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LGBT Community Protests Extremist Hate Speech After Orlando

I AM DONE protestors stand against religious bigotry and hate speech on June 26 to declare that "Love Beats Hate." I AM DONE Facebook photo.

I AM DONE protestors stand against religious bigotry and hate speech on June 26 to declare that “Love Beats Hate.” I AM DONE Facebook photo.

Samsom Park, Texas – A fundamentalist pastor west of Fort Worth carried hate speech and religious intolerance of LGBTQ people to a new low in the wake of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub Massacre. Donnie Romero, leader of Stedfast Baptist Church, a small, independent, exceedingly angry group, stirred opposition by declaring that the cold blooded murder of LGBT people in Orlando, Florida on June 12 was God’s judgment upon the victims.

In starkly bigoted language, Romero went on to declare that his only regret about the massacre was that no one had finished what the shooter had started. Anticipating that members of the LGBTQ community might picket his small storefront church, Romero publicly declared that since members of his church were Texans who had weapon permits, protestors just might get shot.

The Rapid Response group, I AM DONE, organized a protest of Romero’s religious bigotry and carried out the direct action across the highway from Stedfast Baptist Church on Sunday morning, June 26. An estimated 50 protestors from across North Texas, protected by police from four local municipalities including Sansom Park, where the church is physically located, Lake View, Lake Worth, and Fort Worth, sang, chanted call-and-response, waved signs proclaiming Love, and read the names of the Orlando victims through a bullhorn during the church hour. The Texas heat was oppressive, but the protest was deemed successful since Romero’s hate speech had been answered forcefully but peacefully.

The following are the remarks Rev. Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School delivered at the protest, entitled: “Lament, Discover, and Repair.”

The Orlando massacre has forced America to stare into the abyss of our broken society. We have recoiled from what we have seen: not only the brutality of fear and loathing that took so many lives at the Pulse nightclub that night, but also the sickening complicity of a national culture that has set up the conditions for the slaughter of our people for generations.

Our feelings of remorse and loss are real and sharply painful; our burning anger is hot and real, as well.

But we cannot allow the abyss of race hatred, misogyny and heterosexist privilege to paralyze us with fear or anger — not again!

If others must continue the endless finger-pointing, let them. Not us, not again, not now!

We have a gaping hole in the American character to fix, and it will take all of us to do it, queer folk of faith, faith-free queer folk and allies alike. The spiritual resources that belong to American LGBTQ people are at hand, and we must discover how to use them to heal our broken hearts, our troubled minds, and to repair the ruins that yawn up at us from the abyss that bears so many names:

Orlando
Mother Emanuel A.M.E.
Sandy Hook Elementary
The Upstairs Lounge Inferno
Wisconsin Sikh Temple
Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
Aurora, Colorado, and
Virginia Tech, and more.

The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School, flanked by other ministers, ended the protest with prayer. Other ministers attending included Chaplain Aaron Burk, the Rev. Mark Weathers of University Christian Church, the Rev. Heather Dunham of Universal Life Church, and the Rev. Russell Dalton with Brite Divinity School. Tammye Nash, Dallas Voice photo.

The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School, flanked by other ministers, ended the protest with prayer. Other ministers attending included Chaplain Aaron Burk, the Rev. Mark Weathers of University Christian Church, the Rev. Heather Dunham of Universal Life Church, and the Rev. Russell Dalton with Brite Divinity School. Tammye Nash, Dallas Voice photo.

We must act according to the sources of our power, no matter what makes us afraid. The practice of lament clears the spiritual space that makes effective action possible.

Sadness can empower our souls as well as dis-empower them. We can erect shrines that tie us to the past, or we can discover the power to lament as a people until hope takes the place of despair.

Phyllis Trible, the ground-breaking author of Texts of Terror who told the stories of the wrong done to biblical women, has said that mourning alone changes little. But true change comes from insight, a change that can inspire individuals and even a whole generation to repentance.

She writes: “In other words, sad stories may yield new beginnings.”

God knows, we have sad stories, and plenty of them. What we must find is the courage to cry out in public acts of lament that change despair into hope.

Rabbi Denise Eger, lesbian and president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, shows us how to turn sorrow into a new kind of power for good:

“Sister that I never held near,
Brother that I never embraced, our memory is almost lost:
The one we don’t talk about.
The loving one who never married.
The one for whom no Kaddish was said.
Your loneliness calls out to me:
I know of your struggles, we are not strangers,
And if my path is easier, I will not forget who walked it first.
We call you to mind, but did you not sometimes think of us,
Your children, lovers across the years,
Those who would follow and would think of you and bless your memory
And call you to mind?
With David and Jonathan, we will not forget you,
With Ruth and Naomi, we will not forget you,
In the name of God you are our sisters and our brothers, and we ask that you be remembered for peace.”

When we cry out to God from the depths of our collective sorrow, as my friend, Dean Joretta Marshall, of Brite Divinity School says, we begin to discover new possibilities for memory, compassion, empathy, and vision.

As we collaborate publicly in acts of lament when we are overwhelmed, we discover new ways to collaborate together in “life-giving hope.”

Protests are important, but they do not capture the spiritual power of crying out together so that our despair may turn into hope, and inspiration gives our activism fresh ideas to address the venom the LGBTQ community faces, much of it inflicted in the name of religion.

Sorrow is not a destination. We need movements, not monuments or shrines, movements of “life-giving hope.” So, together, before all the world, with our enemies included, we cry out until despair begins to transform into something new.

We remember before God the tens of thousands of our LGBTQ family martyred in years gone by. We remember those who died in the Inquisition, the Middle Passage, the Witch Craze, the Holocaust, and the struggle for civil rights.

We refuse to forget those, driven to despair by a world that hated them and who they loved, who took their own lives rather than face any longer the intolerable.

And we cannot forget those who lived out their days lonely, repressed, and afraid to reach out for affection and comfort, too hurt to give or receive the love they craved.

To us, in the memories we share in our seasons of lament, they have all become the martyrs of God, signs that we must make the world better than they found it. In the name of love, we pray, “O God, remember the sacrifices of these martyrs, and help us to bring and end to hate and oppression of every kind!”

We say and we believe that “Love Wins!” But in the struggle to repair the world, we have learned that love must be ferocious to win the new world we seek for ourselves, our children, and for everyone.

The story of the struggle for our human rights has lessons to teach, and one of the undeniable lessons of our history is that LGBTQ people have never been “given” anything. The heterosexist society in which we live never surrenders its power willingly. Our freedom has had to be won.

