NEWPORT — Following the attack of a transgender woman named Lauren in Agate Beach State Park on Aug. 24, local supporters of the woman planned a rally outside Newport City Hall to demonstrate against transphobic beliefs.
The rally, which organizers titled Hate Has No Home Here, drew dozens of supporters from all over the county.
“Too often, women like Lauren live in the shadows, invisible,” said Pastor Bob Barrett from a letter he and other local clergy members wrote and signed. “We say that we see you, and you are not alone.”
Lauren was attacked by Fred Joseph Costanza, 37, of Blackfoot, Idaho. A Newport Police Department report written after the attack identifies Costanza as an unemployed man who is a repeat offender of multiple crimes.
After receiving medical treatment for her injuries at a hospital in Portland, Lauren came back to the coast and was at the protest on Saturday. In her address to those gathered outside Newport City Hall, she said she, like many people, learned to love others conditionally. “By trying to see others in that unconditional light and seeing myself in that unconditional light, it shifted a lot of things,” Lauren said. “When I started accepting myself, all of the sudden parts of myself started to come out and show themselves, where before they weren’t really safe to come out.”
Her attack, she said, spurred overwhelming support from for her and the greater LGBTQ community.
“This guy showed me his reality, and it only lasted for a few minutes — his very angry and hateful reality,” Lauren said. “It’s this brief little snapshot. It’s really apparent to me the power of love and positivity and acceptance, and even in the face of hate, you respond to hate with love.”
Lauren was joined by Barrett, Rep. David Gomberg (D-10th District), fellow transgender woman Bethany Howe and other local clergy members, like Bret Pinder, pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Toledo. While several people spoke at the rally in support of LGBTQ rights, Gomberg wrapped it up as one of the last speakers and spoke about the importance of standing up for those who are targeted and marginalized.
“An attack on any woman is an assault on every woman and every single one of us,” Gomberg said to the crowd. “There are more bias and hate crimes being reported now than ever before, so we have our work cut out for us. We recognize the challenges, and we do what is necessary to address those challenges.”
According to The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, stigma about people who identify as LGBTQ leads to higher rates of early death, mood disorders, suicide and other mental health-related issues. A 2014 study cited by the foundation found that LGBTQ people who live in communities where stigma abounds die an average of 12 years earlier than their counterparts in less prejudiced communities.
Several other studies point to greater prevalence of mental health problems and suicide in LGBTQ people who experience stigma and discrimination. Another 2015 study found transgender adults who live in LGBTQ-affirming environments are less likely to attempt suicide.