can and do happen. However, like any other crime, there will
always be false accusations. When a member of the gay and bisexual
community comes forward to report an attack and their story turns
out to be false this reflects negatively on the whole community -
not just the individual. There are inevitable feelings of betrayal,
anger, and concern that in future real victims will not receive the
attention they deserve. It's a case of the lesbian who cried
The most recent hoax allegation to receive media attention is
the case of Charlie
Rogers, the lesbian from Nebraska who claimed that three masked
men broke into her home in the early hours of 22 July, bound her
with zip ties, and carved malicious words into her skin as well as
vandalising her basement and attempting to set her house alight.
Rogers' identity was initially kept secret during the investigation
but, in response to growing scepticism from the public, she came
forward to refute suggestions that her story was anything less than
true (scroll down for video).
Lincoln's LGBT community
responded swiftly to news of the attack, rallying together to
hold candlelight vigils and raise money in Rogers' support. However
detectives began to notice inconsistencies within Rogers'
statement. A warrant was put out for her arrest and Rogers was
charged with false reporting, to which she pled
not guilty. Despite substantial contradictions between the
evidence and her allegations she maintains that an attack
Rogers is not the first gay woman to be accused of staging a
hate crime. According to Pink Paper, "Doubts were raised about the
small business owner's case because several alleged hate crimes
against lesbians have recently been found to be hoaxes."
Earlier this year, Alexandra Pennell, a student studying in
Connecticut, told police that she was receiving threatening notes
attacking her for being a lesbian. She was discovered by
surveillance video to be
writing the notes herself. Pennell has been expelled from
Central Connecticut State University and has been banned from
attending any state university for five years. She also faces
charges of fabricating evidence, lying to police, filing a false
police report and making a false statement to police.
In Colorado, a
lesbian couple pled guilty to an accusation of false reporting
in June. Aimee Whitchurch and Christel Conklin had told detectives
that someone had spray-painted "kill the gays" on their garage door
and left a noose on their doorstep.
In 2010, three high school students were arrested in Kentucky
for the attempted murder of their friend Cheyenne Williams.
Williams alleged that her classmates almost pushed her off a cliff.
However, the attorneys of the accused maintained that it was a
staged performance and
Williams a willing participant. The fact that Williams recorded
the incident on her mobile phone and laughed throughout the entire
ordeal led the judge to dismiss all charges against the girls, as
there was not enough evidence to condemn them.
The most recent questionable story to catch public attention is
that concerning eighteen-year-old Taylor Connor, who is alleged to
have committed suicide over anonymous messages of hate received by
her on social networking site Tumblr. Connor's suicide note was
posted by an individual who spoke of the teenager as "her best
friend, [her] whole world, [her] lesbian lover". The note was
called out as a hoax, as a quick Google of 'Taylor Connor'
returns no results. It is very strange that a death motivated by
such strange circumstances would be ignored by the media -
especially when, as the more cynically-minded Tumblr users have
pointed out, there is a very easy option to turn anonymous messages
Perhaps all of these individuals set out with good intentions.
Perhaps they wished to promote awareness and bring together their
respective communities. After all, Alexandra Pennell addressed an
anti-hate rally in a speech about the notes she was receiving. The
events of Cheyenne William's case took place on Day of Silence, a national
youth-run effort to protest the actual silencing of LGBT people due
to harassment, bias and abuse in schools. Taylor Connor's
fake suicide note includes instructions to "show them this and
remind them what words can do".
Charlie Rogers too might have martyred herself with good
intentions; four days before she is alleged to have staged the
posted the following message on her Facebook page:
"So maybe I am too idealistic, but I believe way deep inside me
that we can make things better for everyone. I will be a catalyst.
I will do what it takes. I will. Watch me."
If these women set out to prove that hate crimes actually do
occur, they seem to have done just the opposite. What they have
succeeded in is making lesbians look crazy and deceitful. Faking a
suicide is a serious issue, and faking a hate crime is a serious
issue too. These kinds of 'hoaxes' damage the credibility of real
survivors and real sufferers.
What is important to take away from these cases, however, is the
fact that our community has such a wealth of empathy and support.
We are so quick to provide support and trust to those who deserve
it, as well as those who perhaps don't. Let's hope we continue to
be strong in the face of real adversity, and maybe one day that
adversity will cease to exist.
Watch the video of Charlie Rogers addressing her