Connect with us

Local

Trans community ‘in crisis’

Activists alarmed after rash of shootings, mysterious death

Published

on

A recent rash of shootings — and the mysterious death of a man dressed in women’s clothes — has the transgender community on edge, with at least one activist describing the situation as a “crisis.”

In the most recent incident, detectives with the D.C. police Homicide Branch have identified a man found dead early Saturday morning, Sept. 10, on the 2600 block of 11th Street, N.W. that investigators initially believed to be a transgender person.

Police on Tuesday identified the male decedent as 35-year-old Gaurav Gopalan of Northwest Washington but provided no further details about him. Gopalan worked as an aerospace engineer.

“The investigation is ongoing and the cause and manner of death are undetermined at this time,” police said in a news release.

The identification came one day after police released a photo of the then unidentified male taken by the city’s Medical Examiner’s office.

Police said he was dressed in women’s clothes, wearing some facial makeup, and carrying high heels at the time police arrived on the scene and found him unconscious on the sidewalk. A source familiar with the case said he was found in front of 2618 11th Street, N.W.

Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham told reporters at a news conference Monday afternoon that preliminary autopsy findings showed no obvious signs of injuries or trauma on the decedent. He said a final determination of whether the death was a homicide or due to natural causes would have to wait for completion of toxicological tests by the Medical Examiner.

Transgender activists who viewed the photo said they believed the person may have been a man dressed in drag, possibly a gay man, rather than someone interested in changing his gender from male to female.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Det. William Covington at 202-727-9600 or the police Command Information Center at 202-727-9009.

Gopalan’s personal website lists him as president of The Fred Schmitz Group, an aeronautical engineering company based in his home at 2725 13th St., N.W., which is less than two blocks from where his body was found.

According to the website, he received his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2004. Gopalan is listed as the company’s only employee. The company lists as its areas of expertise “aeronautical acoustics, runway-independent aircraft, air traffic management,” and “rotor dynamics & aerodynamics.”

The type of “rotor” technology Gopalan has worked on is believed to have been used to suppress the noise of helicopters similar to the ones used in the U.S. Navy Seals operation that led to the capture and death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan earlier this year.

The Blade was able to independently confirm that a Gaurav Gopalan indeed received a Ph.D. in 2004 from the University of Maryland, College Park in aerospace engineering.

D.C. police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump said police were in contact with the Embassy of Nepal to establish contact with Gopalan’s family members who live in the South Asian country.

Shiva Subbaraman, director of Georgetown University’s LGBTQ Resource Center, said she has known Gopalan for many years through mutual friends in the South Asian community.

“I am in shock at this,” she said.

In another case, D.C. police arrested a 20-year-old man on a charge of assault with intent to kill for the shooting on Monday of a transgender woman in the 2300 block of Savannah Street, S.E.

Police said Darryl Willard of Northeast Washington surrendered on Tuesday at First District Police Headquarters and was charged in connection with an arrest warrant obtained by police, who said the victim knew Willard.

The victim, whom police have not identified, suffered a non-fatal gunshot wound to the neck about 2 a.m. Monday at the Savannah Street location and showed up at the Seventh District Police Headquarters to report the incident, police said. She was rushed to a nearby hospital and was in stable condition.

The incident was the fourth reported shooting of a transgender person in D.C. since July. The latest case prompted police officials to call a news conference Monday afternoon to discuss this and other transgender-related cases.

Transgender activists Earline Budd and Ruby Corado, who spoke at the news conference, said the latest shooting was among more than a dozen violent attacks against transgender women in D.C. this year.

“The transgender community is now in crisis,” Corado said.

That incident came after police arrested a suspect in a separate case on Sept. 10 in which the suspect, whom police have not identified, allegedly threatened three transgender women with a gun on the 4000 block of Minnesota Ave., S.E. None of the victims were injured. Police listed the incident as an anti-transgender hate crime.

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who represents the area where the unidentified person’s body was found, said his office is closely monitoring the case. Graham, who is gay, said he is troubled over the large number of crimes against transgender women in the city in recent months.

Capt. Edward Delgado, director of the police Special Liaison Division, was the first to disclose the shooting of the trans woman on Savannah Street, S.E., on Monday in an early morning e-mail to LGBT activists.

“This morning a member of the transgender community walked into the Seventh District Station to report that she sustained a gunshot wound to the neck,” said Delgado, whose division oversees the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.

“The female was transported to a local hospital and is in stable condition. The Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit responded to the scene to aid the detectives in their investigation in hope to bring this case to closure,” he said.

The incident came less than two months after 23-year-old Lashai Mclean, a transgender woman, was shot to death shortly before 5 a.m. on July 20 on the 6100 block of Dix Street, N.E.

According to police, a transgender woman who was with Mclean at the time of the shooting told investigators two men approached Mclean and asked her a question. Before Mclean could answer them one of the two men fatally shot Mclean with a semiautomatic handgun, police said. The case remains unsolved.

Eleven days later, on July 31, an unidentified male suspect fired a handgun at a transgender woman along the 6200 block of Dix Street, N.E., just one block from where Mclean was shot. The shot missed hitting the victim, police said.

In a statement following the second shooting, police said they were looking into the possibility of a “potential emerging pattern” between the two incidents. No suspects have been identified in the case.

At Monday’s news conference, D.C. Police Homicide Branch Capt. Michael Farish said police chose not to release a composite drawing of the unknown suspect who shot Mclean because the witness was unable to provide enough details about the suspect’s appearance.

In a separate incident on Aug. 26, an off-duty D.C. police officer was arrested on a charge of assault with a dangerous weapon for allegedly firing his approved off-duty service revolver at three transgender women and two male friends who were sitting in a car in Northwest Washington.

Two of the transgender women and one of the male friends suffered non-life threatening gunshot wounds in the incident. The victims told police the incident began when words were exchanged between one of the male friends and 21-year veteran D.C. police Officer Kenneth Furr after Furr allegedly propositioned one of the trans women for sex inside a CVS drugstore about 4:40 a.m. that morning.

Transgender activists who know the victims said one of the transgender women involved in the case said Furr became angry when she turned down his request that the two have a sexual encounter.

During Monday’s police news conference, Budd and Corado said they were pleased with the response to the latest cases by police officials but expressed concern that at least some rank and file officers continue to show a bias against members of the LGBT community, especially against transgender women.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. laurelboy2

    September 15, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    It’s a tragedy that the “trans” community is in such a state of crisis. However, in my heart of hearts I believe that if those who enter the trans world exercised better judgment and forethought about their activities, lives, and the choices they make then we wouldn’t have a crisis. Yes, I think the cause of a lot of the recent bad events lies at the feet of the trans community themselves. And, if that’s called blaming the victim, then so be it. Bad decisions = bad consequences.

    • Andrea

      September 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm

      Do you also believe that rape victims “bring it on themselves” when they go out at night, or dress attractively? These transsexual women were not breaking any laws; they just happened to be out and about when they were attacked. How is that “bringing it on themselves”?

    • Zoe Brain

      September 17, 2011 at 6:37 am

      Two of the shootings were the result of Transwomen refusing to have sex with men when it was demanded of them. Is that what you mean by “bad decisions”? Do you hold other women to the same standard?

    • Casey

      September 17, 2011 at 5:12 pm

      You’re disgusting, what if people killed you because you weren’t trans? Is it your fault? The ignorance is insane!

    • Chris

      September 21, 2011 at 3:40 pm

      I think you are all missing his point! Take off the goggles, he is simply questioning the choices of where and when these incidents occurred. I don’t see where any of them happened at 3PM in fromnt of the Whole Foods! Get a clue. It’s not really blaming, it’s questioning personal accountability and responsibility.

