Bil Browning

$2 for the bus and he never came back

Filed By Bil Browning | February 25, 2008 10:10 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Florida, Ft. Lauderdale, gay kids, hate crimes against LGBT people, LGBT youth, shooting, Simmie Williams Jr., transgender, violence

Another sad case of a gay youth gunned down in public. What's the headline? "Gay teen shot dead while dressed as woman in Fort Lauderdale".

"I gave him $2 for the bus and he never came back," said Denise King, who lived with her son west of Fort Lauderdale. "He was a quiet person, kept to himself. He had a lot of friends. He wasn't a troubled child. He was a happy person."

At the same time, being black, gay and dressing in women's clothing made Williams "a minority within a minority within a minority," said Grant Lynn Ford, dean of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, a church that ministers to gays, lesbians and their families.

Sometimes people picked on Williams, but he knew how to brush it off, his mother said.

As a gay man who was beaten severely as a teenager - and left for dead once - these stories horrify me. I can't even work up the words to blog about this right now without wanting to cry.

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Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | February 25, 2008 7:43 PM

This story makes me feel ill. And what makes it sadder still is its ordinariness--so many of us are murdered!--and the assumptions, clear in the language of the account, that the child was to blame for wearing women's clothing and frequenting an area known for transgender prostitutes.

The very idea that the act of a male wearing female clothing is a "crime" punishable by death is mind-boggling.

Some days I despair of the human race.

It is interesting that the media does not use Transgender for children or teens who are murdered for not fitting the binary mold. They even refer to a post-op Transsexual as man in a dress and never as a woman, or anything other than perhaps a gay prostitute. One would discover the predisposition in the media to present anything that seems to fit, to be presented as some kind of gay atrocity. Yes, it is an atrocity, but young boys in a dress, or who are wearing makeup, may not be gay. They may be Transgender, Transsexual, or even Intersex. Seems that if the incident serves the gay agenda, then it is treated as a terrible gay tragedy. If it doesn’t fit, or the story can’t be twisted to fit, then it is turned into something to demean and vilify the Transgender and their right to exist in society. And worse, if it cannot be written otherwise, the Transgender are shoved to the back page, or forgotten on the edit room floor. Before ENDA it was a haunting peculiarity; since then it is has become obvious. Not by accident that the walls talk, and the back room deals continue to find audience, and the tragedies are now a daily feed.

Michael Bedwell | February 25, 2008 10:53 PM

Stellewriter, I don't know where or who the hell you are, but you are certainly in a class by yourself. You suggested that the Clintons might have had something to do with the laxity in Obama's security, and now imply that...who? ...HRC...Barney...Nancy....all of the above contributed to the death of this person and others? Ya know what? I bet the person who shot Simmie has never heard of HRC, Barney, Nancy, ENDA or, I fear, you.

But if you sincerely want to identify extra possibly contributing factors beyond those everywhere [rather than look for any excuse upon which to hang your boa of bitterness], you don't have to go all the way to DC. A day without antigay/antitrans hatred in Florida is like a day without sunshine.

It was just a year ago this month, a week after black retired pro basketball player John Amaechi became the first former NBA player to say he was gay, that black former Miami Heat and five time All Star basketball player Tim Hardaway said on a Miami radio program that I guarantee you is heard in Ft. Lauderdale where Simmie Williams Jr., was murdered he would not want a gay player on his team, and, worse:

"You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States."

His outrageous remarks were then picked up by newspapers and TV news shows in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, all across Florida, and nationally, and internationally.

Afterwards, Amaechi told ESPN:

"Every comment that [Hardaway] made is labeled with hate. The percentage of e-mails I've received overnight that are going to have to go into a little box somewhere just in case I end up dead are unbelievable. He's been a lightning rod for people to finally open the floodgates and decide that they can say some pretty awful stuff.
I will say this about the Tim Hardaway comments and the comments of people like him ... these are the loud comments that pollute the air. These are the comments that create the atmosphere that allow some of the tragic incidents of homophobia that we've seen. This is what makes the lives of gay and lesbian young people in schools miserable. It's what stops gay and lesbian people in the workplace from coming out as well as the fact they can be fined in 33 states for being gay. These are part of the problem."

A month later, Ryan Keith Skipper, 25, died after being stabbed twenty times, his body dumped along side a road in Central Florida. His murder, and those of others in Florida and across the country inspired the creation of the Gay American Heroes Foundation by Scott Hall to educate the non-LGBT public about hate crimes including the murders of Brandon Teena and Gwen Araujo and Julio Argueta.

Two years before Skipper’s murder, transgender Julio, 28, was stabbed repeatedly and found in a pool of blood begging for help. Julio later died at the hospital in Miami. Another Florida victim the same year was 3-yr. old Ronnie Paris, accidentally beaten to death by his father in an attempt to “toughen him up so he wouldn’t turn out to be gay.” He was discovered in a coma while his parents were in Bible study class.

The foundation’s advisors include Bilerico contributors Waymon Hudson and Nadine Smith, and Frank Kameny. Chip Arndt is one of its cofounders, and honorary board members include Chad Allen, Cyndi Lauper, Sgt. Eric Alva, Alan Cumming, Monica Taher, Billy Bean, Matt Foreman, Barney Frank, Robert Gant, and Christopher Rice. John Amaechi was the guest of honor at a foundation fundraiser in LA.

“All people who live honestly about their sexual orientation or gender identity are heroic, as it takes great strength and courage to face the
daily struggles for personal freedom in the face of enormous opposition; to ultimately give their life for said freedom makes them—HEROES.”

Skipper’s family will be at an unveiling of a model of their traveling exhibit at a special NGLTF Winter Party event in Miami on February 29th.

Lawrence King, and, now, Simmie Williams Jr., join their memorial.

“To be nothing but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you into everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and can never stop fighting.”- EE Cummings

Michael, I am supposing that my remarks and perhaps outside of the box perspectives have plucked something inside that you find difficult. Good!

In fact you do not know who the hell I am, and those who may know of stellewriter, know nothing of who she was, or what she did, and where she has been. And yes, I am in a class by myself, and trust me; you do not want to know. However, I am not sure that you followed the gist of what I was saying, as you have gathered thoughts from another post and have chosen to comment on them here. Kind of hard to sort out the context of things when they are mixed soup. I will say this though, I am careful to not berate anyone personally unless they use the public forum to pit people against each other for their own aggrandizement. Then it's free game!

Regarding previous posts – Ibid. I frankly have no interest in the Clintons, Obama, McCain, or any of the candidates as I see “all” of them lacking the veracity and character needed for the job. They are philandering their politics to fulfill their vanity. None have shown a history of actual effort and cause towards the things they espouse. Like Barney Frank, and HRC they say equality, but are far from it. And in the months following ENDA I have heard nothing to soften the bigoted Trans-phobic words spoken. Your comments above do strangely validate what I was expressing. You seem to suggest it is all about gay agenda and gay perspective. There is an agenda no doubt, but what if someone is not gay? What if? …….

I noticed that the protected catagories listed in the artcle did not cover gender identity and expression. It looks like, to cover the murder, the police are going with a gay angle so that whoever did it will face the extra penalty.

This is one reason why, people need to get involved locally and cover the loopholes in the statutes where they live.

Speaking of local legislation, the horrible irony is that this murder occurred a mere two weeks after Broward County passed a trans-inclusive ENDA. Broward's pre-existing ENDA had been LGB-inclusive for fifteen years. One step forward, fifty steps back.

Maybe it is just that reporters are covering the stories more, but it seems like there has been a lot of trans murders in the past month or two . . . Oxnard, Detroit, Bronx, Fort Lauderdale . . . is anyone else troubled by this?

I wrote a letter to the authors of the article the day it was published thanking them for covering a story that all-too-often gets passed over and encouraging them to adopt a more trans-happy way of writing about trans people. One of the authors was very appreciative of the feedback and said he would bring up the use of the term transgender instead of simply gay and the idea of not referring to trans women by male names in their next news meeting.

My understanding is that Simmie self-identified as gay and dressed in women's clothes. We will never know now, unless someone with more knowledge about Simmie's gender identity comes forward, if Simmie identified as transgender, or might have come to that identification as life unfolded.

The reckless name-calling was done by the Sun Sentinel, which insinuating that Simmie worked as a prostitute even though they clearly didn't have enough information to simply assert such as a fact and stand behind it.

@ Andrea - I think that by definition Simmie/Beyonce was transgender. I am all about self-identifying, but there is more to the issue than that. "Transgender" may not be the term Simmie/Beyonce would have chosen, but when seeking shared language and common usage in the movement there is nothing wrong with describing someone as trans. If we, as a movement, use transgender as an umbrella term to describe any person who acts, dresses or thinks of themselves in a way that differs from society's "norms" of male and female then surely it should be applied to folks who transition, folks who are gender non-conforming AND folks who just do it on the weekend. Transgender isn't simply an identity, it is an adjective that describes a class of people who face a particular and focused set of discriminatory barriers to full access to the benefits of social and civil life. By not speaking honestly and directly about the fact that Simmie/Beyonce and Lawrence King were gender non-conforming, IE transgender, in addition to being gay we are, ourselves, helping to create the loophole that allows this type of crime to continually go unnoticed and unaddressed. And more to the point Simmie/Beyonce and Lawrence were both likely targeted because of their gender expression, not their gender identity or sexual orientation.

This is a very complex situation here, but I think we all can agree on a couple of things:
1) I believe the term I would use for Simmie was that she was gender variant. Simmie apparently did not have parents or teachers who understood her, and even she did not understand her situation. She simply bought into what society says: "If I'm feminine, I must be gay."
She wasn't, she was gender variant. This confusion often exists in society, and there are resources out there now that help parents and their kids understand this. Even schools fail to recognize this in their students. They are too busy making sure they pass these tests that are mandated. See
2) When the media gets it wrong, if the reporters are making false assumptions, they need to be called to task for it.
3) The violence simply must end. That's 4 in a month + the suicide of the 10 year in the UK.