Lesbians’ Home Set On Fire, World Still Crazy, Mean

This week, a lesbian couple from Monroe County, Tennesee had their house burned down. After “QUEERS” was spray-painted on the side of their garage. This was after months of a homophobic neighbor constantly harassing them and threatening to burn down their house, which would have been completely unconscionable all on its own even without someone ACTUALLY BURNING DOWN THEIR HOUSE. But that happened. Carol Ann and Laura Strutte are now reduced to asking strangers for donations to make it through daily life, like clothes and dog food. In the face of all this, they are grateful that at least their daughter wasn’t immolated inside a burning house because she was lucky enough to be too sick to housesit for them. (@care2)

This same week, we find the story of a lesbian mom whose sperm donor stalked her and her child, costing her and her partner over $60,000 in legal fees which, as she points out, could have been her child’s education. The existing child and family laws don’t address a family situation like hers, and now she has to allow the biological father of her son regular visitation rights, and spend them at home biting her nails hoping that he doesn’t flee with the child to Brazil. Because she signed family papers while still drugged after her c-section, she’s bound to the biological father by the same agreements that are meant to protect straight women from their partners turning into deadbeat dads. “The visitations have been psychologically confusing for her son, according to Karen. Daniel showers him with material gifts and tells the boy he shouldn’t call Karen’s partner ‘mommy.’”(@abcnews)

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We have no commentary or analysis for either of these stories, other than to marvel at how really rudimentary parts of human life, like HAVING A FAMILY or OWNING A HOME, are still huge minefields for queer people everywhere, and regardless of whatever hard-won baby steps we might make on marriage equality or Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, we can’t even be guaranteed basic things like living in the same house from one day to the next without someone f*cking burning it to the ground, and that sucks. It’s true that straight people aren’t guaranteed an easy ride either, but at least when something goes wrong for them they don’t have the added indignity of someone spraypainting QUEERS on their shit. Living like this is exhausting and wears us down psychologically and emotionally until we can’t even write articles about it in an intelligent or meaningful way. Jesus Christ, rest of the world, wha the f*ck did we ever do to you?

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Senior Editor and the editor who presides over books and news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

Rachel has written 749 articles for us.

66 Comments

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    Gah. Houses are being burnt down and the Pope is visiting Britain (where I live.) I am not having a very queer week.

    P.S Immolate actually means to sacrifice, not burn.I am the Grammar/Spelling Nazi, sorry!

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      Not to be a vocab-nerd, but according to Webster immolate can mean to sacrifice or to destroy(often by fire). So I think “destroyed inside a burning house” is fine.

      Honestly though I’m embarrassed that I’m sitting here commenting when I should be sending all of my shit to this family.

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    This is so horrible. And I feel so naive and like a fool to have thought that we were beyond this kind of thing. Wishful thinking? Ugh, I just don’t understand hating someone so much that you’d be willing to put their lives at risk. …I don’t even want to think about the possibility that they would have actually been happy with an outcome like that. It’s disgusting and scary and I kind feel icky about human beings right now. *Joins hug party* :(

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      ..but you have a better chance then me here in Australia! (now I feel bad for laughing…stupid evil f*cking f*ckwits ruining everything..thank god for kittens!)

      But seriously, I cant believe that in 2010 people are still having to go through shit like this on a daily basis. Surely people are beyond this and have better things to do with their time, you know like help an old lady cross the bloody road!!

      angry now…. 1 more vote for icecream and hugs!

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    i was reading this to my friend, and she responded “someone should spray paint ‘heterosexual’ on their house and burn it down.”

    i know violence isn’t the answer, but i can’t deny that i sometimes want to give people a dose of their own medicine.

    overall, this makes me sad, and i, like everyone else, also need a hug. not only does the world continue to fuck us over, but who does that to a KID!?! i would lose my shit if the law required my goddaughter to see her father (not that he cares enough to bother). what happened to protecting the kids? they didn’t do anything to anyone and have no power to protect themselves…

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        My comment comes across a little tactless. Let me try this again. I assumed that the sperm donor was straight until I read the ABC News link. In the context of Rachel’s article being about a “lesbian mom”, I noticed the omission. Nothing more, nothing less.

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          I’m not arguing for pointing out the mother’s sexual orientation or that of the father. Of course it’s not necessary. I do find it odd when one is mentioned to the exclusion of the other though. I meant it as an observation and I really don’t want to get hung up on semantics. I mean, I believe we both wholeheartedly agree that these incidents are gut-wrenching and unforgivable.

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          The fact that the childrens’ mothers were lesbians is absolutely important to the story, as the fact that they are from a marginalized group makes it that much worse. I really, really doubt this would be happening to children fathered via a sperm donor to a hetero couple.

          The sperm donor’s own sexual identity doesn’t enter into it at ALL.

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          Again, that’s not really my point. The actual events and the likelihood of something similar happening to a heteroseuxal couple, I agree with you. I was simply alluding to how the story was framed in this post. But I will argue that the donor’s sexual orientation may be relevant now that you mention it. It’s not like he can legally adopt himself. The fact that as a gay man he’s manipulating laws that benefit heterosexual couples also says something about his character, or lack of it rather. But I may be reading too much into the situation. In any event, my initial comment wasn’t a criticism as much as an observation given the preceding story was about a hate crime.

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      The sperm donor was also male. Perhaps that should go without saying, but it’s more relevant than him being gay, male privilege and all.

      It’s less likely this would happen to a heterogamous* couple. But probably as likely to have happened to a single woman regardless of her sexual orientation.

      *I’m using new terminology that’s less exclusive of bisexuals in describing the relationship rather than the participant’s sexual orientation. Maybe it’s dumb though. IDK.

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        Oooh, I like heterogamous. Though I can see it getting confusing with bigamous and polygamous, since neither of those imply anything about the gender composition of the relationship. Though really, straight and gay can cause plenty of confusion too.

        So yes! Hetero- and homogamous should catch on.

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    Oh, gawd. This is horrific. And my heart also hurts for you, comeonsuperstar and you, Dani, and for all the rest of you/us who face serious scary looming likely consequences by coming out (I don’t think my adjectives are helping here). I have been mind-bogglingly lucky in that department, and have never known that fear, not directly. UGH! I want to help!! How the hell can I help? I’m totally in on the hug party. Fluffy warm kitten hugs. Strong, breath-squeezing, chest-crushing-but-in-a-good-way hugs.

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    I wish I could give Karen, Carol and Laura a hug. There’s enough natural shit tearing up people’s lives, why or how people so ferociously and senselessly contribute to one another’s distress and anguish just baffles me.

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    Nearly 20 years ago, a similar anti-gay act…a molotov cocktail thrown into the home of a gay man and lesbian…inspired the Lesbian Avengers fire-eating and chant, “The fire will not consume us – we take it and make it our own.” So much progress and yet so much violence remains. When things like this happen, it is a painful reminder of how far we still have to go.

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    These are important yet very horrible stories to read. Thank you for reporting them. My heart goes out to all 3 women. Unfortunately I know all too well this level of cruelty. I have been fired from my job when I was in my 20′s(here in California before anti-discrimination laws existed). And I had rocks thrown at my car when I had a rainbow sticker on it. I own a home and have 2 children (via sperm donation) with my partner so these stories hit home. Just reminds me that we still have so much more work to do. . .

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    So…I know a lot of us folks may not have a lot of dough floating around but I thought I’d post a link that I found for donating to help the Stutte’s pay to replace some of the things they lost.
    http://www.pflagmaryville.org/vonore-couple-needs-our-help

    Also someone created a facebook group (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=100789249984015&v=wall&ref=notif) where lots of people are posting messages of support for them too, which is really nice. It’s god to see that when horrible things are done, communities are willing to support each other.

