Society and civilization has assigned certain gender roles to everyone, based on the body that they are born with. How we behave at every step of the day, what we wear, who we love: everything is pre-determined, before we are even born, and there is no place for our inner desires. That is why, the moment someone deters from such set ideas and normative ways, that person is frowned upon. Be it the body or the mind, if a non-normativity from the set standards is seen in the way a person is born, then that person is likely to be tagged abnormal.
Promptly, the society takes upon itself the tedious task of fixing or at least camouflaging the wrong in that person. If the person in question refuses to be untrue to one’s own soul just to please the others, it is then that the others don’t hesitate to resort to even the most brutal ways to curb the true nature of the members of the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transsexual-Intersexual-Queer (LGBTIQ) world.
Let us read about some of the most heinous and historic hate crimes on LGBTIQ members in the world.
Ten Heinous Hate Crimes on LGBTIQ Members:
10. The Bystander Effect
On March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese was returning home to her partner, Mary-Ann Zielonko, when Winston Moseley approached her. The slightly woman ran, but, Moseley caught up. What followed was a series of assaults, stabs and abuse. She died in Mary-Ann’s arms. But, reports on the matter are fuzzy, as many versions narrate how she kept shouting for help, but her neighbours remained unresponsive despite being aware. This view is criticised as inaccurate, since most of their accounts of the incident differ. For instance, that she continued to scream with a punctured lung is debated.
What’s undisputed is that she was raped and murdered. The case led to investigation of social psychological phenomenon of diffusion of responsibility, known as bystander effect or Genovese syndrome, which states that the more witnesses there are, the less likely they are to help the victim. Moseley, with a series of murders, is one of the longest serving inmates in New York State.
9. Houston’s Stonewall
On July 4, 1991, 10 heinous men attacked a banker, Paul Broussard, and his two friends outside a gay bar, with nail-studded wooded planks, steel-toed boots and knives in the Montrose district, a place inhabited by LGBTIQ people. Paul’s death, several hours later, led to gay protests like no other in Houston: from outside Mayor Kathy Whitmire’s house in Woodlands at 2 am, to Queer Nation protesting near the homes of the attackers and in Montrose.
The largest LGBTIQ civil disobedience in Houston, it was called the Houston’s Stonewall by David Fowler. All council members voted for a resolution to ask governor Ann Richards to put a bill of hate-crime on the agenda. The incident led to a push for protections which was passed in Texas a decade later, but didn’t cover transgender individuals. Jon Buice, who admitted stabbing Broussard, is in prison today.
8. The Jenny Jones Murder
The Jenny Jones Show was a 90’s talk show that dealt with issues like boot camp teens, bullies, secret crushes, etc. On March 6, 1995, Scott Amedure confessed on the show to his secret crush on a man named Jonathan Schmitz. 3 days later, Schmitz went to Amedure’s house and shot him to death. Then he called 911 to confess. There are many speculations and claims. Some thought Amedure’s sexual advances led Schmitz to a gay panic rage, while many blamed his internalized homophobia and mental illness.
Amedure’s mother testified that the two men had sex after the taping. Jones and her producers were sued for creating negligent environment that led to the murder. In 1999, the judgement went against the show and her producers, though later, the verdict was overturned. Schmitz, after being tried twice, was sentenced imprisonment for murder.
7. The Appalachian Trail Attacks
Rebecca Wight and Claudia Brenner went to hike the Appalachian Trail, and camped away from public eye, to enjoy intimate moments. On May 13, 1998, Wight encountered Stephen Ray Carr, a local. To avoid him, the couple left the spot, and found a private place. There, the women had sex, unaware of being watched, until Carr shot Brenner in the neck, face, arm and head, and Wright, in the head and back. Wright collapsed, and a bleeding Brenner found two cars to take her to the hospital. She soon learnt that Wight had died.
Brenner grieved all by herself, as police hunted down Carr, who defended himself, claiming that the women taunted him with their explicit sexual behaviour. His attorney blamed display of lesbianism. But, in a rare and surprising hearing, the judge refused to allow the women’s sexuality to be brought up as defence. Carr was imprisoned for life.
6. Laramie’s Great Loss
On October 6, 1998, two men at a bar offered Matthew Sheppard, 21, a ride home, but drove him to a desolate area. He was tortured, robbed, and left tied to a fence. 18 hours later, a bicyclist, who had mistaken him for a scarecrow, found him, his face covered in blood, except where it had been washed away by flowing tears. He stayed in coma for several days, then died of severe brain-stem damage that shut down his organs. His body had terrible fractures and lacerations. His funeral was picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church.
The killers weren’t charged due to lack of hate crimes laws. But, one of the killer’s girlfriend testified against them. Sheppard’s parents showed mercy, and made sure they received life imprisonment instead of death. In October 2009, Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, followed by other social changes.
5. A Two-Spirit Tragedy
Fred ‘Frederica’ C. Martinez, a Native American transgender 16-year old, recognized himself as a nádleehí, a Navajo word for a male-bodied person with a feminine nature. The ‘two-spirit’ teen was accepted in her family and was a happy freshman at Colorado’s Montezuma-Cortez High School. But, in 2001, Fred went to meet Shaun Murphy whom she had met at a party earlier. 5 days later, Fred’s decomposed body, all slashed and bludgeoned beyond recognition, was found in a sewer pond.
Murphy, who had been bragging around about how he ‘beat up a fag’, and ironically the son of an out lesbian woman, was sentenced to imprisonment for murder, as Colorado’s hate crimes statutes did not include gender biased crimes. Fred’s school took an active stand after this to pay special attention to LGBTIQ youth issues like hate crimes, bullying, family and peer acceptance, suicide, etc.
4. The Tears of a Boy
21-year old rebellious trans-man Teena Renae Brandon wanted to join the army. He had a tough time, finding a sexual identity, hiding his femininity and getting sexually abused. At a Christmas party in 1993, two ex-convicts forcefully removed his pants to prove that he was female at birth to his girlfriend, Tisdel. Teena was then raped. Later, Tisdel convinced him to report it to the police.
Sheriff Charles Laux, however, asked her inappropriate questions and refused to arrest the men. At mid-night, December 21, 1993, the men shot Teena, and two others resent at the house, and stabbed Teena who was twitching. Richardson County and Sheriff Laux were sued, and his mother was compensated for mental suffering, funeral costs, wrongful death and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The cases of the murderers, who received death sentence, are under review.
3. Rush to Judgement
Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill, in their fifties, were happily together for 12 years. When they weren’t working in their property management business, they were fighting for LGBT rights. They were found dead in their pickup truck, gagged and bound, shot in the head, covered in cardboard boxes. On December 4, 1997, they had an appointment with Robert Acremant, a man in his 20s, looking for an apartment. Friends and fellow activists assumed it was a hate-crime.
But, many opined that this was too quick an assumption, and said it could also be a random act of violence, robbery or crime against women. Acremant pleaded guilty of murder, but insisted it was a robbery, and had nothing to do with the women’s sexual orientation. Contradictorily, he also said he hated lesbian women, and found it unacceptable that someone’s grandmother could be ‘lesbo’. His death sentence was reduced to life without parole when he was deemed too delusional to aid his appeals.
2. A Rose by Any Other Name
On October 3, 2002, 17-year old young woman Gwen Amber Rose Araujo of North California was outed by as transgender at a party, four men beat her, slashed her face, hit her with a shovel and frying pan on the head and strangled her. They wrapped her hogtied body in a sheet and dumped her in the Sierra foothills 100 miles away. No one reported the crime. Days later, one of the men, traumatized by the incident, led the police to her gravesite. The men were convicted, but hate crimes charges didn’t stick. The attorneys had to battle at least one defendant’s ‘transgender panic’ defence.
On September 28, 2006, the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act (AB 1160) was signed by governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the nation’s first law against panic strategies, i.e. using societal bias against victims. After a long fight, her mother’s petition to secure legal recognition of Gwen’s name and birth certificate change posthumously as a female was granted.
1. Hoop Dreams Dashed
15-year old aspiring basketball player, Sakia Gunn, was an Aggressive (AG): a homosexual butch woman of colour who dresses in masculine clothes but doesn’t identify as transgender or lesbian. On May 11, 2003, she and her friends stood at a Newark bus stop. Two men began making sexual propositions. When the girls refused, one man jumped out of the car and began choking a girl. During an effort to stop this, Gunn was stabbed, and killed.
It happened near an unstaffed police booth. Curiously, except for some people of colour, or AGs, her case couldn’t move the media or activists as much as Sheppard or Teena had. The few activists who cared fought with leading media houses for the coverage of her death, followed by more protests and questions. Today, the police booth near which she died remains staffed 24×7, as promised by then Newark mayor Sharpe James.
This is not an exhaustive list of the hate crimes that have happened. History has seen many gruesome murders of members of the LGBTIQ community in the hands of twisted people who have made religion, society, culture, tradition, normativity, fear, panic and many other lame excuses to get away. The cursed murders remind us every day of what our very own people might face in the future, if we do not take a stand to ensure an immediate change.
The experiences of murdered and the bereft friends, family or lovers have been commemorated in books or films, and while the historic hate crimes have brought on some changes in the US, and consequently other parts of the world, as their laws and society have started to give recognition to the rights of and freedom for LGBTIQ members to live and love, it is essential that such hate crimes are stopped immediately.