  2. brian

    September 15, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    MPD, including GLLU, has a serious credibility problem when it doesn’t effectively understand, nor enforce criminal codes already on the books. It is a good thing for all LGBT residents that Budd and Corado are pressing MPD on a number of basic law enforcement questions.

  3. Crysta

    September 16, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    If by “bad decisions” you mean deciding to live our lives as ourselves, instead of pretending to be something we aren’t (we aren’t men…) or perhaps killing ourselves…

    I’m sorry, but it is duty of the public, to GROW UP! Stop hating someone just cause they are different. Stop thinking it is your duty to “clean up the gene pool” unless you want to get bleached out yourselves!

    The truth beyond truths is that it is VERY rarely the fault of the transwoman (and the occasional transman) that these incidents happen. The ONLY situation that is even CLOSE to “excusable” is if one of us purposefully holds back on telling someone we are in a relationship with, for QUITE a while (more than a month IMO), or beyond intimacy (anything sexual, but including lip2lip kisses too). But even then, you should still feel the obligation to be the “better man/woman” and show your grown up side.

    Don’t get violent, just state your disinterest, and part ways. Face it, EVERYONE has their own surprises, chalk it up to experience and MOVE ON!

    If you can’t handle the possibility of a surprise, you shouldn’t be dating. Go back to JILL and leave us humans alone! (look at your left hand, palm up, and proceed to giggle…)

    Crysta, Proud Transwoman, soon to be engaged to her loving girlfriend of about a year.

    • Chris

      September 21, 2011 at 3:41 pm

      If you can’t handle the possibility of being attacked, then don’t be roaming the streets “possibly” soliciting at all hours of the morning in sketchy neighborhoods.

      • Carmel

        September 22, 2011 at 3:30 pm

        Women, whether trans or not shouldn’t have to live their lives in fear of walking down the street alone. Men are the attackers, they are the ones to be blamed. Not the woman who wants to exercise her freedom to walk down the street whenever she wants like everyone else. Society perpetuates this idea of blaming the victims for crimes when in reality we should be looking to PUNISH the people who are committing these crimes, not victim blaming. Its no wonder why rapes and assaults go unreported.

    • Carmel

      September 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm

      You are awesome Crysta! Keep your head high, the world needs more people like you!

      • Chris

        September 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm

        Perhaps we do, needing you to do volunteer work at a hospital or homeless shelter instead of “excercising your rights” to walk the streets at all hours trying to find yourself and be who you are.

  4. Esmeralda

    September 20, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Where is Cookie Buffet? Why is she not sorting this out?

    • laurelboy2

      September 20, 2011 at 7:46 pm

      or Cissy Scratch-Hard?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Virginia

Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video

Published

on

Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

Continue Reading

Local

Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed

Published

on

(Book cover insert courtesy of Amazon)

The Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that following a detailed review by two committees appointed by school officials it has returned two LGBTQ themed books to its high school libraries that had been temporarily withdrawn after being challenged by critics who claimed they included sexually explicit content inappropriate for students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain descriptions of sexual acts.

But supporters of the books have argued that they have won praise by literary critics and, while describing intimate relationships, they tell stories that do not fall into the category of pornography.  

Fairfax County Public Schools, the name used for the county’s public school system, on Tuesday said in a statement that a thorough review of the books by two committees consisting of educators, school officials, parents and some students found that neither book contained content that could be considered to depict pedophilia as claimed by some parents and others opposing the two books.

School officials announced they had temporarily withdrawn the two books from school libraries following a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board where strong objections to the two books were raised by parents.

“Two books that were subject to formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries,” Tuesday’s statement by the school system says.

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the statement continues. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

The statement says the final decision to reinstate the books was made by Noel Klimenko, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for its Instructional Services Department.

The two books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications. Both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“The robust committee process took place over several weeks and considered whether the books flouted regulations by being obscene or harmful to juveniles as defined by the Code of Virginia,” the school system statement says. “The members also considered the work in line with an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia,” the statement says.