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      Thanks for sharing our links. Our PFLAG Maryville chapter is helping to coordinate donation efforts for the Stuttes. I know the world seems like a really terrible place sometimes, but this small, conservative, mostly Republican community has stepped up in a major way to stop the hate. We’ve received generous donations of materials from all over the world and our money donations have surpassed $10,000! I’m sure the arsonist in this case would not be pleased to know how much is being done to support this family. I will make sure the Stuttes have access to this blog link so they can read your thoughts and comments.

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    Not that I believe my situation comes any where near this type of discrimination, I still thought it noteworthy.

    I come from a Christian background, raised by liberal Catholics turned Christians. While growing up I wanted to believe in it all but had a really hard time accepting that there was a holy, eternal force out there. Since coming out, it’s been hate crimes like what these women have been through that make it difficult for me to believe in a god who would equate homosexuality to murder, etc. in the magnitude of sin. I think I eventually became an atheist more due to the fact that many (by no means am I saying all) are still so hateful of our minority that they’ll blame war and death on homosexuality, and when I say many, I’m not even speaking the majority, but enough are out there to warrant concern.

    I recently got back into contact with an old friend of mine I haven’t seen in 8 years. We last saw each other in middle school before I moved away. Our great world of Facebook put us back in touch and while we both admitted to having crushes on each other back in middle school, he thought that was an open invitation to begin courting me for lack of a better word as it wasn’t mutual. Now Christianity saved his life as it brought him out of a life of drug and alcohol addictions. He relies on his relationship with Jesus to get him through each and every day.

    Now before I continue, I want to point out that I respect each and every person’s beliefs because that’s a key part of who they are. Even if you can’t respect my differing beliefs, I still expect you to respect the fact that my beliefs differ as a reciprocation of the respect I show you. I have nothing against Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, or anything for that matter. There’s something about each of those that has drawn many of us to them.

    But here’s where the problem lies. I tell said friend that I’m a lesbian and I can offer him friendship but I cannot offer him the type of relationship he hopes for. He then proceeds to 1. tell me how hot it would be for me to make out with another girl, 2. tell me his god damns my soul to an eternal life in hell with no salvation for my choice of lifestyle, and 3. wants to still date me anyways due to having these misguiding feelings of romantic desire for me in which he’d like to marry me and save my soul. When I proceed to tell him this could never be and that I’m firmly set in my beliefs, he proceeds to warn me that if I don’t change my homosexual ways, “bad things will happen” and you will forever be punished. Oh, and it’s such a shame that a girl as beautiful and smart as you should feel you can only attract women.

    I mean, seriously… Prejudice starts with a belief or an attitude. But how far does the line extend before it becomes the actual behavior of discrimination? And of course I know that religion is not the only catalyst for prejudice/discrimination againsts homosexuals, but what is it about these fundamental beliefs (whatever their source) that causes these people to believe it be okay to exterminate us or place that fear into us? Why should we be targeted as such? I have yet to see a single writer or commentor on AS show anything remotely violent to the heterosexual population. And why should I have to introduce myself as the lesbian when reconnecting with someone or meeting someone new so a guy doesn’t get his feel-bads hurt when he thinks “she’s attractive, she’s intelligent, and holy crap, I can talk to her like I can talk to one of my guy friends!”?

    I want to be me! And I want each and every one of you to be you! And I don’t want us to have to live in fear of some crazed person who could spray paint “QUEERS” on our property and burn our houses down with our children inside. I swear we’re one of the most docile minority groups, yet we’re still such a HUGE target!

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      So sad! The biggest problem with this guy’s logic is that he equates being saved from the behavior of drug and alcohol abuse to the inherent existence of homosexuality in some individuals. No one would ever say, “Hey I think that you being Asian/Black/White is sinful, so why don’t you just stop that silly lifestyle and go be a different race” would they?? Gayness is hard for people to wrap their minds around since it is a genetic trait that is manifested later in life for many people once they have hit sexual maturity. But you know what? So is baldness! You don’t see anyone condemning them.

      Now of course there are definitely genetic components in alcoholism and addiction that make them a hard habit to kick aside from the chemical addiction that forms later, and I commend your friend for being able to overcome it however he could, but I think we can all agree that drug and alcohol abuse are damaging behaviors that harm both the users body and mind, and also directly affects his/her loved ones in a negative way. If someone is a moral, good person and lives his/her life in a kind and conscientious way, then who they fall in love with shouldn’t be anyone’s concern. That is the worst thing about the church’s teaching regarding homosexuality–that it is inherently connected to sexual pathologies like pedophilia and bestiality.

      I’m so endlessly frustrated by guys especially who refuse to get it…I’m torn because as much as I would love to have some new straight male friends in my life (my current friends are mostly girls, gay or straight), it is a really long road to be able to a) convince them that I’m gay. b) convince them that they cannot date me (and I even have a gf, I’m not even single!) and c) hang out with them in a context that doesn’t feel date-ish.

      My favorite and most effective response to guys like this is to tell them: “I’m as attracted to men as you are.” That really throws them for a second and makes them think. Try it sometime

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      So sad! And I totally agree. The biggest problem with this guy’s logic is that he equates being saved from the behavior of drug and alcohol abuse to the inherent existence of homosexuality in some individuals. No one would ever say, “Hey I think that you being Asian/Black/White is sinful, so why don’t you just stop that silly lifestyle and go be a different race” would they?? Gayness is hard for people to wrap their minds around since it is a genetic trait that is manifested later in life for many people once they have hit sexual maturity. But you know what? So is baldness! You don’t see anyone condemning them.

      Now of course there are definitely genetic components in alcoholism and addiction that make them a hard habit to kick aside from the chemical addiction that forms later, and I commend your friend for being able to overcome it however he could, but I think we can all agree that drug and alcohol abuse are damaging behaviors that harm both the users body and mind, and also directly affects his/her loved ones in a negative way. If someone is a moral, good person and lives his/her life in a kind and conscientious way, then who they fall in love with shouldn’t be anyone’s concern. That is the worst thing about the church’s teaching regarding homosexuality–that it is inherently connected to sexual pathologies like pedophilia and bestiality (both behaviors which do NOT involve mutual consent)–and this could not be farther from the truth.

      I’m so endlessly frustrated by guys especially who refuse to get it…I’m torn because as much as I would love to have some new straight male friends in my life (my current friends are mostly girls, gay or straight), it is a really long road to be able to a) convince them that I’m gay. b) convince them that they cannot date me (and I even have a gf, I’m not even single!) and c) hang out with them in a context that doesn’t feel date-ish.

      My favorite and most effective response to guys like this is to tell them: “I’m as attracted to men as you are.” That really throws them for a second and makes them think. Try it sometime

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      The prejudice spawned from religion is the most frustrating to me, because most of these religions have some form of ‘love thy neighbor.’ (As a disclaimer, I am totally aware that this does not apply to everyone.) I have no clue what makes people think it’s okay for them to treat certain groups of people one way and other groups another. It makes my head hurt just to think about.

      That guy’s response makes me crazy too. How in the hell can he say he wants to watch you make out with a chick in the same breath he tells you your eternal soul is damned? Do I assume most people are more rational or intelligent than I should?

      Living in the South (North Carolina, which isn’t near as bad as the Deep South), this is one of the exact reasons I’m afraid to come out. I live in a smallish, conservative, largely Christian town that is super hospitable with all that Southern charm until you mention the word gay. Holy shit. You’d think all the gays were running around committing the crime of the century.

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      My problem comes along here: I may be an atheist, but I still live by a moral code. I borrow from all religions in this sense because I believe religions have the right idea, I believe they have the wrong political agenda. So as this friend is condemning me to an eternity in hell for wanting to be intimate with a woman in the privacy of my own home while still maintaining a productive and moral life, his justification for condemnation is “God’s word states [enter anti-homosexuality insert here] and mine is the path of righteousness. I’m only trying to minister to you.” No sir, I’ve already told you I’m very familiar with the bible as I used to be a Christian and studied it closely. This was my choice to pull away from the church and free myself to experience the world as a kind-hearted, generous person. As I see it, even as an atheist, being that my moral code staands as number 1, I still have better morals due to not forcing my beliefs on anyone else and making them feel attacked by association.

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    I simply don’t understand how human beings can do things like this to other human beings.
    Having been raised a christian I understand it even less.
    I can’t bring those things and the religion my family practices together.

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      (and by that I don’t necessarily mean that the people who did those horrifying things in the article identify as christians, it just seems like…in spite of this being a “christian” culture, as many people like to point out, hateful behavior is being supported)

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        Yeah, that’s something that I’d like someone to explain to me. Many people like to say that we have a ‘Christian’ culture. According to Christian faith, Jesus’ main message was ‘hey! love everybody!’ (Obviously, that’s paraphrased) It wasn’t ‘Hey, love everybody except those who are black/gay/short/etc. No – those people – you should definitely hate them, make their lives miserable, treat them in an incredibly unfair manner, remind them constantly that they are doomed, & tell them on a regular basis that they are less than human.’

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    Man, today is just making me hate the world. I had my little queer bubble popped a couple times today; I always forget just how ignorant most people are with regard to non-cisgender people. Blurgh.

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    I read this article, and this is where I felt like I needed to turn. It’s about Christine O’Donnell, the tea party candidate endorsed by Sarah Palin who beat out Mike Castle in the primaries in Delaware. She runs/ran SALT (The Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth) which ‘was meant to organize young people around opposition to abortion, sex education, & homosexuality.’ She recently rumored that Castle was gay & told him to ‘put his man-pants on’ in her campaign. In opposition James Hormel’s appointment to ambassador to Luxembourg during the Clinton administration, her website stated: ‘The SALT was concerned about Hormel’s ties to the pedophile-rights movement.’ She also objected to AIDS suffers being called ‘victims’ because the disease is the product of their own actions in an interview on C-SPAN. This basket-full of crazy has been elected in Delaware. Thank god it’s just the primaries.

    My Ex-Gay Life w/ the Tea Party Queen: http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-09-16/christine-odonnells-gay-former-aide-speaks-out/

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    Wow this story brings tears to my heart and soul..My house burned down in june ” a total loss” delaware news journal june 18th and I totally feel soo empathetic to your family..2 years ago my father passed away leaving my mother not much $$ bc she almost died to cancer prior to his early departure from planet earth, therefore she didnt have homeowners insurance. I moved home to help mom with things in turn Last year exactly today I was raped soo it has been a bad 2 years. Both my sister and myself are openly 100% gay and mom even goes to the clubs with us…No 1 really knows what its like to lose everything and this tragedy to such hatred that our world is filled with. I believe everything happens for a reason i am blessed my mother and i were not home and my sister had went back to her college and miracuously 1 cat who was in the house found a cubby and survived. I started a facebook page called “Firefly Love” basically there is no help for victems of fires and its damn scary it accounts my sister and my exact thoughts and emotions of trying to rebuild our house. I go to school for entrepreneurship and sexual education My future goal is to make “firefly Love” and rape awareness across the US first then global but a charity soo people have support groups a 24-7 hotline etc bc red cross only does soo much..Ladies I have a huge community my name is Maureen Saladino add firefly love or email me at [email protected] If you provide me with info about clothes your address if u have 1 etc of what u need whatever i receive I give to the homeless or other fire victems i just need a address my community is loving and we all work together. I hope this helps and please contact me I will do anything in my power to assist yall with what I can. If we all stick together this universe can change its evil ways.
    Sending yall Love and Prayers and yes I spent 5 years in bham alabama soo i got the southern hospitality gene in me even though I am a northerner lol but please contact me even if its just to talk. “out of my greatest dispair became my greatest strength” rhonda byrnes the secret

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