News

Gay Okla. college student beaten in apartment complex

by Michelle  Parsons
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Apr 5, 2010

As Oklahoma lawmakers debate whether the state should comply with federal hate crimes statutes, a college student maintains local authorities have done little to investigate those who attacked him because he is gay.

Phillip Nelson, who lives in Claremore, a small town about half an hour north of Tulsa, said three men screamed "faggot" and "You're going to die!" as they beat him while he took the trash out in his apartment complex late last month. Nelson's assailants left him with cuts and bruises on his face and body. And he said they broke into his apartment a few days later, ransacked it and scrawled "fag" across the wall.

"Right now I feel drained," Nelson told EDGE, sighing.. "I keep praying and I keep praying but things just get worse. I feel like my prayers are not being heard."

And what's even more emotionally draining for the 24-year-old is the way he said the Claremore Police Department has responded to the attack.

"I keep calling them and leaving voice mails but I never hear anything back," Nelson said. "No one ever returns my calls, which has me wondering if they're kind of trying to let this thing die out and go away, or if they are going to do anything about it."

Nelson's friend Dylan Perry says he would not be surprised if the police department swept incidences like these under the rug. The pharmacy technician now lives in Tulsa, but he grew up in a small town near Claremore.

"A town like that is awful," Perry said. "If something were to happen, I would not expect anything serious to take place within the police department."

Claremore police could not be reached for comment as of deadline, but Capt. Charles Downum told the Tulsa World he said someone reported a break-in, and not an assault. Nelson said he called the police after both incidences, and filed separate police reports.

"I did not know this until the recent incident, he [the responding officer of the beating] never even filed a report about that," Nelson said. "The only way I found that out was because of the break-in. And because of the break-in they did get a report; all of a sudden they wanted me to file two reports because they neglected the first one."

Oklahoma's hate crimes statutes do not include sexual orientation. The state Senate passed a bill that prohibits local and state law enforcement agencies from sharing information about hate crimes with federal officials if the state of Oklahoma did not recognize it has a hate crime. State Sen. Steve Russell (R-Oklahoma City) introduced the measure after President Obama added sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to federal hate crimes statutes last October. The Republican legislator maintains the federal law infringes on freedom of speech.

In spite of the ongoing debate, Nelson continues to attend class as he tries to move forward from the homophobia he said has surrounded him his entire life.

"I've been called names all my life, even by my family members; and after a while I learned to get numb from it," he said. "I just got numb from a lot of things. I'm happy with myself and that's all that matters."

Comments

  • , 2010-04-05 00:08:04

    Wow, this poor guy doesnt deserve all that...


  • , 2010-04-05 00:57:10

    What’s really sad about this story is the victim having to put up with homophobic comments his whole life. It isn’t right. No-one, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, colour or religious belief should be victimised in this way. When will the battle against homophobia and heterosexism end?


  • Bill in NH, 2010-04-05 03:15:21

    It seems like Oklahoma is experiencing a "Season of Hatred" toward sexual minorities. Mr. Nelson’s incidents, plus the questionable death of LGBT activist Keith Kimmel last week, and other recent stories of homophobic violence have been flooding the Oklahoma news of late. I live in NH, originally from Massachusetts, where Sexual Orientation has been included as a "protected status" in each state’s constitution, and where full same-sex marriage equality has been achieved. By sharp conflict, I’m truly startled at Oklahoma, and my heart goes out to Mr. Nelson not just for these recent incidents, but also for all the ways we are affected by having to live in a hate-saturated political environment--which I too have experienced in the not-so-distant past. One thing that bothers me the most, is that when I watch news footage and reporters and journalists covering these issues, they don’t seem to be asking the right questions, or reporting the issues with any emphasis on the overall wrongness of such things--they seem very matter-of-fact, as if complacent with the status quo. They also give very little time to the issues. Change that, and your state’s social environment will soon follow, as in every state like my own who has clawed its way out of the muck of ignorance, educating media representatives was a big part of each milestone of success along the way. To Mr. Nelson and all others concerned, I strongly urge you to start writing, filming with your cameras, getting public opinions uploaded into media, and working on educating community leaders to galvanize community members and their families--putting a family face on this is important for gaining public and political support. Nobody wants to have violence of any kind in their communities. Once the media successfully communicates the message, and gets it across to the general public that these atrocities affect ALL people, not just the original targets of hate, then the general public shall quickly become more able and willing to empathize, and bring a language of tolerance and even support into their own respective vocabularies. It starts with regular every-day people, simply voicing their objections when they hear an anti-gay comment or joke, either at work, in their social circles, in line at the grocery store, etc. We gay people all have mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and yes, CHILDREN of our own. We also have each other. Where there’s unity and people committed to a peaceful cause, great strides can be made. I recommend you might appeal to GFN.com, HRC.org, and any other organizations like them, and even involve the LGBT resources from your surrounding states to help garner support and build the necessary momentum of active responses to these incidents of hate-based violence. I am deeply disturbed that this is going on at a time when Oklahoma leadership seems to be actively suppressing facts about hate crimes toward sexual minorities. I (and all with whom I associate) are following these issues with great vigorous interest. Please don’t lose faith--and Mr. Nelson--Your prayers are most definitely heard, and felt--don’t give up. God loves you and so do I. You are a wonderful person, who deserves every goodness, every opportunity, and every happiness that you choose to pursue in your life. You shall overcome this dark period, and you shall be victorious. My support and hope and spirit of love are with you. With Peace and Respect, Bill in NH gr8spirits@gmail.com


