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Vigils, memorial planned for slain gay engineer

Police seek help from community in investigation of Gaurav Gopalan murder



Candle light vigils in Dupont Circle on Sunday, Sept. 25, and at the University of Maryland’s main campus on Tuesday, Sept. 27, will give friends and associates of gay aerospace engineer and theater enthusiast Gaurav Gopalan time to reflect on his life and accomplishments, organizers of the two events said.

Gopalan was found dead on a sidewalk two blocks from where he lived in the city’s Columbia Heights neighborhood on Sept. 10. Earlier this week, the D.C. Medical Examiner said he died of blunt force trauma to the head and ruled the death a homicide.

Shiva Subbaraman, director of Georgetown University’s LGBTQ Resource Center and a friend of Gopalan’s, said members of the South Asian group Khush D.C. and Gopalan’s friends in the D.C. theater community joined other LGBT groups in organizing Sunday’s vigil, which is set to start at 7 p.m. in Dupont Circle.

Gopalan was a native of India and participated in Khush D.C. events, according to Khush member Rehan Rizvi.

Luke Jensen, director of the University of Maryland’s Office of LGBT Equity, said his office was working with friends and others who knew Gopalan through the university to sponsor a candle light vigil in Gopalan’s honor at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27. Jensen said the event was scheduled to take place at the Sundial on McKeldin Mall, a large open space near the campus’s main entrance on Route 1 in College Park.

Gopalan received his PhD in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland in 2004. At the time of his death he worked as an assistant research scientist at the university’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and operated a D.C. based engineering consulting firm.

“Many on campus may have known Dr. Gopalan from contexts outside of engineering,” Jensen said in an email announcing the campus vigil. “He participated with the Graduate Lambda Coalition while he was a graduate student. He also adored Shakespeare and asked to sit in on classes about Shakespeare taught by Professor Maynard Mack of the Department of English.”

The university’s engineering department is holding a private memorial for Gopalan on Oct. 2 in cooperation with Gopalan’s family for those who knew him personally. Jensen said people who knew Gopalan personally and would like to attend the private memorial should contact the engineering department at 301-405-3457.

D.C. police said a passerby found Gopalan unconscious about 5:20 a.m. on Sept. 10 on the 2600 block of 11thStreet, N.W. Police said he was dressed in women’s clothes and had no form of identification on him, although police said he remained in possession of money and jewelry.

Police said they had no immediate evidence that Gopalan was targeted for a hate crime but they could not rule that out and were continuing to pursue all avenues in their investigation.

His death followed what transgender activists have said have been a rash of violence against transgender women in the city this year. In July, Lashai Mclean, a transgender woman, was shot to death in an alley in Northeast D.C.

Police are asking anyone with information that could help in their investigation into Gaurav Gopalan’s murder should contact police at 202-727-9099 or the police crime solver’s line, where anonymous tips can be given, at 1-800-673-2777.

In an announcement, police said they offer a reward of up to $25,000 to anyone providing information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for any homicide committed in the District of Columbia.

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  1. Bob Shaeffer

    September 23, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    My name is Bob Shaeffer. I was Gaurav’s Partner for 5 years. Why have I not been mentioned in any Blade article?

    • laurelboy2

      September 25, 2011 at 1:57 pm

      Bob, you have been. Check out the September 20 article entitled: “Gay engineer’s death ruled a homicide.”

  2. Ann Marie Pace'

    September 24, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Hi Washington Blade,

    I am extremely saddened about the death of this gay man.
    I am also very angry that his murder & the murder of another person in the D.C. area. What do these people think they are accomplishing by murdering 2 gay men? Homosexuals have lived on earth since the beginning of time & killing 2 decent people will not end homosexuality.
    I am a lesbain woman & I know that I was born this way just like all homosexuals are. If straight people would just get that through their unusually thick heads & ancient cave man brains they wouldn’t go around killing us! The higher power made us homosexuals just like they made the heterosexuals, each category, though different from each other, has reasons for being here! I know this because I can see the reasons for both & I can’t understand why heterosexuals can’t see those reasons for both too?!
    I hope that these killers are caught & punished for their terrible crimes against humanity. Every human being is special & should never ever be killed just because someone doesn’t like who they love!

    Thanks for the in-depth reporting yous all do for our community,

    Annie Pace’

  3. IgnoranceHater

    September 24, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    How pathetic and sickening how ignorant some people in this country are in this day and age. It’s obvious no one was born to hate, but were taught to hate others based on their sexuality. The U.S. certainly prides itself on being a tolerant country unlike some parts of the world. Sad to say we’re not that different when it comes to hate crimes. Why haven’t the police taken action against these acts of violence? This isn’t the first person to be attacked in that area. Shame, shame, shame!

  4. John

    September 25, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    I do not understand why Shiva Subbaraman is used in this article as a spokesperson for LGBTQ issues. She doesn’t represent ALL members of the LGBTQ community and I am puzzled on why she even holds the position of director for the Georgetown University LGBTQ Resource Center. I had the misfortune of conversing with her in 2004 and my impression of her was that she was this angry feminist militant lesbian whose ONLY interest was advancing issues concerning minority members of the LGBTQ community at the expense of people who happen to be Caucasian. During one part of my conversation with her, she freely expressed her bigotry, her racist viewpoints, and the stereotypes she seemed to prescribe to, regarding Caucasian members of the LGBTQ community, which I found truly shocking given the types of LGBTQ leadership positions she has held during the past 10 years. She seems incapable of understanding that when she pits members of the LGBTQ community against each other (minorities vs. Caucasians), the entire group suffers as a result.

    • Chris

      September 26, 2011 at 11:55 am

      Unfortunately, our microcosm of society id filled with zenophiles and zealots who espouse equality only for those who are suppossedly “disenfranchised.” There are plenty of us “mainstream” gays and lesbians who spend much of our time undoing the harm of these people we allow to overrun our organizations with their hate-filled and unbalances emotions. It’s sad, but true. I have no use for this person, nor any like her.

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Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video



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:

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Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed



(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.

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Transgender Zimbabwean woman in Md. wins asylum case

Mattie Tux Horton lives in Rockville



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.

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