Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Alarming Rise in Transgender Murders, NCAVP Reports

Mia Henderson, 26, slain transgender woman in Baltimore this week.

Mia Henderson, 26, slain transgender woman in Baltimore.

Baltimore, Maryland – The discovery of the body of Mia Henderson, slain transgender woman of color, in Northwest Baltimore signals an alarming increase in the numbers of violent attacks on gender variant and transgender persons.  The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) and TransGriot, a blog dedicated to raising issues pertinent to the African American transgender community, note that Ms. Henderson’s murder this week is the fifth report of a trans person murdered since June nationally, and the second for Baltimore during the same time span.

Henderson, 26, the sibling of NBA star Reggie Bullock of the Los Angeles Clippers, was found dead in an alley Wednesday morning.  Gay Star News reports that her body had suffered “severe trauma,” according to Baltimore Police Department sources, resembling the savagery that took the life of Kandy Hall, 40, in early June, also in Baltimore.  No suspects have yet been identified in either of the homicide investigations.

The most recent annual NCAVP report on anti-LGBTQ violence in the United States signals a troubling spike in the number of violent attacks on transgender persons, especially male to female transgender women (M to F), and persons of color. The 2013 report details that “almost three quarters (72%) of  [LGBTQ] homicide victims were transgender women, and more than two-thirds (67%) of homicide victims were transgender women of color, yet transgender survivors and victims only represent 13% of total reports to NCAVP.”  The report goes on to say that transgender victims are more at risk of  injuries, and ethnic/racial minority transgender persons were more likely to be harmed in shelters than the population at large.  From the report: “Transgender men were 1.5 times more likely to experience injuries as a result of hate violence and 4.3 times more likely to be the target of hate violence in shelters when compared with other survivors. Transgender people of color were 1.8 times more likely to experience hate violence in shelters.” 

July 18, 2014 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, Los Angeles Clippers, Maryland, National Basketball Association (NBA), National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), transgender persons, TransGriot, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

Anti-LGBTQ Violence Spikes Beyond 2,000 Incidents in 2013, Says Report

Makeshift shrine at the location of the murder of Mark Carson, 32, shot in the head for being gay, NYC, on May 20, 2013 (AFP photo).

Makeshift shrine at the location of the murder of Mark Carson, 32, shot in the head for being gay, NYC, on May 20, 2013 (AFP photo).

New York, New York – Violence against LGBTQ people soared beyond 2,000 reported incidents in 2013, according the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.  Statistics released in the NCAVP annual report on Thursday showed queer folk living at the intersection of homophobia and other forms of discrimination such as race, gender, and citizenship status are most at risk of being targeted for harm in the United States.

The Advocate reports that the level of violence remains consistent with 2012’s statistics, varying little in either direction–still registering one of the highest numbers of anti-LGBTQ violent crimes since the NCAVP has kept records.  For example, though the number of murders of LGBTQ people fell to 18 reported homicides in 2013 from the all-time high of 25 in 2012, those most likely to die because of their sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity were people of color and transgender women.  89 percent of the victims were people of color, and 72 percent were transgender women.  “What emerges clearly in the findings of this year’s report is that many of the people at risk for the most severe hate violence are at the intersection of multiple forms of oppression and discrimination including racism and citizenship status,” said Aaron Eckhardt of the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Region.  “Anti-LGBTQ hate violence can no longer be viewed in isolation from other forms of violence that our community members are experiencing based on their identities.”

Generally speaking, the NCAVP Report shows:

  • A substantial increase in the severity of the violence reported against LGBTQ people
  • Transgender people, especially transgender women, undocumented people, racial and ethnic minority people, and gay men face the most savage violence
  • Transgender women, people of color, and gay men face the greatest risk of hate crime murder
  • While danger from bias driven violence is still a public matter for many, occurring in the streets of our cities, other places once thought to be “safe” have begun to show alarming increases in attacks, such as private residences, workplaces, and shelters
  • Fewer victims of anti-LGBTQ violence are reporting crimes to the police, and those who do report increased hostility toward them by the very law enforcement organizations pledged to protect them

On this final alarming finding, Christopher Argyros of the Anti-Violence Project of the Los Angeles LGBT Center says, “For some of our most impacted communities, especially transgender people and transgender people of color, the hostility and violence faced at the hands of the police [when they do report crimes] is at an alarming level.”  