If our great theme is LOVE, from the right to love the one we choose, or the love of country that inspired us to defy Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, to the love of human life itself because we are a people who are represented everywhere — in every group and race, and in every known social demographic from the beginning of recorded history — then we know from our own collective experience that love must be fierce in order for it to survive.

There is something divine in love like that, a divine imperative that will not be forestalled any longer, or postponed, or sidetracked. From the days of our forebears in the 19th century, we began to network across the boundaries of nations, to count the ever growing number of ourselves, and to realize that we were a powerful people united by a new sense of the possibilities of love.

Today, we are strengthened by amazing allies from every walk of life who understand that their future and ours are bound up with us in a contest to determine whether diversity and pluralism will prevail in our world, or whether patriarchal fear of immigrants, gender non-conformity, non-Caucasian people, and non-Judeo-Christian faiths — fears intensified by the rejection of the leadership gifts of women — will drag us backward.

Our most powerful ally in LGBTQ history, President Barack Obama, has shown us what a love with real backbone looks like. Like many of our allies, the president had to evolve in this thinking about what justice and equality for LGBTQ people called him to do. Once he got there, to the place of true equality and justice, he became our full-throated advocate.

His spiritual mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., taught him to face challenges with “the fierce urgency of now.” We LGBTQ people found that vision to resonate powerfully with our experiences of struggle beyond any counted cost, and, inspired by President Obama, we have recast Dr. King’s idea in our own way. We serve a vision inspired by “the fierce urgency of love.”

“The fierce urgency of love”:

Love that refuses to be anemic in the face of hard times.
Love that has a spine, and bows before no opponent.
Love that will not back down, and will not back up.
Love that knows how and when to get loud and be proud.
A love where Everybody is Somebody, and nobody is a nobody.

Our activism at its best is motivated by the fierce urgency of a love that will not permit churches, synagogues, and mosques to remain silent on the sidelines of the struggle for justice, for silence in the face of injustice is its own form of spiritual violence.

The fierce urgency of love compels us to give no free passes when religious leaders of any stripe breathe out venom and hatred toward marginalized people. That is why we oppose religious intolerance to the same degree we oppose political and economic harms done to LGBTQ people in North Texas and anywhere else.

We have learned the lessons of ferocious love: that hate speech from any pulpit or from any rostrum in a governmental chamber is the ammunition that kills and maims real people, as surely as any bullet. We cannot permit any leader to hijack religion and force it into the service of oppression of any kind any longer without our calling out such an outrage.

As Rev. Dr. Cody J. Sanders, the pastor of Old Cambridge Baptist Church near Harvard Yard, a proud gay man says:

“For LGBTQ people, the mechanisms of oppression have nearly always been waged first against our souls. But it never ends there. This spiritual violence has led to innumerable suicides, hate crime violence beyond what we know through the collected statistics, and the marginalization of LGBTQ people in the very institutions they should feel most at home: their families, their churches, and their communities.”

Sanders calls for spiritual reparations for the harm done to the souls of LGBTQ people, a fierce love of God and neighbor that seeks to heal the hurt and repair the broken world. Like Sanders, in the name of love, we must fiercely call for real and practical actions:

For LGBTQ homeless youth in our cities,
For effective ways to prevent LGBTQ suicides,
For funding for LGBTQ seminarians so that they can become faith leaders throughout America,
For the recruitment of qualified LGBTQ candidates to run for public office,
For literacy in LGBTQ life and history, and engagement between established cisgender and straight clergy with queer leaders in their communities, and especially
For churches and religion-based non-profits to stand up to their denominations and parent organizations when they participate in anti-LGBTQ discrimination by thought, deed, or silence.

Sanders concludes with the forthright demand of a community that knows how to stand tall and true, and has the courage to repair a broken world even in the face of spiritual opposition:

“Churches owe LGBTQ people a spiritual debt,” he says, “for the decades upon decades of violence against our souls. It’s time to start paying up.”

The Hebrew prophets sounded like that, didn’t they? That is an important dimension of the spiritual heritage of the LGBTQ human rights movement that was first born and nurtured in churches and synagogues in the pre-Stonewall era, and right up until this very day.

I work alongside lesbian, gay, and straight colleagues of courage at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, who like Cody Sanders, want to transform the world in which we live. So, with the whole Cloud of Witnesses, from the time of the Hebrew Prophets, Jesus of Nazareth, and the Prophet Muhammad, to the millions of LGBTQ people and our allies right here and right now, together with the Prophet Isaiah, we say:

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

Our greatest asset as a Queer/LGBT community, you see, lies in far more than our numbers, our economic strength, and our political allies. It lies in our spirituality of collaborating hope, hope forged in the furnace of our tests and trials, made powerful by the vision of a better world than we have ever known.

Our enemies are real. Their guns and their words spit fire and death. They misunderstand, sometimes with lethal consequences, who we are and what we contribute to the common world in which we all dwell.

But we know wherein our power truly lies, for as our Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde, taught us, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

Rise up, then!

We LGBTQ people were never meant to settle into paralysis, depression and despair on the far side of the pit our adversaries dug for us. It is time to build a bridge across the abyss that swallowed up our Orlando sisters and brothers. Bring your energies, your tools, and your resolve. We have at hand the resources of a rich spirituality, and a fierce, divine love.

There is a world to repair.

July 2, 2016 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Anti-LGBT hate crimes, Brite Divinity School, Donnie Romero, Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, Florida, GLBTQ, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, I AM DONE, LGBTQ, LGBTQ clergy, Mass shooting, Orlando, Protests and Demonstrations, Pulse Nightclub, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Stedfast Baptist Church, Texas, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on LGBT Community Protests Extremist Hate Speech After Orlando

Dallas LGBT Community to Orlando: “We Are With You!”

 

Hundreds of LGBT Dallasites and allies rally in solidarity with Orlando despite the rain.

Hundreds of LGBT Dallasites and allies rally in solidarity with Orlando despite the rain. Dallas Morning News photo, Teng Shen, photographer.

Dallas, Texas – Hundreds gathered in the pouring rain outside the newly opened headquarters of the Resource Center in the heart of the Dallas LGBT community to demonstrate their solidarity with the people of Orlando, and especially with the Orange County LGBT community in the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Undaunted by the rain, gays, lesbians, bisexual people, and transgender people, augmented by a multitude of allies, listened, wept, cheered and contributed as a score or more of speakers representing all major faith communities, the humanist community, and members of racial/ethnic minority groups vowed to stand firm in the struggle for justice and equality. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Police Chief Brown were also in attendance at the rally, showing the unity of the city and its law enforcement agencies with the LGBT community during this challenging time.

The host of the solidarity rally, Resource Center, led by Executive Director Cece Cox, is one of the largest of the better than 200 LGBT service centers in the nation, and a focal point of outreach and support for marginalized people throughout North Texas. The new, $8.9 million facility that houses the Center, open less than eleven days, is a testament to the vigor and muscle of the Dallas queer community. After listening to the speakers, the participants boarded buses or walked the 1.9 mile route down Cedar Springs Road to the symbolic crossroads of the Dallas LGBT “Gayborhood,” the Legacy of Love Monument at the junction of Cedar Springs Road and Oak Lawn Avenue. There the rally concluded after laying flowers and other signs of affection at the foot of the monument as signs of hundreds of wishes for comfort and healing for the city of Orlando and the Pulse Nightclub where the shooting took the lives of 50 people, and left 53 others wounded.

Dallas is home to one of the largest and most vibrant LGBT communities in the nation, and celebrates diversity through its many open and affirming and LGBT predominant faith communities, civic and recreational groups, charities, and health support services. The Dallas Gayborhood has been plagued since late September by better than 20 attacks on young gay men both along the fabled Strip where nightclubs, restaurants, and merchants that cater to the LGBT community are found, and beyond it in nearby neighborhoods. While community and police efforts have improved lighting and installed surveillance cameras along the Strip, leaders and citizens alike are concerned that no arrests have been made in any of the cases, many of which are clear instances of anti-gay hate crime.

The show of support for Orlando last night foretells renewed local efforts in concert with the Dallas Police Department to bring a halt to the rash of brutal attacks, none of which to date have proved fatal. Dallas is no stranger to anti-LGBT violence in all its forms, and that has made the emotional bond between “Big D” and Orlando all the stronger.

June 13, 2016 Posted by | Dallas, Dallas Police Department, GLBTQ, gun violence, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Mass shootings, Orlando, Pulse Nightclub, Resource Center, transphobia, Vigil | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Dallas LGBT Community to Orlando: “We Are With You!”

The Arc of Justice Bends Like A Rainbow: Heartbreaks, Memories, Dreams

Dallas, Texas – To contribute to the spiritual discussion about the events of this June: the outrageous attack on Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and the victory of Marriage Equality in the U.S. Supreme Court, here is the text of my Sunday sermon for 6/28/15:

The Arc of Justice Bends Like a Rainbow: Heartbreaks, Memories, Dreams
A Sermon for Pride Sunday, June 28, 2015
The New Church – Chiesa Nuova
Dallas, Texas

Psalms 85:7-12
Hebrews 11:29-40
Luke 4:18-20

The Rev. Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, Professor of Practical Theology, Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas

The Rev. Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, Professor of Practical Theology, Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas

“They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.” These words are among the phrases of Friday that are imprinted into my consciousness and yours, too, I suspect. You will recognize them as the conclusion of the Majority Opinion of Obergefell v. Hodges, the decision striking down the bans that forbade marriage to millions of same-sex Americans in 14 states, including our own. “It is so ordered . . .”

But these are not the only words that won’t go away from my mind. Words from cries, and joyous shouts, and eulogies, from late last week and from the recent events of our lives that have culminated upon us this very June like “a thunderbolt” as our President, the Honorable Barack Obama said when he made his historic remarks in the White House Rose Garden celebrating the victory of Marriage Equality for all 50 states.
Here are some other stunning words our President used just this past Friday, 6/26/15, the same day LGBTQ people and our allies danced on the steps of the United States Supreme Court, and at the crossroads of Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs right here in Dallas. Immediately following his Rose Garden remarks, he boarded Air Force One to fly down to Charleston, SC beside our First Lady Michelle, to eulogize slain Rev. Clementa Pinckney and the other eight members of his flock, cut down by hatred in a Bible Study/Prayer Meeting at Mother Emanuel AME Church. Do you feel the whiplash of it? Having to deliver words of celebration at one moment, and then words appropriate to the outrageous deaths of Black Americans because of race hatred, as best we can tell—All in the same day?
Our President tried to make sense of it all from the stage of the University of Charleston, to find a way forward for the nation:

“Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete” he said. “But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allow ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again.
“Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual. That’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society.”

President Obama continued:

“To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change, that’s how we lose our way again. It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong, but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.
“Reverend Pinckney once said, ‘Across the south, we have a deep appreciation of history. We haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.’”

History, you see, is hard to make sense of when you are in the middle of it, like we are this morning—When we are struck by a two-sided thunderbolt of history, one side damp with tears of joy for decades of struggle to win against homophobia and heterosexism for LGBTQ human equality, but the other side wet with the tears of unfathomable grief because of America’s “original sin,” the sin of racism.

You and I and our President are not alone in trying to make sense of it all, trying to sort out our emotions about the events of 6/26/15. On Friday, my friend Professor John Blevins who teaches at Emory University put it this way on his Facebook wall:

“Not sure” Dr. Blevins wrote, “how to temper the feelings of the Supreme Court ruling with the reminder that today in Charleston, SC there is a funeral for an African-American man and local church pastor who would have supported and cheered this ruling were he not gunned down in cold, calculated, hate-filled violence. We progress and regress. But I want to believe– have to believe– that Love Wins. Yes, the Supreme Court ruling offers some sense of that but so does the testimony of Reverend Pinckney– both in his life and in his death. We should remember that.”

Whatever else and whoever else we are this morning, we are the Church, and we are called upon to remember our heartbreaks, to dance with our dreams in our hearts around the Table of Jesus Christ, and to learn with appreciation from the history of others. We are the New Church, the Chiesa Nuova, founded on the memories and merits of St. Francis of Assisi. We are straight, bi-, and gay, trans- and cisgender, multiracial and multilingual, and we share something vital and living with Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston. We have been given a common task: to speak the truth alongside one another until all the bad news comes to redemption in the Amazing Grace of God. We, Mother Emanuel and New Church together, are called by the God of Life to remember the steadfast love of Jesus Christ, and to set all events of celebration and sorrow in the context of a future in which LOVE WINS, not just for some of us, but for ALL of us!

The Church must engage the events of these jumbled up, joyous and heartbreaking days, and re-tell them to a hurting society both in words and deeds of effective love. We are the storytellers! Who else besides the Community of Faith remembers and re-tells the stories of the justice prophets of Israel and the evangelists of the early Christian movement? Who else remembers and re-tells the stories of the Underground Railroad, and Jim Crow, and the struggle for women’s right to vote and equal pay; who else remembers and re-tells the breathtaking saga of the time of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, and the first brave voices of the sexual minority here in North Texas, of the lesbian Lavender Menace, and the life-and-death struggle against HIV/AIDS, of Harvey Milk’s famous call, “I’m Here to Recruit You!”, and of the first legal “I Do’s” spoken on the steps of the Records Building right here in Dallas between Lesbian couples and Gay couples set on letting the whole Lone Star State know that LOVE Wins!

