A message from the Executive Director: We must work to better support our LGBTQ youth

Dear friends,

We are heartbroken and disturbed by the tragic and fatal stabbing that occurred on the morning of Wednesday, September 27 at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in the Bronx. We mourn the death of Matthew McCree and hope for the recovery of Ariane LaBoy. Our hearts go out to Abel Cedeno, the families of all three of the youth involved, and the entire school and neighboring community in which the lives of so many have been irrevocably altered by this tragedy.

We call on the mayor and school officials to respond swiftly to this tragedy: not only to the fatal stabbing, but to address the bullying that appears was an integral part of this fatal incident, and work to create a safer and healing environment for the future. According to recent news reports, Cedeno’s family and friends have said he was the victim of anti-gay bullying since the start of the school year, and in fact had been bullied since middle school. We know all too well that bullying, harassment and other anti-LGBT violence in schools causes serious harm to the students targeted.  According to GLSEN, 57.6% of LGBTQ students feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and 43.3% because of their gender expression, resulting in 42.5% of LGBTQ students who reported that they did not plan to finish high school, or were not sure if they would finish, or indicated that they were considering dropping out because of the harassment they faced at school.

We do not believe that the addition of metal detectors is the real solution to this tragedy, and caution against responding to this incident of violence by increasing the policing and potential criminalization of our youth, especially youth of color. We strongly believe that all three youth involved are victims who needed the support and action of the adults around them to intervene, and we hope we can move forward without further demonizing them in this moment.

This stabbing has come on the heels of the news of the horrific murder of 17-year-old Ally Lee Steinfeld, in Missouri, which occurred in early September as a result of transphobia and dating violence. And we just learned of the vicious attack on Kylie Perez, a young transgender student at East Side High in Newark, which also occurred on school grounds. This news comes at a time when we are seeing a significant increase in hate violence towards LGBTQ people and others both locally and nationally. Last month we released a report, Crisis of Hate, to bring attention to the fact that at this point in the year, we have already recorded the highest number of hate violence-related homicides of LGBTQ people in our 20-year history of tracking this information.

It’s clear that as a country, and in community, we must work to better support our youth during some of the most vulnerable and important times of their lives, and to address the climate of hate against LGBTQ people, people of color, immigrants and others that is growing at an alarming rate. We need to work to ensure that our schools—as well as other public spaces—are affirming and safe environments for young people of all identities, and that school officials and teachers are well equipped to address and prevent bullying and other forms of anti-LGBTQ violence. We call upon our communities to address not only the symptoms of violence as it plays out in our homes, schools, and workplaces, but to address the underlying root causes that fuel this violence, like racism, transphobia, homophobia, and more. And we call upon our communities to seek restorative and healing responses to violence that offer support, not punitive measures, to all in need.

AVP offers our support to students, family members and school officials in addressing and healing from this tragedy. Our hotline and counseling services are available any time to LGBTQ youth who may be experiencing anti-LGBTQ violence, and to those who are trying to support those youth.

Until we are all safe and free,

Beverly Tillery

White LGBTQ people: Take a stand against white supremacy

Dear friends,

It has become clear that there is a vacuum of leadership in the White House when it comes to speaking out about the crisis of violence in this country.

It took three days for President Trump to condemn the violence and terrorism of the white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, where three lives were lost, including Heather Heyer, who was killed standing up for justice and peace.

Last week, AVP spoke out about the disturbing fact that there have already been 34 hate-violence-related homicides of LGBTQ people in 2017. In 2016, there were 28—that number excludes the 49 people killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. Again, there was no condemnation or acknowledgement of this crisis from the Trump administration.

This is not a time to be silent. This is a time for all of us—and especially white allies—to fill the vacuum of leadership at the top with calls and actions to end hate and bigotry. This is our time to challenge the white supremacy that has been emboldened, amplified, and empowered by the Trump administration.

To be clear, the “Unite the Right” and related rallies and marches were always planned as violent displays of intimidation by white nationalist groups, angry that the monuments to their icons of bigotry are being rejected across the country.

