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Hate Crimes Against LGBTQ Americans Increased In 2010, Report Shows

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Relatives of Angie Zapata, a transgender woman who beaten to death with a fire extinguisher in 2008, react in court as the district attorney makes his closing arguments. LGBTQ Advocates say violent hate crimes targeting transwomen are on the riese | AP

In Ohio, they threw bottles and bricks. In California, they carved words into flesh. In Michigan, they went after victims where they worked.

Across the country, episodes of violence against gay Americans grew in number.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs released a report last week detailing a startling uptick in violent hate crimes against lesbian, gay and transgender people in 2010, including a sharp rise in hate-related murders.

“This increase in murders signals a pattern of severe, ongoing violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities,” Jake Finney from L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center in Los Angeles, Calif., said in the report.

The 79-page document includes data compiled by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs in New York from more than a dozen organizations in states across the country.

The catalogue of violence includes several gruesome assaults, from the bathroom mutilation of a transgendered Cal State Long Beach student who had the word "It" carved into his chest, to the beating death of a New York toddler "perceived to be too feminine" by his mother's boyfriend.

An second document released by the group describes the slayings in detail. Among them:

In March, a 29-year-old transgender woman Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar was discovered strangled to death in her home in Glendale, Queens, with bleach poured over her body; in September, 26-year-old Calvin Street and a friend were shot and killed after attending a Black Gay Pride event in Atlanta; in October, 31-year-old transgendered woman Stacey Blahnik Lee, was found strangled to death with a pillowcase over her head in her apartment in California; and in November, 18-year-old Joshua Wilkerson was found burned and bludgeoned in rural Texas.

All appeared to have been targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but because bias laws vary by state, many of the incidents compiled by the coalition were not listed as hate crimes by police.

Although the federal government passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, most states still lack laws protecting LGBTQ individuals from crimes outside federal jurisdiction. Only 31 states and the District of Columbia have laws specifically designating sexual orientation-based hate crimes, and only 12 in addition to Washington, D.C. have laws specific to trans-people, according to an unreleased report by the Human Rights Campaign obtained by The Huffington Post.

The number of LGBTQ hate crime killings rose sharply in 2007, and has remained elevated since then, peaking in 2008 and again in 2010. Like other violent crime, hate crimes against gays and lesbians appear most common in the summer, the study reported.

Transgendered women and people of color were the most common targets of hate violence -- and the most likely to die of it, the study found. Milwaukee sex worker Chanel Larkin was shot three times in the head last May after a john discovered she was transgendered. The coalition pointed to similar slayings across the county and in Puerto Rico.

"I think there's a multiplying effect there," Ty Cobb, legislative council for the HRC, told The Huffington Post. "The trans community is smaller, less understood and less known. When you add a layer of race on that, that makes someone different, and hate crimes are motivated by people who don’t like difference."

Several agencies also noted an increase in violent incidents reported by transgendered immigrants from Latin America, who appear to be seeking refuge in the United States in growing numbers.

"Transgender individuals and people of color face multiple forms of discrimination on the basis of race, gender identity and other factors, which can make them more vulnerable to severe violence,” Maria Carolina Morales from Community United Against Violence in San Francisco, Calif., said in a press release. “Additionally, the general public, law enforcement and the media may be less inclined to address, prevent and respond to violence against these communities, making this violence seem invisible and ignored.”

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