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Opinion: In Stan's Blood

Fri 13 Apr 2007 In: Comment

The late Stanley Waipouri As Danny Delamere has already done an excellent job on talking about what Stan Waipouri's death meant to his friends and whanau in Palmerston North, I want to focus on the wider issues involved. To recap, in late December 2006, Stan died in his flat in Palmerston North, after what seemed to be an aggravated assault, which included facial disfigurement and what seemed to be partial attempted castration. His alleged attackers, Gilling and Arnupp, are currently in custody awaiting trial. Stan never had an easy life. Most of it was spent battling the bottle, which sometimes had the upper hand, sometimes not. However, while he could be rowdy drunk sometimes, he also committed himself to supporting other gay men and IV drug users in his adopted city through running Malgra's men's coffee night for a number of years, and volunteering at the local needle exchange, as well as his involvement with the Salvation Army. Sam didn't have all that stable a work history, but he was a good, friendly bloke to know, and like his other mates, I mourn his untimely death. What caused Stan's death? At present, it looks like the two young men attacked him. Why? Given the grisly attempted castration, it seems possible that he may have been a victim of homophobic hate crime, although Arnupp and Gilling will not be tried until June, and any other crime scene details may well be sub judice. It corresponds to one recorded court case in a past piece (‘Antigay Hate Crimes in New Zealand: 1990-2001'). Are there any other clues as to Arnupp and Gilling's motivations? Both men had 'form'- prior criminal records for violent assaults on others, and reportedly, they were intoxicated when the police apprehended them on the roof of the block of flats where Stan and his possible assailants lived. However, anecdotal reports do not indicate what form of intoxication it was, whether from alcohol, cannabis or P/crystal meth. Any of the above may have contributed to Arnupp and Gilling's state of mind if they were Stan's assailants. There's a wider context to this whole tragedy, though. I want to make it clear that I do not regard Stan's possible killers as victims of circumstance. However, I suspect their backgrounds were probably something like this - abusive dysfunctional families, early educational exit, intermittent employment history, undiagnosed substance abuse problems, involvement in criminal networks, and resultant social exclusion. However constricted the moral choices that the perpetrators made, though, they are accountable for Stan's murder, and deserve the full penalty of law- a life sentence, and no defence counsel nonsense about "extenuating circumstances" like so-called "homophobic defence panic" should be permissible in court. If Stan made a pass at one of them, so what? That's no reason to brutally attack him and mutilate his corpse. Antirape feminists have insured that women's past consensual sexual history is irrelevant to rape trials, and we need to raise community and public consciousness around similar issues related to homophobic violence. And for that matter, why have our communities allowed this situation to continue? Compared to other LGBT issues, why is it that homophobic violence and its prevention are subject to such apathy? Why is it that Stan's death didn't trigger the sort of rage and anger that anti-rape feminist protestors felt at the ugly police culture that fuelled Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum's rape convictions, and discourages women from reporting sexual violation? Where are our anti-violence prevention groups? Where is New Zealand research into the incidence and frequency of homophobic hate crime? I wish we were as collectively passionate and angry as those women at what happens to members of our communities who are injured or die from homophobic violence. But homophobia isn't the only issue involved here. Stan's judgement might have been impaired by alcohol, which might have affected his ability to resist the brutal attack that took his life. Okay, so where are our national LGBT/takatapui substance abuse prevention networks? Where are our addiction specialists and social workers with expertise in this field? Why weren't such services available to help Stan when he needed them? Gay men need to stop living in a DINK paradise fantasy world. Some of us do experience severely constrained life opportunities from institutional racism, economic inequality and savage slashbacks in central government social services, or overburdened local community groups that might have helped, or our own collective failure to do something about problems like LGBT substance abuse or homophobic violence. In Stan's case, that combination of factors ultimately killed him, as it has done to too many others. Murder is murder, and it should be punished as such, carrying a ten-year sentence of imprisonment, with no nonsense about 'mitigating' factors resulting in the diminished charge of 'manslaughter.' Stan Waipouri deserves justice. Let us hope that his angry ghost finds it. Recommended: David Byrne: Social Exclusion: Maidenhead: Open University Press: 2003. Doug Janoff: Pink Blood: Homophobic Violence in Canada: Toronto: University of Toronto Press: 2005. Greg Herek and Kevin Berrill: Hate Crimes: Confronting Violence Against Lesbians and Gay Men: Newbury Park: Sage: 1992. Derek McGhee: Intolerant Britain: Hate, Citizenship and Difference: Maidenhead: Open University Press: 2005. Urbis Kes Young: "You Shouldn't Have to Hide": A Report on Homophobic Hostilities and Violence Against Gay Men and Lesbians in New South Wales: Sydney: Crime Prevention Division, Attorney Generals Department/Network of Government Agencies: 2003: Craig Young - 13th April 2007    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Friday, 13th April 2007 - 12:00pm

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