If others want to tell the stories of our times in differing ways, let them. We welcome the stories and the histories of others, and we must grow in appreciation of those histories because we are all members of the One Human Family. But, in humility, and with our knees trembling from awe and joy, we of the Community of Faith must continue the tradition of telling the Good News in the midst of a world were goodness is not so obvious an outcome at all. Like our grieving sisters and brothers at Mother Emanuel, in English, Español, and the other tongues of our languages, the Church has this task: to interpret the events of everyday life, great and small, in the harmonies of the love of God. It is our responsibility to pull together the threads of the rulings of the Supreme Court, and the horror of the slayings at home and abroad, and to weave out of them a roadmap of justice and mercy so the human race can see a way forward in the storm, and find rivers of cool water in dry places—sweet destinies of deliverance and Amazing Grace for all the sorts and conditions of our fragile humankind.

Put succinctly, it is our mandate to follow the example of Jesus the Christ: to read aloud the ancient stories of God’s people, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, good news to the poor, deliverance to the captives, freedom for all those oppressed, recovery of sight to the blind, and then to roll up the scroll, and announce: “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Justice KennedyDid you ever in your wildest dreams imagine that you would live into a world where Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would be repealed? Where DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, and Proposition 8 would be overthrown? Where Marriage Equality would become the law of the land in all 50 states of the USA, and Justice Anthony Kennedy could pen these words on behalf of the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court?

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Did you ever imagine that 150 years after the Civil War, that 52 years after Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech, and 50 years after the Voting Rights Act, you would still be living in a world where young Latino/Latina “Dreamers” are still in peril of being deported from the land that has become their home, where a black teenage girl in a bikini could be wrestled down and choked at a pool party in McKinney, Texas, where we must confront that reality over and over again that, no matter what we say, black, brown, female, and transgender lives mean less than white male lives? Or that the peaceful welcome of a church sanctuary could be desecrated by the cold, violent hand of hatred?

Well, that is the world we have, isn’t it? Filled with joys and sorrows. Where by the grace of God we must rededicate ourselves to bending the moral arc of the universe toward justice in this time and place we have been given. That is what the Community of Faith must be about in our lifetime. President Obama, standing squarely in the tradition of the Black Church, concluded his eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, saying:

“…History can’t be a sword to justify injustice or a shield against progress. It must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, how to break the cycle, a roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind. But more importantly, an open heart.
“That’s what I felt this week — an open heart. That more than any particular policy or analysis is what’s called upon right now, I think. It’s what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls ‘that reservoir of goodness beyond and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.’
“That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible. If we can tap that grace, everything can change. Amazing grace, amazing grace.”

Since Love Wins, since Love must win for everybody, let us throw a party where everyone is invited to celebrate with us, where everybody is somebody and nobody is nobody, and then roll up our sleeves and get to the work at hand!
Love Wins! Thanks be to God! Amen.

June 30, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Brite Divinity School, Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, GLBTQ, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, Justice Anthony Kennedy, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, Mother Emanuel AME Church, President Barack Obama, Racism, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, U.S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Straight South Dakotan Assaulted for Defending Gay People

Drew Bartscher, 27, straight ally who spoke out against anti-gay hate speech, and was beaten because of it.

Drew Bartscher, 27, straight ally who spoke out against anti-gay hate speech, and was beaten because of it.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota – A straight man politely asked a couple outside a community tavern not to use anti-gay epithets in regard to gay people, and got punched in the face for his trouble. 27-year-old Drew Bartscher was out Saturday night, September 13, for a good time with friends when he overheard a couple disparaging gay people outside Wiley’s Tavern, according to KSFY ABC News. As Bartscher, a father of two little girls, told KSFY, “There was a couple behind me, and I heard a woman behind me. I heard this woman remark to apparently her boyfriend. I don’t know how to say it on-the-air. She said these ‘f-ing f-words,’ referring to homosexuals.” That is when Bartscher asked the couple courteously not to use language like that to describe gay people. The way he recalls it is that he said to the woman, “You really shouldn’t call anybody the f-word, that’s rude.” As he turned to go about his business, the woman’s boyfriend growled, “What the ‘f’ did you say to my girlfriend?” So, Bartscher said, “I turned to see what that commotion was. The next thing I know was my friends are scooping me up from the sidewalk.” 

KELO TV reports that Bartscher reported the assault immediately afterward to police, shortly after 2 a.m. on Sunday morning. Their investigation has turned up two other reports of the attack that night that corroborate Bartscher’s account of what happened to him. The couple who instigated the incident fled the scene, and no one has been detained for the crime so far. Bartscher posted photos of his face on Facebook, even though he was a bit embarrassed to show he had such a shiner. The caption he chose for the pictures reads, “Stand up for what you believe in. Love everyone.” He wasn’t advocating for himself when he spoke to the slur wielding woman, he says. “That makes me think about my friends and my family and if that was said to them, like, just how hurtful words can be.”

Even days after the incident, Bartscher says his teeth still hurt, his head aches, and he is “a little sore” from the severity of the punch the woman’s boyfriend gave him. When asked if he would stand up for gay people again, given what happened to him, the soft-spoken South Dakotan said, “Yes, I would. And I will.” He says his parents instilled his values in him, values he hopes to pass along to his two little daughters.

Bartscher's black eye: "I would do it again," he says.

Bartscher’s black eye: “I would do it again,” he says.

Sioux Falls Police spokesman Sam Clemens responded to KSFY inquiries about the nature of this crime, saying, “If their sexual orientation or their race, or ethnicity come into play, and the crime is caused because of that, then it would be classified as a hate crime.” As a straight ally, Bartscher says one of the main reasons he spoke up was his friendship with people in the LGBT community. “Some of my best friends are either gay, bi, lesbian, and family too, so I don’t know. I didn’t even have to really think about it.”

Thomas Christiansen, vice president of the Sioux Falls Center for Equality, told KDLT News“Just to punch someone who was trying to say you shouldn’t use that derogatory term is pretty shocking.” He noted that hate crimes against LGBT people is a nationwide problem worsening in recent years, even with the passage of hate crimes protection laws for gay people regionally and federally. “The fact that she was using that term to address somebody when it is most associated with a derogatory term used against homosexuals, I think is inappropriate. When that slur turns into violence, [it] shouldn’t be tolerated,” Christiansen said.