“After careful consideration, neither books were deemed to have fallen foul of these regulations,” it concludes.

The decision by Fairfax school officials to reinstate the two books came about six weeks after more than 425 LGBTQ students and allies from over 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter to the school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reinstate the two books.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of LGBTQ and allied students in Fairfax County, organized the joint letter.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter states.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” the letter says.

It points out that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy,” and says singling out LGBTQ themed books with similar stories of intimacy for rejection is unfair.

Continue Reading

Local

Transgender Zimbabwean woman in Md. wins asylum case

Mattie Tux Horton lives in Rockville

Published

on

Mattie Tux Horton, right, with her lawyer Ankush Dhupar in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Mattie Tux Horton/Facebook)

A transgender woman from Zimbabwe who lives in Rockville won her asylum case in late October after living in the U.S. for the past five years. 

Mattie Tux Horton was represented by Ankush Dhupar from the Los Angeles law firm Paul Hastings LLP.

“I feel at ease,” said Horton. “Although a lot is going on in the [United States], it’s [significantly] different compared to where I’m coming from.”

Horton said that she now considers the U.S. to be her home. 

Although she has been living in Maryland for a while now, receiving asylum stripped away the anxiety associated with returning to Zimbabwe had the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency denied her request. 

With protection from the U.S. government, Horton gets to live in a safe environment and without the vile treatment she encountered in Zimbabwe because of her transness.

In her hometown of Bulawayo, Horton faced constant public humiliation and was once fired from her job as a graphic artist because of her dress presentation, according to an interview she did with Medium. 

She was attacked by a violent group of men in 2014, and was outed later that year following a holiday trip to South Africa, according to the interview. 

This incident garnered media attention and The Sunday News, a Zimbabwean newspaper, published an article in which it misgendered Horton throughout the entire piece. 

This prompted Horton to apply for a U.S. visa so she could attend an LGBTQ leadership conference in D.C. and remove herself from the cacophony in her town.

The Sunday News later ran a story about Horton’s departure in which they misgendered her again and referred to her as a “transgender man” and “alleged gay.”

Horton arrived in D.C. in December 2016 and began her asylum process there. 

While visiting a friend in Los Angeles, she connected with the city’s Human Rights First chapter that referred her to Dhupar, who represented her pro bono. 

Dhupar is a labor and employment law attorney at Paul Hastings LLC and he volunteered to work on Horton’s case as part of his firm’s partnership with Human Rights First to do pro bono LGBTQ advocacy work.

Horton’s asylum was his first ever immigration case.

While the legal underpinnings of immigration were new to him, Dhupar did not struggle to situate his modus operandi because of how compelling Horton’s case was.

“I always referred to the facts of the case because the law is geared towards helping situations like [Horton’s] where someone fears for their life in their home country,” said Dhupar. 

Dhupar also added that Horton’s case was a prime example of why the asylum process exists.

Horton submitted a psychological evaluation in February 2021 that would expedite her asylum case and grant her an interview notice sooner than usual. 

At that point she had lived in the U.S. for more than four years, but she still had to wait a couple more months before she was called for an interview. This caused Horton to feel trepid about whether her case was strong enough. 

“I went through depression and had psychological breakdowns,” said Horton. “I have friends who were called in for an interview months after moving here and didn’t have to wait five years [like I did].”

This hurdle, however, gave Horton and Dhupar adequate time to build an indisputable case. The two built a personal relationship that kept them vigilant despite the abounding uncertainty. 

“She was a perfect advocate for herself and took the initiative to make sure the case did not fall on the backburner,” said Dhupar. 

Now that she has won her case, Horton is taking time to relish on her recent success. 

“I’m going to take a breather,” she said.

She also plans to secure full-time employment in 2022 and build a makeup brand. Horton currently works part time as a steering committee member — a role she says is fulfilling — at the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project- Transgender Law Center.

There, she links Black trans and gender nonconforming individuals to education, employment, legal and healthcare resources.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular