Colle Carpenter speaks out against hate crimes on campus
May 13, 2010
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On April 15, transgender graduate student Colle Carpenter, 27, was reported attacked with a weapon at Cal State Long Beach.
Using what police suspect to be an X-Acto knife, the attacker reportedly slashed Carpenter’s chest several times and carved the word “it” into his chest.
“After my attack, an instructor drove me to the hospital,” Carpenter said. “He was the one who reported [the attack]. It was while I was at the hospital that two detectives called this a hate crime.”
According to the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a hate crime or bias-motivated crime occurs when the perpetrator of the crime intentionally selects the victim because of their membership in a certain group.
The next day, University Police Detective Johnny Leyva went to Carpenter’s home and interviewed him about the reported attack.
“People in the trans-community aren’t very trusting, but Leyva [has] proved himself,” Carpenter said. “He’s been awesome. Leyva’s main focus was to keep my name out of this and [the University Police] wanted to work with me immediately.”
Carpenter then said that he left town for the weekend to recover and distance himself from the area. On April 20, Carpenter met with school officials to develop a sketch of the attacker.
“The sketch can only do so much and it isn’t released immediately,” Carpenter said about the suspect sketching process. “[The sketch] is sent out and can’t be released until I approve it.”
The sketch came back to CSULB on April 22 and was released April 23.
Also on April 22, Carpenter met with CSULB President F. King Alexander to discuss what actions to take regarding the release of Carpenter’s name to the media.
“They met my wishes to remain anonymous,” Carpenter said. “When I released my name, I wanted control over it.”
On April 28, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender news website Edgeboston.com released a story with quotes from Carpenter, who at the time was quoted anonymously.
“The queer/trans(gender) community is small and guarded, so it’s easy to call the right people,” Carpenter said about how Edge found him. “Edge contacted a friend of mine — this was when everybody was making media demands. I wanted it anonymous and it ran anonymous. That’s why I talked.”
The Daily 49er reported that Alexander addressed the inquiries about Carpenter’s identity during the Associate Students Inc. April 28 meeting.
“We have to respect the rights and wishes of the victim while still protecting the campus as much as possible,” Alexander said.
After the Daily 49er posted its original story of the attack online, comments and rumors of a hoax and self-inflicted wounds surrounded the attack.
“People who say this is a hoax have no idea what’s really going on,” Carpenter said. “There’s a handful of idiots that falsify information or say that this was a conspiracy of the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
“I paid $10,000 to repair the damage to my chest. It’s going to scar and it’s going to scar bad,” Carpenter said. “I don’t have medical insurance, so I don’t need to accrue thousands in medical bills. My chest surgery came out of my own pocket.”
Other rumors appeared based on the information in the April 23 press release, where it said “the suspect called the student by his first name, and the student responded.”
In response, Carpenter said he is involved in several educational guest speaker series at various Southern California colleges, where he discusses transgender culture.
“I’ve spoken to about 10, 000 students,” Carpenter said. “We think that’s how he knew me.”
Since that time, several groups have complained that CSULB attempted to cover up the attack by delaying the release of information to the media.
“If we have a circumstance where we believe campus members are in danger we do an immediate alert,” said Toni Beron, associate vice president of university relations.
According to the April 23 CSULB press release, “University Police strongly believe this was an isolated incident and that there is no additional threat to the campus community.”
Beron reported to the Daily 49er, “We were not able to release anything until the victim said this was what the attacker looked like,” Beron said. “His availability was definitely a factor.”
Because the attack is under an open investigation, few details can be released to the media, Beron said.
Vice President of Administration and Finance Mary Stephens addressed the issue of confidentiality regarding the withholding of Carpenter’s name during the April 28 ASI meeting.
“I want to make sure everyone is assured that from the moment we were made aware of this incident, we have been on it and pursuing it fully,” Stephens said. “We like to be responsive and patient with the victim, and I realize that on the outside it might look different but we are trying to be as respectful as possible.”
The Daily 49er reported on April 29 that Carpenter spoke about his experience at CSULB’s biannual “Take Back the Night” rally.
“I’ve been terrified to come back to campus,” Carpenter said at the rally. “Know that what happened to me didn’t just happen to me. It happened to the entire community.”
Carpenter described his feelings toward the attack and the effect of the word “it” on him.
“ ‘It’ is such a derogatory term,” he said. “It takes away a person’s humanity. It takes away their personhood. It makes them less than human.”
Carpenter emphasized that the attack did not deter him from returning to class.
“I already have to be a tranny and a cripple,” Carpenter said. “I don’t have to be a victim.”
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation website, in their most recent hate crime statistics there were 23 hate crimes occurred in Long Beach in 2008. Eight of those crimes were sexual identity hate crimes, which is the second highest, next to race-related hate crimes with nine reported incidents.