Friday, July 13, 2018

Contagion factor leads to spike in suicides

Suicide has become an epidemic in America. It is at a 30-year high, and it is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S. behind motor vehicle accidents, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The recent tragic deaths of fashion icon Kate Spade, 55, and travel and food guru Anthony Bourdain, 61, catapulted the catastrophe to the consciousness of the nation, but people from all strata of society — especially the LGBTQ community — face the risk as well.

Most of what is known about suicide in the LGBTQ community comes from the research of youth issues because the latest information, a 2016 statistical analysis of that year’s 44,965 
victims by the American Association of Suicidology, contains no data based on sexual orientation. The various agencies studying suicidal behavior in LGBTQ youth maintain that suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24, and that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are three times more likely to seriously consider suicide and five times more likely to have attempted killing themselves than their heterosexual counterparts. A study of transgender people revealed that 40 percent had made a suicide attempt and that 92 percent of them tried to kill themselves before age 25.

Researchers, psychologists and others involved in mental health care believe that LGBTQ youth are more susceptible to suicide because of bullying that includes verbal and physical abuse, little support from family and friends, low self-esteem and the stress associated with minority status. As a result, LGBTQ youth are more likely to turn to alcohol and other drugs to tackle feelings of chronic hopelessness and worthlessness that exacerbate their problems. All of these factors can be translated to older groups of LGBTQ people who remember experiencing the same treatments and feelings in their youth and may still suffer the consequences as adults. 

In a report on June 7 of this year, the Centers for Disease Control reported that the 2016 statistics reflected a 30 percent increase in suicides among Americans age 10 or older since 1999. The release of the report announcing the spike ironically coincided with the deaths of Spade on June 5 and Bourdain on June 8.

The 2016 analysis of suicides showed that white men in their middle-ages (45 to 64) made up the largest percentage of deaths, and that group has shown the largest increase in suicides in recent years.  Of the 44,965 deaths, the breakdown was as follows: Males, 34,727; Females, 10,238; Whites, 40,164; Non-whites, 4,801; Older Adults (65-plus), 8,204; Middle-Ages (45-64), 16,196 and Young People (15-24), 5,723.

All of the states reported significant numbers of suicides with California in the lead at 4,294, followed by Texas at 3,488 and Florida at 3,143. The District of Columbia had the least number of suicides at 40, and Vermont and Delaware leveled out the bottom with 118 and 119 respectively. Regionally, the South had the most suicides with 17,593, and the Northeast had the least with 6,078. The West showed 11,516, and the Midwest showed 9,778.

The use of firearms, 51 percent, represented the most common method of suicide in 2016, followed by hanging and other suffocation, 26 percent, and poisoning, 15 percent. Suicides by hanging and suffocation showed a dramatic increase of 52 percent compared to other 

 methods in a study of statistics from 1999 to 2010, according to a U.S. National Library of Medicine report. Firearm use remained level during those years while poisoning increased by 19 percent.

Both Spade and Bourdain committed suicide by hanging, and their deaths could be expected to spark an increase in the suicide rate if trends noticed in previous years continue. Crisis prevention hotlines are already reporting more calls.

A study by Columbia University noted that when actor Robin Williams, 63, hung himself in 2004 suicides rose by 10 percent in four months. A similar increase was noted in 1962 when actress Marilyn Monroe, 36, died as a result of barbiturate poisoning. The phenomenon is known as “suicide contagion,” and it is believed to be spread by massive media coverage of celebrity suicides. Most U.S. newspapers and other media abstain from publishing news about suicides unless it involves celebrities or politicians at least in part because of the danger of copycat suicides.

In the days following massive media coverage of suicides, people who are thinking about suicide may be more likely to act on the impulses. Research by mental health professionals shows that suicide victims often showed no signs of despair, nor did they have a history of mental illness. The suicides of both Spade and Bourdain took family and friends by surprise.

LGBTQ youth are arguably the most vulnerable group to suicide because they are less likely to know of resources or to be able to access them. Youth who lack strong support from family, peers or adults such as school officials are particularly at risk. Research indicates crisis prevention services such as hotlines can be effective interventions for youth in trouble.

Any youth experiencing suicidal thoughts can call the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386. Anyone who is aware of a youth in crisis can also call counselors for advice. A compassionate trained counselor will answer, “What’s going on?”

Adults who are in crisis can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Adults concerned about other adults also can speak to the counselors.

