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14 years ago today

6 Oct

On October 7, 1998, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bike through a field in Wyoming. He wasn’t expecting that day to be different from any other beautiful sunny afternoon in the vast plains surrounding Laramie, but that day would change many lives.

Aaron spotted what he initially thought was a scarecrow next to a fence. Then he noticed a glisten of blood. The sun sparkled on what he barely recognized as a face. What Aaron had discovered was the 22 year-old Matthew Shepard, clinging to life.

Most of you know what happened next. Matthew held on for five more days and as his parents held his hand and prayed, Matthew slipped away quietly on October 12th, leaving in his wake a new movement for equality.

The outcries for justice and for greater protections were immediate and resonating.

Since then, Matthew’s mother Judy has made it her personal mission to protect all young LGBT people from Matthew’s horrific fate. In founding the Matthew Shepard Foundation, she has created safe spaces in and outside of schools for kids, and worked with parents to ensure their children learn to erase hate from their lives.

But overwhelmingly what you saw in 1998 was a community ready to act, ready to change something. And Matthew’s story was the catalyst for that. Many of you have seen or read the Moises Kaufman play, The Laramie Project – Matthew’s story as told through interviews of those who were living in Laramie at the time – some of his friends and some who just happened to be riding a bike through the plains of Wyoming that day. If you think of nothing else today, please consider the importance of telling your story – how your story can change the world around you.

This young boy, unbeknownst to him, has changed the world with his.

PHOTOS: DC Vigil for Teen Lesbians Shot in Texas

29 Jun

Kristene Chapa and Mollie Olgin

Last Friday night as many Americans prepared for a weekend of Pride celebrations, 19 year old Mollie Olgin was taking her girlfriend of 5 months, 18 year old Krissy Chapa to a movie. They had some extra time on their hands, so they stopped by a local park.

What happened between then and roughly 9am on Saturday is still being pieced together by Police.

Authorities were called to the scene after a couple came upon them in the morning. Mollie had died due to a gunshot wound to her neck and Kristene remains in intensive care with a gunshot wound to her head.

The investigation continues and as of 7pm last night, no motives or suspects have been discovered. A witness has come forward and described the shooter as a white male in his 20s, 5 foot 8 inches tall, 140 pounds with dark hair. As of this time, it is unknown whether the girls’ relationship was a motive for the crime. The police also indicated that the women did not know their assailant.

As of right now, there are more than 25 vigils planned across the country for the girls.

We hear from Kristene’s brother that she’s making progress and can now move the right side of her body. In trying to get her to communicate, she’s only been able to write – most of what she’s writing is Mollie’s name. Her family has refrained from telling her Mollie is gone for fear it will impact her recovery. Friends and family had been very supportive of their relationship.

Tonight, we were proud to help organize a twilight vigil in Mollie and Kristene’s honor in Washington D.C.. More than 100 people braved the 104 degree weather and contributed over $300 to help with Kristene’s medical care (as she is uninsured).

Speakers included Maya Rupert , Federal Policy Director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights will be Chad Griffin, new Executive Director for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Executive Director of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL), Andrew Barnett and Chair of Gays & Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), A.J. Singletary.

Thank you to those who joined us. Please feel free to make a contribution here to help out Kristene’s family.

If a Trans Person is Murdered and No One Notices, Did It Happen?

29 Aug

About a year ago, I heard the term “cisgender” for the first time. Naturally, I looked it up and it describes “individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity.” i.e. – the opposite of transgender or intersex.

In my personal journey to be accepted, understood and embraced as a gay person and understanding that I am a part of the “LGBT Community,” I have frequently felt a disconnect both personally and as a member of this group between the LGB and the T.

While this divide has become clear from the actions of political leaders who advocate for the stripping of transgender people from anti-discrimination legislation, I have personally lived in a place of misinformation and undereducation on the plight of my own transgender brothers and sisters – and that must change.

Over the past several months years decades, the lives of transgender people have been seen as nothing more than disposable by our elected representatives, law enforcement, and even members of our own community. Transgender people have faced abuses far greater than so many in our country and the blatant brutality against them is not only ignored but accepted and mocked by those who should be protecting us all.

Last week, two trans women were shot by an off-duty DC Metro police officer. He had an altercation with the women and their friends in a CVS before the shooting took place. W Police said Officer Kenneth Furr stood on the hood of his car and shouted “I’m gonna kill you,” and fired 5 shots into their car. Three people were injured and luckily none of those injuries were life-threatening. Furr has been charged with a DWI and “assault with a deadly weapon.” I can’t help but think someone screaming “I’m gonna kill you,” and then firing a gun at you should probably fall under the “attempted murder” umbrella, but he’s a cop and the two women were transgender so I guess we’ll let it slide this time…

(l) NY firefighter Taylor Murphy (r) Transgender Model Claudia Charriez

Apparently yesterday, one of New York’s “finest,” a firefighter featured in the famous New York Firefighter calendar beat and strangled his transgender girlfriend. Taylor Murphy thought his girlfriend Claudia Charriez, also famous after appearing on America’s Next Top Model (she was disqualified when her gender identity was discovered) had been flirting with someone else and thought it was acceptable behavior to shatter her cellphone on the ground and then drag her down the street by her hair. After she fled, he met her at her hotel room where he proceeded to punch, kick and choke her. Did I mention the firefighter is 6’3″ and a 220 lb muscle thug? He’s currently in jail and being charged with “assault, criminal mischief and criminal obstruction of breathing.” Must say it’s the first time I’ve heard “criminal obstruction of breathing.” Where I come from – when someone strangles you, they are trying to murder you…thus, attempting murder.

