Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Accused Cyber-Spies Withdraw from University in Tyler Clementi Bullycide Case

Wei, Clementi, and Ravi (CBS picture)

Rutgers University, New Jersey – Two 18-year-old freshman students accused of cyber-spying on Tyler Clementi have withdrawn from University, according to CBS News.  Dharun Ravi and Mollie Wei will not face university disciplinary charges, but must withdraw from school in the wake of the storm of controversy that broke over what many have called the “bullycide” of classmate Clementi.  Mr. Ravi and Ms. Wei are accused of invasion of privacy by allegedly spying on Mr. Clementi during a tryst with another male in a dorm room on the Rutgers University campus, and then posting the event for the world to see on the internet.  Mr. Clementi drove to the George Washington Bridge, and threw himself off into the Hudson River as a consequence.  Mr. Ravi’s lawyer told the press that the university has told his client that he may reapply for admission at a later date, but that in reality Mr. Ravi’s career as a Rutgers student is over.  Commenting on the offer of reapplication for admission to Ms. Wei and his client, Attorney Steven Altman said, “Realistically, they couldn’t go back no matter what. He definitely plans to go somewhere else.”  Ms. Wei’s attorney said that fear for her client’s safety would keep her from seeking readmission to the school.  The New Jersey statute under which Mr. Clementi’s classmates are charged with invasion of privacy makes collection of nude or sexualized images of a person without that person’s consent a fourth-degree crime.  Broadcasting such images is classed as a third-degree crime.  If convicted as charged, both Mr. Ravi and Ms. Wei could face up to five years in prison.  In the cyber age, Americans were supposed to enter a new world of exciting information technology for the advancement of the human race.  What this horrible incident reveals, however, is that the young, who are supposed to be the vanguard of a new and better future, may be technologically savvy, but suffer from a collapse of social and interpersonal boundaries.  The perpetrators of these crimes against Tyler Clementi were toying with human emotions, sexual orientation, and human life.  They were not scooping video news and images for another shabby reality show or a university version of Jack-Ass.  We have also learned that heterosexism and homophobia have not disappeared among the tech-savvy  youth of America, either.  Was what these perpetrators did a hate crime?  Unquestionably, it has had that effect, chilling the atmosphere throughout the nation for a whole segment of the population who are young, LGBTQ, and seeking to survive in a sometimes hostile world.  The attorneys for the defense are busy doing their best to seek advantage for their clients, which includes reducing sympathy for Clementi (or worse).  What must not be lost sight of in this case and in the raft of cyber-intrusion cases to come, is that the breakdown of social boundaries actually kills.  Whatever the outcome in the courts, the Clementi family, Mr. Ravi and Ms. Wei know that shocking lesson all to well.

November 15, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Asian Americans, Bullying in schools, cyber voyeurism, gay men, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, invasion of privacy, Law and Order, Legislation, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, New Jersey, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Rutgers University, suicide | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

California Senate Approves “Harvey Milk Day,” May 22


By a bipartisan vote of 24-14, the California Senate has approved May 22 as Harvey Milk Day, according to Advocate.Com.  Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the United States, was slain on November 27, 1978 by jealous San Francisco City Supervisor, Dan White, along with Mayor George Moscone. Milk’s murder rocked the gay rights world, and secured a martyr’s respect for the affable politician whose advice to all LGBT activists was “You gotta give ’em hope!”  Milk would have been 79 this coming May 22, the choice of his birthday a deliberate effort to preserve his story and legacy for generations to come.

Harvey Milk Day will be a “Day of Significance” throughout the Golden State.  The designation differs from a state holiday in that state employees will not be given the day off, and state offices will not close.  Nonetheless, the action of the state Senate is unprecedented in recognizing the importance of Milk’s contribution to the struggle for human rights in general, and for LGBT rights in particular.  In view of the controversy surrounding same-sex marriage and Proposition 8, this first annual commemoration becomes even more timely.

Among those testifying in favor of the Harvey Milk Bill was Dustin Lance Black, who received an Academy Award for his screenplay of the film Milk, starring Sean Penn in the title role.  Black expressed his debt to Harvey Milk who kindled hope in him as a Mormon boy in Texas who was isolated and hedged in by anti-gay sentiment.  The sole Republican to join the Senate’s 23 Democrats to vote for the creation of Harvey Milk Day, Senator Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, credited Black’s testimony before the Senate Education Committee with causing him to flip his vote from “no” to “yes.” “I rarely get swayed by testimony,” Maldonado said.

May 15, 2009 Posted by | Bisexual persons, gay men, Lesbian women, Marriage Equality, transgender persons | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on California Senate Approves “Harvey Milk Day,” May 22

Justice Coming for Angie Zapata


Angie Zapata, 18, and alleged murderer, Allen Andrade, courtesy of ABC News

Angie Zapata, 18, and alleged murderer, Allen Andrade, courtesy of ABC News


Denver, CO: Allen Andrade, 32, told investigators that he bashed Angie Zapata in the head twice with a fire extinguisher.  He confessed that he thought he had “killed it” when Zapata roused, and then he clobbered her again, delivering the coup de grace.  That was last July.  Now he is slated to go on trial for bias-motivated murder in Greeley, CO where he carried out the crime because he found out Zapata, an 18-year-old male-to-female transwoman, was biologically male.


Angie Zapata

Angie Zapata


Born Justin Zapata, Angie had been living as a woman since the age of 16.  She had striking beauty, attracting many admirers, though according to her sister, Monica, her loves ended by her boyfriends going back to biological women.  Angie was a gentle, graceful, loving sister, who suspended her life in Fort Lupton, where she was raised, to come to Greeley to help her sister take care of her children.  Monica found Angie’s battered corpse in her apartment, covered in a blanket.  

For two weeks, investigators sought the killer, and finally arrested Andrade on July 30.  He made an initial confession which a judge ruled inadmissible on a technicality.  He has been held in jail without bond since his arrest for the murder.  While behind bars Andrade made recorded phone calls to girlfriend claiming that when he discovered Zapata’s biological status, he “snapped.”  In another conversation, he told his girlfriend that “gay things need to die.”  The phone call transcripts and recordings will be admitted in evidence in the trial.


According to the Associated Press, Andrade is going to be the first person prosecuted for a hate crime under the sexual orientation section of Colorado’s hate crimes law.  Colorado is one of 11 states to have hate crimes enhancements in their statutes.  The comprehensive Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on April 2, 2009, would allow the FBI and other Federal Agencies to investigate such crimes, and to support the local authorities in carrying out their investigations, as well.  Passage of the LLEHCPA remains a critical element of deterring and punishing hate crimes offenders for violence related to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

While nothing can bring Angie Zapata back to her family, friends and loved ones, justice for her and for all transgender victims of hate crime violence, which has been so long in coming, may finally be on the horizon.  Stay in touch for further developments.

April 17, 2009 Posted by | Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, Colorado, Hate Crimes, Latino and Latina Americans, Legislation, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, transgender persons | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Justice Coming for Angie Zapata


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