Not a Hate Crime, Definitely Not a Hate Crime

Things aren't getting better for queers in Texas

Decorative!
Decorative!

On Sunday, August 30, James Lee Whitehead (aka Niki Hunter) was walking from the gay club The Saint in San Antonio to his apartment and was attacked by three armed assailants. One of the five bullets fired by police struck Whitehead and ended his life.

The other four bullets found their resting place in the assailant Jesse Ramon, who is, by all accounts, still alive. Thus far no one is crying foul play on the officer's action – and, unlike the case in Fort Worth with the Rainbow Lounge, it truly seems from witness accounts that police were trying to subdue the assailant.

What's disturbing however is the claim from San Antonio's Sgt. Gabe Trevino that the attack was absolutely not a hate crime. This is purportedly because no one heard derogatory slurs as James Lee Whitehead was being beaten within an inch of his life.

At issue here is what constitutes a hate crime. Federal law states that a hate crime is "a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person." While the Texas Hate Crimes Act (passed by "The Hair" Perry after being vetoed by that testicle G.W. Bush) carries on in a similar vein.

So Whitehead's attack was not a hate crime… big surprise. Even when there are epithets hurled, like the case in Dallas in 2008, rarely are hate crime charges pursued.

In spite of the fact that Whitehead's attackers will not be charged with a hate crime on top of the myriad other laws they've been accused of breaking, this should send another crystal clear signal to queers in Texas. We aren't safe – and our inaction is staggering.

This summer has really been the shits for Texas queers, huh?

Such incidents point to the endemic inequalities faced by LGBTQ folks in Texas and elsewhere. I'm not talking about marriage…

Why was Whitehead attacked? His friend claimed that he thought perhaps it was because Whitehead seemed an "easy target." What does it mean to be an "easy target" here? It means you can be easily subdued, beaten into submission. Back when we rose a stink on Fox 7 Jenni Lee's "pansy" comments this is the sort of thing we had in mind. The perception that queers will go down easier than our straight brethren, put up less of a fight is not only damaging to how we are perceived in the world but will lead to actual physical harm. Whitehead was a gay man, walking home with a male friend, in the gay club 'hood.

So, does it matter that Ramon and his accomplices didn't specifically call Whitehead a "faggot" while they were mercilessly beating him? They didn't need to.

The world already knew it.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Homophobia
Dan Patrick Excoriated Over Orlando Shooting Tweet
Dan Patrick Excoriated Over Orlando Shooting Tweet
Lite Guv blames Twitter debacle on timing, not bigotry

Richard Whittaker, June 12, 2016

Sign Here for Prejudice
Sign Here for Prejudice
Efforts to repeal Plano's ban on discrimination

Blake McCoy, Jan. 9, 2015

More Transgender
Federal Judge Blocks Obama's Transgender Guidelines
Federal Judge Blocks Obama's Transgender Guidelines
Ft. Worth judge says "status quo" in place for now

Mary Tuma, Aug. 22, 2016

Shout <i>OUT</i>: Georgeanne Freeman
Shout OUT: Georgeanne Freeman
These are the people in our gayborhood: Transitional support

Blake McCoy, Jan. 23, 2015

More by Andy Campbell
Gay Place Top 10s: IIIII-dentity!
Gay Place Top 10s: IIIII-dentity!
It was the year that was.

Jan. 1, 2016

Houston Prop 1 FAIL
Houston Prop 1 FAIL
In the wake of HERO's overturn, Houston's vulnerable left vulnerable

Nov. 4, 2015

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Homophobia, Transgender, Hate Crimes Legislation, James Whitehead, San Antonio, Niki Hunter, Jesse Ramon, inequality, LGBTQ equality

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle