Regional News

According to a 2019 study conducted by security.org, using data from the FBI’s 2017 hate crime report, 12.5 percent of hate crimes in Pennsylvania are motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity, and 11.5 percent in New Jersey. 

The same study shows that Pennsylvania has .07 LGBT-bias incidents per 100,000 people, with a higher rate of .57 incidents per 100,000 people in New Jersey, making it the state with the 11th highest rate of bias-fueled crimes, the highest being District of Columbia. About 58 percent of crimes motivated by sexual orientation-bias were targeted toward gay men.

These statistics may not necessarily accurately reflect the actual number of anti-LGBT crimes in the U.S. because law enforcement agencies fail to report these types of crimes to the FBI and the definition of a hate crime varies from state to state. 

Last year, Pennsylvania added sexual orientation and gender identity to groups protected by discrimination laws, but the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission still defines a hate crime as “a criminal act motivated by ill will or hatred toward a victim’s race, color, religion or national origin.” New Jersey includes sexual orientation and gender in its state hate crime laws, according to the Movement Advancement Project. But many states, including Georgia and Virginia, do not include sexual orientation or gender identity in their hate crime laws. 

Another reason for imprecise data reflecting LGBT-related hate crimes is that victims themselves often fail to report crimes to the police. According to a November 2017 report conducted by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, about 15 percent of LGBTQ people have avoided calling the police because of fear of discrimination. The likelihood of this more than doubles for LGBTQ people of color. More than one-quarter of queer people say they or an LGBTQ friend or family member has been unfairly stopped or treated by the police, the report continues. 

While the study also shows members of LGBTQ-plus communities are more at risk of falling victim to hate-fueled crimes than African Americans, Hispanics, Muslims and other racial and religious minorities, when taking into account each group’s makeup of the entire U.S. population, the report does not take intersectionality into account.

The Human Rights Campaign reports that at least 18 transgender people have been killed so far in 2019 — 16 Black trans women, one Black trans femme teen and one trans man; in 2018, 26 transgender people, most of whom were Black women, lost their lives due to hate-related violence. In the FBI’s 2017 report, 118 incidents were labeled as anti-transgender.

Southern New Jersey Gay Pride celebrated its 11th year last Sunday with the festival’s largest-ever turnout.

Founder and organizer DeAnn M. Cox estimated that just shy of 1,000 Pride-goers traipsed Cherry Hill, New Jersey’s Cooper River Park, enjoying a spread of over 100 vendors and a dozen live acts. American Idol alumna and Broadway star Frenchie Davis headlined the free event.

“Everyone kept saying they're not used to everyone being so nice,” said Cox.

The late-summer sunshine enhanced the festival’s warmth. Every year Cox puts great effort into curating a come-one-come-all atmosphere, and this year, she invested in Facebook marketing using promotional photographs to highlight diversity.

“That’s something I work very hard at — to make sure everyone feels welcome,” said Cox.

Last Sunday afternoon drew attendees from Atlanta, New York City and the Jersey Shore to the family-friendly park, a three-mile stretch of green that surrounds manmade Cooper River Lake.

Food truck favorites like Potato Patoto, a tater tot dispensary and peach-pie purveyor, Yours Exclusively Desserts, lined the river bed beside vendor tents like Seizure Dogs, a nonprofit that trains service dogs to aid those with epilepsy. Investment bank Morgan Stanley, AT&T and the Human Rights Campaign were all first-time vendors. 

The event also kicked off Cox’s annual anti-bullying campaign that runs through December.

Now in its fifth year, the Comcast-sponsored campaign, which coincides with the start of the school year, shares resources, personal stories and videos to raise awareness about the effects of bullying on the LGBTQ-plus community.

Entertainers Miss Theresa, Queen of New Jersey, a drag queen and plus-size pageant host and Michelle Tomko, an Atlantic City comedian, took the stage as part of the campaign, sharing what Cox called down-to-earth stories about their experiences.

This year, Frenchie Davis starred in a promotional video where she shared her struggles with bullying as an adult. Cox said the out performer reflected on negativity in her 2003 American Idol run and her experiences with body shaming.

“That's what I want people to hear. I want them to hear real stories. I don't necessarily want to keep concentrating on prevention, prevention, prevention, because we can't control people. So, you need to be able to control yourself in a manner where you know how to handle the situation. And you do that through dialogue, through people telling their stories and what they've been through,” said Cox.

Cox said the decision to launch the anti-bullying campaign, which now includes a hotline and resource listing by county, came after she took a look at her behavior.

The organizer said she had been using her social media influence to call out businesses for unacceptable behavior — for example, Cox recalled an anniversary date that became a racist incident. 

“I'm not sure if it was me who did it, but the restaurant closed not too long after I did a post. I'm sure they were on their way out, but it was a really bad incident. And after that, I was just like I need to really sit back and think about how I am affecting people's lives,” said Cox.

While suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24, LGB young people seriously consider suicide at almost three times the rate of their heterosexual peers.

Among the adult trans population, 40 percent of people report having attempted suicide. More than 90 percent of these folks indicate the attempts took place before age 25. 

A New Jersey transgender woman who’s been incarcerated in men’s prisons for the past 17 months will be transferred to New Jersey women’s prison later this month, it was announced last week.

The decision comes in response to a lawsuit recently filed against the state’s Department of Corrections by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

On Sunday, Aug. 25, the Human Rights Campaign publicly endorsed Sarah McBride, longtime LGBT rights activist and out trans candidate running for the Delaware Senate. If elected, McBride would be the first openly trans person to hold a seat in any State Senate in the U.S.

As part of his first national tour, newly appointed HRC president Alphonso David praised McBride at Wilmington Brew Works at what doubled as her campaign kick-off event.

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