Thursday, June 6, 1996
Issue No. 303

Michael Kealy

p. 19.

Gays isolate hookers, activist says

"The gay community needs to accept responsibility for pushing 'the stroll' to the other side of Jarvis," said a visibly angry representative of the Sex Workers Alliance of Toronto at a press conference following the murder of three prostitutes.

Anatasia Kuzyk said May 23 that Homewood Avenue is much more isolated than the stretch of Maitland between Church and Jarvis streets where prostitutes used to ply their trade.

The bodies of Shawn (Junior) Keegan, a transvestite prostitute, and Deanna (born Thomas) Wilkinson, a transsexual prostitute, were found on Victoria Day, one in a parking lot stairwell at 40 Homewood, the other a few metres away in a laneway.

Kyzyk said that gay community is responsible for pushing prostitutes away from safer work areas like Maitland St.

Kyzyk also blasted the media for disclosing murder victim Shawn Keegan's HIV-positive status: "Now some sicko might decide he is going to go out and clean up the streets."

Others at the press conference were quick to label the slayings as homophobic acts. Wendy Snelgrove, co-chair of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Youth Line said, "Society has created a climate where it is perfectly acceptable and normal to hate lesbian, gay and transgendered people, sex trade workers and street youth." And regarding the victims, she said, "They were hated and reviled by society as freaks."

Toronto City Councillor Kyle Rae also did not dismiss the homophobic serial-killer idea, saying, "You can't ignore that the individual who shot these prostitutes came into a specific neighbourhood, one that is known to offer transvestite or transsexual prostitutes."

A third prostitute, Brenda Ludgate, was found dead in a King and Bathurst parking lot. Police say that all three were shot in the head by the same gun. But Ludgate was not a transvestite and wasn't known to be a lesbian, facts that were downplayed at the conference.

Mayor Barbara Hall said that "incidents like this underlie the need for amendments to the human rights legislation [Bill C-33]." But she pointed out: "There are other issues, ones of services available, options in terms of finding jobs, the availability of guns, and issues of people that society considers outlaws."

Karen Baldwin, co-ordinator of the 519 Church Street Community Centre''s Victim Assistance program said that before hearing about the killing of Ludgate, she too interpreted the murders as being homophobic in nature.

In her prepared statement, Baldwin reported that the program has received 51 reports of anti-gay and -lesbian violence in the first five months of 1996 (three times the number reported in the same period of 1995).

Baldwin also said that two days after the triple homicide, the hotline received a call from someone who was harassed by a van-load of men laughing and jeering about the murders. They were reported to have said, "There's going to be more."

Police representatives were not present. Alison Kemper, executive director of The 519 said, "The press conference was called to address questions from mainstream media about street youth. It was not about criminal aspects of the case, so the police were not invited."

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Created: May 19, 1997
Last modified: May 19, 1997

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