These statistics should be read in the context of a severe undercount of bias driven violent crimes against all those living at the intersection of anti-LGBTQ and other minority forms of discrimination.  Every agency and expert charged with reporting the number of hate crimes against the queer community in the United States, including the FBI, acknowledges that the statistics on report are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the actual experiences of violence against LGBTQ people.  For example, the current NCAVP annual report, Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States in 2013, recognized as the most comprehensive snapshot of anti-LGBTQ violence in existence, is based on data from no more than 14 anti-violence programs in 13 states across the country and Puerto Rico. States reporting were: Ohio, Illinois, Colorado, California, Michigan, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Minnesota, and Arizona. Reportage is voluntary, with many law enforcement organizations neglecting to report anything, either from bias, apathy, lack of funds to do so, or a combination of these passive aggressive motives.

May 30, 2014 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, FBI, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), New York, New York City, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Anti-LGBTQ Violence Spikes Beyond 2,000 Incidents in 2013, Says Report

French Homophobia Skyrockets 78%; Forces Reassessment of LGBTQ “Progress”

Paris victim Wilfred de Bruijn, "the face of homophobia in France," and French anti-gay marriage protestors.

Paris victim Wilfred de Bruijn, “the face of homophobia in France,” and French anti-gay marriage protestors.

Paris, France – The number of documented homophobic attacks is ballooning out of control, says a report published by the French anti-homophobia watchdog, SOS Homophobie.  Since the passage of France’s pro-LGBTQ marriage law, advocates have been shocked by a rise of 78 percent in violent crimes against gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual residents in France during 2013.  The ominous meaning of this spike in violence in a supposedly “enlightened” European culture is forcing advocates, activists, and government officials to rethink narratives of progress on the issue of human equality.

SOS Homophobie, the only organization with reliable statistics on attacks against LGBTQ people in France, says that a violent physical attack against queer people is occurring no less than once every two days, and increase of 54 percent since 2012, but this statistic does not reflect the whole story.  The SOS Helpline received an astounding 3,500 calls in 2013, as opposed to 1,977 in all of 2012, registering an overall increase in anti-gay hate crime of the reported 78 percent.  “In the last twenty years the number of reports of incidents [of homophobia] received by our association have not stopped growing, but in 2013 they exploded,” notes the most recent SOS Homphobie report.  The report also found that the number of anti-gay insults online rose from 656 in 2012 to 1,723 cases in 2013, and the number of incidents that occurred in a school increased by 25 percent.

Justice and Interior ministries have been caught napping by these startling numbers, according to EDGEBOSTON.  An ideology of “inevitable progress” on matters of human rights has caused Gallic cultural leaders to be blindsided by the shift towards anti-gay rhetoric and physical violence since the legal embrace of same-sex marriage.  “There’s no doubt the rise in homophobic acts was linked to the context of the opposition against gay marriage,” Gregory Premon, spokesperson for SOS Homophobie, said to The Local. “Homophobic words and statements became trivialized during this period and helped legitimize insults and homophobic violence.”

A Dutch resident of northern Paris, who was punched and kicked senseless on a street near his home last month, has become the “face” of this new wave of anti-gay violence in France.  Wilfred de Bruijn’s skull was fractured in five places and he lost a tooth in the attack, according to The Independent.  He and his boyfriend Olivier were walking arm-in-arm at the time of the savage assault. “I woke up in an ambulance covered in blood, missing tooth and broken bones around the eye,” Mr. de Bruijn told The Local. “I’m home now. Very sad. Olivier takes care of me. Forbidden to work for at least 10 days.”  

Mr. de Bruijn places the blame for the attack upon the shoulders of anti-same sex marriage protestors, and a group has taken credit for the brutal act. Le Printemps Français (“The French Spring”), whose membership is believed to be largely comprised of hardline Catholics and royalists, now boasts that it sanctioned and carried out the assault against Mr. de Bruijn and his lover.  The shift from anti-LGBTQ marriage to a more general disgust against all queer and gender variant people is becoming more and more obvious.  As Mr. de Bruijn said to The Independent, “The [anti-gay-marriage campaigners] know very well what can happen if you repeat, repeat, repeat that these people are lower human beings. Of course, it will have a result.”

