across the state have been critical of how rarely the Texas hate crime statute is invoked in cases of anti-LGBTQ violence as seemingly clear as this one.  As of the 2010 Texas Department of Public Safety statistical report on hate crimes in the Lone Star State, over 2500 bias crimes have been reported since the law was enacted in 2001, while only 11 had been prosecuted, as reported by KXAN.

November 2, 2011 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Burning and branding, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 2 Arrested in Savage Gay Bashing Case in East Texas: Breaking News

Church-Led Gay Bashing in Tennessee: WWJD?

Jerry Pittman Jr. and Dustin Lee (L to R), attacked by church members in West Tennessee

Humbolt, Tennessee – In the quiet outskirts of rural Humbolt, Tennessee, a church with a Fruitland address was the scene for a violent attack on two young gay men simply for arriving at Wednesday evening services.  What Would Jesus Do (WWJD) about Church-and-Pastor instigated gay bashing?  On September 28, Jerry Pittman Jr. and his boyfriend, Dustin Lee, arrived at Grace Fellowship Church where his father, Jerry Pittman Sr., is the pastor.  Just before the gay couple got out of their car, Jerry Jr. heard his father cry, “Sic ’em!,” as a hunter would address a pack of dogs.  Two deacons from the church, and Jerry Jr.’s uncle who is also a deacon, attacked the pair while they were still trying to get out of the parked vehicle.  WBBJ Eyewitness News interviewed Jerry Jr. soon after the church gay bashed the couple: “My uncle and two other deacons came over to the car per my dad’s request,” young Jerry said. “My uncle smashed me in the door as the other deacon knocked my boyfriend back so he couldn’t help me, punching him in his face and his chest. The other deacon came and hit me through my car window in my back.”  The men kept yelling homophobic insults and slurs at the couple even after a Gibson County Deputy Sheriff arrived on the scene.  The couple attempted to press charges with the officer, who refused to allow them to do so, implying that they were the cause of the attack themselves.  Gibson County Sheriff Chuck Arnold defended the actions of his deputy to the press, saying, “I haven’t talk to him but that would be out of character for my deputy to say unless they were causing a problem themselves.”  Media attention has caused the sheriff to temper his remarks in subsequent interviews.

Pittman and Lee did press charges the following Friday against Deacons Billy Sims and Eugene McCoy, as well as Rev. Jerry Pittman Sr. and Deacon Patrick Flatt, the younger Pittman’s uncle.  When WBBJ reporters contacted the pastor, he refused comment and demanded that the station not try to communicate with him again.

Evan Hurst of Truth Wins Out gives the latest details on this story that has shocked Christians and non-Christians alike, awakening them to the presence of virulent, anti-gay prejudice in America’s pulpits and pews.  Hurst spoke to Jerry Jr. by phone on October 5, who said, “The church acted as four people, instead of as a congregation.”  Pittman explained that he and his boyfriend had attended the church before, though they knew the condemning stance of the elder Pittman, who preached anti-gay sermons “when the couple wasn’t there.”  Lee had even been invited to sing at Grace Fellowship once when he attended services alone.  But marital trouble broke out between Pittman Sr. and Jerry Jr.’s stepmother, and, in Hurst’s words, “the floodgates opened and the church no longer felt the need to stay silent about Jerry, Jr. and his boyfriend.”   The charges and counter charges in this case are still being sorted out.  All parties are remanded to court on November 22.  Meanwhile, Jerry Pittman Jr. and Dustin Lee are left to pick up the pieces of their lives and shattered faith.  Jerry Jr. has already lost his job because of the days he has spent pursuing justice for himself and his boyfriend.

West Tennessee is a tough place to be gay or lesbian, much less transgender.  Hurst relates a “man-on-the-street” interview in Jackson, in which the reporter asked a passer-by about what he would do if his son brought a boyfriend to church with him.  The man candidly said he would shoot them.  The culture of hatred, religious intolerance of LGBTQ people, and church-sanctioned violence remains undisturbed in America’s heartland, no matter if there is a federal Matthew Shepard Act to offer some protection legally to marginalized gay people.

Would Jesus condone anti-gay violence?  If not, then why is such prejudice overtly and covertly incubated in the nation’s communities of faith, like Grace Fellowship?  While it may be simple for many Christians to dismiss the Grace Fellowship hate crime as an aberration in an embarrassing, Pentecostal byway, the silence from every other church in the surrounding area is deafening.  The Unfinished Lives Project has shown the link between religious intolerance, religious hate speech, and deadly anti-gay violence.  Nine out of ten fatal hate crimes perpetrated against LGBTQ people in the United States were sparked, by admission of the killers, by Bible or Church teaching.  If churches cannot speak out against an attack against a young gay couple simply for arriving at a church for services, what will they remain silent about next?  WWJD about Christians and Churches who gay bash or stand by silently while others do?  Read John 11:35: “Jesus wept.”

October 5, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Blame the victim, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets, Tennessee, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Hate Crimes and Capital Punishment: A Special Comment

Lawrence Russell Brewer, on the day he was booked for the murder of James Byrd Jr.

Huntsville, Texas – On September 21 at 6:11 p.m., before witnesses whom included his hate crime victim’s family and his own, Lawrence Russell Brewer, 44, was injected with lethal drugs in the execution chamber of Huntsville Prison.  Ten minutes later, he was pronounced dead.  Sentenced to death for the 1998 dragging murder of James Byrd Jr., there was no doubt about the convict’s guilt.  Brewer and two accomplices, John William King and Shawn Allen Berry, abducted Byrd, a 49-year-old African American, in Jasper, Texas, beat him, bound him with a log chain attached to the backend of a pickup truck, and dragged him three miles down a rough East Texas road until his head was detached from his body when it hit a culvert.  The racially-motivated murder made the nation shudder–and marked a decisive moment in the hate crime justice movement for LGBTQ people as well as for African Americans. But the justice of capital punishment for hate crime murders is still up for serious question, even after the execution of a bigoted man who displayed no remorse for his crime.  Brewer had even urinated on Byrd before dragging him to his death.

In Texas, the racist murder of James Byrd Jr. was quickly equated with the anti-gay murder of young Matthew Wayne Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming, that occurred barely four months later.  After abortive attempts to get a state hate crimes statute naming gays and lesbians as a protected class, the Byrd family agreed to sign on with Shepard’s family to achieve a landmark Texas law including African Americans and LGB persons as protected classes from prejudicial murder.  Governor Rick Perry, who today is the notably anti-gay Republican front runner for President, signed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act into law back in May 2001, inclusive of “sexual preference” as a protected category.  It took the federal government eight more years to enact a comprehensive hate crimes law inclusive of LGBT people in the United States. The James Byrd Jr. and Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, was signed into law by President Obama in October 2009.  The families of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. were honored guests at the presidential signing ceremony in the White House.

Can state-sanctioned execution remedy anti-gay or racially motivated hate crime murders?  Brewer’s death by lethal injection, in the same week as the hotly contested execution of Troy Davis in Georgia, brought that issue to a head for the national media, human and civil rights activists, moral theologians, and the families of victims alike.  Lawrence O’Donnell, MSNBC anchor of “The Last Word,” opined that the only way to prevent the execution of putatively innocent death row inmates like Davis is to outlaw the execution of even the most unrepentant of guilty killers like Brewer.  Dick Gregory, the fabled comedian and human rights activist, was present in Huntsville protesting the execution of James Byrd Jr.’s murderer for just that reason.  The Houston Chronicle quotes Gregory as saying, “Any state killing is wrong. If Adolph Hitler were to be executed,” he said, “I would be here to protest . . . I believe life in prison is punishment. Execution is revenge.”

Ross Byrd, James Byrd’s son, who is now 32, spoke out to Reuters the night before Brewer’s execution for the murder of his father. “You can’t fight murder with murder,” Byrd said, representing his family. “Life in prison would have been fine. I know he can’t hurt my daddy anymore. I wish the state would take in mind that this isn’t what we want.”  The Reuters article concludes by presenting Ross Byrd’s position that for the state to execute Brewer is no more that a continuation of the cycle of violence that destroyed his father’s life on that lonely road in the dead of night in 1998. Byrd believes that all people, the government included, should decide not to perpetuate that cycle of death. “Everybody’s in that position,” he said. “And I hope they will stand back and look at it before they go down that road of hate. Like Ghandi said, an eye for an eye, and the whole world will go blind.”

Dennis Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s father, took a similar position on the day his son’s second killer was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison.  Speaking to Aaron James McKinney, the roofer who beat Matt into a fatal coma with a pistol, Shepard said that Matt was not opposed to the death penalty. As a matter of fact, at a family meeting, Matt had said that heinous murders like the dragging death of James Byrd Jr. deserved capital punishment. “Mr. McKinney,” Shepard said, “I, too, believe in the death penalty. I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney. However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. To use this as the first step in my own closure about losing Matt. Mr. McKinney, I am not doing this because of your family. I am definitely not doing this because of the crass and unwarranted pressures put on by the religious community. If anything, that hardens my resolve to see you die. Mr. McKinney, I’m going to grant you life, as hard as that is for me to do, because of Matthew.”  Shepard concluded, “Mr. McKinney, I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives. May you have a long life, and may you thank Matthew every day for it.”

