Who She Was


Friday, April 24, 2009

A message of acceptance, tolerance and love came through Thursday night, as the mother of a murdered transgendered teenager talked to a crowd in Heath Recital Hall in Beach Music Hall at Emporia State University.

The presentation by Sylvia Guerrero of Tracy, Calif., was moved from the Kanza Room in the Memorial Union to the larger Heath venue. The event was organized by People Representing Individuality and Diversity in Education (PRIDE) on campus.

Guerrero’s 17-year-old child, Gwen Amber Rose Araujo, was beaten to death at a party on Oct. 3, 2003, after it was discovered that Gwen was physically a man.

Gwen’s story was told in a Lifetime network movie, “A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story,” which won the 2007 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Movie for Television.

The assault on Gwen apparently erupted because two of the attackers had been sexually intimate with her, not realizing Gwen was transgendered — a person who has the physical attributes of one gender, but emotionally feels he or she is the opposite gender.

Gwen was planning to undergo treatments to allow her to become a female, but did not live long enough to begin the process.

“At my daughter’s funeral, I promised her I would be her voice, until people stop dying for who they are,” Guerrero said during an interview before her presentation.

Guerrero said she believes that people are transgendered as they are developing in the womb. Being transgender is not a choice, she said.

After conception, some babies develop the physical attributes of one gender, while possessing the brain of the other, she said. And, while outwardly Eddie carried the evidence of being male, inside, he always considered himself female.

“You know what, this is not genetic,” Guerrero said. “This happens one in so many births. They’re literally born in the wrong body. … It’s not that she just woke up one day and decided to complicate her life” by being transgender.

From childhood, Eddie had exhibited femininity and sensitivity, his mother said, and those traits caused him to be bullied and called names from elementary school into high school. At the age of 14, Eddie told his mother that he was transgendered. He grew his hair long, wore makeup and began dressing as a female. Eddie became Gwen, a name chosen because Eddie was a fan of Gwen Stefani. The bullying and taunting escalated.

Guerrero said that such treatment by peers eventually made attending school so painful that Gwen dropped out of school.

The ostracism was something Guerrero said Gwen should not have had to bear, and she asked that instead of taunting transgendered people, audience members smile at them instead and respect them as fellow human beings.

“That little friendly gesture. it costs you nothing, but it means so much to that person,” Guerrero said. “… Who are we to play God and say ‘This is wrong and this is right?’”

Guerrero described Gwen as a vivacious drama queen, who had sat down with her mother and made plans to go to cosmetology school, then on to Hollywood in hopes of establishing a career in her field. When the hormone therapies and surgeries were completed, she planned to have her birth certificiate revised to legally become Gwen Araujo.

“She had goals and dreams just like the rest of us,” she said.

Anger and hate over Gwen’s being transgender — different — led to the brutal attack that killed her, Guerrero said.

“Her body wasn’t found until 2 weeks later,” Guerrero said. “They buried her.”

The four men had beaten Gwen with a soup can and an iron skillet, then strangled and hung her.

“They busted her head open, kneed her,” she said.

“Those men decided to play God that night. They took her life,” Guerrero said with anger rising in her voice. “How dare they do that!”

Guerrero said the right side of Gwen’s forehead had been crushed and her brain exposed and flattened.

The men loaded Gwen’s body into a pickup truck and drove about three hours to a national forest in the Sierra Mountains, where they buried her and covered her grave with boulders to prevent animals digging up her remains.

After the men disposed of the body, they drove into Placerville and ate breakfast, Guerrero said; they thought that because Gwen was transsexual, no one would care that she was missing. Many transsexuals become homeless or lose touch with their families after being rejected for being transsexuals, Guerreero said.

“That was not the case with Gwen. She was very loved. … It’s a love that’s unconditional.”

Guerrero drew some comfort from being able to see her child again after one of the men took a plea bargain and revealed where they had buried Gwen’s remains — 7.4 miles up a mountainside, near a logging trail, where the cold weather prevented the disintegration that would have occurred in a warmer area.