Stories like this one, and a 2013 report of another straight ally, Nebraskan Ryan Langenegger, who took a beating defending his gay friends, one of whom was in women’s clothing, goes a long way toward restoring the faith of the LGBT Community in the goodness of the American public. But we have a long way to go before assaults like these two, involving straight allies speaking on behalf of their gay friends, come to a halt. Until then, the LGBT Community salutes them, and the millions of straight allies they have throughout the country.

September 20, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, GLBTQ, hate speech, LGBTQ, Nebraska, Sioux Falls, Sioux Falls Center for Equality, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, South Dakota, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Transgender Sibling of NBA Player Murdered in Baltimore; Second Trans Murder in Two Months

Transgender murder victim Mia Henderson, 26, was the sister of Los Angeles Clippers player Reggie Bullock, pictured here.

Transgender murder victim Mia Henderson, 26, was the sister of Los Angeles Clippers player Reggie Bullock, pictured here.

Baltimore, Maryland – The “severely traumatized” body of a transgender woman was discovered in Northwest Baltimore early Wednesday, and a National Basketball Player is grieving the death of his sister.  WJZ CBS TV is reporting that Mia Henderson, 26, died brutally in a manner reminiscent of another transgender homicide that took place in Baltimore just last month.  Her stricken brother, Reggie Bullock of the Los Angeles Clippers, tweeted his grief Wednesday, saying that his sibling “taught me how to live [my] own life. Love you so much.”  Bullock continued, “[She] never cared what others thought. Always tried to keep people smiling and would do anything for me.”

Baltimore Police who have an aborning epidemic of transgender murders in their city (three now since April 2013) were quick to address the public, and particularly the transgender community whose nerves are on edge at the news another of their number has been savagely killed.  Major Dennis Smith speaking for the Baltimore Police Department said that officers discovered Ms. Henderson’s body while serving an arrest warrant. “We do know that there was trauma to the body to indicate that there was a homicide,” he said.  Police Commissioner Anthony Batts pledged to find the killer, saying, “I will not slow down. I will not allow us to not stay on top of these. We will push extremely hard.”

While investigators do not know if the June 3 slaying of transwoman Kandy Hall is related to Ms. Henderson’s murder, members of the Baltimore transgender community have no doubt that it is–and they are alarmed.  Speaking to WJZ, Jaqueline Robarge said, “They are connected in that the vulnerability of the women are being preyed on.”  Lasaia Wade agreed, “It’s another trans woman, another sister of mine that’s died. And I’m afraid to even walk out the door.”  Mark McLaurin, another member of the Baltimore LGBT community, explained, “We are a small tight-knit collaborative community. so, it’s a very frightening time.”  The body of Ms. Hall was found stabbed to death in a Northeast Baltimore field just weeks ago.

The Baltimore Sun reports that Police Commissioner Batts answered questions from “a roomful” of concerned LGBT leaders Wednesday.  “We want to be strong partners with our LGBT community,” he sad. “Not by talk but by action.”  He pledged that detectives were working hard on both murder investigations.  But some members of the transgender community are not co-operating with police for fear of being targeted as prostitutes.  Equality Baltimore advocacy and programs director Keith Thirion weighed in, “It’s clear the community is concerned about the continued violence against transgender women, and we need to see action.”

A neighbor of Ms. Henderson who refused to give her name to The Sun out of fear of retribution said she believes she saw the killer walk down the alley where the victim’s savaged body was later found.  Around 5 a.m., the woman said, she saw a light skinned African American man lurking around the neighborhood.  He approached the woman and her friend and offered them $10 for “a date.”  She described the man as young, wearing a white T-shirt, a white baseball cap, and a pair of jeans.

July 16, 2014 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Equality Baltimore, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, Los Angeles Clippers, Maryland, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Transgender Sibling of NBA Player Murdered in Baltimore; Second Trans Murder in Two Months

Trans Woman Savagely Attacked in Atlanta’s Little Five Points; Details Still Emerging

Video capture of stomping attack on trans woman in Atlanta.  GA Voice image.

Video capture of stomping attack on trans woman in Atlanta. GA Voice image.

Little Five Points, Atlanta, Georgia – A trans woman yet to be identified was brutally stomped in an attack following a verbal engagement with a group of men in the Little Five Points section of Atlanta.  GA Voice reported the attack after videos appeared showing a shouting match between the trans woman and her unidentified attacker.  The video shows the explicit moment as the attacker, a much larger man than his victim, stomps on her repeatedly.  The extent of the victim’s injuries is unknown, but must have been severe.

Atlanta transgender people are on edge ever since two trans women were assaulted on the MARTA in May of this year. Two men were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct in the wake of that crime.  Now that another trans woman has been targeted for violence, the Atlanta transgender and social advocacy communities are up in arms.  Most disturbing to the trans community is that bystanders in both assaults did nothing to help.  Cheryl Courtney-Evans, founder of Transgender Individuals Living Their Truth (TILTT) told GA Voice, “If this person is not in the hospital, I don’t know why the Atlanta Police don’t know about it—she should have reported it. I’m sickened by the fact that people were once again standing around doing nothing, when this waste of DNA should have been detained and locked up for assault. As a community, transgender individuals are just tired of having to fear and worry about our safety at any given moment that we leave our homes,” she said. “While we understand that the LGB community has the same worry, we also know that they have reached a point in society where it is not so prevalent or common. Transgenders, on the other hand, particularly MTFs, must worry about ‘passing’ or they become instant possible targets for verbal or physical abuse.”

Jeff Graham, executive director for Georgia Equality, said, “That’s another horrific attack against a transgender or gender variant person. I hope that the person who has been attacked comes forward so that the police can fully investigate. It is also time to address the overall violence that transgender people live with every day through increased public education and enforcement of the policies that the city of Atlanta has put in place.”

Since the attack, the videographer who captured the brutal stomping and put it up on YouTube has said that the incident had nothing to do with transphobia.  Though the investigation is still proceeding, it is hard to believe that the victim’s gender variance and gender expression had nothing to do with the savagery of the assault.  The entire Atlanta LGBTQ community is awaiting word on the motive that caused a big man to move beyond slurs to inflict such horrific violence against a trans woman.  Robbie Medwed spoke for Atlantans in a tweet on Wednesday night: “Cringe is too soft a word for the visceral reaction I have when I watch that vine [referring to the video]. I can’t accept that this is Atlanta.”

July 3, 2014 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Georgia, Georgia Equality, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Stomping and Kicking Violence, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Trans Woman Savagely Attacked in Atlanta’s Little Five Points; Details Still Emerging

Florida Transwoman Discovered Burned to Death Behind Garbage Cans; Media Disrespect Her in Her Death

Transwoman Yaz'min Shanchez, 31, immolated to death behind a trash dumpster down a private road in Fort Myers {Facebook photo).

Transwoman Yaz’min Shanchez, 31, immolated to death behind a trash dumpster down a private road in Fort Myers {Facebook photo).

Fort Myers, Florida – A 31-year-old transgender woman of color was found burned to death in Fort Myers behind a garbage dumpster, according to the Naples News.  Yaz’min Shanchez who identified as a woman since 2004 was found on June 19 behind a Budget Truck Rental site on a dead-end road in an industrial part of the city. The victim’s father arrived at the scene to find his child’s body charred and bloody, according to reports in the media. Lt. Jay Rodriguez said that hate crime is not a dimension of the investigation as things now stand. Though authorities wish to rule out anti-transgender hatred as a motive, fire is often used as a weapon against LGBTQ people, and is often a tip off to homophobic and transphobic hate crimes.

“We have no indication at this time to say this was specifically done because it was a male living as a female or anything like that,” Lt. Rodriguez said. “If you really think about it, a hate crime is killing someone for a specific reason, being black, Hispanic, gay. We’re investigating as we would any other homicide.”  Yet, recent reports from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) show that while numbers of other bias-driven crimes are declining slightly, anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, especially those perpetrated against transgender people of color, are escalating.  The reports document that:

  • Transgender women, especially transgender women of color, were two to three times more likely to experience physical violence, police violence, and discrimination than victims who were not transgender women.
  • LGBTQ people of color were 1.8 times more likely to encounter hate-motivated violence than white LGBTQ people.

The Center for American Progress is sounding the alarm about the precipitous increase in anti-LGBTQ and anti-gender variant hate crimes in the U.S. by calling on law enforcement states like Florida to strengthen the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act by passing local and state protection statutes for transgender people, and by aggressively educating law enforcement agencies and the general public.

The immolation of Yaz’min Shanchez indicates that the work it will take to educate the media and law enforcement about the nature of transphobia and racism will be immense.  News reports quoting Shanchez’s family show that while they loved her, they had never reconciled themselves to her chosen way of identifying herself as a woman.  After ten years, her father was still referring to her as “he,” and “him.”  The police report led with the identification of the victim by a cisgender name, Eddie James Owen, though the family acknowledged to police repeatedly that she had identified as a transgender woman.  Naples News does little or nothing to redress this problem in their report of the murder. While how a person is identified within a family is a matter they must resolve themselves, there is no excuse for media and law enforcement to add disrespect of the victim’s self-identification by insisting on cisgender language.  The transgender community and its allies are already in enough pain, fear, and turmoil without compounding the problems surrounding Ms. Shanchez’s murder.

EDGE on the Net quotes GLAAD spokesperson Ross Murray as saying that whether Shanchez died of a transphobic hate crime or not, “no one deserves to be violently murdered and set on fire and put behind a Dumpster.” Murray added, “Particularly transgender women of color, face the most violence against them. I think that transgender people are still marginalized and stigmatized in our society. We tend to talk about transgender people in a way that discounts their experience and makes them a butt of a joke or deviant or suspicious and doesn’t take (their) whole life into account.”

Over 200 people participated in a Sunday vigil organized by The Southwest Florida Equality Coalition and the Center of Southwest Florida for Ms. Shanchez.  Naples News reports that Heather Lunsford, a founder of The Center, told the crowd, “We’re here to show unity. We’re in support of any community members, especially on the LGBT spectrum. [We’re here to bring awareness] especially because of the nature of the crime committed against [Shancez].” In a poignant moment, attendee Jenna Satterfield said to a reporter, “The amount of violence in this crime screams the perpetrators were trying to send a message. In spite of the fact we’re lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgendered, we’re no different than anybody else … We’re no different and we mean no harm.”

June 23, 2014 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Burning and branding, Center for American Progress, Florida, GLAAD, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, immolation, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), Racism, Social Justice Advocacy, Southwest Florida Equality Coalition, The Center of Southwest Florida, transgender persons, transphobia, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Florida Transwoman Discovered Burned to Death Behind Garbage Cans; Media Disrespect Her in Her Death

Murdered Lesbian Couple: Did Daddy Do It?

James Cosby, father of  murdered lesbian Britney Cosby, and suspect in her murder along with her spouse, Crystal Jackson.

James Cosby, father of slain lesbian Britney Cosby, and suspect in her murder and that of her spouse, Crystal Jackson.

Galveston, Texas – The father of a lesbian has been arrested by the Galveston authorities in relation to the murder of his daughter and her spouse.  The bodies of the two young women  were dumped outside a Port Bolivar convenience store and discovered early on March 7, according to KHOU News.  James Larry Cosby, 46, father of Britney Cosby, has been arrested by Galveston Sheriff’s officers and charged with two counts of tampering with evidence related to the murder of his daughter and her life partner, Crystal Jackson.  Officials say that the charges may be shortly upgraded to murder.  KTRK 13 reports that incriminating evidence linking the murders of the lesbians led investigators to arrest Britney Cosby’s father, an ex-con and sex crime offender, and hold him in the Galveston County Jail on $500, 000 bond pending other charges.

The suspect was part of a large crowd of friends and family at a community vigil held on Wednesday for the two young women, and investigators interrogated him at the conclusion of the vigil.  “His house was a secondary crime scene, from the evidence that we saw when we went to interview him and we did recover certain parts of evidence that are here at our sheriff’s office now to be sent to the lab,” Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset said to reporters.

Autopsy reports say that Britney Cosby died from blunt force trauma, and that Crystal Jackson was shot to death.  Investigators believe the two women, both 24, were killed at another location, and then transported to the quiet coastal town and left beside a garbage dumpster as if they were no better than trash.

KHOU’s reportage uncovered Cosby’s violent past.  His ex-wife Loranda McDonald said that she left him because he was so violent, and she and other Cosby family members say that he was “unhappy” about his daughter’s being a lesbian.  “He said it to me a few times that he did not like the idea of her being gay,” said McDonald.  Detectives indicated that, in addition to blood stains in Mr. Cosby’s home, they found a copy of the Holy Koran open to a passage some fundamentalist Muslims use to denigrate and condemn homosexual conduct.  Mr. Cosby is not cooperating with his interrogators, and since no motive has been officially established, no hate crime has yet been charged against him–but anti-gay hate crime charges are definitely on everyone’s mind who knew of Mr. Cosby’s animosity towards gays and lesbians.

Vigils and commemorations are being planned throughout Texas. Later in the coming week, a vigil is being organized in Dallas by c.d. kirven, a local advocate for LGBT justice and equality.  On a Facebook post, c.d. said, “I still plan to hold vigils next week and will keep those interested update! Please pray for families!”  The couple leaves a 5-year-old daughter behind to face life without her moms.

