Please note-

*Please note- Your browser preferences must be set to 'allow 3rd party cookies' in order to comment in our diaries.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Alleged Anti-Gay Ohio Arsonist Remains At-Large

Ohio investigators have yet to identify any suspects in a fire that destroyed Brent Whitehouse’s barn and killed all eight of his quarter horses late last month.
Ohio investigators have yet to identify 
any suspects in a fire that destroyed 
Brent Whitehouse’s barn and killed all 
eight of his quarter horses last month.
By Joseph Erbentraut -

Two weeks have passed since a fire destroyed a gay Ohio man’s barn and killed all eight of his quarter horses and one unborn foal, and local authorities have yet to identify any suspects in what he and his friends maintain was a hate crime.

As EDGE reported late last month; Brent Whitehouse, an openly gay horse trainer and breeder and insurance salesman who lives in rural McConnelsville, discovered his barn and riding arena had burned to the ground late in the evening of April 24. He attempted to free the horses, but couldn’t open the barn doors in time. Media reports indicated someone scrawled "burn in hell" and "fags are freaks" onto the gutted barn’s walls.

Whitehouse did not respond to EDGE’s request for comment, but he told the Zanesville Times Reporter that his main concern was not the fire that took firefighters two hours to extinguish. "The barn I can rebuild, but the bond I had with those horses can’t be replaced," said Whitehouse. "Whoever did this had to walk right by all those horses, including the baby, and didn’t care that they were killing a gentle, loving animal."

The Humane Society of the United States has offered a $2,500 reward for information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of those responsible. That reward is in addition to the $5,000 reward that the Blue Ribbon Arson Committee has posted.

The arson has also attracted the attention of LGBT advocates throughout the country who are hopeful for a thorough investigation into the crime. Ohio’s hate crime law does not include sexual orientation, and it does not appear that state authorities have asked their federal counterparts to investigate the incident under the Matthew Shepard Act.

Kim Welter, director of programs and outreach for Equality Ohio, said the arson has angered many LGBT Ohioans. Her group has reached out to help Whitehouse if he seeks any assistance moving forward.

McConnelsville Arson Not an Isolated Incident
The incident is only the latest example of an extreme act of harassment carried out against an openly LGBT person living in a rural setting in the last year.

A fire destroyed Carol Ann and Laura Stutte’s Vonore, Tenn., home late last year-someone tagged their garage with the word "QUEERS." The couple’s dog had also recently died of poisoning after a neighbor repeatedly harassed them. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reportedly delayed responding to the scene of the crime. And the Stuttes’ insurance company has declined to cover an overwhelming portion of their losses from the fire.

This and other extreme incidents are highly visible reminders of the struggles many openly LGBT people living outside of larger, more queer-friendly metropolises often face while attempting to go about their everyday lives.

Sue Hyde, director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change Conference, said these incidents also can force many LGBT people back into the closet because they fear something similiarly tragic could happen to them. Hyde, who now lives in Cambridge, Mass., grew up in a small town in rural Illinois. And she is familiar with that fear.

With LGBT youth coming out at younger and younger ages; Hyde said these incidents "speak to both the worst of humanity and best of humanity"-the worst referring to the incidents themselves and the best referring to the community’s response to them. She pointed to Brenda and Wanda Henson, a lesbian couple who began to vigorously fight against harassment in their hometown of Ovett, Miss., in the mid-1990s, as an example of the sort of response she optimistically feels is becoming more common today.

"I hope for a response in both peoples’ minds and hearts is the need to reduce their own isolation, not just from other LGBT people but also from people who are not LGBT but who know us, love us and would stand with us," said Hyde.

Welter was equally as optimistic that LGBT people have become more visible in rural areas. Her organization has received more requests for educational speaking engagements from Southeastern and Eastern Ohio, which have traditionally been less queer-friendly than Athens and other cities.

Hyde added the McConnelsville arson and other incidents should serve as a reminder to LGBT advocates throughout the country to support those who live outside metropolitan areas. The most recent Census data reported same-sex couples live in roughly 99 percent of counties nationwide, a large number of which are not urban.
Joseph covers news, arts and entertainment and lives in Chicago. Visit to read more.

No comments:

Post a Comment