Beware the Baptists

A coordinated attack by powerful conservatives threatens LGBTQ communities in every major urban area as an anti-gay Houston extremist makes plans to grow his organization.

U.S. Pastor Council President Dave Welch boasts about his prowess in trampling on LGBTQ rights in Houston, and he makes clear his ambition to expand the group — also known as the Houston Area Pastor Council and the Texas Pastor Council — beyond its current regional boundaries. Given his previous successes, Welch could succeed in his expansion plans.

Welch founded the U.S. Pastor Council in 2012 as an extension of the Houston Area Pastor Council he launched in 2003 with 12 associate pastors. The organization has steadily grown in size and influence since its inception.

The council’s website claims a membership today of 200 pastors in the Houston area with associate pastor councils in Austin, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, and Waco.

The nonprofit’s Form 990 for 2016 — the most recent available — showed total contributions of $1.8 million in five years. As the only employee, Welch earned $95,090 in 2016.

Despite the modest size and financial strength of his organization, Welch convinced Houston voters in 2015 to shoot down the city’s anti-bias ordinance protecting LGBTQ people. In that election year, the group raised $833,749, by far the largest fundraising year in its history.

The group’s success overturning the ordinance surprised many because in 2009 Houston voters elected an out lesbian, Annise Parker, as mayor. By organizing church congregations in Houston, Welch and his team of strident pastors managed to strike fear in conservative voters in 2016 with the slogan, “No Men in Women’s Restrooms,” a version of the debunked transgender bathroom myth.

In 2017, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that same-sex spouses of government employees are not entitled to marriage benefits, a decision that grew out of a lawsuit filed in 2013 by a pastor council member who objected to Mayor Parker’s plan to award spousal benefits to same-sex couples working for the City of Houston.

If Welch continues his success, he could easily recruit pastors in other states who will want to follow his model and form their own councils to achieve political gains favorable to conservative religious interests.

The councils orchestrate the involvement of pastors in influencing how congregants vote by distributing voter guides, registering congregants to vote and discussing politics and religion with congregants—all questionable activities as regards the status of tax-exempt entities for religious purposes.

The presence of several other archenemies of Texas’ LGBTQ community makes Welch’s threat even more sinister. They are Dallas’ First Baptist Church Pastor Robert Jeffress, San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church Pastor John Hagee, Keller’s Vision America President John Graves and Austin’s Texas Values President Jonathan M. Saenz, who is the chief anti-gay lobbyist in the state.

The Trump Administration’s policies enhance Welch’s chances of succeeding by creating an atmosphere of acceptance for outrageous beliefs. Jeffress and Hagee officiated at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem May 14, delivering the opening and closing prayers respectively. The appearances of both at the ceremony stunned many politicians and human rights leaders, not so much because of the pastors’ virulent anti-gay views but instead owing to their unabashed condemnations of Jewish people.

Jeffress claims in sermons that Jews are going to hell, and Hagee dubs Hitler as a “hunter” commissioned and sent to earth by God to return Jews to Israel. The denunciations also extend to Muslims, Mormons and even the Catholic Church. The discriminatory language is common to Southern Baptist theology, which threatens the faithful with hellfire and damnation if they stray.

The reach of the Southern Baptist ministry is long in Texas, and that includes the state’s most liberal city. To the mix of unfriendly-LGBT churches add Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, where Christian pastors gathered in February 2017 to develop strategy for promoting legislation to ban transgender-friendly restrooms. With that addition, a network of anti-LGBT institutions come to play in all of Texas’ largest cities. Not all of the pastors are members of Welch’s council, but they all share a common goal – to suppress and reverse LGBT-equality gains.

With all of that ground work laid, Welch is off to a pretty good start. Gay rights is not Welch’s only focus, but it is the one that gains him and the other conservative heavy weights the most publicity and contributions. They also decry abortion rights, the evolvement of the Boy Scouts, any efforts to regulate the sale of guns and any other progressive cause.

So far, the only cause Welch got behind that failed came when the Texas Legislature failed to pass Senate Bill 6, the bathroom bill. He attributed the loss to corporate interests, or “fat cats” as he called them, who feared such legislation would harm business in the state. In the wake of the loss, he vowed that he and his associates would continue to fight any measure that benefits the LGBT community. That includes, the right to marry, despite its guarantee in the Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015.

In the past, smaller towns and cities represented the stronghold of conservative religious political control, but that could change. Texas’ larger cities could come under a heavier coordinated attack from conservatives aiming to turn back LGBT progress.

