Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

DADT Claims Another Victim: Gay Sailor August Provost

august-provostBeaumont, TX – East Texas is not what an informed person would call a hotbed of liberalism.  But the East Texas aunt of murdered gay sailor, August Provost, is speaking out against the investigation of the Navy into her nephew’s execution-style murder at Camp Pendleton, California.  Rose Roy of Beaumont claims that a full year before his murder, Seaman August Provost complained that he was being harassed for being gay.  Provost’s lover has corroborated the same story when he spoke out to the press on July 4.  Mrs. Roy and other family members encouraged Seaman Provost to document the incidents and inform his superiors in the Navy about them, but she found out that he was afraid to do so because of the military ban on homosexuality, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT).  She told reporters for KBMT News that he was discouraged by the possibility that the Navy would have launched an investigation into his private life, so he didn’t pursue the matter officially.  Now, the Navy is discouraging any suggestion that Provost, an African American patriot from Houston, TX, was murdered because of his sexual orientation.  A spokesman refuses to give any other motive for the killing.  Provost was shot multiple times, and his corpse was set afire in a guard shack in an apparent attempt to destroy evidence.  According to statistics kept by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), nearly 13,000 members of the U.S. Military have been discharged under the provisions of the 1993 DADT law.  That amounts to about one person each and every day.  Since President Barak Obama was inaugurated, 284 Americans have been discharged from the military thanks to DADT.  The untold story is the toll in lives lost because of murders that could possibly have been prevented were DADT not in place, not to mention the number of suicides among LGBTQ sailors, soldiers, airmen, coast guardsmen, and marines.

July 6, 2009 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, California, DADT, gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Law and Order, military, Texas, U.S. Navy | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on DADT Claims Another Victim: Gay Sailor August Provost

U.S. House Chair Calls for Hate Crime Investigation of Gay Sailor’s Murder

sailor saluteSan Diego, CA – The Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee is calling for a hate crime probe into the death of Seaman August Provost, 29, shot to death and immolated in a guard shack on base at Camp Pendleton on Tuesday.  The AP reports that Representative Bob Filner, D-San Diego, chair of the powerful Veterans Affairs committee, has pressed officials for a full investigation into the murder of the African American Houston native who served in the Navy’s Hovercraft unit.  Members of the San Diego LGBT community asked Rep. Filner to intervene on their behalf so that the truth could come out.  The Navy has been traditionally reluctant to reveal details of any homicide involving homosexuality.  The Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) took a “person of interest” into custody and filed no charges against him, but the Houston Chronicle reports on July 3 that he has been released.  Captain Matt Brown, spokesperson for Navy Region Southwest in San Diego said, “Seaman Provost was an outstanding sailor looking forward to a bright future.  He was also a son, a friend and a shipmate, and all of us share in the grief and this sense of loss.  He will most surely be missed by all who loved and cared for him, and by those who served with him.”

July 5, 2009 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, California, gay men, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, military, Politics, U.S. Navy | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on U.S. House Chair Calls for Hate Crime Investigation of Gay Sailor’s Murder

Gay Sailor Murdered at Camp Pendleton

August PendletonCamp Pendleton, CA – An E-3 sailor was found shot “execution-style” at Camp Pendleton’s Hovercraft Station on June 30.  Privately, investigators confirm a “gay angle” in the slaying.  29 year old Seaman August Provost of Houston, TX was found dead in a guard shack Tuesday at about 3:30 PM.  One as yet unconfirmed report says that in addition to his being shot, Provost’s body was badly burned.  While the Navy will not comment on whether his sexual orientation was related to his murder, other sources allege that the victim and a “person of interest” to investigators had an ongoing argument on sexual matters for some weeks. 10News.com reports that an anonymous source says Provost was murdered by a fellow serviceman during a violent argument over Provost’s sexual orientation.   The suspect in the slaying is being held in the Camp Pendleton brig.  San Diego gay activists and the Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Network (SLDN) are calling for a full inquiry into whether this was indeed a hate crime.  Kaether Cordero, Provost’s boyfriend in Houston, told reporters for the San Diego Union Tribune that his lover was “openly gay but kept his private life quiet for the most part.”  “People who he was friends with, I knew that they knew,” Cordero said.  “He didn’t care that they knew.  He trusted them.”  Provost’s sister, Akalia, said that he had recently complained to his family that someone was harassing him.  His family recommended that he tell his supervisor.  In acu5logoview of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the military policy banning gay servicemembers from the military, Provost would have been unlikely to broach the subject.  He would have had no place to go for counseling or advice, given that many chaplains and psychologists for the Navy would have felt it necessary to comply with DADT and turn a gay-affirming or questioning sailor in to his superiors.  His family describes him as courteous, mannerly, and even a little nerdy, a good son who loved his mother and worked hard to see that she was always well cared for.  He had completed three years of college prior to enlisting in the Navy in March 2008 in order to help finance the rest of his education, according to his uncle. He was studying to become an architectural engineer.  Provost was assigned to Assault Craft Unit 5, nicknamed the “Swift Intruders.”  Investigators for the Navy and the family await the autopsy and toxicology report before definitely confirming that Provost’s murder was an anti-gay hate crime.  His sister told the Union Tribune, “He didn’t deserve anything but a good life.”  As a retired military person said of the case, “This one could get ugly.”

July 2, 2009 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, California, Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT), gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, military, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, U.S. Navy | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Sailor Murdered at Camp Pendleton

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chan Lowe SLDN cartoon

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

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