The white nationalists brought torches and shields and weapons. They chanted anti-Black, anti-Semitic, and anti-gay chants. They were there to inflict violence and abuse, to invoke the historical violence of slavery and lynch mobs, and to cause physical and emotional pain to others.

Today I am asking white LGBTQ people to take a stand against white supremacy and to call it out wherever we see it. Yes, white supremacy looks like a band of Nazis with torches, but it is also looks like the Muslim ban and building a wall. It looks like efforts to reverse affirmative action, gerrymandering, and restricting voting rights of people of color. And white supremacy breeds the homophobia and transphobia that undergirds the current crisis of violence our LGBTQ communities are facing right now. Right now, your voices as allies are critical to let this administration know that a majority of people in this country will not stand by silently while terrorists take over our streets.

I am asking our supporters and communities to call their members of Congress and tell them to denounce and condemn the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville. And I am asking every one of us to find ways to interrupt and disrupt white supremacy and other modes of bigotry and hatred when we encounter them, in any form. We can make our communities safer, but it will take all of us coming together.

Until we are all safe and free,

Beverly Tillery

Today we Honor Those We Lost and Commit to Fight for the Living

Last year, our country suffered the loss of 77 LGBTQ individuals to senseless hate violence. Most of these hate violence victims were people of color and many were transgender and gender nonconforming. One year ago today, on June 12, 2016, the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando took the lives of 49 mostly Latinx LGBTQ young adults, wounded over 50 others and deeply traumatized hundreds. This massacre shook the LGBTQ community and our entire country to the core.

Along with 28 other LGBTQ hate-based homicides last year, the Pulse shooting made 2016 the deadliest year on record for hate violence against LGBTQ people in the United States. By June 11, 2016, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) had already responded to twelve hate-related homicides of LGBTQ people. Nine of those twelve victims were transgender women of color. The shooting at Pulse was deeply connected to the continuous hate violence being committed against LGBTQ people, and in particular LGBTQ people of color every day in this country.

Today, one year after the Pulse shooting, NCAVP is releasing its 20th annual report on LGBTQ and HIV-affected hate violence. For the 20th year in a row, we are calling the nation’s attention to the many ways hate—in the form of homophobia, transphobia and racism—can turn into violence against members of the LGBTQ community, especially those who are already marginalized, discriminated against and abused in our society.

 

The report, which analyzes 1,036 incidents of hate violence reported across the country, highlights that these homicides are occurring in a larger context in which anti-LGBTQ hate violence is persistent, daily and happening everywhere in our society. Hate violence is occurring at schools, workplaces, in our homes and communities. The majority of hate violence survivors experienced violence at the hands of someone they knew, not a stranger on the street. And in the current political climate in which attempts are being made to roll back or limit the rights and protections of LGBTQ people, already unsafe places are being made even more dangerous for our community members.

Last year, of the 28 non-Pulse hate violence homicides reported on in the 2016 NCAVP Hate Violence Report, 79% of the victims were people of color (18 Black and 4 were Latinx), 68% were transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) and 61% were transgender women of color.

Now, halfway through 2017, it is clear that we have not begun to turn the tide to end this cycle of violence. So far in 2017, NCAVP has received reports of 21 LGBTQ lives taken by possible hate-related violence, and the majority of these victims have been transgender, gender-nonconforming, and people of color.

Today, as we remember the Pulse shooting and celebrate the lives of those we lost in Orlando a year ago, let us also remember the other 28 LGBTQ lives lost to hate violence last year, and the 21 already lost in 2017.

As we lobby for gun reform, let’s also demand our elected officials stop dangerous religious exemption laws and other anti-LGBT legislation that contribute to a climate of hate and violence.

And when we attend vigils in the memory of Pulse, let’s also make a pledge to speak up when we hear anti-LGBTQ and anti-HIV hate speech or see people being targeted for who they are.

Let’s support community-based organizations that are working to prevent violence and find alternatives to systems that continue to criminalize and oppress our communities.

We still have a long way to go, but together, we can stand up for love and respect and make our world safer for everyone.

Beverly Tillery is the executive director of the New York City Ani-Violence Project. Follow her on Twitter: @BeverlyTillery