Waymon Hudson

Denise King, Mother of Simmie Williams Jr & LGBT Advocate, Dies

Filed By Waymon Hudson | January 04, 2010 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living
Tags: Denise King, Fort Lauderdale, hate crimes against LGBT people, Simmie Williams Jr

There is sad news from South Florida. Denise King, the mother of slain 17 year old Simmie Williams Jr and LGBT advocate, died unexpectedly at 10pm New Years Eve.williams-thumb-199x226.jpg

Since Simmie's death in 2008, Denise King has balanced her grief with the unsolved murder of her openly LGBT child with her desire to make a difference in equal rights for our community, especially LGBT youth.

My husband and I were blessed with being able to know Denise King- a woman who has turned unspeakable tragedy into a call to action.

She is my hero and an inspiration to all.

My husband walked the streets of Fort Lauderdale with Denise and her family, hanging reward posters and talking to people to try to get information. We've sat and talked with the family, hugged and cried together. We marched hand in hand in protest together.

And through it all, Denise was a rock.

She had her baby taken away because of hate, but has refused to let it break her. Since Simmie's murder, she became an outspoken activist for the LGBT community, fighting everything from hate crimes to school bullying to Amendment 2.

She seemed to be everywhere, doing whatever she could to make sure what happened to her child doesn't happen to another family. She was an inspiration to watch and a privilege to stand beside. Through it all, I was honored to hear about her child, the stories every parent knows- scraped knees, family dinners, hopes and dreams.

I got a glimpse at who Simmie was through the love of a mother.

From the press release about Denise's passing:

The King family is calling upon anyone with information on Simmie's murder to come forward and honor Denise King by providing information to Broward County Crime Stoppers at (954) 493-TIPS. Broward County Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for anonymous information leading to an arrest.

A special fund has been established at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center/Pride Center to assist the King Family with funeral related expenses for Denise King. Checks should be made payable to "GLCC," note the memo with "Denise King funeral," and can be mailed to GLCC, PO Box 70518, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33307-0518.

In 2008, the South Florida lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community raised nearly $4,000 to assist with funeral expenses for Simmie Williams, Jr. The Florida Attorney General's Office still refuses to approve a claim for Simmie's funeral expenses under the state's Crime Victim Compensation Program.

Denise will be missed by her family and by the larger community here in Florida. Her memory and passion will live on to inspire and create the change needed to prevent more senseless deaths, like that of her young child, Simmie.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Note from the author: How Simmie Williams self-identified is a bit of a mystery. Denise referred to Simmie as openly gay and gender non-conforming. Simmie did dress in a feminine way at times, sometimes wearing women's clothing. Since Simmie was only 17 at the time of death, we will never know if Simmie would have identified as gay or trans. I used a blanket "LGBT" when referencing Simmie out of respect for the family, Denise, and the unclear nature of how Simmie self-labeled. Whatever the identity, Simmie and Denise were special people who touched many in the entire LGBT community. They will both be missed.

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Waymon, I agree Denise King's death is just another horrible blow to a family which has been through so much hardship. As a parent, I can't even imagine what it would be like to have someone take my child's life. She seems to have been an incredible mom who stood by her child (as did Lateisha Green's and Angie Zapata's moms).

Waymon, I do have an issue with identifying you Simmie as LGBT. it's my understanding (correct me if I'm wrong) that Simmie was increasingly wearing women's clothing and was presenting as a woman while doing sexwork when she was murdered. This doesn't make her 'LGBT' but, rather, a trans person and, perhaps, a transwoman. Please don't erase the identity of yet another transperson in an attempt to place her under the umbrella. While I don't want to "implant identities" which weren't there, Ms. WIlliams (I'm referring to her that way because she was presenting as female) died in a transphobic crime, not a crime of homophobia. While I understand there is overlap between the two when it comes to the motivations and ignorance of the perpetrators, removing the trans aspects to crimes such as these only serves to create many of the same problems we've seen here at Bilerico and within "the community" in terms of trans exclusion and denial.

I actually struggled with that, Gina.

Denise identified Simmie as openly gay, although during the murder Simmie was wearing "feminine" (the police report's words) clothing- it was a shirt tied up at the waist and pants.

Since Denise was so supportive of LGBT issues (even attending the Trans day of Remembrance), I tend to go with her identifier of Simmie. I have heard from some people who said Simmie was young and exploring gender identity, perhaps gathering information about being trans, yet had made no outward declaration as of yet.

That's why I tried to be as inclusive as possible with the LGBT, to honor Simmie's mother's identification and also leave the possibility for trans identity as well. I wasn't trying to overlook Simmie's gender identity, just make sure I didn't incorrectly label someone.

It's hard when the person is no longer around to point you in the right direction. Thanks for bringing this up. :)

correction: "issue with you identifying Simmie as LGBT".

Bad sleep. :-) (and I wish there was an 'edit' button).

Waymon, thanks for posting and I'm glad that there is a healthy conversation as to how Simmie should be identified. I agree with your explanation.

Gina, while a witness statement does ellude to Simmie being engaged in commercial sex work, there is no evidence or criminal history to support such.

When you further read the police report, it reveals that Simmie has pepper spray in his hand when he was found. I would presume that Simmie attempted to defend himself from his attacker.


It's true there was no proof Simmie (who also went by the name Beyonce) was directly involved in sex work. She was hanging out at a corner where trans sex workers congregated, but it's possible she might have been talking to friends. To me the key is not what she was doing there but how she was presenting, which was as female. I want to remind both you and Waymon how Gwen Araujo, Angie Zapata and Lateisha Green were all referred to with male pronouns and their male birth names for months after their murders and it was only after the trans community and family members insisted were they begrudgingly ID'd as transgender women.

As with the Lawrence King, and Lopez Mercado murders, identifying such killings as purely homophobic or LGBT doesn't do anything to pinpoint why the murders occurred and what was the source of the hatred. It also greatly minimizes the violence and marginalization trans women undergo and inflates some of the violence stats for gay men.

I'll say a prayer for the family.

My deepest sympathies, Waymon, for the loss of your friend.

I won't debate how Simmie identified himself or how his family identified him. At this point, it doesn't matter any more and I think the focus can be better spent consoling you for the loss of someone close to you. Castigating you for respecting the wishes of the family is just incredibly tacky.

Like Rob, I'll say a prayer for the family - and for you.

Bil... some people never learn... literally. Let's try this analogy, if a gay man died from AIDS and their family chose to make the person seem straight in any mention of his life ("oh, he hadn't found the right girl to marry yet"... "he and Suzie were such a great couple at the prom!") I can imagine you might have an issue with that? Correct me if I'm wrong.

Well this is what transpeople go through constantly only 100 fold... there are often people in our families who are more than happy to erase our identities. If you've followed anti-trans violence, you'll see that virtually all the victims (especially trans women of color) have their trans identities removed by the police and the media. They are inevitably referred to as gay men with male pronouns no matter how they expressed themselves in life. Transition is a long, complex process. If someone is only 17 and already publicly dressing female and referring to herself by a female name (Beyonce) there is a very good chance she isn't just a garden variety gay male.

Simmie's mom was very supportive of her child (and I also mourn her loss) but that doesn't mean she'd come to terms with who her child was. I don't criticize her for that but, in the case of young trans people, I don't use their families as the "ultimate arbiter" of that young person's identity. Yes, even Cher evidently had a LOT of issues when Chaz Bono came out as a transman. Just because someone accepts you as gay doesn't mean they accept you as trans... which tons of people in our community have experienced big time. Btw, I'm not castigating Waymon (although I'm castigating you for running the transphobic Serrano piece on this very issue) but i am pointing out that, when referring to a trans-related murder, which THIS WAS... calling it LGBT doesn't cut it. Yes, it does matter as long as people in the LGB community continue to erase trans aspects from victims like Lopez Mercado and Lawrence King. Waymon understands that issue more than you evidently do.

And you also seemed to have learned zip about the dangers of having non-trans people comment about trans identities and then pompously castigating trans people when we get upset about it. As for 'tacky'... that's the pot calling the kettle black.