The unfavorable political and social climate the Trump Administration fosters make people — especially conservative Christians — more susceptible to the dogma of zealots like Welch, Jeffress, Hagee, Graves, Scarborough and Saenz. Texas already fostered the climate, but it is now more hostile. No one should take past human rights gains or the possibility of new advancements for granted.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

If Trump talks to God, it might go like this

President Donald J. Trump took off on Air Force One today to an undisclosed location in the Heartland to give a speech before an audience of several thousand paid attendees who wore red Make America GreatT-shirts and hats. They chanted their memorized script, We love you, Donald,on cue when his motorcade arrived.

Then just as he took the stage and started to speak, the president heard a ringing in his ears. It signaled to him he would be channeling another divine communication. The audience would hear only one side of the conversation though – his.

Hold on folks, I've got a call coming in. Yep, it's God. Hi, I was just about to tell all of these good, hard-working sheep you're in my corner, and we're going to make this the best year ever for Christianity and the Trump brand. What a team. Were going to be so great.

Oh, you don't take sides and form collaborations, huh? Well, I guess you have to say that, but we both know you rigged the election. Right? How else could I have won. It was nothing short of a miracle. Old Hillary really got shagged on election night. From Russia with love, but my buddy Vladimir could only do so much. I owe you big.

But enough about my spectacular political success. I bet you want to congratulate me on my fantastic popularity with Christians. Its just fantastic. You know Pastor Robert Jeffress at First Baptist Dallas says I'm paving the way for you to make a big comeback on earth, don't you?

You don't know him? He claims to talk with you daily. He's that little twerp that built the huge new temple to you in downtown Dallas and is obsessed about gay sex. He jumps in front of a TV camera every chance he gets. The one with all the face makeup. He wears it constantly to be ready for the cameras. He looks a little kinky, but hey, different strokes for different folks.

What? You mean that little fucker isn't really speaking for you? You haven't received any of the money he's been collecting in your name? He just told everyone you had raised tithes to 15 percent because of inflation. Well, you just can't trust anyone anymore. I can't believe I've wasted so much time on that goofball. And I was about to give him a condo.

What do you mean I shouldn't be so mean-spirited and disloyal? I'm the most truthful, best-looking and likable guy you've ever come across. My personality is absolutely magnetic. My skin glows with a healthy, deep totally-natural orange tan, and the sun beams off my gold hair. Everybody loves me, and everybody loves to read my Tweets. Twitter plans to replace the bird logo with my face if we can reach the right deal on it. Its close.

Huh? Who do you think you are to judge me and call me delusional? I'm also the sanest, smartest person on the planet, and Im ready to challenge you to a mental competency test. I guarantee you that my brain is bigger and better than yours.

Oh, yeah? Well the next time you want some air time don't be calling me during one of my speeches that draw the largest crowds ever in the history of politics. Call Sean Hannity at Fox News. He'll set you straight.
You don't know who he is either? You watch CNN instead? How in the hell did you get the blocked number to my brain? Those damned leakers are going to really regret crossing me.

And I'll tell you another thing, I'm going to build my own church and start my own religion. It's going to be the biggest, most beautiful church you've ever seen. And what's more you're going to pay for it because all of my followers who have been contributing money to you are going to start giving it to me instead. And to think I was about to give you a condo too. Ive had several open up since I had to quit cheating on Melania after the election. You cant sneak anything past that woman. Shes got ears like satellite dishes these days.

What? No, my hair is not on fire, and it's not in any danger of catching on fire. Not my pants either. Why don't you go burn a bush or something? I dont care who you are. No one is more important than me, and I've got a speech to give.

What the hell? Where did everybody go? I paid them good money to be here supporting me for the video were going to release to the media, and they took off early. I should've gone golfing. I think I'm going to fire someone over this. You're fired! You're all fired. I can do it all myself. I'm ready to go back to Trump Tower. I can run the country from there. The White House is a dump. I miss my gold commodes.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Activist leaves estate to animal rights groups

Shari Eubanks enjoys a vegan lunch at the Rose Cafe in Santa Monica in 2010..

Texas native Shari Yvonne Eubanks spent a lifetime championing the causes that dominated her thoughts and relationships. The fierce animal rights advocate and environmentalist died at age 73 in Los Angeles Nov. 3, 2017.

Eubanks, who succumbed after a decade-long battle with smoking-related emphysema that included a double lung transplant in 2009, left her assets to various animal rights groups. The bequests included the proceeds from her lifetime collection of fine art, antiques and jewelry.

