Detroit Police Investigating Murder of Black Gay Man
A gay black man was found shot to death in Detroit Monday, sparking fear among local activists that he was targeted for being LGBT.
Police are not releasing the victim's name, but the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs and local media reports he was known as Melvin, and that the 30-year-old man was found dead Monday on the 100 block of Arizona street in Detroit.
Friends told Detroit TV station WJBK that the victim sometimes cross-dressed while working, though he identified as a gay man and not as transgender. Police say Melvin was dressed in feminine attire at the time of his death.
"When they arrived at the scene they found a black male in 30s dressed in women's clothing, fatally shot," Officer Danielle Woods told WJBK.
Police have not indicated whether they will investigate Melvin's murder as a hate-crime, as Michigan's current hate-crime laws do not include protections for those targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Melvin is the third LGBT person reportedly murdered in Detroit this year. Ashton O’Hara, a black gender-nonconforming person, was found dead on July 14, and Amber Monroe, a black transgender woman, was shot to death on August 8.
“Our deepest condolences go out to Melvin’s family and friends at this tragic time,” said Emily Waters, NCAVP's research and education coordinator at the national organization's New York office. “His death speaks to the need for a societal shift where instead of being at risk for violence and homicide for his identities, Melvin would be celebrated for them.”
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program's most recent report, Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States in 2014, documented 20 anti-LGBT homicides in 2014.
“We have no words to describe the inexplicable and heart wrenching pain we are feeling right now," said Yvonne Siferd, director of victim services at Equality Michigan in a statement. She continued with a call to action:
“We can, however, articulate our outrage over this epidemic of violence aimed at our community. Enough is enough.
"As mainstream communities use our lives and our bodies as political fodder and comedy, our people are dying in brutal and violent attacks. We are not the problem. In the land of the free, we should be able to express our authentic selves freely and without fear for our physical safety, but this is not our reality. In the land of the brave, we lead the way. Because in this world, openly expressing your gender or sexual orientation in a way that mainstream society regularly demeans, discounts, and objectifies is revolutionary.”
Watch the report from WJBK below.