Tag Archives: gay violence

Gay History: Violence is No Stranger to the LGBT Community: David Mixner

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

From “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats

Not since June 24, 1973 when a madman fire-bombed the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans has the LGBT community suffered such slaughter at the hands of hate. On that horrible day, 43 years ago, 32 of our own were burned to death. No one was ever charged or punished for that crime. Ever since, unfortunately, random violence has shadowed our journey to freedom. Over a dozen MCC churches have been burned to the ground. Every one of us knows someone who has been gay-bashed. Many have been beaten so badly that they never regain their ability to function in the world. None of us will ever forget Matthew Shepard crucified on a fence in the barren and desolate prairie of Wyoming.

For the LGBT community, the news that terrorists aim to kill us is certainly not new. We have recoiled time and time again as videos show our brothers and sisters in the Middle East stoned to death or hurled off the tops of buildings. In Africa we see members of our community burned to death encased in the infamous ‘neckless’ (a burning tire around their neck). A generation of us witnessed first hand as our brothers endured a prolonged and brutal death from AIDS while our own government turned its back on us. American preachers have called for the death sentence for LGBT Americans and dispatched missionaries overseas to urge third world nations to inflict hate and violence on their own LGBT citizens.

For the most part we have suffered all this amid the silence of others; it has almost become a way of life for us. The lack of outrage or even coverage of the repression and terror directed toward us from the media is striking. Also, the fact that thirteen nations have the death penalty simply for being homosexual — and many of them are American allies. As ACT UP said so eloquently, silence really does equal death.

Now another place, another name has joined the long list: Pulse. Ironically the name of the Orlando bar is the means to ascertain if a person is still alive.

Oh yes, we are still alive. They have not invented a bullet, a gun or firebomb that can come close to murdering our spirit or our determination to be free. For every one of our fallen there are ten to take their place.

The slaughterhouse in Orlando hits close to home. I have spoken there at a community event. Every city in America has a bar like Pulse. We have all danced to the same music! We all know it can happen anywhere, anytime in our community. We are all always at risk.

President Obama rightly called the slaughter in Orlando both a terrorist act and a hate crime. The two can’t be separated.

Let’s be honest. Not only was this twisted terrorist inspired by ISIS; he had plenty of permission here in America to hate us.

There are precincts of American politics filled with rhetoric against our community, our rights, our very being. Pastors advocate hate from their pulpits and legislation is submitted and enacted to demean us and sanction anti-LGBT discrimination. There are states passing laws to permit our fellow citizens to deny us a meal in a restaurant, a place to sleep at night, or even access to a restroom. Do these agents of bigotry really believe their cynical fear-mongering and attempts to write hate into the stature books did not contribute to the massacre at Pulse? Really?

What can we do in the face of such horror?

For years to come and without question we will have to continue fighting our oppressors in the streets and at the ballot box. We cannot rest until every hate-filled law is overturned. The best memorial to the dead of Orlando is a new birth of freedom.

In the short term, many of the killed or injured are poor and they and their families need our financial assistance. Equality Florida has established a “Go Fund Me” page for us to help pay for funerals and medical expenses.

The LGBT community in Texas — and all decent citizens –have a special obligation and that is to remove Lt. Governor Patrick from office for his hateful tweet: “You reap what you sow.” He dishonors his office and America.

The Republican Party must stop exploiting gay-baiting as a tool to turn out their base.

Finally, we must stand tall, proud and open. All of us are sickened and angered by the mass execution of our brothers and sisters, but we are not bowed and not defeated. Never!

Reference

Gay History: Born Free, Killed By Hate – The Price Of Being Gay In South Africa

Betty Melamu is still waiting.

She prays that one day she will face the people who killed her daughter and find out why they did it.

“I want to know, that’s the point,” she says. “I want those who did this thing to my child to be arrested, all of them.”

Almost 4 months after Pasca was murdered, no-one has been arrested.

For many LGBTI people and their families in South Africa, safety, justice, and the promise of a truly rainbow nation still feel a long way off.