  • gjay17, 2010-04-05 07:16:15

    This has to stop!!! I’m sick of stories like this. Why isn’t this on the News?!?


  • Michael K. Lavers, 2010-04-05 09:26:07

    This is Michael K. Lavers, national news editor for EDGE. I want to let folks know a reader tipped us off to this story. And in addition, a local television station in Tulsa did have a story on this attack. Hope this answers any questions.


  • , 2010-04-05 13:08:10

    This is insane we should he protected just as African Americans are its the same thing and if the gov is not going to protect us then we will protect ourselves and in another instant we are damned if we do and damned if we know.....damn those bible thumpers and republicans and if god didn’t make homosexuals there wouldn’t be any


  • , 2010-04-05 13:49:35

    I am saddened and angered by this. I thought we had hate crime laws. Someone in our community needs to rescue this boy and get him the fuck out of Texas.


  • , 2010-04-05 14:08:55

    I am sitting here not entirely sure how to feel. Angry, Sad, Disgusted? I think I’ll go with all three. We all know that this should stop now, but why doesn’t anyone really want to step in and help this man? I am glad that someone posted this story because people really do think "not in my town".


  • slater619, 2010-04-05 14:12:48

    I hope someone (in his circle or otherwise) has contacted the US DOJ because now that the Federal Matthew Sheppard Act has been signed into law, the fed have the legal authority to step-in and prosecute this crime as a hate crime if OK will not do so. Someone needs to let them know what is going on. He may still get justice after all.


  • , 2010-04-05 14:14:31

    I had hoped that Matthew Shepard’s story was enough for this country. We MUST stop this activity now, before Phillip’s blood is on the hands of the politicos in his state. Every single person in the U.S. GLBT community MUST band together and put a stop to this intolerance.


  • , 2010-04-05 15:12:24

    As an Oklahoma resident and a gay man, this does not surprise me. I love my state, but this sort of thing has become almost a common occurrence. It disgusts me. I thought that surely by 2010 we would have progressed far enough in our thinking to realize that violence is not okay. I still fear for my safety in some parts of this state. Something needs to be done!


  • , 2010-04-05 15:24:41

    I am sick and tired of hearing these stories. Where’s the LGBT outcry in OK?!? Where are the state/local LGBT organizations? If this was Texas (especially the major cities), there would be some noise made. Do I need to make a trip from Dallas to start the rumbling? I shouldn’t. It should start from there. That is what pisses me off more.


  • , 2010-04-05 16:10:43

    Claremore PD 200 West 1st Street Claremore, OK 74017-8004 (918) 341-1212 Lets all give them a call and see whats up. I have already


  • me, 2010-04-05 16:16:09

    I just sent a request to the DOJ. I included a copy of this article and resquested a response to my email. If there is no response, I’ll be sure to follow up and call every number on their website. I encourage you all to do the same.


