Trans man Lance Reyna’s attacker has been released from jail, and he’s ‘about to lose it’

Terrance Calhoun

Back in June we told you about a brutal hate-crime attack against a transgender man inside a restroom on the campus of Houston Community College. Lance Reyna, a student-activist who’s both transgender and gay, was washing his hands when his attacker emerged from a stall and put a knife to his throat saying, “Hey queer, I need you to be quiet, cooperate, and give me all your valuables.” Reyna was knocked to the floor and beaten and kicked. His wallet and credit cards were taken. Terrance Calhoun, 22, was later arrested on campus and charged with aggravated robbery in the attack that occurred during Houston’s gay Pride week. Three months later, Calhoun has bonded out of jail as he awaits sentencing.

“I just got informed that my attacker is out of JAIL, someone please calm me down because I’m about to lose it,” Reyna wrote on Facebook on Thursday.

“I feel hopeless right now, plus all the bullying not being taken serious is something I can relate from my younger days in school,” he added Thursday night.

“Just spoke with HPD investigator, threatening text message has been documented. When number was ran it came up with a history,” Reyna wrote Friday morning.

Cristan Williams of the Houston-based Transgender Foundation for America reports on her blog that police don’t plan to pursue hate crime charges against Calhoun:

“Since the attacker won’t fess up to knowing that Lance was part of the GLBT community, he won’t be held accountable under State or Federal hate crime statutes and the case will be prosecuted as a simple assault,” Williams wrote. “As it stands now, he’s out of jail and may get off with a slap on the wrist and some community service because this is his, ‘first time offence’ (according to the DA’s office)!”

UPDATE: We spoke with Reyna on Friday afternoon, and he said Calhoun pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony, earlier this month. Calhoun bonded out of jail this week while he awaits sentencing in early November, but Reyna said a prosecutor told him Calhoun could receive probation because it’s his first felony.

Reyna said the FBI investigated the case under the new federal hate crimes law that passed last year. However, because Calhoun wouldn’t admit that he targeted Reyna because he is transgender, the FBI opted not to pursue hate crimes charges. This was despite the fact that Calhoun used an anti-LGBT slur, “queer,” during the attack.

“I’m really disgusted with the way they don’t want to take things seriously,” Reyna said of authorities.

Reyna, who now attends the University of Houston, said Calhoun lives just a few blocks away from the campus, and he’s concerned for his safety. He said he hopes Calhoun is sentenced to at least 2 1/2 years behind bars, to give him a chance to finish school.

“That way, there would be less of a chance of me running into him,” Reyna said. “I had calmed down a little bit, but now I’m back to when it initially happened. I’m reliving the attack, and I don’t want to deal with the hell I went through right after it. It’s too much for me to deal with right now, just knowing he’s out on the streets.”

Reyna said it took him three weeks to recover from a concussion he sustained in the attack, and he’s currently undergoing counseling.

“They say have a lot of systems of post-traumatic stress disorder,” he said. “I have my good days and bad days, buy my level of anxiety just went up a couple of notches with him getting out of jail.”

Reyna said he also received a threatening text message a few days before Calhoun got out, but he is unsure who sent it. He has reported the message to police.

Williams, of the TFA, said she’s concerned about the standard that’s apparently being used by authorities to determine whether offenses are hate crimes. Texas’ hate crimes statute doesn’t include protections for transgender people, but the new federal law does.

“Apparently the attackers just have to come out and say, ‘Yes it’s a hate crime. I hate them, I was motivated by hate, now take me off to jail,'” Williams said. “Basically, unless they can have evidence that is beyond the pale, that is incontrovertible, they can’t prosecute it is as a hate crime.

“It would break if my heart, and it would make me lose a lot of respect for our legal system, if this guy gets off with a slap on the wrist and some community service after attacking a trans man with a deadly weapon and sending him to the hospital,” Williams said.

—  John Wright

Break it down

Straight local band Bible Fire has a hit with ‘Holly is a Homophobe’

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer

STRAIGHT NOT NARROW | The Bible Fire bassist Rob Halstead, center, wrote about a gay-hating colleague despite few ties to the gay community; the band’s drummer, Chris Isaacs, left, has many gay ties.
STRAIGHT NOT NARROW | The Bible Fire bassist Rob Halstead, center, wrote about a gay-hating colleague despite few ties to the gay community; the band’s drummer, Chris Isaacs, left, has many gay ties.

Trees, 2709 Elm St.
Sept. 16. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Clearly, you should watch what you say around Rob Halstead or it could turn into a song.

When a day-job co-worker of the Bible Fire songwriter went on a hostile rant against the gays, Halston ripped her a new one by putting it to music.  The result was “Holly is a Homophobe,” a single from the local band’s new album The Pursuit of Imperfection. Unexpectedly, when the group performs, it’s one of their most requested and popular songs.

“Holly is this girl me and Grant [Scruggs, the band’s guitarist] both worked with,” Halstead says. “She’s an enigma to me because she’s so nice and caring and then prejudiced all the way around.” An example of the lyric: Holly is a homophobe / Disdainfully, she told me so / Her biggest fear is turning queer / And I just thought that everyone should know.

After a misunderstanding, Holly had a freak out when she thought someone called her a gay slur. According to Halstead, she went on a rant that took him and Scruggs by surprise. He can see, though, she is sort of a victim to the usual checklist of items: “Country girl from out in the boonies, a generic Texas town, religious parents, ignorant.”

It’s not hard to hate someone you’ve never met / But face to face and still you’ve no regret / Holly, there’s a reason that nobody agrees with you.

Interestingly, Halstead admits to have little exposure to gay the community beyond his wife’s brother who is out and some curious treks to Oak Lawn in his younger days. But homosexuality isn’t an issue with him per se.

“My stance is, it’s your life,” he says. “It doesn’t affect me personally, but I’m not saying I don’t care, I just can’t care if I’m not directly involved.

It’s like I feel I can’t have an opinion on abortion because it’s a woman’s issue and something only women experience and understand.”

He makes it make sense. Straight men may not relate to gay issues, but Halstead doesn’t feel that’s reason for anti-gay (or fill in the blank) rhetoric.  “I Just have problems when people or religion are hurting people or affecting rights.”

He adds, though, that his wife is a huge advocate for gay rights because of her brother and even “punched a dude in the nose,” for spouting off.

By contrast, drummer Chris Isaacs does have a strong connection to the community. The best man at his wedding was his gay best friend, and he’s lost friends to AIDS. Even without contributing to the creation of the song, it rings loudly with him.

“This runs deeper for me because my wife and I have had so many gay friends,” he says. “We really detest this kind of behavior.”

You’ve got trauma, overprotected / Odds are adding up to gay or molested / A baby raised in ignorance, passing on hatred / Rise above, write it off, recalculate it.

Perhaps Holly herself is a way-closeted lesbian, but Halstead doesn’t figure that to be the case.

“You would think, but no, I really don’t believe she’s closeted,” he says.

Congratulations we commend you / Dedicated hater’s a full time job / Now let’s all give a round of applause to Holly / Holly, take a bow.

Nor did the song really open her mind even though it rips her to shreds. Halstead’s disappointed by this. He had hopes for the tiniest seed to be planted.

“Nothing is going to change people who make up their minds,” he says. “I would like to think it changed her, but I don’t really think so. She does come to our shows, though!”

I know you were born in the middle of a former Confederate state / But your views are two decades behind the times and still running late.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas