BURNING QUESTION

Trans Woman Shelley Hilliard Died By Fire. Why The Deadly New Trend In Queer-Bashing?

There’s a hot new trend in bashing LGBTs this fall and it involves setting them on fire. There have been at least four such attacks in the last three weeks—the latest being murdered trans woman Shelley Hilliard. But is there any reason behind this hateful trend? One expert thinks so.

First Steven Iorio’s “friends” doused him in rum and set him ablaze while he slept. After that, someone in Scotland tied Stuart Walker to a post and burned him to death. Then three punks gave Burke Burnett third-degree burns by tossing him onto a fire during a party.

Now the latest victim in this ghastly trend is 19-year-old Shelley Hilliard, a Detroit trans woman whose charred corpse was identifiable only by the tattoo of cherries on her upper right arm.

So what’s behind this ultra-cruel fad in burning queers? Phillip M. Miner of The Center for Homicide Research has an idea.

Miner says that despite the combustible association of slurs like “flaming faggots” and the biblical story of God raining fire down upon the wicked sexual cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, that arson fits a larger pattern of passionate overkill committed against LGBT hate victims:

Attacks involving arson are especially brutal. Meticulous care is taken in carrying them out. The violence is heaped on. One mortal wound isn’t enough. Flesh must be pierced, ripped, and penetrated over and over. The bodies razed. These attacks are vicious. I’ve typed and deleted the word “inhuman” several times. “Inhuman” is inaccurate. I mean the exact opposite. These attacks are characteristically human. They are wrought with meaning — the offender wants there to be no doubt that this violence was intentional. In the case of hate crimes, it’s a warning. This is what happens when you are gay. This is what these people get — what they deserve.

So the attackers in each case basically want to make an example of their victims. The media coverage of such murders also serve as a warning to LGBTs around the world and as inspiration for the next copycat psycho.

We’re wondering what can possibly curb such violent symbolic acts or at least rally the community to take a stand against them.