Guest Blogger

2008 was most dangerously violent year for LGBT people in over a decade

Filed By Guest Blogger | July 03, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Joseph Holladay, Kim Fountain, New York City, NYC Anti Violence Project, violence

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Kim Fountain, PhD, is the Deputy Director of the NYC Anti Violence Project. She is standing with Joseph Holladay, a recent hate crimes victim, in the picture below. Holladay's bashing was covered on Bilerico-Indiana; he's originally from Indianapolis and his cousin is a friend of the site.

KimFountain_JosephHolladay.jpgEarlier this week, as the deputy director of the NYC Anti-Violence Project AVP) I welcomed a room full of reporters and elected officials to New York City Anti-Violence Project's offices for the release of the 2008 New York statistics on anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender hate violence. It was both exhilarating and distressing. The energy in the room-- the strength of survivors who wanted to tell their stories so that people can understand what a hate violence means in the lives of a survivor, the energy of activists and elected officials hungry to do something to stop the violence and help end the discrimination that condones hate violence, and the interest from members of the media in understanding and getting the story out. But the distressing part is the reality of the hate violence and how it persists. Without adequate attention to education and prevention measures, the number of incidents reported may go down slightly (12% in NYC) but the severity of the violence is increasing at an alarming rate.

I started out at the Anti-Violence Project (AVP) nine years ago as the Volunteer Coordinator. Since that time, I have had the privilege of answering the phones at the front desk, coordinating a very busy 24-hour hotline, writing trainings, policy papers, grants and newsletters, meeting with the NYPD, elected officials, and community organizers, speaking one on one with clients, marching in the streets in protest, pacing the sidewalk at rallies, and standing quietly at vigils. Anyone who has worked at a fantastic nonprofit like the anti Violence Project knows that not everything we do is in that mythical thing we call a job description. We do what we do because every piece of what happens here from administrative work to development to direct services to community organizing- is important. I am both humbled and thrilled to tell you that my experience in jumping in when needed and doing whatever needs to be done to provide the best possible services to the LGBT communities of NYC is very similar to those of my 17 colleagues at the Anti Violence Project.

We are all in this together and the camaraderie extends across the country to the 35 member programs of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. In 20 states from Seattle to Boston from Richmond to LA, the members of NCAVP work tirelessly to document and end violence within and against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. The 2008 Hate Violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People in the United States Report , produced annually since 1995, by NCAVP member programs, is relied upon by policy makers, social scientists, and advocates to provide the most comprehensive data and analysis of anti lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender violence in the US. (For the report go to

In our work, we maintain a hope that all our efforts in community organizing, direct services and public advocacy will result in stopping violence against our communities. Yet, this year, as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the coalescing of the U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights movement, we are dismayed to report several recent attacks in New York City

Six very recent incidents brought to our attention:

Joseph Holladay, who was knocked unconscious with what was believed to be a blunt instrument on the street in Manhattan on Saturday, June 27th , Gay Pride weekend.

And there were three other incidents where three different men were attacked in the city close to Pride week and where anti-gay epithets were used:.

Leslie Mora, a transgender woman, was beaten with a belt by two men in Queens on June 19th just a little over a week after Queen's Pride.

Then, just this past Monday, three people physically attacked a woman in Long Island, shouting epithets about her sexual orientation as they beat her.

Unfortunately, it seems as though these incidents are never ending. There is still much work to be done to educate and begin to prevent hate violence. One very important part of this work is documenting the violence and getting the information out to the public in an effort to raise awareness of this violence.

Our recent report tells us that this past year has been one of the most dangerously violent years for lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender people since NCAVP began documenting anti-LGBT violence. Many elected officials who do care are focused on the need for hate crimes legislation. This is understandable but not enough. We need attention and resources from every level of government aimed at education that helps prevent hate violence before it occurs. We need laws that deliver equal rights and protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people which by their very existence send the message that we are equal citizens, equal human beings and that hate violence will not be condoned.

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Sacha "gay-basha" Cohen's "Bruno" will only fuel the gay bashing, the bullying in schools, and general acceptability of ridiculing gays by society at large. Some voters will be influenced by "Bruno" to vote against gay issues at the ballot box. The media, TV, movies, all influence people on many levels. THe pity is that "Bruno" has been an incredible world wide promotion, and will influence many. Of course it will not brainwash all of its audiences. But to the extent that negative images leave their marks with some people, this will certainly hurt LGBTQ people everywhere. The African-American community long ago saw this when they started calling the use of "black-face" and minstrel show images in the media as damaging to blacks. "Bruno" is doing exactly the same, no matter how many cheap laughs are tucked in between allegedly deep messages that are supposedly really there . There was in incident last weekend in D.C. where a car of young teen males started yelling "Bruno" out the window at a cafe dinner crowd in the DuPont Circle neighborhood. it is just a matter of time before some unfortunate persons are beaten while the assailant yells "Bruno" at them.

I understand why a lot of people are worried about "Bruno," especially in light of the violence and incidents like the one in DuPont Circle, but people need to bear a few things in mind.

First, blaming Sacha Baron Cohen for current and future anti-gay incidents is a lot like blaming Black Sabbath for teen suicides or blaming gang violence on rap music. The bottom line is, people who would derisively shout "Bruno!" at passersby are anti-gay to begin with, not because they watched a movie.

Second, Americans are infamous among the Brits for the relative -- if not complete -- lack of irony in our culture. Cohen is performing satire that attacks bigotry, not "gayface" that promotes it, in the same way that "Borat" played on Americans' ignorance about the world and lingering bigotry (watch the infamous "Throw the Jews Down the Well" segment from "Da Ali G Show") and the Ali G character makes fun of gangster wannabes and the MTV culture.

Great piece!

Also, though, and just as importantly, we need GENDA. The NYPD and the DA's office are so far refusing to classify Leslie Mora's attack as a hate crime because the current NY hate crimes law doesn't include specific protection for transgender people.

As we watch NY's Senate and Governor engage in a partisan pissing match in Albany, we're also watching GENDA quickly fall off the radar. My concern is that just as we've seen in the past, as the going gets tough the pols are suddenly forgetting we exist once again. Hopefully, they'll prove me wrong but thus far I haven't seen even the tiniest bit of evidence to indicate they will.

Whoever called Cohen a "gay-basha" above is functionally retarded and has no sense of irony. If people watch Bruno and think that he is bashing gays, rather than bashing the ignorant, xenophobic fuhrers who really do gay-bash, then the States is a more corrupted society than I previously realized.