She gave generously while alive to groups protecting domestic and wild animals, and she worked tirelessly to promote clean water and 100 percent recycling, in addition to financially contributing to the causes. She read voraciously about the politics of her subjects of interest, which included theories about the deterioration of the environment and the effects on the human body.

Recognizing the harmful effects of smoking on the body Eubanks struggled for many years to quit her long habit of smoking menthol cigarettes. She finally succeeded after the emphysema diagnosis, but the damage proved to be too severe to save her lungs.

She became a vegan 40 years before her death, and she labored to influence her friends and other acquaintances to adopt plant-based diets. She abhorred and protested the use of animals for cosmetic and medical research and for the manufacture of furs, shoes and clothing. She got arrested at least once along with several other protesters for refusing police orders to end a demonstration.

Eubanks also advocated for liberal social issues, including women's and LGBT rights.

In her later years she became increasingly intolerant of people who continued to eat meat and pollute the environment, and she cut off several long-standing relationships in exasperation.

Eubanks especially loved cats, and she left a family of them behind when she died. She waged a courageous 10-month battle to survive while in the hospital, hoping she would be able to return home to her beloved cats. 

She grew up in Amarillo, Texas, the daughter of a respected local businessman. She had one brother, Neil, who died in 2008 in their hometown. Their parents preceded them in death.

Eubanks lived in Dallas for five years before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the movie industry. She went to work for the William Morris Agency as a secretary before advancing to film creation as an assistant producer. She worked for various movie companies, including Columbia Pictures, and several distinguished producers and directors, such as Barbra Streisand.

In 1990 she left the movie business and opened a successful environmental-friendly boutique in Pasadena, Calif., known as Celebrate Life, that showcased her fashion and interior design skills. The Los Angeles Times featured her store in its Sunday lifestyle section. Later, she operated a thriving marketing business representing artists who produced handcrafted greeting cards and gifts before health problems forced her to retire.

Eubanks died in the company of friends who shared her beliefs. They donated her body to the University of San Diego Medical Center for research in accordance with her wishes.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Las Vegas lives up to its 'sin city' moniker

Only a winner’s occasional whoop interrupts the bells and whistles accompanying the flashing lights of the slot machines. Piles of chips multiply and vanish on green, felt-covered tables as waitresses walk the aisles, chirping, “Cocktails anyone?”

As clouds of smoke rise above them, gamblers nervously eye the dice rolls, spinning roulette wheels and falling cards. Newcomers eagerly wait for a loser to bust or a winner to cash out so they can take their places.

The amount of money flowing out of the players’ wallets and purses is mind-boggling, but no one seems fazed by the display.

This is downtown Las Vegas, ground zero of the renowned premiere adult playground, also known as Sin City and the largest gambling mecca in the world. The gritty scene inside and outside the casinos in the entertainment district, known as the Fremont Street Experience, rival New Orleans’ French Quarter. The party rocks all night, all week long.

In recent years, word drifted across the country that the old Las Vegas, the one where tourists felt free to indulge in wretched excess of every kind, no longer existed. That’s not true in the center of the city.

The giant casino hotels on the Las Vegas Strip — the ones that feature the big concerts and other shows — embrace a cleaner, more wholesome atmosphere. But Fremont Street remains as wild and crazy as ever.

When the guests at the large casino hotels want to indulge in a little hedonism, they climb on board the shuttle that runs between the Strip and downtown in search of more excitement. The most popular spot features four aging casino hotels on corners facing each other: the Four Queens, the Fremont, the Golden Nugget and Binion’s.

There they find virtually naked men and women standing on the pedestrian-only street, promoting commercial and personal agendas. Two of the more unusual posers stood out in the raucous crowd: a woman wearing the headdress of a nun, pasties, a black bikini bottom and high heels, and a man wearing only a pink thong. Both sought “tips.”

Two women wearing the briefest leather outfits and military-style hats emblazoned with the word “Police” presumably did not really serve on the Las Vegas Police Department. But who knows in this entertainment district? Across the street two “bunnies,” complete with ears and tails on their nearly naked backsides, promoted a nightclub.

Saying that Las Vegas is gay-friendly is almost unnecessary. Nothing seems to matter much to anyone in this area. It has got to be the impetus of the “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” slogan.

The only thing you won’t find on Fremont Street is kids. The hotels above the casinos are nice, but the district gets loud late at night. The street is covered by a canopy, and it features a zip line at the top for anyone daring enough to seek that high rush.

