Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is History: We Must Not Forget Its Cost

Washington, D.C. – Today marks the advent of full repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the 1993 law making gay and lesbian servicemembers liable for discharge if they admitted their sexual orientation.  While there will be celebrations and night watch parties throughout the nation marking this historic day in the struggle for LGBTQ equality, we cannot afford to forget the terrible cost anti-gay discrimination has wrought in the Armed Forces of the United States.  So, today, we lift up the lives and patriotic service of four gay men who died because of the ignorance and bigotry of other servicemembers, and the systemic bigotry of the services themselves which at best permitted these murders, and at worst encouraged them.

Seaman August Provost of Houston, Texas, was shot to death on duty in a Camp Pendleton guard shack, and his remains were burned to erase the evidence of the deed on June 30, 2009 in San Diego, California. He had recently complained to his family that a fellow servicemember was harassing him because of his sexual orientation.  He feared speaking with his superiors about the harassment because of the threat of discharge due to DADT.  His partner in life, Kaether Cordero of Houston, said, “People who he was friends with, I knew that they knew. He didn’t care that they knew. He trusted them.”  Seaman Provost joined the Navy in 2008 to gain benefits to finish school, where he was studying to become an architectural engineer.

Private First Class Michael Scott Goucher, a veteran of the Iraq War, was murdered near his home in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, on February 4, 2009 by an assailant who stabbed him at least twenty times. Known locally as “Mike on a Bike” by neighbors and friends, Goucher was an assistant organist for a congregation of the United Church of Christ, and Captain of the neighborhood Crime Watch.  He also was a selectively closeted gay man, hiding his sexual orientation from his community. Goucher survived deployment in Iraq, only to meet death at the hands of homophobes back home.

Private First Class Barry Winchell of Kansas City, Missouri, was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat as he slept in his barracks by a member of his unit at Fort Campbell, Kentucky on July 6, 1999.  Winchell had fallen in love with a transgender woman, Calpurnia Adams, who lived in Nashville, Tennessee.  In the fallout from his murder, President Bill Clinton ordered a review of DADT, which resulted in the addition of a “Don’t Harass” amendment to the policy, but little else. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, who represented Winchell’s parents in litigation with the U.S. Army, demanded to know who in the upper ranks of Fort Campbell knew of the murder and its subsequent cover up.  The commandant of the fort was promoted over the objections of many human rights advocates. Winchell’s story has been immortalized by the 2003 film, “Soldier’s Girl.”

Petty Officer Third Class Allen R. Schindler Jr. of Chicago Heights, Illinois was murdered on October 27, 1992 in a public toilet on base in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan. His killer was a shipmate who despised Schindler for being gay. He had been outed while on board the U.S.S. Belleau Wood, and was supposedly under the protection of his superiors until he could be separated from the service.  Schindler had called his mother to tell her to expect him home by Christmas.  Instead, the Navy shipped his savaged remains home to Chicago Heights before Thanksgiving.  The only way family members could identify his remains was by a tattoo of the U.S.S. Midway on his forearm.  Otherwise, he was beaten so brutally that his uncle, sister, and mother could not tell he was their boy.  Schindler’s murder was presented as a reason DADT should never have been enacted, but authorities in Washington brushed his story aside and enacted the ban against gays in the military anyway. Schindler’s story is told at length in Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims, authored by the founder of the Unfinished Lives Project, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle.

We at Unfinished Lives celebrate the repeal of DADT tonight with thanksgiving for the courage of lesbian and gay servicemembers who chose to serve their country in the military though their country chose not to honor them.  More than 13,500 women and men were drummed out of the service under DADT.  But in addition to the thousands who faced discharge and shame, we cannot forget, we must not forget, the brave souls who died at the hands of irrational hatred and ignorance–the outworking of a blatantly discriminatory policy that never should have blighted the annals of American history.  The four lives we remember here are representative of hundreds, perhaps thousands more, whose stories demonstrate the lengths to which institutions and governments will go to preserve homophobia and heterosexism.  We will remember with thanksgiving our gay and lesbian dead, for to forget them would be to contribute to the ills wrought by DADT.