Though the French government has reacted with outrage to the news of the attacks on Messieurs de Bruijn and Olivier, and another recent gay victim, Mr. Raphael le Clerca in Nice, confidence in governmental authority to cause social change in such a charged environment has been seriously shaken in what was once a bastion of culture and forward thinking.  In the U.S. context, as well, the rise in Western European homophobia and heterosexism is not to be taken lightly.

Geography of homophobic Tweets in the USA in 2013 (source: The Atlantic Magazine).

Geography of homophobic Tweets in the USA in 2013 (source: The Atlantic Magazine).

While the Marriage Equality movement is advancing on the judicial front, most recently in the southern and western states of Arkansas and Idaho, it cannot be ignored any longer that incidents of anti-LGBTQ violence, especially against gay men and transgender people, has risen each year since the passage of the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in October 2009.  The heat of anti-gay rhetoric from the Religious Right Wing has intensified, and homophobic Christianist preachers like Scott Lively have pressed their hate agenda abroad wherever they have gotten the chance, in Russia and the Slavic countries of the former Soviet Union, and in Central Africa, for example.  While the attention of U.S. advocacy groups is upon Marriage Equality and a looming struggle in the U.S. Supreme Court, anti-LGBTQ attitudes have largely gone unaddressed, thanks to a blind belief in “inevitable social progress,” the irrelevance of domestic religious bigotry, and trust that the younger generations of Americans will finally tip the balance towards tolerance throughout the U.S. population.

We know, however, who is killing LGBTQ people in such alarming numbers in the U.S.A.: the very young who are supposedly their saviors.  The persons who murder and maim queer folk in the United States are predominantly young men from 17 to 35 years of age.  We also know that the under appreciated cultural power of religion to spawn false narratives of government oppression of “religious freedom” lies just below the surface of American society.  And American public and private schools are hotbeds of un addressed bullying and violence against gender variant youth, with outrageous consequences for vulnerable children every week in these United States.

The Marriage Equality movement is not essentially about changing foundational attitudes towards people of difference.  It is about stretching societal and cultural boundaries just enough to let same sex couples inside, where they can enjoy a similacrum of “normal life.”  Marriage is a conservative issue in American life, and always has been.  The serious and radical work of changing hearts and minds to accept challenging differences in society remains to be done, and cannot be ignored if Americans do not want to face the crisis their French allies are currently facing “just across the Pond.”

It is past time Americans take to heart the trenchant remarks of a French government spokesman outraged by the recent rise of homophobia in France: “The hatred and homophobic remarks have no place in our country and are punishable by law. The government strongly condemns these acts. These outbursts are unacceptable. When the most basic civil rights of our citizens are attacked, the authority of the state is at stake.”

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Anti-Gay Hate Groups, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bullying in schools, France, French homophobia, gay bashing, gay men, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, Matthew Shepard Act, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Scott Lively, SOS Homophobie, transgender persons, transphobia, U.S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on French Homophobia Skyrockets 78%; Forces Reassessment of LGBTQ “Progress”

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

Nebraska Straight Hero Stands Up for Gay Friends and Takes a Beating

Ryan Langenegger, straight friend who took a beating standing up for gay friends in Omaha.

Ryan Langenegger, straight friend who took a beating standing up for gay friends in Omaha.

Omaha, Nebraska – A straight friend of two gays stepped up to defend them from harassment by three belligerent men, and received a thrashing for it.  Refusing to retaliate, Ryan Langenegger stood his ground, battered and bloody, and asked his assailants the one question all fearful, homophobic people should have to answer:  “Why?”

KMTV Action News 3 reports that Langenegger, who self-identifies as heterosexual, and his out gay friends, Josh Foo and Jacob Gellinger, had dropped into Omaha’s popular Old Market late Saturday night to grab a bite to eat at PepperJax Grill when the three alleged homophobes approached their table.  Gellinger who was wearing a dress that evening was the initial target of the most vocal of the men, who called him “disgusting” and the others “faggots.”  Attempting to avoid a confrontation, Gellinger, Foo, and Langenegger left the grill, but their three harassers followed them outside and intensified their name-calling.  According to Huffington Post, Langenegger stepped between the belligerents and his friends, saying that they should just leave the gay men alone.  One of the verbal assailants then punched Langenegger so hard it chipped two of his teeth, deeply gashed his brow between his eyes, and left his face a bloody wreck.

