Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Homophobic Death Threats Against Gay Seattle Mayor, Councilwoman Draw Hate Charges

Michael Munro Taylor, 32, accused of threatening to assassinate Seattle's first openly gay Mayor.

Michael Munro Taylor, 32, accused of threatening to assassinate Seattle’s first openly gay Mayor.

Seattle, Washington – Openly gay Mayor Ed Murray and Councilwoman Kshama Sawant were targeted with a cascade of hate-filled, anti-gay messages on Facebook on January 14–just nine days after they were sworn into office in Seattle.  Now, a Magnolia man stands accused of cyberstalking and hate crimes because of his alleged homophobic tirades and threats, according to Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch.  SPLC reports that King County prosecutors charge Michael Munro Taylor, 32, with threatening the life of Mayor Murray, the city’s first openly gay mayor, and Sawant, an outspoken socialist, in a torrent of incriminating emails sent to the city officials.

Seattle Post Intelligencer, in a major post on the crimes, reports that one of the messages sent to Mayor Murray’s Facebook page referred to the assassination of Harvey Milk, the San Francisco gay city supervisor murdered in 1978 alongside his mayor by a disgruntled former supervisor.  In court papers, King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Gary Ernsdorff stated: “The posting included many homophobic slurs, a description of killing babies, rape and death references, and several menacing references to Harvey Milk.”  The court papers go on to allege that Taylor’s messages urged Mayor Murray to kill himself, and bristled with “frightening and rage-filled” screeds calling for feminists to be raped, Mexican babies to be exterminated, and police to be killed.
The Mayor’s Office contacted Seattle Police, who traced the messages to Taylor’s Facebook page.  Taylor was taken into custody on January 16, and is being held on $600,000 bond.  He is charged with malicious harassment under the state’s hate crimes law, two counts of cyberstalking, and a further count of harassment.  He is to be arraigned on February 5 at the King County Courthouse in Seattle.

January 25, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, cyberstalking, gay men, GLBTQ, harassment, Harvey Milk, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Seattle, Slurs and epithets, Washington State | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Homophobic Death Threats Against Gay Seattle Mayor, Councilwoman Draw Hate Charges

Gay Seattle Man Brutally Attacked by Mob; Police Call Bashing “A Hate Crime”

Jason Jacobs, gay 37-year-old, attacked in his own neighborhood.

Jason Jacobs, gay 37-year-old, attacked in his own neighborhood.

Seattle, Washington – A 37-year-old gay man was attacked early Monday morning by a gang of women and men who yelled anti-gay slurs as they ran him down in the gay-friendly Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle.  KOMO News 4 reports that police are calling the attack a bias-driven hate crime.

Jason Jacobs told reporters and the Seattle Police Department that he was walking down the street in his own neighborhood a bit past midnight on Monday when two women and three men called out slurs about his sexual orientation, chased him down, and assaulted him with fists and kicks until he lay unconscious with a fractured eye socket, a broken nose,  a major concussion, and two cracked ribs.  Jacobs says he did not get a good look at his assailants, but knows other witnesses did–if they will only come forward.  The attack took place in front of a Starbucks Coffee Shop, but only one witness has come forward to file a report with the SPD.  Jacobs’ cries for help drew the witness to respond out of a feeling that, if he were subjected to such an attack, he would want someone to reach out to him.   The witness stayed with Jacobs until an ambulance arrived to transport him to a local hospital.

Jacobs says that his pink shirt and shoes may have first attracted the attention of the gang of women and men, the Huffington Post reports.  “Hopefully somebody saw something,” Jacobs told KIRO News. “Hopefully we can get some justice.”  On Tuesday, he returned to the scene of his attack, seeking to encourage others to come forward and help police with the investigation.  Looking at the stains of his own blood still on the sidewalk, Jacobs says that he has lost the feeling of safety and security he once had in the Capitol Hill area.

Seattle Police have assigned this case to their bias crimes division.  In their report, investigators describe the three men suspected of the crime as being in their 20s and of “unknown race,” while the two women were described as “Hispanics” with dark hair.  As of this writing, no arrests have been made.

August 6, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Gang violence, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Washington State | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Seattle Man Brutally Attacked by Mob; Police Call Bashing “A Hate Crime”

Gay Washington Teen Dies in Response to Cyber- and School Bullying

Rafael "Rafa" Morelos, 14-year-old openly gay middle school student took his own life because of incessant bullying.

Cashmere, Washington – New light is being shed on the bullycide of a 14-year-old gay boy, victimized online and in school because of his sexual orientation.  Rafael Morelos, a student at Cashmere Middle School, hanged himself  from an irrigation bridge not far from his home on January 29, a cold Sunday in central Washington state.  His older brother found his lifeless body.  The small agricultural community of 3,060 east of Seattle continues to be in mourning because of his loss.  It is another community that believed anti-gay bullying just didn’t happen among people of stolid, conservative values like them.  Rafael’s suicide has dispelled that illusion.

