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Report: Anti-LGBT murders rose 11 percent in 2011

2011 saw the highest number of anti-LGBT murders since 1996, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Project’s annual report



Washington Blade, Gay News, Hate Crime
Washington Blade, Gay News, Hate Crime

The victim of a brutal anti-gay attack underwent two surgeries in which his badly severed jaw was reattached with two permanent titanium plates. He spoke to the Blade this week on condition of anonymity. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs on Thursday reported that the number of anti-LGBT murders in 2011 rose 11 percent from the previous year.

The NCAVP’s annual report documents 30 anti-LGBT homicides across the county. While it showed that incidents of anti-LGBT hate violence decreased 16 percent from 2010, the number of anti-LGBT murders in 2011 is the highest that the agency has documented since it began to issue it began to issue its annual report in 1996.

“It’s definitely shocking to see the increase in the number of murders,” said Hassan Naveed, vice chair of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence in the District of Columbia.

NCAVP further noted that 87 percent of the 30 anti-LGBT homicide victims in 2011 were LGBT people of color—trans women comprised 40 percent of those who lost their lives to anti-LGBT bias-motivated crimes.

Anti-violence advocates maintain a lack of housing, employment and legal protections leave trans people particularly vulnerable to bias-motived crimes.

A 2011 National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force survey found that nearly a fifth of respondents said they had been homeless at some point in their lives because of their gender identity and expression. The report further indicated that rates of unemployment among trans and gender non-conforming people are twice as high—and four times as high among trans people of color—than the national average. Sixty-three percent of survey respondents said they experienced what NCTE and the Task Force described as “a serious act of discrimination” in employment, education, the health and legal system and in other areas.

DeeDee Pearson was a trans black woman who was killed in Kansas City, Mo, last Christmas Eve. Her friend, Paige Dior, who said she has repeatedly experienced anti-trans violence herself, said Pearson “lived the street life” because she had nowhere else to go.

“Transgender people are normally rejected from their families, so we go out and create our own,” said Dior on an NCAVP conference call with reporters. “When DeeDee was killed on Christmas Eve; it was very, very devastating.”

Metropolitan Police Department statistics note that there were 43 reported bias-related crimes based on sexual orientation in the District of Columbia in 2011, compared to 35 in 2010. The MPD reported 11 anti-trans crimes in the District in 2011, compared to 10 in 2010.

Ejeris Dixon of the New York City Anti-Violence Project noted that the anti-LGBT bias-related crimes documented in the NCAVP report are only “the tip of the iceberg.” She and other anti-violence activists note that many victims remain afraid to report these attacks because of their immigration status or previous experience with law enforcement officials.

The D.C. Trans Coalition, GLOV, the Rainbow Response Coalition and other local anti-violence organizations have begun to lay the foundation for a system that would allow victims of anti-LGBT crimes to report attacks to service providers without going through the MPD. Naveed maintains this initiative would provide what he described as a far more accurate count of the number of anti-LGBT bias attacks in the city.

“The NCAVP report definitely does highlight the need of an inclusive and sensible reporting system for the LGBT community here in D.C.,” he said. “By allowing this system to come into use, we’re really going to see numbers closer to the truth here in D.C.”

Service providers in other cities have also implemented similar independent reporting mechanisms.

The Los Angeles district attorney’s office has recognized the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Center as a place where victims of anti-LGBT bias crimes can come forward. The agency is then able to bypass the police and directly report these incidents to local prosecutors.

“We have been pretty successful with law enforcement so that option has not been exercised a lot, but it does exist,” noted Jake Finney of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

Equality Michigan also offers victims of anti-LGBT crimes the option to report attacks through the Internet or their hotline. Nusrat Ventimiglia, the group’s director of victim services, told the Blade that her organization also works with the Ruth Ellis Center and other service providers in Detroit and across the state to reach those who remain disproportionately vulnerable to bias-related violence.

Back in California, the Los Angeles Police Department in April issued a set of guidelines designed to improve the way its officers treat trans Angelenos. These include the use of names and pronouns that are consistent with a person’s gender identity and expression and the creation of a separate housing unit for trans prisoners in city jails. The new regulations further prohibit officers from searching or frisking a person to determine their sex.

The LAPD has also adopted a policy that bars officers from asking about a person’s immigration status.

“We inform undocumented people that they can report crimes that happen against them,” said Finney. “Knowing your rights is really empowering for people.”



Pa. House passes bill to repeal state’s same-sex marriage ban

Measure now goes to Republican-controlled state Senate



Pennsylvania Capitol Building (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Democratic-controlled Pennsylvania House of Representatives on July 2 passed a bill that would repeal the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

The marriage bill passed by a 133-68 vote margin, with all but one Democrat voting for it. Thirty-two Republicans backed the measure.

The bill’s next hurdle is to pass in the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate.

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), a gay man who is running for state auditor, noted to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review the bill would eliminate a clause in Pennsylvania’s marriage law that defines marriage as “between one man and one woman.” The measure would also change the legal definition of marriage in the state to “a civil contract between two individuals.”

Kenyatta did not return the Washington Blade’s requests for comment.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges extended marriage rights to same-sex couples across the country. 

Justice Clarence Thomas in the 2022 decision that struck down Roe v. Wade said the Supreme Court should reconsider the Obergefell decision and the Lawrence v. Texas ruling that said laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations are unconstitutional. President Joe Biden at the end of that year signed the Respect for Marriage Act, which requires the federal government and all U.S. states and territories to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages.

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this year signed a bill that codified marriage rights for same-sex couples in state law. Pennsylvania lawmakers say the marriage codification bill is necessary in case the Supreme Court overturns marriage rights for same-sex couples in their state and across the country.

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Western Pa. transgender girl killed, dismembered

Pauly Likens, 14, brutally murdered last month



(Photo courtesy of the LGBTQIA+ Alliance Shenango Valley)

Editor’s note: The Philadelphia Gay News originally published this story.

BY TIM CWIEK | Prosecutors are pledging justice for Pauly Likens, a 14-year-old transgender girl from Sharon, Pa., who was brutally killed last month. Her remains were scattered in and around a park lake in western Pennsylvania.

“The bottom line is that we have a 14-year-old, brutally murdered and dismembered,” said Mercer County District Attorney Peter C. Acker in an email. “Pauly Likens deserves justice, her family deserves justice, and we seek to deliver that justice.”

On June 23, DaShawn Watkins allegedly met Likens in the vicinity of Budd Street Public Park and Canoe Launch in Sharon, Pa., and killed her. Watkins subsequently dismembered Likens’s corpse with a saw and scattered her remains in and around Shenango River Lake in Clark Borough.

On July 2, Watkins was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. He’s being held without bail in the Mercer County jail.

The coroner’s office said the cause of death was sharp force trauma to the head and ruled the manner of death as homicide.

Cell phone records, social media and surveillance video link Watkins to the crime. Additionally, traces of Likens’s blood were found in and around Watkins’s apartment in Sharon, Pa., authorities say.

A candlelight vigil is being held Saturday, July 13, in remembrance of Likens. It’s being hosted by LGBTQIA+ Alliance Shenango Valley. The vigil begins at 7 p.m. at 87 Stambaugh Ave. in Sharon, Pa.

Pamela Ladner, president of the Alliance, mourned Likens’s death. 

“Pauly’s aunt described her as a sweet soul, inside and out,” Ladner said in an email. “She was a selfless child who loved nature and wanted to be a park ranger like her aunt.”

Acker, the prosecutor, said Likens’s death is one of the worst crimes he’s seen in 46 years as an attorney. But he cautioned against calling it a hate crime. “PSP [Pennsylvania State Police] does not believe it in fact is one [hate crime] because the defendant admitted to being a homosexual and the victim was reportedly a trans girl,” Acker asserted.

Acker praised the criminal justice agencies who worked on the case, including the Pennsylvania State Police, the Hermitage Police Department, the Sharon Police Department, park rangers from the Shenango Reservoir, Mercer County Coroner John Libonati, and cadaver dog search units.

“The amount of hours dedicated to the identification of the victim and the filing of charges against the defendant is a huge number,” Acker added. “We take the murder of any individual very seriously, expressly when they are young and brutally killed and dismembered.”

Acker also noted that all criminal defendants are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

This is a developing story.

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TransTech Social removing barriers to trans success

‘Technology was the key to my freedom’



From left, TransTech members B Hawk Snipes, E.C. Pizarro III, Ang R Bennett, and Adrian Elim. (Photo by Lexi Webster Photography)

It is common knowledge that women earn 84% of the average worker. Less common knowledge? Trans women earn 60% of the average worker. Trans men and non-binary people come in at around 70%, while 16% of all trans people make less than $10,000 annually. 

E.C. Pizarro was lucky, and he knew it. He had a BFA in graphic design and had taught himself how to code. As a stealth trans man in a corporate job, he had access to a stable wage and good benefits. “People that do not have experiences in corporate America or with equitable employment don’t realize [these things] are privileges that a lot of people don’t have access to.” 

He wanted to give back and was gearing up to bring more volunteer work into his life by participating in a fraternity for trans men. When he went to a TransTech event and learned about the educational and career resources for trans people who face barriers to entering the workforce, he knew he had found his place. 

At the event he met, Angelica Ross. Yes, that Angelica Ross, of “Pose” and “American Horror Story.”

Before she was Candy, Ross was a self-taught coder. She went from posing for an adult website to doing its back-end coding to teaching her trans siblings how to succeed in tech. 

“Technology was the key to my freedom,” Ross said in an interview with The Plug. “Technology took me from being exploited on someone’s website to building my own websites and to building websites for other people and getting paid to do so.”

Pizarro was impressed and wanted to help. “I went up to Angelica and I was like ‘Hey, I’m a trans man. These are my skills. I’m down to volunteer and do any type of work—the one caveat is that I’m stealth. You can’t tell anybody that I’m trans.’”

For four years, Pizarro helped from mostly behind the scenes, sometimes getting side-eyed since people thought he was a cis man in trans spaces. “I was still stealth as the Director of Social Media and Communications for the National Trans Visibility March in 2019,” Pizarro says, chuckling a little.

But by that point, Ross — who headlined the 2019 march — was overextended trying to balance being a world-famous actress, advocate, and businesswoman. 

She needed someone to step in as executive director of TransTech and looked to the group of dedicated volunteers. Pizarro was elected by his peers to take the reins of the organization. 

This was a turning point for Pizarro. “I’m very passionate about tech and for me a small sacrifice of being open with my trans experience to liberate other trans people,” he said. “I felt like if that’s something I got to do, then I’m gonna do it.”

And he did it. The infrastructure Ross put together worked: with mentorship, education, community, and networking with trans-accepting employers, trans people were gaining financial security and independence. 

So, Pizarro focused on expanding TransTech as widely as possible. “We have grown exponentially over the last three years,” he says. “When I took over in 2021, we had about 800 members based in the United States. Now we support over 6,700 members across 50 countries.”

TransTech is filling a demonstrated need within specifically the trans community. New research from LGBT Tech found that 68% of transgender adults use the internet to find LGBTQ-friendly employment (compared to 38% of cisgender LGBTQ+ adults). More than 70% of all LGBTQ adults use the Internet to access educational content.

Accessibility is central to the TransTech programming. Despite the growth, everything remains free. “There’s no membership fee. All of our programming is free. All of the certifications and educational resources are free,” Pizarro says. 

They know the financial burden the trans community faces — 29% of trans adults live in poverty. “If we’re asking anyone to up-skill [for a cost] and these are the things they are going through, we are asking them to invest in their future versus their meal today.” 

Pizarro believes that accessibility is more than just making the training free. He wants the community to understand that tech work is something they are innately capable of doing. 

“TransTech was built on the foundation of nontraditional tech. It’s not always coding. It’s graphic design. It’s social media. It’s video editing. It’s anything that uses a piece of technology and nowadays almost everything uses a piece of technology,” says Pizarro.

He emphasizes to participants: “You’re in tech and you don’t even know it,” pointing out how many already utilize tech skills like marketing and monetization with their social media accounts.

Some people involved in the programming are nervous about entering the “tech world” because of headlines about tech layoffs. He makes sure to emphasize that unlike in some other jobs, tech companies often pay generous severance packages, which gives employees “breathing room.” Pizzaro explains that “once you have experience with one tech company, you can go someplace else and make a substantial amount of money as well.” 

While TransTech is designed for the gender-diverse community, the programming is open to everyone Pizarro explains. “We just ask that you don’t be transphobic.” (Or any of the other -phobics too, he says, listing them off.) He also emphasizes that this allows trans members who are not out to comfortably participate. 

Pizarro wants everyone to understand that they don’t just belong in tech, but they make tech better. “Tech is most profitable when you have diverse people building the tech and using the tech,” Pizarro says. “There is an intentional funding as well as support to diversity tech because they understand how that impacts the product.”

He also reminds participants that they have developed transferrable skills in every part of their lives. “I like to tell people if you can manage your life as a trans person in the United States or anywhere you can manage a project.”

Angelica Ross was a self-taught coder before she hit it big with ‘Pose.’ (Washington Blade file photo by Linus Berggren)
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