Admittedly, all other hate crimes victims’ families do not necessarily agree with Mr. Byrd and Mr. Shepard.  Some support capital punishment as justice for the heinous nature of the crimes committed against their loved ones.  But Lawrence Russell Brewer’s Texas execution is not so cut and dried as the most ardent supporters of capital punishment would like to believe.  The world is far grayer than any black-and-white wishes for closure can achieve in a culture where bigotry kills innocent people everyday, and where the state can and does execute anyone it deems legal to terminate. What is right and what is wrong about capital punishment for hate crimes murder perpetrators?  What is just for the victims and their families, and for the society the killers have also grievously wounded by their deeds of hatred?  We at the Unfinished Lives Project do not claim to have the final truth about these monumental issues.  But we do agree with Ross Byrd and Dennis Shepard.  Until our fallible knowledge is replaced by the divine in some other world than this and some other time than ours, we will err on the side of mercy.  Honor the dead.  Break the cycle.  Stop the killing.

September 27, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, capital punishment, Dragging murders, Execution, gay bashing, gay men, Georgia, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, President Barack Obama, Racism, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, Texas, transgender persons, Wyoming | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Hate Crimes and Capital Punishment: A Special Comment

“Seth’s Law” Passes in California; Protects LGBT Students from Bullying

Seth Walsh, 13-year-old "Bullycide" Victim, Honored Posthumously With Anti-LGBT Bullying Law

Sacramento, California – California lawmakers passed a new law to protect LGBT school students from harassment and bullying on Friday, named for 13-year-old “bullycide” victim, Seth Walsh.  The Advocate reports that  AB 9, “Seth’s Law,” makes it illegal for school teachers, staff, and officials to look the other way when students are being tormented for their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.  It also requires school systems to create policies and programs to address anti-LGBT bullying. The suicide of Seth Walsh in Tehachapi, California, spurred Golden State legislators to pass the bill, since a national outcry was sparked by the youth’s suicide after months of ceaseless harassment for being gay.  Since both houses of the legislature have passed the bill, it now goes on to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown to be signed into law.

Wendy Walsh, Seth’s mother, testified in favor of the bill as it moved through the State Assembly and Senate: “I can’t bring my son back. But the California legislature can make a difference today to protect young people across our state just like Seth who are or are thought to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Schools need to take harassment and bullying seriously when parents or students tell them about it, and when they see it and hear it on the school campus.”

During a flood of national stories about LGBT teens who committed suicide in 2010 because of school bullying, Seth’s story stood out enough that a federal investigation of his school system was launched by the U.S. Department of Education.  Students, teachers, and administrators were interviewed by federal investigators, spurring the school system to initiate changes in it policies and procedures toward LGBT students.

September 3, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bullying in schools, California | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gays Seek Safer Houston in Last “Unfinished Lives” Pride Month Session

Dr. Sprinkle speaks to a full house at Resurrection MCC Houston on "Unfinished Lives" book

Houston, Texas – Strategies for mobilizing the LGBTQ community to act for a safer Houston will be the focus of the concluding “Unfinished Lives” Session at Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church this Friday, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, professor at Brite Divinity School and author of Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2011), will offer Houstonians effective ways to prevent hate crimes, wrestle with with issue of anti-LGBTQ teen school bullying and suicide, and close ranks with transgender Americans to staunch the alarming number of violent attacks upon then in today’s world.  Attendance and enthusiasm remained strong at the June 10 session on lessons and insights the stories of hare crimes victims teach the wider community.  Dr. Sprinkle lifted up five lessons we stand to learn from LGBTQ people who have died because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.  In brief, these were: 1) confront head on the rising number of violent attacks against the queer community with educational efforts, 2) deal with the amnesia of the LGBTQ community, media, and the general public about queer hate crime murders, 3) begin the long-overdue conversation about transphobia and transgender hate crimes in America, 4) use the language of outrage when speaking about LGBTQ hate crimes, not the language of “tragendy,” and 5) the necessity of dealing with the religious and theological roots of anti-gay and transgender hate violence.  The stories of Ryan Keith Skipper of Wahneta, Florida and Talana Quay Kreeger of Wilmington, North Carolina were highlighted to illustrate Dr. Sprinkle’s lecture. Session Three: Strategies for Mobilization and Activism will continue this no-nonsense approach to the crisis of anti-LGBTQ hate violence in contemporary church and society.  The series is co-sponsored by Resurrection MCC Houston, Cathedral of Hope Houston, and the Transgender Foundation of America.  As always, a light supper is provided and the public is invited at no charge.  Make Pride Month count for more than a parade and a party, and come out to this important final session.

June 15, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-Gay Hate Groups, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Asian Americans, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, Florida, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, North Carolina, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Public Theology, Queer, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Remembrances, Resurrection MCC Houston, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gays Seek Safer Houston in Last “Unfinished Lives” Pride Month Session

Houston “Unfinished Lives” Series Draws Large Crowd; Session 2 on June 10: “Lessons Learned”

Houston, Texas – Strong attendance marked the first “Unfinished Lives” session for Houston’s Gay Pride Month.  Much-anticipated Session 2: Lessons Learned is upcoming at Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church at 6:30 pm.  Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, author of Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims, will share five life lessons the stories of hate crimes murder victims have to teach us.  Among the insights Dr. Sprinkle will share in Session 2 are: Why we must learn to talk and think about anti-gay hate crime murder in a different way than ever before; How to stand with our Transgender sisters and brothers as so many are preyed upon; What makes the numbers of anti-LGBTQ hate murders spike upward, even after the enactment of the long-awaited Matthew Shepard Act. The first session, “Stories of Those We’ve Lost,” set the stage for considering violent hate crimes against the LGBTQ community in a brand new light.  Dr. Sprinkle compassionately told the stories of Houston’s own Kenneth L. Cummings Jr., and Simmie/Beyoncé Williams Jr. of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, both of whom died for being gay and/or gender variant.  Cummings, a 46-year-old Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant, was hunted by a religious zealot who murdered him and burned his corpse in a remote South Texas location as a “burnt offering.”  Williams, a transgender teen of color, was shot to death on the day word came to her of acceptance in the Job Corps, news so exciting that she went down to the Sistrunk Avenue “Transvestite Stroll” to share with her gay family. She was shot to death by two young men who fled the scene, and are as yet unidentified.  Dr. Sprinkle talked about sadness and hope in relation to both killings, and encouraged the audience to learn more about the real people behind the statistics on hate crimes.  Central to his presentation was the idea that LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims are our ancestors, portals through whom we can learn to love our lives and our queer communities better, deeper, and more fully.  Rev Kristen Klein-Cechettini and Rev. Lynette Ross led the session in a meaningful, hopeful, and life-giving celebration of the lives of all hate crimes victims, represented by the fourteen stories told in Unfinished Lives.  “Session 2: Lessons Learned” will pick up the theme, highlighting two more stories from Dr. Sprinkle’s ground-breaking book, and offering important insights on what the lives of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people really count for.  From 6:30 to 7 p.m., a delicious light supper will be provided free of charge.  The session will begin at 7 and conclude by 8:30 p.m.  Sponsors for the series are Cathedral of Hope Houston, Transgender Foundation of America, and Resurrection MCC. Everyone is invited to add this significant experience to their Pride Month activities in Houston!

June 8, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Book Tour, Cathedral of Hope Houston, Florida, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, religious intolerance, Remembrances, Resurrection MCC Houston, Social Justice Advocacy, stalking, Texas, Unfinished Lives Book Signings, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Houston “Unfinished Lives” Series Draws Large Crowd; Session 2 on June 10: “Lessons Learned”

“Unfinished Lives” Centerpiece of Houston Gay Pride Month Events

Houston, Texas – Reviving the memories of LGBTQ hate crimes murder victims will be the focus of three Gay Pride Month events sponsored by two gay-predominant churches and a national transgender organization in the Houston metropolitan area during June.  Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, author of the ground-breaking book, Unfinished Lives, will present three programs on ways anti-gay hate violence must matter to everyone.  Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, the largest-membership MCC in the world, and Cathedral of Hope Houston, a United Church of Christ congregation planted by CoH Dallas, the world’s largest gay congregation, and the Transgender Foundation of America are the sponsors for this series. All events (June 3, 10, and 17) are open to the public free of charge and will be held on the campus of Resurrection MCC, 2025 West 1tth Street, Houston, Texas 77008, beginning each evening with a light meal at 6:30 p.m.  Copies of his book will be on hand for purchase and signing by the author.