It’s clear why so many visitors to Las Vegas go for only three nights; a longer visit might not only bankrupt, it would leave you thoroughly exhausted. The body can only take so much punishment, and the bank account is likely to give out even faster.

That’s when the entertainment venues on the Strip become more appealing to gamblers.

Only Las Vegas can provide a forum for big-star performances like Cher, Britney and Ricky Martin and their prop-heavy, sensational shows in enormous theaters. Cirque du Soleil recently staged a performance of “Love,” featuring Beatles music, at the Mirage with heavy emphasis on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
No one lucky enough to be there will ever forget the props and performances by the acrobats, dancers and singers.

A cab ride to the Monte Carlo to see the Cher show became as entertaining as everything else in Las Vegas. The cab driver also worked as a dealer in one of the big casinos, and he shared his knowledge of Las Vegas. He said while Sin City is best known for gambling, the biggest income generator has become the shows and conventions. For every guest staying in the casino hotels, there are two employees. Retail stores and restaurants surround the hotel casinos on the Strip and spread out for miles.

The population of Las Vegas grew dramatically during the 1900s, in large part because gambling and other entertainment income allowed Nevada to forego a state income tax. Property taxes are also low, adding to the state’s appeal. Additionally, corporations got income tax breaks so many businesses not associated with gambling and entertainment grew, too.

Other things to see

When the casinos and the shows both become too much, Las Vegas offers the Smith Center for the Performing Arts and Discovery Museum in Symphony Park, the Neon Museum, the Las Vegas History Museum, the DISCOVERY Children’s Museum, the Nevada State Museum and the Old Las Vegas Mormon State Historic Park.

The Downtown Arts District, with numerous galleries, hosts the annual Las Vegas Film Festival, and First Friday is a monthly celebration featuring exhibits of art, music and food. The celebration typically extends into the Freemont entertainment district, bridging culture and revelry.

Hoover Dam is another popular tourist draw, and tours of the Grand Canyon and the Mojave Desert (including a ghost town) are available.
So it is a diverse city. Nevertheless, Las Vegas will forever be linked with entertainment. Many of Las Vegas’ residents never step foot in the casinos, but few people who visit Sin City are able to resist the lure of the slot machines and tables.

It’s the sort of experience most people like to try at least once.

Party down on Panama Canal holiday cruises

Sitting in the Ocean View bar of Holland America’s Zuiderdam somewhere in the Caribbean over the Christmas holidays, I engaged in one of my favorite pastimes — eavesdropping on the conversations around me.

I sat alone at a table behind two middle-aged couples who chatted aimlessly. I gathered they had just met, given the frequent topic-switching.

The two men began discussing the variety of bars on the ship, and what an assortment of people they observed traveling on the ship on its way through the Panama Canal. “Well, you know what the Crow’s Nest is, don’t you?” one of the men said to the other. “That’s where all the gays go.”

Of course, my ears perked up as I waited for his next comment or a response from the other man. That never happened though, because the speaker’s wife and I exchanged knowing glances and she launched an interception. “Shut up,” she said to her husband as I quietly chuckled.

“What’s the matter?” he said. “It says on the activity list that there is a nightly LGBT gathering in the Captain’s Corner of the Crow’s Nest. Doesn’t that mean gay?

She again told him to shut up, and he did — even though he obviously didn’t understand why he should.

I locked eyes with the woman and mouthed the words, “It’s OK,” and I smiled.

Finishing my drink, I decided it would be a good time go find the Crow’s Nest. I resisted the impulse to say, “See you all in the Crow’s Nest.”

Looking at the activity guide, I saw that the LGBT gathering indeed took place in the Crow’s Nest, and I would be just in time for happy hour. So off I went to the top and front of the ship.

During previous cruises I was disappointed not to find many LGBT people in the designated cocktail lounges. I saw lots of gay men and lesbians and even one drag queen on previous cruises, but they never seemed to be where the ship’s cruise director tried to send them.

But this time, I got a surprise. I did indeed find not just one or two gay men and lesbians in the bar, but a whole bevy. This is more like it, I thought.

Among the group sitting at the bar was an older, wealthy male couple from California traveling with their personal assistant.

(I knew they had to be wealthy because they had a personal assistant. Also, they occupied a suite in the sky and paid for the personal assistant to enjoy himself in a balcony room alone. I got along quite well with the personal assistant, but that’s another story.)

Traveling alone, I enjoyed 10 splendid nights of dining, drinking, gambling, dancing and dating. I also engaged it a lot of sightseeing at the various ports. It was a wonderfully fulfilling cruise that surprised me in many ways. I met gay and lesbian people traveling alone, with their parents or with partners.

To say the ship’s personnel proved to be gay-friendly would be an understatement. Many of them were gay. In fact, I saw several ship officers of the same sex dancing together in the late-night bar near the casino.

I also really enjoyed the dinners and drinks I shared with the straight people I met.

One night when I went into the dining room, I saw the man and wife I had overheard in the cocktail lounge sitting alone at a table. They beckoned to me, and I went over and sat with them. The husband could not have been more gracious.

I saw his wife in the casino alone one night, and we had a good laugh about the whole thing. “He’s clueless,” she said.

I went on a gay-only cruise in the Mediterranean several years ago, and I enjoyed it. But I can’t say that I had more fun on it than I have any of the several generic cruises I’ve taken since then.

The truth is I found the gay-only cruises to be a lot more expensive than the other cruises I’ve taken. So if your budget is tight like mine, don’t be afraid to take advantage of the less expensive cruises.

You will not be the only queer on board

Friday, April 20, 2018

Celebrated activist bashed in gay bar during 'don't ask, don't tell' era dies virtually unnoticed by media

A quarter-century ago, the nation fixated on President Bill Clinton’s proposal to enact a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for the U.S. military. The bitter controversy erupted in the national media on Jan. 30, 1993, when three Marines from Camp Lejeune and the patrons of a gay bar named Mickey Ratz in Wilmington, N.C., went to battle.
The bar fight and the injuries sustained by one of the patrons, Crae Pridgen Jr. — who lived in Dallas for a brief time and has recently died — dominated the headlines.
Since then, the event that garnered so much notoriety at the time has faded in history. Everyone has forgotten that the LGBT community celebrated Pridgen, who suffered cuts, bruises, a black eye, a cut lip and a lost tooth, as a star in the aftermath of the bar melee.
Back then, Pridgen’s appearances in restaurants and bars frequented by the LGBT community anywhere in the country triggered crowds of admirers and well-wishers. The Human Rights Campaign penned a fundraising letter under his name; he appeared at the March on Washington as a headliner, and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit against the Marines on his behalf.
He also made an appearance on the Today show.
But it proved to be a short-lived celebrity. Everything changed in April 1993, when a judge in Wilmington acquitted the Marines on assault charges after a six-day trial that was covered live on television.
The judge ruled the prosecutors failed to meet the burden of proof, and that she believed the Marines had acted in self-defense. The Marines claimed they were taunted by gay patrons, while Pridgen maintained that the military men, who entered the club with their girlfriends, attacked and yelled “Clinton must pay,” an alleged reference to the new military policy allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve.
The loss of the criminal case devastated Pridgen’s civil suit, and it later was settled out of court. The three Marines signed a statement saying that harassment is wrong, and they made a $100 contribution to the American Foundation for AIDS Research.
Pridgen found it difficult to find employment after the debacle of the criminal trial, and his church expelled him from the congregation. He endured widespread criticism in his hometown and nationwide from straight conservatives.
As is the case with most victims of violence, Pridgen suffered the classic symptoms of post traumatic stress syndrome, such as anxiety and depression. He attempted to relocate to other cities, spending some time in Montgomery, Ala., the home of the Southern Poverty Law Center, before returning to North Carolina. While in Alabama he served as a volunteer lobbyist for the newly-formed Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Alabama.
Pridgen, who relocated to Fort Lauderdale in 1999, died March 2 at the age of 53. He appears to have lived a much quieter life in his final years, in comparison to his former high media profile. His obituary in the Wilmington Star News said that he died unexpectedly at Florida Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale.
During his time in Florida, Pridgen worked as a mental health technician. He also became active in Lambda South, a 12-step recovery program for LGBT people, and in Florida Roundup, a statewide conference of LGBT recovery groups, as the chair of various committees.
Few people today remember him, but Pridgen should be recognized by the LGBT community for bringing widespread attention to the ongoing effort to combat hate crimes and promote tolerance. He gave all he had to give, and he paid a heavy price for his contribution.
David Webb worked at the Southern Poverty Law Center as a writer and researcher at the time the organization represented Crae Pridgen. Webb was assigned to Pridgen’s case and worked with him closely.