South Africa’s constitution was the first in the world to protect people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation. The country was also the first in Africa to legalise same-sex marriage. But after a spate of murders, gay people say more needs to be done to stop hate crimes.

Betty Melamu sits on a brown leather sofa in her living room in the township of Evaton, just south of Johannesburg. She’s cradling a framed picture of her daughter Motshidisi Pascalina, known as Pasca.

In a quiet, wavering voice, she sings Pasca’s favourite song.

“Whenever she would listen to radio or go to church she would sing that song,” she remembers.

When I ask if Pasca was a good singer she says, “Yes,” and laughs – apparently Pasca was more spirited than talented, constantly switching between parts as she sang.

She loved football too, studied hard at school and wanted to be a politician.

“She wanted to do something good,” says Melamu with pride.

But the laughter and happy memories are fleeting, and sadness is etched in her thin, drawn face. Pasca was a lesbian, something her family knew and accepted. She had just turned 21 and completed her final high school exams when she went to a party in December.

“I don’t know what happened after the party,” says Melamu. “But she didn’t come back.”

Two days later Pasca’s body was found in a field in a neighbouring township. She had been beaten and mutilated. At the morgue her family couldn’t recognise her face and could only identify her by a tattoo on her leg.

“At that time I was strong,” Melamu remembers. “But after that I feel like I am crazy woman.”

And as we talk, she repeats one question, over and over.

“Why? Why did this happen to my child?”

Pasca was was born in 1994, the year apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela was elected president – she was one of the first of South Africa’s so-called born free generation.

In his inauguration speech, Mandela promised to “build a society in which all South Africans will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts… a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”

But 21 years later, this promise remains largely unfulfilled for the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.

In a country where crime rates in general are high, black lesbians in poor townships face particular risks and often suffer the most violent crimes.

As women, they’re vulnerable in a country with one of the highest rates of rape in the world. As lesbians in an often homophobic and patriarchal society, they face a further danger – the idea that they can be “changed” and “made into women” through what is known as “corrective rape”.

It’s suspected this may have happened to Pasca, although the post-mortem was unable to determine this.

And when crimes happen, there’s no guarantee that the response will be adequate. Victims say they often face secondary harassment by police or health care workers.

Pasca’s case was assigned to a police officer who was on leave at the time, only returning to work two and a half weeks later.

Frustrated at the delay in this and two other rape cases, in January activists took to the streets of Evaton with rainbow flags and banners. Chanting “Pasca is our sister,” they marched to the local police station to demand justice.

“The police are not doing anything,” Lindiwe Nhlapo told me several weeks later. She’s part of Vaal LGBTI, one of the groups that organised the march. “The police are failing us big time.”

Since then, the police have tried to address concerns about the investigation into Pasca’s death, but frustration with the justice system is a common story.

Lindiwe Nhlapo wants justice for Pasca

In the nearby township of KwaThema, silver drapes and rainbow flags adorn the living room of the small house that’s the headquarters of the Ekurhuleni Pride Organising Committee (EPOC).

There’s also a bar down one end and a sign on the wall – Divas and Dykes Lounge. Day or night, this is a safe place for gay and transgender people to socialise.

“I can’t walk with my partner on the street and hold their hand,” says Bontle Kahlo, from EPOC. “I can’t go out at night and say ‘I’m going to dance somewhere,’ because I’m not safe. I might get killed because of who I am, because of who I love.”

Bontle Kahlo (right) with her partner Ntsupe Mohapi

She points to a frame on the wall containing photos of dozens of LGBTI men and women.

“This is our memory wall,” she says. Some of them died of natural causes, but many of the lesbians in the pictures were murdered because of their sexual orientation.

“Women are less than men,” says Kahlo. “If you’re a black woman, you are even less, and if you’re a black lesbian woman you are basically nothing in this country.”

Among the faces on the wall is Noxolo Nogwaza, a 24-year-old lesbian who was raped, mutilated and murdered in 2011.