September 20, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Bludgeoning, California, DADT, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Illinois, immolation, Kentucky, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, military, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Remembrances, Repeal of DADT, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, Stomping and Kicking Violence, Tennessee, Texas, transgender persons, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, Vigils, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is History: We Must Not Forget Its Cost

Unfinished Lives Book Debuts in DC and Dallas

Interfaith Peace Chapel on the Campus of Cathedral of Hope, Dallas, Texas

Washington DC – Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims, made its debut at the annual meeting of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy this past Friday. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle will kick off a series of book signing events nationally, beginning with a lecture, panel discussion, book signing and reception at the Interfaith Peace Chapel on the campus of the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, Texas, next Sunday, March 27. The Cathedral of Hope, a congregation of the United Church of Christ, is the world’s largest LGBTQ-predominant faith community. Members of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy, meeting at the headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, received the book with enthusiasm. Dr. Sprinkle was a guest at the 19th Annual Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Dinner, held at the National Building Museum on F Street. A stellar gathering of LGBTQ heroes and their allies celebrated the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and honored two mothers of gay servicemembers who were murdered because of their sexual orientation. Dorothy Hajdys-Clausen of Chicago Heights, Illinois, the mother of slain sailor Allen R. Schindler, and Pat Kuteles of Kansas City, Missouri, mother of murdered soldier Barry Winchell, were given a standing ovation.  A chapter on Schindler, “Hell to Pay on the Belleau Wood,” is in Unfinished Lives, and Winchell has been featured in this blog repeatedly. A panel discussion is planned for the March 27th book signing event at the Interfaith Peace Chapel in response to a short lecture by Dr. Sprinkle.  Dr. Keri Day, Assistant Professor of Theological Ethics and Director of Brite Divinity School’s Black Church Studies Program, Pastor Alex Byrd of Living Faith Covenant Church of Dallas, and Colonel Paul Dodd, U.S. Army  Chaplain (Ret) of Austin will be on the panel. The event is scheduled from 3:30 until 5:30 pm.  Dr. Sprinkle will be signing his book following the 9 am and the 11 am services at the Cathedral that morning in the Sources of Hope Bookstore. Cathedral of Hope is located at 5910 Cedar Springs Road in Dallas. For more information about the book signings on Sunday, March 27, contact Sue Schrader at sschrader@cathedralofhope.com, or Brian Parman at bparman@cathedralofhope.com.

March 20, 2011 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Cathedral of Hope, Forum on the Military Chaplaincy, gay men, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program, Illinois, Lesbian women, military, Military Chaplaincy, Missouri, Remembrances, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, Unfinished Lives Book Signings, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Unfinished Lives Book Debuts in DC and Dallas

Repeal and Remembrance: Gay Military Martyrs and the End of DADT

Fallen Military Servicemembers

Washington, DC – On a red letter day when lawmakers voted to end the most notorious anti-gay policy in the federal canon, LGBT servicemembers and veterans who have been murdered because of their sexual and gender non-conformity must not be forgotten during the celebrations over passage of repeal of DADT.  In a historic vote in the history of the human rights movement, the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to end the ban on LGBT patriots from serving openly in the armed services of the United States.  Saturday afternoon, 65 Senators voted for repeal with 31 in opposition. A simple majority of 51 was all that was required for passage of the Senate bill, which is identical to the one passed earlier in the week  by the House of Representatives. Eight GOP Senators joined their Democratic colleagues to pass the repeal of the 17-year-old discriminatory policy that ended the military careers of 13,500 women and men because of their sexual orientation. Joe Manchin, the freshman Senator for West Virginia, was the only Democrat not voting for passage.  According to the New York Times, his office informed the public that he had a “family commitment” he could not break.The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature to set the repeal in motion.  GOP opponents of the repeal criticized the Democratic leadership of the Senate for the vote in the lame duck session just before the Holiday recess.  Senator Carl Levin, the chair of the Senate Armed Service Committee, disputed the Republican claims that Democrats were ramming legislation through just to please the so-called “gay lobby.” In remarks to the New York Times, Senator Levin (D-Michigan) said: “I’m not here for partisan reasons. I’m here because men and women wearing the uniform of the United States who are gay and lesbian have died for this country, because gay and lesbian men and women wearing the uniform of this country have their lives on the line right now.” Yet it is not only for the living that this vote is significant. Our military dead are honored by this historic vote to end anti-LGBT discrimination, among whom are far too many gay servicemembers who were killed because of their sexual orientation. Our gay military martyrs, murdered because of homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia in the armed services loom large in the memory of the LGBTQ community today because they are both a sign of hope and caution. They are a sign of hope that no more women and men need lose their lives in the military because of their sexual orientation and gender presentation. They are a sign of caution, because the passage of DADT repeal in no way guarantees the end of anti-gay violence in the military.  We must name our LGBT military dead until violence against queer servicemembers ceases forever: Seaman Allen Schindler was beaten to death by shipmates in a public toilet in Sasebo, Japan. PFC Barry Winchell was murdered with a baseball bat in the Army barracks at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Seaman August Provost was shot to death on base in San Diego, and then his body was set afire in a guard shack in the vain attempt to destroy evidence of the murder. Army veteran Michael Scott Goucher was lured into a fatal ambush by local youths near his home in Pennsylvania. These four are representative of the many more slaughtered by ignorance and hate by fellow servicemembers and civilians. Pundits say that after President Obama signs the Repeal Act into law, it will still take at least sixty days for the military ban to be lifted for LGBT military personnel. Until that time, the current discriminatory law stays in effect. But the culture of violence that harasses and kills LGBT women and men who wear the uniform remains virulently poised to take more lives until the root of fear is eliminated in the armed services.  To that end, the historic passage of the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is simply the beginning of a new campaign, in the name of our gay military martyrs, to replace the fear and loathing of the sexual minority with education and respect.

December 19, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Asian Americans, Bisexual persons, Bludgeoning, California, DADT, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), gay men, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Illinois, immolation, Kentucky, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, military, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Remembrances, Special Comments, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, U.S. Army, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Repeal and Remembrance: Gay Military Martyrs and the End of DADT

Wearing Pink Gets Straight Man Gay Bashed

Kansas City, MO – In a report issued by the Kansas City Police Department, the story of a straight man who wore pink to aid breast cancer charities was gay bashed by men at a Kansas City Chiefs game in October 2009.  The victim, Sean McGarrigle, a father of three, had volunteered to wear pink clothing to draw attention to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  He was vending pink ribbons, shirts, hats and other items to raise money for the cause, and had been successful at the Chiefs game that day, raising in excess of $900, the most of any volunteer at the stadium.  It was the third quarter when McGarrigle decided to go home after a good day full of pleasant contacts with the fans.  The Kansas City Star reports that as he was leaving Arrowhead Stadium, two men who appeared to be drunk began harassing him because of his clothing which clearly bore the breast cancer logo.  They used homophobic slurs as they badgered him, demanding that he take off his pink hat and shirt because it offended them.  An onlooking fan tried to get the two men to leave McGarrigle alone, but they would not relent.  Finally, McGarrigle turned to confront them, saying, “Listen, I’m doing this to raise money. You guys are giving Kansas City a bad name.”  He turned to down a grassy embankment to his car when he heard footsteps overtaking him.  The two men caught up to McGarrigle, and one of them punched him in the face.  The second man grabbed him in a headlock and threw him to the ground.  Both of them laughed as they kicked him in the ribs.  McGarrigle managed to escape them, he told police, and hid in his car.  His assailants continued to search for him in the rows of autos in the parking lot.  McGarrigle got his car out on the road, only to be pursued by his attackers who raced behind him in their car.  They followed him onto Interstate 435 all the way into Kansas, pulled up even with his car, and shouted slurs at him as they sped down the highway.  McGarrigle slowed down until they passed, and he lost them.  He suffered a bruised face, sore ribs, and an awful fright.  Under other circumstances, the hate attack could have turned out much worse.  KC police report that they have recorded triple the number of hate crimes in their city for 2009, over the same period in 2008.

January 3, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Kansas, Missouri, Mistaken as LGBT, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Stomping and Kicking Violence | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Three St. Louis Gay Men “Lucky to Be Alive” After Hate Attack

Jacob Piwowarczyk shows facial wounds sustained in attack

St. Louis, Missouri – Local station News Channel 5, KSDK in St. Louis reports a possible hate crime attack against three gay men early Saturday morning that left them cut and bruised, but alive.  One of the three lucky survivors, Jacob Piwowarczyk said to reporters, “I have a soft tissue bruise on my elbow. I have six stitches in my eye and I have a mild concussion.”  The two other victims suffered a broken nose and a fractured cheekbone.  Piwowarczyk went on to describe the attack that took place outside a popular local nightclub, The Complex.  Four men who had just left an adjacent bar to The Complex jumped out of their car and confronted Piwowarczyk and his two friends as they crossed the parking area. “They came up out of the car and they start calling us ‘Faggots,'” Piwowarczyk said, showing the press the injuries he sustained in the attack.  “We kept telling them please leave us alone, we’re fine,” young Piwowarczyk continued. “From there, the one kid didn’t like what we told them and decided to punch me in the eye and I fell to the ground. And at that time my friend was laying on the ground and they started kicking him in the face.”  Club security were the first to respond, probably averting much worse injury to the three gay men.  Then, police arrived at the scene.  The attackers had fled, reportedly in a black SUV with Illinois plates.  Missouri was one of the first states in the Union to include sexual orientation and gender identity protections for its citizens in 1999, according to Vital Voice, the leading LGBT newspaper in St. Louis.  Authorities are searching for the suspects, and have yet to determine whether the attack qualifies as a hate crime under the Missouri statute or the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, recently enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Obama.  If determined to be a hate crime, the suspects could face severe penalties.  The outcome could have been much worse, according to Piwowarczyk.  “Health-wise we’re all fine,” he said. “We’re just lucky to be alive.”

