[Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Texas filmmaker Richard Massey, who approached HayLadies! with this story in hopes of raising money for the recovery of his injured friend and Texas-to-NYC expat Angela Gant.]
“If you’re going to stand like a man, I’m going to beat your ass, like a man.”
This was the ultimatum my gay friend, Angela, was given last month on 143rd St, between Broadway and Riverside Dr. in Spanish Harlem, Manhattan. Her gender orientation was being held hostage, as if she could possibly effect any imitation that would stave off the beating he was intent upon delivering.
Why did he say that? Was he looking for an excuse to justify his actions? Was it some cool one-liner he was spouting in the action movie in his mind he was starring in? Was he crazy? I don’t care. He indicted himself with that statement, it was his confession: Angela didn’t behave according to his gender expectations, so he bashed her face in.
What specifically did she do? What was the offensive behavior? It was simple: Angela stepped between him and her dogs. It was 5:30PM and Angela was headed for the Riverbank State Park to walk her dogs. The park is less than a block and a half from her apartment. She was halfway there when a man on a stoop began verbally accosting her over her dogs. He’s yelling about how her dogs are treating his tree. She defends herself, stating that she always pickups after her dogs. He gets louder, so she put herself between him and them.
She awoke twenty minutes later in a pool of blood.
There are a lot of specifics I don’t know about the incident. But there are two things that trump all other facts: she did nothing to deserve this and he beat her because she was a woman. Are the police prosecuting this attack as a hate crime? That does not matter, because I am.
Her nose is still broken in several places. Her cheekbones too. A tooth broken in three places. Her jaw, neck, torso… She tells me that she saw him on the street days later. He walked right past, not looking up from his phone. She started staking out the intersection soon after, three or four times a week. No one’s been able to get close enough to get a picture and he’s gone long before a call to 911 would work.
She knows the odds of finding him again and what his reaction will be when confronted. But, she perseveres. I’m just amazed at how bold she is.
I’m appalled at how difficult it’s been for her to get good treatment. The public health services in NY have been great thus far for simple needs. A stitch her, some antibiotics there; it’s everything we liberals have been arguing for. But now, she can’t get dentists and surgeons to agree on a diagnosis. Others claim that the damage is too extensive, outside the possibilities of their skills. She has her prescription for painkillers, but little else. Are her sinuses crushed? How much reconstructive surgery or physical therapy will she need? What are the possibilities of developing embolisms, aneurisms… ?
It’s a level of heath care that she absolutely needs, yet is beyond her means.
This is a picture of me and my three best friends. Angela claims it’s the only one ever taken. We’re in tuxedos because it’s my wedding reception, back in May, 1996. After that, Charles moved to LA, Angela went to New York. Ethan and I stayed in Fort Worth and had litters.
I met her at a theater convention in San Antonio, November of 1989. We were from rival high schools, next door, less than nine miles away. Eighteen months later, we were somehow in the same university theatre department.
We were terrible college students. A study in contradiction: intelligent and lazy, artistic yet uninspired, passionate and irresponsible. The whole theatre department was there for her when her parents died. She was always there for me: One day she flat out told me to my face that I was treating my girlfriend with complete disrespect and that if she were in my girlfriend’s place, she’d dump me on the freeway. She stood up to me and made me a better man that day. When I am sad and lonely, I fondle that memory of us going together for our first AIDS test. You never forget your first. How we danced in the parking lot afterwards, like Muppets.
She’s been in New York almost over five years. I’m still in Fort Worth. I love how we can pick up after long absences, right where we left of but somehow up-to-date and always involved through long distances. (She’s five minutes away from completing her doctoral work. Whenever we speak, I pester her for hours about every detail of her journey. I’m jealous and fascinated.)
About six months ago she informed me that she had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was a side effect of one of her depression prescriptions. Funny, right? Expensive, too. And then she was attacked. Here’s how Angela described her assailant when she reported in to her friends on Facebook:
“Well dressed perfectly groomed middle aged black guy. Not a guy you would normally ever be afraid of. I took a couple of steps forward to protect my dogs. He said,”You gonna stand up like a man. I’m going to beat you like a man.” Long story short, he did. I think with a weapon in his hand; and me holding two leashes. He beat me unconscious, and beat me some more.”
Angela’s girlfriend, Jamie, reported this:
“He beat her to the ground, when she got up to run, he said, “Oh, you want some more, huh?” She was unconscious before she hit the ground from the second attack. It appears as though he beat her while she was unconscious. When she awoke 10-15 minutes later in a pool of her own blood, the dogs were sitting near her, waiting. She walked up to Broadway, bleeding badly. No assistance was offered until she reached the median. A girl named Melissa, who lives in our building, saw her and helped her to a bench and then waved down a police car. Then Matt, who lives on our floor, walked by, recognized Angela, and offered to help. He took the dogs upstairs to our apartment, and then the ambulance showed up. I got home from yoga and all these missed calls and text messages from my neighbors, but none from the police or hospital. The neighbors told me what they knew, but no one knew which hospital she was taken too. Finally, Harlem Hospital called and I rushed over there with 2 of my roommates. Hours later I was able to see her.”
Angela focuses on what he said: “Stand like a man.” Was it just some line he found cool that he liked to quote before bashing some chick’s face in? No, I have to hold him to a higher moral benchmark. I can’t ignore the facts: Based on his own statement, he is choosing victims based on his own sexual standards.
It’s a hate crime. His confession stands. Ergo sum hoc: based upon his own declarative statement, he was basing his violent actions on Angela’s ability to meet his own narrow spectrum of criteria for gender expectations.
Whether or not such gender bias constitutes a hate crime under federal or NY statutes, I am uncertain. (Which is why my opinion is moot to a large degree.) Admittedly, based on such evidence, there’s little to suggest this was motivated by his opinions of Angela’s LGBT status, unless he contributes further statements in the future about how her appearance may have motivated his actions.
I’ll now bring us back to the point of my article. I cannot imagine a world without Angela. It’s a world diminished of brilliance and potential and future. She’s a standard to be aspired to. I’m incensed that she was nearly taken from us.
So, I close with a call to action. As Angela’s family is deceased, her friends are uniting to help heal her injuries. This financial burden that has been thrust upon her makes me desperate for an opportunity to help. The only thing that I can think of is the most vulgar and desperate call for funds and publicity. So, I look to you for help. I’ve setup accounts with ChipIn.com and GiveForward.com. We have a very organized friend applying to the New York State’s Victim’s Assistance Fund and setting up a 501-3c so that larger contributors can be confident of their donation. It’s a long road she’s got ahead of her. We’ll find the funding and the right doctors.
In the meantime, you can follow Angela’s progress at her site. If you want to let others know about Angela, I made a short film about my experiences with her, and if you can’t view Youtube from your location, try the post I made to Vimeo.
Just pass it on. That’s all I can ask. Thanks.