Noxolo Nogwaza’s photo is top left – she is wearing a baseball cap and white top

But five years later, no-one has been prosecuted.

“The feeling we got from the police is that they expected us to do all the work for them,” says Kahlo.

“It’s very tiring to be an activist but to also be a police officer and to try as hard as you can, and to have a government which is not supportive.”

Her partner and fellow campaigner Ntuspe Mohapi nods in agreement.

“They’re good at talking but not at acting,” she says.

When they heard about Pasca’s murder, there was a familiar sadness.

“I think it’s getting worse,” Mohapi says. “And these are just the cases of murder that we are talking about. We haven’t started with rape, or hate speech, and the bullying in schools, and the suicides of gay teenagers.”

South African law doesn’t classify hate crimes differently from other crimes, so there are no official statistics to turn to.

The organisation Iranti-org is funded by the EU to document violence against LGBTI people – it has counted more than 30 murders and rapes in the country since 2012.

Pasca was just one of three LGBTI people killed in South Africa during a six week period late last year. The deaths barely received a mention in the mainstream media.

There hasn’t always been a lack of interest though. After the murder of Noxolo Nogwaza and several other lesbians in 2011, there was a global outcry. 170,000 people signed a petition calling on the government to act.

In response, the government set up a National Task Team and drew up a National Intervention Strategy to reduce hate crimes.

It also established a Rapid Response Team to make sure that hate crimes are properly investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted. This has had some success in clearing a backlog of murders and other crimes.

Mpaseka “Steve” Letsike says more should be done to change attitudes

But the government is not doing enough says Mpaseka “Steve” Letsike, co-chairwoman of the National Task Team and head of LGBTI organisation Access Chapter 2.

“We are not getting it right. There’s a huge gap. We need to invest our energies into prevention, into conversations, into dialogues.”

The government is doing some of this – funding awareness campaigns and training police and health workers. But “it’s still a drop in the ocean,” says Letsike.

To get a sense of the challenge South Africa faces, I travel to the Johannesburg suburb of Yeoville. It’s home to many migrants from more traditional, rural parts of the country.

In a tiny room, barely big enough for a bed and a fridge, I perch on an upturned bucket and speak to two men. The elder of the two speaks softly, but has a fearsome clarity when our conversation turns to homosexuality.

“Homosexuality is a taboo to us,” he says. “I’ll go back to African traditions, there’s no word for that in our language.”

I ask what would happen if one of his daughters told him she was a lesbian.

“I might kill her myself. That thing is unnatural, it’s awkward, so I cannot accept something that is awkward in my house.

“If someone said choose between keeping this child or killing it, I would kill it.”

His views reflect the gap between the law and the attitude of many South Africans. It shows that the government has failed to create a truly rainbow nation, say activists.

“Conditions for LGBTI people in South Africa have improved substantially since 1994,” says John Jeffery, deputy minister of justice and constitutional development. His department is responsible for the National Intervention Strategy.

“We are trying to educate people about LGBTI rights, that gay rights are human rights,” he says, and adds that he is frustrated with the criticism.

“There’s no use complaining outside that government is not doing enough,” he says. “I unfortunately have not heard proposals from civil society organisations about things we should be doing that we’re not doing. They need to tell us where they think we should be improving.”

While open to suggestions, he says there are limits to what he can do.

“More could be done, but the extent to which we can run awareness programmes would depend on budget and what money we’ve got, and unfortunately government is facing budget cuts.”

The government is currently in the process of preparing legislation to outlaw hate crimes and hate speech, which should allow better monitoring of crimes and, it’s hoped, reduce homophobic abuse.

“There’s no magic solution, it’s a process and that process takes time,” says Jeffery.

Betty Melamu is still waiting.

She prays that one day she will face the people who killed her daughter and find out why they did it.

“I want to know, that’s the point,” she says. “I want those who did this thing to my child to be arrested, all of them.”

