Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Murdered NJ Transwoman Disrespected Even in Death

Maplewood, NJ – A 28-year-old transwoman who worked as a model was shot to death at a private residence in Maplewood, New Jersey on September 12.  Victoria Carmen White, 28, was beautiful, talented, and greatly beloved by her friends.  The transgender community and their allies are up in arms at the news of her murder, which is still under investigation, because initial reports by authorities and news media mis-identifed her by her birth identity as a male.  Only after an outcry from the public was Ms. White’s identity corrected by the Maplewood Police and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.  This statement was released to the press: “Following an examination by the Medical Examiner and further investigation, it has been confirmed that the victim was a post-operative transgender female having undergone sex reassignment surgery.” Calling the act of mis-identification an act of gross disrespect and “erasure,” the trans community is launching an effort to educate both straight and gay communities about the demands of human dignity transpeople need and deserve in today’s world. As Bird of Paradox wrote following the act of mis-identifying Ms. White as male: “That a society has such contempt for transsexual women that the first thing it does after we die is attempt to impose on us an identity which isn’t even legally ours, let alone one in which we lived, speaks volumes about the depth and intensity of insensitivity and downright hatred which we face each and every day of our lives.” The facts of the case are few.  Ms. White was shot at approximately 5 a.m. on the morning of September 12 at an apartment complex located at 159 Jacoby Street in Maplewood, an upscale city of 22,000 named as “one of the most desirable places to live in America.”  Incomes are generally high, and numbers of people living in poverty in Maplewood are low.  The city is picturesque enough to be the setting for several recent films, such as Garden State, One True Thing, and Stepmom. Columbia High School, where Ms. White attended, is the birthplace of Ultimate Frisbee, and proudly displays a plaque to that effect.  While the crime has not been labeled an anti-transgender hate crime by authorities, it is difficult for Ms. White’s friends and the trans community to believe that a significant aspect of the motive for the murder could not be transphobia and gender hatred.  An outpouring of grief and admiration has come from friends throughout New Jersey for the beautiful woman many knew as “April.”  Her longtime friend, Angela DeRocco, wrote about her determination to be who she was, no matter the misunderstanding she received since her days as a student at Columbia High School.  “She did what she had to do to get through life and she didn’t care what anyone thought of her,” DeRocco wrote for Maplewood Patch. “If they did think negative, she just brushed it off her shoulders because she knew the ones who truly cared about her wouldn’t judge her and would always be there for her.” DeRocco continued, “I love her so much and respect her for keeping true to herself. She worked so hard becoming who she was, and it made her happy.” In the media frenzy since the death-by-bullying of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi and so may other gay teenagers throughout the country, the outrageous murder and blundering (perhaps deliberate) mis-identification of Victoria Carmen White should not be forgotten.  Pam’s House Blend, as usual, has done a great service by lifting up this sad story in the days running up the the Transgender Day of Remembrance in early November.  Bird of Paradox leaves us with the question of justice for all transpeople in the wake of Ms. White’s murder: “If the authorities – having insisted we jump through all these flaming hoops in order to be considered the women and men we know ourselves to be – can then so casually dismiss everything about us except that we’ve undergone major abdominal surgery, and that we were once assigned identities which weren’t ours, then what hope do we have of ever being accepted as ourselves, dead or alive?” Rest in peace, beautiful sister. We have much work to do.

October 4, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, Media Issues, New Jersey, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Body of Gay Rutgers Student Found; Furor Over Death Grows

Clementi was a gifted violinist

New York City, New York – CNN reports that the body of Tyler Clementi, gay Rutgers University freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge because of cyber-bullying, has been recovered from the Hudson River on Friday.  The body had floated in the river for a week after Clementi threw himself of the bridge near the New York side of the Hudson in a desperate act of suicide after being exposed as gay on the world wide web.  Clementi, 18, promising young violinist, was distraught over being spied upon during a gay tryst by a hidden web cam activated remotely by his roommate, Dharun Ravi.  Ravi shared the live stream images of Clementi and his lover with another Rutgers student, Molly Wei.  Ravi allegedly broadcast the tryst on the web September 19, and attempted to do so again on September 21.  The next day, Clementi carried out his suicide.  In a mobile Facebook status update on September 22, Clementi wrote, “jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” Ravi took apparent delight in exposing his roommate, whom he suspected was gay from tracing Clementi’s web activity to a gay hook up and chat site called “Just Us Boys.”  Later, on Just Us Boys, the day before Clementi jumped to his death from the bridge, a user called cit2mo posted a thread under the subject “college rommate spying.” Cit2mo wrote, “so the other night i had a guy over. I had talked to my roommate that afternoon and he had said it would be fine w/him. I checked his twitter today. he tweeted that I was using the room (which is obnoxious enough), AND that he went into somebody else’s room and remotely turned on his webcam and saw me making out with a guy.” Investigators suspect that Cit2mo was actually Clementi.  Respondents to the thread advised that the web cam was a violation of privacy, and should be reported to the dorm authorities.  A lawyer for Just Us Boys has told CNN that Cit2mo’s ID was traced back to Rutgers University.  News of the cyber-voyeurism leading to Clementi’s suicide exploded across the nation in the days since Clementi died. New Jersey Governor Christie has condemned the actions of Ravi and Wei in strong terms, saying he does not know how they sleep at night.  Presently, the two 18-year-old suspects are charged with invasion of privacy and face five years of jail time for every count against them, if proven guilty as charged.  The Governor issued a call to prosecutors to examine the case carefully to see is further charges can be brought against the pair of freshmen whose prank turned deadly.  The Clementi family has remained quietly at home, enduring their grief over the loss of their son with dignity.  They have issued this statement to the public: “We understand that our family’s personal tragedy presents important legal issues for the country as well for us. Regardless of legal outcomes, our hope is that our family’s personal tragedy will serve as a call for compassion, empathy and human dignity,” the statement said. On Friday, the President of Rutgers, Richard McCormick, pledged to meet with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students who are angry and fearful after Clementi’s suicide.  McCormick announced that the university will hold a candlelight vigil in Clementi’s memory on Sunday evening on campus, calling the vigil “an opportunity to come together in this difficult time to reaffirm our commitment to the values of civility, dignity, compassion, and respect for one another.”

October 2, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bullying in schools, cyber voyeurism, gay men, gay teens, harassment, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, LGBTQ suicide, New Jersey, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Vigils | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Body of Gay Rutgers Student Found; Furor Over Death Grows

Gay University Freshman Commits Suicide After Privacy Invasion with Hidden Camera

Piscataway, New Jersey – An 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge September 22 after his roommate live-streamed his sex session with another male using a hidden camera.  The New York Daily News reports that Tyler Clementi, a renowned young violinist who had just enrolled at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, left his car on the New Jersey shore, walked to a spot on the George Washington Bridge near the New York side, and plunged to his death in the Hudson River.  His body has not been recovered.  Authorities say that he left a suicide note.  His roommate, Dharun Ravi, 18, posted that Clementi had “asked for the room” at midnight, so Ravi enabled a hidden web cam, went to the room of his high school friend, Molly Wei, and switched on her computer to live-stream Clementi’s tryst.  Wei is also 18 years old.  “I went into Molly’s room and turned on my webcam,” Ravi posted.  “I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”  The Twitter post went out on the internet on September 19, three days before Clementi’s suicide.  Ravi and Wei, both from Asian American extraction and Rutgers freshmen on the Piscataway campus, are charged with two counts each of invasion of privacy under a New Jersey law.  Illegally collecting or viewing images showing sexual contact involving another individual without that individual’s consent in the Garden State is a fourth-degree crime. Transmitting or distributing such images is a third-degree crime. Ravi has also been charged with two more counts of invasion of privacy for his attempt to broadcast another sex session Clementi is alleged to have had on September 21.  Both suspects surrendered peacefully to university police.  Ravi is free on $25,000 bond.  Wei was released on her own recognizance pending prosecution.  The top penalty the two web-voyeurs could receive if found guilty as charged is five years in prison for each count.  Officials of the university are making no comment on the alleged crimes so long as the investigations are proceeding.  Clementi is remembered as a wonderfully gifted musician.  His parents have been devastated, and are making no comment to the press.  Apparently the shock of being outed in such a public and humiliating way led him to such despair that he could not bear to live.  As Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin said, “It’s not just high school kids being bullied and humiliated to their deaths.”

September 29, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Asian Americans, cyber voyeurism, gay men, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ suicide, New Jersey, New York, suicide | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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