As a result, Gwen’s body could be dressed in the feminine clothing she preferred and be on view in an open casket for the funeral service.

The images of her daughter still haunt Guerrero, who saw more than 300 photographs of Gwen, after she was unearthed and before and after the autopsy and at the funeral.

“Those horrific pictures, I will never in my life forget,” Guerrero said. “And I also believe that those images drive me to do what I do now because I don’t ever want another parent to ever endure what I endured and am enduring.”

The missing-person case, which police originally had not taken seriously because Gwen was transgender, had developed into a murder that drew considerable media attention, as well as widespread support of Gwen and her family. Each time “A Girl Like Me” airs on Lifetime, Guerrero is deluged with phone calls and e-mails of support, she said.

She has managed to forgive the men who killed her daughter.

“I forgave all four of them for her death, and I didn’t do it in a day,” she said. “I did it in a year and a half. … It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.”

She reached forgiveness after the first trial ended in a mistrial.

“It was actually very powerful to forgive them,” she said, explaining that it allowed her the strength to go through the second trial, which ended in a conviction.

“I was not raised to hate and I believe it was hate that killed Gwen. And I believe that hate is taught at home,” she said.

Guerrero’s parents, too, were able to forgive. Guerrero’s three other children and most of her 13 siblings and their families have not.

Gwen’s permanent absence from the family is something none of them have been able to reconcile.

Guerrero said not a day goes by that she doesn’t miss her child.

“That’s what I miss the most is her physical being, touching and hugging her,” Guerrero said. “…This is my baby that I carried in my womb. I loved her since I conceived her. …My baby was killed. Not my ‘transgender teenager.’”

She has not yet been able to bury the urn that holds the remains of Gwen’s body, which was cremated.

“I have her urn in my room,” she said before the presentation. “She has her own little shrine.”

Guerrero has grown accustomed to calling Gwen her daughter now; sometimes, before the murder, she had lapsed and called Gwen “Eddie” out of habit.

Guerrero petitioned a court in California to have Eddie’s name legally changed to Gwen Amber Rose Araujo — “Gwen” for the name Eddie had chosen and “Amber Rose” for Guerrero, who had chosen that name as an alternative to Eddie, in case the baby was a girl.

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Bullied to death

Jake Kornegay reports on the homophobia and bullying that drove an 11-year-old to commit suicide this month.

April 24, 2009
ON APRIL 6, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, distraught from being called “fag,” “girlie,” “gay” and similar names on a daily basis in school, took his own life. He hung himself with an extension cord in his family’s Springfield, Mass., home, where he was discovered by his mother, Sirdeaner Walker.

Carl was 11 years old. He was a football and basketball player in school, a Boy Scout and was active in his church and in putting together a Black history program.

But despite his mother’s weekly pleas to the school Carl attended, New Leadership Charter School, administrators did nothing to stop the taunting. Sirdeaner found Carl dead just minutes before she was going to confront school authorities again.

Unfortunately, Carl’s case isn’t unique. William and Janis Mohat’s 17-year-old son Eric was bullied to death at Mentor High School in Mentor, Ohio. On March 29, 2007, Mohat shot himself after relentless harassment and intimidation, which included being pushed, shoved and hit–not to mention being humiliated by being called a “fag,” a “queer” and a “homo.” Like Carl, Eric had never shown any interest in homosexuality at all.

In the lawsuit Eric’s parents filed in federal court in March, they said that “a young man told Eric, ‘Why don’t you go home and shoot yourself? No one would miss you.’ And that’s what he did.”

“When you lose a child like this, it destroys you in ways you can’t even describe,” William Mohat told ABC News. Bully-induced suicides are on the rise, and that trend coincides with an increase over the last five years in the level of viciousness in taunting–among boys and girls, Summit County Domestic Relations Court community outreach director Sue Tucker told Fox News.

In a 2005 survey by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Harris Interactive, “From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America,” students said that most of their peers were bullied because of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression, which is the second most common reason for bulling behind appearance.

Students said that teachers rarely interfered in cases of gay-related bullying, because they were embarrassed or don’t know what to do, the report showed. “The truly unfortunate thing is because of the societal atmosphere surrounding gay and lesbian life in the U.S., administrators are reluctant to act or fail to act,” said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard, who attended Carl’s memorial service.

Gay students report that they are often scared to go to school because of the homophobic culture. According to the 2005 National School Climate Survey by the GLSEN, nearly one-fifth of LGBT students reported being physically assaulted at school the previous school year because of their sexual orientation, and over one-tenth because of their gender expression.

Suicide is the third leading causes of death among teenagers in general, behind accidents and homicide for ages 15-24, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Even more disturbing, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 and 14.

Gay teen suicide is shockingly common. According to a 1999 CDC/Massachusetts Department of Education Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 33 percent of gay youth will attempt suicide. Many of these kids’ sexuality is unknown, including Carl’s, but no matter. The pervasiveness of homophobic taunts, the fear that kids–gay or not–face in school every day and bullying are inseparable. And, as they say, it’s easier to kick down than up.

WHEN KIDS bully others because of their sexuality, they are repeating a message that pervades society at large. What kind of signal, for example, does it send to kids when the government says it’s wrong for two women or two men to get married, or when there is little or no protection for LGBT people in the workplace, in housing and in adoption?

Some groups such as GLSEN promote LGBT issues by asking school kids not to speak for a day, or as their public service messages say, “Think Before You Speak” to reduce use of the slur “That’s so gay,” which kids understand as derogatory. Efforts like these may help, but what we really need is more speech against bigotry, more discussion of LGBT issues and more education on why it’s okay to be who you are.

Conrad Honicker of Knoxville, Tenn., who came out as gay just before his freshman year in high school, told ABC News, “Naturally, I got a lot of teasing, mostly verbal, but it got threatening at one point. Someone threw a large rock at me. They missed, but it landed in front of me.” He survived the verbal abuse that he described as “very graphic” and “like you would treat a woman in a bad, sexualized gratuitous way.” Bullies also physically attacked him, “squeezing me and kissing my neck.”

Honicker’ responded by forming West High School’s first gay-straight alliance, as well as eight other groups around the school district. He believes that if these groups are a visible presence in schools, they can thwart the bullying and encourage teachers to act.

Gay-straight alliances are widespread and growing, and see themselves as an army of youth combating anti-gay bigotry. For example, over 300 high school students are attending LGBT Equality and Justice Day in New York State. The goal of this day of action is to pressure politicians to give us not only marriage equality, but other demands like transgendered rights bills.

It will also take more action on the national level–like the passage of Employment Non-Discrimination Act, an end to the military’s policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and federal gay marriage equality–before the message sinks in that bigotry divides and must be stopped.

“I am determined for the rest of my life to advocate on behalf of students who are voiceless and silent,” Sirdeaner told ABC News. She has been homeless and a victim of domestic abuse, and is a breast cancer survivor, but, she said, “The one thing we couldn’t get through was public school.”

It’s hard to imagine what kind of thoughts go through an 11-year-old child’s head seconds before hanging himself to death. We can’t bring Carl back, but we can honor him and others like him by joining his mom in fighting for the “voiceless and silent”–by helping those voices come together, grow stronger, loud and proud.

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More Bullshit from Tony Perkins

I am an atheist. I consider all religions to be superstition based and most so totally misogynistic as to be absurd for anyone who isn’t a straight male to believe in.

The three desert monotheisms are the worst. From burning at the stake to tipping walls over on us. At their core is the idea that women are inferior to men.

As Upton Sinclair, the noted 19th and early 20th century muck raker pointed out in his book “The Profits of Religion” they are in it for the money.  Hate sells because other than pie in the sky when you die schemes religion has little else to offer.

Therefore anything written by the freak, Tony Perkins (not the actor) is suspect.

Novel idea?  This shit for brains seems to forget motive is the difference between  manslaughter and murder.

As to the dangers posed to the Taliban Christians, as the saying goes. “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

Now Tony manages to lie numerous times in the following and white wash the fact that his organization is a Hate Group no less vile than Aryan Nation or the KKK, they just dress nicer and have better language skills that they use to gloss their hate with euphemisms.

The following bullshit is by him.
Christian Post, USA

Why Congress Should Reject Federal ‘Hate Crimes’ Bill

All violent crimes should be vigorously prosecuted – but this novel legal approach violates several core principles and holds a number of dangers.

By Tony Perkins
Christian Post Guest Contributor

Tue, Apr. 21, 2009 Posted: 04:39 PM EDT

The House Judiciary Committee will on Wednesday consider a proposed federal “hate crimes” bill, H.R. 1913. It would, for the first time, allow the federal government to step in and prosecute any violent crime anywhere in the country that “is motivated by prejudice” against a number of protected characteristics, including “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (that is, cross-dressing and sex changes).

All violent crimes should be vigorously prosecuted – but this novel legal approach violates several core principles and holds a number of dangers.

1) It violates the “equal protection of the laws” by protecting some victims more than others. This is a principle which is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and is even carved above the entrance to the Supreme Court (“Equal Justice Under Law”). Do we somehow care less about a victim who is violently assaulted because of a robbery or personal dispute than we do about a victim who is assaulted because they belong in a federally protected category?

2) It punishes thoughts and not just actions. Advocates of the bill deny this because it only authorizes prosecution of someone who “willfully causes bodily injury” or “attempts to cause bodily injury.” But such acts are already crimes under state law. What converts the acts targeted by this bill into a federal offense are the thoughts or opinions of the perpetrator alone. Since every violent crime manifests some sort of “hate,” it makes more sense to think of this as a “thought crimes” law.

3) It constitutes a major federal power grab from states and localities. A version of this bill in an earlier Congress was dubbed the “Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act.” It might better be known as the “Local Law Enforcement Usurpation Act.” In fact, it would even allow prosecution of an individual who had already been prosecuted and
acquitted for the same act at the state level-which violates the constitutional protection against double jeopardy.

4) It shows contempt for the moral and religious views of millions of Americans by including “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected categories. By distinguishing between an ordinary crime and a so-called “hate crime” solely on the basis of the perpetrator’s disapproval of homosexual conduct or sex changes, the bill sends a message that such disapproval alone-even if expressed peacefully and lovingly-constitutes a form of “hate” that is equivalent to racial bigotry. This is an insult to many compassionate individuals who
sincerely object to such conduct, not only based on religious and moral boundaries that are thousands of years old, but also based on well-founded concerns about the serious health risks of such conduct.

5) It sets us on a slippery slope toward serious infringements of the freedom of speech and freedom of religion. In some jurisdictions that have adopted these laws, “hate crimes” have been defined to include not just violent physical acts, but merely verbal activity as well, using terms like “hate speech,” “intimidation,” and even verbal “assault.” By ratifying the “thought crimes” mentality, this bill paves the way for future expansions of its scope. Indeed, Christians have already been prosecuted under thought crime laws for peacefully
expressing disapproval of homosexual behavior in Sweden, England, Canada, and even in Philadelphia. Even under current federal law, the 1990 “Hate Crime Statistics Act” defines “hate crimes” much more broadly as “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice,” and the statistics collected under that law include even non-violent offenses such as “intimidation.” It would be a very simple matter for a future Congress to change the definition of a “hate crime” subject to federal prosecution to match the more sweeping definition of “hate crimes” on which the federal government already gathers statistics.

There is simply no evidence that state and local law enforcement officials are unable or unwilling to adequately investigate and prosecute violent “hate crimes” under existing criminal laws, or that they are failing to do so. Because of that, a federal “hate crimes” law is unnecessary, and for the reasons noted above, it is unacceptable. To treat all victims equally, and to punish actions and not thoughts, Congress should reject H.R. 1913.

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council.

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