Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Candidate for Mayor Slain in Mississippi; Man Taken Into Custody

Marco McMillian, 34, murdered gay candidate for mayor.

Marco McMillian, 34, murdered gay candidate for mayor.

Coahoma County, Mississippi – Police have identified the body of a popular gay mayoral candidate, discovered beside a levee near the Mississippi River.  Marco McMillian, 34, was up until his death a candidate for the Mayorship of Clarksdale, Mississippi in a hotly contested race.  Investigators do not believe that politics played a role in the murder of the well-liked CEO of MWM and Associates, widely known as the first truly viable gay candidate for elective office in the State of Mississippi.  McMillian had been reported missing since Tuesday.

NBC News reports that a 22-year-old Clarksdale man who was behind the wheel of McMillian’s stolen sport utility vehicle when it wrecked, has been airlifted to a Memphis, Tennessee hospital.  Police have taken Lawrence Reed into custody, but refuse to say more about whether Reed is a person of interest in the murder investigation of McMillian.  Reed was involved in a head-on collision in Coahoma County, and is reported to be in good condition.

The Clarion Ledger has done major reporting on this story throughout the hunt for McMillian, whom Ebony Magazine listed in 2004 as one of the “30 up-and-coming African Americans under 30.”  McMillian sought to win the Clarksdale mayoral race to succeed Henry Espy Jr., brother of U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, who is stepping down after serving the post for twenty years.  The news of McMillian’s murder rocked the Clarksdale community.  A spokesperson for the McMillian campaign, Jarod Keith, in a statement following the press conference where McMillian’s death was announced, “We remember Marco as a bold and passionate public servant, whose faith informed every aspect of his life. Tragically, that life has been cut short.”  One of his opponents in the race, Bill Luckett, offered his sympathies to McMillian’s family and supporters, calling him  “a very articulate, clean-cut young man. It’s a bizarre and tragic situation that deeply saddened [me].”  The Victory Fund, an LGBT political organization that supports gay candidates for public office, issued a brief statement of grief and condolence that read, “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Marco McMillian, one of the 1st viable openly LGBT candidates in Mississippi.” 

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is on the case, according to The Advocate.  As best as is known at this time, McMillian picked up a man who subsequently killed him and stole his vehicle.  All eyes now turn to the man taken into custody from McMillian’s wrecked vehicle.

February 28, 2013 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay men, GLBTQ, LGBTQ, Mississippi, Victory Fund | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Candidate for Mayor Slain in Mississippi; Man Taken Into Custody

Brutal Murder of As-Yet-Unidentified Gay Man in Carrollton, Texas Raises Troubling Questions

HomicideInvestigation_689x387_ohu4MCarrollton, Texas – The body of a savagely murdered 22-year-old gay man was found by his housemate in his home in this Dallas suburb on Friday.  Police, who are classifying the investigation as a murder case, are not releasing his identity.  The victim, known by his circle of friends, fellow church members, and work associates as “Shawn,” was found by Tony Adams who shared a home with him in the 2100 block of Placid Drive. Adams discovered the body upon returning home from work. According to the Dallas Voice, the victim was a well-regarded actor in the Dallas arts community, along with Adams.

“Shawn’s” identity has been complicated because he was known by a stage name he had assumed in the theater, and enjoyed using the name as his own in real life. As of Monday, it is not clear whether “Shawn’s” family has been contacted about the homicide.

Both Adams and the victim attended the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas where Rev. Colleen Darraugh is the pastor.  Pastor Darraugh is quoted by the Dallas Voice as saying that blood covered much of the house. “Evidently it was a brutal beating,” she said, intimating that knives may have been used in the fatal attack. The MCC of Greater Dallas is collecting money to help Adams with the crime-scene cleanup, and with replacing clothing and furnishings that were destroyed in the crime. In an email sent to congregational members and friends, Pastor Darraugh wrote, in part:

“Tony Adams Schmidt is a friend and colleague who some of you know through his work on sound and lighting at Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas and others know through his acting, directing, sound and lighting work in community theatre.

“We regret to share with you that Tony’s housemate, Shawn – whom many of you also know – was brutally killed in their home. The police are actively investigating to apprehend the culprits and to find the motive for this extreme violence.

“We share in grief at the death of Shawn and pray for his family and all of his friends.

“We surround Tony with love and support, praying for him as he deals with his grief and the shock of finding such a horrific scene.”

The email goes on to detail how donations can be made online to the church’s Benevolence Fund.

