*originally posted October 27, 2009
We keep waiting for some action on Don't Ask, Don't Tell; we've been promised action time and time again, and then asked to be patient. But patience wears thin. Being patient didn't help August Provost, murdered last summer at Camp Pendleton, and it certainly didn't help Allen Schindler, murdered sixteen years ago today, simply because he was gay.
Allen Schindler was from a Navy family, and following in those footsteps, he served as a radioman on the USS Belleau Wood, an amphibious assault ship. His close friends onboard knew he was gay, and also knew that Schindler was repeatedly victimized by other crew members. Schindler had made numerous complaints about the anti-gay harassment he endured, from simple pranks, like having his locker glued shut to comments from shipmates like, "There's a faggot on this ship and he should die".
While on transport from San Diego, California to Sasebo, Schindler made a personal prank of his own. He announced himself as "2-Q-T-2-B-S-T-R-8” [too cute to be straight] on secured lines that reached much of the Pacific Fleet. For his prank, he appeared 'captains mast,' which allows commanders to administratively discipline troops without a court-martial. He asked for a closed hearing.
The hearing was held open and some two-to-three hundred sailors attended. Schindler was put on restrictive leave for his unauthorized radio transmission, and was not allowed shore leave for the first few months that the ship was in Japan.
Four days after his confinement was over, Airman Apprentice Terry Helvey stomped Allen Schindler to death in a toilet in a park in Nagasaki. Schindler had "at least four fatal injuries to the head, chest, and abdomen," his head was crushed, ribs broken, and his penis cut, and he had "sneaker-tread marks stamped on his forehead and chest" destroying "every organ in his body" leaving behind a "nearly-unrecognizable corpse."
Allen Schindler was left on the bathroom floor until the Shore Patrol and a key witness to the incident carried his body to a nearby bridge. His body was held by the witness until the medical team from the Sasebo Base announced his death. The medical examiner compared Schindler's injuries to those sustained by a victim of a fatal horse trampling saying they were worse "than the damage to a person who’d been stomped by a horse; they were similar to what might be sustained in a high-speed car crash or a low-speed aircraft accident." At the wake in the family's home in Chicago, his mother and sister could only identify him by the tattoos on his arm as his face was so badly disfigured.
Bad enough to learn that your son died; worse to learn he was murdered; and horrific to discover that he'd been stomped to death by a fellow shipmate. But the hardest thing of all to endure was the idea that the Navy downplayed Schindler's murder. His superiors denied ever receiving any complaints of harassment and refused to speak publicly about the case or to release the Japanese police report on the murder.
At trial, Terry Helvey denied killing Schindler because he was gay, saying, "I did not attack him because he was homosexual." Still, he could offer no reason for the vicious killing, and evidence presented by Navy investigator, Kennon Privette, showed otherwise. "He said he hated homosexuals. He was disgusted by them," Privette said. On killing Schindler, Privette quoted Helvey as saying: "I don't regret it. I'd do it again. ... He deserved it."
A plea-bargain was arranged, and Helvey pleaded guilty of "inflicting great bodily harm," and was sentenced to lifetime imprisonment; he is guaranteed a clemency hearing every year. The captain who kept the incident quiet was demoted and transferred to Florida, and Helvey's accomplice, Charles Vins, was allowed to plead guilty to three lesser offenses, including failure to report a serious crime, and to testify truthfully against Terry Helvey. Vins served just 78-days before receiving a general discharge from the Navy.
So, why do we need to end DADT? Why do we need to end secrecy and lies? For people like Allen Schindler and August Provost, who did nothing wrong, except maybe be open about being gay. When you force people to keep secrets, stories build about them, people talk, people taunt, people attack. People stomp you to death.
The march goes on…but not for DADT which was repealed on December 22, 2010
On This Day In LGBT History
October 27, 1903 – In “Die Zeit”, Sigmund Freud was quoted as saying homosexuals are not sick and should not be treated as sick.
October 27, 1951 – The French postal service issued stamps with gay lovers Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud.
October 27, 1970 – Forty members of the Gay Activist Alliance invaded the offices of Harper magazine to protest an article which presented homosexuality as a mental illness. GAA president Arthur Evans verbally attacked editor Midge Decter for publishing an article which would add to the suffering of homosexuals. The protest led to a three-part television news series on gay liberation.
October 27, 1977 – A meeting between Quebec Human Rights Commission and representatives of gay group ADGQ results in public recommendation that government amend Human Rights Charter to include sexual orientation.
October 27, 1990 – US Congress repealed a law barring homosexuals from being admitted to the United States on grounds of mental illness.
October 27, 1992 – The Federal Court of Canada ordered the military to lift the ban on gay and lesbian service personnel. The Defense Department declined to appeal the decision.
October 27, 1993 – Allen Schindler, a gay American sailor, was beaten to death by his shipmates.
October 27, 1997 – BET-TV withdrew an invitation to Keith Boykin to appear on a show with Angie and Debbie Winans. The Winans objected to his presence on the show, which featured their anti-gay song “It’s Not Natural.”
October 27, 1999 – The Ontario provincial government changed 67 statutes to give same-sex couples equal treatment to heterosexual couples.
October 27, 1999 – Democratic presidential nomination candidates Al Gore and Bill Bradley promised that if elected they would do everything in their power to ensure equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans.