Not a Hate Crime, Definitely Not a Hate Crime

Things aren't getting better for queers in Texas


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.

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

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