While the language of caution and hesitation is still being used in relation to this heinous crime, should the allegations against James Larry Cosby prove true, there should be little doubt of the horrific potency of heterosexism, patriarchy, and homophobia–powerful enough to invade the most sacred and intimate of human relationships, that of a father and his daughter, and to leave a small child parentless.

March 14, 2014 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bludgeoning, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Koran, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rush Limbaugh Demeans Matthew Shepard’s Hate Crime Murder

Attempts to demean Matthew Shepard and his murder are a Right Wing fetish.

Attempts to demean Matthew Shepard and his murder are a Right Wing fetish.

Palm Beach County, Florida  –  Conservative radio bombast Rush Limbaugh attempted to undercut the powerful anti-gay hate crime narrative of the murder of Matthew Shepard during a broadcast on Monday, February 24, from his top secret studio in Florida.  In the show, entitled “When did the ‘hate crime’ concept begin?”, Limbaugh launched a diatribe against Jason Collins’s decision to wear Number 98 on his basketball jersey in memory of Matthew Shepard who died because of anti-LGBT bias in 1998.  Collins, the first openly gay person to play on an NBA court this past Sunday for the Brooklyn Nets, came out back in April 2013 to both accolades and brickbats.

According to the broadcast transcript, Limbaugh attempted to win sympathy and outrage from his Dittohead audience for being the “original” target of hate crime language back in 1998. He had one major problem, however–the internationally embraced story of Matthew Shepard’s hate crime murder for being gay by Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney in October 1998.  So, Limbaugh proceeded to undermine the hate crime dimension of the Shepard murder that gripped the nation and the world and galvanized the human rights movement, eventually leading to the passage of the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act  in 2009.  Limbaugh said to his audience:

“[Jason Collins is] the first openly gay player to actually play in a professional sports game.  It happened last night, the Brooklyn Nets against the Los Angeles Lakers.  This is the Nets play-by-play announcer Ryan Ruocco, as Jason Collins — who, by the way, took the number 98 in solidarity with Matthew Shepard, who it’s now been proven didn’t happen, but was reputed to have been beaten up by a bunch of anti-gay bigots.”  In the transcript, Limbaugh provided readers with a hotlink to a book by right wing darling Stephen Jimenez purportedly “disproving” the anti-gay hate crime aspect of the Shepard case.

As Unfinished Lives reported last year at the publication of Jimenez’s book, these rather tired arguments are part of the continuing scheme to erode all anti-gay hate crimes narratives by attacking the archetypal Shepard story. Some of Jimenez’s own major sources have decried and disavowed his use of their names in his book of allegations, among them Henderson’s defense attorney who said that none of the “evidence” Jimenez advances was admissible in court when he was defending his client, and it is without merit now.  The Matthew Shepard Foundation, where Matt’s memory is making a difference by saving lives throughout the world, issued a strong rebuttal to this problematic book Limbaugh takes as gospel.  In the New York Daily News, the Shepard Foundation statement reads, in part:  “Attempts now to rewrite the story of this hate crime appear to be based on untrustworthy sources, factual errors, rumors and innuendo rather than the actual evidence gathered by law enforcement and presented in a court of law.”  

rush-limbaugh-260x300The extremist Right Wing, epitomized by Limbaugh, famously called “Comedian Rush Limbaugh” by Keith Olbermann on Countdownhas made a virtual cottage industry out of demeaning the lives and deaths of LGBT people for over 16 years.  Their agenda is running out of gas.  This latest attempt also fails to obscure the ugly truth that Matthew Shepard and over 14,000 other American queer folk have been murdered for their sexual orientation and/or their gender identity and expression since 1980.

The Shepard murder captured the world’s sympathy, outrage, and imagination as no other anti-gay hate crime murder story had done before.  As Gay Star News reports in its story on the Limbaugh allegations:  “Shepard, a 21 year old college student, died after being tortured in a hate crime in Laramie, Wyoming. Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson each received two consecutive life sentences for his murder. The prosecutor in the case alleged that McKinney and Henderson pretended to be gay in order to gain Shepard’s trust so they could later rob him. McKinney originally pleaded the gay panic defense, arguing that he and Henderson were driven to temporary insanity by alleged sexual advances by Shepard. After meeting Shepard at a bar, the pair took him to a remote area outside of Laramie. Once there they robbed him, beat him severely, and tied him to a fence with a rope from McKinney’s truck while Shepard pleaded for his life.”

As Dr. Stephen Sprinkle explains in his award-winning book, Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications, 2011):  “The public outcry at [Matthew Shepard’s] cold-blooded killing meant the hate crime that cut his young life short became the holotype in the American psyche for all instances of oppression against people in the sexual minority.   It also sent a chill into the bones of the religio-political Right Wing.  Power to enact protection statutes for LGBT people coalesced around Matt’s death so swiftly that the Wingers feared anti-LGBT hate crime legislation might actually become law.   Their strategy was to kill the story, or failing that, change the narrative.   Cut the power of moral outrage out from under Matt’s murder, they reasoned, and they would blunt the mounting public sentiment for an end to anti-LGBT oppression.”   

None of Comedian Rush Limbaugh’s or Stephen Jimenez’s allegations concerning Matthew Shepard’s murder hold water.  It seems the extremist Right Wing is all out of ideas.

February 25, 2014 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Florida, gay bashing, gay men, gay panic defense, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Jason Collins, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard, Matthew Shepard Act, Matthew Shepard Foundation, National Basketball Association (NBA), New York, Rush Limbaugh, Social Justice Advocacy, Stephen Jimenez, Torture and Mutilation, Unfinished Lives Book, Unfinished Lives Project, Wyoming | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Rush Limbaugh Demeans Matthew Shepard’s Hate Crime Murder

Gay Panic Murder At TCU Raises Unanswered Questions

David Hidalgo (l) claims "gay panic" led him to stab Stewart Trese (r) to death.

David Hidalgo (l) claims “gay panic” led him to stab TCU senior marketing student Stewart Trese (r) to death.

Fort Worth, Texas – The roll out of developments surrounding the murder of a 23-year-old Texas Christian University senior at the Grand Marc Apartments leave a host of questions unanswered–both about the so-called “gay panic” his confessed killer claims led him to murder, and the uneasy state of LGBTQ members of the campus community.  This we know so far: the victim, Stewart Trese, a marketing major and Japanese minor at TCU, was stabbed to death in the hallway of the Grand Marc by 21-yar-old David Hidalgo, a “townie” who had known Trese for some months before the fatal “altercation,” according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.  At 9:22 a.m. on February 4, Trese was pronounced dead outside his apartment from multiple stab wounds.  A day later, Hidalgo was taken into custody at John Peter Smith Hospital by Fort Worth Police and charged with murder.  Now in the Mansfield Jail under $100,000 bond pending trial, Hidalgo made the explosive claim in a jailhouse interview with WFAA TV that Trese made sexual advances, drew a knife on him, and threatened his life.

In what amounts to a “gay panic” justification of his actions, Hidalgo claims that Trese called him over to his apartment near the TCU campus “to see something,” and when Stewart met him in the hallway of the Grand Marc outside the apartment, he seized Hidalgo’s buttocks, made sexual demands of him, and drew a pocket knife, threatening to kill Hidalgo if he didn’t give in sexually.  “He pulled out the knife and said, ‘I’m gonna kill you,’ he said, ‘I’m gonna kill you,’ and he came toward me with the knife and I grabbed his hand that the knife was in and I tried to wrestle it out from him,” Hidalgo claimed in the WFAA/Channel 8 interview. “We ended up on the floor and I ended up stabbing him in the chest and in the throat.”   Expressing regret at what he had done, Hidalgo went on to say there was little else he could do because Stewart was so angry at being refused sexually.  “When he pulled that knife on me I was really scared, I thought he was going to kill me,” Hidalgo said. “I really think he was going to.”

Gay media are expressing doubt about Hidalgo’s story.  John Wright of Lone Star Q  isn’t buying Hidalgo’s “gay panic” account on two counts: first, Wright calls any such defense of violence against LGBTQ people “bunk,” and second, to believe that a man in a relatively long-term friendship would suddenly attempt rape at knife-point seems “bizarre.”  More likely, Wright suggests, a romantic relationship had developed between the men, and the hint of drugs makes the friction between them more credible.

The notorious “gay panic defense” has been a staple of heterosexist, homophobic and transphobic legal and public relations tactics for decades in the United States, relying on the gullibility and anti-LGBTQ prejudice of juries and the general public to lessen punishments for defendants perpetrating violence against gay and transgender victims.  But in August 2013, the American Bar Association in its annual convention unanimously supported the demise of “gay panic” and “trans panic” in U.S. courts.  The Journal of the ABA reports:

“The ABA House of Delegates has unanimously passed a resolution urging federal, state, local and territorial governments to pass legislation curtailing the availability and effectiveness of the use of ‘gay panic’ and ‘trans panic’ defenses by criminal defendants. These defense strategies seek to excuse the crimes by saying that the victim’s sexual orientation caused their assailant’s violent reaction to them.”  Speaking prior to the vote, D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association said that such legal tactics were “surprisingly long-lived historical artifacts” reflecting the homophobia and heterosexism prevalent in the past.  She went to say that such defenses were based upon “the notion that LGBT lives are worth less than other lives.” 

Trese had been introduced to Hidalgo approximately 18 months before the killing by a “friend” who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, according to the Star-Telegram.  The two men met at the Altamesa Church of Christ, and volunteered at the church’s related charity program, Neighborhood Needs.  The anonymous friend went on to say that the men became “close,” and that their unequal backgrounds did not seem to hinder their relationship.  While Hidalgo did not have a job or a personal vehicle and grew up literally beside the train tracks, Stewart was the son of Dr. Thomas Trese, D.O., a prominent Fort Worth Neurologist.  Even if their friendship soured over time, it strains credibility to believe that “gay panic” ignited the wrestling match that led to Trese’s grisly murder.

TCU Allies logo

TCU Allies logo

Was Trese a gay man, or same-sex attracted?  His family does not believe so, according to his brother Steve who told the Star-Telegram “Stewart was not that guy. We have the utmost faith in the Fort Worth police and district attorney’s office and the truth will come out.”  Concerning Hidalgo’s motive for making a gay claim against his brother, Steve Trese added, “We believe that somebody in his predicament would do anything to save his skin.”  Trese was not a member of TCU’s LGBT student organization, though he was listed as a member of TCU Allies, a gathering of students, faculty and staff supportive of the equal rights of LGBTQ people.  His sexual orientation remains a mystery. His station in life and his association with evangelical Christian organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Churches of Christ (Non-instrumental) would have encouraged a deeply closeted gay man to remain so to all but a few confidants, lovers, and friends.

Is Hidalgo gay, or gay curious?  Does he harbor the sort of anti-gay feelings that would add fuel to the sort of attack that bears all the hallmarks of an anti-gay hate crime murder?  By his own admission, Hidalgo stabbed Trese five times and cut his throat.  While not being definitive, brutality and bloodiness like this are characteristic of the type of “wet work” carried out by homophobic killers.  But how could he have remained friends for so long with Trese, if indeed Trese was closeted or questioning, were Hidalgo to suffer from deep seated antipathy towards same-sex desire?  Once again, we are faced with a mystery, and with the suggestion that money and drugs may have played a critical part in this case.

David Mack Henderson of Fairness Fort Worth, in liaison with the Fort Worth Police Department’s LGBT contact, communicated with TCU GSA Alumni to say he is working to keep channels open with the police and the LGBTQ community on campus.  Henderson voiced confidence in the FWPD, saying, “I have every confidence that FWPD is taking the murder of Mr. Trese very seriously and will develop the case necessary to prosecute Mr. Hidalgo to the fullest extent of the laws.”  

While Texas Christian University has an active LGBT Gay Student Association and alumni group, the record of the university on same-sex issues is spotty.  There is little encouragement for faculty and staff to come out openly if they are LGBTQ.  The administration’s attitude towards queer concerns is by turns benign and callous, as the unbending decision to bring notoriously anti-gay Chik-Fil-A to campus shows, despite faculty and student unrest about the fast food purveyor.  As is the case in many church-related colleges and universities in the South and Southwest, TCU likes to point to its enlightened, progressive approach to LGBTQ concerns while at the same time refusing to establish and staff an Office of LGBTQ Relations on its campus (something conservative Texas A&M has done since 1996).  The whiff of gay murder and hate crime around campus will probably encourage the policy of denial that TCU has adopted for years.  But hard questions will continue to be asked as the investigation into the brutal murder of one of the university’s prominent marketing seniors proceeds–a murder that certainly suggests  that troubling gay aspects of this case will not be denied for much longer.

February 10, 2014 Posted by | American Bar Association (ABA), anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Fairness Fort Worth, Fort Worth Police Department, gay men, gay panic defense, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Internalized homophobia, LGBTQ, National LGBT Bar Association, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, Texas, Texas A&M GLBT Center, Texas Christian University (TCU), transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Panic Murder At TCU Raises Unanswered Questions

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