There have been several high-profile cases of young LGBT Louisianians experiencing violence or death during the past month.
Two Trans Women of Color
On July 1, the body of Shaki Peters, 32, of Denham Springs, was found in a rural area near Amite, Louisiana. Peters was a Black transgender woman. Days earlier, another Black transgender woman, Draya McCarty, 32, of Hammond, was found dead in Baton Rouge. While initial reports indicated that McCarty was also a victim of murder, her death has not been ruled a homicide as of this writing (July 8), and no arrests have been made in either case.
The Daily Star, a Hammond-based newspaper, published a story about these deaths, but it was subsequently deleted from their website and Facebook account. Before the deletion, the trans women had been misgendered and deadnamed, and local activists had reached out to the newspaper’s Managing Editor Lil Mirando to make complaints about this. There are also indications that the story may have been deleted in part because it remains unclear if McCarty’s death was actually a homicide. This does not, however, explain why the original story was entirely erased from the newspaper’s online accounts.
The day after the story’s deletion, The Daily Star published an op-ed by columnist Jim Brown (the former Louisiana Insurance Commissioner who was sentenced to six months in federal prison for lying to the FBI). Brown wrote, “I keep reading in the newspaper about LGBT. I had to look up the lettering to even know what the abbreviation means. Being ‘politically correct’ has become an obsession with much of the country as well as right here at home in Louisiana. Now personally, I don’t have a dog in this hunt. Carry on your personal lifestyle as long as you don’t interfere with my way of life or my personal freedoms. Live and let live. But too often today, one lifestyle interferes with that of another.” The Daily Star eventually deleted Brown’s piece from their website following complaints.
The Daily Star later published a letter to the editor from an activist that stated, in part, “Disrespectful reporting on transgender issues such as what the Daily Star has presented contributes to high suicide rates and violence that transgender people face on a daily basis. My request is that the Daily Star journalists take a long hard look at themselves, understand why they are wrong and that they have harmed the people they were reporting on, edit those articles to reflect the correct names and genders, and ensure that this never happens again.”
As of July 8, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has reported that “2020 has already seen at least 21 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means. [They reported 27 similar deaths in all of 2019.] We say ‘at least’ because too often these stories go unreported – or misreported.”
Gay Man Tortured in Lafayette
On June 20, Holden White, 18, of Lafayette, was tortured and nearly killed by Charles Seneca, 19, also of Lafayette. White was reportedly lured to Seneca’s residence after the two met on Grindr. Seneca tortured White for hours, beating and strangling him, stabbing him in the neck, and cutting his wrists so deeply that they were nearly severed. According to some reports, Seneca called the police once he believed that White was dead. He remains in custody, charged with attempted second-degree murder. White was initially in critical condition, but is now recuperating from surgeries and facing a long road to recovery.
White’s family has pressed Lafayette police to classify the attack as a hate crime and to charge Seneca with attempted first-degree murder. They allege that Seneca told a former partner that he had a fantasy of killing a gay man. Lafayette police spokesman Sgt. Wayne Griffin initially indicated that Seneca would not be charged with a hate crime, but a subsequent statement from the Lafayette Police Department said that they are “continuing to develop information in the case and should that information lead to the evidence of a hate crime additional charges can be filed.” The statement also indicated that the FBI is assisting in the investigation.
Seneca’s crimes are the latest in a string of incidents in which gay men have been targeted through dating apps. Last year in Dallas, two men pled guilty to hate crimes after using Grindr to rob and kidnap gay men. Also in 2019, Demetris Nelson of Detroit allegedly shot two gay men he targeted on Grindr, killing one of them, Brian Anderson. Another Michigan man, Mark Latunski, is accused of murdering and cannibalizing Kevin Bacon, 25, after luring him using Grindr in 2019. Similar crimes have been reported around the world in recent years.
There is an online fundraiser for White at www.gofundme.com/f/21o35cnd5c. According to that page, White is not yet able to use his hands, and requires round-the-clock assistance.