The New York Post, that bastion of liberty and equality, labeled the previous story with the headline “Fireman busted after violently ‘beating’ tranny pal.” Firstly – the Post is well aware that the term “tranny” is just as offensive as other colorful epithets given to racial and sexual minorities. Secondly – if this firefighter’s girlfriend had been born a woman, I wonder if the term “beating” would have had those little quotes around it? Either way, the Post is not only promoting bigotry, they are putting it in their boldest print.

Last week, I attended a small rally to fight transgender violence and police brutality in DC. A trans woman told a story of her boyfriend who chased her around the house, threw knives and other various items at her, punched, kicked and left her bruised and bloodied. The police came and took a report and labeled it “simple assault.”

Many crimes against trans people remain unsolved. Is this due to overworked police departments or police departments who don’t care that a trans person was brutally murdered? Or is it because sometimes our families have disowned us and don’t bother to follow-up on the investigations (57% of trans people experience family rejection according to a study by the National Center for Transgender Equality)? It’s hard to get accurate facts on transgender hate crimes or statistics because outside of Massachusetts and DC, virtually no other police department in the country  have ever reported instances of hate crimes against transgender individuals.

Whether being beaten and raped in the street by strangers, shot by off-duty police officers or strangled by their partners, trans people, and in particular trans people of color are suffering at unimaginable rates. And what’s worse – the people who are supposed to be stopping this are only adding salt to the wound with their clear discrimination when it comes to the treatment of the victims and the criminals in these cases.

In the 1980’s, thousands of us were dying from a virus no one knew anything about. We were being turned away from grocery stores, from laundromats, from hospitals – from our homes. The community was forced to take a stand to protect our own – we cared for one another, we sheltered one another we built communities where all of us were welcome.

Our transgender brothers and sisters are dying – they are being killed at the hands of people who refuse to understand or accept them. The time is now to start standing up and demanding change. Many of us have experienced being treated as though our lives were trivial – but how many of us can say our lives have been regarded as disposable?

NOM’s Anti-Gay Rally Speaker Screams Gays are “Worthy to Death”

15 May

Rev. Sen. Ruben Diaz and NOM President Brian Brown (photo: Jeremy Hooper, GoodAsYou.org)

Due to inclement weather and a knee injury, I was unfortunately unable to attend today’s “Rally to Defend Marriage” in the Bronx, but thanks to the unending work of blogger and activist, Jeremy Hooper at GoodAsYou, we’re learning a lot about the event.

The rally, first proposed and planned by Reverend Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. of New York, was supposed to bring more than 20,000 people to the Bronx to fight against marriage equality. Diaz is the most fiercely anti-gay politician in New York, despite having two gay brothers. This rally was planned after New York Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell introduced legislation (again) to bring marriage equality to New York State.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) jumped on board to sponsor the march and pay for commercials and other event costs, thus endorsing the things being said in the rally by their guests. In the past, NOM has been very careful about speaking against the violence their rally attendees frequently endorse towards LGBT people. After Larry Adams attended a NOM rally in Indianapolis last summer carrying a sign indicating that the solution to gay marriage is to murder gay people, NOM tried to distance themselves from the message.

This time, it may not be so easy for NOM to distance itself from the message. Whereas previously the violent message was coming from rally attendees, at today’s rally in the Bronx, the quote from one of the rally’s speakers referred to gays and lesbians as “worthy to death.” Perhaps there was something lost in the Spanish to English translation, but it seems clear from the speakers as well as the crowd’s response that an endorsement of murder is the message being presented. Many thanks to Jeremy Hooper for this video. Please visit this link at GoodAsYou.org for the full disturbing video.

Ugandan Gay Activist Murdered, Another’s Life Hangs in the Balance

26 Jan

David Kato Kisulle

According to Box Turtle Bulletin and the BBC, Ugandan activist David Kato Kisulle was murdered in his home in Kampala.

He was found having been beaten in the skull with a hammer a his home and there is little more information than that at this time. What we do know is that David was featured in the Ugandan tabloid, “Rolling Stone,” which featured names and photos of gay men under the headline “HANG THEM!”

He was one of three plaintiffs seeking a permanent injunction against the tabloid, which was successful. And in recent days, David had told friends of several death threats he’d received and was in fear for his life.

Since the introduction last year of the “Anti-Homosexual Bill” which has come to be known as the “Kill the Gays Bill” has been the topic of outrage from LGBT organizations around the country. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has brought this bill to light in the US and featured the author of the bill, David Bahati in a two-part interview last month.

 

Brenda Namigadde (photo courtesy ALLOUT.org)

Today’s murder also highlights an important case regarding Ugandan Brenda Namigadde living in the UK and facing deportation back to Uganda after failed please for asylum. All Out has launched a campaign to keep Brenda in the UK, which may quite literally save her life. “Kill the Gays Bill” Author Bahati said of Brenda:

“Brenda is welcome in Uganda if she will abandon or repent her behaviour. Here in Uganda, homosexuality is not a human right. It is behaviour that is learned and it can be unlearned. We wouldn’t want Brenda to be painting a wrong picture of Uganda, that we are harassing homosexuals.”

It would seem Bahati may be correct, Uganda is doing far worse than harassing homosexuals.

 

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