Queer: July 2003 Archives

Othniel "Niel" Boaz Askew
[Photo by Victor Carnuccio]

The story about Askew most people won't hear is in the Gay City News.

Emanuel Xavier is a gay poet and author who frequented many of the same nightclubs as Askew did back in the 1990s. This past December, Davis honored Xavier and other LGBT activists at the Councilmember’s Holiday Pride event at Long Island University. According to Xavier, around 1995, he and [Clifford Nass, Askew's roommate at the time] dated for several months, well before Askew’s 1996 arrest.

During his relationship with Nass, Xavier spent a considerable amount of time in the West 43rd Street apartment.

He recalled Askew as "an incredibly sweet person," saying that "the media is portraying him as a monster and he wasn’t one despite committing such an inhumane act."

. . . .

Despite Xavier positive recollections about Askew, he also recalled signs of a troubled side to the man.

"He had issues with being comfortable within his own skin," Xavier said. "He was concerned about his image. We often joked about how he was so white. In connecting with me as a person of color, I think he was trying to be comfortable with himself and always complimented me on being an out artist who was proud of who I was."

The two men maintained a casual acquaintance, running into each other occasionally at gay events.

"I ran into him on and off for the last several years," Xavier said. "The last time I saw him was last year at the Roxy. He looked really good."

Like [Victor Carnuccio, a friend of Askew's who had photographed him in 1992], Xavier noted that Askew had bulked up, with a noticeably muscular physique.

"It was a very brief conversation. He told me about going into politics," said Xavier. "When I read about Councilmember Davis threatening to out him it was so surprising because he was already so out and on the scene."

What's it all mean? I suspect there are more tales to be heard before this story dies.

We're free now, and some of us just won't shut up.

Is the story going to be "Wacko AIDS homo slays saintly populist in hallowed hall?" Or will it be, Homophobia helped to destroy two lives - again?"

Interesting developments available from the media today:

Askew's police record, supposedly sealed, was somehow made know to Davis.
Since his record was (supposedly) sealed, Askew purchased a gun legally .
The gun Askew used to kill Davis was bought in North Carolina.
Askew and Davis were allowed to skip the metal detectors.
The little girls with tiaras, there for a presentation, got screened.
"Court records" (still officially sealed) indicate Askew was HIV-positive.
Askew had once planned a modelling career - apparently with good reason.
Askew was beautiful.
His former lawyer describes Askew as "a charmer."
Askew may have thought the charming Davis had been flirting with him.

But see these commercial sites for the complete (sometimes hysterical) news stories:
Daily News

[updated information added to the bottom of this post]

Only this time "cherchez l'homme" might be a more useful suggestion.

Neither James E. Davis (41) nor Othiel Boaz Askew (31) had ever married. Both were described as bright, attractive, smart dressers, ambitious, real talkers - and at least a little kooky.

Today the NYTimes capsule story on Askew reveals something missing so far from other accounts of yesterday's tragedy.

"The councilman [Davis] began to think of himself as something of a mentor to him," said Amyre Loomis, who was Mr. Davis's spokeswoman. Ms. Loomis said Mr. Askew had asked Mr. Davis to write a letter for him saying that Mr. Askew had a promising future in public service.

But according to a law enforcement official, Mr. Askew gave a very different version of events when he called in a complaint to the F.B.I. against Mr. Davis yesterday, claiming that Mr. Davis had threatened him.

James Margolin, a spokesman for the F.B.I.'s New York office, said yesterday: "Late this morning, a caller who identified himself as Askew alleged that he was the victim of harassment by Councilman Davis in connection with the upcoming primary election. He expressed no intention to cause harm to Councilman Davis."

According to the complaint, Mr. Askew and Mr. Davis took a walk together earlier this month through Fort Greene Park, and the councilman said he had done a background check on Mr. Askew that he claimed revealed that he was gay and that the information might be exposed in the race. Mr. Askew considered this a threat, the law enforcement official said.

Ooops! This just in.

Now NY1 tells us a little more.

Police said [Askew had] been arrested in the past, convicted of harassment in 1996 after hitting his live-in boyfriend with a hammer in a domestic dispute and leaving him bruised and bleeding. Askew was also charged in 1999 with stealing a leather bag from another male friend. Both incidents were in Manhattan.

