Shelby Lechner, who works as a chef in Uptown Charlotte, was assaulted as she walked to her car after work around 7 p.m. one Saturday in June. She told police she was talking with a co-worker, when a group of teenagers taunted her.
The way Lechner looks – 180 pounds with with a short, blond Mohawk – appeared to be the only reason they targeted her.
“Faggot, dyke, queer, you name it,” she said, “they were calling me basically everything.” She said she ignored them, but that seemed to anger them more.
As she crossed the street, she said one girl ran up, hit her in the face, body-slammed her to the ground then kicked her in the ribs, yelling, You’re f------ going to die!
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“Never have I ever felt so alone,” Lechner said. “I had seven girls staring at me, looking at me, with hate in their eyes.”
She said her co-worker pulled the assailant off, and a second girl then turned on the co-worker and punched her in the face.
Lechner is a lesbian. But North Carolina’s hate crime statute does not include sexual orientation or gender identity. So police did not have the option of charging anyone with a hate crime, which carries a stiffer penalty. They charged two 17-year-olds with simple assault.
For a North Carolina case to be prosecuted as a hate crime, the federal government has to bring charges under the Matthew Shepard Act, named for a student who was tortured and murdered near Laramie, Wyoming. Since the law took effect in 2009, no one has been charged in North Carolina.
Police referred the case to the FBI as a possible hate crime, and the investigation is ongoing.
Bible verse instead of a tip
Instead of a tip for waiting on a table of female customers at Zada Jane’s in Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood in April, Alexandra Judd got a Bible verse: Leviticus 20:13.
“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination,” the King James version of the Old Testament verse reads. “They shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
And at the bottom of the receipt, the women left a hand-written message: “Praying for you!”
Judd was stunned.
“I was raised in a way that I respect everyone,” she said. “I don’t judge people by their color or orientation. I don’t care if someone is 3 feet tall or 10 feet tall. I was raised by a single mom to love everybody. I just expected that from everyone.”
She believes she was judged because of the way she looks. She describes her appearance as “androgynous.” She wears men’s T-shirts. Her hair is cut short. And, yes, she is a lesbian. But, no, she said, she does not need their prayers.
“I’m scared sometimes for sure,” Judd said. “It scares me when I walk through Walmart with my girlfriend’s hand in mine. Or down the road. Anywhere.”
Transgender woman says CPCC security humiliated her
Two years before House Bill 2 took effect, a transgender woman said she was detained, questioned and harassed by security at Central Piedmont Community College after she used the women’s restroom.
“I feel unequal, mistreated, inadequate, segregated and bullied,” Andraya Williams told reporters in 2014. She said security personnel laughed at her.
Supporters held a rally at the college, and the incident gained national attention.
CPCC spokesman Jeff Lowrance said the college looked into what happened. He said it involved a contract security person, and the college has since contracted with a different company.
“We made sure all security personnel were trained on how to handle such situations,” Lowrance said. “It was more about trying to be more sensitive, understanding the college’s stance on those types of situations. We made sure we had discussion with our on-campus LGBT group and community groups as well. We wanted to make sure we were being as sensitive as we could be.”
Asked what the college’s stance is in light of House Bill 2, Lowrance replied: “We have not changed anything in regards to HB2. In addition to being a state community college, we have to abide by federal Title IX. Those seem to be in opposition. We have decided to do nothing until this is settled.”
According to CPCC’s website: “Individuals are welcome to use the facility that matches their gender identity. The college also provides gender-neutral/family restrooms....”
Bar owner assaulted, threatened
A Wake County man was charged last year with assault after police and witnesses said he entered an an LGBTQ bar in Charlotte, angrily criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage and slapped the owner.
The incident happened on a Sunday morning just before closing at The Bar at 316, near South and East boulevards. Police said a man later identified as 21-year-old Lucas Dylan Wilhelmson of Holly Springs walked into the bar and started “calling out people using derogatory terms.”
The bar owner, Jeff Edwards, asked him to leave and escorted him to the front door, according to the police report.
“He slaps the owner several times,” said police spokesman Rob Tufano. “He continued to slap him. The owner never hits him back, according to witnesses.”
According to the police report, Wilhelmson allegedly “threatened to come back and kill the victim and was asking the victim to hit him back.”
The charge was dismissed because Edwards failed to appear in court. He could not be reached by the Observer. The incident was one of nine that CMPD referred to the state for inclusion in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report.
Charlotte church vandalized
Wedgewood Church on Tyvola Road, about 2 miles from SouthPark, posted a sign out front last year that said simply: “LGBT Equality.”
On Aug. 19 or 20, someone drew lines through the letters in black spray paint and also scrawled “Fags are Pedos” across the front doors of the church.
It wasn’t the first time vandals targeted the church. About six years ago, the letters on the sign out front were re-arranged to read “A Lesbo Church.” Twice, somebody took down its rainbow flag.
“My initial thought was not for the church,” the Rev. Chris Ayers said about the most recent vandalism. “It was for all of the LGBTQ people that have suffered. It was one more stab to the heart.”
As part of a healing process, the church hosted a “paint-the-church's-front-doors” gathering. They now boast the colors of the rainbow flag.
Fletcher Page said three women accosted him when he walked out of the men’s restroom at the PNC Pavilion in Charlotte.
He had driven up from Greenville, S.C., on Sept. 16, for a concert featuring Heart, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts and Cheap Trick.
Page, who is 24, was raised as a girl and said he began transitioning seven years ago. He still wears his hair long.
“These three older ladies surrounded me,” he said. “At first, I thought that they were flirting with me.”
Instead, he said, they asked: “ ‘Are you a boy or a girl?
“I said, ‘I’m a man.’
“They said, ‘What bathroom did you use?’
“I told them, ‘The men’s bathroom. It’s the bathroom I always use.’
“One of them reaches across my chest and pulls my shirt up,” he said. “They’re all staring at my crotch. And they say, ‘Clearly that’s a man....’ ”
Before the women left, he said they told him, “If you’re born a man you should stay a man. If you’re born a woman, you should stay a woman.”
Page works for Gender Benders, a grassroots advocacy and support group. Most of his duties involve educating people about issues affecting LGBTQ citizens.
“I have a strong sense of self,” he said. “I can’t imagine what happened to me happening to someone who’s not ‘out,’ who doesn’t have a support system... It’s making us feel like our trans identity isn’t real. And these bathroom bills reinforce this.”