Almost 4 months after Pasca was murdered, no-one has been arrested.

For many LGBTI people and their families in South Africa, safety, justice, and the promise of a truly rainbow nation still feel a long way off.

Reference

Gay History:, 25 Violent Attacks at Gay Bars That Preceded Orlando’s Horrific Nightclub Massacre

This litany of gay hate, murder and violence goes on everywhere in the world. Here in Australia alone there are, in Sydney, about 80 unsolved gay murders from the 80s alone. It is not a pleasant subject, but it’s a reality, and whether we like it or not, like war, it is part of our history. This article only goes up to June 2016 – it would be frightening to know the further extent of this awful violence since that date. It is a constant reminder to us that even in what we consider gay-safe spaces…we are not safe!

When a radiant President Obama declared June LGBTQ Pride month, he told the American people that “despite the extraordinary progress of the past few years, LGBT Americans still face discrimination simply for being who they are.” Nobody could have imagined how that statement would take on a tragic enormity just days later.

Sunday, Obama addressed the American LGBTQ community and the rest of the nation again to talk about the worst mass shooting in our history. He talked about the unthinkable contrast of the horror that happened in the early hours of Sunday morning in Orlando: “The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub — it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.”

Less than two weeks before the country prepares to celebrate one year of marriage equality, the sight of two men kissing on the street is terrifying enough to someone that a hatred-fueled massacre we experienced at the Pulse in Orlando can be the result.

Unfortunately, Orlando is hardly the first major deadly attack against an LGBT bar or landmark.

Photo credit: GlobalGayz/Facebook

Until today, the deadliest attack had been in New Orleans, over 40 years ago. On the week when the LGBT community celebrated its fourth Gay Pride — four years after Stonewall —  an arsonist set fire to the Upstairs Lounge at the French Quarter, killing 32 people on June 24, 1973. No suspect was ever charged.

On Nov. 18, 1980 a man named Ronald K. Crumpley opened fire outside the Ramrod bar in Greenwich Village in New York City. He said he believed gay men were agents of the devil, stalking him and ”trying to steal my soul just by looking at me.” His father, a minister, said in his testimony that Crumpley maybe had a ”a homosexual problem himself.”

On April 28, 1990 at Uncle Charlie’s, another gay bar in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, three men were injured in an explosion possibly caused by a pipe bomb.  The police didn’t immediately arrest anyone for the crime. Five years later, federal prosecutors accused El Sayyid A. Nosair for bombing Uncle Charlie’s, planning to blow up New York City landmarks and killing a rabbi in 1990. They said Nosair, a muslim, attacked the bar because he objected to homosexuality on religious grounds according to report from the New York Times. In 1996, he was convicted of planning to wage a “war of urban terrorism” and was sentenced to life in prison.

Jon Christopher Buice is serving a 45-year sentence for the killing of Paul Broussard in Houston, Texas on July 4, 1991. Buice and nine of his friends tried go into several bars in a gay area of Montrose, but they were refused entry. They then attacked Buice and two other friends with nail-studded wooden planks, a knife, and steel-toed boots outside Heaven, a gay bar in the city’s heavily LGBT Montrose district.

On Feb. 21, 1997 a nail-laden device exploded at the Otherside Lounge, a lesbian nightclub in Atlanta. Five people were wounded. Eric Rudoplh confessed to the Otherside Lounge bombing, as well as the Atlanta Olympics bombings, and abortion clinics in Atlanta and Birmingham. “Homosexuality is an aberrant sexual behavior,” he wrote in a statement. “Like other humans suffering from various disabilities homosexuals should not attempt to infect the rest of society with their particular illness.”

Two people were killed and 81 were injured after a bomb exploded in a gay bar in London’s Soho, on April 30, 1999. The blast happened at the busy Admiral Duncan pub in the center of London’s very gay neighborhood at the start of a holiday weekend. Just like the Orlando tragedy, the attack happened in a place where people go to socialize and escape. Peter Tatchell, spokesman for the gay rights group OutRage!, said: “A lot of gay people saw the Old Compton Street area as a safe haven.They felt able to relax and hold hands without fear of attack. This outrage has destroyed that cosy assumption.”

In Roanoke, Virginia on Sept. 22, 2000, a man called Ronald Gay asked directions to a gay bar so he could “shoot some people.” He then walked calmly into the Backstreet Cafe on a Friday night, ordered a beer, and  opened fire. He killed one person and injured six. Gay told police he didn’t like being called Gay. He also said it was his mission to make all gays move to San Francisco, which he thought would end AIDS. “He said he was shooting people to get rid of, in his words, ‘faggots,’” Lieutenant William Althoff of the Roanoke police was quoted as saying. He was sentenced to four life terms.

18-year-old Jacob D. Robida walked into a bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts in the evening of February 2, 2006. He asked the bartender if he was at a gay bar, ordered a couple of beers, and moved to the back of the bar, watching a game of pool briefly before taking out a hatchet — a small ax the size of a hammer. The bartender told CNN the man “started swinging the hatchet on top of this customer’s head”. He also struck a second patron with the hatchet, pulled out a gun and shot the first victim in the face and the second twice in the head, Phillip said. A third person also was shot in the abdomen. He killed himself three days later.

At the San Diego Gay Pride festival in July 30, 2006, six men were attacked with baseball bats and knives after leaving the Pride festival. The attackers used anti-gay slurs as they beat the victims. One almost died. Four men pleaded guilty in connection with the attacks and received prison sentences from two years and 11 months to 11 years.

20-year-old Sean William Kennedy was walking to his car outside Brew’s Bar in Greenville, South Carolina on May 16, 2007 when a car approached him. A young man got out, called him a faggot and punched him in the face so hard that caused his brain to disconnect from his brain stem.The killer, 19-year-old Stephen Moller, left the scene and let Kennedy die from his injury. He was sentenced to five years for involuntary manslaughter, but his sentence was reduced to three, because he was father. His mother said he later “left a message on one of the girl’s phones who knew Sean, saying, ‘You tell your faggot friend that when he wakes up he owes me $500 for my ‘broken hand!’”

Osvan Inácio dos Santos was leaving a gay bar in Arapicara a small city in the Alagoas, Northeast of Brazil with a group of friends, after he won a local ‘Miss Gay’ competition on Sept. 15, 2007. On the way home, he got separated from the group. They tried contacting him, but he didn’t answer. His body was found a day later. He’d been raped and beaten to death. Tedy Marques, president of the Alagoas Gay Group, said that “Homophobia is one of the worst problems Brazil faces. It is unacceptable that every other day in our country a homosexual is brutally murdered.”

Lance Neve was with his boyfriend and another friend at Snuggery’s Bar in Spencerport, New York on March 7, 2008 when a man named Jesse D. Parsons approached the group. He said he wanted to shake Neve’s hand because he had never shaken a gay man’s hand before, but Neve refused. Parsons then beat him up and left him unconscious. He was transported to an area hospital, where he was treated for a fractured skull, nose, left eye socket and upper jaw bone and blood on the brain. During his hearing, he told the court that “while he didn’t mean to hurt Neve as badly as he did, Neve deserved it.” He was sentenced to five years and a half in jail, and was ordered to pay $24,000 for Neve’s medical expenses.  

Tony Randolph Hunter, was beaten outside the Be Bar Nightclub in Washington DC by 19-year-old Robert Hannah. He later died from the injuries on September 7, 2008. Hannah was sentenced to 6 months in jail and ordered to pay $50 in court costs. 

On March 1, 2009, three friends threw concrete blocks at patrons inside Robert’s Lafitte Bar, in Galveston, Texas injuring two men. One of the victims, Marc Bosaw, required 12 staples in his head. One of the three suspects later told police their intent was to target homosexuals, said Galveston Police Department Lt.D.J. Alvarez. The trio also hurled homophobic insults, authorities said.

On April 11, 2009 Justin Goodwin was attacked at a bar in Gloucester, Massachusetts by as many as five people, who were using anti-gay remarks. The bashing left him blind in one eye, and deaf in one year. He committed suicide two years later.

On August 29, 2009 a shooting took place at a LGBT youth center in Tel Aviv. Two people died, 15 were injured. Most of them minors. A man named Hagai Feliciano was indicted for murder and a hate crime in 2013, but the charges were dropped in 2014. While not technically a bar, it is the equivalent for LGBT youth – a place of sanctuary and empowerment.

In New York City, a man named Frederick Giunta was charged and arrested on October 17, 2010 for allegedly attacking and assaulting people in two bars in Greenwich Village: Ty’s Bar on Christopher Street and nearby Julius Bar on W 10th St hurling anti-gay remarks. According to NYPD officials, Giunta has a history of committing crimes by targeting men at gay bars. The attack happened two weeks before the NYPD arrested two men on charges they attacked a patron inside the bathroom at Stonewall Inn. 

In October of 2010, two men were arrested after attacking a man in the bathroom at the iconic Stonewall Inn in New York City. The suspects reportedly told the man, “We don’t like gay bars, and we don’t piss next to faggots” before the assault began. He later refused to apologize to the victim, because he has no regrets. “I’m not going to say sorry, because I don’t know what I should be sorry for,” said Francis, who also insisted he’s not a homophobe. “I don’t hate gay people. I don’t hate anybody.”

On October 25, 2011 a man sprayed 21-year-old Russel Banks with liquid fuel and threw a lit match at him at the Rainbow and Dove gay bar in Leicester City, England. Banks suffered third degree burns to 20 percent of his body.

On the first minutes of New Year’s Day, 2014 a man named Musab Masmari poured gasoline in a stairway to the balcony at the Neighbours Nightclub in Seattle, where 750 had gone to celebrate the New Year. An unidentified informant told the FBI that, in the numerous conversations after their first meeting, Masmari often expressed a “distaste for homosexual people,” and that Masmari “opined that homosexuals should be exterminated.” He was arrested a month later, and sentenced for 10 years in prison.

On June 1, 2014 two friends were killed after they left R Place, a gay club in Seattle. Ali Muhammad Brown confessed to the killings. He contacted the men via a hook-up app like Grindr, met them after they left  the club and then shot them multiple times and killed them. Brown told the police the murders were a “bloody crusade” to punish the U.S. government for its foreign policies.

After months of violent anti-gay attacks, Central Station, Russia’s largest  gay club closed its doors on March 27, 2014. The club was considered one of the only symbols of freedom for Russian’s LGBT community.

On October 1, 2014 a man named Wayne Odegard shot a man at the Salon, a popular gay bar in Minneapolis. He was passing by the bar when he saw two men kissing. He grabbed his gun, yelled “f**cking faggots,” and shot at them, injuring one. Odgegard admitted to police he said ‘faggots’ before the shooting, and said that seeing men kissing pisses him off.” He also recited a passage from Deuteronomy. 

On March 22, 2016 a transgender woman was sexually violated inside a bathroom at the Stonewall Inn. According to the NYPD, she said that a man came into the bathroom claiming he only needed to wash his hands, but then proceeded to grope and rape her. 

On April 8, 2016, an employee of a popular West Hollywood gay bar was attacked as he left the bar walking towards his car on an apparent hate crime. The person who attacked him took his wallet, but never used his credit card.

A few hours after the Pulse massacre in Orlando, on the West Coast the LAPD might have stopped another tragedy before it happened. 20-year-old Wesley Howell, a man from Indiana, was arrested on his way to attend the LA Pride festival, allegedly with an arsenal of weapons. Officials found him in a car with three assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, ammunition and a 5-gallon bucket with chemicals that could be used to create an explosive device.

These attacks should remind us all that we must remain vigilant while there are still people out there who remain so threatened by the sight of two men having a simple kiss that they will resort to violence to stop it.

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