Bay Area Community Members to Hold Vigil for Gay Teens Murdered in Maryland and Puerto Rico

By Guest Columnist Nov 21, 2009

From Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha TIme: Sunday, November 22, 3:30pm Vigil Location: Mac Arthur and Grand Ave. at Lake Merritt Outraged at the murders of two gay teenagers last week, Bay Area queers and allies will gather at Lake Merritt this Sunday for a candlelight vigil and open mic to mourn and brainstorm ways to keep their community safer from violence. Last Friday, 19-year-old Jorge Steven López-Mercado got into a car with Juan Martinez-Matos, 26, who later said he had been "searching for a prostitute." Martinez-Matos murdered, beheaded and dismembered López-Mercado after, he said, he discovered that López-Mercado was male and "wearing women’s clothing." Martinez-Matos then set fire to the young man’s remains and left them on the side of a road. Martinez -Matos is now in custody and has confessed to the murder. His bail is set at $4 million. The same week, in Baltimore, Maryland, gay fifteen-year-old Jason Mattison, Jr., was raped and stabbed to death in his aunt’s home by an adult male, a family friend with whom, according to a Baltimore police spokesperson, Mattison allegedly had a “forced sexual relationship.” Queer activists say they worry that López-Mercado’s murderer will successfully invoke the defense of “gay or trans-panic” to justify the brutal killing. "The fact that Martinez -Matos is saying that López-Mercado was ‘wearing women’s clothing’ indicates that he might try to say he was ‘fooled’ and therefore ‘forced’ to kill López-Mercado for his gender transgression," Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, one of the organizers of the Oakland vigil said. “This is completely inexcusable,” Liz Latty, another organizer of the rally this Sunday, said. “It’s blaming the victim. We unequivocally denounce the way that the lives of queer and transgendered people, sex workers, people of color, women and low-income people are devalued and seen as disposable.” Referring to López-Mercado’s murder, police investigator Ángel Rodríguez Colón told Univisión, “These types of people, when they enter this lifestyle and go out into the streets, know that this could happen.” ??“We are outraged at the murders of López-Mercado and Mattison,” Oakland vigil organizer Latty said. “We, queer and transgendered people in Oakland, are mourning these senseless deaths. Yet we are also a resilient community. We wish to stand in solidarity with those in Puerto Rico and Baltimore who are surviving despite this invisibility and injustice.” ??Bay Area organizers of the vigil have been in contact with friends of López-Mercado and are hoping to coordinate memorial events and future actions with the Puerto Rican and Baltimore queer communities.