Josh Foo wrote up his own account of what happened on his Facebook page, expressing appreciation for the courage of his straight friend.  Referring to a photo of Langenegger taken soon after the assault, Foo posted: “This photo was taken soon after Ryan stood up for my friend and I after being called ‘faggots’,’disgusting’, etc. by a group of men at a restaurant who then followed us outside. We did not provoke this in anyway and also did not retaliate after the assault. Ryan, after being hit, paused and looked at the men and asked ‘Why’? which was the question we were all wondering since we did not do anything wrong besides be ourselves. What Ryan did meant a lot to me and I thank him for standing up for his friends and accepting them for who they are in everyway. He’s a great friend. The world needs more people like him.”  

In an interview with KMTV 3, Langenegger called the entire incident “sad, very sad,” going on the say that he sees this sort of harassment against gay people all the time in Omaha.  Asked if he thought standing up for his friends was worth the beating he took, Langenegger said “yes!” with no hesitation, adding “It just makes no sense this day and age and in Omaha, for all of this stuff to still be happening and out in the streets.”  He hopes that the news of this unprovoked attack will serve as a wake-up call to the LGBTQ community.

Meanwhile, authorities are seeking leads in the case.  In the face of unreasoning hatred, Ryan Langenegger’s one-word question demands an answer on behalf of us all:  “Why?”  May Mr. Langenegger’s tribe increase everywhere, until homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia have vanished from among us.

October 30, 2013 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Asian Americans, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Nebraska, Slurs and epithets, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Nebraska Straight Hero Stands Up for Gay Friends and Takes a Beating

Gay Hate Crimes Blog Breaks the Half-Million Visitor Barrier: Unfinished Lives Blog Makes History

Rainbow spanglesDallas, Texas- Unfinishedlivesblog.com, a cyber site of public discourse on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and their victims, broke through the 500,000 visits barrier on October 3.  Begun by a theologian and amateur blogger, the website has developed a world-wide readership and a strong following in the United States.  Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, the Founder and Director of the Unfinished Lives Project, hailed the moment as a demonstration of what a few dedicated people can do to shift the public conversation on LGBTQ hate crimes.  “It is humbling to realize how many people read and comment on a project that began as a labor of love,” Dr. Sprinkle said.  “We on the Unfinished Lives Project Team are deeply gratified by the loyalty of our readership.”

Originally intended to support the publication of Dr. Sprinkle’s award-winning book, Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications, 2011), Unfinishedlivesblog.com grew far beyond its initial purpose.  Covering the stories of hate crime murder victims, acts of violence against the queer community, and items of political, theological and cultural interest affecting the LGBTQ community, the blog has logged over 580 stories and posts since its inception in June 2008. Ryan Valentine, Deputy Director of the Texas Freedom Network and an early endorser of the blog, voiced his continuing appreciation of the ongoing work of the website and the Unfinished Lives Project:

“I am writing to commend – in the highest possible terms – Dr. Stephen Sprinkle and his Unfinished Lives project. My support springs from the conviction that his work calling attention to the “slow-rolling holocaust” of LGBT hate crimes in this country has a particular urgency in the struggle for civil rights in contemporary America. As society and the media turn a blind eye, someone must tell these stories.”  

In response to a post criticizing anti-gay hazing in colleges and universities, an anonymous commentator thanked the Unfinished Lives Project for aiding a social advocacy group in their justice work:  “We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your site provided us with valuable information to work on. You’ve performed a formidable activity and our entire group will probably be grateful to you.”  

Ryan Keith Skipper

Ryan Keith Skipper

Perhaps most moving have been the messages of support for the work of this site from the parents and loved ones of hate crimes victims.  In response to a memorial post for Ryan Keith Skipper (1981 – 2007), a gay man brutally murdered in Polk County, Florida, his stepfather, Lynn Mulder, posted this note: “Ryan had overcome many obstacles in his life and reconciled many conflicts that our society placed in his path. He was comfortable with who he was and as his parents we were proud of that accomplishment. Ryan has not been forgotten and we still love him. Thank you all for remembering and caring, especially on his birthday.”  Lynn and Pat Mulder have become two of the most passionate and effective advocates for LGBTQ youth in America.

