By Neveah Morgan
TRIGGER WARNING: This piece talks about suicide and gruesome death
For years the LGBTQ+ community has fought for equal rights. In that fight, many LGBTQ+ lives have been lost to abhorrent acts of discrimination, violence, and hate crimes, oftentimes so perpetrators can display a certain political objective.
May 17th is the International Day Against Transphobia, Homophobia, and Biphobia. I’d like to recognize and remember some of the people from the LGBTQ+ community who have lost their lives at the hands of transphobia, homophobia, and biphobia.
Harvey Milk, 48 (1978)
Harvey Milk was a white male and a political activist for gay rights, becoming one of the first openly gay officials in 1977. For four years, Milk ran for candidacy for a position on the Board of Supervisors of San Francisco. Due to his open sexual orientation and small finances, he lost two elections, but eventually won a seat in 1977. He became a political icon for gay rights while he also fought for a variety of other issues. Dan White, one of Milk’s opposers, sought revenge for Milk. It was only a year after he was elected that White shot Milk twice in the chest, once in the back and twice again in the head on November 27, 1978.
Jörg Wenz, 21, Vernon Kroening, 32, Rene Malute, 23 (1980)
These men were the victims of shootings by Ronald Crumpley at two gay bars (Ramroad, Sneakers) on November 18, 1980. Crumpley was found not guilty toward the accounts of murder and attempted murder due to the state of his mental health. He claims that before the shootings, “gay men were agents of the devil, stalking me and trying to steal my soul just by looking at me”.
Rebecca Wight, 28 (1988)
It was May 1988 when white female Claudia Brenner and her partner of Puerto Rican heritage, Rebecca Wight, were backpacking along the Appalachian Trail. They thought they had found a nice, secluded area to set up their tent, but when Rebecca ran into a man on her way back from the outhouse, they immediately left. The man told her his name was Stephen Roy Carr and asked her for a cigarette. When they ran into Carr for the second time, he had a rifle hanging over his shoulder and asked if they were lost. Frighteningly, Brenner and Wight had to search for yet another camping spot. Finally they were able to settle down and relax with each others’ company. What they didn’t know is that Carr had been following them and he was watching them from a very close distance. It wasn’t long after they started having sex that Carr pointed his rifle and shot Brenner with five bullets and Wight with two. Brenner made it out and was able to get help. While she was hiking 3 miles for help, Wight died in the woods. Carr was caught 10 days later.
Allen Schindler, 23 (1992)
After openly telling his crew that he was gay, Allen Schindler, a petty officer in the U.S. Navy, faced a lot of threatening outcomes. His job was at stake, he was even told he could end up with a dishonorable discharge. He was already facing a great deal of loss, and he would soon face an even greater deal. While in Japan, two of his shipmates brutally beat him to death. The medical examiner said this, “Their attack was so vicious that they destroyed every organ in Schindler’s body. All but two of Schindler’s ribs had been broken, his penis bore cut marks and his liver contained holes that allowed to see straight through it.” One of his murderers, Terry Helvey, told a navy investigator that, “he hated homosexuals. He was disgusted by them,” and, “I don’t regret it. I’d do it again… he deserved it”.
Brandon Teena, 21 (1993)
Brandon Teena was a white male in search of a new life in a new city where no one knew who he was. When he found Falls City, Nebraska, he also found his girlfriend Lana Tisdel and befriended her friend circle as they took him in as their family. When two friends found out that Teena was a biological female, the desire to see for themselves arose. They forced Teena to go into a bathroom where they raped him. One week later, they decided to kill Teena so he isn’t able to press charges. They also killed two witnesses. This tragedy inspired Kimberly Pierce’s film Boys Don’t Cry.
Sakia Gunn, 15 (2003)
Sakia Gunn, an African-American lesbian, was waiting at the bus stop on the corner of Broad and Market Street when she was approached by a vehicle with two men inside. When she denied them, one of the men got out of the car and stabbed her. She died in her friend’s arms on the way to the hospital.
Lateisha Green, 22 (2008)
Lateisha Green, an African American woman, came out to her parents as a transgender woman at the age of 16. From them, she got all the love and support they had to give. But her peers at school felt differently. She received an endless amount of bullying, including death threats. One night Green decided to go partying with her friends, but it all went downhill when she started hearing anti-gay slurs from outside the party. She was shot and killed that night on the 400 block of Seymour Street in Syracuse, New York. On March 14 of just last year, her murderer walked a free man. It was clear during the trial that the jury thought the hate crime was unacceptable and wrong, but since there was a legal error in the jury’s verdict, her murderer was granted a new trial and was acquitted. A jury originally found DeLee guilty of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime. The 2009 verdict marked the first time a jury in New York had delivered a hate crime conviction for the murder of a transgender person. It was only the second hate crime conviction of its kind in the country.
Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, 11 (2009)
Sirdeaner Walker was a very involved mother. Her four children were the light of her life. Her children’s problems were her problems. So when her son, Carl Joseph, an 11-year-old African-American male, revealed the bullying he had been facing at school, Sirdeaner took matters into her own hands and contacted the school officials. Carl Joseph told her that he had been bullied by several classmates on several occasions for “acting gay.” It was Monday, April 6th that Sirdeaner found her son hanging by an extension cord off their third floor rafter. The note she read was excruciating. He told her that he couldn’t take it anymore and he wanted to leave his Pokemon cards to his younger brother. That shows how innocent and young he was.
Pulse Club Shooting (2016)
Some believe this shooting is a case of internalized homophobia. Either way, this is one of the most gruesome mass shooting in the United States in recent history. On the day of June 12, 2016, a 29-year-old security guard, Omar Mateen, walked into Pulse gay bar in Orlando, Florida and started shooting. He used two guns: .223 caliber AR type rifle and 9mm semiautomatic pistol. When the hundreds of people started rushing out away from the scene, police arrived. Mateen forced himself in the bathroom, taking hostages, in order to isolate himself from the police. Many people fled, some hid in the bathrooms, others even played dead in hopes Mateen wouldn’t notice. Mateen’s father said he had become enraged when he saw two men kissing and wanted to do something about it. Police reports state that during the attack, Mateen called 911 and pledged to ISIS. After 49 deaths and 53 injuries, Mateen was shot and killed by the police.
888-843-4564 LGBTQ+ National Hotline
If you or a loved one is a struggling LGBTQ+ person, please call the LGBTQ+ National Hotline. This is not an emergency hotline, rather a helpful number to talk to someone if you are dealing with things you want to share. Please call the police if you are in danger.