Editor's Note: Not In Our Town covers communities that respond to reported hate crimes and this story details how residents of Lincoln, NE and nearby cities stepped forward when they believed a neighbor had been harmed. Sadly, police now believe that the victim fabricated the story. Despite this unfortunate episode, it is important for neighbors to support victims of hate crimes, which occur every day. Prompted by a brutal attack against a lesbian in her own home, the Lincoln, NE community is organizing and speaking out in support of the victim and against hate-driven violence. On July 22, Lincoln resident Linda Rappl heard a knock on her door around 4 a.m. She discovered her neighbor, a 33-year-old woman, naked and wrist-bound on her doorstep. The victim claimed three masked men had painted derogatory slurs in the victim’s home and carved slurs into her skin before they attempted to burn down her home. Rappl called 911. “She is a wonderful, beautiful person," Rappl said. "I couldn't ask for a better neighbor."
This is the third in a five-part series published by our public media partneras at Fronteras. Listen to the accompanying radio piece. By Adrian Florido LGBT Group Builds Support In Southern Arizona TUCSON, Ariz. — In Tucson, Ariz., a nonprofit group is working to reduce hate and bias against the LGBT community. It’s called Wingspan and it is doing so through education; training even government organizations about tolerance within the ranks. Inside the airy rooms of Studio One, a group of artists is meeting on a late Saturday afternoon. The logistics are a little daunting but they have no shortage of volunteers. They are preparing for a Latino gay pride festival. The circle of artists brings together burlesque performers, photographers, event planners, singers, dancers and poets.
On the Day of Silence, we share with you the story of one middle school that provided the space for all of its students to have their voices heard. "Forming a Gay Straight Alliance at a middle school requires courage—for the administrator to step up, for the teacher who serves as the advisor, and for each student who walks through that door to be a member." By Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas, Not In Our School Director My daughter knew she was gay from when she was a young girl, but it wasn’t until middle school that she told me. Not all young people have someone to talk to at that sensitive age. At Hoover Middle School in the San Francisco Unified School District, teacher Janet Miller learned frightening statistics about her district’s Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) students at a district training. She discovered that transgender youth were the most likely students to attempt suicide. Impassioned, Janet explains that she got on a table and shouted to the staff, "It’s our job and the job of every single person in this room to enforce safety for all students, not just straight ones, so any time you are not doing it, you are not doing your job!” She convinced the staff that Hoover needed to do something about this serious issue.
For many high school students, maintaining an identity at an age when all you want to do is to fit in can be challenging. But what happens when conforming is not an option, and "being yourself" sets you dangerously far apart from everybody else? Out in the Silence chronicles the journey of filmmaker Joe Wilson, who is drawn back to his conservative hometown of Oil City, PA, by the plea of a worried parent. After announcing his engagement to a man in the local newspaper, Wilson experiences a backlash of hate mail and angry reader comments. What he did not expect was a letter written by a desperate mother, describing the heartbreaking torments that her 16-year-old son is subjected to at school on a daily basis--begging Wilson for help. The hour-long documentary follows Wilson as he meets C.J., a passionate basketball player and former jock whose life turned upside down after other students discover he is gay.
“We felt like we were part of something bigger, sharing what we were doing, and the idea of being leaders was very inspiring.” — Becki Cohn Vargas, Ed.D. Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas is a veteran educator and longtime ally of Not In Our Town. In this piece, penned in 2008, Dr. Cohn-Vargas lays out the lessons from the Palo Alto Unified School District, which embraced Not In Our School activities in 2007. Although Dr. Cohn-Vargas is no longer with the district, she has been instrumental in developing Not In Our School programs and the Palo Alto district’s Not In Our Schools month continues to thrive. Since 2007, the Palo Alto Unified School District has sponsored Not In Our School Palo Alto, a districtwide annual month-long event where students, teachers, administrators and parents engage in activities and discussions about how to address hate, bullying, and harassment at school.
On Friday, a jury found Dwight DeLee guilty of manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime for killing Lateisha Green. This is the first hate crime conviction for the killing of a transgender person in New York state, and only the second such conviction in the United States. Though the trial is concluded and Lateisha’s family feels justice has been served, transgender people around the world face extremely high rates of discrimination and violence. Posts at Transgriot, Questioning Transphobia, and Feministe address the issues of pronoun usage, the lack of protection for trans people under New York hate crime laws, and the ongoing threat of violence to transgender people.
Kelly Whalen, Producer of NIOT Gwen Araujo story, reflects on transgender victims of hate crime and the law EDITOR’S UPDATE: After deliberating for two hours, on April 23, 2009, a Weld County jury found Allen Ray Andrade guilty of first-degree murder and a bias-motivated crime in the killing of Angie Zapata. The trial was Colorado’s first successful hate crime prosecution involving a transgender victim. Andrade was sentenced to life in prison without parole, the mandatory penalty in Colorado for first-degree murder. Below is a video of the statement by Zapata’s family: .
On February 12, 15-year-old Lawrence “Larry” King was shot in the computer lab of his school by a fellow student at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California. Larry died three days later. According to friends, Larry was perceived to be gay and gender non-conforming, and had been bullied at school. The suspect, a fourteen-year-old student, has been charged with first degree murder, and the case is being prosecuted as a hate crime.