“I know that the work of Unfinished Lives Blog is far from over,” Sprinkle said.  “The numbers of LGBTQ hate crimes murders have reached historic highs every year since 2009.  An epidemic of deadly violence is claiming the lives of transgender youth, especially m to f trans youth of color, throughout the United States.  Bullying in schools has led to untold numbers of desperate acts on the part of LGBTQ school-aged youth, as well.  And the recent alarming uptick in anti-gay acts of violence in New York City may be pointing to an ominous trend that will spread throughout the nation.”  After a pause to collect himself, Sprinkle said, “We cannot suspend, even for a moment, our efforts for full justice and equality for queer folk everywhere.  Lives depend on it.”  

So, for Sprinkle and the volunteer Unfinished Lives Project Team, a half-million visitors to this labor-of-love site is a hallmark of a work for Justice-sake that cannot rest–but along the way, the Team says a hearty “Thank You!” to every reader of this blogsite, now and in the days and years to come!

October 3, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, LGBTQ Community, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Unfinished Lives Book, Unfinished Lives Project, Unfinishedlivesblog.com | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Harlem Transgender Woman Succumbs After Five Day Battle for Life: NYC’s Latest Hate Crime Victim

Islan Nettles, 21, removed from life support after brutal anti-transgender attack in Harlem.

Islan Nettles, 21, removed from life support after brutal anti-transgender attack in Harlem.

New York City, New York – A 21-year-old transgender woman of color was removed from life support after five desperate days in a coma from a savage hate crime attack in Harlem.  Islan Nettles, an aspiring fashion designer, was assaulted by a man allegedly enraged when he learned that Ms. Nettles was not a biological male.  She and her transgender friends were walking near 148th Street and Eighth Avenue on Saturday night when the barbaric attack took place at around 11 p.m..  One of her friends ran for help to a nearby police precinct as Ms. Nettles struggled for her life with the assailant, shouting transphobic and homophobic epithets, on top of her in the street, according to NY1.  She was rushed to Harlem Hospital where she was initially reported as conscious, but soon fell into a coma from which she never woke up.  NYPD reported that Ms. Nettles was determined brain dead, and she was removed from her ventilator on Thursday.

New York Police are investigating the assault as a bias-driven hate crime.  Mayoral candidate, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer issued statements decrying this latest violent incident involving LGBTQ New Yorkers, according to The Gothamist.  De Blasio said, “This is a horrifying and painful moment for our city. Ms. Nettles’ murder was crime rooted in hate and ignorance. My heart goes out to her family and her friends as they come to terms with this inexplicable act of violence.” De Blasio continued,  “Make no mistake: The denial of fundamental rights to transgender New Yorkers fuels the appalling violence this community continues to face. That must end. Delivering justice here requires we investigate this hate crime and hold the perpetrator or perpetrators fully responsible. But it also demands we finally affirm the rights of transgender New Yorkers as full and equal members of our city, state and country.”  Stringer added his outrage at the crime, “The savage beating death of a transgender women in Harlem this past weekend was an appalling and unacceptable crime that has no place in New York City. We pride ourselves on tolerance and generosity toward others in this City, but the murder of Islan Nettles is a reminder of how far we still have to go in ensuring that all New Yorkers can walk the streets with dignity and safety.”

A suspect named Paris Wilson, 20, was arrested by police and charged with the beating.  Wilson was initially charged with misdemeanor assault in the third degree and harassment in the second degree.  Since Ms. Nettles’ death, upgraded charges are expected on Friday.  The Black Youth Project called the murder “horrible,” and lamented the awful waste of a talented young transgender woman’s life.  Ms. Nettles, who worked for a time at Ay’ Medici, a Harlem design house.  On her LinkedIn page, she wrote movingly of her love of fashion design:  “Fashion became a definite decision for my life after my first show with my hand designed garments in high school at the 11th grade.”

Ms. Nettles’ hate crime murder is the second fatality in a wave of violence against New York City’s LGBTQ community that has racked up record numbers of violent attacks each year for the last three years in a row.

August 23, 2013 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, GLBTQ, harassment, Harlem, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, New York, New York City, New York Police Department (NYPD), Slurs and epithets, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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