Over 13,000 LGBTQ Americans have been brutally murdered due to unreasoning hatred since the 1980s. Dr. Sprinkle, a seminary professor at Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas, wrote Unfinished Lives as a response to this crisis of violence.  His book, the only such volume in the English language, is a collection of first-hand stories of fourteen representative Americans who died because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The questions it deals with are in the forefront of human rights advocacy: How could this decimation of neighbors, family, lovers, co-workers, and friends occur in the United States?  Why have the killings continued unabated since the enactment of the James Byrd Jr and Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009?  How are the suicides of young LGBTQ people and the murders of transpeople of color connected and related?  What must be done to stop the madness, to create communities of hope and tolerance, and to erase the hatred and transform the culture of violence that permits these horrors?  In the midst of these woeful aspects of American society, how do we find hope and create meaningful change?

Rev. Harry Knox, Senior Pastor of Resurrection MCC, says of these three events: “We are thrilled that Steve will be presenting three programs at Resurrection MCC beginning this Friday, June 3, and continuing on June 10 and June 17. Steve will share lessons he has learned about the root causes of hate violence and what we can do to prevent it in the future. I really hope you will consider giving three evenings to learning the stories Steve has to share with us and what we can do to make Houston safer and saner for us and for our children.”  

For further information on Session 1: Stories of Those We’ve Lost, and the other two sessions, please see the Facebook Events Page here, and the announcement in OutSmart Magazine – June 2011.  Dr. Sprinkle will also be preaching during Pride Month at Cathedral of Hope Houston, 4606 Mangum Road 77092, on Sunday, June 12, and at Resurrection MCC on Sunday, June 19.

June 2, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Asian Americans, Beatings and battery, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Bludgeoning, Book Tour, Brite Divinity School, Bullying in schools, Cathedral of Hope, Cathedral of Hope Houston, drowning, gay bashing, gay men, Gay Pride Month, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hanging, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Matthew Shepard Act, Native Americans, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Queer, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Remembrances, Resurrection MCC Houston, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Strangulation, suicide, Texas, Torture and Mutilation, transgender persons, transphobia, Unfinished Lives Book Signings | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “Unfinished Lives” Centerpiece of Houston Gay Pride Month Events

Notorious MacDonald’s Trans Beating Draws Hate Charges Against Teens

Chrissy Lee Polis, victim of transphobic attack

Baltimore, Maryland – Transwoman Chrissy Polis, victim of a brutal beating in a Baltimore MacDonald’s restaurant that was caught on video tape, won some small measure of justice Monday.  Officials are charging two teenagers with a hate crime because of the roles they played in attacking her in an incident that roused the conscience of the state of Maryland and far beyond, after the video of the assault went viral on the internet.  According to EDGE, Teonna Monae Brown, 18, was indicted for the assault and a hate crime in the attack on Polis on April 18.  Brown is also charged with assault upon a MacDonald’s employee who tried to stop the beating, and for assaulting a customer in the restaurant, as well.  A 14-year-old defendant has also been charged in the assault against Polis.  The Associated Press customarily does not publish the identities of minors in criminal proceedings. Both teens are being held in custody.  Prosecutors in the case say no one else is being investigated in the crime, and there will be no further charges. Brown maintains her innocence, and has retained counsel to defend her. Polis, 22, contended since the day of the attack that it was a hate crime.  She told journalists from the Baltimore Sun that her chief assailant accused her of “hitting on her man” as Polis attempted to use the women’s restroom in the restaurant. Brown and the second suspect, Polis alleged, spat in her face, screamed epithets, and then dragged her around the floor of the restaurant by the hair. Brown also tore out her earrings, according to the victim.  The sensational video aroused tens of thousands around the nation because of the explicit brutality of the attack.  Viewers saw Polis repeatedly beaten.  She also suffered an apparent seizure as a consequence of the assault. Since the incident, hundreds of people have attended rallies and vigils for justice in the Polis case.  Transgender and gay activist groups, such as Trans-United, TransMaryland, the Baltimore County for Equality, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore; and other allies have rallied to support the victim and to advocate for the passage of legislation protecting transgender women and men in Maryland. Well-known transgender activist Dana Beyer told EDGE’’As Dr. Martin Luther King said if there is injustice to one person, there’s injustice to all of us. But this shows that we are a very large community. Family and friends are willing to stand up with us to protest violence, hate and injustice. I hope that Chrissy is going to know that she’s got even more friends than she knows she has.’’  For now, Polis is making no more statements to the press. She stays in seclusion, and fears to go out in public as a result of the trauma she endured in the attack. Perhaps now some vindication will come to her and to the transgender community, thanks to official acknowledgement of the transphobic nature of the attack against her.

May 17, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gender identity/expression, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, LGBTQ, MacDonald's, Maryland, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Notorious MacDonald’s Trans Beating Draws Hate Charges Against Teens

%d bloggers like this: