Tyler media wrong about Ty Underwood’s gender

Ty-Underwood

Ty Underwood

Years and years ago, when Nicholas West was abducted from a park in Tyler and murdered, I was surprised and pleased at the way Tyler law enforcement responded. Donald Aldritch — one of the men convicted of West’s murder who has since been executed for that crime — bragged about his part in the murder, even to police. After all, Nicholas West was just a faggot; who was going to care that he had been killed?

But instead, law enforcement and prosecutors in Tyler and Smith County took it very seriously indeed. They arrested three men — Aldritch, Henry Dunn and David McMillan — and tried and convicted all three. Aldritch and Dunn were sentenced to death and have since been executed. McMillan was sentenced to life in prison.

Last month, when we heard the tragic news about the murder of trans woman Ty Underwood, I was glad to see that once again Tyler Police showed they were making every effort to find her killer. In a world where the murder of trans women, especially trans women of color, happens frequently and too often is more or less ignored by law enforcement, seeing the Tyler PD’s diligence was a welcome change. Today they announced that Carlton Ray Champion has been arrested and charged with Underwood’s murder.

I can’t say the same, though, of Tyler media: Both the Tyler Morning Telegraph and KLTV television station have ignored the fact that Ty Underwood was a transgender woman and have instead referred to her as a man in their coverage of the murder.

KLTV’s online post today about Champion’s arrest totally avoided mentioning Underwood’s gender all together. But an earlier post about her death had an headline referring to Underwood as “he” and in the lead paragraph called her “a Tyler man.” One person quoted in the story, identified only as a friend of Underwood’s named Antonio, used male pronouns in referring to the dead woman. Another friend, Kenya Darks, used female pronouns. But the TV station used male pronouns, as did the Tyler police officer quoted in the story.

Where the TV station may have learned from its early mistakes, the Morning Telegraph continues to refer to Underwood as a man and using her pre-transition male name. The newspaper also seems to be trying to sensationalize the case with a headline referring to the “sexual connotations” of the relationship between Underwood and her killer (police have said the two appeared to have dated for a brief time).

What better proof that, despite the many advances in LGBT rights, we still have so many battles left to fight. And once again it looks like the ones with the biggest battles to fight are our trans brothers and sisters. And just like the LGB parts of our community couldn’t have gotten where we are without allies, the transgender community needs each and every one of us to be an ally for them.

With that in mind, here is the contact info for KLTV, and here is the contact info for the Tyler Morning Telegraph. Take a moment to let them know what you think of their coverage of Ty Underwood’s murder.

—  Tammye Nash

Vigil set in Tyler for murdered trans woman

Ty Underwood Vigil

Local and state LGBT and allied organizations are holding a vigil at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4., at Bergfeld Park in Tyler in honor of Ty “Nunnee” Underwood, the 24-year-old transgender woman murdered Jan. 26 in Tyler.

Some of Underwood’s family members will speak at the rally, along with representatives of some of the organizations hosting the event.

Tyler Police Department Public Information Officer Don Martin said this morning (Tuesday, Feb. 3) that police there do have leads they are investigating, but have no new information they can release at this time. “There are some things coming up, and if those things come through, we hope to be able to make an announcement” soon, Martin said.

Underwood’s friends and family have said they believe her murder was an anti-trans hate crime, although police have so far not designated it as such. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Tyler Police Department at 903-531-1000 or Tyler-Smith County Crime Stoppers at 903-597-2833.

Underwood worked at a nursing home, and friends and family members said she planned to go back to school to become a nurse. She died early Monday morning, Jan. 26.

Police said a woman called police to report the accident, saying her children had heard gunshots, after Underwood’s car crashed into a telephone pole in the 400 block of West 24th Street in Tyler. Police said they believe Underwood was trying to escape in her car after being shot when the accident occurred.

Underwood died at the scene. She was originally from Lufkin, and funeral services were held Saturday, Jan. 31, at Woods Memorial Chapel Church of God in Christ in Lufkin, under the direction of Colonial Mortuary and Cremation Services. Underwood was cremated.

Organizations participating in the vigil on Wednesday are Transgender Education Network of Texas, Hope for Peace and Justice, Project TAG (Tyler Area Gays), Tyler-East Texas PFLAG, Longview PFLAG, Tyler Transgender Group, Tyler Junior College SAFE (Students Advocating For Equality), UT-Tyler Gay Straight Sexuality Alliance, Life Covenant Church of Tyler, Woodland Christian Church of Longview and Equality Texas.

According to Southerners on New Ground, Underwood is one of six transgender or gender-non-conforming individuals killed since the new year began. The other five include Jesse Hernandez, 17, who was shot by police in Denver, Colo.; Candra Keels, 20, who was allegedly stabbed to death by her girlfriend; Yazmin Vash Payne, 33, allegedly stabbed to death by her boyfriend in Los Angeles; Lamia Beard, shot to death in Norfolk, Va.; and a gender-non-conforming black gay man killed in Louisville, Ky.

The park, located at West Second Street and South Broadway in Tyler, is the same park from which gay man Nicholas West was kidnapped, then murdered, a little more than 21 years ago in November 1993. A “Stop The Hate” rally in his memory was held at the park about a month after his death, with about 700 people attending. A marker placed in the park commemorated West.

—  Tammye Nash

Volunteer opportunity for Tyler-area gays

If you live in or plan to visit the Tyler-Canton-Longview area, Tyler Area Gays and East Texas PFLAG need your help on July 12. Members of these two organizations will be participating in Trash Off Day on July 12 by cleaning up the portion of U.S. 69 that has been adopted by TAG.Screen shot 2014-07-07 at 10.17.18 AM

Participants should be at New Life Worship Center , 18535 U.S. 69 (1.5 miles south of the light at Loop 49 — the modern-looking church up on the hill) by 8 a.m. The TAG portion of U.S. 69 is about 3.3 miles south of the light at Target on South Broadway and on the south side of Loop 49. According to a press release about the clean-up effort, the clean-up ALWAYS starts on time and takes about an hour.

That stretch of highway has two signs — one on the southbound side of the road and the other on the northbound side — noting that it has been “adopted” by Tyler Area Gays. In return, TAG has “agreed to clean up a two-mile section of highway four times a year.” But as TAG leaders pointed out in a press release about the clean-up effort, “A two-mile section may not sound very long but since we are cleaning both sides of the highway, this immediately becomes four miles of cleaning.” So they need all the help they can get.

In the conservative East Texas town where, in 1993, Nicholas West was murdered in a brutal, anti-gay hate crime that made national headlines, it’s significant that an LGBT organization is so out and so visible. As TAG leaders said in their press release looking for clean-up volunteers, “Our participation testifies to our community spirit, promotes teamwork and exercise and makes our presence known. Another way to put it is we want people to know that we we are here and that we are responsible. citizens.”

—  Tammye Nash

Tyler YMCA accused of discriminating against LGBT families

Why is it that health clubs in Texas seem to be more afraid of LGBT families than any other type of business? In Dallas, Baylor eliminated family memberships rather than give a family membership to one gay couple.

Now, in Tyler, a lesbian couple wants to join the YMCA, but the organization won’t allow them to.

Well, the YMCA did allow them to join as a family when their 10-year-old son was on the swim team. But now that the organization doesn’t get anything out of deal, the YMCA reportedly says no.

We reached the office of YMCA of Tyler CEO Stuart Gilpin to get their comment, but he did not return a call.

Suzy Sheridan, one of the lesbian moms, created a Change.org petition that she wants others to sign to encourage the YMCA to be more family-friendly to all families. The petition already has more than 4,000 signatures.

Sheridan could not immediately be reached for further comment. Here’s her story from Change.org:

The Tyler YMCA has discriminated against my family and denied letting us join under the family plan because we are not a traditional family. My life partner and I have been together for over twenty years and have a 20 year old son. We also assist another young man who has lived with us nearly two years. I was told I would have to produce a marriage certificate before they would let us join under the family plan. I told them that was not possible since I live in Texas and our long time relationship was not recognized in this state. I told them that I felt they were being discriminatory. What’s ironic is that they didn’t have a problem letting us join under the family plan when our son swam on their swim team 10 years ago. I feel they should have a policy across the board for all their facilities allowing all types of families to join their organization.

—  David Taffet

Kerry Max Cook in the news, in different ways

Theatre 3, which planned a full run of the play The Exonerated in its Theatre Too space downstairs, has been forced to cut back due to construction issues. Now, it will run for only three staged readings on May 18 and 19 at 8 p.m. and a May 20 matinee at 2:30 p.m.

One of the persons profiled in this show — which chronicles the experiences of six death row inmates later exonerated — is Kerry Max Cook, pictured.

I have an odd relationship with Kerry. I knew nothing about his alleged crime — supposedly murdering a woman in Tyler in 1977 — until I moved to Dallas in 1990. At that time, he was undergoing a retrial in Dallas, and the story was covered almost daily on the front page of the Dallas Morning News. His image — the shock-white brush-cut and stony look — was memorable, and when he was re-convicted, I thought, “Just as well. He probably did it.” Then in 1997, he entered a plea deal, pleading “no contest” in exchange for a sentence of time-served. (The Exonerated followed a decade later.)

Everyone seems to be in agreement that Kerry didn’t do it. Certainly, that was my conclusion, after I met and interviewed him. Kerry came by my office in 2005 or 2006, and I wrote a cover story for the Voice about his ordeal. (His hair was darker by then, but the face was unmistakeable.) Kerry was a friendly fellow, who spoke convincingly about his innocence.

One thing he said to me was that he always assumed he was targeted in part because he frequented gay bars in Dallas in the 1970s, and was therefore labeled an “undesirable” by the cops in Tyler. (Tyler has a pretty crappy history when it comes to gay stuff.) Kerry has since married a woman.

I really liked Kerry, but truth is, “exonerated” has always been a slight overstatement. Kerry wasn’t deemed “innocent,” just freed and the death penalty against him abandoned.

But Kerry doesn’t wanna let it go. He’s back in court in Smith County, asking to conduct more DNA evidence to conclusively establish his innocence, as reported in the Texas Tribune. Personally, I hope he wins. And I hope it makes people reconsider the death penalty.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Pioneering Dallas LGBT and HIV/AIDS activist Reed Hunsdorfer dies in E. Texas wreck

Reed Hunsdorfer

Reed Hunsdorfer, 62, an early Resource Center Dallas employee, died in a car wreck in East Texas on Saturday.

KTRE, the ABC affiliate in Lufkin-Nacogdoches, reports that Hunsdorfer was on Highway 79 southwest of Henderson when his vehicle was struck head-on. He died at the scene. His partner, Gary Simmons, was injured, and so was the other motorist. Hunsdorfer moved to East Texas about seven years ago.

“Reed was a giant of man with an outsized heart of gold,” said William Waybourn, a founder of Resource Center Dallas, then known as the Foundation for Human Understanding which did business as the AIDS Resource Center. “His sacrifices were many, and his contributions incalculable. Many Dallas organizations were sustained during their critical infancy by Reed’s persistence, time and energy. His no-BS, ‘let’s-get-it-done’ attitude made things happen in the trenches during some of the darkest days. His endeavors helped pay for real services, medicine, food on the table or roofs over their heads. He was a champion for the cause and deserves much recognition.”

Among other things, Hunsdorfer was instrumental in creating Razzle Dazzle Dallas. In addition to his partner, he’s survived by his brother, Lloyd; and sister, Carol Royce.

—  David Taffet

Tyler Clementi’s Parents Will Sue Rutgers University Over Suicide

Tyler Clementi's parents Joseph and Jane have filed notice they plan on suing Rutgers University for failing to protect their son over "unlawful or otherwise improper acts perpetrated against." Tyler jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge in September after his dormmate broadcast an intimate encounter to the web. According to the notice, "It appears Rutgers University failed to act, failed to put in place and/or failed to implement, and enforce policies and practices that would have prevented or deterred such acts, and that Rutgers failed to act timely and appropriately." While no proposed dollar amount is listed, the Clementis cite their suffering, loss of companionship and support, and their financial costs. Should we assume a lawsuit against his two alleged perpetrators is en route?


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Queerty

—  admin

Lawyers For Students Who Broadcast Tyler Clementi’s Intimate Encounter Claim No Sexual Contact On Webcam Video

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Lawyers and friends of Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, the two former Rutgers students (they both withdrew from the school late last week) who filmed Tyler Clementi's intimate encounter with another man intimate before the freshman student took his own life, have announced that there was no sex or nudity involved in the webcam broadcast. They also claim that the video was only viewed from one computer: Wei's.

The Star-Ledger reports:

"I’m unaware of any evidence of sexual contact," said Rubin Sinins, Wei’s attorney. "The statute defining sexual contact refers to nudity and private parts, and, to my knowledge, nothing like that was seen. I’m also unaware of any evidence that any video was recorded, reproduced or disseminated in any way." Law enforcement officials declined to discuss the case because it is still under investigation. Prosecutors are considering whether to upgrade the charges against Ravi and Wei to bias crimes because Clementi was gay.

The article also includes accounts from friends of the duo: "She said, 'Dharun came in to my room and turned on my computer to web chatting. We watched for two minutes," said Sean Yan, 18, a longtime friend. Wei told friends she saw Clementi and a male visitor kissing. She described the visitor as 'kind of sketchy,' with ragged clothes and a scruffy beard, Yan said. Later on the night of Sept. 19, Ravi used his Twitter account to tell friends that he and Wei had seen his roommate 'making out with a dude.' The feed went out to Ravi’s nearly 150 Twitter followers."


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Watch: Alec Baldwin is Angry He Can’t Marry Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Baldwin

Alec Baldwin responds to the announcement in August by Jesse Tyler Ferguson that they're getting married, in a new spot for Fight Back NY.

As you may recall Fight Back NY is the PAC targeting anti-gay lawmakers in the New York Senate. Their current target is Queens senator Frank Padavan. If you feel inclined to take Alec's advice, help them out here.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP



Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright