September 23, 2011 at 5:08 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Vigils, memorial planned for slain gay engineer

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.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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

  • 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’

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • 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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