The nature of the murder, whether it was related to the victim’s sexual orientation, and how the murder gained access to the home are open questions for the LGBTQ community of Dallas and its surrounding suburbs.  As the story unfolds, Unfinished Lives will continue to monitor police reports and the media to ensure this terrible crime does not disappear from the community’s sight.

 

December 4, 2012 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, MCC of Greater Dallas, Slashing attacks, stabbings, Texas, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Transgender Murder in Cincinnati Part of Alarming National Trend

Kendall L. Hampton, 26, gender variant person killed by gunshots in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati, Ohio – A 26-year-old gender-nonconforming person was found shot to death late last Saturday night.  Transgender and anti-violence advocates are drawing attention to the brutal murder of Kendall L. Hampton as they highlight the alarming increase in transgender and gender non-conforming violence in the country, especially against people of color.

Your Black World says that the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) has identified nine gender non-conforming or transgender homicides this year so far.  Of the 30 documented murders of LGBTQ people registered by the NCAVP, 87% are either transgender or gender variant people of color.

WXIX TV 19 reports that Hampton, an alleged sex worker, was found fatally shot in a parking lot between a McDonald’s fast food restaurant and a Dairy Mart.  He was transported to nearby University Hospital where he was pronounced dead later that night. Police say that Hampton was shot twice by an unknown assailant.

The NCAVP and the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization are calling on lawmakers and law enforcement officials to investigate Hampton’s murder for signs of gender, race, and sexual orientation bias.  An increasing chorus of advocates and everyday citizens is calling for better enforcement of hate crimes statutes, especially the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law by President Obama in October of 2009.  Social Justice activists note that since increased publicity has been focused on LGBTQ people since the Shepard Act became law, the rate of violence has increased each year. Some are calling for the passage of tougher anti-queer legislation to protect the vulnerable LGBTQ community.

Often news reports of prostitution are published by the media in gender variant homicide cases, not because gender non-conforming people are apt to be sex workers, but rather because the sensational titillation associated with the murder of prostitutes sells more copy.  The effect of such reports is to downplay the public’s sympathy for the victim, and to lessen the impact of the news of a murder on a wider readership or listening audience. It is a sometimes no-so-subtle means of blaming the victim for his own demise. Whether Kendall Hampton was actively working in the sex industry is beside the point.  He was a human being of worth, perceived to be different enough that someone acted out of hatred and killed him.  Whether the killer gets to own the story of his victim’s death will be up to a more informed public, and a media establishment less interested in sensationalism and more intent on stopping violence against Americans.

August 27, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Character assassination, gender identity/expression, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, Ohio, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Transgender Murder in Cincinnati Part of Alarming National Trend

Houston “Unfinished Lives” Series Draws Large Crowd; Session 2 on June 10: “Lessons Learned”

Houston, Texas – Strong attendance marked the first “Unfinished Lives” session for Houston’s Gay Pride Month.  Much-anticipated Session 2: Lessons Learned is upcoming at Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church at 6:30 pm.  Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, author of Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims, will share five life lessons the stories of hate crimes murder victims have to teach us.  Among the insights Dr. Sprinkle will share in Session 2 are: Why we must learn to talk and think about anti-gay hate crime murder in a different way than ever before; How to stand with our Transgender sisters and brothers as so many are preyed upon; What makes the numbers of anti-LGBTQ hate murders spike upward, even after the enactment of the long-awaited Matthew Shepard Act. The first session, “Stories of Those We’ve Lost,” set the stage for considering violent hate crimes against the LGBTQ community in a brand new light.  Dr. Sprinkle compassionately told the stories of Houston’s own Kenneth L. Cummings Jr., and Simmie/Beyoncé Williams Jr. of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, both of whom died for being gay and/or gender variant.  Cummings, a 46-year-old Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant, was hunted by a religious zealot who murdered him and burned his corpse in a remote South Texas location as a “burnt offering.”  Williams, a transgender teen of color, was shot to death on the day word came to her of acceptance in the Job Corps, news so exciting that she went down to the Sistrunk Avenue “Transvestite Stroll” to share with her gay family. She was shot to death by two young men who fled the scene, and are as yet unidentified.  Dr. Sprinkle talked about sadness and hope in relation to both killings, and encouraged the audience to learn more about the real people behind the statistics on hate crimes.  Central to his presentation was the idea that LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims are our ancestors, portals through whom we can learn to love our lives and our queer communities better, deeper, and more fully.  Rev Kristen Klein-Cechettini and Rev. Lynette Ross led the session in a meaningful, hopeful, and life-giving celebration of the lives of all hate crimes victims, represented by the fourteen stories told in Unfinished Lives.  “Session 2: Lessons Learned” will pick up the theme, highlighting two more stories from Dr. Sprinkle’s ground-breaking book, and offering important insights on what the lives of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people really count for.  From 6:30 to 7 p.m., a delicious light supper will be provided free of charge.  The session will begin at 7 and conclude by 8:30 p.m.  Sponsors for the series are Cathedral of Hope Houston, Transgender Foundation of America, and Resurrection MCC. Everyone is invited to add this significant experience to their Pride Month activities in Houston!

June 8, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Book Tour, Cathedral of Hope Houston, Florida, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, religious intolerance, Remembrances, Resurrection MCC Houston, Social Justice Advocacy, stalking, Texas, Unfinished Lives Book Signings, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Houston “Unfinished Lives” Series Draws Large Crowd; Session 2 on June 10: “Lessons Learned”

Two Transgender Murders Bespeak Crisis of Violence

Marcal Camero Tye, 25, hate crime victim

Forrest City, Arkansas and Baltimore, Maryland – The brutal murders of two transgender women of color within the last month indicate the epidemic nature of transphobic and racist violence against the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community.  No suspects have been identified yet in the murder of Tyra Trent, 25, who was found asphyxiated in a vacant building owned by the city in Baltimore on February 19.  Ms. Trent had been reported missing days before the discovery of her body.  Marcal Camero Tye, also 25, was murdered by dragging behind a vehicle for several hundred feet in Forrest City, Arkansas on March 8. The FBI has begun an investigation into the grisly murder of Ms. Tye, since Arkansas has not statute on the books protecting transgender people. No witnesses have come forward, and no suspects are being investigated in the Tye case as of yet.  Transgender activists have filled the cyberworld with posts and articles about the two women, since regional and national media routinely ignore such stories, and the African American and LGBTQ press seem not to be much better when it comes to reporting these terrible acts of violence.  Media chronically use male pronouns when referring to these women who gave so much in order to live life as they were born to be. Statements like “a man in a dress” sensationalize and demean the victims over and over again, even following their murders–thereby re-victimizing the victims. By definition, these murders are hate crimes perpetrated against a class of human beings who have remarkable hurdles to surmount in society.  It is amazing to us at Unfinished Lives that Ms. Tye could live as a transgender woman in small town Arkansas.  Ms. Trent faced similar problems in big town life.  Local law enforcement authorities are reluctant to launch hate-crime investigations because of internalized bias against transgender persons.  In the case of Ms. Tye, Arkansas LGBTQ activists were infuriated when Francis County Sheriff Bobby May asserted that her murder was a usual homicide and that the dragging death reports of he demise were “misleading.”  The Little Rock-based Center for Artistic Revolution has issued statements of alarm and support for Ms. Tye since the initial reports of her slaying. As EDGE Boston reports: “The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ most recent report on anti-LGBT hate violence also indicated disproportionately high levels of anti-trans violence. Trans women-many of whom were of color-comprised half of the 22 reported anti-LGBT murders in 2009.” The situation has reached epidemic proportions across the nation.  These two savage killings underscore the need for LGBTQ and racial/ethnic minority advocates to amplify the cries of the transgender community.  The killings must stop.

March 20, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Arkansas, Asphixiation, Blame the victim, Character assassination, Dragging murders, FBI, gender identity/expression, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, Legislation, Maryland, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Racism, Social Justice Advocacy, Strangulation, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Two Transgender Murders Bespeak Crisis of Violence

Ugandan Gay Activist Killed in Cold Blood: Were Christians Accomplices in His Murder?

Kampala, Uganda – Prominent defender of Gay Rights in Uganda, David Kato, was murdered in his home by two blows with a hammer this Wednesday. Kato, 40-something at the time of his slaughter, was a well-known voice around the world for human rights, and an outspoken leader protesting Draconian legislation in his home country which would make consensual same-sex activity punishable by law, perhaps even requiring the state to execute convicted homosexuals. What responsibility does the Christian Church bear for the outrageous murder of David Kato? Many in Uganda, including leading church officials, priests, missionaries, and ministers, fervently believe in a sort of “gay conspiracy”on the part of same-sex loving men whom they say will infect their children with the “virus of homosexuality.” Friday, Kato’s funeral was marred by the homophobic outburst of an Anglican priest, Fr. Thomas Musoke, who loudly invoked dire comparisons with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah until mourners wrenched a microphone out of his hands, according to 365 Gay.  The Ugandan Anglican Church, active in encouraging resistance among conservative Episcopalians to the elevation of gays and lesbians as bishops in the United States in recent years, is well-known for opposing LGBTQ rights in the Central African nation.  Christian evangelical missionaries and so-called “experts” on homosexual sin from the United States, such as the notorious Watchman on the Walls Scott Lively, have preached the judgment of God on the Ugandan people if gays and lesbians are allowed to live and love openly in society. U.S. evangelicals exerting influence in Uganda teach that gays and lesbians could be changed to heterosexuality by prayer and counseling if they had enough faith. According to masslive.com, Lively, part of a 2009 evangelical mission to Uganda preaching anti-gay messages to officials and churchmen (Lively even spoke before the Ugandan Parliament during the tour), now says that it is “too early to call Kato’s murder a hate crime,” since the police have rushed to claim that the murder was the consequence of a simple robbery. In rebuttal, Val Kalende, chairwoman of an LGBT human rights group in Uganda said to the New York Times, “David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S. evangelicals in 2009. The Ugandan government and the so-called U.S. evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood.” Indeed, well-funded groups such as the shadowy Washington C Street evangelical organization, “The Family,” have sent funds and encouragement for the “Kill The Gays” legislations still making its way through the Ugandan Parliament. M.P. David Bahati, primary sponsor of anti-gay legislation in Uganda, is affiliated with “The Family.”  NPR host, Michel Martin, explored the culpability of Christians for Kato’s murder with guests on her weekday broadcast, “Tell Me More,” this Friday.  Martin interviewed Jeffery Gettleman, East Africa Bureau chief for the New York Times, asking him directly, “This has also been a big story in the United States, of course, because of the participation of a group of American evangelicals whom we also interviewed on this program. One in particular named Scott Lively, who many human rights activists have said helped to create this context of intolerance. Do you think that that’s true? Do you think the American evangelicals’ visit there was really that influential?” Gettleman replied, “I do think it was influential. I think a lot of people in Uganda and the part of Africa where I live, in Kenya and most of this continent and probably most of this world, there’s many people who are homophobic. But it didn’t take a violent form. It was – people thought that, in Uganda, people thought gay people were strange, that they were outliers, but they weren’t really fired up to do anything about it.” Gettleman continued, “It was only after the visits by these Americans who billed themselves as experts in dealing with homosexual issues that the Ugandan politicians and church groups got really angry about it and suggested killing gay people.” Religious hate speech, whether “soft” in its rhetoric (“Love the Sinner/Hate the Sin”), or blatantly hostile (“Gays and Lesbians are an Abomination in God’s Sight, and Deserve to Die”) has consequences for the safety of LGBTQ people wherever they live. This is certainly true, in our opinion, in Central Africa. David Kato was deservedly called “the father of the Uganda gay rights movement.” In the wave of hostility in tabloid media toward LGBTQ people following the 2009 U.S. evangelical tour of Uganda, Kato’s lynching was suggested in the press. When Christian leaders justify the demonization of LGBTQ people for their sexual orientation or gender presentation, either by selectively quoting scripture and subsequently distorting its life-giving meaning, or by reading their own homophobia back into church teaching to claim that “Gays and Lesbians are sinners,” these clerics are not only exposing a vulnerable minority to religious, political, and social persecution.  They are also exposing their own theology and ethics as woefully bankrupt and void of spiritual integrity. Clerics in Uganda and the United States who stoke hatred against LGBTQ people are no longer messengers of God. They have become a mob of theological thugs.  Anglican Archbishop Emeritus of Capetown, Desmond Tutu, is one of the few courageous voices of Christian integrity in Africa willing to speak out against religious intolerance and hate speech. In the Washington Post last March, Archbishop Tutu appealed for the church to own up to its role in fomenting hatred against gays and lesbians, and instead to commit its resources for repentance and reconciliation for all people.  He said, in part, “Hate has no place in the house of God. No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity — or because of their sexual orientation.” Tutu continued, “Our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters across Africa are living in fear. And they are living in hiding — away from care, away from the protection the state should offer to every citizen and away from health care in the AIDS era, when all of us, especially Africans, need access to essential HIV services. That this pandering to intolerance is being done by politicians looking for scapegoats for their failures is not surprising. But it is a great wrong. An even larger offense is that it is being done in the name of God. Show me where Christ said ‘Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones.’ Gay people, too, are made in my God’s image. I would never worship a homophobic God.” Amen, Archbishop!  Tutu must be joined by a world-wide chorus of Christian voices denouncing the murder of David Kato, the terrorization of his LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and renouncing the use of religion to incite bigotry and fear. Unless the world Christian community repents of its role in murder and mayhem like that in Uganda and Central Africa, Christian theology itself will continue to collapse from “heart-failure”–failing to discern and apply the heart of the message of Jesus Christ which was never bad tidings of fear, but Good News of mercy and justice for everyone.

