Brutal violence against gays, trans, etc.

(9 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Lest we forget:

The number of reported attacks against LGBT people increased 24 percent in 2007 over 2006, and they were expected to jump in 2008, said Sharon Stapel, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

Associated Press

Not everything in the gay, lesbian, transgender, and otherwise queer world is about marriage and inauguration prayers.  But understanding these things in the context of fear and violence can help us come to terms with the anger and frustration that a lot of queer voters are facing.  Follow me below for more stories and statistics.

This is a scattered diary.  I’m not aiming for some well-crafted argument, just an impression of the pervasive nature of anti-queer violence.  While I certainly don’t expect anyone to follow all the links I’ve posted below, please click on some of them.  Statistics are harder to process than real, human stories.  

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Various Stories

In August in D.C.’s Logan circle, a group of concerned community members finally had to stage an anti-violence demonstration to protest growing violence against the queer community.  It’s gotten that bad:

About two-dozen friends and supporters of Logan Circle residents Michael Roike and Stevon-Christophe Burrell, the victims of the assault, joined the two men in forming a human chain around the statue inside Logan Circle, where they called for replacing hate violence with “love and solidarity.”

Roike and Burrell told of how three unidentified men repeatedly shouted the words “faggot” at them before punching them in the face and body and knocking them down about 3 a.m. on Aug. 17.

The numbers keep growing: earlier this week, 35 year old Durval V. Martins was murdered in D.C., multiple gunshot wounds in his body and one in the head.

But you don’t have to live in New York or D.C. to see violence against members of the queer community unfolding.  Here’s a report from Michigan from May of this year:

The report shows that in 2007, crimes and discrimination against the LGBT community and those with HIV had increased substantially over the last year. The report showed a 133 percent increase in crimes and discrimination reported in Michigan over 2006 statistics. In real numbers, Michigan reported 226 incidents in 2007, up from 97 reported incidents in 2006.

Likewise, Minnesota reported a 135% increase in anti-queer violence in 2007.

Murder makes the news, but assault can take many forms.  Imagine a school bus driver shouting homophobic slurs at a 10 year old boy and encouraging other kids to attack him.  

Imagine being assaulted – broken bones and all – for being “assumed” gay and in the company of someone in drag, then having the police fail to note these facts in their official report – and then not show up to a city council meeting to defend their decision.

Imagine being beaten up because someone wants to have sex with you, but you don’t swing that way.  We hear all these supposed nightmare stories about gay/trans panic, but when someone beats up a lesbian for not wanting straight sex, it’s barely a blip on the map.

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Maybe no story this year was more horrifying than what happened to Duanna Johsnon, a trans woman whose brutal beating by a policeman was captured on camera:

The video was shocking enough to spark brief national outrage over the brutality of the beating.  What didn’t get that kind of coverage was that Duanna Johnson was murdered in November.

A week later, another transgender woman was murdered in Syracuse, NY:

“There was no previous argument between these individuals, there was no previous fight, there was no bad blood,” [Police Chief] Miguel said. “Our suspect took a rifle and shot and killed this person, also wounding his brother, for the sole reason he didn’t care for the sexual preference of our victim. Isn’t that sad? Isn’t that a sad situation that that’s the sole reason why?

It gets worse.  In August, Terron Oates was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for the 2006 murder of Alexis King.  As part of their legal strategy the defense team had argued this was a case of trans-panic:

But defense attorney Brian McMonagle stressed the youth and naiveté of his client when he went out looking for sex about 5 a.m. Feb. 1, 2006, at Broad and Spring Garden streets.

He said Oates wasn’t aware that transgender sex workers frequented the area. He didn’t know King was a biological male until she became sexually aggressive inside Oates’ car and indicated that she had a penis. Then, Oates went into a frenzy and shot her twice in the heat of passion, McMonagle said.

If you have the stomach for it, scroll down the list of transgenders murdered in 2008.  Read some of their stories.

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What We’re Up Against:

Have you not seen the awful similarity between what happened in Mumbai and what’s happening right now in our cities?

Oh, I know the homosexual “rights” demonstrations haven’t reached the same level of violence, but I’m referring to the anger, the vehemence, the total disregard for law and order and the supposed rights of their fellow citizens. I’m referring to the intolerance, the hate seething in the words, faces and actions of those who didn’t get their way in a democratic election, and who proclaim loudly that they will get their way, no matter what the electorate wants!

Pat Boone

You see, it’s gay demonstrations we should be most worried about, because protesting elections is akin to murdering hostages.

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But at least we Americans don’t corner the market on anti-queer violence.  From Liberia to the Bahamas, from Russia to the U.K., Mexico to South Africa, story after story after story after story after story after…

And let’s not forget Iraq, where violence against gays has dramatically increased since the invasion (emphasis mine):

He was held for 15 days, released only after his family paid a $1,500 ransom. He was raped every day. Only once, he said, was he allowed to talk to his family during captivity. “I told my family that I was beaten by them, but I did not dare to tell my family that I was raped by them. I could not say it, it’s too much shame.”

Or how about Brazil, where a serial killer murdered over a dozen gay men in the course of last year.

