LGBT media outlets are implying the Trump administration is responsible for reports that the LGBT homicide rate doubled from 2016 to 2017. The media reports are citing an 86 percent increase in homicides, indicating a disturbing and sudden rise in violence. The details are laid out in a report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs titled, “A crisis of hate a report on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and Queer Hate Violence Homicides in 2017.” But a closer look at those details, as is often the case, reveals some problems with the conclusion drawn in the headline.
In 2016 there were 28 murders of LGBT Americans. This increased to 52 murders in 2017. Remarkably, the 2016 Pulse Night Club Islamic terrorist attack, always referred to as a “shooting,” in which 49 members of the LGBT community were intentionally targeted and murdered, is not included in these statistics. The context of the murders, however, suggest most of them were not necessarily motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation.
“We are releasing this report during a time when our communities are witnessing the few civil rights protections and policies being rolled back and discrimination being instituted into law,” the report begins, “when media organizations and organizations working with survivors are receiving an unprecedented number of stories of hate fueled attacks.”
The murders are referred to as “hate violence” and “anti-LGBT homicides” throughout the report, which helpfully includes a comprehensive list of all the murder victims and a brief description of the details surrounding their deaths. Each individual has multiple news reports associated with their murder, including the original local report as well as larger media pieces. Although many lack sufficient information to determine a motive, a majority provide enough details to understand some of the context surrounding the murders.
There were 27 transgender victims included in the report. The LGBT media tends to give a special spotlight for transgender murder victims in yearly collections meant to persuade the reader of a unique threat to this community. But according to the report, roughly 15 of the 27 crimes against transgender people have no suspect, motive or resolution. A victim is simply discovered in an ally or a street with no indication of what occurred. Fewer than half of all violent crime and property crimes (burglary or theft) are solved in the United States. Without sufficient evidence, the police are simply unable to make any clear determinations.
Of the remaining transgender victims, three were killed during police altercations. In all of those scenarios, the transgender individual was behaving erratically and aggressively towards police officers with a weapon. Of the others with murder charges associated, none were apparently motivated by the victim’s gender identity. Most of the crimes against transgender people appear to be random acts of violence, associated with sex work, or altercations between people who knew each other. One 17-year-old victim was killed by a romantic partner and their friends.
The next largest grouping of murders in the report relates to gay hook-up websites or apps. The report cites 45 percent of the known homicides of gay men were the result of online hook-ups. This scenario reflects the gay male community’s long-held fear of violence during anonymous sexual encounters going back to movies like “Cruising” (1980) and the death of Hollywood icon, Sal Mineo. “Cruising” featured a gay serial killer who targets gay men in known areas where gay men “cruise” for anonymous sex. Mineo was murdered in 1976 during a sexual encounter that turned violent in a cruising spot in Hollywood.
In 2016 there were several examples of gay men being lured to their deaths by men attempting to rob them or intentionally kill them. An Idaho man lured a gay man into the woods with the promise of sex before beating him to death, and four Texas men lured multiple gay men into robberies. One was sentenced to 15 years in prison. In another disturbing trend, as detailed in Vice in an article titled, “I Tried to Score as Much Free Stuff as I Could Using Grindr,” young gay men attempt to manipulate older gay men with the promise of sex for gifts. The article discusses three writers intentionally trying to scam people on hook up apps for fun.
Sadly, many young gay men listed in the report were last known to have met someone online and were later found murdered. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs rationalizes this by stating, “Furthermore, there are ways that stigma, shame, and societal pressure may be contributing factors in hook up homicides where both individuals are queer, bi, or gay men.” In other words, it is well known that many gay male homicides are committed by other gay men. One victim was a lesbian murdered by a lesbian woman she met online.
Many on the list were killed by people they knew personally or in domestic violence. Roughly 11 of the 52 murders were committed by individuals the victim knew personally. Domestic violence is astonishingly high in the LGBT community. In 2010 the CDC reported that 43.8 percent of lesbians, 61.1 percent of bisexual women, 26 percent of gay men, and 37.3 percent of bisexual men experienced sexual assault, stalking or other physical violence from intimate partners. While it’s possible the murders committed by people the victim knew personally were motivated by a hate for their sexual orientation or gender identity, it’s much less likely, particularly in the case of loved ones and romantic partners.
After reviewing each of the 52 cases individually, it seems there are four pretty definite cases of anti-LGBT motivated homicides. Giovanni Melton, 14, was shot by his father during an altercation. The father, a convicted felon on previous battery charges, was vocally opposed to the young man’s sexual orientation. Rap icon, Kidd Creole, was charged with the murder of a homeless man when he stabbed him after interpreting the man’s greeting as a sexual invitation. He was walking with a large steak knife up his sleeve when he encountered the man.
Brandon Alexander Lyons and Jerrett Jamal Allen have been charged with the murder of one gay man and the possible abduction of another missing man. Both men were Asian, and the police believe the two men were targeting Asian men specifically. The two men themselves are Black. The dating app used was not specified so the homophobic motivation is speculation.
Juan Javier Cruz, 22, a straight man, was fatally shot in an altercation outside a night club in Lake Worth, Florida. He was with a group of gay friends when Nelson Hernandez Mena, 48, reported as an Honduran national, confronted them. As detailed by The Advocate, “Juan and Pedro Cruz stood side-by-side when Hernandez Mena and four other men confronted them. One of the men in the other group said that in other nations, men like Pedro and his friends would get killed. Hernandez Mena then said, ‘In my country I kill them like rats,’ according to Pedro Cruz.”
One final example that stands out is the murder of two lesbian women and their children in a brutal and intentional home invasion and murder. Two suspects were arrested and one of the suspects knew the women. According to the police, the suspects tied up the family and brutally killed them to steal their TV and Xbox.
While each life is valuable, and the goal of our society should be to end violence, random or intentional, there’s simply not enough here to claim a dramatic rise in “anti-LGBT” hate crimes in the United States. Reports like these, titled “A Crisis of Hate” propagate fear and paranoia in a specific community for the sake of political goals. LGBT media and organizations are stretching the narrative extremely thin when reporting these events. The new standard seems to be that if a victim is gay or transgender, their murder must be “anti-LGBT” in nature.
It’s important to continue researching and challenging these claims, but no victim listed here is necessarily honored or avenged by the positioning their murder as a larger political act. No future victim is potentially protected by perpetuating an exaggerated narrative of homophobic hatred and violence. Data must be accurate and reports like this must present a true picture of events.
On closer examination it appears that 4 of the 52 cases in 2017 were possibly anti-LGBT driven, and yet the headlines will continue to shout an 86 percent increase in anti-LGBT hate crimes. The more the LGBT media manipulates the narrative to perpetuate politically convenient fear, the less average Americans will appreciate true violence towards the gay and transgender community. This unethical behavior in journalism and advocacy organizations only harms the people it is attempting to protect.