November 30, 2009 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Beatings and battery, gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, Missouri, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Stomping and Kicking Violence, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Three St. Louis Gay Men “Lucky to Be Alive” After Hate Attack

On Memorial Day, We Honor the Military Service of Our Gay Dead

gaymilitarySince time immemorial, Gay and Lesbian people have served their country with distinction.  LGBT Americans pause to remember and honor the service and sacrifice of all American service members, especially the ones who faced battle on two fronts: the battle for freedom and security for our country, and the battle against unreasoning homophobia.  This Memorial Day, The Unfinished Lives Project pauses to give thanks for the lives of three gay men who served their country, and died because their countrymen could not accept their sexual orientation: Petty Officer Third Class Allen R. Schindler, Jr., Chicago Heights, IL, sailor on the U.S.S. Belleau Wood; Private First Class Barry Winchell, Kansas City, MO, soldier at Fort Campbell, KY; and U.S. Army Veteran Michael Scott Goucher of East Stroudsburg, PA.

Allen Schindler bestSchindler, who was mercilessly harassed on board his ship, was murdered in 1992 by shipmates in a public toilet while on leave in Sasebo, Nagasaki, Japan.  His body was so ravaged by the attack that every major organ in his body was ruptured, his skull was crushed, and the medical examiner found sneaker tracks embedded in his chest and face.  The only way his mother could identify her son’s body was by a tattoo he had inked into his upper arm.  His main assailant, who openly declared that he was disgusted by homosexuals, said shortly after the murder, “I don’t regret it. I’d do it again. … He deserved it.”  The Navy has never been forthcoming about the slaying, and has repeatedly refused to release the report of the Japanese police about the crime.  Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) was officially enacted soon after Schindler’s murder by President Clinton. SLDN has continued to represent his mother in the courts.

winchellsmWinchell, who had been singled out for anti-gay ridicule by his barracks mates at Fort Campbell, was bludgeoned to death in 1999 by a fellow soldier wielding a baseball bat at his head and body while he was asleep.  Ironically, he was killed after an Independence Day celebration on base.  His hate crime murder and trial exposed one of the most notorious cover-ups of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) era.  His parents and SLDN contend that the Army betrayed him by violating its own DADT policies, failing to follow the best traditions of the Army in order to shield the chain of command, and exposing other gay soldiers to danger and dishonorable discharge.  The anti-gay climate of Fort Campbell was never sufficiently addressed in the wake of Winchell’s killing, and the base commander, General Robert T. Clark, was promoted despite the protests of SLDN and other LGBT advocacy organizations around the country.  His killer is serving a life sentence for murder in a federal military prison facility.

Michael Scott Goucher bustGoucher, who had been honorably discharged from the U.S. Army after a tour of duty in Alaska where he served in transport, was ambushed by two young men who stabbed him to death over 45 times according to autopsy records in 2009, arguably the first anti-LGBT hate crime murder victim of the year.  After returning to East Stroudsburg, Goucher worked as a high school janitor, captained the Neighborhood Watch in his area, and served as assistant organist at a local church.

These three represent many more loyal Americans who happened to be LGBT and have been stigmatized, drummed out of the service, and in the cases of these faithful guardians of our country, were killed because of deep-seated bias against members of the sexual minority.  They neither betrayed their country nor themselves.  For that, and for justice-sake, we cannot forget them.  At the request of SLDN, Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Network,  Chan Lowe drew this provocative tribute to homosexual Americans who have paid the supreme price to wear our nation’s uniform.  We offer it for your consideration on this Memorial Day 2009.

Chan Lowe SLDN cartoon

May 24, 2009 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, military, Stomping and Kicking Violence, U.S. Army | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Remembering Barry Winchell

Barry Winchell horizontal

Today marks the ninth anniversary of the death of hate crime victim Barry Winchell. He served in the United States Army and held the rank of Private First Class. Following a period of ongoing harassment directed at Winchell for having dated a transsexual showgirl, fellow soldier Calvin Glover used a baseball bat to bludgeon Winchell as he slept on a cot in the barracks of Fort Campbell. Winchell died of massive head injuries the following day.

Winchell’s brutal murder prompted President Bill Clinton to review the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy, which many cite as a factor in the hate crime.

Today we remember Barry Winchell, and in our memory we restore to him the dignity and respect belonging to every person, regardless of sexual orientation.

July 6, 2008 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Bludgeoning, Don't Tell (DADT), gay men, harassment, Kentucky, military, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Remembrances, U.S. Army | , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

   

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