Oh, and it’s not just the queers:

Be on your guard, straight people!  You don’t have to be queer (per se) to be a target, as the recent murder of Jose Sucuzhanay showed.  It’s enough to be perceived gay:

On Sunday, Sucuzhanay and his brother, Romel, 38, were walking arm-in-arm. They had just left a party and were headed for their apartment. They were a few blocks from their home when a vehicle carrying four men pulled up on Kossuth Place, and the men screamed racial and sexual epithets. The younger brother was first struck with a bottle then beaten with a bat.

Think that’s just an exception?  Then talk to Karl Aarsheim, another straight man violently assaulted for being a “faggot”:

Karl Aarsheim, 32, left the Minneapolis Eagle, a Washington Avenue gay bar, where he was meeting a friend for drinks Wednesday evening. On his walk home at around 11:30 pm, several men in orange construction vests approached him. One of the men asked, “Are you a faggot?” Aarsheim replied, “So what if I am?”

One of the men then assaulted Aarsheim. He was kicked in the head and neck leaving swelling and bruising, and a number of stitches near his eye. The attacker was was detained by a group of young men on bicycles who happened by the scene.

Cheers to Aarsheim for standing up to homophobia.  We need more allies like him.

(I’d also note that a few other stories linked in this diary involve someone being “mistaken” for queer.  This affects us all.)

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But every group faces these problems!

HUCKABEE: [Discussing African Americans who were] beaten with their skulls crashed in on the bridges of Selma for being black, not for their behavior, not for anything other than their race.  And I said that’s a different situation than asking for marriage to be overturned in California.

BTL: Are you saying the LBGT community doesn’t suffer violence?

HUCKABEE: No, I think they do, and so do the Christians.  In Michigan a bunch of people barged into a church and were rather violent and …

BTL: Have you seen the video of that?  Because it wasn’t particularly violent.

HUCKABEE: Well, it was certainly disruptive.

– at MichiganMessenger.com

Because facing a demonstration at a church is just like being beaten unconscious while waiting for a cab.  

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The focus on Matthew Shepard’s 1998 murder was good in the sense that it brought anti-queer violence to the forefront of national dialogue, and bad in the sense that it obscured how frequent this violence can be.  We haven’t had a case as widely covered since, and for people who don’t follow these stories as closely, you’d think we don’t face this kind of violence anymore.

We came close to having another media event with the murder of Lawrence King, a 15 year old shot and killed for wearing makeup.  King, who by all accounts had a difficult life at home and school, was murdered in February by a fellow student.

15 years old, and murdered for nail polish.

Doesn’t get more immediate than that.

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UPDATE: as broad as I’ve tried to make this diary, I’ve stupidly forgotten one of the major sources of violence against queer people: self-inflicted violence that comes from a culture of guilt and oppression.  Two dkos users caught me: vacantlook‘s excellent rec listed diary tells a powerful, personal story about this; and not a cent was kind enough to drop a link related to gay suicide statistics.  Thank you both for the reminder.

Crossposted over at dkos.

11 comments

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    • pico on December 19, 2008 at 2:38 am
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    is that you follow up on one or two of the stories I posted above.  Get to know these people, the real victims of anti-queer hatred and violence.  Make it personal.  

    We need you all as allies in this fight.

  1. …on GOS, and my head was spinning, so I’ll just toss this in here…

    In my experience, one in a couple thousand people feels empowered to act out against queer folks.  Those that do…to them, it’s a huge thing, an affront that one exists.  Like the guy who walked up to me in front of Macy’s on I think 34th, at Christmas, at rush hour, and offered to relieve me of my life, or the one company vice president who couldn’t listen to me talk and had security escort me out after meeting me.  They’re actually rare as hens teeth, those people.  But they do feel like…you just shouldn’t exist, and they’re going to do something about it, if they can.

    The worst and most pervasive forms of violence are I think those that combine with economic and racial discrimination, the subtler abuse heaped on everyone different.  Visibly queer is the extra strike, the failure of marginal effort to belong, to get the job, to avoid the bad scene before it goes south, to have one’s rental application approved.  And that I think has a much longer list than the day of rememberance gets around to reading.

    Anyway, thanks again…

    • Robyn on December 19, 2008 at 5:26 am

    …is the second killing of transfolk like Lateisha Green, the one that happens in the news media.

    I include an excerpt from Vigil:

    Aphrodite Jones strode smiling to the podium and said something to the affect of “My name is Aphrodite Jones and I’m a crime writer and I’m writing a book about the murder of Teena Brandon…”

    and the crowd said, “Brandon Teena,”

    and Aphrodite Jones said something like, “Teena Brandon, Brandon Teena, it doesn’t matter…”

    and the crowd was shocked…

    and the crowd thought, “It does matter…that’s why we are here…”

    and the crowd thought, “Two men had murdered Brandon because it did matter to them…”

    and the crowd thought, “And the sheriff had murdered Brandon again when he said, “You can call it an it as far as I am concerned…”

    and the crowd thought, “And you have just murdered Brandon again…”

    and Leslie and Minnie Bruce walked off the stage…

    and Maura and Melanie and others rose from their seats and walked out…

    and I sat there and didn’t move because I was in shock.

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