January 29, 2011 Posted by | "Kill the Gays Bill", Africa, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Beatings and battery, C Street "The Family", funerals, gay bashing, gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, home-invasion, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, mob-violence and lynching, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Protests and Demonstrations, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, soft homophobia, Uganda, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Prominent Trans Woman of Color Murdered in PA

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – A transgender woman of color was murdered October 11 at her Point Breeze home.  While details are few at this time, the killing of Stacey Lee, 31, has been officially ruled “a homicide” by police, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.  Though members of the transgender community are suspicious about the nature of the slaying, investigators say that there is no evidence yet of a transphobic hate crime.  Ms. Lee was found by her longtime lover partially dressed and strangled to death at approximately 9:30 pm on Monday in the second-floor bedroom of the house.  Ms. Lee’s lover, fearing for his job if his identity was made public, has asked to remain unidentified.  Since he has a strong alibi, the authorities do not consider him to be a suspect in the investigation.  He related to the Daily News that he had tried several times to reach Ms. Lee by cell phone on Monday, to no avail.  When he arrived at the Point Breeze home, he let himself in with a key as usual.  Ms. Lee’s five dogs rushed to him, arousing his suspicion, since the dogs always remain with her when she is at home.  The boyfriend discovered Ms. Lee’s corpse in the upstairs bedroom.  She was without a wig, tipping off her lover that she was not expecting company when she was attacked.  “She always has at least a wig on, even if it’s just to come down to get a pizza,” he told the Daily News.  He says he has not eaten or slept since finding the body.  Neighbors say that Ms. Lee was a friendly, considerate neighbor, someone they were happy to know.  Two male neighbors, interviewed separately yesterday, said they would often see strange, white men in nice cars coming and going from the house during the day, when Ms. Lee’s boyfriend was at work. Ms. Lee has also been identified as “Overall Mother Stacey Blahnik,” by the transgender education and advocacy organization, The House of Blahnik.  As Overall Mother, Ms. Lee held a post of importance in the organization. Founded in 2000, the House of Blahnik, according to its website, “is a nationally recognized lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community provider who specializes in the performing arts, specifically using its creative talent in the area of health promotion and disease prevention.”  NY Overseer Stephaun Blahnik & Vice-Chairman of the National Board of Directors called Ms. Lee loving, inspiring, wise, and encouraging. Though a hate crime designation is “not even in the picture” at this point for Ms. Lee’s murder, Homicide Sergeant Bob Wilkins says that no possible motive has yet been ruled out. As the National Transgender Day of Remembrance approaches on November 21, leaders of the LGBTQ community are preparing themselves for a large roll call of murdered transpeople this year.  Garden State Equality notes, “One of the most underreported tragedies in America is the disproportionate rate of murder and other violent crimes against our transgender sisters and brothers.”  Since no reports of stolen items from her home have leaked out to the press, social justice advocates and transgender leaders throughout the Middle Atlantic states are watching closely for indications that Ms. Lee may have died of transphobic violence.  A candlelight vigil is planned in Ms. Lee’s memory for Saturday.

October 15, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Hate Crimes, home-invasion, House of Blahnik, Latino and Latina Americans, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Strangulation, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Prominent Trans Woman of Color Murdered in PA

Murdered NJ Transwoman Disrespected Even in Death

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

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

Execution-Style Murders Plague Atlanta Black Gay Pride

Atlanta, Georgia – Two gay black men attending last weekend’s Atlanta Black Gay Pride were found shot to death “execution-style” on Sunday night in southeast Atlanta.  The Advocate reports that  the victims, Calvin Streater, 26, of Atlanta and Samuel Blizzard, Jr., 21, of Spring Cove, Virginia, were discovered by a friend at the Richmond Hill Apartments at approximately 10 p.m..  Blizzard was a student at Georgia State University.  Atlanta police said that one man was found in a front room and the other in a bedroom in the apartment.  Both of the victims had been shot in the back of the head.  At this point in the investigation, the Atlanta Police Department is not yet ready to classify the murders as hate crime killings.  As an investigator for the APD told The Examiner, “The men were at a Black Gay Pride event at some point during the day…We do not know if their sexual orientation played a role in the shooting deaths.”  Police surmise that the men knew their killer, since there was no evidence of a break-in, and Richmond Hill is a gated facility.  Others suggest that the killer or killers could have gained entrance to the complex on foot when a car was buzzed in by other residents.  The Atlanta Black Gay community is up in arms, and is demanding answers.  In the days prior to Atlanta Black Pride, one of the major organizers of the event, Durand Robinson, also a gay black man, was gunned down on a street in southwest Atlanta. His body was found in the middle of the street with a gunshot wound to his chest.  EDGE reports that Robinson’s murder has not yet been classified as a hate crime killing, since police are operating on the theory that Robinson was murdered in a car-jacking incident.  The slayings of three gay men associated with Atlanta Black Gay Pride have marred the Labor Day weekend event, which is billed as the largest gathering of LGBTQ black people in the world.  The state of Georgia does not have an anti-LGBT hate crimes law on the books.  These recent murders have made the debate over such legislation more urgent.  No arrests have been made in any of these cases.  Commenting on the lack of hate crimes legislation in the state, Carlos Campos, spokesperson for the Atlanta Police Department, told the Examiner, “In March 2006, the Georgia Senate reinstated a hate crime bill in the state, but after much debate, the House deleted provisions that specified hate crimes as those committed because of the victims’ sexual orientation, race, gender, religion or ancestry to naming the only offenses committed “because of bias or prejudice.”   Vigils have been held in memory of the victims, and more activism on their behalf is sure to follow.

September 8, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay men, Georgia, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, multiple homicide, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Social Justice Advocacy, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Execution-Style Murders Plague Atlanta Black Gay Pride

Another Horrific Trans Murder in Puerto Rico: Anti-Trans Violence Epidemic Continues

Corpse of slain transwoman transported to coroner (Primera Hora photo/ David Villafañe)

Caguas, Puerto Rico – In less than two months, police in Puerto Rico are investigating the savage murder of another transgender woman.  Angie González Oquendo, 38, was found strangled to death with an electrical cord in her home in Caguas.  Police have not yet designated the murder as a hate crime, but LGBT activists familiar with the outbreak of anti-LGBT violence in Puerto Rico are calling for a full hate crime investigation.  EDGE Boston reports that the last time Ms. González Oquendo was seen alive was May 20.  Investigators believe she was murdered later that same day. El Nuevo Día reports that the body of the slain transgender woman was found when neighbors reported a repugnant odor coming from her apartment. Though Ms. González Oquendo’s father believes that her boyfriend murdered his daughter, Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said to reporters that a hate crime investigation must be launched nonetheless.  Speaking to EDGE, Serrano said, “At the very least, I suspect that a crime could have been committed by prejudice against the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The authorities have an obligation under the law to investigate this hate angle.” Angie González Oquendo is the most recent in a grim series of anti-LGBT hate murders in the United States Territory.  Five weeks ago, police discovered the body of Ashley Santiago Ocasio who had been stabbed to death in her home in Corozal.  In November of last year, Jorge Steven López Mercado’s decapitated, dismembered and partially immolated body was found on a lonely rode outside Caguas.  His murderer, Juan Martínez Matos, was sentenced to 99 years in prison after pleading guilty to the Silence-of-the-Lambs-style killing.  The transgender community in Puerto Rico is understandably on edge as this latest news of murder sweeps through the population.  Transgender people are among the most vulnerable citizens of the island paradise, and transphobic murder is emerging as a substantial indicator that such violence is reaching epidemic proportions. EDGE reports that Guillermo Chacon, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS, issued a statement just as the story of Ms. González Oquendo’s brutal murder broke in the press.  In part, Mr. Chacon said, “I urge the Latino community to be united as one voice and with our personal actions reject any type of homophobia, transphobia and discrimination. We are one family; we must pursue the well-being of all our members. We must address homophobia and transphobia by putting a stop to the jokes, slurs, discrimination and hatred faced by our LGBT brothers and sisters, not just in Puerto Rico but across the entire country. Hatred and violence is never the answer.”

May 25, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Decapitation and dismemberment, gay men, gay teens, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, Strangulation, transgender persons, transphobia, Uncategorized, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Another Horrific Trans Murder in Puerto Rico: Anti-Trans Violence Epidemic Continues

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