By all accounts, Rafael was a boy who was easy to like.  He had been out and open about his homosexuality, and had overcome depressive bouts that had caused him to cut himself.  But conservative attitudes, especially among school counselors, made it difficult for Rafa (as his friends called him) and other gay students to find a professional they could trust.

School and town officials still do not want to say that anti-gay bullying played a major role in Rafael’s death.  But scores of his classmates told his mother that the bullying was incessant.  Huffington Post reports that the school locker room was a place of painful conflict for Rafael.  Quoting the Wentachee World, Huffpo highlights a couple of witnesses to some of the worst incidents of harassment and physical violence. One friend said, “He told me he got shoved and punched in the face in P.E. in the locker room at Cashmere.”  Another added, “He was tired of people saying that his little brothers would follow in his footsteps and be gay, too.”  Another friend said that the harassment extended to the internet.  A bully set up a Facebook page just so she could taunt Rafael online for being gay.  His mother Malinda Morelos told Q13 Fox News that she knew he was not acting as if he felt up to par, but she had no idea that he was being bullied for being gay at school.  After a candlelight vigil attended by over 100 youth and others, she said, “He never told me nothing. He did not tell me he was being bullied. He had a dark side inside him that he never told me his feelings anymore. I thought it was just him being a teenager, and I just didn’t know why.”

The Seattle Times says a person from a nearby town collected over 750 signatures for a Change.org petition calling upon Cashmere school officials to enforce their zero tolerance policy on anti-gay bullying.  LGBTQ advocates from around the nation are pressing local and state officials for action to prevent other senseless bullycides. On April 7, the Seattle Men’s Chorus, known for its many gay members, will give a benefit concert in Rafael’s memory.  The concert will be preceded by a program on diversity and tolerance.  Cashmere Schools Superintendent Glenn Johnson told the Times: “The bottom line is we lost a kid — and that’s of concern no matter what the reason is. The reality is that we take that very seriously and we want to get better as a community,” Superintendent Johnson continued. “We need to learn and heal together.”

His mother is left with her memories and a journal retrieved from his school locker where he spoke lovingly about his friends and a special person in his life.  On his iPod, Rafa left a short, poignant goodbye shortly before he died: “Sawwy, guys, but I love you guys.”  As his mother said to mourners at the candlelight vigil in memory of her dear son, “Sometimes he acted strong but, inside, he was dying little by little.”

March 29, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bullycide, Bullying in schools, gay teens, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Social Justice Advocacy, Vigils, Washington State | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Washington Teen Dies in Response to Cyber- and School Bullying

Celebrate Lesbian Pioneer, Phyllis Lyon!

Phyllis Lyon, hero of the LGBTQ Civil Rights Movement

Today is Phyllis Lyon’s 87th birthday, and we at the Unfinished Lives Project pause to celebrate her life and work as a pioneer of the LGBTQ Civil Rights Movement.  Born November 10, 1924 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Phyllis earned a journalism degree from the University of California at Berkeley. She, along with her spouse, Del Martin, founded the Daughters of Bilitis in San Francisco in 1955, the first lesbian social and political organization in the world, along with a handful of other courageous lesbians.  In 1956, Phyllis became the first Editor of the landmark lesbian paper, “The Ladder,” from 1956 until 1960 when Del took over from her.  In 1964, she and Del co-founded the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, bringing religious leaders together for the first time to address the roles of queer women and men in communities of faith, and to encourage faith groups to accept LGBTQ people.  She and Del were active in the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club, and were the first lesbian couple to join the National Organization for Women (NOW). In the 1960s and ’70s, they used their influence to de-criminalize lesbian and gay behavior.  In 1995, the couple were prominently active in the White House Council on the Aging.

Coming out in the 1950s was tricky and dangerous.  Originally, Phyllis used the pseudonym “Ann Ferguson” in her writing and editorial work, but dropped it to come out openly and fully as an encouragement to all LGBTQ people to speak the truth as who we are.  Interviewed by young queer journalists during the 2009 National Equality March in Washington, D.C., Phyllis reflected on the courage it took to live openly as a lesbian or gay man in the Eisenhower Era. She told her teen interviewers for The Advocate“The time was not the time when you could wear a sign that said, ‘Hi, I’m a lesbian, be friendly with me!'” 

Phyllis and Del met in Seattle in 1950, and became lovers in 1952. In 1953, they moved to San Francisco. In February 2004, they were issued a Marriage License by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome, and were married–only to have their marriage dissolved by the California Supreme Court that same year.  Not to be denied, Phyllis and Del were the first couple to be legally married in San Francisco City Hall on June 16, 2008 once the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in the Golden State–in fact the only couple married that day by the mayor. Del passed away later that year.