  • , 2010-04-05 17:04:22

    I called the police dept there and the woman I spoke with was quite nice about it and said they were investigating this as a hate attack


  • , 2010-04-05 17:23:48

    The thing that I find the most disturbing is the lawmaker who said that protecting against hate crimes is an impingement on free speech. Freedom of speech is not necesarily freedom of expresion; assault is not covered by the first amendment. And you do have the right to print almost anything you want, but not on someone else’s walls. I am appalled at the abhorrent and flagrant bigotry involved at every level of this situation, and while I don’t know Philip myself, I feel confident saying that he deserves much better than this.


  • nudegayguy, 2010-04-05 20:18:04

    my heart goes out to philip. no one should have to put up with this. the doj definitely needs to get involved in this, as it appears the police dept stuffed it under the rug. sending lots of hugs out to you, philip.


  • , 2010-04-05 23:16:05

    I just can’t believe that this still goes on in parts of this country. That certain politician that said that it shouldn’t be reported as a hate crime and the state’s willful contempt to follow the Federal law, but when it comes to something that it would benefit them, we know that they would be the first to cry foul! Free Speech does not mean assaulting others just because they are different than ourselves. Free speech doesn’t mean breaking and entering as far as I can tell. I’m sure Oklahoma is a beautiful state in its own right, but sure sounds like there’s some uneducated politicians at work there. It’s a shame that this same politician is still in office. Well, My heart goes out to you Mr Nelson. I’m a gay man myself, and have proudly served in the armed forces of this fine country and I’m just sorry that there are still people out there that are afraid of others that are not like themselves. Please, keep vigil and get some activism going! They say that the squeaky wheel gets the grease! God Bless!!


  • , 2010-04-06 00:46:24

    Philip, hi mate. You nust be feeling pretty down right now. I hope the cops find them and they face the full weight of the law. Surely, what they did to you must be a criminal offence. We can forget the black eye and the bruises but it is the emotional pain that remains, reminds and haunts us when we’ve been bashed. My heart goes out to you mate. Be bloody strong and hang in there pal. I’m a gay and are thinking of you and mentally sending you some extra strength. If you are feeling down sometimes mate, just remember you have a gay soul mate in Melbourne Australia. Pete


  • , 2010-04-06 09:41:44

    Oklahoma is a place I have no desire to ever set foot in. I know there are some good people there, but it is full of overwhelmingly homophobic, racist nimrods. The best thing would be to help this young man leave that state forever and come to a more progressive (i.e. any state but OK) state.


  • , 2010-04-06 11:17:33

    I was born and raised in Oklahoma. While there are bigger cities that are somewhat gay-friendly (Tulsa and OKC), the majority of the suburban and rural communities are nowhere near it. I grew up in a town near Claremore, and I’m not too surprised to hear about this coming from there. We just experienced an awful beating of a young adult drag queen in Tulsa last year in which he was stabbed in the head. We have Sally Kern. We have Steve Russell. On the hate crimes act, his idea is ridiculous. The whole notion of "depressing freedom of speech" is bull. ANY hate crime legislation, whether against race, religion, gender, technically "depresses" speech. But does he rally against those? No. Welcome to OKlahoma. I’m currently an officer in OSU’s Sexual Orientation Diversity Association. We are working to put a stop to atrocities like this in our community. I hope that someday, Oklahoma will come around to progression and find the only deplorable about homosexuality is the hate that surrounds the issue.


  • , 2010-04-06 11:36:25

    I am a lifelong Oklahoma resident and was born in Claremore where that young man lives. There are hate filled people everywhere, but in the reddest state in the Union, Oklahoma has more than its share. It has been that way since statehood brought southern white racists into the Indian Territory. Oklahoma’s first state law in 1907 was segregation of rail cars. Oklahoma became the most racist state in the Union between 1907 and 1968 with the most and worst of Jim Crow laws. Oklahoma is still a very racisit place and as a white looking Cherokee I can say that the "privilege" of hearing what white people say about blacks behind their backs is nothing short of disgusting. But it does not stop there, as many who put on a face of tolerance and even embracing minorities and gays turn around and make jokes and disparaging remarks. The culture here is so two-faced its just seen as normal. That does not mean things have not changed. I am 51 and when I was young no one dared "come out" publicly or expect to be left alone if they even exhibited an iota of gay affectations. Today young people in the larger cities know little of the hatred their elders endured here. Gay men married to women is rampant here and those same men, having sex on the downlow are spreading the HIV virus because they don’t know anything about it, fearing to even learn the basics in staying safe. In 2004 I initiated a same sex marriage under Cherokee law. Two Cherokee women were married in a beautiful ceremony north of Tulsa. Only one newspaper covered the event and they did a beautiful job. That was the Muskogee Phoenix. If you would like to learn more about the marriage search "gay Cherokee marriage." This one marriage unleashed a seething form of hatred we Cherokees learned from our racist and bigotted neighbors. Those two Cherokee women, instead of being able to quietly enjoying their marriage and each other were forced into court three times. The pressure was too great for them and they have since separated, even though their marriage remains valid but as yet unfiled in tribal court records. I love living here and refuse to leave. It won’t ever get better if I do. Things are progressing, but so slowly. And events such as the beating of this young man is only evidence that we need to work harder with our allies to show that gays are part of the community, always have been and always will be. And one day, perhaps in the not so distant future, same sex marriage will be as common in Oklahoma as black folks drinking at the public water fountain.


  • , 2010-04-06 14:53:18

    It wasn’t long ago (a little over two years now) that I, myself, was attacked while walking home from the library near my University. The hateful slurs being yelled, the moment of "Oh, shit...this is it." I cannot even begin to explain the state of mind that an incident like this drags you down to. Phillip, I can sincerely relate to your situation. Do me a favor...wake up tomorrow morning proud of who you are. I know that’s probably hard to do right now, but you really do have everything to be proud of. As for your assailants, to hell with them. I envy your strength to report the incident...I did not have that. Instead, I locked myself in my apartment until the physical evidence subsided. You’re going to make it through this and you’ll be just fine. I hope that one day our country will realize that hate wars are nothing new and in the end, the outcome has always favored the minority. Why are we still wasting time on these issues? Have we nothing better to do? God Bless kid. If you need any help at all, and if there is any way I can aid you in putting these ignorant, wasted life criminals behind bars please let me know. Be strong and keep your head up. Their time will come.


  • , 2010-04-06 16:13:53

    The saddest part of this, aside from the horror and pain this young man has gone through, the lack of response from the Claremore Police department, and the state government’s blatant disregard for the safety of its’ citizens, is the general apathy of the Gay Communty. If those who have spent the major portion of their life sitting on their hands, being univolved in the political process, whining about Gay Rights without being a part of the advance of them had begun to speak out much earlier, we, even in Oklahoma, would be a great deal more advanced in basic human rights than we are. I am embarrassed by the general citizenship in Oklahoma, but even more so for those who are Gay that have done absolutely nothing to make their voice heard.


  • , 2010-04-07 11:35:09

    I’m not part of the Gay Community, but I am an African American woman (single mom) not living off the state. And I teach my daughter that if God wanted us all to be the same the World be a damn dull place to live in. This young mans story touched my heart so much. And to think the people sworn to protect can’t do that one simple acts pisses me off. He is in my prayers tonight and for always. If he wants a family he has one in the Distict Of Columbia.


  • , 2010-04-07 15:39:05

    "The state Senate passed a bill that prohibits local and state law enforcement agencies from sharing information about hate crimes with federal officials if the state of Oklahoma did not recognize it has a hate crime." Since WHEN can State law override Federal?? NEVER! It’s UNCONSTITUTIONAL! And what BS, this bass-ackwards Repugnican [sic] thinks the First Amendment protects hate crimes!


  • , 2010-04-10 02:13:25

    this poor guy i feel your pain it has happend 2 me before but not this bad. you just have to be strong through this.


  • , 2010-04-14 18:46:00

    First of all I would like you to know I am sorry this Gay Bashing happend to you. Now is our time (fellow GLBT community)not to stand by and brush this crime away without our acknowledgement of the crime and then talk about this because we are people of Gay united strength . Let this start today with me! We will not be silent. I am, Wesley Schultz , a Wilton Manors Community member and we care about our safety and yours.


  • , 2012-02-09 08:35:05

    So many of you know, it was proven that Phillip Nelson did NOT committ fraud or lie about the situation.For it IS TRUE! If this was an act if fraud, then why is the case still open? I seen him in person when this occured. He was messed up for a while, causing him to drop his classes. Educate before judging. P.s. he fights for gay rights and is in the lgbt community standing for a declaration, while he fulfills his dreams. It made hin stronger. Grow up people. WE KNOW THE TRUTH AND THE SAD THING IS THIS IS LEFT OPEN.


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