[undocumented photo from the 2002 exhibition at the London club Queer Nation]

"QUEERS READ THIS!" was anonymously distributed during New York's "Pride" weekend in 1990 as a tabloid piece with wonderful bold graphics. It became a manifesto. It reads as well today.

This is just one section of many:


Being queer is not about a right to privacy; it is about the freedom to be public, to just be who we are. It means everyday fighting oppression; homophobia, racism, misogyny, the bigotry of religious hypocrites and our own self-hatred. (We have been carefully taught to hate ourselves.) And now of course it means fighting a virus as well, and all those homo-haters who are using AIDS to wipe us off the face of the earth. Being queer means leading a different sort of life. It's not about the mainstream, profit-margins, patriotism, patriarchy or being assimilated. It's not about executive directors, privilege and elitism. It's about being on the margins, defining ourselves; it's about gender- fuck and secrets, what's beneath the belt and deep inside the heart; it's about the night. Being queer is "grass roots" because we know that everyone of us, every body, every cunt, every heart and ass and dick is a world of pleasure waiting to be explored. Everyone of us is a world of infinite possibility. We are an army because we have to be. We are an army because we are so powerful. (We have so much to fight for; we are the most precious of endangered species.) And we are an army of lovers because it is we who know what love is. Desire and lust, too. We invented them. We come out of the closet, face the rejection of society, face firing squads, just to love each other! Every time we fuck, we win. We must fight for ourselves (no one else is going to do it) and if in that process we bring greater freedom to the world at large then great. (We've given so much to that world: democracy, all the arts, the concepts of love, philosophy and the soul, to name just a few gifts from our ancient Greek Dykes, Fags.) Let's make every space a Lesbian and Gay space. Every street a part of our sexual geography. A city of yearning and then total satisfaction. A city and a country where we can be safe and free and more. We must look at our lives and see what's best in them, see what is queer and what is straight and let that straight chaff fall away! Remember there is so, so little time. And I want to be a lover of each and every one of you. Next year, we march naked.

[Butch Femme Couples, circa 1920, donated to the New York Lesbian & Gay Community Services Center by Barbara Warren and Stephanie Grant]

John Rechy suggests in a Commentary piece in Sunday's LATimes that gratitude may not be the appropriate response to the decision in Lawrence and Garner vs. the State of Texas.

Without in any way belittling the decency of the justices in their brave opinion, some might view the decision as a vastly imperfect apology for the many lives devastated by cruel laws that made possible the myriad humiliations of gay people, the verbal assaults and screams of "faggot!" — the muggings, the suicides, the murders — all occurring even during this time of victory. The flagrant dissent by Justice Antonin Scalia and two of his colleagues — in an effort to uphold the Texas law — will help to keep fertile the atmosphere of hatred that allowed three men to mangle Trevor Broudy in West Hollywood and allowed Matthew Shepherd to be butchered in Wyoming.
No, we cannot be grateful.

Rechy writes only about the modern American experience,* but the horror is on a much larger scale than that. Violence against perceived sexual and behavioral deviation, never bounded by geography or time, continues today and beyond today, here and everywhere.

Instead of showing gratitude, we should be demanding reparations, and, since millions, even billions, of queers who have been crippled physically and psychologically for millenia by the assaults of a dumb, blind, malicious and implacable sexual establishment are now dead, lost or beyond recovery, the blood money and the attention should go to endow lively support centers for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and transexual youth at risk everywhere, like New York's Y.E.S. No groups need more help and no groups can do more to repair us right here and around the world, now and maybe forever.


* One story excerpted from the LATimes piece:

In 1973, California finally repealed its anti-sodomy laws. But still, in 1977, driving home from UCLA in the early evening, I saw muggers fleeing from the man they had assaulted on the street. I drove the bleeding man to the police station so that a squad car would be sent to the area. The bruised man — clearly gay — was returning home with groceries when attacked. At the station, the sergeant studied him after I had recounted what I had seen, and asked him, "What did you try to do with those guys?"

[thanks to Barry]

This page is an archive of entries in the Queer category from July 2003.

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