“We’ve come a long way from our goal in the 1950s, part of which was to get laws against sexual activity between consenting adults of the same sex wiped off the books,” Phyllis told the Noe Valley Voice in February 2003. “The other part was to be considered part of society. We wanted our full rights and responsibilities.” She and Del succeeded, on our behalf.  The contribution they made to the full recognition and protection of LGBTQ people in America is beyond calculation.  So, we at the Unfinished Lives Project salute Phyllis Lyon today as a sign of hope and a hero of our work.  Happy Birthday, Phyllis!

November 10, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Bisexual persons, California, Daughters of Bilitis, gay men, GLBTQ, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, Oklahoma, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Washington State, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Feel the Morning Breaking: Remembering Bill Clayton (1978-1995)

bill clayton.gif

Bill Clayton wanted to be a sculptor, a teacher, an architect, a counselor…but his life was cut short by irrational hatred on May 8, 1995.  He was barely 17.  Bill had come out to his parents as a bisexual three years before, when he was 14.  Molested by a sexual predator that same year, he went into intensive therapy and regained his old confidence.  It took years, but by April 1995 he and his counselor agreed that he was no longer in need of counseling for the PTSD that had plagued him for the past three years.

Bill was out at school, and a vocal, active proponent of the rights of sexual minorities.  When an anti-LGBT storm broke over a Women’s History Month speaking invitation to Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer (who defied Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the U.S. Military) at Olympia (Washington) High School, where Bill was a student, he openly supported her presence on campus.  She was allowed to speak on March 21, 1995.  Strong, homophobic feelings hung thick in the air after that.

Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer

Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer

On April 6, 1995, ironically one day after his therapist released him, Bill and his friends Sam and Jenny were attacked by a gang of students in broad daylight.  The two boys were beaten and kicked unconscious after being verbally assaulted for being queer.  The police arrested several boys under 18 who had acted on the community’s homophobia by targeting Bill and his friends.  The assault was treated as a hate crime from the beginning. In time, the boys who attacked Bill and Sam were sentenced to 20-30 days in juvenile detention, followed up by probation and community service and four hours of diversity training concentrated on sexual orientation.

Bill after the hate crime assault

Bill after the hate crime assault

Olympia rose to the challenge, and began to face its homophobia at a rally in a city park on April 14.  Bill spoke out, saying, “As an openly bisexual person in Olympia, I’m probably–or may be–the victim of this sort of thing again.  Hate crimes–especially those against homosexuals and bisexuals and transgendered people are on the rise in this area.  And that is why now–more than ever–we, the gay community need to come out and band together and fight for our civil rights and our right to be safe in our homes and on the streets.”  It was a brave thing for him to do.

As a result of the attack, Bill fell into a deep depression, becoming suicidal.  His family hospitalized him for his own protection and healing.  Ten days later he came back home.  He told his mother that all he could see ahead was a lifetime of dealing with one assault after another, and he was tired of coping with it all.  She wrote about his fear and depression, “He was 17 years old–an age when kids are supposed to be excited about moving out into the world as adults.  The only place he felt safe was at home.”  She continued, “He saw no hope, so he chose to end his life.”  As a living memorial to Bill, his mother, father, and brother have become advocates for LGBTQ youth, and strong voices for the prevention of teen gay suicide.  They have not forgotten Bill, and we cannot let ourselves forget him, either.

One of Bill's last paintings, done while hospitalized for depression after the assault

One of Bill's last paintings, done while hospitalized for depression after the assault, "Hold Back The Dawn."

Now, with anti-bullying legislation on the books in several states, and pending in several others (NC, for one), Bill’s passion for life has a new dawning of hope.  Federal legislation has been introduced in Congress to address school bullying and violence.  Bill’s story takes on new power as the cause of security and hope for LGBT youth moves to center stage in American consciousness.  Every time a life is saved, every time a young boy or girl is helped not to take their lives, Bill Clayton is honored.  To save the lives of young queer folk is to vindicate the passion of our young brother, Bill, and all the thousands like him for whom the dawn did not break in time.

To that end, here is the link to the Trevor Helpline, http://www.thetrevorproject.org/ the oldest and largest 24/7 suicide prevention helpline for LGBTQ youth in existence.  If you or a friend are feeling lost and alone, call the Trevor Helpline, 866-4-U-Trevor, [866-488-7386].  There is hope, there is help.  Bill has not been forgotten. The morning is breaking.

Trevor header

May 11, 2009 Posted by | Bisexual persons, Heterosexism and homophobia, Legislation, Lesbian women, military, Protests and Demonstrations, Slurs and epithets | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Feel the Morning Breaking: Remembering Bill Clayton (1978-1995)


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