Are we a community?

Posted on 09 Aug 2013 at 10:30am

Pitiful response to hate crime victim Jimmy Lee Dean’s fundraising page suggests LGBT people in Dallas are just a loose, fair-weather association

Screen shot 2013-08-08 at 5.27.30 PMJimmy Lee Dean deserves help from the North Texas LGBT community. In July 2008, he was brutally attacked by two young men bent on robbing and savaging a gay man in the storied Cedar Springs neighborhood.

Now, his face a wreck from failed surgeries, Dean has reached out to the LGBT community in his longtime Dallas home. But despite coverage by the Dallas Voice commemorating the fifth anniversary of the attack that nearly stole his life away, and an Indiegogo campaign to raise the money to set his ravaged face right again, only three anonymous funders have risen to the challenge and reached out to him.

What is going on here?

Besides the usual American aversion to remembering difficult events for longer than a news cycle, could there be something else preventing LGBTQ people from responding positively to the pleas of a home-grown hate crime victim who barely escaped with his life?

Jimmy Lee tells the story of his need on the Indiegogo campaign home page he originated two weeks ago.  Here is his statement:

“On July 17, 2008, I was the victim of a hate crime in Dallas, Texas. Through the kind act of everyday people like you, I did not die that night. The criminals were stopped, prosecuted and the good people of Texas provided $50,000 from their crime victims’ fund to repair my physical damages and any psychological help that might be needed.

“Problems started when I left Parkland County Hospital intensive care unit. Up to that point everything seemed to be going OK. Then after some 16 visits to the Oral Surgery Clinic, two surgeries and one attempted surgery that never took place and 27 visits to Parkland crisis center I am in the same physical situation as at the crime scene.

“Work done in the second surgery at Parkland Hospital has all come undone. My jaw and cheek bone are no longer attached. Teeth have never been dealt with.

“No one has followed up on my broken back. I have headaches every other day. My eyes are having problems. I walk with a cautious gait. I get lightheaded all the time. I don’t really go anywhere because of the facial disfigurements and the way I look when I eat.

“I never asked for what happened. It could have been any one of us at that spot at that time.

“My dreams and identity are gone along with my ability to smell, but maybe there are medical procedures that might restore me to a point where I can have some kind of a normal life.”

The anti-gay hate crime attack on Jimmy Lee in the heart of the “gayborhood” was an outrage. The two defendants in the case, Jonathan Gunter and Bobby Singleton, were brought to justice. Gunter received a 30-year sentence, and Singleton got 70 years.

Dean moved away from Dallas to try and put his life back together, but his orphaned story has largely been unremembered and unattended, despite the efforts of a few LGBT activists who went  to court in support of Jimmy Lee, and the efforts of Dallas Voice editors and staff.

Who knows if Jimmy Lee’s assailants will serve their whole sentences — sentences achieved by the Dallas D.A.’s Office without hate crime enhancements for the usual reasons that hate crimes are hard to prove in Texas.

But what Jimmy Lee is asking for is something more tangible than answers to opaque questions of law and right and wrong.  He is asking for financial help.  And, as of this writing, only three donors out of the thousands and thousands of queer folk in North Texas have done anything.  The Indiegogo fund stands at $100.00.

Shaming, of course, does little or no good.  But the broader question behind the non-response to the pleas of a bona fide hate crime survivor is whether there is anything like an LGBT community to appeal to in the first place? Has the loose association of interest groups and tavern patrons, the merchants and real estate developers in Dallas who are happy to claim to be progressive LGBT community members when it suits their self-interest, actually never matured into a community at all?

Is the reason for the non-response to the call of a former member of the gayborhood for help actually because there was no real LGBT community in Dallas to begin with? And, what are the signs that a gathering of people on the margins of heterosexual society have begun to attain the seriousness and sacrifice for their own people that denotes a community of character and concern? Whether Jimmy Lee’s appeal finds its way into the generous heart of queer Texans remains to be seen. LGBT Texans are an able bunch, once they are motivated. But hate crime victims are at least one important litmus test of a true community, as African-Americans, Jews, and Buddhist commemorators of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can attest from their own histories of struggle and resistance.

A community begins to become serious and exist in the real world when it starts to take care of its own whenever they meet crisis and disaster. Until then, it is a fair-weather association, at best.•

Dean’s page is at TinyURL.com/JimmyLeeDean.

The Rev. Stephen V. Sprinkle is an ordained Baptist minister, an openly gay professor at Fort Worth’s Brite Divinity School, theologian-in-residence at Cathedral of Hope and the author of Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims. He can be reached at svsprinkle51@yahoo.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2013.

Comments (powered by FaceBook)